Ever got tired of watching anime with convoluted storylines about saving the world and wished you could watch something that's just about how warm and fuzzy everyday life can be? If you're the type who would have a fateful encounter one day and then spend the rest of the week analyzing what happened in hideous detail, To Heart is probably worth checking out.
Some reviewers call this anime as one of those shows that simply show a slice of life in general. In that case, it would probably be clumped with Kare Kano. I must argue that To Heart is a little different because it doesn't spend the first half of every episode rehashing what happened in previous episodes. Well, there's not actually much to rehash. To Heart is fairly episodic, with shows being independent of each other. It only started having that can't-wait-for-the-next-episode feel close to the end.
To Heart has 13 episodes. And no, manga was not the storyline's earliest form. To Heart actually started as an Aquaplus computer game in 1997. The game is classified as hentai, but the anime itself is appropriate for people of all ages. I think it's funny how the TV producers were able to turn a hentai game into a good, clean anime. Anyway, after the computer game, the manga was released in 1998. Then in 1999, the anime came out along with a non-hentai Playstation game. To Heart also has a spin-off drama CD that focused on an "older sister" of a robot that is in the anime.
Since childhood's, Hiro's been friends with Akari, a typical girl-next-door type of person. When they were kids, she dropped her books on stone steps while it was raining. Being a helpless little girl, she could do nothing but cry. Little Hiro came to Little Akari's rescue, picked up her books, and let her have his books for school so that she wouldn't get in trouble. Since then, Akari knew that she's in love with Hiro.
Other main characters include Hiro's only guy friend, Masashi. Consequently, he's good friends with Akari too. They're also friends with Shiho, a fairly hot-tempered girl who loves to get into good arguments with Hiro. She always gives him a hard time about being so laid-back, which she would probably describe as simply bumming around.
Actually, Hiro doesn't really get to bum around much in the show because he always runs into people who are in need. There's Serika-senpai, a mysterious girl who practices psychism. When Hiro met her, she was looking for a worm as a spell ingredient, and he spent a long time helping her. There's Aoi, a first-year girl who wanted to establish an amateur martial arts club at school. Hiro ended up training with her. And there's Rio, a girl who delivers the paper every morning. Hiro was up really late one day because he was watching videos, and he found her being chased by dogs on her route. They ended up being friends and he actually went to go help her look for a present for her brother.
It's interesting that while Akari's in love with Hiro, she's not necessarily possessive of him. Sure, she had some issues when she found that he reportedly went on a date with Rio. But for the most part, she quietly supported him in whatever he wanted to do, which in this case is to help people. Random people. Akari also befriended Serika-senpai, Aoi, and Rio after they met Hiro. In addition, she met and befriended other people at about the same time that Hiro did. There's Hoshina, their class president who always had to pick up after their more irresponsible classmates. There's Multi, a robot created to serve humans and take care of cleaning. She's the one with the "older sister," Serio, who had her own spin-off drama CD. And there's Kotone, a schoolmate who had psychic powers, which causes her distress because all she seemed to foresee are unpleasant events.
Since there's nothing supernatural about the events in To Heart--well, okay, Multi and Kotone are not really ordinary people, but they're nothing compared to Sailor Moon--most of the episodes would seem mundane. The first episode is about Akari wishing she'll get assigned a seat next to Hiro. But a bulk of the episodes dealt with Hiro helping out all these girls. Things did get slightly more intense in the end, when Shiho realized that she's attracted to Hiro as well and had to deal with the fact that both he and Akari are her friends.
Nevertheless, this is a great anime to enjoy by itself. For starters, I love Akari's room. I'm actually considering rearranging my room so it'll look like hers. She's also a big fan of teddy bears, starting when Little Hiro gave one to little her.
If you're not into interior decorating, you'll probably like Akari herself. At least I did. Shoujo heroines are usually portrayed as wide-eyed and helpless. Akari never really behaved like a damsel in distress except for that books-on-the-stone-steps event. But come on, she was just a little girl. Since then, Akari's been usually calm and collected about a lot of things, and she's pretty level-headed. And she has this ability to look into Hiro's eyes, smile, and tell him how much he means to her. She may come off as sickeningly sweet, but I think her character's great. There are times during watching To Heart when I wished that she would get distressed about something and Hiro would come to the rescue, but when that didn't happen, it was okay too. There's already a lot of anime out there containing that formula.
Hiro's definitely a bishounen that marches to a different drummer. While he's not the macho, will-protect-you type (think Mamoru and Tamahome), he's also not the I'm-too-cool-for-this-crap type (can't think of any big anime guys like these off the top of my head) nor the I'm-hopelessly-bumbling-around type (think Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne's Minazuki and Koko wa Greenwood's Suki-chan). Hiro's happily in-between. I would say that Hiro's just is, with a soft spot for helping out people.
Oh yeah, and Hiro's hopelessly clueless about Akari. Or maybe not. That lends some sort of a mystery to the show. While Akari never confessed to him about her feelings, she let him know in a million different ways that she cares about him. He, on the other hand, usually prefers to be with her and thinks about her at random times.
If you're looking for a really strong storyline, you might get disappointed with this. But it's a nice little anime. We all could use some anime that's just about sweet, random, everyday stuff. Although if there's an anime sequel to this that's more intense and focuses on Hiro and Akari's relationship, I'll probably be camping out in front of my TV or computer days before the first episode airs.