What’s it about ?
Two brothers are forced into a bizarre magical contract to save their deathly-ill sister. Also, penguins.
Shouma, the blue-haired younger brother, is our point of view character for most of the first episode. He’s the more subdued and introverted of the pair, although he does get quite emotional when his sister seems to die halfway through. If I’ve understood the plot well, the brothers take turns going to school and doing the chores (and taking care of Sis). It’s all but stated that their parents are dead.
(We get to see a couple of his classmates, such as the obligatory lecherous best friend and a girl that screams “potential love interest”, but they’re not important yet.)
Kanba, the red-haired elder brother, seems to be much more of a Casanova (much to Shouma’s dismay)… but then we see him kissing his sister while she’s asleep at the very end of the episode. Hum…
Himari, their sister, is afflicted with one of those undefined fatal anime diseases. The doctors have no clue why she’s even still alive, and give her a few months at best. Which was optimistic, considering she drops dead in the middle of a trip to the zoo (the brothers were obviously trying to make her last few days as pleasant as possible). But never fear ! The (very ugly) penguin-shaped hat they bought her at the gift-shop takes control of her, and gives her some life back, provided the brothers enter a mysterious magical contract.
Shouma was starting to think it was all a dream, but then he starts getting stalked by a very helpful penguin… which turns out to be part of a trio which was sent to the siblings by parties unknown. Oh, and Himari gets controlled by the penguin hat again, providing some more exposition. Which barely explains anything, of course.
It’s animated by Brains Base, one of the best studios currently around (even their C-show Kamisama Dolls looks better than average), so of course it looks good. But what is really striking are the multiple directorial touches that provide exposition in a fun way (the subway signs for location changes, or the ticker text for the hospital flashbacks) or just contribute to the playful atmosphere (the faceless masses reduced to bathroom symbols).
Which is only to be expected, considering this is the new project of capital-D Director Kunihiko Ikuhara (Revolutionary Girl Utena), who hasn’t done any substantial work for more than a decade. It’s actually surprisingly devoid of what I’d identified as his signature stylistic tics (there’s barely a rose in sight, and no pastel freeze-frames), but then I can only assume he’s moved on and is trying to make the best of modern animation techniques.
The ED heavily suggests that the brothers are going to take girl forms as part of their contract. Oh, Ikuhara, never change.
I obviously has high expectations about this show, considering the director and studio behind it ; the complete lack of any promotional info regarding the actual premise only exacerbated my curiosity. I’m glad to say that this is well worth the hype, mystifying in all the right ways, possessing a superb sense of slapstick (the penguins are hilarious) and jokes that are genuinely funny, and grounded by the intriguing relationship between the three leads (and this, despite how irritating I usually find Himari’s character type).
This is head and shoulders above anything else this season : imaginative, funny, great looking, and gifted with a gripping emotional core. Sure, there’s still about 9 new shows I’ve yet to sample, but I really doubt any of them is going to be as good as this one. If you’re only going to watch one anime series this summer, make it this one.