12-Sai : Chicchana Mune no Tokimeki or 12 years old Juuni-sai might be most unconventional anime this season. It tackles the most unique issue and utilizes the full force of the animated medium to do so. Growing up and what it means to be a child. Themes and ideas that are very often weaved into stories in anime,film and literature. 12-sai however is able to look at the lifes of grade-school children directly and with a quite brutal reality. Where-as a show in any other form of storytelling couldn’t manage this without being an incredibly awkward experience. Can you imagine watching a TV show where the key plot-point of an episode is a twelve year old girl's first period , the girls being animated there’s a layer of boundary between the fiction of the show and reality. Mix that in with some humour and a great art-style and you’ve got an amazing show on your hands with mass market appeal that everyone can enjoy.
The show is made by OLM Inc who to my great amusement also made 25 episodes of the incredibly violent and dark , fantasy anime Berserk. The timeline is a bit strange as there have been quite a few entries in the 12-sai universe and they all share the same plot and basic characters, so you don’t have to worry about it too much.
“The story begins with Hanabi, a sixth-grade girl who is neither an adult nor a child. She deals with issues such as accidentally witnessing her homeroom teacher kissing, and worrying about experiencing physiological changes before her friends. The series depicts a 12-year-old girl's innocent worries and first love.”
As I mentioned previously the story is very original or rather the basic idea. All the situations are things that are likely/have likely happened to you in the past. Everyone knows how strange growing up can be and especially at such a delicate time. Watching this little kids deal with nonsensical classroom arguments and drama is heartwarming in its own unique way. The show knows when the let the humour take the the lead , just like the story probably won’t make you cry out-right the jokes aren’t exactly laugh out loud material but still trigger a dumb grin in me whenever I heard them.
The drama when it is present , is blown up to enormous proportions. Something as simple as a recorder test that won’t be relevant ten years down the line is showcased as the most intense game of loyalties and friendship. Which is broadly true on how children view the world.
The animation is decent , dealing with two rather different tones it does a good job of keeping them separate. It’s clear what we’re supposed to feel and when. The shots are quite simple but sometimes more creative rays shine through. A particularly beautiful shot is when we see Hanabi get her first kiss , the scene starts fairly standard. An orange sunset , the characters stare into each other's eyes and slowly move in etc. etc. but at the last moment it cuts away to a puddle surrounded by Sakura petals, we only see the kiss itself through that reflection. It was a shot that really stuck with me and there’s a view other I don’t dare to give away.
The comedy is both in how the characters act i.e like irrational kids , but it’s paired very well with the visual style. It feels quite chibi-esque as in the movements are fast and there’s several things jumping at you at once but it doesn’t resort to actually using chibis.
From the character side of things I read a lot of viewers complaints, the characters look too moe , I don’t want to watch characters with saucers for eyes , they’re too annoying. And yes those are all valid points , but in truth , kids can be shy and annoying and uncomfortable and if that was stripped from the characters you’d be stripping what made them kids. Anime does this way too often for my liking and it always leaves a bitter taste in my mouth when I see a child character acting this way.
Children in anime to a lot of writers are small adults who yell , “ onee chan and onii san “ a lot. 12-sai’s children act like children and it what makes the show work as a whole.
Since the entire show's premise is on how children develop and the relationships they go through and out-grow , it’s good that the show handles the character development both psycho and physiologically very well. The relationships feels a bit hollow and cliche but I suppose if you tried hard enough ( which I will ) you can spin this into a positive since they base how they act with boys/girls based on what they see and mimic in adults like teachers.
The moe designs I can’t defend they’re not that bad however and a good representation of the manga's original art-style. It may be moe but at the very least it’s high taste moe not the bland plastic garbage most shows try to push on us as cute.
I have a small complaint with the pacing however , due to the rather irrelevant nature of the shows key conflicts they tend to get resolved very fast. It’s either that or the show would risk dragging things out and eventually irritating the viewer , imagine how long can you stretch a scene of just boys teasing girls before it would grow old ? So perhaps cutting the episode into two very clearly separate segments like Sakamoto , Desu ga ? Would be beneficial to the overall quality of the show.
A very enjoyable and interesting show that hasn’t received it’s, fair , share of attention since it doesn’t contain enough dragons and fan-service to keep people interested. I think that watching the whole series is the optimum way to enjoy 12-sai but of course if you’re picky you can read the episode list and go for what’s most relevant for you as the show covers a wide range of topics.
So much goes on when you’re twelve that there’s is plenty of material for 12-sai season two, is it necessary however ? I don’t have any reason to think so since the series has already had a lot of entries.