Review: Fuuka

Producer: Diomedéa
Director: Keizo Kusakawa
Writer: Aoi Akashiro
Starring: Yusuke Kobayashi Lynn
Distributor: Funimation
Genre: Music, Drama, Romance, Shounen
Rating: PG-13
Fuuka is the sequel/spin-off to Souji Keo’s 2004 work, Suzuka. The story primarily follows loner Yuu Haruna as he forms a friendship with Fuuka Akitsuki, the daughter of Yamato and Suzuka (the protagonists of Suzuka). The Fuuka manga has been running for quite some time (currently well over 100 chapters), and the anime seeks to adapt roughly the first 40-50 chapters.
The question, of course, is how the anime holds up in comparison. Does it do the source material justice, or is it yet another victim of “the book was better” syndrome?

Content Guide

Violence: Most of what little violence there is is lighthearted, such as Fuuka slapping Yuu on the back. The most violent scene involves an angry mob throwing a bottle at Yuu and causing him to bleed while he prepares to play on stage.
Language: At least 7 occurrences of “d*mn,” 3 occurrences of “h*ll,” and 1 occurrence each of “Oh my G*d” and “b*stard.” Euphemisms are much more common than their profane counterparts: 11 occurrences of “jeez,” 7 occurrences of “heck,” 4 occurrences of “crap,” and “2 occurrences of “darn.” (Please note that this review covers the Crunchyroll subtitled release of the show. Language may vary in other subs and in the official dub.)
Sexual Content: Fuuka has a tendency to swing back and forth with its fanservice–some episodes feature little to no fanservice, while others contain quite a bit. One of the common problem areas involves Yuu’s sisters, who enjoy walking around the house in various states of undress. Panty shots of Fuuka are also common in the first episode. There are occasional bath scenes involving the female characters, and at least one shower scene where a female character is shown fully nude. In all instances, the nudity is as detailed as that of a Barbie doll. Instances of cleavage also appear, as in one scene where a female character unbuttons her top and throws herself on a male character.
Alcohol/Drug Use: There is at least one instance where an adult character drinks beer.
Other Negative Content: Mikasa is stated outright to be gay. He doesn’t act out in a gay manner, and only flirts with one of the main characters as a joke. However, his sexual orientation is portrayed as being perfectly acceptable by the main characters.
Positive Content: A main theme throughout Fuuka is finding a purpose for your life. At one point, Fuuka talks about not knowing what she wanted to do with her life until Yuu suggested she start a band. Yuu was a loner who was always stuck in his phone. Without spoiling anything, each of the other band members also have a past history that they manage to work through by pursuing a greater purpose in the band. This is a theme that we can all relate to, particularly as Christians. God holds the ultimate purpose for our lives, but how we discover that purpose is different for each of us. We find fulfillment when we find our purpose, and the lesson that Fuuka teaches is that sometimes being willing to step out of our comfort zones can pay off in this regard.

Review

As someone who has been reading the Fuuka manga for quite some time thanks to Crunchyroll’s simulpub service, let me dispatch with any notion that I am reviewing the anime adaptation as a completely unbiased party. While I will review the anime on its own merits, there are inevitably parts that I will compare to the manga, especially as I discuss the handling of a certain plot twist and the ending as a whole. Before I get into the plot, though, I want to look at some other areas of the show.
The first area that I want to touch on is the artwork. While I can’t quite place my finger on it, there is something initially jarring about going from the manga to the anime. It’s not that the anime artwork is bad—in fact, it is quite well done—but it’s different enough from its source material to be noticeable. One noteworthy difference, for example, is the shade of blue used for Fuuka’s hair. The manga covers portray a much softer blue than the bright blue used in the anime. In either case, it makes for a fun game of “spot the heroine,” since Fuuka is one of the few (if not only) characters in the anime with an unnatural hair color. Nit-picky, manga-reader comments aside, I have to commend the consistency of artwork and animation throughout the anime. At no point does the quality seem to drop, and the attention to detail during the musical performances is commendable. Of course, some elements probably aren’t as detailed as they could be (for example, the fretting of the guitarist/bassist fingers), but, all things considered, the characters’ movements look believable.
Another area worth noting is the music. Fuuka is a band anime, after all, and one of the biggest appeals of these kinds of adaptations is hearing the songs from the manga brought to life. To that end, the anime more than satisfies. The songs are catchy enough, although the first Hedgehogs’ song that Fuuka’s band, Fallen Moon, learns to play definitely gets looped a few times too many throughout the show. Realistically, this repetition makes sense: Fallen Moon is a new band and Yuu is a new bassist, so of course they wouldn’t necessarily have the largest repertoire of songs right off the bat. Still, one has to wonder if it was really necessary to show Fuuka’s band playing the same song over and over again, rather than merely inferring the subsequent performances. On the other end of the spectrum, it would have been nice to hear more of Fallen Moon’s original songs. These criticisms aside, the music definitely satisfies and brings a welcome breath of life to the Fuuka franchise that the manga simply couldn’t, due to the nature of the medium.
With those two areas out of the way, let’s discuss the most crucial part of the show: the plot. One common criticism I saw early on is that the show moves through the early chapters too quickly. While I personally didn’t feel this way (in fact, I was surprised at how early some of the events actually did happen in the manga, because I was sure they took place later on), the show does definitely cover a lot of ground early on. Personally, I don’t feel as though this is a bad thing. This is primarily a “band story” with tons of romance and drama thrown in, and, given the anime’s 12-episode length, it is necessary to get to that established as quickly as possible without sacrificing a proper build-up.
It’s important that newcomers to Fuuka realize that the series contains many tropes that some viewers may find annoying. Seo’s stories have a tendency toward dramatic romances with tons of misunderstandings that could easily be resolved if the characters would just talk to each other, and Fuuka is no stranger to this plot device. Interpersonal conflict definitely works to build tension, but it can also be annoying since, as the viewer, we see how simple the solution really is. If these plot devices annoy you, then you’re in for a bad time with Fuuka.
Potentially annoying plot devices aside, the majority of Fuuka can either serve as a jumping-off point for new fans or as a new experience for the manga fans. The problem comes in episode 10. Without spoiling anything, this episode covers a chapter where a major plot twist happens in the manga. (I would advise avoiding the comment section of pretty much any Fuuka video if you have an interest in the manga, because this twist will be spoiled for you.) However, episode 10 completely dispenses with the twist and takes the plot in a new direction. Prior to this severe alteration to the plot, there are some subtle differences (such Yuu meeting with his childhood friend instead of Fuuka after the post-school festival), but removing this twist is a significantly bigger change. So the question is: Was altering the biggest plot twist in the story a good or bad idea?
Let’s start with the positives: as a follower of the manga, nothing the anime had to offer was particularly new to me. I enjoyed watching, but I knew what was coming, so there were no surprises, just nostalgia as the story I had read came to life. From that angle, the dramatic change in plot gave me something to look forward to, as I had no idea how the final episodes of the show would play out. That said, I ultimately feel that subverting the canon plot-twist was a poor move. For one, this alteration starts a plot unique to the anime, and then anti-climatically resolves it two episodes later. A major point of tension during this time in the story is the band breaking up. In the manga, the break up takes place because of the big plot twist, which leads to a lot of growth for Yuu’s character. In order for the anime to follow that same general development, Fuuka is forced to behave in a way that, quite frankly, is contrary to her character, truly robbing Yuu of his own developments.
Had the writers incorporated these non-canon elements earlier in the series (or had they been granted 24-26 episodes instead), this change of pace may have worked a lot better for creating an experience unique to the anime. As it stands, though, the whole ending feels rushed, especially when the final episode crams in several references to the manga without any explanation, meaning that anime-only fans will have little to no understanding of what these references mean, and manga readers will simply see how much the storytelling is fatally impacted by this new direction. Honestly, I can’t think of any way that this decision isn’t a lose-lose for the anime writers, as the 12-episode limit makes it really difficult to follow the post-twist story to any sense of closure; at the same time, there isn’t really a good ending point prior to the plot twist, either, which is probably why the anime decided to take its own direction. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, this new direction is placed at the very end of the series and forced to wrap things up quickly, leaving little time to truly flesh it out and make it feel authentic. That’s not to say it is entirely unenjoyable, but it is quite disappointing.
All-in-all, I would mainly recommend the Fuuka anime to fans of the manga, if only to hear the songs brought to life. For those who have never been exposed to the manga, I would highly suggest picking it up if you liked the anime, as there is so much more to these characters and their stories than what you’ll see here. Fuuka may not be the best band anime/manga out there (BECK will always hold that title in my mind), but it is an entertaining ride, if nothing else.

The Bottom Line

All-in-all, I would mainly recommend the Fuuka anime to fans of the manga, if only to hear the songs brought to life. For those who have never been exposed to the Fuuka manga, I would highly suggest picking it up if you liked the anime, as there is so much more to these characters and their stories than what you'll see here.

 

7.6

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Rob M.

Christian, anime fan, and gamer are a few words you could use to describe me. I've been a Christian since 2012 (and thought I was one prior to that), although I'm far from having the Christian walk down pat. At one point I started thinking about how I could use various things for Christ, and eventually put my thoughts to action, resulting in Cosplay for Christ (my attempt at a cosplay ministry) and Christian Anime Review (my review blog). As you can imagine, I enjoy playing games, watching anime, and going to anime conventions. I also like to build Gundam models, fiddle with the guitar (occasionally), and listen to music (mostly Christian rock and metal).

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