By chance, Kazuya Maeda becomes the creator of several private worlds, where he’s admitted into forbidden spaces on both physical and psychological levels. Not through some magical accident or emergent super power, I might add, but because of a camera gifted to him by his father. Until then, Maeda wouldn’t have dared strike up a conversation with someone he didn’t know, let alone used a hobby as leverage to learn about someone who’d caught his eye. More than changing his life, his new love of photography alters his attitude towards it and the world around him, opening up possibilities that would otherwise have passed him by.
When he joins his school’s photography club, I was getting my full-body cringes ready to see Maeda’s girlfriends pushed into compromising positions, or stalked for sexy pap snaps. But his two fellow club members who do partake in these sleazy pursuits soon drop out of the central narrative and are most often framed as the butt of a joke, always failing to follow through on the shutter chances they spy. Instead, the club president’s dubious motto develops into the moral of the show. In seeing Maeda capture the fullness of youth he shares with his friends, we in turn share in a tradition that’s undergone drastic shifts in its methods and meaning.
In celebrating having a physical memento of a special time, Photo Kano revels in the risks and unconditional trust in letting someone take your picture. This is an ecchi show, no doubt, but there’s still that touch of wistfulness, like looking back over photos of your old loves while a new one plays out in front of you. That tentative exploration of hidden facets of yourself together with someone you love is the main subject of this album. The deception in altering the image you project, and the pretentions that arise to cover the insecurities, all become part of the personality still defining itself. After all, when someone is taking a photograph, who is in control? The person capturing the moment, or the one choosing how, or how not, to alter their image?
The philosophy and theoretical physics of photography come in with this question, the thought of several simultaneous realities existing in all those different shots. But these themes appear and fade as fleeting suggestions in the slice-of-life narrative branching off from a rather humdrum harem set-up. The matter of parallel realities is mainly expressed as a clumsy stringing together of different routes in its dating sim source material. All of Maeda’s romantic possibilities with the girls he’s won over with his talent are played out one after the other, once all the characters have been introduced. It’s strange to watch, however it tries it can’t be linear in its ideas or self-expression, and after the nostalgic agony of his ending with childhood friend Haruka Niimi, the confessions begin to get increasingly dull. But it’s worth it for a view into all the characters accepting their true selves, even if the onus is on Maeda’s love interest becoming the broader image of an ‘ideal girl’.
Still, Maeda and Kanon’s ending is a little bit special, and manages to be tasteful with a brother/sister crush. Of all the girls, she’s the one who is allowed her flaws, long since accepted by the Maeda who vowed to protect her forever. Photo Kano has the same literary appreciation for corruption as Flowers of Evil, feeding those same veins of perversion as innocence, and innocence as the ignition for perversion. Adolescence is volatile with longing, repression and confusion, but here innocence wins out, the girl’s willing smile yielding the most beautiful photos.
Clean opening/closing animation and trailers.