Welcome back to another first impressions post. I didn’t get a chance to do one last season, mainly because there was really only one romance show that season worth talking about, Banana Fish. It seemed like a lot of other bloggers had that one covered so I figured I could skip the first impressions post. Well, this season has certainly made up for the lack last season in both quality and quantity this season. There are six romances I wanted to talk about this time, and a few that I didn’t include in the list below because they sat on the line between romance and something else without specifically being tagged as a romance. In particular: Jingo-san no Yome and As Miss Beelzebub Likes. Both I have found to be pretty entertaining and I encourage you to check them out, but I won’t be talking about them here as neither are fully romance and sit more in the moe or slice-of-life genre. Anyways, see below for some first impressions of six romance shows currently airing this season, and if you want to see what other shows I’m watching this season, feel free to check out my MAL account.
Sono Toki, Kanojo Wa (episodes watched: 3)
AKA: At That Time, She
Studio: Master Lights
Director: Susumu Banba
Sono Toki, Kanojo Wa is a collection of 3-minute shorts following the love lives of four separate women. I have to say right out that I don’t have much to say about this series and after watching the first three episodes, decided to drop it. It seemed interesting at the start in that the stories centered on both high school romance and josei romance, giving a wider perspective of what relationships could be like. The concept was interesting in and of itself providing short love stories or snap-shots into someone’s life. However, as much as I love short animations and regularly encourage people to watch them, they have to meet a certain criteria: good animation, a well rounded story that’s able to be told in that short amount of time, and good directing that allows that story to be told well in that short amount of time. I feel like Sono Toki, Kanojo Wa fails at a couple of these.
For one the animation is very limited, making the show appear as more of a visual novel than a fully animated show. And while the art itself is appealing, I feel like it needed more visual appeal than what it had to make those three minutes interesting. It needed more of a dynamic style or something else to really make me feel like the show was balanced in some way or that it could be more appealing than just reading a comic or a novel instead. As for the story, I almost felt like my attention was drifting a little bit, which isn’t a good thing when you’re show is only 3-minutes long. They were cute in a way but I felt like there really wasn’t any meat to them that could hold my interest. The first episode is about a high school girl wondering what her crush is looking at out the window and their conversation about it leads to them forming a relationship but we never find out what he was staring at for some reason. It was very bland is all I can say, and I won’t be returning to the series.
Dakaichi: I’m being harassed by the sexiest man of the year (episodes watched: 3)
AKA: Dakaretai Otoko 1-i ni Odosarete Imasu
Sub-Genre: Boys Love
I tend to enjoy boys love and yaoi anime and manga, but boy do I hate the trend of the more rapey and problematic ones getting anime adaptations. I guess this makes it fairly clear what my thoughts are about this series, but I am still at least a little bit unsure on my feelings three episodes in. Dakaichi is about two actors, one a child star veteran of 20 or so years and the other a newby of just three. After Takato loses his spot as the sexiest man of the year to the less experienced Azumaya, they are forced to work in a hospital drama together. It’s there that Azumaya makes his feelings clear and their secret relationship develops.
Yaoi (and I admit romance in general) has some problematic tropes. The “let me rape you until you love me”, the “I’m not really gay but I love you (a man)”, the “I’m a total horn dog and can’t control my lust for you matter what”. This show has a few of those. Episode one has a fairly rapey scene just 10 minutes in where Azumaya literally chases Takato down in his apartment, cornering him in his bathroom to try and have sex with him. He also manages to have sex with him the first time with Takato thinking he might be blackmailed with a video Azumaya made of him. We also regularly see Azumaya displayed as an uncompromising horn dog who can’t control himself, with episode three comparing him to a titan from Attack on Titan.
It’s troubling for me as in some ways I want to like this series, but I think there are more reasons why I just can’t. The story and setting itself is too close to current events with the discussion of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry taking the forefront of many news discussions. And while I know it’s fiction and we should never forget that, media does have an interchange of ideas and morals with society as a whole I really want yaoi and boys love to start moving away from some of the problematic tropes I mentioned before. Give me more Doukyuusei, give me an anime adaptation of Go for it, Nakamura, something I can watch without having to consciously push aside guilty feelings of should I really be supporting this.
Bloom into You (episodes watched: 3)
AKA: Yagate Kimi ni Naru
Director: Makoto Katou
Me and yuri anime have a pretty shaky relationship cultivated over years of not being able to find yuri anime and manga I could enjoy. I tend to find their characters fairly dull and stories full of unneeded drama. So it not all that surprising that I went into watching this one with a little trepidation, planning on finding that I wouldn’t actually enjoy it in the end. However, I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised! Bloom into You captures the sweetness of shoujo and tackles questions of love and what it means to be a teenage girl in really engaging ways. The main character, Yuu Koito is someone who has never experienced love alongs to have the same feelings as those of her favorite shoujo manga heroines. But when a junior high school classmate confesses his feelings for her, she’s troubled at how to respond, seeing as how she feels nothing in return. A chance encounter with the confident future student council president Touko Nanami changes that and she begins to think that not being in love is okay for now. But that begins to get muddled again as Nanami confesses her feelings for her.
I tend to find the characters of many yuri anime to be too flat or based to closely on the tropes of outspoken/energetic girl and quiet/cold girl that I see as the standard couple in many shows. Bloom into You so far has presented some pretty likable characters that seem well-rounded and interesting. They both play off each other fairly well and neither is pushy in their feelings or relationship to each other. Nanami seems to genuinely respect Yuu’s lack of feelings for her and doesn’t try and push her too far, and it seems like Yuu, while still longing for the chance to have those kinds of feelings, is at least mostly okay with Nanami’s confession and wants to be around her. It becomes an interesting dynamic of mutual respect.
The thematic elements of the story itself are what drew me in the most I think though. I often talk about the interplay between the media we consume and the way society is reflected in that media, but there’s also the reverse. The media we consume can reflect how we in turn view society and our place in it. Yuu sees a problem with herself because she thinks she should have romantic feelings by this time in her life, but is lacking them and it all comes back to how her favorite shoujo manga portray teenage romance. She begins to think something is wrong with her, and makes a connection with Nanami in the first place because of her similar lack of romantic feelings. We see that longing portrayed throughout the first three episodes. We can toss around words and identifiers like Ace, but the fact is that’s not definite and we won’t know until later in the series. All I know is that I’ll definitely be returning to this series in the future.
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (episodes watched: 3)
AKA: Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai
Director: Souichi Masui
What happens when the world forgets you exist? When your family and friends can no longer see or remember who you are? In a world where mental illness manifests as physical injuries or tangible effects on a person’s life during adolescence, Rascal Does Not Dreams of Bunny Girl Senpai explores these questions in a interesting and funny manner. I have a keen interest in any series with a psychological bent to it, so to see a series this season explore the kinds of mental and emotional troubles of childhood and our teenage years in an interesting, almost magical-realism-esque way instantly sucked me in.
The first three episodes of the series did a great job of establishing the characters, the world, and the kind of mystery that is going to be tackled throughout the story. The three episodes in and of themselves felt like a complete arc that could have even stood alone as a movie, but in this context acted as a stepping stone for viewers to move further into the series. It sets up the kinds of questions we’ll be asking and exploring throughout the series like what happens when our wishes become reality?; what happens when the people closest to us forget who we are?; and how are children and teenagers affected by the problems they face during these formative years?
The psychological and philosophical questions weren’t the only thing keeping me coming back though, I also really enjoyed the dynamics between the two main characters and the overall quality of animation. Sakuta and Mai have a really interesting relationship and way of interacting with each other, and you can really feel their personalities develop over the course of the conversations and banter being thrown back and forth. While at first I was concerned that Mai would come off as too much of a “manic pixie dream girl”, I don’t think that’s the case at all after watching more episodes. But I think it’s partly because her character and the mood of the series create this Haruhi Suzumiya-vibe, where-in we equate Mai to the character of Haruhi, who is the ultimate manic pixie. On top of this, CloverWorks’ animation pulls everything together with great character designs, expressive movements, and fluid animation that just becomes that just becomes the cherry on top for me. The only concern I have for the series is the slight inclusion of an imouto/little sister fetish, but it’s small enough so far that it can be overlooked. I’m excited to see what other Adolescent Syndrome cases will come up in future episodes.
Boarding School Juliet (episodes watched: 3)
AKA: Kishuku Gakkou no Juliet
Director: Seiki Takuno
Star-crossed lovers has been a standard romance trope for a long time, probably even before Shakespeare popularized it with Romeo and Juliet. So it’s no surprise that we see another season of anime with a star-crossed lovers romance, jumping off from the kind of romance and comedy you’d find in both anime and Shakespearean plays. Boarding School Juliet drops us into a world split into different factions between West and East. However, it looks like these two countries send their children to the same boarding school which then gets divided into the White Cats and the Black Dogs. Amidst all the in-fighting is a blooming romance between the two heads of these factions, Romio from the Black Dogs and Juliet from the White Cats who struggle to keep their relationship a secret from everyone else.
I don’t usually get excited about star-crossed lovers stories because they almost always have the same basic premise and starting point that can at times get repetitive. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t work, and while Boarding School Juliet is so far getting dwarfed by some other great contenders in romance this season, I would say it is a strong to at least average show given what I’ve seen so far. I think the show’s greatest strength happens to be its comedy rather than its romance. The hijinks that ensue in an effort to keep their relationship a secret do feel at least slightly like something that could appear in a Shakespearean drama. And while many star-crossed lovers stories are almost always tragedies or dramas, this one feels like it doesn’t take itself too seriously and to its benefit.
The characters are fairly interesting as well. Juliet is a fairly strong female lead with a dream to change the world and the drive to become better than her male counterparts. Romio is a loyal friend and boyfriend who is proving himself to be a little bit of a goof but otherwise a strong leader (for the most part). In some ways I think that Juliet loses a little bit of her appearance as a strong character when next to Romio with his desire to protect her all the time and him taking the lead in the relationship, but I’m also willing to wait and see how this progresses. If the sword fights so far are any indication of the animation to come, that alone may just keep me hanging around. Seriously, they’re pretty great. All in all, I think I’ll probably stick with this one for a few more episodes to see how it goes.
Iroduku: The World in Colors (episodes watched: 3)
AKA: Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara
Studio: PA Works
Director: Toshiya Shinohara
Becoming color blind is something I can’t imagine and I think a lot of people would have trouble wrapping their heads around it too. How do you explain to color blind person what color looks like? Iroduku introduces us to just such a person, a young girl who can no longer see color. The story takes place in a magical world far in the future in 2078 where magic users are starting to dwindle in the population and technology has far advanced since 2018. It’s here that Hitomi was born and started to lose the desire to see colors or perform magic. Concerned for her granddaughter’s future, Kohaku sends Hitomi back to her childhood in 2018 to see if a life back then could help her heal.
I really love the premise of this show, how it blends a slice-of-life high school story with magic, building a world where magic is always there in the background and not this powerful, unignorable force. It’s sort of becomes like Flying Witch in a way where the magic can be incredible at times but never takes the forefront in sacrifice of the larger story. Besides magic, the story is at its core a high school romance and slice-of-life show. We watch Hitomi as she struggles to fit in at a new school, as she joins a club and makes friends, and begins to take interest in magic and colors again. It’s a story about healing and the building of self-esteem through friendship and mutual support. I can’t help but keep watching.
The animation helps too, with a stand-out first episode that really drags you right in. PA Works did a great job on their first impression for this series, making me want to watch more just to see what other moments of great animation would come about through this series. Blending together with a great soundtrack and opening, I have a feeling this series will wind up being fairly well rounded. It will definitely give me a lot to talk about animation wise and thematically. Like how the story shows that being colorblind doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be bad at art, it just means you have a different way of viewing the world that can actually be beneficial. I’m really excited to see where the series goes both in terms of magic and what looks to be a pretty interesting romance just starting to develop.
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