Diamond Dust, when the moisture in the air freezes in the cold mornings, it sparkles like diamonds. The legend of Diamond Dust says that if you're lucky enough to see it with the one you love, you'll be happy together, or you can wish upon it and find happiness.
This is the central theme to the stories of love, friendship, and self-discovery about six girls in Hokkaido of northern Japan. Each has two episodes dedicated to them (except for Suomi).
Episode 1 & 2 focus on Atsuko Akanegi, a 20-year-old girl who runs a fish-market with her mother that her late father left. They don't have a lot of money, and Atsuko has to work while her friends go out to have fun. There is a guy who wants to marry her, and he would help with her finances, but Atsuko has a crush on a jazz musician, who tells her the story of Diamond Dust. She doesn't want to marry for money, and wishes her mother would see that. But she doesn't realise that her mother understands her feelings more than she knows. Her story is about mother-daughter relationships, as well as searching for your happiness: what makes us happy? Money? Love?
Episode 3 & 4 are about Karin Shiraishi, a 15-year-old girl who is hospitalized with a serious illness, but refuses to go through with surgery because she is scared. This story is about self-discovery, and being able to find the courage within you to go forward. I like this story the most, because I'm able to connect with it and relate to it the most, because sometimes I think I really am spoiled, and I don't even realise it. And we all have moments when we're scared and find it hard to discover the couragous side of ourselves. Karin is a pretty human character, because she is selfish and spoiled, but also kind and wants to get better even though she's scared.
Episode 5 & 6 are about Kyouko Asahina, who is rather uptight and bossy. She's just too driven on her own goals to see what everyone else must be feeling. A talented film-maker, she wants to create the perfect film to win the festival, but is frustrated that nobody can understand the pressure she's going through, not even her boyfriend. In the process, she forgot why she started filming in the first place, and how fun filming was. It takes some trials for her to finally realise what it is that she wants to create. Her story is about learning to appreciate something while you have it, because sometimes, you don't realise how much it means to you until it's gone. I didn't like Kyouko's character too much at first, because a lot of times she really is unreasonable and selfish. But she's also very passionate about what she loves to do, and that passion blinds her judgement sometimes. Really, Kyouko is a very human character, representing the selfishness and passion in all of us.
Episode 7 is about Suomi Kitano, a figure skater who had an accident and stopped competing because of it. The accident involves her best friend and skating rival, whom she wished back then on the Diamond Dust to share the gold medal with. Then she meets Haruto, a skater who fought with his friend because of skating, and he asks her to skate with him. Going onto the ice, Suomi remembers how fun skating was, and how it shouldn't come between friends. Her story is about friendship and loving what you do. Even though her friend was skating rival, neither of them let that come between their friendship. Her story is the only one with one episode, and I wished it would be longer. Suomi is a bit strange, but she is cheerful and gives good advice.
Episode 8 & 9 involves a radio-broadcaster named Shouko Saibara, who is having an affair with a married man, but he doesn't answer her and doesn't see her much. It got to a point where she wonders if she's always talking to an answering machine, just like how she's only talking to a microphone at work. Her show involves people sending in stories and questions about romance, and she gives them advice. But one day, she wonders if she should really be giving other people advice on love when she can't even take care of herself. Then she starts to wonder if she can be heard at all, or is she merely talking to the microphone. This story is about knowing that you are heard, and that you are important to someone, even though you may not realise it. Shouko is also very human, in that she has doubts about herself, like we all do sometimes.
Episode 10 & 11 focus on Akari Harada, whose father drinks a lot, and goes to find gold dust instead of working. He is the one who tells Akari about the Diamond Dust, and how he went to see it with her mother. At first I thought her father was horrible, but later on, I realised that her father is just a man who wants to chase his dreams and live the way he would be happiest. He passes this message on to Kurokawa, a friend of Akari's at work, who gave up making sweets because he didn't think he was good enough. This story is about chasing your dreams and not giving up. This one is perhaps the saddest out of the six.
The last episode ties up everything, and brings everyone together, and answers some of those questions left in the previous episodes.
The stories themselves are really touching and sweet, despite their rather ordinary settings and plots. And this is what makes this series special: the ability to move the audience.
The style of the characters is not all that special or different. But perhaps that is meant to be, because the girls are meant to represent typical girls.
However, the backgrounds are very beautiful. Many of the settings are based on real places in Hokkaido. The night city in episodes 1 and 2, and the sunset scene in episodes 5 and 6 are especially memorable. Also, I love how they represented the beauty of the Diamond Dust itself.
The voices are mostly well-done, suiting the characters. I did find that Atsuko's voice is a bit too high-pitched for someone her age. But otherwise, the girls are well-portrayed, even though nothing really stands out all that much.
Music is one of the strength of this series. The background music is rather unique. It sounds like a mixture of Chinese bamboo flute and Erhu (Chinese 2-stringed fiddle), and it's quite soothing to listen to, and a bit sad. It helps bring out the emotions of those important moments. However, the same (or similar) song is played throughout the series, and I wish that there were a bit more variation, or a theme song of some sort for each girl. The most memorable is the ending theme "Aitai ~Love Theme from Kita e.~" by ALLEY:A. It's beautiful and moving, and very suitable for the series. I'm not too fond of the opening theme "Hop Step Jump" by Five Spirits. It's a high-energy and happy song, which, while energizes the audience, doesn't quite fit with the theme of the stories.
I think this is the greatest strength of the series. I love how it's set up like a series of short stories, connected with a common theme, and tied up at the end. It is ordinary at first glance in terms of plot and characters, but I found it special because of the emotional impact it has, and how I am able to relate to the stories (yes I cried a lot, get some tissues ready). It's not for those who like action/adventure or fast-paced stories, but if you're into drama and slice-of-life romance, and want something sweet and touching, then I definately recommend it.