iSugio

Kotoura-san – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Kotoura Haruka is a 15-year-old girl who can read people’s minds. She has been suffering from troubles caused by her mind-reading ability, and her parents got divorced as a result. She moves to a new high school but tries to keep away from her classmates. Manabe Yoshihisa, one of her classmates, accepts and appreciates her ability and she begins to interact with her friends with his help.

Based on the manga series by Enokizu, Kotoura-san is a series that will perhaps take many viewers by surprise. This impression no doubt derives from the delivery of the show itself, with its first episode consisting of being both highly dramatic as well as comedic, a combination that will persist throughout the remainder of the series. It is this alternation of emotions that produces a series that may be difficult for some viewers to watch considering that it constantly juggles between wanting to be a serious drama or an ecchi-esque comedy, featuring abrupt shifts in direction that occasionally lessen the overall quality that the series offers. It is a confusing approach for sure, but is it truly a series that is severely hindered because of it?

For the most part, Kotoura-san is far more successful when it deals with the dramatic struggles of its characters more so than anything else. The series works particularly well when it explores the tribulations faced by Kotoura, a girl who has extrasensory perception – otherwise known as ‘ESP’ – with her continually wrestling with such an ability amidst family, friendship, and societal tensions. The series focuses on delivering a reasonable examination of the proverbial social outcast, looking at the psychological ramifications that Kotoura experiences as an individual who can unwillingly read people’s minds. Her ability makes her estranged to her parents, inadvertently ending their marriage by exposing their infidelity to one another, and leaves her friendless at school as well. Kotoura especially becomes estranged to her mother Kumiko, who left a younger Kotoura on extremely harsh terms. Kotoura is seen as an individual confronting daily obstacles in a world that simply will not accept her due to her ability, correlating her to that of a monster more than a human being.

Due to the reasons above, Kotoura-san establishes a sincere character study of an individual who is outside the norm, not quite fitting in with their surroundings or peers due to some rather extraordinary circumstances. Kotoura is viewed as a reflection of such circumstances, in turn placing us into her world of uneasiness as she attempts to relate to those around her and simply be an ordinary girl. Given the complexities of her arduous family situation, her characterization is elevated even more so and the series develops into a fantastic statement on acceptance. This expression is also allocated to the other characters in the series as well, and although not as candid as Kotoura’s emotional growth, they still offer character development that is satisfying and complementary to Kotoura’s search for acceptance. The series brings out a sense of honesty concerning the characters and their willingness – and at times unwillingness – to understand Kotoura and her ability, encompassing a great need for us to see Kotoura continually strive to overcome the emotional hurdles she faces.

But given all the strengths Kotoura-san showcases surrounding its character development, it is also a series that seemingly throws in an unreasonable amount of humor that makes the series – at least in its first half – seem rather uneven. While the anime medium is often known to considerably blurring the lines between genre types, for every dramatic moment within Kotoura-san that further signifies the plight that Kotoura faces, there is an equally comical – and often lightly perverted – scene usually focusing on Kotoura and other male characters. Individuals such as Yoshihisa, a classmate of Kotoura’s and one of the main characters of the series, is often delegated to being that of the deviant pervert, even though there are times where he stands out as a highly influential friend within Kotoura’s life. It is kind of unfortunate to see characters such as Yoshihisa depicted at times as yet another sexually aberrant teenager, considering that a series such as this one shows a keen appreciations towards its characters, characters who strengths are somewhat diminished with the inclusion of such lowbrow humor. But it would also appear that Kotoura-san is a series that embraces such a fluctuating approach that constitutes in a narrative that is highly sentimental and that only slightly benefits from its unsophisticated humor.

Considering that Kotoura-san’s narrative is one that consistently challenges expectations as the series progresses, it is a series that is emotionally involving and surprisingly touching. While the first several episodes of the series may be a challenge for some viewers given that it does not seem to know exactly in what direction it wants to go, one will slowly begin to see that the series, in the long run, takes itself quite seriously. With the series stemming from a yonkoma manga series – or four-panel manga – the humor found there is unsurprisingly shown here, but much of the series’ considerable character development shines as well. While the execution and direction of the series will certainly be susceptible to criticism or dislike – ultimately losing many viewers due to its adherence to its unexpected interchanging genres – Kotoura-san is a series that, despite its comical flaws, brings about a spirited narrative concerning overcoming personal obstacles and being true to oneself.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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Comments

  • FlamingFirewire

    This is such a great show, it really is a shame that no one in North America picked it up for a Home Video release, as this is one that I would be likely to buy and watch again.

  • http://www.isugoi.com/ Miguel Douglas

    Agree, this is definitely a series that surprised me.