It’s amazing how a seemingly innocent gift can set someone down the path of debauchery. Years ago, when I was given my first home computer, who would have known that I would grow up to play games like Armored Warrior Iris? In a similar vein Kazuya Maeda was corrupted when his father gave him an old camera as a present. After receiving the hand me down Kazuya is coerced into joining his high school’s photography club, which in most cases wouldn’t be any cause for concern. The group is however staffed by horny boys who prefer to take compromising snaps of female classmates rather than immortalize beautiful landscapes on Polaroid film.
Photo Kano (not to be confused with someone taking a picture of Mortal Kombat’s cyborg villain) is a thirteen-episode anime based on an obscure PSP dating sim. The series follows Kazuya on a romantic journey were he tries to win the affections of his academy’s most eligible bachelorettes. Some of the ladies in question include childhood friend Haruka Niimi, student council president Aki Muroto, spunky softball pitcher Nonoka Masaki, well endowed chef Rina Yunoki and his own little sister – because incest is wincest! Can he claim their hearts and more importantly convince them to pose for a few swimsuit photos? Time will tell.
From the synopsis above one might speculate that Photo Kano is a harem show, but surprisingly it isn’t. There’s no bickering between the girls to determine who hooks up with Kazuya thanks to the script’s storytelling structure. Instead of an ongoing narrative Photo Kano opens with four episodes that effectively introduce viewers to the cast. After that we get a bunch of standalone “what if” tales that chronicle how things would pan out if Kazuya started to date one of the women in his life. In episode eleven for example we see how Kazuya and Rina bond after the young photographer agrees to help the busty lass with recruiting new cookery club members. Episode eight on the other hand shows how Kazuya’s love life would develop had he used incriminating images to blackmail Aki into modelling for some gravure photos.
Hmmm, intimidating someone into posing for you is pretty despicable. Oh well, worry not dear reader. Kazuya gets a taste of his own medicine later on in the series when twin-tailed gymnast Mai Sakura finds pornographic magazines stashed inside his shoe locker. Mai uses the embarrassing discovery to strong arm Kazuya into becoming her own personal slave/taste tester.
My rating for Photo Kano is a two and a half out of five. Aside from the above average visuals the series is pretty mediocre. Not terrible, but not great either. I think the shows biggest fault is that it doesn’t fully commit to being either mushy romance or pure eye candy. Gamers who played the original PSP title, as an excuse to take skeevy panty shots, will hardly be satisfied with the fan service on offer. Yes there are numerous bikini scenes to gawk at, but when compared to other DVDs in the guilty pleasure section of my anime collection Photo Kano is pretty tame. Anyone looking for titillation is better off saving their cash (and tissues) for something like High School DxD instead.
On the romance front I liked that audiences were afforded the opportunity to sample each girls’ route. This especially holds true as I have a bad track record when it comes to love triangles. More often than not I end up rooting for the girl who loses out, so seeing everyone get their moment of happiness did at least spare me from heartbreak. The problem is that thirteen episodes is insufficient to tackle eight separate love stories. Most of the girls only get a sole episode dedicated to them, which limits their time in the spotlight to twenty minute generic yarns were boy meets girl, boy and girl go on date, boy and girl kiss, the end. On the plus side Kazuya deserves credit for taking the initiative and not dragging things out. Unlike other anime adolescents he doesn’t need to wait an entire season to lock lips with his main squeeze. Why take things slow… photographers like to make things snappy.