To Heart is a fantastic anime that’s interesting in lots of little ways. It’s one of the early beneficiaries of the late-night broadcast paradigm. It offers a powerfully low-key type of drama rare in anime. Its soundtrack was composed by a man who went to an all-boys high school. Its US release involved a special video restoration process.The list goes on.
Additionally, the series’ particular combination of ending theme songs is an unusual one. The show has used both Yell, sung by lead actress by Kawasumi Ayako and Access by SPY, a band under the Bandai Music label. Two ending songs is hardly an unusual number for a 1-cour anime. What is rare is that, rather than certain songs being associated with certain episodes, different endings were broadcast in different regions, and one never made it onto the video releases, instead ending up viewable primarily on NicoNico as a VHS rip.
It’s an odd situation, and though there are a lot of facts and one neat rumor swirling around, none of them offer a fully adequate explanation.
Let’s start with some important dates from the relevant period:
(All dates are from 1999 unless listed otherwise. Japanese convention is used for broadcast dates.)
April 1 – To Heart’s first episode airs on SUN TV in Kobe, carrying Access as the ending.
April 3 – To Heart’s first episode airs in Niigata via BSN. This broadcast carries Yell as the ending.
April 13 – To Heart’s first episode airs on nationally-broadcast satellite channel Kids Station. This first episode uses Access as the ending.
April 20 – Kids Station airs episode 2, but now becomes the second station to use Yell as the ending, which continues for the remainder of the broadcast.
May 21 – The single CD for Access is released.
June 4 – Physical media releases, [all of which use Yell as the ending], of the series begin with volume 1.
July 9 – The To Heart OST CD is released by KSS Studios, carrying Yell as one of the tracks. Also, the insert booklet contained within the release advertises the Access single CD.
October 1 – The first of two volumes in the To Heart Perfect Collection series is released, and, on page 93, lists Access as one of the ending themes and Bandai Music as a partner in production. The second volume, released on February 1st of next year, similarly credits both and advertises the Access single CD on pages 102-103.
To summarize, Access comes out of the gate as the ending song for 10 out of the 12 TV stations originally broadcasting the series, all save for the national satellite broadcast and the Niigata-prefecture local broadcasts. It stays in the relevant sets of credits in official material, but is not used on the official disks or subsequent broadcasts.
This is where a rumor comes in, one that makes sense on the surface and explains some of the above. This rumor has to do with Kawasumi Ayako, who sings Yell and voices the main heroine, Kamigishi Akari. Kawasumi, who went on to play Saber and Noda Megumi, among others, may be a big name veteran now, but she had just turned 23 two days before To Heart was first broadcast, and the role was one of her first as the central character in a big-budget show. That much we know.
Now, allegedly, the original plan was to have Yell be the ending theme, and it was ready to go for the day of the broadcast. Kawasumi, having recorded the song and being extremely excited, phoned her grandmother in Niigata to let her know that she would be voicing the main heroine and doing the ending song. However, she subsequently found out that plans had changed and Access would be used in the broadcasts. This led to a discussion among the higher ups and it was decided that in the Niigata and national broadcasts they would use Yell as originally planned.
That’s all well and good, but it still leaves the question – why wasn’t Access included in the package releases? Did KSS producers and Bandai Music strike some sort of limited deal at the last minute that only included the rights to TV broadcasts? Did the creative staff insist on using Yell (arguably a better fit for the overarching tone of the show) in the more permanent version? Did the KSS producers go to bat for Kawasumi at the last minute, causing friction with Bandai Music that led to them subsequently refusing to give them the rights to include the song on video?
That point sticks with me because I can make an argument for and against all of the above possibilities but there’s no way to definitively prove one of them right. That’s why I’ve always been a little curious about it, I suppose.