Rumbling Hearts – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien

 

Related: Rumbling Hearts: Next Season (alternative ending)

Akane Maniax (spin-off)

Similar: ef: A Tale of Memories

Clannad: After Story

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Drama Romance

Length: 14 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Superb, crushing drama.
  • Powerful and emotional acting.
  • Mature handling of relationships, sex, and consequences.
  • Lamentable music.

Negatives:

  • Visual aesthetic doesn’t match the drama.
  • The comic relief side story has no effect on the main plot.

Note: No trailer since I feel it gives away too much.

As a teen new to the medium, I had no expectations of serious drama without fantasy or science fiction since anime had teens as the core market. After watching what my friends had recommended, I went to a database for their highest rated anime and noticed Kimi ga Nozomu Eien (no dub at the time) towards the top, but with that art, I doubted its worth. I saw the visuals as a challenge – ‘Go ahead; I dare you to watch this cheesy-looking anime.’ I accepted.

The story starts in high school. Swim champ Mitsuki introduces her best friend Haruka to Takayuki, a guy in her class. Haruka, a shy and sweet girl, confesses to Takayuki and at first, he is hesitant, but does agree to date her to avoid hurting her feelings, for he is a well-meaning and good-natured guy. His thoughts stay with Mitsuki and hers with him. As time goes on, Takayuki develops feelings for Haruka and they grow intimate. So far, all was as I expected – sappy, a bit mushy, first-world teen problems. Then, everything comes crashing down when tragedy strikes.

This is where the teen romance dies, replaced by darkness and depression. We enter a narrative of broken dreams, missed opportunities and facing reality. Rumbling Hearts is harsh and cruel, as is life. I do not envy the soul crushing guilt felt by Takayuki, that all-consuming emotion capable of shutting down one’s life. Seriously, just punch me in the heart, why don’t you. Take my emotions and make them dance on glass while you’re at it.

The story spans a few years with the characters entered into the workforce, flashing back to high school on occasion. It’s great to see the juxtaposition between the happier past and sombre present. You may not like these characters. You may hate the selfishness, the cowardice, or the timidity, but that raw truth to the characters is what it means to be human, it’s what brings them to life and makes this more than a teen romance. This isn’t a series for those who like their heroes to be selfless paragons.

Furthermore, the mature approach to sex is refreshing. No ‘tee-hee-hee’ behind the hand, no ‘omg, he’s like, so hawt,’ and no pretending that sex is something only born of love. Relationships aren’t restrained in Rumbling Hearts.

Other than the dissonant art, my complaint is with the comedic side plot of Takayuki working at a restaurant with two waitresses, one rowdy and the other unfortunately roped into her antics. I understand that the audience needs moments to breathe amid the drama – I wouldn’t recommend a one evening binge – but the side thread has no effect on the core. With all restaurant scenes cut, Takayuki would simply need to infer that he works and nothing would be lost from the plot. Yes, the humour is decent, and yet I can’t imagine it being difficult to have a relevant and engaging thread instead. Of course, since these moments have no effect, they don’t weaken the drama either.

Don’t be fooled by the factory farmed visual novel aesthetic; Rumbling Hearts is a heavy drama that doesn’t hold anything back. I have kept several plot details hidden, ones you would likely find in other reviews, to avoid any spoilers so that you may experience it as I did. If only western TV had drama of this level for a young audience.

Note: Rumbling Hearts: Next Season is an alternate ending to the series. Despite two hours of content, Next Season has nothing of worth. Each episode focuses on a different character, but really, flashbacks to the series cover most of the screen time. However, the worst part is the alternate ending, as it decapitates all the effort and drama built up in the series. Next Season is what a bad version of Rumbling Hearts would look like.

Art – Medium

Rumbling Hearts is deceptive in its choice of art. Looking at a screenshot, you could be forgiven for confusing this with a dozen cheesy high school romances. This means the character detail is a little flat, mainly due to the single tone shading. The backgrounds are pretty. One could argue that the pleasant art increases dramatic impact through contrast.

Sound – High

The actors for Takayuki and Mitsuki deliver powerful performances in Japanese, my recommended track. Sorrowful piano enhances the emotion.

Story – High

A mature story of growth and facing tragedy filled with honest, human characters. Irrelevant comedy side plot, however.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Unless you hate depressing drama, Rumbling Hearts is a must watch. Prepare for the feels train. And remember, if you hate the characters’ choices, it’s okay.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Deep NarrativeExtensive Character DevelopmentStellar Voice ActingStrong Lead Characters

Negative: None

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