Picking up from the last volume of tough daily troubles for Hiroyuki Fujita and co., To Heart: Volume 2 – Finding Courage finds two more girls to join our growing collection of female friends for Hiroyuki and Akari. Based on the Aquaplus PC dating-sim game called To Heart, the anime series follows the childhood friendship between Hiroyuki and Akari Kamigishi as Akari’s feelings for her friend grow with each passing day. However, lazy-yet-nice-guy Hiroyuki is also starting to attract the attention of quite a few other girls around him. Only time will tell if Hiroyuki figures out what he’s getting into the middle of as this laid-back series of simple troubles continues.
Audio: English 2.0 DD, Japanese 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English, Signs-Only
Extras: Two Special Mini Episodes, Line Art Gallery, Translation Notes, Character Bios, Trailers, Reversible Cover
Notes: Review is based on a Screener copy of the final product.
Episode five covers the 17th annual sports festival as each class in year 2 competes for a trophy. Shiho is, of course, very into the festival and cheering on her own class. However, Hiroyuki appears very drained from the idea of competing despite having his own 400 meter run in the afternoon. As Akari and Miho continue to watch and cheer, Hiroyuki slips away to see what else is going on. While out and about, Hiroyuki finds Serika Kurusugawa trying to toss ping pong balls into a basket for a different school contest. Serika is a little down from having missed all of her shots, but Hiroyuki manages to cheer her up. Wandering around some more, Hiroyuki also runs into Tomoko and takes over the extra work the class rep is having to do. Carrying a box around to the backside of the gym, Hiroyuki also meets Aoi Matsubara who is in charge of arranging the boxes of materials. A few words of encouragement cheer up the blue-haired beauty and Aoi promises to cheer Hiroyuki on during his race. With each new female meeting, Hiroyuki seems a tad happier than his original mopey-mood while sitting next to Akari and Shiho, watching the races.
Akari and Shiho reminisce about their younger days when Hiroyuki ran a similar race in middle school and badly hurt himself. Hiroyuki manages to meet back with the girls in time to go eat with Akari and Masashi before the afternoon races. After lunch and a race, Hiroyuki finds out that the anchor in Masashi’s relay race has been injured. Akari and Masashi try to convince Hiroyuki to run the race, but Hiroyuki is sure they can find someone else because he’s too tired after the 400 meter. Hiroyuki walks away to get someting to drink, but Akari’s comment about missing the middle school days, when the group would run the relay together, echoes in his mind.
Our sixth and seventh episodes introduce two new girls to the series. Episode six follows the clumsy Rio Hinayama who just happens to keep running into Hiroyuki over and over again. The odd girl who compares so much of life to the manga she reads seems to spark some intrigue from Hiroyuki as he keeps saving her from a dog. Hiroyuki quickly learns that Rio is trying to save up some money from a part-time job to buy her younger brother a present. Being the nice guy he is, Hiroyuki offers to go with Rio to a toy store to help her pick out something good for a boy. Episode seven introduces Kotone Himekawa, whose own strange nature has made her an outcast amongst her peers. Kotone can see into the future of those around her, but every event she sees is something bad. Akari decides to press on and learn more about the girl who keeps trying to hold Akari at an arm’s length away. However, a little kitten that Kotone foresaw getting hit by a car and managing to survive just might start to break through the walls Kotone has built around her heart.
The bonus for volume two is the first two mini-episode omakes which are based around silly chibi-characterizations of the main cast. Mini-episode one is about chibi Kotone trying to write a letter while mini-episode two follows Serika’s unusual new friend who is causing mischief around the school. Each episode is only a few minutes long and far from as bright and colorful as the restored series, but they have their own charms as you see the chibi characters running around.
To Heart continues to be an adorable show with each episode focusing on a simple problem. This kind of series may have been more common to see in 1999, but it appears as a rare gem in the more modern collection of new anime series that focus on harems, robots, and action. The Japanese cast continues to provide a strong showing on volume two with Kazuya Ichijo (Hiroyuki) and Ayako Kawasumi (Akari) leading the group with their subtle emotional additions to their lines. Hiroyuki’s put-off attitude during the sports festival, Akari’s sadness when Shiho mentions Hiroyuki is on a date, and even the utter joy that Akari shows when Hiroyuki gives her a present take on an even deeper meaning with these two key seiyuu. Headline Studios continues to provide a strong English production with good direction from Joe DiGiorgi and a faithful adaptation from Sam Regal. Rich McNanna’s Hiroyuki continues to have some rough spots like the previous volume – most obvious in the fifth episode when Hiroyuki is supposed to have a sour attitude – but does have an easier time with Hiroyuki’s more emotive scenes. Akari’s sweet nature is, on the other hand, well done, as Angora Deb keeps up almost as well as her seiyuu counterpart for Akari’s range of expressions from sadness to bliss. Sadly, Carol Jacobanis‘ Serika continues to just be too loud for what is suppose to be a very light whisper of a voice.
To Heart: Volume 2 – Finding Courage is an overall treat for new and existing fans of the To Heart series. The restored video for the main TV series looks great and very colorful for an older series, yet the mini episodes can look a tad too dark in comparison. RightStuf continues its great quality-control with the subtitle work, presenting an error free and creative presentation of how to subtitle lots of different Japanese signs and dialogue on the screen at the same time. The DVD cover isn’t as inspiring as the original Japanese cover, but it matches the direction RightStuf wanted to go with the artwork. The DVD extras feature translation notes, character bios, and lineart from the TV series and mini-episode omakes. To Heart: Volume 2 – Finding Courage is going to find a lot of fans of older, easy-going series like Boys Be… wanting more shows like this and will hopefully help diversify the American and Japanese markets once again.