Check-out Station: Kirara
I don’t watch many OVA’s and when I do I spend very little time talking about them. Something about them gives me a feeling of inconsequential material. Though on the plus side, OVA’s are the old stomping ground for creativity in the medium. Anime isn’t as popular as it is, and doesn’t gain some of its rabid fandom (and if you’re an OVA fan, I consider you rabid on some level) without stuff that goes straight to video. So with that, I wondered if Kirara would be worth forty minutes of my life.
Twenty-four-year-old Kirara is on her way to her wedding when she is killed in a car accident. However her love for her fiance is so strong that she is permitted to return to earth as a ghost to see him. But she is sent back 8 years in time, to when she and her fiancé first met. However her own meddling in the past may make her 16 year-old-self turn away from her would-be fiance.
OK, with that description I’m intrigued. I always like tragedy if it comes with well thought out trials and consequences. My only question is how this show will tell a meaningful story in the time allotted? Well part of that problem is solved by just showing the viewer how the tragically engaged couple meet and fell in love. This is very confusing at first though, because I couldn’t tell if they were doing one of those weird techniques where they show significant high points of a production in the beginning as the opening credits roll. It’s something I usually have only seen in the openings to old action movies or to pornography films. Though things are quickly made clear when we see the frazzled and inattentive leading lady, Kirara get into a motor vehicle crash and black out. And from here, I suppose I’ll kill the synopsis since the actual OVA isn’t very long. I’ll just say things start off in an appropriately confusing fashion, but quickly start to iron themselves out as the production moves along. And what the viewer gets is a series of misconceptions that would be usual in any harem anime, except the one of the ladies is a hot ghost, not a hot person.
The plot is a short romp through a couple of days with ghost Kirara, her now teen-aged fiance Kompei, his current girlfriend Eimi and her best friend, the teen-aged Kirara who set the two of them up. You see where this is going?
What we get is ghost Kirara attempting to crush Kompei’s current relationship to get him to go with her teen-aged self. At first the poor woman just wants to hold onto Kompei herself, but Kompei doesn’t even recognize her and has nothing resembling a romantic relationship with her counterpart. So all the while she literally haunts Kompei, until he turns to her teen-aged self to get her to admit to her true feelings. It’s easy for ghost Kirara to be annoying, she’s dead and has all the time in the world. But she’s far from the patient type, and her actions border on malicious at times. I will say that in the end, while she could easily have turned into a malicious ghost, or one who was obsessed with the things she did not have before she died (hanging around couples and weddings and so forth), she never did go that far. Though for a grown woman (a dead, disembodied one) she certainly was childish and pushy. And the scenes with her arguing with her teen-aged self were at times vicious and bitchy, but funny, too. For the most part, she came across as a full fledged character. I just had one minor gripe that I’ll get to later.
Oh and before I forget, her voice actress is a little known talent by the name of Kotono Mitsuishi. I was fond of her roles in various series, but she’s most famous for adding voice talent to the character of Usagi, a.k.a. Sailor Moon! She also voiced Misato from Evangelion and would soon voice Mireille Bouquet of Noir. I’m sure when this came out she was pretty hot stuff! It kinda explains why this adult character could have a voice so effective at whining.
We never get around to seeing the adult Konpei aside from the opening montage. The story revolves around the teen-aged Konpei that ghost Kirara wakes up to. He really is your standard harem lead, and kinda reminded me of Tenchi, but without the awesome powers. And he’s voiced by Kentarou Itou, who I know best from shounen battle manga like Bleach (Renji) and Naruto (Chouji). It’s decent stuff, I don’t feel like there’s much range for this character in this little hiccup of an OVA. He’s either being a nice guy, or normal pervy guy, or he’s the victim of a misunderstanding trying to defend himself. If there was any problems I had in this character’s direction, it may be how he reacted to some stuff in this production. I expected him to be a little more scared by the fact that he had a ghost in his house, or a little more turned on because he had a beautiful woman floating around naked or in lingerie half the time. The show does attempt to show that he’s distracted by her in his crappy grades, but he doesn’t really show it very much.
And then there’s the third member of this love polygon, teen-aged Kirara. She’s voiced by Chiaki Osawa who doesn’t have much voice work to her credit. But she does a decent job playing a girl who is standard combination of assertive and in denial, you know what I’m talking about probably. She’s a tsundere character. The whole reason Konpei is hooked up with Kirara’s best friend is because Kirara pushed it on them. I’m sure her friend Eimi is fine with it, but Konpei clearly (especially since in the future they get married) has eyes for Kirara. She’s her own worst enemy. It’s pretty silly how a ghost shows up and tells her exactly what she’s thinking, and she still denies it. That’s stubborn. Though I will give her and Eimi more having good reactions to the ghost Kirara. They either freeze up in terror or pass out at first. Teen-aged Kirara doesn’t come off as very cute or likable in this production, probably only really being attractive when she’s in her underwear. Aside from a few decent quips at ghost Kirara, she’s completely out shone by her ghost from the future.
The supporting cast is small and unimpressive. The original girlfriend, Amy, is not much of a personality, just coming off as mostly bubbly and happy to get along. It’s almost unfortunate that she’s just a victim in all this, having her relationship attacked from the beginning by a ghost. Other than that, she’s just a means to conflict as she eventually gets the idea to rid her boyfriend of the ghost by exorcism. Leading to two characters showing up near the end to put stickers on ghost Kirara’s butt and send her back to oblivion. Those two characters aren’t even worth naming.
If the characters are a mixed bag, the rest of the show follows in kind. The animation is decent, it never gets weird. And by that I mean I didn’t notice the characters suddenly lose their design due to animation shortcuts. And you don’t see weird jerky or awkward movement due to shortcuts either. I was very annoyed by one aspect of the character design though. I abhorred how the characters’ faces were drawn with line on their face to help (I suppose) accentuate their cheeks. It just looked as though the animators had drawn whiskers on their faces way too far apart. This production aired in the year 2000, and it looks like it was one of the last remnants of the 90’s style of animation that was being fazed out for the much cleaner and more computer animated styles and techniques we got used to in the 2000s.
I will give the show credit for showing sexy characters (which I wonder if that was the main focus of this production all along) in nice outfits and their underwear. Ghost Kirara especially looked gorgeous at times. And the production made much effort to keep viewer attention through nudity near the beginning. Though that did make me feel as though the people putting this together were afraid that everyone would get bored before the halfway point, so they threw in as much breast imagery as they could “tastefully” manage.
When it came to the music, I was less than pleased in that department as well. Since it did something that constantly set off my pet-peeve alarm. Music wasn’t always played, but when it was it was pop music with lyrics that seemed to distract me from what was going on, or would just be played at times it wasn’t needed. If the one song they wanted to use as part of the plot was used twice and that was it, then I would be happy with the usage of pop music in this production. But it’s not that restrained. When instrumentals were played, I felt like I was listening to lounge music, or music that belonged in a video game. I didn’t enjoy anything I heard.
Once the show had finished, and I saw the credits roll I thought back on the plot and thought, “how unsatisfying.” A production with a decent concept couldn’t pull me in with emotion, when the concept relies on it. Instead, I felt as though I had just watched something designed thematically for women, but flavored for men. The story should be a tear jerker, but it ends in the flattest, most uncommitted way possible, not addressing a central question or providing a satisfying emotional conclusion. The men are roped in by a beautiful naked woman and sexy undergarments throughout. The women I assume are to hang on to the hope of some decent relationship moments before the end. But I never felt really that any of the characters connected. I couldn’t believe for a moment that tears weren’t shed at some point in this. A woman died, and her last moments of consciousness are a god given miracle to relive the pivotal moments of the relationship she couldn’t fully enjoy before death. How does it end this flatly?! To tell you the truth, the song that I thought annoyed me so badly, actually strikes me as sad now that I have it playing behind these words I’m placing in this post. It’s sad how this show wasted a good concept just to show us anime crotch and boobs, a bland romance and a goofy climax.
I guess I could drag some real emotion out of this if I “fanfic” it and imagine that the ending credits are Kirara remembering the last moments of the best part of her life before fading away into nothingness. There! How’s that for a lasting impact filled moment you lazy ass show?!