I’ve watched week to week and covered this in 100 word stints but not that the final episode has aired, the question becomes whether or not the series as a whole is worth the time. If you want to read my posts about individual episodes, they are here.
The story starts with Haru arriving in Canada, summoned by news that his mother is dying. Turns out she isn’t (and we’ll talk more about his mother later) and what she actually wants is for Haru to look after Ren, a child she has taken in (though it’s a little unclear about the how and why of that one). At the end of his vacation in Canada Haru returns home where a tragic and yet convenient accident occurs leaving him with no memory of meeting Ren. Five years later, Ren arrives in Tokyo and after a little bit of back and forth between Japan and Tokyo, Ren begins living with Haru and Haru’s two half brothers.
My overall impression of this anime isn’t great. While there are certainly warm and touching moments and some really interesting dialogue exchanges there’s just too much sitting around and waiting for one of the many emotionally stunted characters to say or do something that should have already happened. Outside of the main relationships, everything that happens in the plot happens because of narrative convenience, including amnesia, success in business with very little risk, admission into school, friend appearing, mother returning to Japan. While each of these events is plausible in and of itself, they really feel forced on the characters to make them act in certain ways because the plot demands it.
There will be spoilers below so if you haven’t watched this series yet you might want to steer away. And I’m not really going to address the sensitive subject matter. Two guys, who may or may not be related, and have a heck of an age difference, are in a relationship (of sorts). Regardless of what I say below, if you don’t want to watch that, you aren’t going to watch this anime.
Starting with the problems (and that way I can end on the positives):
- Haru and Ren’s relationship doesn’t get a fair chance to develop in a cohesive manner. The time and continent jumps, and then the other characters who distract from this central story line just mean that everything about their relationship seems forced. Okay, some people are more concerned with the age difference and the fact that Haru is technically Ren’s key carer and with the power imbalance there is a lot wrong with the relationship in the first place. As I said above, I’m not getting into that one, but asking me to accept that Ren somehow imprinted on Haru as a child and just never got over that, despite having very little reason to continue feeling that way and even after being exposed to a larger group of people, just makes no sense. Granted, people do get fixated on others, but Ren’s level of mindless devotion is at times disturbing (more so then anything else about their relationship).
- Haru’s brothers are all but completely unnecessary to the storyline and their characterisation is inconsistent at best. Is Aki actually angry with Haru? Apparently but then somehow he gets over it, except when he forgets he is supposed to be over it. Shima is little better when at times he seems all knowing and other times is just completely dense. And while a lot of what Haru does early in the season is so his brothers can all live together there just doesn’t seem much reason for this to need to happen. Particularly as the story then finds endless ways to send Aki and Shima off to school or work and remove them from the story. Just remove them in the first place and have them drop by when the occasion calls for it.
- Haru’s mother, Haruko. Okay, Haruko needs her own entire post focussing on truly bizarre things anime parents sometimes get away with. Playing it off that she is super smart and probably has some master plan doesn’t make her a good mother. Or even a decent human being.Haru was hospitalised after returning to Japan and his parents were killed. He was not welcome in the house that took in his brothers. Why on earth would Haruko not do something to support her child in this situation? Why is he having to work as a host to save money to send his brothers to school? And even before then, who tells their kid they are dying in order to get them to fly by themselves to another country? Wow, she is horrible. Her final return at the end of the series did little to endear her to the audience or win her any points for mother of the year, either.
- The pacing. After the initial time jumps and back and forths this anime settles into a very slow and languid style of story telling where time just doesn’t seem to be moving at all. That wouldn’t be so much a problem if the characters were interesting enough or if there day to day had some memorable moments scattered about but essentially they go to school or work and come home. Oh, I forgot, they found a dog.
- Finally, the visuals. Normally this is not usually an issue for me with anime unless there is something particularly unusual about character design but I found the constant disappearing faces and vacant eyes when they weren’t doing a close up on a character really disconcerting. Again, not something that normally bugs me, but in this anime, when so much of it was characters sitting around talking so there wasn’t much else to distract, this really bugged me. I’ve read a lot of reviews with people saying how beautiful this anime is, and at times it really is; but that makes the times when it isn’t stand out more.
You might think from that I hated this series, but that isn’t actually the case. At no point did I want to drop this show. I did however want it to speed up a bit and maybe have a little bit more happening in each episode. So what is good about the series?
- Ren. That might seem odd but Ren is a character I found very interesting. The best parts of this anime were the parts that dealt specifically with the trauma Ren had encountered prior to Haru and his adjustments to Japan and then to school life. What I particularly like is that Ren’s development as a person (not his relationship with Haru) seems fairly logical and cohesive. There aren’t sudden 180’s in his personality but there are small changes that build up over time. Even Ren engaging in conversation with some of the sub-characters was usually interesting but would have been better if I’d cared just a little bit more about the other character.
- Haru opening the cafe. Right, so his instant success is not particularly believable (no matter how many friends offer a helping hand) when you consider how many small businesses fail, but this move was a good one for Haru’s development. It showed him growing up and having an increasing sense of responsibility and allowed him to actually be in the story rather than at work or asleep. In terms of narrative devices the career change worked really well and seemed to fit with what we knew of the characters at the time.
- The tone. This anime plays its story seriously and while there are sad moments and dark moments, mostly it has a very sweet tone. It feels consistent without abrupt changes in the writing style or music and while this does at times make it feel a little bit flat you aren’t suffering from the emotional whip-lash some of the other shows have given us this season.
On balance there are less positives here than in the problem list but that isn’t a deal breaker. Watching this through it flows nicely if slowly and it tells its story affectively even if there are occasional distractions and detractors from it.
What really would make me hesitate to recommend this anime is the ending. And yes, I know there has been an announcement of a second season but that just means that we have to wait to know if this story is going to get a proper ending so you may as well wait until then to watch this.
Super Lovers is available on Crunchyroll if you are planning on checking it out.
If you have already watched it, let me know what you thought of the series below.