Momokuri has its problems – more if you think about it too much – but still manages to someone make me smile.
An anime like Momokuri is facing a bit of a problem right from its premise. It wants to be a cute romantic comedy but frames its primary female protagonist as an unstable stalker from the first episode. That it never really addresses this as a problem will probably be a deal breaker for some viewers however if you don’t put the actions in any real life context and just go with the anime, it mostly succeeds at making this character endearing.
Kurihara is obsessed with taking photos of Momotsuki (a boy who is a year younger) and once she has taken 100 photos she asks him out with very limited expectations that he would say yes. They begin dating but both of these characters have a few issues (the stalking and straw stealing being only the tip of the ice-berg).
So, I’m going to preface most of this review by pointing out I thought Momokuri was actually kind of adorable and sweet and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it despite the premise and the fact that it was incredibly forgettable.
That said, I am going to spend a few paragraphs tearing it apart before we get back to the sweet and cute.
Firstly, the central relationship, as I mentioned before, is built on an unhealthy premise. If one of the characters had been a bully I’d have torn this anime to piece from the get go about how it was trying to normalise emotionally abusive relationships.
While I don’t expect anime to portray perfectly happy and stable relationships all the time, what this show does is still pretty unhealthy in its own way, even as it tries to cover over all of the ‘odd’ aspects with pink sparkles and humour. For people who haven’t got any trauma around stalkerish behaviour, the cute will probably work. For those that have real world experience or are triggered by that kind of content, it will probably just seem like Momokuri is minimising the danger.
Of course, it takes two to start a relationship and let’s be honest, neither character in Momokuri is coming out looking awesome.
Starting with Kurihara; she is obsessed. She’s a stalker. She collects Momotsuki’s used straws for goodness sake. She learns his timetable, talks with his friends, and generally does everything that if it had been a guy doing it to a girl would have been unacceptably creepy. If the receiver had any self-awareness they would have genuinely found it creepy.
Playing it down by making her totally oblivious to the weirdness of her actions and having her partner question whether that level of attention was normal and then dismiss it as ‘over-thinking it’ doesn’t make it any better.
But Momotsuki doesn’t win any prizes either here.
Apparently he didn’t get enough attention from his parents so rather than finding Kurihara’s attentions a little over-zealous, he actually get’s upset with her (more than once) for not getting jealous when he was speaking with female friends. How dare his girlfriend not be completely possessive and actually allow him to have a life?
What makes this worse is he actually knows he is in the wrong on some of these occasions but still manages to make the situation all about him.
The two of these characters complement each other perfectly (given she’s overly attentive and he is attention starved) but that doesn’t make this a good relationship. The two of them are feeding each other’s worst traits and that just seems like it can’t possibly be sustainable long term.
Secondly, we have the side characters of Momokuri. At times these characters are far more interesting than the central couple but they do not get any real development. At times there are hints that they have their own relationships forming and own issues to deal with, but these are quickly swept away and then forgotten as we plough along following Momotsuki and Kurihara.
The other issue with the side characters is the balance. Kurihara has one female friend (and a lot of people she bribes and deals with to get info). Her friend is awesome and supportive and one of the saner characters in the story (good for Kurihara really).
Momtsuki has a group of male and female friends but none of these seem particularly close. Several of his friends regularly tease him and are about as supportive as a brick to the face and largely the girls just seem to think he is cute (though not in a romantic way).
As a result, while the friends are in the story, and occasionally used for key narrative points (like getting the main characters moving at all), they are pretty under-developed and underused and leave you wondering why so many were needed if they served such little purpose.
Thirdly, and this one is going to be a problem for a lot of viewers, the visuals are less than impressive. We get a lot of reused facial expressions, still images, frozen reaction shots, and occasionally just background rather than the characters who are talking. Not to mention, everything is kind of pink (there’s a lot of pink in this series). While Momokuri clearly isn’t going for visual masterpiece at times episodes do seem lazy.
Last criticism… Other than the central romance there really isn’t a story. You are just going to watch these characters go to school, go on dates and go through the usual anime clichés (sick visit, pool, picnic, etc).
Okay, assuming you are fine with watching a romance that isn’t supposed to be healthy and don’t mind side characters that go nowhere and you aren’t watching for the visuals, what will you enjoy in this show?
The comedy is not usually the laugh out loud kind but it is that sweet romantic comedy style humour and it hits the mark more often than it misses. Kurihara particularly is an inherently funny character (once you stop trying to think about what she would be like as a real person) and the extremes she goes to sometimes are funny in and of themselves (though the reactions of others are also amusing).
Outside of the comedy, despite what I said earlier about the relationship being unhealthy, these two characters do help each other to grow and change and they do this is slow steps. At the end, Momotsuki is still crying for attention and Kurihara would still love to steal his garbage, but they are both learning something about moderation and about consideration for what the other is feeling so they have travelled some distance.
Honestly I preferred that to the characters doing an instant 180 and suddenly being totally stable. It felt like a more realistic character journey than some I had seen.
Down to a recommendation. Would I recommend this? Not initially. Unless I knew you, and knew that you loved romantic comedies and that you had exhausted most of the more common rom-coms in the anime field, I probably wouldn’t suggest watching this.
Would I discourage someone from watching it? Not really. It’s a pleasant way to pass the time and, as long as you don’t over think it, the romance is pretty sweet.
What are your thoughts on Momokuri?
Images from: Momokuri. Dir. Y Hiaike. Statelight. 2015-2016
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