[Anime Review] Norn9 – When Anime can’t decide between story and romance…

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When anime can’t decide between story and romance… you get Norn9: Norn+Nonet.

That’s really everything that I can say about it.

*feels stares of anticipation at the back of her neck*

FINE! Want development? I’ll give you development! (not coming from Norn9, because it seriously had none). (Edit: not a decent one anyway) (Edit2: Not to say it was fairly painful) (Edit3: But not THAT bad anyway).

Episodes: 12
Aired: Winter 2016
Licensors: Sentai Filmworks
Studios: Kinema Citrus
Source: Otome Game

SynopsisThe story takes place a little in the future. Guided by one particular song, young elementary school student Suzuhara Sorata, from the Heisei Era, is warped through a time skip to an unfamiliar place that looks much like the towns from the Meiji or Taishou period from his textbooks. In this world, he meets three young ladies and nine young men and joins them on a journey aboard the mysterious Norn ship, a giant globe that floats in midair. (MAL)

Opening video:

(Spoiler warning:…There is none. Really. I don’t even need to spoil anything to talk about Norn9 seeing the-………well, I’ll eventually get there.)


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Story

Hmmm…Did you read that synopsis up there ? If you didn’t, read it and come back.

Good? Ok. Now you can erase it from your mind because that synopsis is a lie. Did I ruin your hopes and dreams for this show yet?

I am serious, what the synopsis says is not even a quarter of what’s really going on. If it would have indeed focused on the story from Sorata’s eyes from episode 1 to the end, maybe we could have gotten a decent sci-fi story, but nope. The kid arrives around episode 3 or 4 and gets ignored for most of the show in favor for the romance, till when he was needed in the ending for whatever reason he was brought from the future for, which seriously, felt more like a need for emotional impact rather than an actual story-related reason. And yes, I am fully aware this is an otome game adaptation and as such it’s only normal to focus on the “otoge” fanservice more, but do I ask for the impossible when I expect a nice story with it too? (Excepting those that really have only romance as main point. ex: basic highschool otoges) Even having a bunch of people coping up with their supernatural powers would have been great! I’m not even asking for much.

The worst is that Norn9 has all the cards set to make a solid base for a good FF Type-0 fantasy/time-travelling story, it just didn’t know how to cramp it all up in 12 episodes (13, if we count the summary episode too, which I question even the existence of; was it too hard to give it one more story-episode instead of a summary ? It really felt like they needed to be SURE we REALLY understood the plot, which made me fairly suspicious. Was it trying to tell me that the story is actually worth it enough to understand? That makes me feel even more sorry for the wasted potential, instead of feeling enlightened. It makes me feel like it was supposed to be so much more.)

Was it the fault of the 12 episodes being way too short for such a story? Personally, I don’t think so. A good chunk of the fault goes to whoever directed/wrote this. Their choice to focus more on Kakeru and Sakura-…wait, what? Her name is not Sakura? Well, I don’t care -> Fire- bender Pink Missy?  I must have insulted all Fire Benders of the Avatar realm, ImsosorryZuko!– only turned the show duller rather than help it. Why them? Why not Cool-Ojousama or Miss Kuudere  which were by far more interesting? No. Why focusing so much on one pairing at all? The story could have completed itself so much better if it was told from 3 perspectives instead, which sounds like too much, but believe me, it is not, seeing the complexity of the story that they wanted to present here. Yet it all felt so…distant…and done for the heck of it.

Plus, there’s that deus ex machina 100% convenient and 100% foreseeable ending (for the main couple). I would have been ready to raise my rating for it if it wouldn’t have turned out in such a foreseeable manner (which currently is a 4 on MAL, I’m sorry to say).

In short, the story was chaotic; all over the place.

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Characters

God have mercy on my soul. Okay, no, that was an exaggeration, but God have mercy on my soul when it comes to Kakeru and …*checks for her name properly now* Koharu! RIGHT. If any of you watched Kamigami no Asobi just please put Kakeru next to Apollon and then tell me what you think.Comparison done? Great! They’re awfully similar, aren’t they? Just that, while I could …kinda…understand Apollon’s pain to a greater extent, Kakeru just managed to make me want to hit myself. I could never manage to put my finger on him and the overall chaotic storytelling didn’t really help me care either. It’s all so slow, but then so fast. All these characters seem to not care all that much, only to care later on for no apparent reason. Koharu was another one of those dull heroines that’s there to just make the guys look better, always in need of saving, always in need of reassuring and not able to do anything without her man; and to top all that, she’s selfish, because her happiness with Kakeru is more important than the whole world, and I don’t care otome games need a happy ending. I do not even remotely agree and it simply frustrated me more. Rant over.

Fortunately, the other two heroines were really fun and if they were given a better chance, the anime wouldn’t have been such a pile of mess (but unfortunately, they weren’t). Mikoto was the strong-willed, sometimes rough girl, trying to find a path that fit her ideals, then there’s Shiranui (who really looks like Echo from Pandora Hearts) who couldn’t forgive herself for a sin she made in the past. Yeah, Koharu fitted into the main story better than the other two, but seeing how she’s almost a blank sheet of paper, I would have went around it somehow…

The other guys…must not lie, I didn’t particularly like anybody. Sure, there was Natsuhiko, Senri, Itsuki, Shukuri and Sakuya who are types that I usually tend to like, but in this case, I didn’t really have much of a reason to just fawn over them.(*coughs* besides when Shukuri got the wolf ears *coughs*). Sure, they’re all pretty guys and those that I mentioned actually have some sort of backstory and some thoughts of their own, but they didn’t hit me as characters; too little, too little time. Some of them can barely even categorize as characters. They’re just…there. And there’s Ron. I really, REALLY think that Ron is an underrated character and the way the anime treats him is only obvious. There was always that type of mystery around him, but we never found out anything about him, he was just there when it was convenient, then disappeared when he was no longer needed. And I find that a shame because I was really interested in him, no matter how much some people that played the otome game tend to dislike him.

Is this enough? ….No, you say? Oh right, I forgot the villain. Welp, he’s not an original one and not even remotely unique in any way. We’ve seen his type of characters many times and done way better. By the time he came in, I just wanted it all to end.

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Animation & OST

I was pretty happy with the animation for the most part as well for the character designs though some of them are clearly overused, but it’s ok, it’s nothing particularly fancy. There are very brilliant and vibrant colors throughout the entirety of the show and the animation got particularly better in the last 2-3 episodes and all through the climax. I also remember some scenes of the dream episode and the flashbacks which were really pretty. Must be honest that some other parts were more flashy than actually good, though.

As for the OST, decent. I really loved the opening and ending themes and Aion’s song was really pretty. Nothing outstanding though.

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Conclusion

Welp, could have went way better. Just a note though, I did not play the Norn9 otome game so I don’t know how they deal with it there; I also make no parallels to the game and if I disliked the execution of the anime, it doesn’t mean that I also dislike the otome game or Norn9 in its entirety. I really don’t. I’m just salty about the potential that it had.

Do I recommend it? I guess I do, but only to the people that already played the game or to people that just want to stare at some handsome bishies.

 

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4 thoughts on “[Anime Review] Norn9 – When Anime can’t decide between story and romance…

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