When Ecchi Turns Creepy: Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka

It’s all fun and games in high school

until incest comes to the table. 

I feel that anime often has the unfortunate reputation of being only for perverts and immature antisocial basement dwellers. As with pretty much any subject, if you actually venture further in you’ll discover that there are scads of shows that defy that stereotype with their beautiful artwork and genuinely thrilling storytelling. However, the stereotype exists for a reason. Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka is, in my opinion, one of those reasons. I’m actually a bit angry at this show because it had so many great shojo elements that made me want to really love it, but by the end it got… creepy. And not in a good Tim Burton kind of way, either. More like a “don’t leave Uncle Jimmy alone with the kids” kind of way.

Just some of Junichi's harem (yup, boy included, which was one of the awesome parts, even if he was only joking).

Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka, or “The Hill Dyed Rose Madder,” is based on an adult visual novel (which is something like a Choose Your Own Adventure book for the computer). The story is a harem romance that takes place in high school. The central figure is a boy named Junichi Nagase, who used to be known as the “Geno Killer” thanks to his rebellious ways. He developed this attitude while living alone because his parents are big time spies and rarely at home. However, after his sister Minato leaves their parents’ side to move in with Junichi, he mellows out considerably.

Two girls living with one boy, but this sure isn't "Three's Company."

One day he encounters a girl named Yuuhi Katagiri and saves her from being harassed by a couple of boys. Coincidentally, Yuuhi transfers to Junichi’s high school the next day as part of a deal that she made with her father: he set up Yuuhi’s engagement to a boy that she has never met, and rather than passively go along with her father’s wishes, she sets out to meet this boy and judge whether he is worthy herself. Junichi is happy to see the beautiful girl whom he rescued the other day, and believes that she is happy to see him, too. Misreading the signs, he kisses her in front of the entire class. Yuuhi immediately flies into a rage because Junichi stole her first kiss. Later on that evening Junichi and Minato receive a knock on their door: it’s Yuuhi with a suitcase in hand. It turns out that Junichi is the boy she is betrothed to! Still angry at the earlier events of the day, Yuuhi explains that she is here to move in with them for a short while so as to better judge Junichi’s character for herself. However, with the rocky start they began with, things don’t look good for a future marriage!

Hmm, you don't kiss like my sister. Oh wait, that sounds bad, doesn't it?

This series has all the makings of a cute high school harem comedy, except that there are moments of full-frontal fan service thrust into random scenes with no real rhyme or reason. On top of the distracting level of nipples prevalent in this show, there’s also the issue of Junichi’s harem, which includes his sister. I’ve already mentioned in my review of Fruits Basket that people with the same last name dating is just creepy. But at least with Fruits Basket it involved distant cousins. The fact that Junichi and Minato are brother and sister is beyond wrong. I kept hoping throughout the series that it would be revealed that Minato was adopted, and though there are hints that it might be the case, it’s never fully explained one way or the other. Because of that, I couldn’t really enjoy this anime, because no matter how cute the characters are, incest is just icky in my book.

We know what you're thinking. And we know it isn't good.

I had to wonder who the target audience is for this anime, because the high school drama and cutesy graphics (note the precious little bat on the corner of the cover) make it seem like perfect fodder for shojo. In fact, I began watching this show mistakenly believing that was the genre that it was. Then the fan service popped up (even in the opening credits) and I thought otherwise. (The bonus OVA had more ecchi fan service than I’ve ever seen in any anime to date!) Then the possible incest came into play and I really could not imagine who the target audience was for this series other than, well, perverts. True, it was funny and cute with an interesting enough storyline, and like in Fruits Basket perhaps it was just a cultural difference and not meant to be taken as seriously as I thought, but the creepy subtext completely hindered any real enjoyment for me. But that’s just my opinion: Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka is too cute for porn and too porny to be cute, hence relegating it to the realm of uncomfortable creepiness. And there you have it.

Rating: ★✰ Not the worst anime I’ve seen. But close.

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