True Tears. The studio: PA Works. The director: Junji Nishimura. And there's a girl that likes chickens. Sounding familiar already doesn't it? Yes, while this bears a lot of similarities to the infamously bad 2014 anime,_ Glasslip_, it's not. No, this anime came out 6 years prior. It wasn't a scheduling mess and an embarrassment to the studio either. The animation and directing are actually quite good, and it goes to show, depending on the circumstances, the same staff and director are capable of both good shows and bad shows. While it bears some superficial qualities with Glasslip, the anime I'm discussing, True Tears, is much more like 2013-2014 anime, Nagi no Asukara (which if you look at my favorites list, is one of my top TV anime of all time).
The commonality that True Tears and Nagi-Asu share is the script writer and series composition leader Mari Okada. Now, Okada has a mixed reputation, and in the opinions of a vocal minority that groans every time her name comes up, she is generally bad. However, I would argue against that. Mari Okada picks up a lot of work that is out of her element. Some examples of her bad work would be Fate/stay night (2006), Canaan, or Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans. I don't think she handles the dialogue and characterization of characters that exist in the gritty, difficult settings of action anime very well. When she is in her element in the most, it's writing teenage characters that are in puberty and in love, which is in the case of Nagi-Asu, and of course, True Tears.
That being said, the way the story is written is as unpredictable as teenagers, which is a good thing. You don't really know how things are going to play out because the characters don't know how things are going to play out, since they are struggling with their emotions, and with rejection, and with sadness. It's not like Nagi-Asu's love octagon or whatever, but a much more modest... love pentagon. Which is a good thing because we are dealing with half the length. Another anime I would compare this to that I've seen is the 2013 anime White Album 2, which is a love triangle. While I love both, and they both have that gut wrenching feeling while you're watching it, I favor True Tears somewhat more because there is an engaging subplot. With a love triangle, you get those three characters consistently, and nothing else. With five characters in this one cours anime there is some brevity between plots, it doesn't take long to get going or become engaging. True Tears doesn't really have a lull in the pacing.
Thematically, it's a high school romance. It's about dealing with rejection and teenage awkwardness. However, like with most simple, tried and true concepts that aren't necessarily anything new, they have the opportunity to be done really well and held in comparison to its contemporaries or its predecessors, and it _is_ executed really well. The way the plot moves has a lot of misdirection and things to throw you off. It plays with your expectations in the simplest ways, and it's never cheap or shoddily done.
Artstyle and animation are nothing really special. The quality is consistent, but it also uses the medium to its advantage well enough to justify it being an anime. The director is actually good and talented in spite of the reputation of his most infamous work. If you watched Glasslip (I didn't not watch it all in its entirety just to throw that out there), you will see elements of the directing in True Tears, but some of the technique will make you go, "ah, that sort of thing actually works well if it's done this way".
I know I've made a lot of comparisons, but when it comes to the opening sequence that is sung by eufonius, who is responsible for the opening songs of a lot of 2000s Key works such as Clannad, it sort of shares that kind of aesthetic as an awkward 2nd cousin twice removed. The only correlation is the singer but it has that same atmosphere of dread and heartbreak, but also that feeling that compels you to keep watching to find out how the characters deal with it so that you may find an answer for yourself. The composition is absolutely beautiful, it's the factor that really bumps the anime to another level. The way the music is created and used within the context of the scenes is never over-bearing in a "this is really dramatic and this mundane event is the center of the universe" kind of thing, but it basks in the atmosphere of what emotions the characters are feeling and bridges that to the experience of the audience. I rate anime on ten aspects and average them all to get my overall, and this anime's music was the only thing I had for a perfect score.
To wrap my review up, this is an excellent high school romance, one that I heavily enjoyed and couldn't put down, and it when it was over my heart sank. I've gone this whole review without even mentioning that it was PA Work's first anime, and it's one that they are very proud of as they've paid homage to it several times in their other shows. If you are a fan of PA Works or Nagi-Asu I highly encourage you to watch this. It's a lot more grounded and simple, but it's done really well.
And with that, I give True Tears a