Appliance No. 5: Diamond Daydreams (Episodes 1-4)

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Hello All, and welcome to another Post of Anime Appliances! Today I’ll be talking about Diamond Daydreams, or Kita e (or Diamond Dust Drops, I guess). Beware of minor SPOILERS for the first 4 episodes. Now then, let’s see what’s up with this one.

The Background:

Believe me, you don’t know how much I want to say I bought this because of that “horror kick” that has influenced the shows I’ve previously covered. But, this was actually RishRaff’s pick for me. This was probably initially done as a joke, but he did ultimately decide it for me, so I kept my end of the deal and bought the first volume. Thanks buddy…

I could tell just by reading the back of the box that I was not in the target audience for this one, and I admittedly chuckled at the tagline, “1 winter, 6 women, countless broken hearts” (just remember that tagline as the review goes on). To be clear, this type of show has every right to exist, and I am not belittling the concept of a show meant for different demographics, I just found it funny that I would be experiencing it for myself all because of the game RishRaff and I have going.

Despite my initial reaction, I did feel that Diamond Daydreams had some potential to it. I do love me some emotional and sappy shows like Clannad, so I was a bit hopeful that the show would present some heartwarming and emotional love stories. Maybe, just maybe, this show would be a, wait for it, “Diamond” in the rough. Now that I’ve gotten that terrible joke out of the way…

My Thoughts:

So Diamond Daydreams is a show made up of multiple mini arcs with similar thematic relevance. Like the tagline says, there appear to be six total arcs that all center around different women in the Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido. Each woman goes through their own little story that involves love and the pursuit of happiness (at least that’s what I gathered based on the promotional description). The DVD I purchased had the first two arcs, so let’s look at each.

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Arc 1:

The first arc featured Atsuko Akanegi (featured in both above pictures), a 20 year old girl working with her widowed mother in a market. We find out that she is engaged as part of an arranged marriage for some reason, but she doesn’t like her fiancée for some reason, causing some drama. These are eventually explained, but we’re kind of left in the dark about the details for a while. We then meet Kenji Kurata, a musician with possibly the worst facial hair I have ever seen a character have in an anime and shades because of course he wears them.

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Atsuko clearly has a crush for Kenji, and the two have a mutual appreciation of jazz. If there’s one thing I know from personal experience, nothing says “I have a crush on you and think you’re cool” quite like a music lover lending someone their jazz cds (or Radiohead’s entire discography). However, Atsuko is in the arranged marriage, so more drama develops. And, to add another layer of drama to the already existing drama, she and her mother are in serious debt and will have to close the shop soon. Arranged marriage guy is also super rich and could solve their financial problems, which causes this drama to crash into the first two dramas, with the resulting force somehow creating a black hole that will eventually swallow everything in the known universe. Whatever will she do???? Will she choose love with the needs-a-shave Charlie Parker wannabe? Or will she choose financial security with the “I have a freaking limo” rich guy that she doesn’t like for some reason?

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VS.

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The story feels very much like a soap opera, with its fair share of ridiculous, predictable, and melodramatic moments. For the most part, the characters and interactions are serviceable at best, and pretty mediocre at worst. Like I mentioned earlier, the reasoning for why Atsuko doesn’t like her fiancée isn’t really stated in the first episode, so you just kind of have to take her word for it that he isn’t a good guy (it is eventually explained and does make sense, but it kind of felt like he was forced into an antagonistic role if that makes any sense). Kenji, however, is described by everyone as a useless bum, which confused me, as he seemed pretty well off. He can afford a nice apartment for himself, has a cat that he is responsible enough to take care of, and even has the financial stability to spontaneously binge on records (though I’m sure the ones he was buying weren’t too expensive, but you get my point). Maybe it’s the negative stigma put on musicians who do not make the “big time” or something. Just like the fiancée, Kenji just feels thrown into a character mold, in this case the “mysterious and misunderstood free spirit that woos the relatively innocent girl” type.

Both the bare bones story and execution of said story just make things a bit overly dramatic for me. The whole world is just suddenly put against Atsuko, and so much stuff is just thrown on. It is admittedly a sad situation, and I did feel empathy towards Atsuko, but some of these plot developments just brought an eye roll from me. It was almost comical at times and, without getting into any major spoilers, the way it all resolves feels way too convenient.

Despite these grievances (especially the plot conveniences) I did actually like the conclusion of this arc. I had a pretty negative opinion of the characters for most of the story, but there was a surprising amount of development among them. The prevalent theme in this mini story isn’t about romance so much as it is about finding independence and your own happiness. Each character ends up finding the importance of this in some way, and it even came with some minor subversions of the old love triangle story that actually made me smile a bit. I would still say that the characters as a whole were pretty shallow, but they did manage to do some cool things with them, especially for only 2 episode of screen time. So yeah, it was ultimately pretty heartwarming, I just wish there weren’t so many bumps in the road to get to that point.

Arc 2:

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This arc features Karin, a 12 year old girl stuck in the hospital with a serious illness. We learn that she has been there for two years, and can undergo a surgery to help her recover, but she is too afraid to do so. She has a caring brother who occasionally visits from college, and a really nice nurse that supports her. Oh yeah, she also runs a blog in which she discusses her dreams, and that blog is getting a few fans.

Enter the new doctor, who makes a terrible first impression to Karin by very bluntly calling her spoiled right in front of her. This part has really irked me, as it was just so out of place, and felt like it was only done so that Karin would have a reason to hate the guy (and understandably so I guess). Because of this, Karin’s not having the best of times. As time goes on though, Karin starts receiving emails from a “Secret Admirer”. Karin finds a lot of happiness in talking to this person, and it helps her out. But who is this mystery person? Will Karin get the surgery? The answers will (or at least might) shock you!!!!

Without giving any spoilers away, this arc really infuriated me at times. So much so, that I may come out with a bonus post talking about what exactly goes down here. Once you learn more about the situation and watch it develop, it gets really hard to keep your suspension of disbelief and feel any real empathy. This makes the dramatic plot points seem that much more outlandish, irritating, and at times hilarious. Karin isn’t a terrible character, and I did feel sympathy for her like I did with Atsuko, but there are aspects of her character and actions undertaken that were again outlandish and irritating. Also, remember that tagline, “1 winter, 6 women, countless broken hearts”? This show was really advertising itself as a romance anime. Well, the first arc was again somewhat cool in that it seemed like it would be purely romance based, but actually ended up being about self-discovery and independence. Now, if you were to go into this second arc under the assumption that this was a romance anime, then there would be some very creepy undertones and moments here. I was pretty uncomfortable at times watching it. Still, it ultimately has a conclusion that is again pretty heartwarming (though not as much as the first one). I’ll have to save the real ranting for the spoiler post though.

Other Stuff:

I should probably explain why the show is called “Diamond Daydreams”. “Diamond Dust” is basically a phenomenon that occurs when the cold air freezes the moisture near the ground, forming this sparkling cloud. This show perpetuates the idea that if one were to see diamond dust with their loved one, they are destined for eternal happiness. Looking into it, apparently diamond dust only occurs at extremely low temperatures (like -30 degrees Celsius), so I guess most of us will be forever alone…

The Diamond Dust is mentioned in both arcs, but it kind of comes out of the blue. The first arc actually uses it in a really cool way, and again without spoiling anything, really helps to drive home the themes of the story. The mentioning of it in the second arc though feels really tacked on and helps perpetuate the creepy undertones that they hopefully weren’t trying to include.

You know… I can’t help but question how much of a romance anime this is actually supposed to be. It seemed to be advertised as such, and the concept of Diamond Dust fits in with the idea, but the first two arcs weren’t so much about that. It’s not really a complaint, and the other stories might be more romance centered, but it’s still something I wondered when watching this.

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(Here’s a picture of diamond dust, by the way)

The Direction

I feel that I need to complain about the direction of this show really quick. In all of the shows I have reviewed, I have rarely found myself specifically complaining about the visual direction. I can’t say for sure if this show has what is considered “bad” direction, but I definitely had some annoyances with some of the visual cuts.

For example, when characters speak, sometimes there are these fast jump cuts to a part of their face (like an eye or mouth), and then it right back to a more conventional angle. I can also recall a few moments where there are these constant choppy cuts for no apparent reason (as if I was viewing a very fast slide show of a series of pictures where the camera was constantly zooming in). It was frankly annoying, and distracted me from what was happening in the story. You personally may not find it an issue when watching, but it certainly stuck in my head.

To The North: Want to go to Hokkaido?

So I mentioned earlier that this show takes place in Hokkaido, which is a large island and northernmost prefecture in Japan (thanks Wikipedia). I found it a little odd that Diamond Daydreams made it very clear and well known that it was in Hokkaido, to the point where the commercial break transitions show a picture of the region, with a character saying “To the North”. I feel kind of bad for assuming this (after all, the makers of the show might just really like Hokkaido), but this show feels like a shameless ad for the region. While I will admit that I did not know anything about the prefecture going into it, and I do want to visit it more now than before, the show honestly doesn’t do all that good a job of being an advertisement.

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(Totally not an ad, right?)

You see, the show not only makes it obvious that they are advertising the prefecture, but it also doesn’t really let the beauty of Hokkaido shine in the show itself. To show what I mean by that, let’s look at the ever so lovely Clannad. Clannad takes place in a seemingly normal small town, but it ends up being so beautifully portrayed and showcased through its storytelling and overall direction that it has really resonated with me. It only takes a simple Google search to find out that Clannad is mostly based on a real place, with that place being the district of Mizuho in Tokyo. If I were visiting Japan, I’d love to see the place that inspired a story that is now so near and dear to my heart. Now, if Clannad had a bunch of “well look at this place in the town, and this place, and did I mention that the region is this,” then I probably would have been taken out of the story a bit. Or for another example, look at Kanon. Kanon’s setting is winter themed like Diamond Daydreams, but is also portrayed very beautifully. I’d absolutely want to visit that town as well (if it does exist), because it is both a beautiful setting and a wonderful and emotional story. Hell, even Hakone-Chan did a better job at advertising its setting, and it’s a short series.

What I’m trying to say is that Diamond Daydreams wants to showcase Hokkaido, but it so far hasn’t really let the region implicitly shine. The first arc didn’t really have anything special for locations (other than a pretty cool lookout point), and the second arc took place at a hospital, which really limited their ability to show any locations. The later arcs might address this issue, but I definitely dislike that Diamond Daydreams simultaneously wants to present this region as a place to visit while not making of the settings portrayed in the show very memorable.

Soundtrack:

Initially, I was going to be rather hard on the soundtrack. I found it pretty repetitive and trying too hard to fit into the show’s genre without really having any unique or memorable qualities to it. Well, after giving it some thought and listening to it more, it’s honestly not so bad. I just sincerely hope that you like the erhu. Like really, really like it.

(It’s honestly a beautiful instrument, especially when someone this talented plays it)

Listening to the soundtrack on its own, there is this strangely sentimental and relaxing air to it, and a lot of it is quite enjoyable. Within the show though, that’s where it gets a bit more complicated. The music is unfortunately pretty repetitive in the show. Perhaps it’s because of the aforementioned repeated usage of the erhu, or because a lot of the themes sound similar, or because some themes are used more than others, but probably all of those. The overdramatic scenes mixed in with this style of music also makes it seem a bit cheesy.

I can’t lie though, I do like the opening and closing themes. The opening is pretty chipper and fun while providing more evidence of this just being an ad for Hokkaido if you read the translated lyrics. It also shows all of the main characters, and seeing them all kind of does make me want to learn more about them. The closer is more akin to what one would expect from this type of show, and I do enjoy the vocal performance.

I do feel kind of bad for being so negative about this show (especially the second arc), since I am sure that there are genuine fans of the show that have really connected with the stories. If you are a fan, I can understand that, and you absolutely have the right to enjoy it. Empathy is often the key to liking these shows, and I just did not feel the same amount of it when watching. Now with all of that in mind, let’s answer the big question:

Will I Keep Watching?

Well, to be honest, I probably will. At least, eventually. This show does make it a lot easier to digest by having separate, bite sized arcs to consume at my leisure. But besides that, this show may have become the new Momo Kyun Sword for me. If any of you have seen Momo Kyun (we also eventually did a review for it on the RishRaff blog), it is a terrible show with an absolute butchering of Momotarō, the folklore story of the boy born from a peach. Why did I even start watching that show anyway? Oh right, RishRaff recommended it to me…. I’m noticing a pattern here…

Anyway, Momo Kyun was terrible, but I had an amazing time watching it. Why? Because it was fun to get angry and yell at my screen as it displayed this mess of a show. Diamond Daydreams isn’t nearly as bad as that show, but man was it just as fun to yell at. My roommates walked in on me multiple times yelling at the plot points and character interactions in the show, especially during Karin’s arc. Some of the points just felt so ridiculous to me that I couldn’t help it. The show also does have its enjoyable moments, and when it exceeds my expectations, it can even bring a smile. When it’s good, it’s enjoyable, and when it’s bad, it’s still entertaining, so why not watch more of the arcs every now and then?

All in all, I’m not sure if I can say that Diamond Daydreams is a good show. However, I can say it’s oddly fun to watch, and does have some good moments. I certainly don’t regret the few dollars I spent on the dvd.

Thanks for reading! Have you ever seen this show? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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