I got blindsided by this one. An unexpected and excellent story awaits, filled with plot twists, heavy character development, thought-provoking interactions, and so much more all wrapped up in a very good-looking art style. I didn't know what to expect, but I was still blown away by Heaven's Memo Pad (Kami-sama no Memo-chou).
Narumi Fujishima is a normal high school guy, except that he does his best to distance himself from the environment around him to the point that he really doesn't know the names of any of his classmates. All that changes when he gets dragged into the Gardening Club... which leads to him being dragged into what is referred to as a "NEET detective agency." For those unfamiliar, NEET is an acronym meaning "Not in Education, Employment, or Training." This unique detective agency is run by Alice, a reclusive young woman with expert hacking skills who never leaves her monitor-filled bedroom in her single-occupancy apartment. Together with a group of other reclusive individuals, each with their own areas of interest, Narumi is drawn into a multitude of mysteries to solve ranging from missing articles to gang violence... and that's just the beginning.
The cast of characters is stellar and the growth of these characters throughout the course of the series is unprecedented. Minor characters repeatedly come back to play an important role and main characters develop and grow as the series progresses. Narumi goes from being very unsure of himself and rather timid to being a stalwart leader brimming with his own variety of self-confidence. Even Alice, who seems very set in her NEET lifestyle, slowly comes out of her shell as her relationship with others (particularly Narumi) grows. It is really cool how all the characters interact and mature throughout Heaven's Memo Pad's story, and I found it to be a breath of fresh air compared to all the recent anime I have seen.
This is likely a story for mature audiences only seeing as it dives into some very deep themes including prostitution, drug trafficking, gang violence, and much more. It will make you think and you will feel for the characters, as each of them has a story of their own and their own contribution to each mystery. Despite all the heavy themes there are moments of humor that fit very well... especially concerning Alice. I enjoyed Alice's attempt at doing laundry herself, as well as when she was forced to take a bath and Narumi walks in on a half-naked, red-faced Alice...
The art? AWESOME. This series has very smooth animation with detailed characters and environments. The fashion and clothing is very creative and believable, and the locations are surprisingly detailed down to the finest point. This was a very visually-pleasing series... and if you like the artwork in the anime, you should check out the artwork from the original light novel series (written by Hikaru Sugii, illustrated by Mel Kishida).
The audio? Great. I watched sentai's Blu-ray release with the English dub featuring the talents of Blake Shepard, Hilary Haag, Brittney Karbowski, Greg Ayers, and many more! It was very well done, and I think Hilary Haag captured Alice's character perfectly in her voice acting. The music was very interesting and somewhat odd at times, but overall seemed to be very appropriate to the series. The attention to detail is just phenomenal with this series, sounds included.
I can't recommend this one enough. Heaven's Memo Pad is a glimpse into dark places in society... but in every dark corner there is always a light. Seemingly unrelated people can come together and accomplish amazing things, and those plagued with the secluded mentality associated with being a NEET have the ability to grow beyond that and come into their own. If you want me to put a number on it, I'd have to say at least 9.0 on our rating scale. In a word: amazing.
Blu-ray is certainly the way to go if you want to own this one. Grab your own copy from one of our fine affiliates!