Shows You Might Have Missed: True Tears (anime)

Ah, True Tears. To think that it has been near a decade since then fledgling studio P.A.Works made their first solo debut with this series, and boy did it make a strong impression at the time.

Now, just to avoid any confusion, despite sharing the same name as its visual novel source, True Tears the anime has pretty much nothing else in common with its own standalone world, plot, characters and is pretty much an original work.

True Tears revolves around an artistically gifted high schooler Nakagami Shinichirou who lives under the same roof with his parents and also long-time-crush Yuasa Hiromi who had moved in after losing her parents. Far be it from his dream scenario, Shinichirou now struggles to interact with the now cold and distant Hiromi, not helped by the friction between his mother and the new housemate. He tries to express himself through his art while agonizing over his inability to confront her and his mostly self imposed helplessness. One day at school, he runs into Isurugi Noe, a strange girl (not your angsty, chuunibyou or tsundere stereotype mind, just plain weird) who curses him with misfortune, and is obsessed with flying chickens. From thereon the story revolves around the interactions between the main players in the story and the many side characters around them, and Shinichirou himself will need to come to terms with his own insecurities about Hiromi, his budding relationship with Noe, and make his own decision whatever the outcome may be. 

Now, for series titled "True Tears", it really is less of a straight up tearjerker and closer to a relatively mundane drama between normal people that eschews alot of the harem tropes that were commonplace at the time. Almost everyone has their own emotional baggage and in true adolescent fashion, are legitimately afraid, afraid of communicating about it, afraid of hurting others, and people get hurt because of things they cannot control. The slowly building tension and conflicts between the characters serve as the primary driving force of the plot and serves as a very engrossing ride through all 13 episodes. It borders on overly melodramatic near the end and its heavy use of symbolism might fly right over the heads of many viewers on first watch, but neither of these minor nitpicks bogs down the otherwise very compelling story.

Where the series really shines, and this will be very apparent very early on, is how good the show looks and sounds. P.A.Works surprised alot of people with their excellent debut work, and this sets a strong precedent for excellent production the studio would later be known for: fantastic art design, cohesive visual look, quality animation, intricate attention to details, and little to no noticeable errors throughout. Watching it way back 2008, it truly felt a significant step up from the usual shows, and few others could claim to meet the same production standards. The particular storytelling style of the show also sets the groundwork on how P.A.Works crafts their later much acclaimed Hanasaku Iroha and and Nagi no Asakura (P.A.Works have improved a lot since then), mixing slice-of-life and drama into a formula that is both compelling and believable.

Big props also to the great audio-work by Kikuchi Hajime, with his strong piano and violin score complementing both mundane and dramatic moments well and strongly enhances the whole experience. The ending theme in particular is also a personal favorite of mine.

True Tears tells a story about growing up that is compelling start to finish. Its short, its engaging and well worth the investment into watching it. 


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