Sumire MorohoshiJun FukuyamaShinnosuke TachibanaAkitaro Daichi
Meiji Tokyo Renka
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2019: M
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2019
Director: Akitaro Daichi
Actor: Daisuke Namikawa, Jun Fukuyama, Kenn, Kousuke Toriumi, Nobuhiko Okamoto, Shinnosuke Tachibana, Sumire Morohoshi, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Yoshimasa Hosoya
Keywords: anime, reverse-harem
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2019
Review date: 9 September 2022
Meiji Toukyo Renka
It's a reverse-harem otome adaptation, with a slightly clueless female protagonist and a crowd of pretty boys. I watched ep.1 and decided it wasn't for me, but then learned that it was directed by Akitarou Daichi. Clearly, it had to be watched. Having finished it... frankly, I was right first time. It wasn't for me. I won't be watching the 2015-16 anime films, or the 2019 live-action film and TV series. (It's also had a musical.)
SPOILERS, by the way. Including the ending.
Our heroine is Mei Ayazuki, a schoolgirl with issues. She can talk to ghosts... but on discovering at a young age that this creeped people out, she stopped communicating with humans and ghosts alike. She's got issues. She's clearly a nice girl who simply couldn't handle the situation, but my reaction was to be exasperated at her self-destructive idiocy. Those ghosts had been her friends! They're still trying to talk to her now!
Then, one day, a stage magician called Charlie sends her back to the 1890s, to get involved with all kinds of questionably portrayed historical figures. You can look up their photos. They weren't this pretty, for a start, and I'd like to think that they didn't talk this annoyingly. Mori Ougai keeps calling Mei his little squirrel, which if I were Mei would make me push him off a bridge, while I'd like to think that the real Yakumo Koizumi didn't talk in ghastly Gratuitous English dialogue.
Mind you, the anime doesn't mention that some of these men died young.
As you'd expect from Akitarou Daichi, the anime is capable of switching between silly comedy and deeper emotions. The last few episodes go there. Ep.10 has the despair of Ouga, ep.11 something similar for Shunsou and then ep.12 has the pseudo-tragedy of Mei's final decision. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that these work. Ep.11 is sort of okay, especially if you're aware that Hishida Shunsou died aged 36, but I'm afraid he struck me as self-pitying. (Which is an odd thing to say of a painter who's losing his eyesight, so that's how I felt. There's also the fact that he's clearly in suppressed love with Mei, which would have been more dramatic if I hadn't been saying to myself "they're animating the climax of his route in the original game, aren't they?")
Then we have ep.12. Some people will hate it, simply because of what it does to the romance. Personally, I think the show had been clearly and almost exaggeratedly building up to this, while you can also see why Mei makes her decision and what she gains from it. What I questioned was her judgement. Imagine you're Mei. You have a choice of A or B. One is pretty much a dream fantasy where you're waited on by hot blokes and you're going to get married to one of the leading figures in Japanese literature, who'd do anything for you. On the other, uh... I can see her kicking herself in later years when she looks back.
Mei's got more personality than most otome heroines. She's a little bit opaque (e.g. ep.12), mind you. We're not always privy to her thought processes. However, she's funny, she has quirks and she's an interesting fit with the otome game genre. Maybe it's because she's a bit of a space case (which she is) or maybe she actively likes all this male attention, but she never minds being chatted up in the slightest.
Most of the show, though, is featherlight. Often, it's funny. (It also makes strong use of music. Try imagining one of these episodes without its soundtrack and you'll be gobsmacked at what a difference it makes.) Just as often, though, I sort of drifted a bit. It didn't hold me. There are individual episodes I liked, but I was uninterested in almost all the male cast. Even the heavier episodes (ep.10+) didn't really fix this, although I can acknowledge that there's a lot under Ouga's flippant, ever-smiling surface.
If you like otome game adaptations, this is one of the better ones. But that's a low bar.