Eriko MatsuiAsuka KakumotoYui WatanabeYuri Yoshida
Engaged to the Unidentified
Also known as: Mikakunin de Shinkokei
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2014: E
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2014
Director: Yoshiyuki Fujiwara
Original creator: Cherry Arai
Actor: Eriko Matsui, Haruka Terui, Wataru Hatano, Yuri Yoshida, Asuka Kakumoto, Ayane Sakura, Manami, Saki Fujita, Yui Watanabe, Yuri Komagata
Studio: Doga Kobo
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes + two shorter OVAs
Website category: Anime 2014
Review date: 22 February 2015
A teenage girl, Kobeni, learns on her sixteenth birthday that she has a fiancee that no one had ever told her about. It was arranged by her grandfather. Yes, I'd be surprised too. What's more, the boy and his sister are coming to live with them, having previously lived all their lives in a mountain village that lacked such staggering high-tech wonders as traffic lights and Western food.
It's a fairly straightforward anime comedy, with misunderstandings and silly behaviour. (Well, until a further revelation pops up about a third of the way through the series, which makes the situation more unusual.) The important thing, though, is that I think it's a very good show. More specifically, it's likeable and very funny, with a strong core cast and quite an interesting exploration of its themes.
What the show's about, I think, is secrets and people not admitting things (including to themselves). Our heroine, Kobeni, hates the limelight and is capable of being slightly hurtful because she's afraid of having people talking about her. (She's even self-conscious about being curvy.) She thus asks her fiancee, Hakuya, not to tell anyone about their engagement. Similarly, she'll later go into denial about her relationship with him. Of course this is only natural and it's easy to imagine any teenager doing the same... but in this show, for once, that's being scrutinised. Hakuya is incredibly bad at communication and, perhaps as a result, is incapable of taking words at anything but face value. Being challenged on that in ep.9 brings Kobeni to tears.
Kobeni will similarly blame herself for not expressing herself directly with Suetsugi and Ono. She's not wrong. One particular misunderstanding made me feel feel bad for Suetsugi, but then I remembered that it didn't matter anyway because of Suetsugi's massive crush on Benio. Fortunately everyone's nice and no harm is done, but even so this is all contributing to a theme that's built into the show in fundamental ways. Thus Hakuya's kid sister, Mashiro, is incapable of being honest about her feelings. If she hates something, she'll pretend to like it. If she loves something that would make her look childish, she'll pretend to be neutral. Of course no one's fooled for a millisecond and they all find it cute, but both she and Hakuya are people with whom you need to read between the lines.
Most startling is that revelation I mentioned, even though in the end it makes little difference to the characters and their relationships. (It changes a lot for the audience, though.) That's a big thing to drop into the conversation. Kobeni gets knocked sideways. Oh, and there's something even bigger in Kobeni and Hakuya's childhoods that he doesn't want anyone to tell her. Kobeni's far too nice to take offence or anything, but the last episode has her asking him not to keep anything more from her in future.
The show doesn't get heavy, though. It's just likeable people being silly and causing no harm, which will make you laugh.
Oh, and another thing worth mentioning is the show's ability to sidestep its apparent harem format. The only male character in the cast is Hakuya and he's surrounded by cute teenage girls, many of whom have strong one-sided feelings. Sounds like a harem show, right? There's a twist, though. The fireworks are girl-on-girl, with Hakuya just being an uncomprehending outsider, while almost none of it is even straightforward enough to be called lesbian. You see, Kobeni has an older sister, Benio, who's everything she's not. Benio's the most popular girl at school. Benio's also a flamboyant lunatic and borderline pervert. She loves little sisters, you see. She dotes on little sisters. (Only her own, obviously, because anything else would be creepy, but Kobeni and by proxy Mashiro are more than enough to fuel her fantasies.) She burns with passion for them, is powered up by their presence and gets jealous of their heterosexual relationships. Kobeni just humours her, but with Mashiro it's all-out war. What's funny is that this is a war of open hostility and abuse (from Mashiro) and infinite forgiving squee (from Benio), which of course winds up Mashiro still further.
Oh, and Suetsugi has a reality-resistant crush on Benio. Add all that up and you've got a riot of interwoven relationships that will comfortably fuel a ton of comedy, while mostly sidestepping boys and romance. Warning: your attitude to this will depend on how you react to Benio. Some people find her creepy and annoying. (These people are wrong.) The girl is, of course, comedy gold and one of the most entertaining lunatics I've seen in ages. Her war with the equally eccentric Mashiro is glorious.
It's an intelligent show, with clever touches. What look like contrivances, random characterisation points or genre formula can turn out to have reasons. There's a pattern in the names, with both Benio and Kobeni's names containing the kanji for deep red ("beni"), while all three Mitsumines, including their mother, have names including the character for "white". Those are traditional colours for celebrations like weddings. Also notice the title sequence. It's super-cute and I never skipped it, but halfway through the show's run you'll find yourself seeing things in it afresh.
There isn't even fanservice. Kobeni's supposedly curvy figure is always hidden under shapeless sweaters. One of the OVAs is an onsen visit, so there's fanservice there, but otherwise the nearest you'll get is in the opening credits (including jiggle) and that's not much. The show has plenty of female fans.
Is there anything I don't like here? Not much. I love snakes and so was irritated for half a second by a badly animated one in one of the OVAs, while I could have lived with less of a Squawky Duck Childish Voice from Mashiro's (first-time) voice actress. I think that's it, though.
It's a charming, gentle show. It doesn't end strongly, but I don't think that matters since it's not the kind of show that needed a dramatic climax. It's also funny, with all kinds of gags like Mashiro's gullibility and Hakuya's trouble with supermarkets. Mitsumine Mail is amusing too. I liked the Kobeni-Hakuya double act, as she learns how to read his feelings from his deadpan appearance. I howled at Benio and the world inside her head. I'm very pleased to have watched this.