Koikimo Series Review – The Depicted Relationship May Not Be Healthy But This Wasn’t Terrible

Koikimo Series Review

Koikimo straight out admits that ‘it’s too sick to call this love’.

I will admit that when I first went in to taste test Koikimo, or Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui, I was very much expecting not to ever finish this series. As I made clear in my watch or drop post, I don’t particularly like age-gap romance stories. Regardless of how well written the premise might be, there’s always an underlying creepy factor when watching someone in their late twenties romance a teenager and Koikimo takes it a further step and plays it for comedy.

Honestly it shouldn’t work and there’s definitely moments where I really did just want the characters to thank each for the weird experience and walk away.

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Ryo harassing Ichika.
Image from Koikimo 2021.
Nothing creepy about an older guy asking a near perfect stranger who happens to be in highschool for a kiss.

If you just watched the first episode you would probably be justified in tearing this one apart for being another anime putting unhealthy relationships on display and calling it a day. Plus, trying to make Ryo’s stalkerish and persistent behaviour come off as comedy was probably the worst choice in the early episodes.

Though to say Koikimo ‘gets better’ is also kind of a lie. The premise isn’t going away and Ichika isn’t suddenly going to be older. Ryo’s past as a playboy also isn’t disappearing. For those who can’t get past that initial premise, there’s little to be gained from continuing on into the story.

For those who either don’t care about the premise or who found it a bit creepy and off-putting but decided Ichika was an interesting enough protagonist to continue on, what follows over 12 episodes is a surprisingly sensible look at the problems a couple might have with this difference in age and experience. Whether or not that justifies the cringe factor of the premise is something each viewer will have to decide for themselves.

Ryo and Ichika meet for Christmas.
Image from Koikimo 2021.
Standard rom-com meeting under the tree moment.

For me, I don’t necessarily need to like or support a premise. As long as it doesn’t push so far beyond my limit that I quit watching and provided they then build on that premise and the characters, I’ll usually stick around. And romantic anime have a reasonable history of providing us with terrible starting points for relationships (particularly if you watch any boy love anime).

I’ve mentioned before in a post but I’m not necessarily seeking reality in my romantic anime. Koikimo in reality would probably not end up being anywhere near as sweet or endearing as the anime makes it out to be.

Let’s be real: very few mothers would simply smile knowingly as their daughter contemplated pursuing a relationship with someone ten years older when they were still in high school. And for safety reasons, they probably shouldn’t. Equally, a number of people including friends of Ichika and a work colleague of Ryo learn of the growing relationship throughout the series and not one of them actually really calls it out.


It is almost as if they all just accept that this twenty-something year old is pursuing a seventeen year old and that’s perfectly normal. Which probably explains why a lot of reviewers really didn’t like Koikimo given it is very much normalising this situation.

Even when, at the very end of the anime, we get a public display of affection, other than a few looks from passersby, nobody actually reacts to the image of a businessman kissing a highschooler. But let’s move on.

Ichika and Ryo at the movies.
Image from Koikimo
The movie must be really dull because they both look bored.

Where Koikimo works as a romance is that it doesn’t rush the getting to know the characters part. While Ryo might ask Ichika out in episode one, she firmly denies him and what follows is an extended courtship over six months of time. At first it is one sided with Ryo pursuing Ichika, but it does become a mutual interest and over time.

During that period we learn a lot about both of the characters and both characters have another, more age appropriate and fairly viable, romantic option presented to them. Which leads to individual soul searching about what they actually want.

In that regard, I feel a little bad for both Tamaru and Matsushima. Both of these were great characters and both actually were a good match for Ichika and Ryo respectively. They would have made for a solid romantic interest and one that would have come with less complications. That both Ichika and Ryo consider this option and ultimately choose to walk away from it really helps their own relationship feel a lot less artificial and contrived and more a choice.

Tamaru couldn't be more disappointed with friendship chocolate.
Image from Koikimo 2021.
Poor Tamaru – in a high school romance you would have got the girl for sure.

It was nice that Koikimo presented love rivals of appropriate age but didn’t make these characters villainous and seemingly forcing the characters together. It would have been too easy for the writers to make Tamaru secretly frustrated with being turned down and have him attack Ichika leading to a rescue from Ryo. I think if Ichika had fallen in love with Ryo in that scenario it would have felt less endearing and more like momentary admiration than a romantic choice.

Instead, Ichika seriously considers Tamaru’s confession. She even refuses advice from those around her to really consider what she wants. When she turns him down, she does so in a straight forward manner and even acknowledges she might be making the wrong choice.

I kind of have to give Koikimo credit for treating even the rival characters as decent human beings.

Matsushima wants Ryo.
Image from Koikimo 2021.
Matsushima is a bit more devious.

While Matsushima’s character in Koikimo plays with the idea of being a genuine villain and forcing her way between Ryo and Ichika, ultimately she’s also a decent person. She knows Ryo’s in love with a high schooler and gives him plenty of reasons to doubt that relationship while presenting herself as an alternative. But once rejected she accepts it and remains on good terms with Ryo.

The other two characters of note in the story are the main character’s best friends.

Rio, who is Ichika’s best friend and Ryo’s sister, is either a loyal friend and younger sister or an enabler depending on your overall view of the story. Honestly, Rio is perhaps the worst written character because outside being her brother’s supporter and advice giver to Ichika, I honestly know nothing about her. Oh, she wants to be a lawyer because lawyers are awesome.

She’s the kind of friend that is written just to be a soundboard for the main character or just to push the plot forward. You can’t imagine Rio existing outside the confines of the narrative of Koikimo and its kind of sad given how much screen time she has.

Equally, Masuda, Ryo’s friend, gets a bit more personality but we still know practically nothing about him. He listens to Ryo at the bar but never contributes any of his own stories or problems to the conversation. What sort of friendship consists entirely of one person listening to the other list their love woes without sharing any part of their own?

Ryo, Masuda and Rio go flower viewing with Ichika.
Image from Koikimo 2021.
Why look at the flowers when there is food?

Koikimo definitely dropped the ball with Masuda and Rio which is a shame when the Ryo and Ichika both end up being relatively interesting protagonists and even the two rival characters both felt fairly fleshed out. There aren’t many other characters present in the story so it kind of feels like these two could have been given a bit more to do outside of being the cheer squad.

Beyond the standard romance plot with the age-gap premise and the characters, Koikimo doesn’t offer a lot. The opening theme is entertaining enough but relatively forgettable and the visuals are pretty average. While the animation isn’t bad, there’s also not a lot of animation on display with a lot of scenes of characters sitting and talking or talking on their phones.

One thing I did notice and I probably only paid attention to it because I recently finished watching Army of the Dead but there’s a number of scenes that use a shallow focus on the characters and blur the background altogether.

Shallow focus in Koikimo.
Okay, we can refocus now.

I kind of found these visuals a little distracting, though again that’s probably because of my recent viewing, and to be honest probably isn’t a criticism of Koikimo. For the most part this effect was used in touching and sweet moments and I guess were supposed to have us focus in on the feelings the characters were experiencing rather than wowing us visually. Not overly effective but it is hard to feel warm and fuzzy while being reminded of Las Vegas Zombies.

Ultimately I enjoyed watching Koikimo. It isn’t without its problems, though few romances in anime are without problems but for the most part the character journey is solid, the decisions made by characters as the story progresses feel like they have weight, and if the point of a romance is to bring us to the happy fairy-tale ending, Koikimo succeeds. Just jettison reality at the front door.

Images from: Koikimo. Dir. N Nakayama. Nomad. 2021.

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Karandi James

Watch or Drop? Is Koikimo Worth Watching?

Watch or Drop Koikimo
Koikimo Ep2 3
Age gap romances with a pushy older guy – not sure comedy is the right tone here.

Koikimo may tread on some uncomfortable territory for some viewers. But is it worth giving a go?

Watch or Drop? Rules

Rules modified for the Autumn 2021 season.

  1. The anime must be new (not a sequel or spin-off).
  2. I’ll watch as much as it takes to make a decisionas to whether the anime will be added to the watch/review list or dropped and forgotten. For good.
Koikimo Ep 1 5
I’m wondering who that line would actually work on.

First Impressions:

Right, so I went into this expecting to hate it. I know, very open minded of me going into a show thinking I’m going to hate it. Largely because I don’t like age-gap relationships, but I’d get over that. I really don’t like guys being persistent toward a girl when they’ve already been told no and stories that somehow reward characters for pressuring someone and ‘wearing them down’. Taken in a real world context, it is just creepy. Add in the age gap factor here and it is really creepy. Throw in the friend who is siding with her older brother and actually enabling the whole thing and in any real world context there would be serious issues to deal with here.

So, we’ve established I hate the premise here. And yet I watched all three available episodes and actually didn’t hate it. The creep factor isn’t going away if you logically think about the story so for those who can’t distance themselves from the fact that the premise is built around a behaviour that in the real world really should not be accepted given how it makes the recipient feel, this story is going to be an instant drop. If you get through the set-up though, is there enough to keep you watching?

Realistically, the set-up here is no worse than Dakaichi (or plenty of other boys love anime) and I really loved that anime once we moved beyond the set-up and into the story (actually one might argue Dakaichi is actually worse in terms of its set-up because at least here there’s no alcohol or sex involved).

Series Positives:

Ichika, the main girl involved in this story, is actually a pretty good character so far. Her blunt reactions to Ryo’s earlier advanced and her general caution in dealing with him there-after are relatively sensible. Less sensible is her continuing to answer his calls and not block his number, but he is her friend’s brother and that could make her friendship a little awkward so you can kind of let that go. She also has genuine enthusiasm for anime and manga and really she comes across as a fairly interesting protagonist in general who has more going for her than just being a romantic lead.

Koikimo Ep 1 6
Plus, she calls it like she sees it.

Likewise, I found Ryo’s friendship with Masuda came off as fairly genuine as the two drink together and Masuda’s reaction to Ryo’s current situation was nicely handled. Ichika’s classmate, Tamaru, who may actually have a crush on her was also a decently interesting character. Actually, so far the only cast members I don’t like are Ryo, and I’m pretty sure we weren’t supposed to like him in episode one but they are gradually turning down the creep factor in the subsequent episodes, and Rio, his sister, who seems to exist just to keep stirring the romance.

I’d definitely have to point out that a positive is that while in episode one, Ryo comes across very much as unbalanced, stalkerish, and generally an incredibly unlikeable character in a story described as a romance, however over episodes two and three, while he doesn’t do an about face, there’s a genuine effort being made to reduce his off-putting traits and to focus in on his strengths. He also seems to take on board some of Ichika’s critiques and isn’t quite as pushy by the end of episode 3.


Series Negatives:

I kind of covered the main negative in my first impressions. This anime is definitely not depicting a solid foundation for a healthy relationship. If you can’t put that aside, this anime is going to crash and burn hard for you because it is the basis of everything that comes after.

Otherwise though, the weakest link in the cast is Rio, Ryo’s sister. She’s supposedly Ichika’s friend, but really her only role in the story has been to enable Ryo. She gives him Ichika’s number, delivers gifts, and gives him intel. Without Rio, Ryo wouldn’t have had an in to meet Ichika again. However, despite her being essential to the plot, they haven’t really bothered with giving Rio much else to be other than plot device so far. It would be nice if her character was a little more fleshed out.


Karandi Excited Transparent

That might be a weird verdict but while I found the first episode almost as obnoxious as I expected to find it, by episode 3 I was getting more drawn into the story and characters and I kind of want to know where this will end up. I think what saves it is that Ichika does call Ryo out on his behaviour and his behaviour is toning down so we might get to a point where it actually does feel more natural and less forced. Of course, I definitely think the English title: “It’s Too Sick To Call This Love” kind of got it right. Then again, I’m solidly on team Tamaru even if he isn’t interested in Ichika. I could listen to those two geek out quite happily for the rest of the season.

Other Impressions:

Images from: Koikimo. Dir. N Nakayama. Nomad. 2021.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James