As the first episodes of the Winter anime march before us pretty much every ani-blogger has been giving their first impressions and a lot of these have been negative. While there are a couple of shows winning people over for the most part people who watch a lot of anime have been universally eye-rolling at some of the shows coming out this season. A small number of people will take this as a sign that the anime industry is dead argument has some grounds whereas the rest of us will simply rearrange our schedules, dig out some titles from our watch lists, and wait for the next season because there is always another season coming.
Rather than look at the state of the industry, or all of the titles that I’ve had the dubious pleasure of sampling this week, I want to look just at the romantic comedies. Specifically I want to look at Seiren, Fuuka and Masamune-Kun’s Revenge (and yes, Masamune-Kun’s revenge is described as a romance and a comedy on MAL).
While the three shows are quite different, they all have one thing in common and that is that they aren’t particularly exciting or at least their first episode wasn’t particularly good. Okay, that and for some reason they all seem to follow the male protagonist rather than the female lead.
Seiren is perhaps the worst offender of the three in regard to having a fairly dull first episode. Admittedly MAL simple says it’s genre is ‘school’ and by that they’ve nailed it. We follow a high schooler about as her goes to school and interacts with people. However, that isn’t really exciting. The high school students in question don’t have a great deal of personality and aren’t really memorable in their own right. Other than his friend, who I only remember because he seemed like the only character with sense in his head, none of the other characters really had any kind of impact.
This show has no particular gimmick unveiled in its first episode (though the Crunchyroll write up would says that “this campus romantic comedy…depicts his pure relationship with three different heroines” leading us to believe that they are hoping that the multiple heroines will be the gimmick). But if that is the cast then surely during the first episode we should have at least met three strong contenders for a romantic lead role and unfortunately we haven’t. The one girl in the class who sits on his desk is probably going to be one but really, other than being a little bit bossy, she hasn’t demonstrated much of a memorable personality and she has zero romantic chemistry with the lead so that possibility doesn’t really entice.
And while a show lacking a gimmick isn’t exactly a death sentence, what else could this story do? Romantic comedies are generally formulaic in design so they either need a clever setting, a gimmick of some sort, or really strong and memorable characters with excellent chemistry to sell their story. Seiren has none of these things. This doesn’t make this story bad but it does make it excessively bland.
Moving on to Fuuka we see this show attempt the comedy aspect of the romantic comedy by delving into some of the worst clichés anime has to offer. Girl runs into guy, guy sees her pants, girl smacks him into the middle of next week (in this case after breaking his phone), this sequence is repeated only the next time the phone goes off the roof, guy attempts to save girl (though in this case she doesn’t need it), boy has only sisters who meddle in his life or dominate him, etc, etc. Some of it is kind of amusing when they play the cliché and then change out the ending but mostly it kind of misses the mark. But, at least it is making some sort of effort.
After establishing the two characters and literally running them into one another, what develops over the first two episodes is a kind of friendship that might be able to develop into a romance (though the guy really needs to make her pay for the damage to his phone). The two characters actually do play off each other quite well. We then also have the other girl, the childhood friend who is now an idol and is clearly holding a torch for Yuu. This definitely gives us hints of conflict or some sort of emotional decision that will need to be made later on though it is impossible to know whether anything will come of this.
Despite having characters who are slightly more memorable and actual chemistry, this show is still fairly bland and this point. It’s checking off the clichés and while it is putting its own spin on some others are just played as they always are and the characters aren’t quite strong enough to make up for the deficit in original story-telling. So yes, more interesting than Seiren, but that show didn’t set the bar all that high.
Lastly we have Masamune-Kun’s Revenge. While I have an issue with even considering anything romantic could evolve from these mean spirited characters, I’ll overlook that and just assume that after pretending to like the girl to win her affections, Masamune-Kun may develop something of a conscience. Otherwise, this show has no business claiming romance as a genre.
Masamune-Kun’s Revenge has a gimmick. The guy was rejected by the girl when they were young and now he is out to get even. That’s memorable and it allows clear establishment of character for the protagonist (even if that character is horrible). So why did this first episode feel so bland?
I know from reading the impressions of others, that some people really enjoyed this. They found there to be some genuinely clever moments and I’ll admit that when the story focussed on Masamune-Kun and his actively seeking revenge (information gathering, plotting, spying) there were some interesting moments. However everything else is more or less forgettable. The loli-mother and the younger sister barely have enough personality between them to make a whole character. I kind of felt the only reason the sister was there at all was so the mother had someone to comment to and so that someone could voice the audience’s disgust at the main character preening in front of the mirror. The classmates all seem like they are desperately trying to have individual personalities but none have quite succeeded. Essentially the school has guys who are desperate to be rejected by a complete cow of a female lead, and girls who are either non-entitites or are followers of the female lead. It doesn’t really draw you into the world of these characters nor does it feel like a fairly believable setting.
While I’m not a die-hard romance fan I do enjoy a good romance story or romantic comedy. However, Winter 2017 has currently served up these three bland contenders and to be honest I’m kind of sad that not one of them is really grabbing me. I’ll probably watch Fuuka through (unless the panty-shots do me in, which is a possibility) but I’m not holding my breath that it will amaze.
Anyway, if I really get stuck for romance I can always marathon Kimi ni Todoke. That has enough sickly sweet in it to forget about any of these shows.
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