H2O: Footprints in the Sand Review

Rating: 3/10

Plot: Hirose Takuma has recently moved to a small village to live a more restful life due to his blindness. He soon meets a girl named Hayami and wants to befriend her. However, she rejects him. He is confused by her rejection until he learns that everyone in the village treats Hayami like garbage and no one bats an eye at it. She’s regularly mocked, bullied and beaten by her classmates while none of the adults do anything about it – some actually partake in it. Why is this? And why does Hayami feel that she deserves it?

Breakdown: WARNING: I AM GOING TO BE SPOILING NEARLY ALL OF THIS SERIES BECAUSE THE ENDING IS A PIVITOL PART OF THE FINAL RATING. SCROLL DOWN TO THE BOTTOMLINE IF YOU WANT TO REMAIN UNSPOILED.

Wow. Just wow. I haven’t seen an anime blow it so badly since….I can’t even come up with an example. I was somewhat excited about this series because I had heard that it was even better than Air. I was also somewhat dreading this series because the THEM review shot this down to their lowest rating for the final four episodes due to a drastic change in the series….And I can pretty much understand why.

But let’s rewind a bit because the final four episodes are more about Hirose. Let’s tackle the Hayami angle, shall we?

Like the plot says, she’s treated like garbage by the entire village. She’s regularly called a monster, a roach, and a lot of other vile insults. She’s constantly the target of terrible bullying like ruining her lunch or pouring toilet water on her head, and she’s regularly beaten by her fellow classmates. In addition, she lives in two cable cars up in the mountains alone. It’s so bad that I’m really left wondering why she doesn’t just leave….That’s never answered, by the way.

The reason for the bullying and the reason why she thinks she deserves all of it is because her family had a lot of power in the village and they caused a lot of pain and suffering for many of the villagers. Eventually, the village got sick of it, torched their house and drove her family out of the village, leaving her as the sole survivor. Why she stayed and didn’t leave with her family is never explained. I didn’t really understand if her parents were dead or ran out of town. They never make it clear.

Then Hirose comes into the picture and stirs up the village by standing up for her every now and then. And when I say that, I mean he stands up for her when boys are bullying her. When girls are, he never pipes up, which is annoying.

This plotline is solved rather suddenly. The kids suddenly stop abusing her and even become good friends with her just because Hinata told them to stop. The other villagers take a lot longer to stop, but it was so jarring that they went from turning their heads when she’s being beaten and bullied to going shopping with her in mere days.

This whole thing is somewhat stupid. She can’t control what family she was born into. She did nothing whatsoever to cause any heartache. Are the villagers really so stupid and cruel that they’d abuse a young girl just because she’s related to the family that was so terrible? They don’t see it at all hypocritical that they’re being no better if not worse than her family was by treating her like that? It’s a wonder anyone in this show grew up partially normally with parents who all have that mindset.

Hinata’s plotline is that she’s scared to death of her grandfather who is the village elder. I won’t spoil much of her plotline because it’s the best plotline in the series, in my opinion, but let’s just say her grandfather is really messed up.

Hirose’s plotline is where things really start unraveling. The THEM reviewer said that episode seven was the perfect ending to the series and that they would easily give the show a moderate rating if was left at episode seven, which finishes up Hinata’s storyline, but leaves a chunk of Hayami’s and all of Hirose’s in the balance.

To its credit, episode seven does seem like a series finale. It had credits over actual scenes and included a vocal song, a big reveal, a big inspiring moment, a bunch of tie-ups, it’s almost like that was the series finale, but they realized they still had to do four episodes by contract or something.

Episode eight was criticized by the same reviewer as being a big chunk of randomness. Otoha, who had been seen throughout the anime as a spirit that only Hirose could see, was suddenly a magical girl and everything around them was going nuts due to something in the spirit world. In order to gather magical energy, Hirose had to take charge of the situation and try to literally smack everyone back into reality. In the end, this is revealed to be an illusion that Otoha made for Hirose to see a book world that Hinata had made up when she was a child. Due to the connection between Otoha and Hinata, she thought that would be a good way to say farewell.

I wasn’t bothered by that episode. It was a final tribute to Hinata’s book that Otoha wanted to share with Hirose. Despite the randomness, it was kinda sweet.

Then we get to episode nine, which solidifies a relationship between Hirose and Hayami. That episode was also pretty sweet and cute, so I have no real problems yet.

Then we get to…….episode ten. Let’s backtrack – remember how I said Hirose was blind? Otoha grants him sight in the start of the series. No one questions why he suddenly has sight, but there it is.

In episode ten, since the Village Elder doesn’t want Hirose with Hayami, he reveals to Hirose that the Kohinata family, Hayami’s family, is the reason that Hirose’s mom killed herself.

The Kohinatas had set up an arranged marriage between his mother and a member of their family, but she met someone else, ran off, eloped and soon had Hirose. However, the Kohinata family soon found her and started pressuring her daily to divorce her husband and marry into their family. Details on what exactly ‘pressure’ means is beyond me. She couldn’t take the pressure anymore and jumped in front of a train one day when she was out with Hirose.

It is never, ever adequately explained, but I guess the emotional and mental trauma from that event caused him to go blind?

After Hirose learns of this, things seemingly go back to normal, but it’s soon obvious that Hirose can’t separate Hayami from her family. He begins having nightmares and hallucinations of Hayami dragging his mother in front of the train. This causes a few spontaneous emotional outbursts toward Hayami, which is unlike his gentle and quiet nature.

He drives Hayami away, and she becomes so angered that she starts beating a dam that was made to stop the water during the current rainstorm. Two of the harsher bullies from her school walk up, and she eggs them on saying that she’s going to destroy the town just like their parents said she would. The two bullies beat the crap out of her, and she continues to egg them on until one of them tries to strangle/drown her in the water.

She’s saved but walks away from the scene before she can get any medical attention.

She runs into Hirose, who doesn’t even ask her if she’s okay when she’s obviously been beaten to a pulp. He tries to apologize for what happened and says that he doesn’t blame her, but she prods and says that she is responsible. He snaps and starts beating the crap out of her while blaming her for his mother’s death. He stops his frenzy when he realizes that she’s unconscious and he faints as well.

This is where I fell off the wagon.

Hirose yelling at Hayami and having nightmares would be partly understandable. It has to be confusing to find out that your girlfriend is related to the people who drove your mother to suicide, so that might drive up bad memories and maybe a nightmare or two, but she had nothing to do with it! Just like she had nothing to do with anything else that she’s taking abuse for. In addition, it’s not like her family actually killed her or anything. They just pressured her to marry into their family.

Hirose’s a gigantic hypocrite. He was on everyone’s asses for blaming Hayami for the pain and suffering caused in the village when she was just a child who had nothing to do with it, yet here he is doing exactly that.

This entire show is built around the premise that Hayami is and must be a martyr. She must pay for her family’s sins and take all of the flak from the villagers despite being innocent for everything. It ridiculous.

Hayami wakes up and, despite being badly hurt, she is not in any life-threatening danger. Hirose, however, has yet to wake up. When he does wake up, he tells them that he’s gone blind again.

But hold on! We have a plot twist!

It turns out that Hirose had never regained his sight to begin with, and that he had fooled himself into thinking that he had. This is proven by mistaking details in a photo that he’s supposedly seen and showing drawings and writing he made that are scribbles.

So, yeah…..Hirose’s insane. He eventually gets so bad that he believes Hayami is his mother and that he’s a small child again.

After a big climax in which Hirose saves Hayami’s life from the villagers (They were going to kill her because she was going to leave…Yeah, that makes sense), he says he’ll protect his mother, Hayami.

Hirose’s uncle.decides that it would be best to move him back to the old apartment that he and his mother used to live in back in Tokyo. Hirose’s father is never seen, by the way, which is incredibly weird. He’s all you have left now, he’s blind, yet you can’t even visit him? Jerk. His uncle suggests that Hayami go with Hirose to act as his mother until he gets better.

Hayami and Hirose move, and they go through a few months with Hayami working as a paper-girl (those still exist?) and Hirose just hanging out because he’s so mentally ill.

One day, as they’re out shopping, Hayami tells Hirose that he has to believe that his mother loved him and didn’t abandon him like he thought. She had actually sacrificed her life for him after he tried to catch his ball that bounced across the railroad tracks.

To push the fact even further, I hope you’re sitting down for this, Hayami kills herself by throwing herself in front of a train just like his mother did. And just as she does that, his blindness is cured and he’s mentally sound.

No, I’m not kidding. In essence, to help someone get over a traumatizing event, just traumatize them again with something else. It’ll even clear up their physical disabilities!

He gets over his blindness AND gets over his crazy-ness by watching his girlfriend kill herself in the same way that his mother did? Just….just….wha–it….

Wouldn’t that just make him crazier?? Also…..hey, wait a second… If Hayami knew that, why did she let Hirose believe that her family drove his mother to suicide? Ugh, nevermind.

I’m not a doctor, but I believe I could find it plausible that someone could lose their sight after watching something particularly terrible and traumatic. At the very least, in an anime. I can even believe that he tricked himself into thinking that he had his sight back when he really didn’t, even if that does raise a multitude of questions (Like, how was he walking around town just fine? Why didn’t his friends think it was weird that Hirose was acting like he could see if he clearly couldn’t? If he never got his sight back, was Otoha just screwing with him? Just how?!) But him being cured of his supposed blindness AND mental illness by watching Hayami kill herself?

Oh and that’s not all. The end credits show everybody about 6-7 years in the future where Hinata is now the village elder (Where are her parents exactly?) and a baby is there too. (No, it’s not Hirose’s kid. It’s actually Hamaji’s, but it’s a long story. Dunno why they had that weird plotpoint in there. Hamaji was a really minor character…)

Hirose, full with sight and mental soundness, and his uncle have built a windmill where Hirose met Hayami because she loved pinwheels and windmills. All’s fine and dandy until a little girl runs up to Hirose while being chased by a boar. She looks, shockingly, like Otoha and is even named Otoha. She was reincarnated as a little girl and said that she pulled a lot of strings in the spirit world to pull ‘it’ off for him. When she runs off, he sees, yes, you guessed it, Hayami.

She was brought back to life thanks to Otoha. Because that won’t shock the living hell out of everyone in the village, will it? Then again, seeing as how his blindness being cured by Otoha wasn’t real, she could be an illusion for all we know too.

They could’ve completely avoided this if Hayami hadn’t been stupid enough to do that. The train sounds and alarm were enough to shock Hirose back to reality. She could’ve just pretended to kill herself, and that probably would’ve worked to get him back to normal. Gah!

I could’ve said “give this show a higher rating if you stop at episode seven” like the THEM review, but I can’t do that because episode seven would just leave you hanging on both Hirose and Hayami’s stories, so I’m kinda stuck.

The tone changes are also jarring. We can go from goofy and playful to sad and depressing to dark in mere minutes.

Hirose is a welcome change from your average harem main guy (even if we do have the mandatory beach episode where every girl is all over him and making him uncomfortable.) but he’s such a pushover when it comes to the girls. He’ll let them all push him around and he won’t say a thing about it. And like I said, if females are the ones doing the bullying to Hayami, he won’t say a word. He just watches with a frown.

It’s really difficult to like any of the other main or side characters beyond Hirose and Hayami because, despite how they seem all cheery and happy, there’s this constant nagging in your head that these supposedly nice kids treat Hayami like complete garbage and don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. How can you like any of these characters when you know that they’re like that?

Art and Animation:
The art in this series was fairly good, but the girls are designed oddly. They have normal sized heads, but insanely thin stick bodies. It makes you wonder how their necks support their heads.

Music: The music is wonderful and fairly unique. The OP is good and the ED has become one of my personal favorites.

Voice Acting: Japanese – The voices and acting are all wonderful. Hirose in particular has a very fitting voice. It’s very kind and gentle, much like what I would picture for Yuki from Fruits Basket.

Bottomline:
I enjoyed this anime for a while, but the ending really does kill it. Like…beat it with a shovel and set it on fire killed it. The main characters, by that I mean the main three, are usually likable, but I must reiterate that it’s really hard to like any of the side characters considering how they act around Hayami. The story, at least up until episodes seven and eight are great, if not somewhat frustrating at times, but the ending three episodes were so bad, it’s almost impressive.

It’s a ball of wtf wrapped in huh? and dipped in are you kidding me? It’s not a complete waste. The story between Hinata and Hayami, while being somewhat stupid at points, is nice. Hinata’s story is actually very interesting, and there are some heartwarming moments to be found there. If you’re a big fan of visual novel dramas and want something different than your usual fare, go right ahead and be very wary of the ending, but for anyone else, I’d say skip it.

Additional Information and Notes: H2O Footprints in the Sand was based on an eroge visual novel of the same name by Makura. The anime adaptation was produced by Zexcs and was directed by Hideki Tachibana.

Episodes: 12

Year: 2008

Recommended Audience: There is some predictable blindness fanservice in episode one (Whoops I can’t see, I’m gonna fall down a lot while girls fall with their butts on my face. I still don’t get how that would ever happen, logically. How would you have to fall in order to achieve that kind of position?) and mild fanservice throughout. There’s also some heavy themes and ‘scary’ moments. I’d say…..13+

4 thoughts on “H2O: Footprints in the Sand Review

  1. I entered into the spoiler territory and I had to reattach my jaw after it fell on the floor seeing the sheer insanity, protagonist centered morality, and undeserving punishment to any innocent character. Unbelievable! I’ll certainly be skipping H20.

    P. S. Props for mentioning THEM. I used to read their reviews a ton when I was in high school. I would’ve never checked out Shinesman or even the original Hunter X Hunter if it wasn’t for them.

    • I don’t know why, but it seems to be a slight habit with h-game and visual novel adaptations to be relatively normal-ish the entire runtime and then go completely bonkers in the end. I dunno if that’s just because they don’t know how to end it or they want the series to stand out, but yeah H2O is definitely high up on the list of crazy incoherent anime endings.

      I love THEM. I don’t keep up with them as much as I used to, but they have a lot of really great reviews. 🙂

      • Come to think of it, I’ve noticed that with most titles I’ve seen of that nature, too. That still doesn’t make any sense why they do those things. Sure, the Mizuiro non-hentai remake had it’s issues, but at least there was a complete ending that made sense for the most part and that was only a 2 episode OVA. H20 certainly looks incomprehensible with the ending.

        Sure thing. I haven’t followed them in a long time, but I did link to their NieA_7 review under mine when both of us pointed out the same awesome anti-cliche that happens in one episode.

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