H-game compressed into twenty-six minutes? Check. Standard teen plotline seen a dozen ways before? Check. Character art and animation at a passable level that looks far older than its 2002 release date? Check. What is it about Canary that doesn't fit the checklist of "we've got to turn this game into an OVA to wring every last dollar out of it"? It's fun. The only reason to watch Canary is because it's entertaining. Nothing more, nothing less.
Canary is so interested in getting into its story that character introductions really don't happen, but you pick them up as you go along. Long story short: a teen band could make it big, save for the fact that Jun, the keyboardist who holds them together, just quit. They planned to play a major gig at a local festival, only for their stage to be cancelled. Most people would take the two events as a sign of fate and give up. But not Mika...she's convinced that if she can just convince Jun to play and get the mayor to sign off on their act, they've got a real shot. And she'll enlist every friend she has in the process of making it happen...
Sounds trite, doesn't it? And it is, at least at a certain level. You aren't going to meet any spectacularly interesting characters here, nor see any great feats of artistic prowess. The music that the band (which we have to assume is named Canary) plays is pretty bad! But it's as if the creators of Canary know all of this. And so they go for the one thing they know will work: comedy.
Canary is not some great treasure trove of unmined comedic gold, but it is a hoot. From the opening gag in a thunderstorm (watch out for bright seizure-causing flashes!) to the ridiculously complex plan to force the mayor to include the band in the local festival, it's all an absurd bit of wonderful madness. If you don't roll with the humor, if you're not willing to see that the creators seem to be in on the joke and making this B-grade anime as good as it can be, you won't enjoy yourself. But it's not intentionally bad; it isn't, say, the English dub of Voogie's Angel, which made an unwatchable show bearable. It's as if the designers were aware of their limitations and worked to make the most of them.
For example, in most programs, forgetting to introduce the characters would be a major offense. Not here. Why not? It's because the characters are just normal Japanese teens, fill-in characters if you will. Why spend the time when only a couple players really matter? And if you played the game -- a given for the Japanese fans, if not here -- you already know them. It turns out that instead of wasting that time, we just get right on with it...truthfully, there's little time to spare. And though the characters may not be properly introduced, they don't show up for a moment just to be forgotten later. But how many shows are spoiled by taking forever to introduce everybody? Here, we're thrown into the action, and it works.
What I can say is that, out of the many throwaway OVAs made to sell to H-game fans, Canary is one of the best. In comparison to classic anime, it's nothing...but in comparison to what it was made to be, it excels. What surprised me most was simply how much I enjoyed watching Canary. There are shows based on dating-sim games that look better; the Key team could animate circles around this. But most dating-sim shows are so earnest, so serious, that there's as much joy in them as a funeral. Here, there's life. It's not great, it's not even past the ordinary in terms of story. But for the better part of a half-hour, I laughed. Sometimes, that's really just what I need.
Canary -- mild fan service -- B+