Fortune Arterial: Akai Yakusoku Review

This is review number three hundred and forty two. This anime is part of the Fall 2010 lineup. It’s a twelve episode anime called Fortune Arterial: Akai Yakusoku, or Fortune Arterial: Red Promise. It’s a show about a guy trying to bang five girls, but one of them is a vampire or something. This’ll be the last review of the year, so let’s read on already.

Story

This anime follows Kohei Hasekura moving into a new school. He befriends a lot of people, and he spends some cherish moments with them. He then met a vampire, and he’s now forced to either keep the secret that vampires exist or the supernatural creature will simply wipe his memory. It’s a hard choice for Kohei, who lived his entire life as a “migratory bird”, but he now has a chance to really grab hold of his own life. Will Kohei keep the secret, or live his entire life with no real connection with people?

Taking the Pants Off

This is the last Fall 2010 anime before I can finally close this lineup in the meantime. I want to catch up to new shows before this streak of motivation I have starts dying down. It didn’t really go away, but this anime really tested it. Fortune Arterial: Red Promise sounds like a visual novel title and, gawd damn it, it is one. A VN anime is the only thing standing in my way before I can finish the Fall 2010 lineup, and it is a tough one. VN anime has a pattern, and I only really notice them now because I’ve been caught up noticing the patterns of Light Novel adapted anime. VN anime basically sucks, and it’s often because there is an unavoidable void ready to welcome it the mere moment you start reading the anime’s title. VN anime is always restricted by the game it’s adapting, so there’s very little wiggle room to try and be unique. You’re adapting a complex story from a video game, and you’re taking out all the cool things from the original source. VN anime are always badly handicapped, so there’s always a good chance of it failing.  A lot of VN are half-hearted adaptations, some of them are utter clusterf*cks trying to do too much, and some of them doesn’t even try so they just cram the anime with fan service. You’re adapting an adult VN, so there’s a lot of fan service to adapt. The story and characters, important elements of a good anime, are always mishandled though. The end result is a boring anime with the potential to be good, but always seems to just overall suck. Fortune Arterial: Red Promise is just like any typical VN anime. It is boring and it sucks. VN anime often exists for just two reasons. It’s created to promote the game, or it’s belted out to give nod to the VN’s success and thanking its fans for making it popular. Its purpose is nothing more than a promotional poster for the game, or an exclusive collectible doll bundled with the re-release. It means nothing, and it’s just fluff. I’m in this for the fun though, and I like torturing myself with boring anime. For me, a VN anime only has thirty percent of being good, and having a seventy percent chance of sucking. Let’s all see how this VN anime faired.

I want to talk about the VN pattern in this review, and I often notice that VN anime has three stages. These are turning points for the show that determine just how good or bad it’s going to be. Every VN anime has these turning points, and it also acts as a signal for the viewers. Oh crap, the first stage is done and the second stage is coming. I still have a chance to run away! Seriously, it’s fascinating how VN anime all behave similarly. Naturally, the first stage is the intro. This is where the anime still follows the game to a tee. It’s the same intro as the video game where the available routes are introduced, and the player is getting a feel for the game. For the video game, the introduction ends when all the tutorials are cleared and the player is now given a chance to follow the available routes. For the anime, it signals the start of the crap storm. I’ll explain about that later on. First, let’s focus on the first stage. In this anime, we are introduced to Kohei Hasekura, the main protagonist. He’s been moving from one town to the next, because of his parents’ jobs. He can’t make connections with his classmates, and he’s grown up knowing that connections aren’t really all that important. Entering high school, he has a chance to make a fresh start though. He’ll be living in a dorm so he can’t go anywhere, and it’s the perfect chance to make some memorable connections with people. He does that, and he meets all the characters important in the story. The main five girls he must conquer, the mandatory male side character acting as his best friend, and the rest of the side chumps that plays a major role in a girl’s arc. The first stage usually eats up the first three episodes. In this anime, it’s filled with a lot of cute dialogue with the potential girls. It’s the same in the game so the character’s charm comes out nicely, and it’s a big factor in pursuing just one girl. Aside from boring dialogue with interesting characters, we also get a lot of fluff. Tea parties and other random get-togethers happen to help setup the route that you’ll be chasing. It then leads to the shocking twist of the game: one of the girls is a vampire and Kohei is asked to keep the secret. It’s a pretty big deal though. Either he has to keep the secret, or his memory will be wiped out. All of his happy memories with the friends he met will be wiped out, but he’ll also live on not knowing that one of the girls is a vampire. It’s a big turning point in the game, and I would’ve liked to make that choice with a controller of my own. The setup is really great, because it utilized the boring dialogue and random tea parties to make the decision weigh a lot more. This’ll be one of the rare moments that I’ll be praising the game. Kohei eventually makes a decision, and the first stage is done. The second stage now begins.

I’ll be honest though, the main premise is a bit stupid. It’s your standard VN game, but there’s a vampire in the mix to make it slightly different. What the hell? It’s just one vampire, by the way. That means that one of the routes has supernatural stuff in it, but the rest of the route are straight up as simple as the tea parties they’re having. It’s like they shoe-horned that vampire idea in there just for the hell of it. The VN itself feels badly forced, and I don’t really think the main premise can fly far. Or can it? Well, that’s what the second stage plans to achieve. It tries to make sense of it all. Now the second stage is really the turning point of any VN anime. This is where it’ll decide if it will focus on one route, two routes, all the routes or just none of them to play it safe and just tease each route’s potential. Any decision is a bad one though, because it’ll only be representing not even half of the game’s true beauty. It’s always a fun disaster to watch though. Togainu no Chi chose to follow all the routes, and good gawd, it was an awesome clusterf*ck that had no focus whatsoever. Walkure Romanze didn’t choose a route though and played it safe. It was boring all throughout, and the fan service is the only thing that made it decent. Mashiro-iro Symphony chose two routes though. It was a half-hearted mess making you invests in one character, but then it suddenly ended the show with a different character. What the hell? I could say Yosuga no Sora’s approach is the best thing to do, but it still has its fault. I’d mention the boatload of otome shows I’ve consumed before, but I’d rather not. Either way, the second stage is where the show truly turns bad, because it needs to decide how much of the game it should take in. For this anime, it chose to follow just one route. Kohei is partnered with the most interesting character: the freakin vampire girl.

The second stage is basically the main bulk of the series. This is where the story should take place in, no matter how under developed it seems. There is no turning back for the anime anyways, so it just has to go with what it settled with. So the turning point of the first stage ends when Kohei is asked to join the student council. In order to keep the vampire secret, he must be around the creatures so they can watch him closely. Of course, vampire girl is part of the student council so presenting her route is relatively easy. To be fair, the vampire girl’s route is pretty decent. The moments she spends with our main character is alright. It isn’t steadily built up, but all the proper elements of a good story are presented in the second stage. This includes the warming up phase for the two characters, their eventual falling in love and the conflict that prevents the girl from falling in love with the guy. The VN is pretty text book, so it’s easy to just present the bare minimum of the route. Of course, the whole thing still feels a bit hollow. It isn’t developed properly, and there is this nagging feeling that the whole thing just looks a lot better in the game. The scenes Kohei shares with the vampire girl is pretty cute, including a lot of physical scenes that seems to catch you off guard. In the game, you can pace the story to your liking so it feels a bit off with the autopilot storytelling of the anime. There is enough to call it entertaining though, even if there isn’t much to like. I’ll also give points for the way the show balanced everything. It isn’t much, but the boring effect of a VN anime is somehow diluted with the way the anime presents its episodes. Some episodes are your standard cliché types like the cultural festival, beach and pool episode. It alternates with the normal boring episodes concerning exposition with the various characters. One episode would be filled with fan service and typical pandering while the next involves the potential story routes in the game. It’s a smart move, because there are a lot of boring scenes in this anime. The show often follows Kohei’s trip around school doing paperwork for the student council, and it isn’t interesting at any degree. It isn’t building up the story as well. I feel like the VN had certain missions the player must complete, and this is how the anime adapts that aspect of the game. He does get some alone time with the various routes, but it’s still pretty dull. I find myself just spacing out because it’s just not fun at all. This is a standard VN characteristic though. Really, a good VN anime should be boring and dull. This show fits the bill just right.

I’ll also say that the flimsy premise of having just one vampire girl is taken far with the story. If you think about it, the vampire girl angle just feels forced and very limited. I think that’s the appeal of the game though. It tricks you into thinking that it’s just a gimmicky VN, but it turns out that the vampire premise trickles down into every route in the game. Every character is connected to the vampire in one way or another, and it now gives us this beautiful concept of normality is a supernatural setting. I like the potential there, and the anime tries to capture that as well. It can’t, but it tried. It followed vampire girl’s route, but the rest of the routes are established as well. They’re all pretty good, and I often wish the anime would follow the Yosuga no Sora approach and just present each route in an arc for the show. Heavily focusing on one girl kinda makes me curious about the other girls. It’s a standard VN approach to start a character with a generic personality, but it gradually changes as you pursue their route. I often wonder just how far the other girl’s routes can go given how interesting the single vampire girl concept has gotten us. When I say that it establishes the other routes, I mean that in the most boring and forced way though. Since the show doesn’t really focus on the narrative, things just really happen. One episode would be about playing in the pool, and then the next would be about the twins resolving a conflict they had since they were children. The lack of buildup makes the scene very bizarre and forced, but you have to understand that the show just presents the potential of the route. It doesn’t really try to focus too much on this. It’s more of an advertisement for the game. “Hey, you like the twins and you wish you can see their side of the story? Then play the game.”

Anyways, things eventually turn serious when the conflict for the vampire girl’s route is presented. This shifts the show into the third stage: conflict resolution and the ending. This is where most VN shows would f*ck up hard a lot. They often can’t end the show properly. Fortune Arterial is smart for focusing on one route coming into the third stage, but other shows aren’t as lucky. I still remember Togainu no Chi just fumbling its ending as it tries to make sense of the clusterf*ck that it rained down upon us. For this show though, it’s pretty simple. Vampire girl’s problem is now Kohei’s problem and he must help the girl with it. It’s easier said than done though, because Kohei is up against the very idea of being a vampire. While vampire girl choses to just run away, Kohei decides to confront the problem straight on. A path to the conclusion and the ending opens, but it’s as clunky as you’d expect from a VN anime. I guess the main issue is that it isn’t really that satisfying. A lot of VN just end on a “blah” when you want more from it, but it obviously can’t because it has a video game to promote, so the experience is often just a forgettable one when all is said and done. In this anime, there isn’t really an ending. It’s just, well, blah. The answer to the conflict doesn’t feel enough, and the ending is just disappointing. Watching a VN anime is often just a pointless experience, really. With no access to the game, you’re often just left with a bland and forgettable experience. This anime isn’t that different.

Characters are decent at best. With no build up to the story, they really just remain as generic as possible. Kohei is interesting in the first stage though. He’s this guy that has no place to belong to, and he even describes himself as a migratory bird because his life sucks. When he did find a place to call his own, vampires decide to ruin that for him. I can imagine it in the game being absolutely good, and it can only grow from there. In the anime though, the focus shifted elsewhere, and he turned into a one dimensional mess. As always, he isn’t really that interesting because the player adds the personality for him. Without a player, Kohei is your typical directionless main character in a VN anime. I think there is also potential in the different relationships he establishes with the routes, since each one is different. Erika Sendo is our vampire girl. She’s the typical head strong character, but her vampire trait pretty much defines her. She has some emotional hung ups about being immortal, and she has trouble controlling her urges. Things become slightly worse when Kohei has a special kind of blood that is candy for vampires, and poor Erika is losing to her urges. I like her chemistry with Kohei, because she isn’t the blushing “oh-I’m-so-shy” kind of character. For the most part, she puts on a brave front and converses with Kohei normally. It’s a step up from the ditzy characters that easily give themselves to our main characters. I also think Erika is the best route in the game, and that’s the main reason why the show chose to follow her route. Honestly though, her personality is pretty plain but the fan service is great. She has big boobs and honey blond hair, and that will basically win you over. I can’t say the romance between her and Kohei is really interesting because it doesn’t really feel special, but I do feel the potential of the route urging me to play the game. This is also an eroge, so one can only wonder the visuals when it comes to the sex scenes in the game. Yeah, I bet it’s awesome.

The other routes are generic at best. We have the timid characters, the motherly type, the energetic one and the cold and disinterested one. Like Erika, they all behave differently towards Kohei and it adds variety to the story. As I said before, I think their routes are interesting as well. The motherly type, Haruna Yuki, and the energetic type, Kanade Yuki, are twins. Haruna is the caring type, and Kanade is the loud type. They often play off each other, since they’re often seen bundled together. Haruna’s story is that she lost a good chunk of her memory, and it includes her time with Kohei as a child. She now wishes to reconnect with him, but she’s holding back because she thinks big sister is in love with Kohei as well. Interestingly, Kanade is backing off for little sister’s sake as well. This dynamic between them eventually creates conflict, and it seems that the problem all started when Haruna lost her memory. They believe it’s when she was hit with a car, but things aren’t that simple. Kohei is now caught in the middle trying to be with both sisters. In the game, he has to choose one but I think he had ample time with both girls in the anime. With Haruna, they often talk about the letters they exchanged as kids and I think it just develops from there. With Kanade, Kohei plays along with her energetic personality. He will eventually pin this girl down though, and realize it’s not all bright smiles with her.

The other girls are Shiro Togi, the timid characters, and Kiriha Kuza, the cold distant character. Shiro didn’t do much in the show, except serve tea, but she has this interesting dynamic with her brother. Before she can even open her mouth, big brother is there to remind her of her place. She’s an island shrine maiden and she has traditions to uphold. She has responsibilities, and big brother is often there to remind her of such. Shiro just wants a normal life though, but she has duties given to her since birth. I think she isn’t satisfied with her life, and being with Kohei would help realize what she really wants in life. The exposition is just lightly implied though, because she really doesn’t have a role in the show. She’s part of the student council, but that’s about it. With her timid attitude, she also can’t assert herself on Kohei so she’s a cute background character at best. I think her pet rabbit is more interesting than her, but the potential of her route is nicely established in the show. Kiriha has a lesser role than Shiro. She stands out as this snobbish hot girl, but she’s background character at best. She doesn’t participate in her class, and she always looks annoyed. She rarely appears in the anime, but you just know there is more to her than this uninterested girl. Her route is lightly explored as well, and I think it’s the second most interesting route next to our vampire girl’s story. I think it’s mainly because you never expect her to be tied with the supernatural element of the story. Nothing about her screams vampire, but she’s actually tied to them as well just like the rest of the cast. Her involvement is a lot more interesting than the rest though. Getting her to lower her defenses must’ve been a fun experience in the game, since it feels like you really have to work to get her to like you. Kiriha is also a bit bitter about her life, as lightly implied by the boring exposition she has with Kohei, and I bet it’s much better developed in the game.

The side characters take up a good chunk of the screen time as well. I mostly want to point out Erika’s brother and Shiro’s brother. Erika’s brother is a vampire as well, but it doesn’t really make him interesting. He’s an annoying character, and he’s set up as this sage idiot that manipulates people. I can see potential, but the story is so bland that he just comes off as annoying. He has an over the top personality, but it stretches pretty thin the more the show shoves him down our throat. He looks cool when he bit that girl in the first episode, but he becomes unbearable as you progress in the show. As for Shiro’s brother, I like him because he’s overprotective. I can only imagine him losing his sh*t when you get too close to Shiro. He has this demanding personality that I like, and he doesn’t flaunt it because he’s a silent character. So his awesomeness exudes just from standing still, and it’s a great contrast from the loudmouth that is Erika’s brother.

This is a joint venture work between Zecxs and Feel. Interestingly, Feel studio only has two shows released in 2010. This anime, and Yosuga no Sora. I think that they were trying to create something special with VN anime, but they just don’t have the resources to explore it as far as they can. Fortunately, this studio is steadily growing strong releasing six shows in 2015. It’s a strong showing considering they only do one show in previous years. I also think that Feel is a great alternative studio, but most of their ideas aren’t recognized for the genius that they are. It’s mainly because their success is pretty questionable as well. But a studio that gave us My Comedy SNAFU and Yosuga no Sora is a genius studio in my book, and I hope most people recognize their brilliance as well. They’ll get their deserved praise soon enough though, so it’s all good. Zexcs is another small time studio, but they have a lot of VN anime under their belt. They also love otome shows for some reason with their notable works including f*cking DIabolik Lovers and DC Da Capo. This studio has some solid hits, but most of them are forgettable though. Most of my fave comes from this studio including shows like Cuticle Detective Inaba and Mushishi. This anime is directed by Munenori Nawa, and he mostly specializes in fan service heavy shows with very little story. I still remember R-15, and mostly because it’s filled with stupid fan service. That’s part of this director’s charm though. From Haruka Nogizaka’s Secret to Kiss X Sis, this guy has one specialty that makes his shows a novelty despite having little plot to them. I don’t really hate his style, but I do think he can do so much more. Of course, boobs and that’s enough to make him a somewhat talented director. He understands the wish fulfillment idea, and he crams it down any anime he touches. The best part is that they’re innocent and harmless shows with just the right balance of fan service, so it’s all good. I mean, I bet he is behind the fan service mindset that makes Kiniro Mosaic attractive, and I think that’s pretty cool.

Sight and Sound

Frtune_Artrl_Akai_Yksoku

Bekkankou made the original character design, and it is pretty great. The characters do look pretty generic, but they’re still well done nonetheless. They look like your standard VN characters, but there’s an appeal with that kind of design. Even though we’ve seen this design a million times and there’s really nothing unique to it, I still find it attractive. For the most part, the design matches the characters quite well. Erika’s honey blond hair and sexy figure matches her head strong personality. Shiro’s frail body and white hair matches her timid personality, and Kiriha’s straight black hair and angry face compliments her snobbish attitude. I guess I like the design a lot, because it made up for the lack of story in the show. With no plot to dissect, you can only hope for the fan service to carry it through and it did just that. The design and the animation make up for the lack of a more desirable experience, and I think it’s a big part of what makes the show good. Despite being generic designs, they are still pretty wonderful and I think some scenes even hark back to the same scenes in the VN. Bekkankou is also an established VN designer, with three more of his designs being brought into the anime world. He knows what makes a character attractive, even if it’s pretty clichéd.

Animation is pretty good. It’s nothing special, since it’s a bit inconsistent, but it does make the experience above average. The bright color palette and the strong character designs really carry the scenes. A lot of the show is boring dialogue exposition as well, so it’s a big factor that makes the show good. The fan service scenes are really great. I love them so much that I screenshot a lot of them and I’m going to post them all on tumblr. It’s mainly because tumblr people love fan service as well. Anyways, there are scenes that have high quality animation, like the pool episode, but most scenes lack the same attention. Character faces often look distorted and mouth position is awkward. It isn’t that noticeable but it is a bit distracting. Face close ups are clean though, and the camera is static so there’s not much to take away from the experience. Well, the story is bland but the animation isn’t part of what makes the show bad.

The anime’s OP is “kizunairo” by Lia. I first hated this song when I first heard it. Lia’s voice is so powerful, and the song is so serious that I can’t get into it. It’s more like an OP song for a serious dramatic show than a VN anime, but I slowly started to like it after I understand what the show is about. The song itself feels like an extension of the anime, as it talks about being free and falling in love without being scared. It’s a good song, especially given a lot of personality by Lia’s singing voice. The OP sequence features all the characters, a light introduction to them and Erika taking center stage just like in the anime. I also like the first scene of her naked wrapped in a red ribbon, as it displays the fan service that I like in the show. The anime’s ED is “I miss you” by Veil. This is another out of place song for me. It’s a love ballad about missing someone, but it just feels odd being in the anime. The song is pretty great though, and I often feel a bit unsatisfied when the song ends so abruptly. I want to hear the full version, because it’s just mesmerizing to listen to. The ED sequence features the girls in a white nightwear soaked lying in the water so we can enjoy the fan service. It’s a pretty cool sequence, because the girls are wonderfully presented in it.

Overall Score

5/10 “The story is boring and the characters are generic, but there’s enough postivrs in this show to fill the 30% requirement to make a good VN anime.”

When all is said and done, I do believe that this anime is pretty forgettable and that’s really the one thing that sucks with VN anime. They’re handicapped to a point that they can’t really do much to make them special. With that being said, the show still has its high points and it delivered enough to capture the appeal of the VN. The story is boring though, and it’s bland through and through. You have to force yourself to like some of the characters, but I think it’s enough when you realize that VN anime only has a 30% chance to be good. Is this something worth watching though? No, it isn’t. If you’ve seen one bland VN anime, then this show is no different. If you are curious though, then try the first three episodes and experience the first stage. If you like it, then try powering through the rest of the show. If you want a good reason to play the game, if you have access to it, then try the first three episodes as well. It’s a decent show, but it’s not something I’d recommend.

Thoughts~

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