Yami to Boshi to Hon no Tabibito
Another title selected through a careful process of grabbing anything I have never heard of. I don't always get classics that way, but I continually get surprised by strange experiences. Whether or not the experiences are something I'd repeat, or something I'd recommend, can be hard to express though.
The story starts with a Japanese school girl, as so many anime do. But Hazuki is a little different. For one thing she's a dark, brooding figure with a fairly powerful presence. The primary thing she's brooding on being her powerful lesbian urges towards her adopted sister, feelings that she's not comfortable with, let alone having much hope her love will be reciprocated. Of course the fact that her sister is mute does not make mutual understanding any easier to achieve. In other words she has a lot on her mind, and living with her sister alternates between pleasure and torment.
However she doesn't get that much time to struggle with it before her sister runs away from reality. And I don't mean figuratively. On the stroke of midnight, on the night before her 16th birthday, she vanishes in front of Hazuki amidst an ethereal green glow. It seems that there is not just one world, but a multitude, and her sister gets to live out 16 years in any one before she moves on. The green glow also represents pure cosmic power and those exposed to it gain various powers. Thus Hazuki is now a super-powered katana wielding dark brooding lesbian schoolgirl. She even has a quest, to once again find her beloved sister, even if she has to seek through endless worlds to do so.
It really sounds pretty good, but it pretty quickly becomes obvious that the anime has a fairly serious weakness. Specifically when the fan-subbers feel the need to create an introductory screen to give some backstory you know there's a couple of narrative chasms to face. They also break my resolve to not know the source of the material by informing me the origin is a hentai game. Not really too surprising, given the large number of nubile, well endowed characters with clothing issues and a pathological need to be posing in each shot.
The backstory given is largely useless. It states that Hazuki's sister is actually a character of myth, although the vanishing in a magical green glow sort of gave that away. It explains that there are many worlds and their nexus is in a library where each book represents a gateway to one of them. What this really means in practice is that the show gets away with having virtually non-existent story progression. Instead the show is broken up into a quite large number of largely independent story shards. In some of them Hazuki is the main character, generally finding that she's missed her sister by many years. In other's she's a fringe character and in quite a few she's totally absent. The stories don't even connect, instead relying on a overly smug narrator to jump us from one to another.
Some of the stories are quite good, a couple can offer some very dramatic and emotionally powerful moments, and others are downright awful. I was getting entirely sick of Gargantua by the end of it. Perhaps having irritating, shallow and pointless males is some sort of yuri revenge for all the vacuous females in shounen anime. That doesn't really excuse much, it still resulted in a whole bunch of annoying characters to waste my time. In the end it's all rather crippled by the fact that with no story there is very little story progression. And since there is no continuing story there is also an absence of character growth, which is precisely what a romantic drama needs. Of course this probably doesn't bother those who know the characters from the H-game, to them the characters are already mature, having developed in the game, and further progression is superfluous. For a lot of other people it makes the whole experience sort of meaningless.
The Yuri fans possibly don't care either. Here's a well written example of someone willing to overlook the near total absence of story because "this is the first example of (relatively) mainstream anime where lesbian love is the main focus, and centering on the main characters". I still don't see why there can't also be a story that makes sense. Heck, how can there even be that much of a relationship when one of the two is absent for the vast majority of the show while her partner wanders around without much direction (in between fending off multiple other females who are attracted to her). And then there's the conclusion... not too satisfying for anyone I would think. Certainly don't see how it's supposed to make Hazuki feel complete. Still, if you want an anime depiction of female - female attraction the sections of this show that deal with it may well please you.
However, for the the general anime fan, the pickings are much more slim. Hazuki is rather cool and charismatic, but a lot of the other characters are burdened with under-developed personalities to go with their over-developed busts and strange affection for dominatrix style clothing (where exactly did Ritsuko get her fashion sense?). Some of the stories are moderately cool, but they're also mostly lightweight, short, and destined to go nowhere. I guess I'd call it watchable, but there are much better ways to spend your time.
The production is a little bit odd. The character designs are quite complex, a predilection for ruffles and flowing hair, but the detail drops off a lot for the background or lesser characters. Indeed the background looks almost airbrushed, fond of large expanses filled with color gradients and with a distracting "glow" to just about everything. It's possible this is intended to mimic the game graphics, but it can be a bit distressing on the eyes, feeling like one is watching through a mistuned television. There is some action, and it's actually not bad, but it is also rare enough that its not going to make the series worth watching alone. That said it is decent enough animation. The voices I'm less found off, lots of over-acting, and "trick" voices without all that much depth to their expression. The music is generic j-pop that could come from a million other series (one nice ambient song though). Be warned that while there is no sex there are lots of barely constrained busts and one rather subtle scene of female masturbation which might bother someone.
A series springing from a presumably popular H-game. What this means is that it has a lot of female characters, a background, but virtually no actual plot. Nor do the creators seem to be capable of generating one, instead wandering though a fair number of short stories with variable quality. Ultimately the broken progression and some other irritations make it a very mixed experience. Decent animation, lots of nubile females although a lot of the erotic sub-text is female - female oriented.