It's a lesbian romance that's been praised highly by gay anime fans. Here's a quote:
> I've literally had to pause the show after certain lines of dialogue, because they strike so close to home with thoughts and feelings from my own relationship history.
It's interesting because it's ignoring the cliches and going through to messier, weirder reality. These people believe lots of things. You could draw a Venn diagram of them. "Self-hating teenage things", "unhealthy things", "deeply problematic things", etc.
At the same time, though, these people are at once both nice and intelligent. This show's universe doesn't contain those dumb genre forehead-slappers that only exist in fiction to keep the plot going. When Yuu has to give a speech to the school, supporting Touko's campaign to be elected as school council president, in some shows this would be guaranteed to end in embarrassing failure. Not here. Even before she opens her mouth, you know she'll do the job sensibly. When Koyomi gave Yuu a manuscript to read in ep.5, Yuu just put it in her desk and I was worried that she'd forget about it or lose it or something... but no. I was being rude to the show. That manuscript's precious. This isn't a story about idiots.
YUU KOITO: thinks she'll never love anyone. Instead, she's in love with love. Shoujo manga love. The kind with sparkles and rainbows, where your heart leaps out of your chest on seeing your special someone. Yuu believes in that, but she also can't connect it to anything in herself and thinks she's asexual or something. She's initially attracted to Touko because she thinks she's the same as her, which means she's capable of feeling angry, offended or even betrayed when Touko falls in love with her. She's thinks she's lost a fellow traveller.
TOUKO NANAMI: is perfect, cool, lovely, unshakeable and the most reliable person in the world. On the surface. Underneath, there's so much going on that, in comparison, Yuu's the normal one.
The writing's so acute that it's almost deconstructive. There are scenes here that in a normal romance would be the happy finale, but here will just be peeling back another layer of uncomfortable statements and self-protecting delusions. Similarly, Ep.7 straps on its hob-nailed boots to give a kicking to that disconcerting Japanese myth about lesbians, in which it's said to be a harmless teenage phase that girls grow out of. (That dates back to the Meiji era.) Then, the following week, "just a phase" girl gets even more offensive. "I mean, if you still find yourself attracted to other girls, then that must be because of what I did."
Sometimes it's odd and sad. Yuu and Touko have odd kinds of brutal honesty with each other, with Yuu repeatedly telling Touko that she'll never love her or even have feelings for her. Touko simply internalises this and asks if it's okay to stay close to her anyway. Ouch. At the same time, though, they're also lovable and funny.
The depth of observation is subtle and satisfying. I liked the synchronised hand slap between Touko and her best friend Sayaka, for instance, even though it's just a tiny moment in ep.3. Weird sentiments might be expressed so thoughtfully that you'll be startled to realise that they suddenly resonate with you. There are teenage insecurities (although the show never dismisses them as such) and messed-up people. There's a boy who takes Yuu's "stand back from the world" philosophy even further than she does. He likens real life to watching a movie. "I never thought it was part of my world."
The show stops with a foot in the air. I checked to see if I was missing an episode or something. (I wasn't.) This season adapts roughly the first half of an eight-volume manga (2015-19), so maybe they'll do the second half one day. If they don't, though, I think this season works, including its ending. It's a nice place to pause. You can see where things are going. The plot hasn't been tied up neatly for us in bows and ribbons, but that fits this show.
It's an excellent show. It has intelligent, well-observed writing that's managing to be harsh, yet also light and funny. It's voicing and dissecting sentiments that rarely get spoken. "Words used to repress." "Love is shackles." The art's very simple, but the animation and direction are both good. If you don't believe me, though, read some of the commentary on this show from gay and lesbian reviewers.