Originally a 4-panel comic written by Enokizu back in 2010, The Troubled Life of Miss Kotoura gained quite a favorable following when it was adapted into an anime in early 2013. Now released by NIS America on Blu-ray in a Premium Edition set, Kotoura seeks to gain the hearts and laughter of a new audience in the North American region.
Kotoura had quite a troubling past, born with a unique ability to read the thoughts of those around her. While it went unseen by her parents for some time, it became obvious one day when she began revealing the unpleasant secrets locked away in their minds and causing a divorce. Her mother tried desperately to have her cured, taking her to doctors and even monks, but the ability remained and eventually tore them apart. Even at school, she was quickly isolated due to the secrets she would accidentally blurt out.
Now a high school student, Kotoura attempts to start a fresh new life at a new school. Becoming a shell of a girl and sharing no emotion, she's still looked at with peering eyes. Although one classmate named Manabe would soon shatter that nature by seeing her ability as a great thing. Never being afraid of it and instead seeking to stay by her side despite the negative atmosphere they live their daily lives in.
If Manabe's accepting nature wasn't crazy enough, Kotoura would soon meet Mifune and Muroto from the ESP Research Club that seek to bring her in as a member. Their task being to prove the existence of ESP and protect those with abilities-something Kotoura is only partly on board with. Despite her hesitance, Kotoura would soon find herself enjoying life and being able to experience things she never thought she would with her abilities in the open.
From the beginning, The Troubled Life of Miss Kotoura grabs at the heart strings. Delivering a heavy dosage of sorrow with Kotoura's tragic childhood. Which is quite a shock considering the show seems to lend itself to being more of a comedy than anything with its rather cartoonish looking characters. The innocence in which her ability is revealed presented a struggle between the dark nature of her parents and the hatred they have for it being revealed. Rather than addressing their faults, they instead immediately throw their anger upon their innocent daughter for what she can do.
This serious tone continues throughout the show as Kotoura struggles with accepting friends and being hurt by others. Constantly looked at in fear of her ability and fearing what she will hear. Though even more surprising is the presence of those able to use that ability against her for their own gain. It's a compelling narrative that manages to surprise but never overcomplicate things. Dealing with acceptance, isolation, bullying, and even a bit of love. While her struggles and hardships manage to keep the show afloat and providing a narrative outside of the comedy, it still manages to keep the drama in check with a good balance of humor. Mostly provided by a crazy cast.
For the most part, the laughs are provided by the perverted nature of Kotoura's beloved Manabe who finds enjoyment out of making Kotoura blush with his twisted mind. From mentally dressing her up in outfits, pairing her up with female classmates, or her awaiting his arrival home in an apron, there's nothing stopping his crazy mind from making her fluster.
Joining him is a cast of well-rounded characters that manage to break the typical archetype fold and provide an entertaining mixture of drama and comedy: the jealous Moritani who is in love with Manabe and heir to a dojo; the ESP seeking Mifune who stops at nothing to prove the existence of special abilities; and the bookworm Muroto who constantly dodges Mifune's love but yet works to support her.
For the most part, The Troubled Life of Miss Kotoura is visually pleasing to watch. The character designs lend themselves well to the nature of the series constant battle with serious and comedic tones. Though it must be noted that the series has some moments of wonky character designs. Even still, the characters manage to come to life when the emotion or comedy ramps up. Kotoura is adorable when she's embarrassed and grabs at your heart when facing her turmoil.
This is all delivered in a great package with NIS America's Premium Edition. The sharp and clean visuals are without flaws in its blu-ray package and contains on-disc extras from the Japanese airing: Haruka Exploring Kotoura Town and Haruka's Room Interviews. The fittingly named "ESP Handbook" is filled with character concept art, sketches, and even interviews with the voice actors and actresses. Additionally the book contains an episode guide to give more insight into each episode. All of this is housed inside of a colorful chipboard box that is nicely illustrated with the cast.
The Troubled Life of Miss Kotoura is a pleasant surprise and definitely entertaining from start to finish. Offering a compelling story that drives the characters forward while also delivering a solid balance of laughs and tears through their challenges and interactions. While never asking too much of the viewer or laying on the drama too heavy, it still manages to land a few punches to the gut to keep you from taking it too lightly.
If you're interested in getting this series, the Blu-ray Premium Edition is available for purchase today from select online retailers including: Rightstuf, The Anime Corner Store, Anime Pavilion, Collectors Anime, and NIS America Online Store.