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Rumbling Hearts - volume one

director: Tetsuya Watanabe

120 minutes (12) 2003
Revelation / FUNimation DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Trudi Topham
Anime based on a video game. Yes. They do have 'tragic romance' video games in Japan, although I'd like to think this series doesn't have one of that game's potential outcomes (and I'm going to quote from Wikipedia here, as it's so neat and succinct: "[Minami] kidnapping and torturing [Takayuki] until he completely breaks down to a childlike state, including sodomizing and urinating on him, while dressing him in girl's clothing and forcing him to undergo gender reassignment surgeries so he can be closer to his 'mommy'").

Takayuki is a high school student, one of four tight friends. There's Mitsuki, who fancies the pants off Takayuki but has already set him up with their mutual friend, Haruka. Haruka and Mitsuki have been best friends for years, with Haruka the shy, timid little mouse and Mitsuki the ballsy sports star. Finally there's Shinji, who has a crush on Mitsuki, but can't get past her bullish personality to actually... you know... admit it to her.

It's your basic love quadrangle set-up, except after half an hour of genteel lovely nothingness; Haruka gets squashed into a coma in a car accident and spends three years oblivious to the world. Takayuki sinks into post-traumatic stress disorder, arriving minutes too late for a meeting with Haruka that, had he been in time for, would have removed her from the scene of the accident. Mitsuki essentially leaps into Haruka's still-warm spot in Takayuki's life, sympathy-fucking him while he's too out-of-it to say no. Shinji, disgusted by their behaviour and not willing to get sucked into their black hole finally drifts away to get on with his life away from the screw-ups. And then, three years later, Haruka wakes up...

Now bear with me. I know I've only given this six out of ten, and what I'm about to say might appear to contradict that rating. Rumbling Hearts is very, very good. It's beautifully drawn and animated. The script is excellent. The handling and representation of PTSD is very well researched and sensitively done. The hell of living dropout life is depressingly realistically achieved. The misunderstandings and choices every character has or makes are sympathetic and understandable, even if they're reprehensible.

Why only six, then? Well, Rumbling Hearts is just a bit... boring. It's almost a soap opera with its level of complications and interweaving, and it's so predictable that it hurts. This DVD has got the usual FUNimation extras bundle - trailers and some guff about Japanese life. And it does contain five episodes, which is about how many it takes for the story to really kick off. I wouldn't pay for it, but I don't regret having seen it.

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