If there’s one thing that can absolutely be said about Ichinose Kotomi, it’s that she has amazing feet. Her feet (as well as her knees) are plastered all over the arc, even in the parts where she is a little kid. Damn, those lolicons at Kyoto Animation know how to get my jeans tight. (protip: I never wear jeans.)
Kotomi’s 5-episode arc was lacking in the two major elements that made Fuuko’s 7-episode arc flow so well. The first is a careful balance of plot and comedy, and the second is a clear goal. In Fuuko’s arc, we knew that everything was leading up to the epic starfish-gasm wedding, which made it tense as things got down to the wire and you’re wondering what could happen next.
Kotomi’s arc had no sense of urgency as well as some hideously played-out jokes. Her shitty violin playing stopped being funny for me semi-instantly and then most of the second episode was dedicated to the joke. But more importantly, the arc wasn’t really about anything. At first, it was Tomoya and his gang trying to normalize Kotomi and help her make new friends. Once her tragic backstory appears, it becomes about trying to cheer up, and when they cheer her up, the arc is then over and she apparently flies to America. It’s not that Tomoya’s efforts weren’t effective, since they gave her the confidence to do something like that, but it seemed like a bunch of arbitrary steps towards the even-more-arbitrary arrival of the gift from her parents that made her able to find happiness again.
It just didn’t feel like anything that had happened was totally necessary or the only path that lead here. Since the story didn’t really need any dramatic pacing, and the jokes were unnecessarily drawn out and beaten-in, it seemed like a whole episode or two could hace been shaved off of this arc.
That’s not to say it was all bad. Kotomi’s trying to learn to be a tsukkomi was pretty funy, Nagisa’s parents got in their little usual moments of hilarity, and then there was the moment of epic win. Fuuko, clad in birthday hat, comes out of fucking nowhere to try and win a giant teddy bear from a crane game for the characters, who are all very confused. She uses their last bit of change, but gets distracted and captures the starfish instead. She apoligizes and says she’ll come back to help them some other time before running off. Pure brilliance. She also got an absurdly well-animated eyecatch in one of the episodes.
Which brings me to my last and maybe most importantt issue, Kotomi herself. I didn’t find her interesting in any way. She falls into the socially ignorant character type who has to learn about living life, sort of like Tamaki from Bamboo Blade (one of my favorite anime characters). However, she just didn’t have any interesting qualities. There was no introspective element to her character, and her backstory and development were so incredibly average that I felt like I was having deja vu throughout her arc.
It also doesn’t help that she’s voiced by Mamiko Noto. Now, I don’t dislike Noto. I think she’s a great actress — in the right roles. Noto pretty much always plays a shy and reserved girl with a very light, breaky voice, but the difference is whether it’s a serious role where her voice gives the character a necessary rounding of their personality, or a moe role where her voice is just supposed to make the character sound cute. I loved her as Rimone in Simoun and Shimako in Maria-sama ga Miteru, but I disliked her as Ana Coppola in Ichigo Mashimaro and absolutely hated her as Haruka in Nogizaka Haruka no Himtsu.
Her Kotomi performance tries to be a litle bit of both styles and just comes out awkward. When I hear her deliver powerful or emotional lines or speak in a fairly normal voice, I wonder why she couldn’t have sounded like that instead of the completely unrealistic voice she usually used.
All in all, I didn’t dislike the Kotomi arc. I liked Tomoya’s gardening part, the backstory scenes were nice, and the whole message at the end involving the suitcase was pretty interesting and cool. However, the pacing and less-than-interesting character kept me at bay from any emotional involvement or real interest in the arc. Overall, not impressive.