Anime on Demand
Of all the new series announced for this season, one in particular tends to grab people’s attention. After all, when you’re based on a PSP game whose defining feature is the ability to take upskirt photos of its heroines there are going to be certain.... expectations. But now that its airing, will Photokano beat the likes of Flowers of Evil and Severing Crime Edge and truly be the perviest of them all?
Kazuya Maeda is your typical high school nice guy. Friends with everyone, a little too popular with the ladies (but then this is self-insert fiction at its finest) and just living a normal life. When his father gives him an old digital camera (much to the ire of his sister) he discovers a new passion for photography, leading him to join the school photography club alongside some rather disturbing school mates. There’s Itta, the expert of low-angle up-skirt shots; Takashi, who likes to take pictures down girl’s cleavages; and Yuko, who specialises in taking photos of people who don’t know they’re on camera. These guys are so disturbing that they’ve been banned from taking pictures of the gymnastics club and the other female club members have split off to form their own group! Despite his club mates decidedly less than pure motives Kazuya mostly seems to just want to take great pictures (albeit ones that will have pretty girls in for preference). Well, aside from ones of the school council president anyway, whom he’s more than willing to blackmail....
So, in one of the biggest surprises of the season, Photokano turns out to be one of the least fan service-oriented series of its type in years! Yes there are a few swimsuits on display here and there but that’s about it, with no sign that anything will be added for a Blu-Ray release later (though disc-exclusive OVAs are always a possibility) and nary a panty shot to be found. It’s something that proves to be a rather clever move, as it takes a series that could easily have been uncomfortably voyeuristic in nature and allows it to become a much more gentle harem-type comedy-drama with a likeable main character who actually spends a lot of time trying to foil the intentions of his fellow club mates (even more shockingly, he is then not slapped silly by the intended female target!) rather than joining in, which makes Kazuya a much more pleasant character and one who is easier to relate to.
Unfortunately though, so much effort seems to have been put into the lead role that the other characters suffer for it and feel somewhat neglected. The female characters in particular feel like little more than ciphers dressed up in pretty clothes. Hopefully this is something the series can address in future episodes.
Visually the series holds up pretty well. The character designs don’t stand out massively but they look good and the different characters are easily distinguishable from each other. The animation's of a decent quality too, particularly when it switches to the view from Kazuya’s lens which allows the production team to play around with light and a hint of barely perceptible CG work to produce some truly beautiful imagery.
PhotoKano is a suprisingly good series - it’s never going to be a contender for the top spot (there are far too many good series for a mere harem show to stand a chance), but it’s entertaining and brings enough to hold your attention. For all its potential to be nothing more than fan-service on a stick, it manages to gently surpass your expectations and become something that’s genuinely fun to watch.
You can currently watch PhotoKano in streaming form courtesy of Anime on Demand