Anime Review | PhotoKano Collection (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 10.11.2016

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PhotoKano Collection (UK Rating: 15)

Kazuya Maeda is just an average kid in his second year of high school and has yet to find his real passion, jumping from hobby to hobby without ever finding one that clicks. That is until he's gifted an old SLR by his dad and begins a love affair with photography. Kazuya's new hobby lands him some new friends in the school photography club and also gets him a much closer look at many of the ladies in his school. This complete collection from Manga Entertainment contains all 13 episodes and has just landed at retail this week, on 7th November.

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Yes, it's another ecchi romance series based on a dating sim - a frequent source of inspiration for these types of series, but while there have been plenty of dating sims with anime adaptations, most focus on a single route from the game to adapt. Usual the "main girl," or most popular character story, is adapted with a little extra footage from some of the other routes, PhotoKano instead attempts to adapt every route and every romance! It's a bold choice, especially with only 13 episodes to play with.

The first few episodes don't even step into the routes; they instead set up the story, introducing each of the girls along with the supporting cast. Kazuya joins the photography club, but there are actually two at his school. The first is helmed by one of the potential romances - a girl named Hikari. This club focuses on landscape and scenic photography. It is not the one Kazuya joins. The second club focuses on people, but quite a specific group of people. The photography club Kazuya joins is a group of perverted misfits who spend their time chasing around the cute girls of the school and taking creep-shots… they are amazed with Kazuya's ability to actually speak with the most popular girls in the school and realise he could get them closer to their subjects.

After a few episodes to set up the premise, PhotoKano dedicates just a single episode to developing each of the potential girls. Each plays out a simple and brief romance, none of the girls really having a chance to develop. From the first girl to open herself to Kazuya's photography, expert gymnast Mai who gives Kazuya plenty of action shots of her in lithe posts, to the busty and dopey Tomoe, and then there's also the usual straight-laced and strict student council president, Aki. The usual clichés are a-plenty in the cast, but there are still some enjoyable and engaging stories here. Case in point: Nonoka, an athletic baseball playing tomboy who is utterly charming. Her episode is a real highpoint, filled with funny and warm moments. Nonoka isn't the only one, though, as many of the girls' stories are actually quite enjoyable and they are individual enough for the audience to grow fond of their particular favourites in the cast.

The problem is with the short series length, since each girl only has a single episode to tell their story, and a considerable amount of that time is dedicated to the fan-service. The result is the girls end up feeling forgettable. While they are each individual characters, with their own personalities, the star of the show certainly is not. Kazuya epitomises the dating sim protagonist - a blank canvas for the audience to project themselves onto.

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Admittedly, this show is very much an ecchi fantasy for the audience and it's filled with some of the age-old tropes of accidental gropes, misunderstood comments, and opportune moments… but it feels like it steps a little too far during the photography segments. The meek and docile Japanese schoolgirls posing in revealing outfits and suggestive positions, while the camera lingers on them officially makes the jump from pervy comedy to just plain creepy at points. During these moments, it honestly feels like PhotoKano is actually a hentai series with the sex cut out. The series is actually produced by Madhouse, but you would never guess that just from watching as it lacks the studio's signature quality. It doesn't look bad, per se, just average.

Rated 5 out of 10


PhotoKano attempts something not often seen in adaptations, but sadly fails. The ecchi elements are a step too far, and by trying to jam every route and every girl into the limelight, PhotoKano ends up failing to do justice to any of their stories. If this was a full 26-episode series, or if it focused on just one or two girls, it would have developed into something much better. For fans of the game, this anime is a good accompaniment, but that's only because the rest of the story has already been told in the actual game...

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