On Tsurezure Children′s innovative density
Have you ever finished a stellar romantic comedy, along the lines of ″Toradora!″ or ″Ore Monogatari!!″ and thought to yourself: ″Man, if only I could experience ten of those in half the time. Such an utterly unrealistic scenario sure would be a dream come true, even though I doubt I′d be able to survive the resulting diabetes.″
If so; that not only proves the voice in my head, expressing weirdly specific wishes in an almost offputtingly unnatural manner, to be something that not only I experience, but also that Studio Gokumi has the show for you in the form of the summer 2017 Anime ″Tsurezure Children″.
The adaptation of Toshiya Wakabayashi′s 4-Koma Webmanga follows the romantic mishaps and milestones of its incredibly endearing and diverse cast, comprised of 20+ high school students, therefore rendering the concept of a ″main character″ entirely inapplicable, over a series of twelve 13 Minute episodes, each consisting of multiple, largely unconnected scenes, ranging from tragic to hilarious.
At this point you might be a little skeptical, as portraying ten different couples in a way that is simultaneously believable and memorable seems like a project way too ambitious to be doable and had I not already seen the series, I would agree, yet Tsurezure Children accomplishes this feet admirably through the combination of a seemingly tailor-made visual style, as well as the nonchalant attitude, with which the show is willing to break all conventions of the genre it is so obviously celebrating in order to convey its stories as effectively as possible.
So, how does it manage to fit all that into this short a time span? The benefits inherent to the typical format of 4-koma adaptations are certainly part of the reason for Tsurezure Children′s success on this front, as switching to a different couple after each scene allows the anime to exclusively portray those moments it deems important, without the employment of constant time jumps, which would get jarring rather quickly, but this pragmatic approach to storytelling can also be observed in the individual scenes.
A typical show would alternate between scenes of character interaction, the narrative building blocks, and off time, in which things like inner monologues happen, but this series, as previously stated, does not have any off time, a problem that is solved by making the viewer privy to the thoughts of one or sometimes multiple characters during their interactions with each other. This method of presenting the cast′s inner workings is by nature far less filtered and refined, than what they would come up with in retrospect, and as such has the added benefit of being able to convey a clearer, less tampered with idea of their true relationship dynamics.
The last and probably most unique aspect of Tsurezure Children′s amazingly dense presentation however is, that it sees absolutely no need to justify its characters. Sure, the stories of how Gouda became the most stoic dork on the planet, how Ryouko turned into an adorable delinquent and how Katori ascended to dating godhood would no doubt be interesting to see and could be hilarious in their own right, but they are not what this anime is all about and telling them would be missing the point. Toshiya Wakabayashi′s work is about the crystallized essence of young love, concerned with who these People are now and how it affects their interactions exclusively, while cutting out all distractions we have come to expect from the genre.
With all that effort put into supporting it, it seems only natural for this Show′s humongous cast to be its biggest strength, and it delivers, as their sheer number allows Tsurezure′s couples to be two very important things: refreshing and really, really weird. Let me explain: The enjoyment you get out of a romantic comedy is inherently tied to, and almost solely dependent on whether you find its leads to be likable. Ask anyone who didn′t enjoy Toradora! And they′ll tell you that they thought Taiga was annoying, which is why their protagonists are typically not too interesting in terms of personality, they are supposed to be inoffensive, while quirkier characters are delegated to the supporting cast. It′s only sensible, and not at all a bad thing for any one show in particular, yet it can lead to a feeling of interchangeability upon consumption of a lot of such media, therefore making Tsurezure Children′s cast of adorable oddballs a breath of fresh air. It all harkens back to the pragmatism with which every aspect of this series is designed: Any viewer would surely like at least some of these weirdoes while any annoying couple doesn′t seem like a deal breaker when it only takes up a tenth of the screen time, allowing the show to have its cake and eat it too.
On the visual side of things, as you have probably already noticed, Tsurezure Children leans heavily toward minimalism, with character designs that are distinct enough to be easily recognizable, although not terrifically interesting on their own. One might say that the show suffers from ″same face syndrome″, hair and outfit being pretty much the only distinguishing factors, when comparing the members of the cast with each other, and while this accusation is not technically incorrect, it is nonetheless doing this particular anime a disservice, as the time and cost cutting measure allows it to do something truly amazing with its visual presentation, making the sacrifice more than worth it: the facial expressions, oh god the facial expressions.
You could take any screenshot from this show, edit out hair, clothing and eye colour for good measure and it would still be effortlessly possible to recognize the depicted character despite their indistinct facial anatomy, because everyone in Tsurezure Children has their own, completely unique set of expressions. ″relieved″ and ″sad″ and ″nervous″ look different for every single member of the cast, and while that might sound like such a minor detail, it is noticeable from the moment you start watching, and goes such a long way in characterizing these teens and making them seem like actual, real people, leaving me with the question why this is something you typically only see in relatively high budget animated movies. From a production standpoint it′s obvious, as designing twenty plus unique facial expressions for every emotion is such an insane amount of added work, compared to recycling them, that there is simply no way around cutting corners to make it happen. But Tsurezure Children does make it happen, all the while pulling off sleek character designs despite the simplicity.
This is a show with a clear mission statement from start to finish, and blatant disregard for everything it deems to be ballast, making weird, unorthodox production and storytelling decisions, that reveal their true genius once you know what it is trying to accomplish and succeeds with flying colours, putting a big, dumb smile on my face that only few shows can inspire episode after episode.
Tsurezure Children is very much a love letter to its genre, condensing what the author considers its essence into the purest possible form with no need for back stories, melodrama or any kind of stakes that exist outside of the characters minds, managing to be unapologetically silly and still show genuine heart. If nothing else, the series aptly proves that relationships do not need to be taken seriously to be engaging, that there is nothing wrong with, and indeed merit to being clumsy, naïve and inescapably awkward, because guess what?