I remember buying the first DVD of this series at a DVD sale at a local video score. I thought I give it a try. Having not read the manga for Suzuka, my opinion might be a little short-sighted since I heard more rave reviews for the comic strips due its detailed development of the characters and plot. Basically, I bought series this fresh with no background of the story.
Overall, its a mixed bag: its plot is enjoyable overall yet you have to be patient for the story to unfold. The Suzuka series here suffers from some pacing issues and slow character development. The story later does give a significant backdrop to Suzuka's personality so we begin to empathize with her more. Yet the beginning starts off rough, with the two main characters not hitting it off and Asahina (Suzuka) seeming so cold that the foundation of their storyline starts awkward. Also, the beginning throws a huge smokescreen with the whole bathhouse comedic sub-plot. It made no sense and makes viewers confused if this is a lovestory or a fan-service ATM machine. Also, Asahina, I felt, was a flat character who spews venom towards everyone and lacks any depth, even with her haunted past. By the time her story is known, I felt it was too late to save her character, she just lacks depth and just runs her mouth. Akitsuki, meanwhile, is portrayed as an annoying loser who just pesters everyone. His internal gripes and love-moments with Suzuka make him seem obsessive rather a lovable/loser hero. The whole point of these "love-chase" kind of series is to believe that the hero has qualities that will ultimately shine. Akitsuki, throughout the anime, doesn't really have that. He just yells and runs back to her over, and over again. We are supposed to believe in him, but in the end we exasperate in desperation at his fallacies and bumpkiss exploits to try to win his crush.
The only major credit I give to the series are the supporting characters. I believe they hold it together where the two main characters lack real substance. Honoka is cute and loveable; you root for her and feel her pain during her roller-coaster feeling battle and towards the end SHE is the lynchpin who makes the story finish well. Miki Hashiba is charming yet a good supporter of both Asahina and Akitsuki. Hattori is as a fool (when it comes to his philosophy on girls) as wise in helping Akitsuki in his troubles. The whole sub-plot of track and field develops well, which I believe in itself is a minor character: the idea of how far you push yourself to reach your goal/love, the pain, the determination, the grit to finish well. The perfection-drive to fix your wrongs in your technique. It fits well and nicely, as Akitsuki realizes the joy of running changes his perspective on his love for Asahina.
Overall, would I recommend this one? If you want a more serious plot line, I think this one will do you well. If you are looking for something more light-hearted, Suzuka is not for you. I thought this was not a bad anime; there were some really great moments of laughter and "ahhhh," but the character development needs work, especially the two main characters. If the producers fleshed a more refined Suzuka, a woman of ambition yet carries a very heavy burden, and Akitsuki, a boy in the making who has a charm and is honest, then I would have enjoyed it more.