From first impressions to those after a few viewings, this series becomes more enjoyable over time. There are a number of aspects to this series that may catch viewers attention, detracting somewhat from the viewing experience at first. However, as viewers become accustomed to these idiosyncracies, they become a part of the experience. From the very beginning of this episode, the opening theme song is a very gentle, soft piano/vocal that, along with the lyrics, is highly indicative of certain underlying aspects to the storyline.
What will likely catch viewers attention first is the voice for Honda Tohru, the main character for this series. Very high pitched, it's decidedly surprising and takes time to get used to. However, not only is Tohru's voice so high, Sohma Yuki's voice (Hisakawa Aya) is also higher than normally expected for a male character and may take time to adjust to. On the other hand, Tohru's friends' (Uo-chan and Hana-chan) voices are stronger, and lower pitched (although well suited to the characters). Regardless of the unusual pitches, the voice acting itself is quite well done.
The animation is an interesting mix of nice backgrounds combined with lower framerates, lots of stills and pans, and otherwise less detailed frames. Despite the lower quality animation overall, a number of visual techniques are used that especially combined with the audio makes for a highly entertaining watch that is well suited to the series. Perhaps what I find a nice change compared to a number of other animations is the use of "silent film" style animation for past events rather than using a clouded "dirty lens" shot. However, given Hana-chan's denpa abilities, static in the picture may be better suited to her scenes.
The music in this first episode isn't particularly impressive although there are a number of sound effects that run through scenes that need to be listened for. In fact, while a number of melodies are introduced, most are fairly short save for that used for past memories. Rather combined with what almost seems like insane direction where scenes change using a number of different techniques from eyecatches to sound effects and changing from slow to fast and back, the episode has an almost "piece-meal" feel while still maintaining continuity to the story. In fact, this variation in pacing and the sheer variety of visual and audio details and effects may take some viewers rather aback. Given that viewers are also being introduced to the many characters as well as given the beginnings of the story to the series, this episode could in fact leave viewers with mixed feelings. However, the information revealed about Tohru's character as well as the end of the episode piques viewers' interest as to where the story will go next.
While possibly leaving viewers with mixed feelings about the series so far, this first episode makes for an insane audio and visual introduction to the characters and story. Intriguing viewers with the story and leaving many questions to be answered, viewers are drawn into this heart-warming, humorous series.
- JYN, 2002.02.28