Commercials are great! You can get yourself a beer, take a piss, get some snacks, call your mom, buy a house in Zimbabwe, fly back home and still watch enough of the block to make the sponsors keep sponsoring your favourite show. These four original net anime (ONA) episodes are something else though; I would probably have paid to see them! These commercials showcase the scenery of Saitama prefecture through their ~5 minute story segments and then tell you how to get to the places visited in the anime by train from Tokyo at the end, accompanied by a catchy tune.
Saitama has already been featured in anime as diverse as Lucky Star, AnoHana and Crayon Shin-Chan, but was clearly deserving of its own anime judging by the scenery featured in this ONA. ‘Four Seasons’ is beautifully animated but clearly suffers from a low budget, every time the camera is backing up and the close-up view is broken the quality of the animation drops like a brick. This does not happen too often though and the beautifully animated parts more than make up for it.
Well, unto the stories themselves then!
Spring: Cherry Blossom Memories’
This story felt very natural and well-paced. Both characters have their personality showcased quite well and the guy, for once in anime, is not a completely passive entity nor overly macho. The constant doubts of Yukimasa as to what this girl meant to him were entertaining and made me question whether my preconceived notion that she absolutely must be his love interest was correct (I will not spoil this!). The story has a sweet atmosphere emphasized by some rather good background music. The places visited in this short are also the more interesting and beautiful of the bunch though that of course is personal preference.
Summer: ‘Saitama High School Broadcasting Club – Saitama Summer Travel Guide’
This comedy lacks humour, while good for a smile here and there it is never really funny. The problem with the humour in this comedy is that there is not nearly enough exaggeration in the jokes to make them work. As the late (and great) George Carlin once said, jokes are all about exaggeration and if there is none or too little the joke simply will not work. While the Captain certainly has an edge to her character she too fails because of under-exeggeration. The way in which the Cap was used was also questionable, she is the one who has to be in every joke while the jokes are very different from each other in style this leads to a very confusing character with no, or unlimited which is just as bad, identifiable characteristics. The ending is once again a redeeming factor but that can’t save this short like it will ‘The adventures of Higan the Brave and Princess Liccori”.
Fall: ‘Adventures of Higan the Brave and Princess Licori’
This story is kind of hit or miss depending on your tastes. While ‘Adventures’ has a certain cuteness and maybe even some goofiness to it the story is kind of dull and predictable and the humour is riddled with clichés. The ending to me was a redeeming factor adding quite a little bit of charm to an otherwise very dull and rushed tale with little going for it except for its cuteness.
Winter: ‘Robai’ or ‘Winter Sweet Home’
The winter episode has its charming moments and is nicely animated. The story really speeds to its ending which makes it feel rushed and an unnatural transition, making this the only episode out of the four that really suffers because of its length. Though that ending is rather well done. There is even some room for character development for the father, who seems weak and clueless in the other parts of the story but suddenly develops a personality at the end. The only thing off about the ending is the music, which sounds too sweet to be used in a scene where a girl is shouting at her dad and only matches the very end of the scene.
This advertisement strategy should be employed by more areas trying to attract tourists. The summer episode was the only one which failed to captivate me, but had I stumbled upon it between two TV-programmes it would still have won my personal "Commercial of the Year” award. The stories are beautifully written and while the animation cut some corners when the producers thought they could get away with it, it managed to convince when it wanted to.