Photokano Review

This is review number two hundred and twenty one. This anime is part of the Spring 2013 lineup. It’s been awhile since I did a review, huh? I did promise to do one a week but the change is certainly hard for me. I’m sure I’ll get some sort of schedule done that includes anime once my personal life settles. In the meantime, I’ll be reviewing Photokano. It’s a thirteen episode anime about a guy and a bunch of girls and a camera. It sounds promising, doesn’t it? Let’s read on.

Story

The anime is about Kazuya Maeda who recently obtains his dad’s old camera. With his new found hobby, he has worked up enough courage to approach girls and ask for their pictures. The opportunities given to him by his camera is certainly not wasted as he slowly grow closer to certain girls and their relationship turns into something more.

Taking the Pants Off

Nothing scares me more than a visual novel adaptation. It is all the more heartbreaking when that particular VN is really good. Photokano is a PSP Vita game where you basically date girls. The thing that makes this game unique is that it is considered as the spiritual successor of Amagami. It’s one of the best straight up love story dating sims you can ever play. The whole thing gets a whole lot more intriguing when you realize that in Photokano, you can take pictures of your girls. You gain points for taking great pictures and as you progress, you can make your girl do more poses. You have the option of taking normal shots or take really dirty ones depending on how your mind works. It culminates in a photo session at the beach that you can unlock after you capture the girl’s heart. This had the beauty of Amagami with the interactive possibilities of the PSP Vita. It’s a really great game. It’s also really complex so translating the game into an anime is something that has a lot of chances to fail. I think the anime tried but condensing too many individual stories into twelve episodes was really a bad idea.

The anime had a very uninteresting setup starting out. Kazuya Maeda was able to get closer to certain girls and ask for their pictures. He eventually joins a club among the two available clubs in the school. One is a club full of girls called the Photo Club while the other one is a club full of perverts called the Photography club. That’s about it really. I first thought that the story will revolve around the two clubs and Kazuya being caught in the middle. That was not case as the anime simply decided to have Kazuya establish relationships with some girls in school. It’s the typical style of storytelling where Kazuya would just happen to walk in a hallway and see the girl then they talk. He’d either bump at them accidentally or he’ll see them doing something that will initiate a conversation. The first few episodes are a mess because there was no direction. It was just Kazuya and a lot of different girls talking. I do understand that the anime was trying to lay the groundwork for the rest of the show but the whole endeavor was really just uninspired and a bit too bland. This is the case for most VN. When you take out the interactive element of choosing responses and having the girls talk to you directly, you’re left with nothing but a hollow shell. I can forgive a messy start but I was honestly falling asleep as I keep watching hoping for some sort of story to actually materialize.

I also cannot get behind the main character of the anime. In the game, you can convince the girl to pose so you can take pictures of them. It’s one of the best aspects of the game because you’re basically perving out your favorite girl. In the anime, majority of the scenes is about Kazuya taking pictures and the girls posing for him. If you’re not familiar with the game, like I am when I first watched this, then you’ll see Kazuya as nothing more than a pervert with a camera basically masturbating as he takes different shots of the girls. He was very unapologetic about it. He would act in a cool way but the fact that he only takes pictures of girls isn’t something I just can’t get behind with. He would take all kinds of photos that I don’t think any self-respecting girl would allow yet he’s snapping like he’s ready to rape the damn b*tch. “It’s okay if it’s you” is what most of the girls would say and it often ruins the anime for me. It’s also really annoying. Have you ever seen those really riled up photographers at conventions where they act like creepy perverts as they take pictures of cosplayers? That’s what Kazuya basically comes off as. He is nothing more than a creepy photographer which is something I can’t enjoy. I’m fine with a bland lead characters but the thing that made the game great was oddly the thing that made the anime pretty hard to watch. To be fair though, if you like one of the girls then you’ll probably enjoy the various photo sessions she does with Kazuya. What you work hard for in the game, you can basically get in the anime for free. Like in one scene, a wet girl drenched from the rain agreed to model for Kazuya and she did a lot of poses. One of them involves lying on the floor with her arms raised, bra imprinting on her wet uniform, legs crossed and her belly button exposed. It’s art, damn it.

The whole anime started to make sense though once you reach the second half where the various girls and their routes are heavily focused. From episode five till the end, the episodes are simply just about Kazuya taking a girl’s route and falling in love with her in the end. It resets after the episode ends though. Apparently, the anime was tracking the events of the first semester up until the cultural festival where Kazuya would display his girlfriend’s photo in their club’s exhibit. Each story had the same time frame but different flow of events. The various stories are all pretty ordinary and a bit predictable though. They made a bad choice of cramming everything into one episode and so the result is pretty sloppy. You often can’t get behind the story simply because it was lacking some sort of intrigue to get your attention. Some girls are pretty interesting by themselves and the first four episodes have given you enough time to claim your favorite in the bunch but the stories themselves are all pretty flat. You ever opened a bottle of soda, poured it in a cup and left it at a table then decided to drink it the next morning? The fizz would’ve left by then and you’ll get a very flat drink. That’s how the anime feels to me. It was flat. It also feels really lazy. I often feel that it was just going through the motions and ending without me giving a damn. I think the anime just gave us the gist of what you’ll expect in the game though and that’s perfectly fine given the limited amount of episodes to expound to story in.

The characters are all bland and generic. Kazuya is your typical lead character for a VN anime. He doesn’t have a stable personality and basically changes attitude depending on the girl she is with. He is playful and a bit of a pervert though. He would often claim to have a clean mind and defend the girls from the more dirty photographers in school but would often ask the girl to go on all fours afterwards. It’s annoying sometimes seeing the girls just nod at everything he wants with very little resistance. Even if there was a resistance I’d doubt it would last for long. He often effortlessly just gets a girl to pose for him. It often feels a bit forced and utterly stupid. Kazuya is also a bit of a funny guy. The whole thing is lost in translation though since any amount of comedy in the anime would feel forced and flat like everything else in the show. I mean he often tries to be funny but without a more stable personality he garners very little reaction from viewers.

The girls are pretty decent but very generic as well. It’s the typical cast for a VN. There is the childhood friend, the shy girl, the sporty one, the tsundere, the air headed one and the little sister. They all acted pretty great within their stereotype and they do grow on you. Towards the second half, it was often a treat just to see who Kazuya will date next and how the date will go down. The little subplots regarding the girls are also pretty interesting if the anime gave it time to grow. From a girl feeling burdened by her responsibilities to a girl unable to smile, the concept for each story certainly have a lot of promise. It’s inviting enough to make me want to play the VN and that’s a great thing for this anime. The anime just heavily butchered their potential but I’m sure there was enough romance in the stories to really make you smile. I’ve seen way too many anime so I can recognize unfulfilled potential when I see it. The girls also had their own individual charm. If you can look past the generic-ness then I’m sure there is something worth watching in the girls. You can also stay for the fan service. It’s all good.

I mean, honestly, I stayed for this:

The rest of the cast are all pretty weak. They don’t have much screen time and they honestly don’t often have a place in the show. I’m guessing they did more meaningful things in the game but they really did nothing in the anime. One example is the big breasted teacher. I’m guessing she’s an unlockable character or something but did absolutely nothing but bounce her big boobs. Some side characters got some decent screen time though like the two members of the photography club. The high angle shot guy and the low angle shot guy. They’re mostly getting cockblocked by Kazuya when it comes to picturing a girl. They are planning to take very low and very high angle shots so Kazuya mostly does the decent thing and protect the girl…then take his own high angle or low angle shots. I think they meant a lot more in the game where there is no time constraint. There are some stories where Kazuya would often get help from the side characters so I’m sure they just got lost in the shuffle.

phtkn3

There is very little to like about this anime but also very little to hate about it. A lazy script is honestly the biggest problem and the obvious lack of episodes. You should realize though that most of these VN adapted anime are meant to entice you to play the game. It worked for me because I want a PSP Vita now to get a girl to go on all fours. God, I was born in the wrong country. As for the anime itself, the approach was ambitious but there was definitely a lack of effort to make whole thing more amazing. I am a bit surprised Madhouse released such a slow whimper in a lineup where every other studio is producing great content. I’m more puzzled about Akitoshi Yokohoma, who had a hand at some of the best anime I’ve personally enjoyed, sucking hard at his directorial debut. Why he chose to adapt such a complex game to an anime is beyond me. Having a close look at some of Masaaki Yuusa’s works, you’d think he’d realize that a great script creates a great anime. He had all the opportunity to produce one using this VN, to be honest, but it’s weird he didn’t even realize to push it to twenty plus episodes just like how Amagami did it. It’s such a shame.

Sight and Sound

Character design is pretty bland. They did capture the beauty of the VN characters but they didn’t apply the bright colors that made the characters pop. There was variety among the characters but they all look pretty generic. The lack of subtle details or even a hint of design to complement their personality was not applied by the anime. So it’s basically bland characters with bland looks. The school uniform was also pretty ordinary. It was really lacking something to hold your attention. There was still enough to make the girls look pretty though. Certain photo sessions and fan service moments certainly had great effect because of how the anime handled the scenes. The various photo sessions at the beach are also something that I really like in the show. The way the girl’s blush are also a great plus for me.

phtkn1

The animation was pretty inconsistent. The anime usually take advantage of stylistic camera angles and awesome 360 shots to make photo sessions pretty amazing. It uses close ups and various camera tricks to truly make great camera shots. It’s often a treat to see the various pictures our pervert takes because they are pretty cool. Majority of the scenes in the anime lack decent animation though. They have limited movements, certain scenes look awkward and the monotonous style of presenting the scenes often makes it a bit hard to enjoy the anime. The rather dull color palette of the anime also doesn’t help. I just don’t like how they put effort in certain scenes and then cop out at others.

The anime had a lot of fan service. It was over compensating for the lack of a good story so it was cramming a lot of Ecchi scenes seemingly at random. Certain photo shoots gets a bit intense and highly suggestive and there are a lot of scenes where the girls would get daring. There are a lot of boobs bouncing and girls in sexy outfits in this anime. It’s not over the top dirty but it’s the kind of perversion you’d expect when you take pictures yourself. The typical panty shots or high angle boobs shots are also present in the anime. I honestly enjoyed the fan service because it kept me awake when the dull script and forced dialogue makes me sleepy.

photokano10

The anime’s OP is “Koisuru Lens” by Kaori Hayato. I love the style of this OP. Kaori has a really sexy voice and it makes this slow paced heavily beat song really fun to listen to. The instrumentals are also a nice touch since it gives the song a distinct style. The OP sequence is about all the girls in various poses and some fan service here and there. I love the lip sync too but it got annoying when the two side characters joined in as well.

The anime’s ED is “Smile F” by Utakano♪. This is another awesome song. It has the same pace as the OP but I love the fact that all the girls in the anime sang it. In their respective episodes, they did their own versions of the song. The first four episodes have all of them singing in the song though and I love how their voices mix together. It’s a cute romantic song that has a solemn vibe to it. I really love it. The ED sequence features all the girls being cute and stuff. It’s nothing complex.

Overall Score

3/10 “The lazy script and the uninspired dialogue makes it hard to enjoy the anime. The lack of direction and the generic-ness of it all are also at fault.”

I honestly think this anime would’ve been awesome if they did the same format as Amagami where four episodes contain an arc about a girl instead of the jumbled mess the show did. Someone was stupid enough to think they can capture a VN’s appeal in twelve episodes. You can’t. It’s just not possible. We still got Photokano though. If you love fan service then you’ll at least enjoy this one. If you have the means though, I’d suggest you just play the game. Let’s just forget about this anime altogether.

Thoughts~

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