Saki FujitaShiori MikamiHitomi HaradaYuka Otsubo
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2017: S
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2017
Director: Tomoki Kobayashi
Writer: Kisai Takayama
Actor: Atsushi Tamaru, Ayane Sakura, Hitomi Harada, Honoka Kuroki, Juri Kimura, Juri Nagatsuma, Kentarou Tone, Manami Numakura, Ryota Asari, Saki Fujita, Shino Shimoji, Shiori Izawa, Shiori Mikami, Takuya Eguchi, Tetsu Inada, Yuka Otsubo, Yukari Tamura, Yukiyo Fujii, Yuu Asakawa
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2017
Review date: 3 January 2019
I really liked it. I thought it was lovely and surprisingly well-written. It's set in the same universe as Amagami (an anime based on a dating simulation game), which might sound dodgy but I'm planning to watch Amagami next.
The format's typical of its genre, except for one twist. YOU ARE a mild, timid boy called Shouichi Kamita! You're in your second year of high school and you've never had a girlfriend. The original game has six girls for you to romance, though, so who will you choose?
Answer: all of them. (Well, only three in this series. Apparently there are plans for a second season.) What the show does is to animate all the different available stories, with a reset every four episodes. Everything's set in the same school with the same characters and lots of the same things happening, but there's no crossover of memories between different plotlines. The main girl from Story A will be an amusing supporting character in Stories B and C. I like this format, but it could be extremely disorientating if you weren't expecting it.
What's good about the show, for me, is that I think it's both funny and well-written. It's a comedy, but in quite an understated way. It's not a COMEDY!!!!, if you know what I mean. Any given episode may or may not have a comedy set-piece scene. It's going for laughs in quite a mild way, which mainly manifests in light dialogue and a pleasing level of gentle wit. This is helped a lot by the characterisation being strong. The girls aren't just fantasy figures, but instead all have personality issues, desires and motivations of their own. The show's capable of subverting a romantic finale and turning it into a key character beat for the heroine and hence much more important and significant than the climactic love scene we'd been expecting.
The comedy reinforces the characterisation. I've long believed that humour makes for better writing, if (as is usually the case) it's the kind that makes the characters come alive more. The "dating simulation game" genre might sound like something to avoid on principle, but I've been led to believe that there are genuinely well written examples of it.
She's a scamp. She teases Kamita, she lies like a trouper and she does things that will get you in trouble. She'll react, uh, unconventionally to being called a slut, which is very funny. However she's also very forgiving (to a startling extent in ep.4) and it takes us a surprisingly long time to realise that she's struggling with independence. She's got very protective parents and she's never even done the laundry before, let alone had someone else eat her cooking. This casts a very different light on her part-time job (which is against school rules), among other things. She also gives Kamita a headache, partly because he's old-fashioned at heart and partly because Tsuneki's clearly out of his league. (She's the hottest girl in class and an extroverted eccentric, whereas he's an introverted nerd.)
This story was both good and funny. I enjoyed it. There's what might look like a mildly homophobic joke in ep.3, but it gets leavened later with characterisation for the bloke in question. (He's pretending not to be a dweeb.)
At first glance, Tooru looks like an otaku cliche. The show then goes about thoroughly subverting it.
The cliche is "The Girl Who's One Of The Boys". Tooru walks past a group of loner boys playing computer games in the stairwell... only to get out her own games console and join in! She knows all the latest games. If you have a favourite, she might have already pre-ordered it. Go out on the town with her and she'll go to an arcade to play fighting games. (If you try to pull her towards games about bus driving or soccer, she'll complain that they don't let you instakill.)
The deconstruction is that this caused misunderstandings, bruised egos and alienation from her male and female classmates. She doesn't have any friends at all these days, but it's not clear that she's even aware of this. She comes across as slightly autistic. If she does realise then she doesn't seem to care much, while it's never gone well for anyone trying to show romantic interest in her.
She feels like a real gamer, not just an anime handwave for one. She lives in the subculture and she speaks its language. "But I ran into cheesers and ragequitters and that stressed me out even more." This is another good story.
She's the closest of the three to start with. She and Kamita are childhood friends, which ends up being another deconstructed trope since it's a significant barrier for both of them. Kyouko has slight hang-ups about appearing younger than her years, while Kamita won't be entirely thrilled to be told that he's like a comforting big sister. Kyouko's the only one of these three girls whom Kamita actively pursues, albeit in a slightly pathetic, Kamita-ish way.
This is also the horniest story. Kyouko and Kamita are both way too useless (pronounced "nice") to manage to do anything about it, but they're both increasingly aware of their own shortcomings and you can see it starting to preoccupy them. Good grief, those two. Their shopping trip is a study in awkward idiot teenagers (who are also terribly well-meaning and innocent). The show's exploration of this is gentle and pleasant, but also funny. (Kyouko acquires two strange friends on joining the school's cooking club, then they make the mistake of consulting Tsuneki. "Boys are flying beasts of lust.")
The most focus-grabbing one is Kamita's sister, Tomoe. Yeah, that's right. A sister in a multiple-choice romance. The good news, fortunately, is that she's not one of the options (and apparently she won't be in Season 2 either). She's just a constant presence in the show, a likeable family member who'll be helpful, supportive and occasionally eccentric. The siblings will be vulgar together. Kamita claims to be accustomed to the sight of Tomoe's crazy taste in knickers. In one episode she tries to help him pick up girls (and finds it difficult). It's not impossible that she's a lesbian. "I was distracted by cute girls and lost my way."
Then there's Kamita's friend Araki, who isn't into humans.
This is quite a low-key show. I've seen it on at least one "worst of the season" list. Personally, though, I really liked it. It's got a gently quirky sense of humour, deceptively well written characters and a light touch. It charmed me. I'd definitely recommend it (with the caveat that some people think it's boring) and I'll definitely be watching its parent show.