Kansmemo is an anime from ’09 based off of a manga by Iwami Shouko. It was brought to anime form by feel. One of the studios behind the 4th series of Galaxy Angel, which I’ll get to eventually & the studio behind Oregairu. It’s a shoujo-ai slice of life, so it should be pretty firmly within my area of expertise. Let’s have a look.
The plot is simple enough. Young Nakamachi Kana loses her grandmother and finds herself without any relatives to look after her. Fortunately, she manages to find a job at a paper and it comes with boarding. It also comes with a bunch of quirky co-workers, which results in either completely normal events or shenanigans. As a premise for a slice of life comedy, that’s fine but the true test lies in the execution.
My big issue with the way the comedy is handled goes back to one of Kana’s co-workers, Haruka. Haruka’s comedic quirk is based around two things: She drinks a lot and she tries her utmost to molest little girls. That’s the big “joke” with her. And it’s not funny. At best, it comes across as uncomfortable and cringey. Haruka’s big scenes are, by a wide margin, the worst part of this series.
That being said, a lot of the humour that ignores her character works pretty well and the series does have a lot of funny moments. It goes in some weird directions as well, like having a musical episode but it generally does it well. I also appreciate Kana’s character arc as she becomes more secure and capable thanks to her determination and the help of those around her, besides Haruka who’s just interested in groping the thirteen year old. Have I mentioned that Haruka is horrible?
The big flaw in the characters is probably obvious after the preceding discussion. I do have to say, Haruka isn’t exactly a unique character type. She’s reminiscent of Akane in Yuru Yuri or Kimura from Azumanga Daioh. The problem that Kanamemo encounters is that she’s a much more prominent character than either of those two. You can go episodes without an appearance by Akane or Kimura. You can have episodes where they appear for maybe a minute and the rest of the episode is good. Haruka, in contrast, does something despicable in every single episode. Usually in longish segments.
That being said, there are some great characters in this too. We have the love birds, Yume & Yuuki. The two of them are consistently adorable. We also have Hinata, the stingy ronin who’s trying to get her life together and has a bit of a clueless attitude when it comes to judging others. For example, there’s a scene where she calls Yume out for being irresponsible. When really, Yume has things together pretty well, certainly better than Hinata. She’s studying to be a pastry chef, she works hard, she has her bride lined up and their relationship dynamic is pretty well defined. She’s just weird and can come across as childish. We also have Saki, the strangely serious “chief” of the newspaper, who also happens to be in grade school. Then there’s Mika, an employee at a rival paper with a serious crush on Kana. What I like about her character is just what a genuine portrayal you get of a young teenager’s awkward first love.
One thing I do appreciate about the characters in general is that they’re shown as having goals and lives outside of the paper. Even Haruka is trying to become a sommelier. Although, in her case, that pretty much just translates to drinking a lot. I also like the way Kana’s character arc and consequential development are handled. If you exclude Haruka, I also like the dynamics you get with the characters. They work well for comedic purposes and characterisation purposes.
All of these characters are shown as having positive aspects to their personalities, except Haruka and negative as well. Which helps make them a bit more rounded. For example, Saki can come across as cold and, possibly too serious, but she also displays genuine concern for her employees. Yume can be childish but she also has a kind heart and tries to bring joy to those around her. Yuuki can be possessive and needy when it comes to Yume but she’s also a hard worker, loyal and she mitigates her jealous tendencies with understanding.
So, if Iwami can write characters this well, why did she just decide not to bother with Haruka?
As a whole, the art is fine. It’s not among the best I’ve seen, even for the genre, but it’s passable. The big thing I don’t really like about it is the way animals are drawn. They’re portrayed with these tiny, button-like eyes that makes their faces look huge by comparison. Especially when it comes to dogs. One thing that’s a bit interesting is that the series likes to censor out its potential fan-service with little cat pictures. Which is better than being fan-servicey, but it’s also kind of bizarre.
Feel did get some strong actresses for this. With excellent performances from Toyosaki Aki, Hirohashi Ryou, Kugimiya Rie, Endou Aya & Mizuhara Kaoru. Even with Haruka’s actress, Horie Yui, I can’t fault her performance. She does about as well as anyone could when voicing such a trash character. Hashimoto Yukari’s music is good. Then again, she’s done well in every series I’ve reviewed that used her music. So, no surprise there.
There is a lot and of greatly varying quality. Any time Haruka gets involved, it’s awful. Yume and Yuuki are the opposite. These two are like really affectionate newly weds and they make for an adorable couple. Any time there’s a scene of them lying in bed together, sneaking a kiss or just interacting, it’s fantastic. There’s also Mika’s obvious feelings for Kana, Kana’s friends even notice and use that fact to tease Mika, and some strong indications that they’re reciprocated.
Areas of Improvement:
- Get rid of Haruka. This one is really simple. Haruka single-handedly brings the series down. I would say there are two ways to go with this. The first is to just have one less major character. The second is to replace her with a not despicable character. Maybe a charming womanising girl who isn’t a rapey paedophile.
- Learn to draw animals. I just really don’t like the way animal eyes are drawn in this.
- Give us the scene where Mika learns that Johnny is a goldfish. This one, I just think would be really funny and probably cute. So, I’d like to see it. And I’m sure someone is going to say “oh, that’s in the manga. Just read it.” I intend to check the manga. I’d still like to see it animated.
Kanamemo is one of those series that really works when it’s doing what it’s good at. Unfortunately, it also has a massive flaw that really hurts it. And her name is Haruka. Without her, I could say this was great, maybe even fantastic, and whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who likes slice of life. With her, I have to pull back and say it’s just okay. If you can tolerate Haruka in all her horribleness, you’ll probably appreciate all the fun, charming moments it does have. And it may be worth watching just for the Yume and Yuuki scenes. So, I’ll give it a 6/10.