Flags have been a staple in the creation of games for some time as a trigger the player arrives at to unfold an event. For good, or for bad. The ability to foresee these flags and to prevent them is the theme in If Her Flag Breaks, a crazy comedy released by NIS America in North America.
At first glance, Souta Hatate seems like a very antisocial high school boy, unwilling to make friends. But after a certain Nanami Knight Bladefield takes note of him whispering something in someone's ear during a near-fatal accident, he won't have much choice but accept her curious mind. Not long after questioning his actions, Souta reveals to Nanami that he can see flags atop people's heads. Flags that symbolize love, overbearing pressure, sibling loyalty, or even death.
Not only can Souta see these flags, but he also has the ability to know exactly what to do in order to break those flags. Preventing love, breaking possible friendships, and perhaps even save someone from their predetermined death. While an ability many would find extremely useful, it's the baggage that comes along with it and Souta's later revealed circumstances that put the double edged blade into perspective.
Despite all this pressure, Souta soon finds himself in the company of many who seem to break the rules that he thought were unbreakable. Bunking up in the soon-to-be renovated Quest Dorm, he lives and schools alongside a cast of seemingly copy and pasted archetypes that fill his every day with insane comedy and often heartbreaking tension.
Aside from the already mentioned Nanami, who is pushy and pegged as the girlfriend, the remaining cast is equally as typical. The big sister Kikuno, the gender confusing Megumu, the childhood friend Rin, the kid sister Kurumiko, and so many more that it puts a standard harem to shame.
In the deepest sense, If Her Flag Breaks is a heavy parody of Japanese dating sims and visual novels. Taking the concept of conquering archetypal heroines and throwing it on its head. Making for some truly funny moments that perhaps even unfamiliar viewers could get. At first glance, it could be mistaken as a very copy and paste harem, but it's done with a purpose in mind. Even if that purpose at many points becomes very convoluted and lost.
Which unfortunately is the series' worst offense in that it takes a simple comedic concept and runs entirely too far with it. Bringing it from a relatable but silly flag breaking adventure, into something that leaves the viewer behind, scratching their head. It's a interesting concept and puts a clever spin on the entire story, but may be off-putting to many.
When it comes to visuals, studio Hoods Entertainment does what many other studios fail to do with comedies. Opposite to the norm of little effort or budget, If Her Flag Breaks is done really well. Producing a visually pleasing show to watch. The character designs are cute and colorful, and on Blu-ray they manage to pop. Even when the story throws in some action elements, it still holds up well.
The NIS America release of If Her Flag Break keeps to the original Japanese language tracks and only provides English subtitles rather than an English audio option. While this may be a disappointment for some, the very heavy Japanese anime elements really lends itself to a subtitle viewing. If you're a fan of Japanese voice actors and actresses, you'll be rewarded with a very recognizable cast. Especially Kana Hanazawa and Yukari Tamura who play as Megumu and Mimori respectively.
To bring this story and characters to North America, NIS America has released a Premium Blu-ray Edition that manages to deliver the show in great quality, while also accenting its colorful and crazy nature. All 13 episodes as well as clean opening and closing sequences are included in the 2 Blu-ray discs inside. True to NIS America's usual Premium releases, the box containing the set is a beautifully and colorfully illustrated chipboard box.
Also included is an art book that contains some great illustrations and interviews with the Japanese voice actresses that play many of the heroines in the show. Being that this release is Japanese language with English subtitles, it's a fun and interesting thing to dive into the mindset and happenings behind the scenes between these voices. How Kana Hanazawa handled playing the role of a boy mistaken as a girl, or how Kana Asumi tackled being a very energetic and doting sibling.
If Her Flag Breaks is a mixture of solid harem comedy and serious drama. While the serious tones are solid at first but fall into the realm of convoluted towards the end, it's held up by an attempt at something rather unique. Throwing in the strong tongue-in-cheek with its work on poking fun at harem tropes and you have a show that still manages to entertain in the wake of its flaws.
If you're interested in getting this series, the Complete Premium Edition is still available for purchase from select online retailers including: Right Stuf, The Anime Corner Store, Anime Pavilion, Collectors Anime, and NIS America Online Store.