Remembering Kita e ~Diamond Dust Drops~ because nobody else will


Old MemoRies

This story opens during the midst of the so-called “Nyaa-pocalypse” in early 2017. It was around this time that I found myself with a lot of time after school and was the time when I was really getting into anime. This period at the tail-end of my high school days was characterized by me torrenting dozens of anime and binge watching them as fast as possible. However, the nyaa-pocalypse changed all that and us anime pirates were left scrambling as the infrastructure we were so accustomed to simply vanished. The old nyaa.se site was down after legal troubles which were the result of EU policy changes, if my memory serves me right. It wasn’t all bad though, the tracker still existed despite the site going down so in theory, the old torrents still have seeders attached to them, so projects formed and replacement sites were operating incredibly quickly, I take my hat off to those fine gentlemen.

It was the result of this unrest that our story begins, one where young Parz found himself falling down internet rabbit-holes, irc channels and shady direct download sites. Due to nyaa.se going down, threads on countless message boards and forums across the internet  were filled with questions about alternative places to torrent anime from. Alternative trackers were listed, others smugly suggested to join private trackers, while others threw various other options into the mix. One of these suggestions was using the enigmatic “XDCC” method. Having grown up after-the-fact, I was largely unfamiliar with IRC, save for a basic understanding what it was. I never was in any channels and had never even opened the client pre-installed on my Ubuntu desktop. However, this intrigued me and I began my descent back in time.

You see, this is around the time I was first becoming deeply interested in the history of otaku culture. Specifically, I had been reading various accounts of the Western anime community’s humble beginnings; fansub groups being at the forefront of this movement, beginning in the late 80’s to the present, thanks to the internet and IRC. Despite the obvious inconveniences that came with the “nyaa-pocalypse,” one major benefit was vicariously experiencing what it must have felt like in the early days of fansubbing. Nowadays, it almost aggravates me how with the rise of modern technology and maturing of the internet has brought along many new “first-world problems.” Chiefly, the “I have too many options” problem. I found myself becoming more excited all over again at the prospects of uncovering forgotten anime files on seemingly-archaic IRC servers from last decade. The difficulties in hunting down exactly what you wanted on the “wild west” was characteristic of the early days of the internet that myself and others are fond of. Thus began my journey into the world of IRC.

At the time, I had become interested in a specific brand of mid-2000’s romance anime that has since faded to obscurity. I’ve found a thread on an old AnimeSuki thread  describing it as the “Mid-Late 2000-2010 Seinen “Romance/Drama” Anime” which somewhat explains what this style is. I became interested after enjoying anime such as Myself;Yourself and White Album 2. After a bit of digging on MyAnimeList and Anidb, I found a show called Kita e ~Diamond Dust Drops~ which was localized and released by ADV under the title Diamond Daydreams. I had known about this anime a bit before the nyaa-pocalypse but had never acquired it since the only torrent that existed had no seeders at the time. But now with a renewed sense of adventure, I decided I would download this anime and watch it, if it was the last thing I did!

To my knowledge, Kita e was only completely fansubbed by Froth-Bite, though the only DVD release was done by Exiled-Destiny. For those unaware, Exiled-Destiny was both the best and worst thing to happen to the anime piracy scene. On the one hand, they put out many dual-audio releases American DVD encodes of anime never subbed, but on the other hand, they offered releases with quality that would fluctuate widely and oftentimes was not usually the best option if other options were available. However, I believe their legacy as one of the major release groups at the time should not be understated and I have a special place in my heart for their releases, but I digress. I began by scouring the packlist on Exiled-Destiny’s website, which itself is a wonderful relic of the early to mid-2000’s in terms of web design philosophy. After finding the files I needed, I jumped on over to their IRC channel where, as soon as the welcome messages scrolled past, I felt a creeping sense of foreboding. I was about to be in over my head. In retrospect, what follows is incredibly amusing since I can now laugh at my many missteps, embarrassing moments and failures. However, I think it was the result of this experience that I was able to have an incredibly worthwhile learning experience.

Prior to this I had never used IRC let alone knew what XDCC commands were. There are some useful guides on various wiki’s out there explaining how to download files there, but at the time, I was more-or-less a dumb teenager flailing around in the dark. I managed to connect to the #exiled-destiny channel on Rizon without much trouble. However, I soon found myself a bit lost with the commands. Looking back on this, I can’t help but face-palm at this since it’s terribly simple to download files from bots using XDCC, but at this time, I was ill-prepared and apparently was too stupid to read proper documentation. Moreover, I wouldn’t be surprised if I had not even set up my client to receive file transfers to begin with. Back in the channel, as messages were streaming in from other users and the occasional server announcement would float by, I began to feel overwhelmed, since it was all so alien to me. After a bit of time I must have managed to squeeze out a simple “/msg E-D|bot xdcc send #5” command since something was indeed downloading, but painfully slow. But before getting excited, I realized I had only downloaded one episode and needed to repeat this eleven more times. So I copied the command, edited it, and resent it a few more times. However, I had made a critical mistake. Instead of typing “/msg…” I had copied the entire command save the first forward slash, meaning I had sent my commands as messages into the channel itself. Immediately after I realized what I did, another user noticed and jokingly wrote something along the lines of “Are you really going to grab files one at a time?” I felt terribly self-conscious and immediately exited the client without trying to figure out a simple issue.

Nowadays, I find this story incredibly entertaining because I used XDCC exclusively for 2years when I lived in the dormitory at university, since they blocked the P2P protocol on the school network. I had initially used shady direct download sites and found various mega.nz folders, but quickly realized there had to be a better way. Feeling more confident this time, I jumped into Hexchat and finally figured out how to use XDCC commands after looking at the xertion wiki for 30 seconds (The power of “batch!”). Though this time there was a greater sense of necessity since it was either use XDCC or eventually getting a virus on my poor laptop, which was my lifeline.

So what about Kita e?

Returning to 2017, I got my first job that summer and began to see an unprecedented amount of cash flowing into my savings account. Having recently become infatuated with the idea of making an “otaku room” after watching Genshiken and a certain after-dark YouTube vlogger, I began to want to build up my own meager collection. This is when I became addicted to purchasing old anime DVD box sets on eBay, which is a practice I still continue to this day. The first order I placed was for the ADV box set of Kita e, which in hindsight, seems like a terrible choice for a series to give a premium edition to, but then again this was during the licensing boom of the early-2000’s and ADV grabbed everything. They were the ones who bought the licensing rights to Ghost Stories afterall. Despite the series being now in my possession, I let Kita e sit on my shelf for nearly 4 years before finally getting around to it.

According to MyAnimeList, Kita e has about 7,798 users, which is significantly more than Tetsuko no Tabi, another “forgotten gem” anime I covered recently. Though being under 10k users definitely got me interested to see if this unpopular anime really was lost to time for good reason, or if I was missing out on something nice. 

Kita e aired in Winter 2004 and was animated by Studio Deen. The anime for Kita e is based on a series of dating simulation games released on the Dreamcast and PS2, though primarily adapting from the later. It had fairly standard visual novel-type gameplay, but featured real photographs of Hokkaido, where the story was set. This is not necessarily unusual for visual novels, since a handful of PS1 games also featured real photographs instead of the standard digital art that is usually standard. Even in modern times, games like Katawa Shoujo use various filters over photographs to make them appear more fitting to the traditional anime character designs while saving costs. It is of my opinion that visual novels that utilize real photographs as background or character sprites tend to want to differentiate themselves from other games of the same genre, in order to market to the perceived “ more mature” and “more refined” demographic. However, what makes Kita e in particular stand out is how it specifically utilized photographs of Hokkaido. Being one of the most popular domestic tourist destinations in Japan, I hardly see why it needed more advertising, especially in a niche adventure game series for the Dreamcast of all systems. The anime didn’t particularly give me the impression that it was intended as such, though the inclusion of photographs for backgrounds seems to be in conflict with this, but I digress.

The anime is structured as an anthology of separate stories, each representing a route in the Diamond Dust Drops game for the PS2. Each “route” is roughly two episodes long and features six routes altogether. This is very similar to the structure of Amagami SS, except not all routes are interconnecting, and there is no soft-reset at the end. The benefit of this bite-sized structure is that even if you are bored the route is only two episodes long. This would prove to be more important than I initially thought  when my attention began to strain towards the end. One of the most curious aspects of this anime was how distinant it felt from its dating sim roots despite being an adaptation of one. Some arcs focused on family struggles, others were simply a character arc, while only a few were explicitly romantic. For example, the last route has a girl coming to terms with her father’s illness and understanding him more as a result. I’m curious to know how this was conveyed in-game. So overall, romance was not the most important theme which was refreshing, but ultimately made the series feel unfocused. Each narrative was too short and the themes would never be fully realized properly. I think many people would be safe to assume this is a romance anime looking at the cover and marketing, but the actual show is really exactly that.

From a production standpoint, this anime is a disaster. The first sign of the impending disaster was the opening which is where corners were already being cut. Typically, anime featuring a harem or large female cast will feature an original song by them for either the opening or ending credits, and Kita e “tried.” The lyrics of the song were so trite and hardly relevant to the series that I found myself rolling my eyes before even taking the time to examine the poor animation.

In sad times, head north

Take a breath of clean air

Eat something tasty, and you’ll start to smile

La la la hop—then step

Jump to the north, and jump, and jump, jump, woo!

The lyrics aren’t bad per say, but the lines are very cheesy and feel like little effort was expended here. For instance, I don’t recall food being a major focus in any of the stories and seems like a throw away line. Additionally, the performance was very “fine,” not exceptional or terrible, but somewhere in between, but ultimately very forgettable. However, the ending song “Aitai ~Love Theme from Kita e.~” by ALLEY:A was very enjoyable. I have since added it to my anisong playlist and is probably the only good thing to come out of this show.

Within the show itself, the quality fluctuated as wildly as the emotional focal points. Characters were almost consistently off model to the point where the off-model character was henceforth rendered more “accurate.” There was minimal movement and some basic limited animation tricks employed  to hide where corners were cut. This is obviously not unusual in anime, but after seeing the frequency of such tricks being employed and the already questionable quality, it was hard to overlook these problems. That said, the seiyuu generally did a reasonably good job. It was a mixed bag of seasoned veterans such as Noto Mamiko and Watanabe Akeno and rookies who’s only role was this show. Although the cast was good, I feel as if their talent could have been better utilized in a stronger script with better written dialogue.

After I completed this show, I was left with an unusual aftertaste in my mouth. Kita e was an anime I had been saving on my backlog for so many years and had many fond memories surrounding it, but when I actually watched it, I felt more deflated than disappointed. As a whole it’s very dull. Hardly doing anything to make it stand out or even make it worth your time. There are a few exceptions, like the last route with Harada Akari, but similar stories have been told better many times before. The best way to describe it would be to assign it a color: gray. This anime is very uneventful and dissatisfying, but wasn’t overtly terrible. It didn’t waste my time but I got almost nothing out of it. But above all that, Kita e felt like it was not made for typical anime fans. The characters had slightly more-realistic-than-usual designs and it was devoid of nearly all the tropes that we find commonplace in modern anime or dating sims. To quote Theron Martin from his ANN review: “the series as a whole is very approachable even to those who aren’t normally anime fans.” And ultimately I think this was the intention. Featuring primarily older characters, many of whom were in a professional setting, who were dealing with standard struggles of people in everyday life. Returning to my aforementioned statement regarding the photographs for background, I think from the onset, Kita e was a franchise made for riajuu. Though I think such an audience hardly exists, since I find it difficult to imagine there to be much demand for that since non-anime fans are usually not searching for anime to watch, but I digress. If anything, I suppose this was a very relaxing anime to watch before bed, where not much would happen and I could watch it as my eyelids slowly grew heavy.

Thus concludes the nearly 4 year saga surrounding a fairly uninteresting and banal Kita e ~Diamond Dust Drops~. Learning how to use XDCC, exploring the forgotten realms of anime piracy, hunting an ADV box set from nearly 15 years ago, and coming back out the other end with not much to show for it. Nevertheless, I feel like the events surrounding this series will eclipse my actual feelings of the show itself. These are old memories from a time when the otaku world opened up right within my lap, and I found myself flailing around within the endless stream of content, not knowing up from down, but loving every second of it. Uncovering this old series was something I did completely on my own and I feel that this feeling of my discovery was worthwhile in it of itself. While hardly worth remembering, I feel obliged to remember Kita e, because nobody else will. 

Further Reading:

About parzival

Thinking about things that ought to be left unremembered.
This entry was posted in anime, Discussions/Analysis, Otaku Culture, retrospectives and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Remembering Kita e ~Diamond Dust Drops~ because nobody else will

  1. Pingback: Responding to Peer Pressure – Umai Yomu Anime Blog

  2. Anon says:

    WordPress is adding sponsored posts. Time to leave WordPress. The “backend” has also become a mess. I am otaking/The Good Student.
    https://wordpress.com/support/native-sponsored-posts/

    Like

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