Review of His and Her Circumstances (1998)
Anno Hideaki (director).
Two overachievers full of secrets strike up a relationship.
High-school romance for TV, experimental in style, using deformation, varied media (fairly simple 2D animation, distorted photographs of real environments and people, putting the characters on paper slips and filming these in live action, making episode previews by filming seiyuu in character, and so on) and metafiction.
The content is similarly mutable, ranging from serious and realistic psychological dissection even of relatively minor characters to curiously procrastinated shoujo, all the way down to really bizarre forms of slapstick. There’s switchback pacing throughout. It is uncertain what actually happens and how. There are tons of summaries and characters are seen sliding between different designs. Written markers of sounds and moods are frequent. Some conversations at the end occur in writing, with narrators merely categorizing the sentences as they are mutely spoken.
His and Her Circumstances was the first Gainax anime project adapted from non-Gainax work, in this case a manga. It is also un-Gainax-like in that it lacks science fiction. Supposedly, Anno wanted to try something new. The manga was still going on when the TV series finished, which helps drag down the ending. According to a 2018 retrospective by Caitlin Moore at Anime News Network (“20 years of KareKano”), the original author Tsuda Masami disliked the adaptation, possibly contributing to Anno stepping down: “Starting with episode 16, instead of the credits listing Anno as the sole director with his name in kanji, they list him alongside Hiroki Sato with his name in katakana. He is also listed as the writer for every single episode, with co-writers on episodes 19 and 24-26.” The combination of diverging styles and contents with author disapproval and budget problems mean that Anno’s version will never be continued, yet he left the plot unresolved, with lots of cheap filler.
As frustrating as this is, some games with our suspension of disbelief are interesting. The characters and the Sagisu soundtrack are all good, and Anno did at least go to the effort of interviewing lots of high school kids to get into their way of thinking as he was writing this show. The depth and realism breathed life into the genre, before it all burned down.