Hourglass of Summer - vNovel
Also known as: Natsuiro no Sunadoke - vNovel
It was Kotaro's Junior year in school with only a week left. Kotaro makes up his mind to introduce himself to the school idol: Kaho. It's true she's completely out of his league, but he decides that he'd give it a shot with the girl he's got a crush on. That night Kotaro encounters a mysterious figure who drops a strange powder on him once confronted. The next morning he starts to realize things were wrong. He discovers that it is now the FIRST day of school and he had skipped over the entire summer. He also learns that Kaho is now dead.
Things get only more complex when he learns that not only was the girl he had a crush on tragically killed a few days ago, over the summer they had met and fallen in love. From this point on, Kotaro starts to experience "day dropping" where he would skip to a random day in his summer. Kotaro is determined to save Kaho, but with the story completely out of order it's hard to piece together the picture well enough to save her. As he gets deeper into the summer, Kotaro also begins to realize that Kaho needs to be saved not only from her death, but from her repressed life under her overbearing father.
This isn't really an "anime" per say since it's not really animated (basically stills accompanied by voice acting). These days I guess you would call this a visual novel, but since it's available on DVD and playable on a standard DVD player... with anime characters it seemed to fit well into my anime review section. No animation aside I'd say Hourglass of Summer is almost perfect. The story is great, (Japanese) voice acting is superb, and the designs are top notch. The title really thoroughly had me hooked from beginning to "end".
One of the best aspects of this title involves the "day dropping" idea. Kotaro skips to random days in summer and tries to figure out how to save Kaho. This isn't as easy as it sounds, because he's not exactly sure how she was killed either aside from it being an accident at a bus stop. From here he discovers different pieces of the puzzle, but as he finds them out of order, he is also blocked by days he's already experienced. He's also plagued by the days he botched because he lacked knowledge and ends up with consequences for actions he hasn't done yet. As things fall into place he starts to get a groove going and works around his problems, including introducing himself to people who are vital to the future and so forth - but by then he's almost out of time. It doesn't seem like much from a simple description, however the day dropping theme is a fantastic idea with an exceptional amount of depth to it. And Hourglass of Summer manages to flesh it out to it's potential.
As is typical with the Visual Novel stuff, you make choices for Kotaro. This basically means he will pursue one of four paths dedicated towards a girl (plus one counting Lee Jane's extra story). While it's not rocket science, the undiscovered paths aren't obvious and you'll probably want to look up your options online if you get stuck or want to see them all (they're all worth it too). Hourglass of Summer is very very long even from one perspective, but covering them all would take me forever... but I'll touch on the two I liked the most.
Ai is Kotaro's childhood friend, and she's obviously got a crush on him and as is typical, Kotaro is dense over the whole thing. You've seen this before right? Ai's story still manages to get spun into a really good love triangle. Kotaro isn't sure how to approach Kaho, but Ai is on friendly terms with her, so he manages to get her to act as a proxy to introduce them. While Kotaro and Kaho get closer, Ai inadvertently becomes very good friends with her as well. This gives Ai the heartbreaking dilemma of supporting her friend, or going for the guy she loves.
Kaho's story is more of the typical "class idol" vein. Her character starts off as perfect and unapproachable, but Kotaro manages to fill in her details and she seems more human as the story goes on. Kaho's story is a mix of a typical romance, but also involves her being sheltered by her over protective father. This becomes complicated as Kotaro experiences days of their relationship out of order. One random day she'll be very familiar with him, the next she hardly knows him, etc.
All that aside, Kotaro himself is in fact a surprisingly good male protagonist. The story is mostly from a first person perspective, but I did feel that there was still a personality behind everything. Kotaro's introspective ideas were very insightful and help to improve the already well told story. He's not the blank slate I would have expected in such a title.
This review is already pretty long so I better sum this up. Obviously I liked Hourglass of Summer a lot, and I consider it one of my favorites. It's also very long and will take you a while to get through, but personally I couldn't get enough of it. While not animated, the great voice performances still brought the characters to life better than most titles with movement ever manage.
This shouldn't be confused with the two part OVA based off this visual novel, which isn't very good.
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