#1 Time-travel tragedy
Every day is full of laughter and joy at Uchihama Academy’s astronomy club. Preparations for the school festival are in full swing and, at the same time, club members Sou and Kaori are inching closer and closer to becoming a couple. Then the unthinkable happens: on October 14th, a bus driver loses control of his vehicle and rams into Kaori on her way home from school. That night, in the hospital, the members of the astronomy club receive the news that Kaori could not be saved.
From there, In Search of the Lost Future reverts to a few days before the accident. While wandering around the school, Sou suddenly finds a girl called Yui laying unconscious by the staircase. She is entirely naked, suffers from amnesia, but somehow knows Sou on a first name basis. The astronomy club takes her in under the guise of a transfer student, but nobody knows for sure who Yui is or how she mysteriously turned up.
For the audience, it soon becomes clear that Yui knows about the events that will happen on October 14th. She knows everything about Kaori’s accident, every little detail that made it happen, and she is determined to avert it. However, she can’t tell anybody in the club about this. She has to be strangely protective of Kaori and try to forcibly steer her out of harm’s way. Yet, no matter how hard she tries, fate itself seems to want to correct itself whenever Yui makes any changes. It’s a desperate struggle and October 14th is rapidly approaching.
As a drama story, In Search of the Lost Future has phenomenal pacing. The knowledge that a horrible accident is about to happen keeps the story tense, especially because you have no clue how much Yui’s efforts and setbacks might influence the outcome. The mysteries that the anime presents are gripping and there are several game-changing moments spread throughout, which help keep the story fresh.
Truth be told, I am baffled by the relative obscurity of this anime. In Search of the Lost Future feels like a successor to the romantic mystery anime that characterized the 2000s, and I’d even rate it higher than any Key adaptation that I have seen so far.
#2 A Tight Bunch
What makes the drama punch especially hard is how likable the cast of In Search of the Lost Future is. Each member of the astronomy club has a colorful personality and strong synergy with all the other members.
Club president Airi Hasekura is a real go-getter, infamous across the school for settling disputes by first beating both parties up, and sorting out the diplomatic solution afterwards. Under her leadership, the astronomy club has become more an enforcement arm for the school’s disciplinary committee. She is backed up by Kenny; an eccentric foreign exchange student who is always rushing off to help where he can. Kenny is just a riot to have around. He is such a goofball, but in a way that feels like a natural part of his characterization. He is a funny friend instead of just a comedic relief, if that makes any sense.
Then there is Nagisa Hanamiya, heiress to a major conglomerate and a promising young scientists. Besides being the brains to Airi and Kenny’s brawn, Nagisa also brings an enigmatic element to the table. She appears and vanishes from places without warning, and seems capable of arranging just about anything at a moment’s notice. Nagisa also gets several episodes dedicated to a side-story centered around her, which I believe was a branch from the visual novel that the writers (rightfully) deemed too good to exclude.
Finally there are the protagonists: Kaori, Sou, and Yui. We’ll get back to them in a moment.
#3 Underrated visuals
Seeing the CGI tag on a show still causes me concern, but I actually felt that In Search of the Lost Future looks nice. It’s not a mind-blowing visual spectacle, but I was all-around impressed with its visuals.
The backgrounds are detailed, the character designs look and animate fine, and it’s a nicely colorful anime all around. You mostly notice that something is “off” when you get close-ups of characters. Especially Kaori pops against the backdrops at times, which combined with the thick outlines can betray that this isn’t a traditionally animated show. However, moments where you notice CGI are rare and don’t even look that bad when you do.
The animation has a punch to it that I appreciated—sometimes literally when it came to Airi’s action scenes. There are also plenty of visual jokes and background details that had me laughing, so all-in-all I don’t agree that this is a bad-looking anime by any means. Go watch the Magnificent KOTOBUKI if you want to see some real CGI trash.
#4 Romantic tensions
While everyone in the astronomy club is excitedly waiting for Koari and Sou to get together already, this runs into several issues. Firstly, Sou is very absent-minded and a bit of a geek. He’s the only person in the club who actually cares about astronomy and if you give him some gadget to mess with it’ll occupy his mind for days on end. He likes Kaori, but he’s terrible at reading the mood and not the kind of guy who’d ever take the initiative.
Kaori, for her part, is very caring, affectionate, and sociable, but also prone to envy. She often misreads Sou’s interactions with Airi and Nagisa as signs that he may be in love with either of them instead, in turn making them feel awkward for getting between them. This becomes even worse when Yui appears.
As Yui tries to keep Kaori out of harm’s way, this often means pulling her away from Sou. Yui quite literally tries to take Kaori’s place at times. Actions that make sense in the context of her mission, but nobody besides her (and us) knows that’s what she is doing. To Kaori, it looks like Yui is fiercely trying to get closer to Sou. And worse, it seems like Sou himself might be falling for her.
In Search of the Lost Future has one of the most engrossing romance plots that I have seen in some time now, and I watch an unhealthy amount of romance anime. The developing love between these characters is a central component of the story instead of a simple afterthought. It closely interacts with the series’ powerful drama and had me excitedly awaiting the next developments.
#5 Cheeky fanservice
Being based on an eroge visual novel, In Search of the Lost Future naturally has some erotic content to it. While the sex scenes from the visual novel didn’t survive the adaptation process, the anime does still feature a healthy dose of fanservice.
You can expect a fair amount of… interesting camera angles, as well as an assortment of scenes where the girls are changing or bathing. It’s nothing special or particularly unique, but it works perfectly fine thanks to the great character designs. It’s also not too overbearing. These scenes are rarer than you’d think from an eroge adaptation and quite short when they do happen, so it never feels like the fanservice is getting excessive or stale.
Then there is the OVA, which takes the astronomy club to a beach for a “training camp”. It’s denser in fanservice because the cast is constantly wearing bathing suits, but it still has an intriguing story to tell. It also messes with your expectations of fanservice from time to time, so look forward to that.
More anime & manga like this
ERASED: Reverting time in an attempt to prevent a horrible incident from taking place.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: School club full of lovable oddballs.
Rumbling Hearts: Dealing with the aftermath of losing a love interest in a car accident.