June 20, 2019

To Heart

The sheer quantity and output of scripted television productions—to a much greater extent than movies—turn them into records of the current zeitgeist. And also renders them highly disposable. We tend to preserve those elements of popular culture we deem preservable after the fact, ignoring the trends that once ruled the day.

Which makes shows that otherwise would have disappeared down the memory hole all the more valuable. One such series is To Heart, a 1999 anime series produced by Oriental Light and Magic and directed by Naohito Takahashi, based on a 1997 manga and visual novel. It is teetering on the edge.

The classic cel animation, the theme songs, and character designs in To Heart all reflect the 1990s anime style. But somewhere along the line, the film prints got discarded, so the Right Stuf DVDs were digitized from the original SD masters. The resulting image quality approximates that of a very good—quite watchable—VHS. It's a 1990s experience all the way.

And also a good example of backing off on the noise reduction and leaving the film grain in during the analog-to-digital transfer. When remastering old video from non-HD sources, do not throw away information! As Justin Sevakis points out, "film grain doesn't just distort an image, it is the image" (see a detailed explanation here).

To Heart compares well in many respects to Clannad (which it predates). Both started out as visual novels with a harem structure. But like Clannad, the anime is a sweet, G-rated melodrama that is less about the romantic interests of the male lead than his platonic friendships with the various girls that cross his path.

Hiroyuki, the laid back male lead in To Heart, reminds me of Kyle in Last Man Standing, a genuinely nice—if occasionally clueless—guy who proves to be surprisingly adept at solving other people's problems almost despite himself. He fits well into the genre character category that Kate terms the "canny dope."

Like Tomoya in Clannad, when we first meet him, Hiroyuki is cruising through high school with no great plans or aspirations, aside from eating, sleeping, and video games. His Scooby Gang consists of Akari, the childhood friend (hers is the main point of view); Shiho, the tsundere next door; and his bookish best guy friend, Masashi.

Again, as in Clannad (and especially Kanon), the slice-of-life melodrama includes touches of magical realism. Serika Kurusugawa, scion of the Kurusugawa conglomerate (she arrives at school in a limo), is a practicing witch. And then there's the android manufactured by Kurusugawa, who seems to be acquiring a soul.

I can't find it on any legit streaming sites. The DVDs are only available on the used market (and at Netflix). Being locked into a 4:3 SD format may be one reason Right Stuf let it go out of print. This is a golden oldie that deserves more love. If not in the original DVD format, a re-release on a single SD Blu-ray would suffice.

To Heart 2 is in print, released in the U.S. by Maiden Japan (Sentai Filmworks). To Heart 2 was also produced by Oriental Light and Magic and written by Hiroshi Yamaguchi, but directed by Norihiko Sudo. It doesn't have anything in common with the original other than the school uniforms.

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Comments
# posted by Anonymous Clipping
6/26/2019 8:37 PM   
Nice post.Keep sharing. Thanks for sharing.