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Visual Novel / H₂O: Footprints in the Sand

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"Candy carries the taste of happiness. If you suck on it, a flower will bloom in your mouth."

H₂O: Footprints in the Sand is an anime and Visual Novel centered around Hirose Takuma, a middle-school student who moves out to the country in order to recover from an illness. Said illness has caused him to go blind, even though the doctors cannot seem to find anything wrong with him from a physical standpoint.

Upon arriving at the country village, Takuma encounters the mysterious, yet energetic Otoha, the self-proclaimed "Spirit of the Sounds of Time." Otoha offers Takuma, whom she refers to as "The Promised One," his sight back, if only for a short while. Takuma also encounters the enigmatic loner Kohinata Hayami, whom the rest of the village treats with an obvious grudge, for reasons Takuma can't seem to figure out. Not even Kagura Hinata, the granddaughter of the village elder, seems willing to fill him in. As Takuma refuses to stop acting friendly towards Hayami, he sets into action a chain of events that may change the entire village.

A Visual Novel adaptation in the vein of CLANNAD and other KyoAni/Key works, though the best comparison themetically and plot-wise would probably be ef - a fairy tale of the two. The show itself starts off slow, and rather cliched. However, towards the middle, it improves quite a bit, as the backstory of the characters and the revelations about the village's past supplant the Harem Anime and Visual Novel cliches that littered the beginning. The ending is quite the Tear Jerker, in any case.

The Visual Novel was produced by Makura, with the animated adaptation put together by studio Zexcs in 2008. The anime has has been licensed by Kadokawa USA for an English release. The title comes from the names of the main heroines (Hayami, Hinata, Otoha) and the well known Footprints poem, which is used as the main theme.

H₂O: Footprints in the Sand provides examples of:

  • Accidental Pervert: Takuma's blindess seems to facilitate this early on in the series.
  • All Just a Dream: Double-subverted. Episode 8 is so bizarre and ridiculous it seems like a dream, and eventually the camera moves back to show Takuma sleeping, and everything seems normal again. Then the wackiness comes back, so apparently it wasn't a dream and then at the end, it turns out the whole episode was some kind of bizarre mind-adventure concocted by Otoha.
  • Alpha Bitch: Played with. Yui acts like this, but the rest of the students just sort of laugh at her when she does so.
  • Babies Ever After: And Hamaji is the father.
  • Balloon Belly: Hayami in Episode 6
  • Beach Episode: Episode 4, doubles as a Hot Springs Episode
  • Big Fancy House: Hinata, being the daughter of the village elder and all.
  • Brain Bleach: You might need it for the opener to episode 8.
  • Butt-Monkey: Yui tends to be on the receiving end of more than her fair share of things.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Hinata in the final episode.
    Hinata (really Hotaru), after her grandfather attempted to kill Hayami: I've called the police.
    Grandfather: What did you say?
    Hinata: I plan on revealing everything, the fact that the hunting rifle was missing from the house, and that you're here.
    Grandfather: Why you little...!
    Hinata: This village doesn't belong to you!
  • The Cameo: Misakura Rin from Makura's another game Sakura no Uta makes a small but rather an important appearance in Otoha's route in the game.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Hayami is discussing about how she thinks that Takuma's mother didn't commit suicide because she thinks that his mother must have loved him, enough to not to think to leaving him all alone. Then suddenly a little boy who was never been seen before crosses the railroad while the train is moving in the exact same way as Takuma did when the unfortunate accident happened, therefore invoking Takuma's buried memory? That his mother died by saving another person?
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Hinata, though like the other moe tropes, it is toned down as the series continues.
  • Dead All Along: Otoha, in other words the real Hinata Kagura.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Hayami, in a very classic example.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: This is what kills Hayami. And then she comes back due to a Deus ex Machina.
  • Disturbed Doves: When Hinata's grandfather tries to shoot Hayami.
  • Dragged by the Collar: Hinata's grandfather goes caveman on her in episode 7.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Hayami
  • Extreme Doormat: Hinata acts this way initially towards her grandfather.
  • Fantastic Racism: The anime version took this off.
  • First Girl Wins: In the anime, Hayami appears first and is the first to meet Takuma (besides Otoha, who wasn't really an option).
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: Episode 8 opens with Hayami and Hinata referring to Takuma as an older brother, Takuma's uncle has had a gender change, and Otoha, aside from being visible to everyone now, is apparently a Magical Girl. Turns out that it's All Just a Dream, created for Takuma by Otoha as a way of showing him a good time, to say thanks for helping fix the village's problems.
  • Genius Ditz: Otoha.
  • Hypocrite: After spending 8 episodes defending Hayami, because he thinks it isn't fair for them to blame her for her family sins, Takuma ends up beating up Hayami very brutally after he learns that her family is the one that drives his mother into killing herself (they're wrong, he didn't even consider questioning it).
  • In Medias Res: The scene near the beginning with Hayami getting beaten up in the rain is actually from near the end of the series.
  • Kawaiiko: Otoha, but, don't ever tell her that
  • Lampshade Hanging: Game version only.
    Otoha/ Hinata: I don't need training because ever since I was born I was set to be able to do everything.
  • Laughing Mad: Takuma, right before regressing to childhood and becoming convinced that Hayami is his mother.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The Footprints poem, as mentioned before.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Hayami, at least in the beginning.
  • Mood Dissonance: Some people have a hard time taking the humorous elements of the show in stride with the abuse of Hayami, especially when it involves Yui, since one of the first things her character is seen doing is stomping on Hayami's head, and dumping toilet water on her.
  • New Transfer Student: Takuma
  • Official Couple: Takuma and Hayami. It didn't even last one episode.
  • Older Than They Look:
    • Yui has a bit of this, and even more of it in the Distant Finale; all the other characters have grown and aged a few years, but she looks the same as before.
    • Otoha, who appears in the finale as a very young child, despite being the now-adult Hotaru's older sister.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Kagura Hinata is actually Kagura Hotaru. The real Hinata (Otoha) drowned when both sisters were younger, but the family wanted to cover it up, so they told everyone Hotaru had died instead. This is one of the reasons Hinata (the one who is really Hotaru) is a Third-Person Person up until The Reveal.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: Hinata.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: Poor Hayami...
  • Tsundere: Yui.
  • 12-Episode Anime
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal/Wholesome Crossdresser: Hamaji, bonus points for doing The Reveal as part of the Hot Springs Episode.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Hayami ties Takuma up in a tree, after catching him peeping. Her walking towards him with a knife (to cut him down afterwards) was interpreted rather differently by Takuma. Her mentioning that that knife was used for cutting up naughty boys probably didn't help.
  • The Unfavorite: Hotaru, to the point that seemingly everyone from her family hopes that she dies in place of Hinata.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Dear God.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Hinata, the clumsy and family oriented daughter of the elder. At first she was an Extreme Doormat but develops the inner iron important for this trope. Later Hayami after she defrosts.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Both the reason for Takuma's blindness (it is actually trauma induced, after seeing what he thought was his mother commit suicide), and the explanation for why he could see through the series itself. Apparently, according to the outside world, he was blind the entire time.
  • Your Size May Vary: Hayami's breasts' size seem to constantly change depending on the situation, although she officially is flat chested.

Alternative Title(s): H 2 O Footprints In The Sand