True Love Story

Fansubbing used to mean something. The very name implies that the person doing the job is, indeed, a fan of the title for which they are producing subtitles. They were at one point a labor of love, with the stress on the labor. Finding scripts was next to impossible before the advent of the Internet, and paying a translator was costly. Subtitling took tons of work to get right. It was too much effort to sub something that you didn't really like. But now in the true digital age, finding a translator (or someone who knows just enough Japanese to be dangerous) isn't that hard. Computers have made timing a script to a show relatively simple. The trick isn't subtitling a show you personally enjoy; it's finding a show that nobody else has subbed and getting to it before anyone else does. And with the legitimization of Crunchyroll, you can pretty much find an audience for anything.

Though I found True Love Story a while back on the Internet, I hadn't watched it, but I found 70 comments on the boards over at said Crunchyroll. Somebody's watching it, right, enough to review it?  That's what I thought. Truth be told, though, I don't think anybody could be a fan of True Love Story. The visual novel it was based on?  Maybe, but the anime can barely be called competent. It's the sort of show where if there was a drinking game for dating sim adaptations, you'd be under the table by the end of the first episode.

Yuuta Morisaki is a guy with a dead mom and a grating sister. Other than that, we really know nothing about him except that 1) he knew this little girl he liked a long time ago when he was five years old and 2) he's a nice guy. It's not surprising; Yuuta is the generic male whose place you assume when you play a dating sim. But this generic ball of boredom still is the hearthrob of Hina Kusunose, tennis player and die-hard romantic. She is convinced that she must go to the Ocean Festival with Yuuta and watch the fireworks with him, for that is guaranteed to bring budding romance into full blossom. But, of course, Hina must get herself noticed amongst the throng of girls who are also interested in our personality-free loser dashing hero. And she has to work quickly, because a new gal gets introduced to Yuuta approximately every three minutes.

In most ways, True Love Story is a paint-by-numbers affair. There is one area that True Love Story really isn't competent, and that's in the character art. They are uniformly without detail. Save for their design to look vaguely like real human beings, they are closer to South Park than anime creations. (And yes, the screenshot is actually among the most detailed of shots, and that was with some sharpening!) The animation itself is OK, I suppose; there are no disappearing heads or movement problems. But the characters just don't have any visual appeal, and that's deadly in a genre that includes the admittedly beautiful programs by Key like Clannad. The soundtrack is fine, even enjoyable at times, but not memorable.

Perhaps the one good thing I can say about True Love Story is that it hits all of its marks. Truly, it's filled with cliche after cliche. Every one-note female character stereotype is here, from the bookworm with glasses to the bike-riding tomboy (Hina filling the "clumsy girl" role). The plot revolves around Hina seeing other girls talking with Yuuta and her thinking that he must be dating one of them. Yuuta's only friend is a photography nut who's a bit of a perv who takes candid photos of girls in their workout gear. No expectation is left unfulfilled, though done without finesse or style. And yet, by the time the "big confession" happens in the final episode, I couldn't help but be a little glad for our young lovers. That's the point of the whole genre, I guess, to make the viewer feel warm fuzzies. I didn't hate it, and I thought it was vaguely sweet by the end.

But really, there are so many more shows out there that do the same thing, and with far more creativity and drive. It strikes me that True Love Story may just have been a "love letter" to fans of the game, but it could have been so much more. If it weren't for the easy availability of virtually every anime made in the last ten years online, this would have disappeared into much-deserved obscurity. While my rating reflects the inoffensiveness of the proceedings (save for two shower scenes, only one of which comes close to showing anything) and the fact that it reaches the low bar it set for itself, this show is yet another proof that gatekeeping in the anime community is worthwhile. There's too much junk out there for everything to be given a level playing field. And for all of you fansubbers out there who think it's a noble effort to sub whatever you can find...keep looking. Start working on the classics, leave drivel like this behind, and maybe, just maybe, the anime community will rediscover why this can be such a great form of entertainment in the first place.

True Love Story -- very brief nudity -- C-