B3784 Footprints in the Sand Journal-OLI’m not sure why so many people dissed this anime. I found it to be deeply emotionally engaging. It starts out a bit rough with some really ham handed fan service. I suspect people were judging it relative to the adult visual novel, which I understand got rather raunchy. It was directed by Hideki Tachibana for the studio Zexcs. Zexcs is also known for Sister Princess, Say “I love you”, and Diabolik Lovers, among other anime.

Despite the obviously religious tone of the the title, this story isn’t particularly religious. The MC has a spirit who helps him out on occasion and reincarnation becomes a bit of a theme. No particular Judeo-Christian themes here, just a generalized afterlife with someone in charge.

The art is good enough but not particularly great. It was at its best when showing the natural beauty of the land.

H2O is a harem of sorts, loosely based on the adult visual novel of the same name. (That novel has a sequel but nothing in anime.) Not a harem where everyone has a shot at being the protagonist’s number one. It appeared to me almost from the start that there was only one who could fill that slot. You know that from the very first episode when she saves him from a wild boar. It is the story of his relationship with her. The name comes from the first initials of the names of the main 3 characters, Hirose, Hayami and Otoha. The religious parable of the same name is read in an abridged version at the beginning of episode one.

Spoilers, spoilers, over the bounding main!
Dramatis personae:
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Takuma Hirose

Takuma Hirose is a blind transfer student. There is nothing physically wrong with is eyes – the problem is psychosomatic. He has been that way ever since seeing his mother get run over by a train which was ascribed to suicide. His family is rich but his father wants nothing to do with him since his mother sullied the family name. He has come to town to live with his uncle.

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Hayami has good reason to look and be so tsundere.

Hayami Kohinatais  is the community pariah. Her parents were doctors who were extremely greedy. They refused to treat patients who could not pay and because of this many people died. Now she is an orphan but the community treats her as though she were as guilty as her parents. She is the frequent subject of bullying and physical violence and lives in a pair of abandoned buses outside the town limits and across a bridge.

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Otoha

Otoha is the spirit of a girl who drowned. Takuma keeps trying to introduce her to other people as though he doesn’t realize she’s a ghost. Only he can see her and she disappears from his view as soon as another person arrives. She has feelings for him but, being a ghost, she can’t really do anything about them. She calls him “The Promised One” and calls herself the “Time-Sound Spirit”.  She needs him to do something. Something that was promised.

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Hinata Kagura

Hinata Kangura’s character is really Hotaru Kangura. She is being forced to pretend to be her dead sister, Hinata. She hates having to carry on this role but must if she is to be a “good girl” for her domineering grandfather. She is class representative, a friendly, yet clumsy, girl who is always incurring the wrath of the student council president. Most of the early fan service is at her and the blind Takuma’s expense.

 

Supporting characters:

2018-10-15_20-05-11Hamaji Yakumo is an effeminate boy who dresses like a girl and is very convincing. He gets along very well with Takuma. He is straight but appears to enjoy fooling people as to his gender. He has a little sister, Yukiji, who loves him dearly since he took over caring for her when their mother died. She is willing to do anything to keep Hamaji focused solely on her for fear he’ll leave too. She looks just like him only shorter and no boobs.

Yui Tabata is student council president and a bit of a bully. Yui is firmly convinced that

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Yui and her flunkies.

she is the very epitome of perfect beauty.  She is not without merit, though. She works hard in her family’s rice paddies and she is capable of softening her dislike for Hayami. She has a pair of idiot boys as her entourage. They are often seen as the ones beating up Hayami.

Teruo Hozumi is Hirose’s uncle who takes care of Hirose after his mother’s death. He is muscular and exuberant and loves life.

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Sawai Kagura is Hinata’s and Hotaru’s grandfather. He is also the cause for all the hatred against Hayami. Years ago he led a mob to destroy Hayami’s home and drive her parents away. He still hasn’t allowed his hatred to die. He forced Hotaru to play her dead sister’s part and is  determined that she marry into status, represented by Takuma.

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Ham handed fan service.

I almost let the ep. one fan service dissuade me from watching this show. They use the fact that Hirose is blind to get him into stupid situations. He feels up Hayami’s breast. He pokes Hinata’s rear end and lifts her skirts with his cane. His blindness and Hinata’s clumsiness end up with his face in her panties on the floor. Ridiculous.

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Enough to make me furious.

But before that, in the opening, there are two boys brutally beating up Hayami. As their fists and feet pummel her, the ending to Footprints is being read. It gave me the chills.

I cannot blame her for thinking that even God has abandoned her.

I’m am not at all religious. The concept of God as a conscious entity handing down wisdom via prophets for us to follow is a nonstarter for me.

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I do have a moral code I live by, Do as thou wilt as long as ye hurt no one. The traditional Christian interpretation of Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, has some real problems. What if you want things done to you that someone else might not want done to them? There is no provision for empathy. It leads to forceful evangelism and even Crusades. My code has to agree with my gut or it means nothing.

My moral code has a clause it in for defending the weak. If two equals want to mix it up, that’s fine by me but if the stronger assaults the weaker, I know whose side I am on. If I happened onto such a scene, my code would force me to intervene. There is no possible excuse for such behavior. Two males and one female – and she isn’t even resisting. She is being a rag doll. That implies it has happened before enough times for her to decide resistance is futile.

Blood would flow and it wouldn’t be hers. I’m an old man but what I have lost in physical prowess I’d make up for in experience and deviousness.

So the show hooked me. Anger at moving drawings describing a fiction. Enough to overlook to absurd fan service. Happily that dried up quickly enough.

Hirose is a real hero. When punks from school beat her up, he tries to intervene. He may2018-10-15_19-51-53 be blind and he may have a naive and optimistic outlook on life. He himself may be even weaker than her.  He wants to intervene but his blindness betrays him.

To be a hero, you have to risk loss. You are acting as a substitute for the victim. You get in the way of evil and they take their shots at you instead of someone else. The courage requires is inversely proportional to your own strength. A powerful person needs little courage. They can put an end to the evil at little risk. A physically weak person risks everything and if he/she doesn’t act both intelligently and decisively, will probably lose everything.

2018-10-15_19-54-38Otoha comes to him in a dream. Or was it in the middle of a sleepless night? They go to a beach. She sees that he hates being so helpless. She tells him the only reason he can’t do anything is because he thinks he can’t. She can help him for a short time.

The next morning he wakes up able to see again. His new class friends show him around town. He isn’t acting blind anymore. His eyes are open and there’s no cane.  He sees a hanging bridge across a ravine in the distance that he shouldn’t know about. Yet there is no celebration of the recovery of his sight. Strange. It is as if he didn’t tell them and they didn’t notice.

But a demon lives across the bridge. Like the moth to the flame, Takuma has to investigate.

The demon turns out to be Hayami bathing in the water.  He has seen her au naturel and is blushing. Next thing he is hog tied and hanging from a tree branch. Hayami is sharpening a knife.

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But – isn’t he supposed to be blind?

Hayami is living in a pair of abandoned buses on an abandoned road. We never know how they got there but they have been modified into a snug little home. I have lived in far worse.

Takuma survives the encounter and comes to visit her the next morning. Not only that but she expresses no reaction to his sudden reacquisition of sight. Either these people cannot be surprised or something is up. He comes back to visit her then next morning with ramen for breakfast and pursues her all the way to school.

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Be a good girl Hinata. Or else.

Hinata was never happy with the exclusion of Hayami from the community and is now concerned with Takuma’s well being. Seems Grandpa is trying to make them a couple because of Takuma’s family status. He wants her to claim Takuma as her own. In the mean time, Takuma and Hayami have fallen for each other, leaving her feeling forlorn. Still she does her best the take possession of him.

You see, Hayami-chan and Hinata-chan were once besties. The terrible situation with her parents left Hayami a pariah. Hinata-chan, always wanting to be a “good girl”, parted ways with her at her time of greatest need. That grandfather really is a bastard.

There is the inevitable beach scene, followed by the inevitable hot spring scene with the inevitable fan service. Nothing too serious. 2018-10-15_21-15-08Hamaji comes into his own flirting with Takuma and wearing a well filled out swimsuit. And Hamaji gets the first real liplock with Takuma! (Not saying how it happened.)

OTOH, Takuma is completely spineless around girls. He goes to talk with Hayami (who shows up late) and lets Hinata just take him away from her. This is a pattern seen repeatedly throughout the show. No will whatsoever with the opposite sex.

Things happen and lost friendship is recovered. Hayami starts being accepted at school. Hinata refuses to go by that name. Her name is Hotaru and that is how she will live. Takuma is told by old man Kagura and his uncle that Hayami’s parents drove his mother to suicide. Takuma flips out, nearly strangles Hayami and loses his sight again. Not going to go any farther than this except to ask a couple of pertinent questions.

Did Takuma really regain his sight? Or did he just think it and make up all his experiences?

Does Otoha really exist? Or did she too come from his imagination?

Your answer to those two questions will determine how you view the rest of the show. Perhaps “God” is “carrying” all these characters through their worst times? Regardless, there is an incredibly sad and despairing scene ahead of you. Ranks right up there with Your Lie in April and Clannad Afterstory in how much it made me cry.

That is saying a helluva lot!