Review of To Heart (1999)

Moving picture, 5.0 hours

Rude high-schooler Hiroyuki is lazy but paradoxically helpful, even to strangers, so he is well liked. A timid and traditional girl who is also quite central loves this boy, but doesn’t tell him. They hang out a lot, together with an athletic male and a brash female friend. In most of the episodes, Hiroyuki meets some new girl with a quirk, such as a passion for martial arts or black magic. One of them happens to be an android. Hiroyuki and his old friends get to know each girl, but it never gets very romantic.

Toothless feel-good stuff; a slice of life in a slightly twisted world. Very little happens and what does happen is usually slow, downplayed and unconflicted. Based on an unusual sort of dating game, which helps explain the format. There’s decent bonus material.

The most interesting feature of To Heart is its attitude toward the Todorovian marvelous. Occult magic, androids and prescience obviously exist, but society is unchanged by their inclusion. This is a fabulist plot hole. The marvelous is included, but not for the usual comical, dramatic or allegorical reasons, and the consequences lack even internal logic. To Heart takes a subtly atypical approach to fabulism, building a general atmosphere of such tolerance and relaxation that the marvelous is muted to the level of a personality trait. It’s mostly just some people being nice to one another and becoming friends. There are some problems and inconsiderate characters, but never anything dark, and no sense that the marvelous could have profound significance.

References here: Japan 2004, dag 5 8, Comic Party (2001), Azumanga Daioh (2002), A Certain Magical Index (2008), The Wind Rises (2013).

moving picture Japanese production animation fiction series