By Antonin Kořenek / August 1st, 2014
WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Glasslip episodes 1 to 4. If you don’t want to be spoiled, please stop reading. You have been warned.
One of the things I’ve always loved about anime is their unapologetic use of the fantastic in a rather normal storyline. In the case of Glasslip, we have a story about a group of friends, an outsider, and this little thing about being able to see the future. The hows and whys of the ability to see the future aren’t really explained, but they aren’t needed. The ability is merely a kind of catalyst to get two characters talking to one another (well, so far, anyway).
While watching the first episode, I had this strange feeling I was going to have very strong emotions about it. I didn’t (and still don’t) know if they will be good or bad, but I know they will be strong. Although the show’s synopsis talks about seeing the future, we see nothing of that in the first episode. Sure, there’s that weird scene where Kakeru walks by Touko, and everything slows down, and there are some weird effects, but we don’t know what exactly is going on.
The other thing I noticed about the first episode was that it was clear Glasslip was going to be full of personal drama. From sideways glances to narrowing eyes to a character’s gaze lingering for a moment too long, it was all there. Everything felt tense just under the surface. This all comes to a head towards the end of the episode, when Kakeru walks into the café Touko and her friends hang out at, and two of her friends get aggressive. But I must note, seeing sick-girl archetype Sachi stand up and put on her bitch face was pretty boss of her. I was impressed.
A lot of people in the anime community have compared it to Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea (a.k.a. Nagi no Asukara), and I believe that is due mainly to that feeling of tension, a few characters having very similar archetypes, and both being made by P.A. Works. But these comparisons kinda end there. Nagi-Asu dealt with depopulation and racism on top of the personal drama of the kids from the get-go. I doubt Glasslip will touch issues as deep as these (unless, of course, we get into the micromanagement and economics of a local mom-and-pop glassworks studio).
One thing keeping me interested in the show is the motifs of “glass” and “seeing.” It is called Glasslip, after all. This, pointed out to me by Dawnstorm of the Absolute Write forums, does give the story a bit of depth, although I’m not quite sure how much. There are these filters laid over certain scenes, but as of the fourth episode, I’m unable to determine the reasoning behind them. It’s a bit meta—or, rather, trying to be meta. Maybe it’ll become clearer as the story goes on?
There is a scene in the fourth episode where Kakeru and Yanagi get into one of those omg-I-fell-and-u-caught-me-but-leik-its-tooootally-embarrassing situations, and Touko (who just realized she’s got the hots for Kakeru) misinterprets the whole thing as the two actually embracing. Here, it would make sense for the filter to be ridiculous, but it isn’t. Or maybe it’s just not obviously different? Either way, Glasslip is failing on its meta motifing.
As for the characters in the show, I’m still on the fence. We’ve got two guys pining after girls who don’t really like them romantically. Sure, the jury is out on Sachi liking anyone, but it’s a safe bet. She’ll probably have an I-don’t-want-my-precious-friend-group-broken! moment soon enough.
Touko herself is either a Pollyanna or an All-Loving Hero type, which annoys me. At least she’s got hobbies. But the fact of the matter is that she’s more or less a stock character as far as I’ve seen. She seems to be pretty good at glasswork, which is cool, but considering she’s starting to have her future visions when concentrating on glass, it seems problematic, to say the least. I’ll give the creators some credit for knowing that, for some, friends are everything, but I’ve seen this character plenty of times before. Also, what is up with her lack of protective equipment?
Kakeru is the lone-wolf type, but he might have a bit of character development coming up. It is hinted at that his mother is dead, and his father “caused him some trouble.”
(Side note: If Kakeru gets fleshed out, but Touko stays a cardboard cut-out, expect to see me lamenting that yet again, the ladies are getting the shaft on becoming fully realized characters.)
My favorite character thus far is definitely Yanagi. She feels the most real to me and is definitely the most tragic. From the first episode, she knows Yukinari doesn’t have any romantic thoughts toward her. She even witnesses his confession to Touko. How much more crap will be dealt her way? More. Definitely more. But after that adorable exchange with Kakeru in the rain about the kanji of their names, I’m basically shipping them forever.
The fourth episode as a whole has given me better thoughts about the show. Another instance I enjoyed was the awkwardness of the scene where Yukinari hangs out with Touko at school. Yukinari, the hormone-ranging young man he is, can’t get Touko off his mind, and you can see it in his subtle movements. His quick glances at her neck, her shoulder, and her lower back are perfect for showing a man who, while trying his best to act appropriately, can’t help but let his mind wander.
In a medium full of ridiculous fanservice, I found this quite tasteful. It told you what was on his mind without actually telling you anything. And yet, in a way, it was somehow more perverse. With that build up, you are given a strange mix of feelings when he finally says he can’t be alone in the same room as Touko. There’s the element of surprise (“Whoa, he actually said it”) painted on the oblivious Touko and the embarrassment for Yukinari as he both struggles with his emotions and awkwardly runs away—not walks, runs.
Another interesting point about the show is its opening and endings. The opening song fits the show so well in tone. It’s a bit sad, a bit melancholy-sounding. It shows us events that happened before the first episode. It embodies the idea of these friends being precious to one another. It reminds us that Glasslip is about a group of friends. Kakeru is only shown in one scene, standing on the edge of a cliff, hand to his ear, listening to something. Later, we find out he can “hear the voices of the future.” He can’t see the future, not like Touko. Once we find this out, this scene becomes a bit more powerful, or at least cool.
The ending song, while good, doesn’t really appear to fit the tone. It’s too happy, too joyful, too energetic. It’s basically what I imagine to be the inside of Touko’s head. Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually love the ending. I’m a sucker for chibi characters, but I just don’t think it works with the tone of the show. What I do think is brilliant is the placement of characters in all the still shots. Kakeru is always there, just beyond the group. He doesn’t look quite lonely but definitely appears to be when compared to the happy smiles of Touko’s friends. And Touko herself? Often looking in Kakeru’s direction. It’s perfect placement.
If only the song itself wasn’t so damn happy.
As for the general soundtrack of the show? There’s a lot of classical music placed very well, which is always a plus for me.
While I know this has been done in other anime, the next-episode preview seems to almost mimic the way Kakeru and Touko hear the future: just random lines without context. Yeah, it’s done in a lot of anime now, but it just works better here.
Next week, I’ll have a batch of commentary on episode five. I hope you’ll join me. Until then, give me your thoughts about this show in the comments.