Lamune is pretty much the spiritual successor to the original To Heart. For people who enjoyed the original To Heart, skip RMM and To Heart 2 and go straight to Lamune. The setup between To Heart and Lamune aren’t too different: one central too-sweet-to-be-real relationship and a whole-hearted group of friends supporting those two. Both series have a slow, meticulous, prodding style that is not for everybody. The original To Heart was known for having episodes about relatively small things like how to divide up concert tickets, and Lamune isn’t any different… they spent an episode on dividing up pearls, in a sense. But, even with the slow style, I enjoyed the series, and it’s a nice contrast to some other lunatically paced shows out there.
The story of Lamune concerns one Kenji and one Nanami. The two of them grew up together on a surrealistically blissful ocean town, and like Hiroyuki and Akari, everyone but them acknowledge their relationship. Kenji’s a stereotypical harem male, but he isn’t as big of a loser as some others. Nanami is the girl next door slash childhood friend, and she and her mom operates a cafe slash farm. I think that’s the gimmick to this show… they’re part farmers. Unlike most other daters-turned-anime that have nonsensical names (i.e. Kanon, Wind, Air, Shuffle), there’s no central story to the plot for Lamune beyond showcasing Kenji and Nanami. Of course, I’ve only seen the first half, and if Nanami pulls out box cutters on Tae (the hawt upperclassmate) in the second half and leading her to french Hikari (the hawt cousin) during the final epsiode credits, well, woo hoo! Other characters are introduced, including Kenji’s hawt little sister (can’t have a dater-turned-anime without some “Onii-chan!” action), Kenji’s hawt cousin, Kenji’s hawt upperclassmate, and Kenji’s hawt underclassmate. He has his spectrum covered!
Every episode is pretty much one microcosm of their lives, and the story intertwines itself by cross-indexing their current lives with their childhood times together. For example, one episode was about an unresolved incident in their childhood where Kenji had originally promised his sister to watch a meteor shower with her, but then he two-timed her with Nanami. Fast forward to the present and the meteor shower is occuring again, and the emotions from the past resurface. Though, even as kids, all the girls were sweet on Kenji. In one flashback, he talks with Tae, and all the other girls are staring her down. Expect a lot of heart, but not much in terms of action, drama, fanservice, or comedy. Definitely more slice of life than anything else.
The art is barely passable, but I still consider Lamune‘s art quality and direction leaps and bounds better than higher profiler dating sims turned anime (To Heart 2, Da Capo SS). Still, the art isn’t great, and people aren’t exactly mobbing for pictures of Hikari, Suzuka, or Nanami on imageboards. The casting is very low budget as there’s no big names. I really couldn’t recognize any of the seiyuu beyond Nanami‘s, who also did Shuffle‘s Kaede.
People who need a little more oomphf in their anime and people who generally dislike the slice of life genre should probably skip Lamune. However, beyond fans of the original To Heart, fans of ああっ女神さまっ, Kanon, or Kamichu! would probably enjoy Lamune as well.
(Aside: from what I understand, lamune is the drink with the ball inside that Ayato from Rahxephon kept drinking with Haruka’s sister, but I don’t see them drinking any in Lamune. Where do they get these names for dating sims? They’re almost as bad as the names for the bands on The OC… Zero 7? Fine China? Air? They should have a guessing game, “bishoujo game or crappy frat music band?”)