Super Lovers Series Review: Not Sure About the Super Part – But They Are Working on the Lovers Part

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in June 2016 and can be found here.

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My overall impression of this anime isn’t great and that hasn’t really changed since my first viewing of it or during the second season. To be honest, this is kind of one of those shows you watch because you really want more or a particularly genre but given how little there is you just kind of watch anything that is available. 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.

Last time I reviewed this I steered away from really getting into the age gap, and to be honest I’m not going to debate the morality of it in the real world, because quite frankly it isn’t appropriate. Is it problematic for a work of fiction to establish a relationship like this? Well that entirely depends on how far you separate fictional what-ifs from real experiences and some people will find this distinctly uncomfortable and so would be better off steering clear. I will admit, I find Haru very hard to take seriously as a character because of some of his choices and general lack of impulse control but ultimately that is a minor nitpick in an anime full of other general issues.

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Starting with the problems (and that way I can end on the positives):

01. 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).

02. 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.

03. 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.

04. 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.

05. 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.

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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 even on a second viewing. 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?

01. 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.

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02. 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.

03. 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.

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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.

That said, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend watching Super Lovers. Even after the second season, there just isn’t enough going on with the characters and the plot and progress is pretty glacial. There’s certainly better out there to watch. 


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Yuri on Ice Episode 12

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Review:

A beautiful ending (or non-ending depending on how you choose to take it) to a beautiful character piece. This show has never been perfect and the final episode is no different. If you look you’ll find things to criticise and that’s fine if that is what you want to do. For me though, I didn’t even remember to get a screen shot and had to go back and rewatch. I have genuinely loved being on this journey with the characters and this episode gave me exactly what I needed to feel satisfied while leaving just enough space that if they choose to make a sequel it won’t undermine everything that’s already happened. It’s a smart choice like most of the narrative choices that have been made in this series. I can’t wait to try to write a review of the whole show (I think I may be redrafting that for hours).

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So what happened? Yuri broke Victor’s heart (probably unintentionally) and then they rebuilt from the ground up over the course of 6 skating routines. It was beautiful. Okay, someone won gold, silver and bronze medals and a world record was beaten but you know I somehow don’t think that was supposed to be the focus.

Yuri on Ice is available on Crunchyroll if you haven’t already checked it out.

 

Friday’s Feature – Beneath the Squeals What Is Driving Yuri On Ice Fans?

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Wow, it’s a Yuri on Ice post. How original. By the way if you aren’t up to at least episode 10, maybe pass on this for now but come back. Of course, if you’ve watched episode 11 things have changed again but I’m not touching that until I’ve had a bit more time to think it through.

Okay, I’m done making fun of myself but I actually kind of had to write this. I was asked by someone in the real world whether Yuri on Ice was any good and found myself gushing (something I avoid doing in the real world, not because people don’t already know I’m a massive anime fan but just because I don’t like to make people feel trapped listening to me blather about things they are only vaguely interested in). But I wasn’t gushing about Yuri and Victor or the maybe kiss or the airport scene or even the ring (though those points did come up), what I found myself gushing about was the way that the characters in this show feel like real people.

By the way, this isn’t a post that is trying to convince you to fall in love with Yuri On Ice. If you aren’t already on board then you’ll probably stay that way. Mostly, this post is just looking at what is beneath all of that pretty animation that is keeping fans up as they anxiously await the next episode.

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You mean this ring?

For me the number 1 take away from Yuri On Ice since the initial episodes where the beauty of the animation swept me away has been the treatment of these characters. Pretty animation aside, without a story or characters worth following I’m not really willing to invest all that much time and thought into something. Yet, Yuri On Ice is a coming of age or a general weakest becomes strongest (maybe) story that we’ve seen a thousand times before (though the second half of this series is definitely starting along a full blown romance pathway). So if it isn’t the plot and while the animation is appreciated and maybe the first draw but that isn’t what is making us hang around, then what we are left with are the characters.

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And while there are definitely the fan girls out there who are happily eating up a dose of mainstream shounen ai and then the fans of Victor in the hot tub, what we are mostly seeing through Twitter is that fans have really taken to these characters and it isn’t really hard to see why.

Leaving aside Victor and Yuri for the time-being, the support cast of Yuri On Ice have been fabulous in the way they’ve been presented. While one of the criticisms I’ve heard of the show is the lack of screen time these characters have had and if you watch some episodes you will know that these characters get minutes at most, and yet they pack so much into those minutes.

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I’m going to use Kenjirou Minami as an example. He’s a Japanese skater who appears in episode 5 and looks up to Yuri a lot. While you might see him as existing only to serve as a point of contention between Yuri and Victor and as part of Yuri’s character growth, in one episode Minami manages to establish himself as a person. He’s young and idealistic but still desires victory. He’s under his own form of pressure from the expectations placed on him by others though he deals with it a great deal better than Yuri does. We also see his performance. Unlike Yuri’s beauty, Minami is a high energy performer and his personality is clearly shown in his routine. This character was on screen at most for ten minutes and I feel I know more about them than some characters I’ve watched for 24 episodes.

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If we then shift to a crowd favourite, Phichit, we get a character who was spoken about long before he even made a real appearance in the show. We knew he was Yuri’s rink mate and we know that Yuri consulted with him in order to get in touch with the person who wrote his music but it wasn’t until episode 6 that this character really appeared in the anime. By then we already had a sense of who this person was and he is definitely a likeable character. One of his persistent character traits is his ongoing use of social media and this is something that really has brought him to life. Not saying that to exist you must be obsessed with selfies, but it is one of many details that makes Phichit feel like he is living in the real world and isn’t simply a scripted being. Episode 10 really highlights that Phichit is more than just moral support and friend though. He is the first to notice the rings and offer congratulations to Yuri and Victor but he is also the first to react when Victor claims Yuri is going to win gold. While this doesn’t form an actual rift between these characters it does show that beneath the smiles Phichit is definitely a competitor.

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It’s kind of the same for all of the skaters. Yeah, there’s still heaps we don’t know about them but what we do know is painting a picture of a real person with real goals and desires and approaches to getting through things. While they each might start from a simple archetypal character there have been enough details layered onto these characters to make them feel like they are a person in their own right. Those details are everything from the music and costume choices while performing to their small interactions with the other skaters. Even how they hold themselves and what they are doing before and after performing. It all adds to the rich detail making up the characters of Yuri On Ice and there have been very few moments where this element of the show have slipped.

And that is what, beneath all the fan baiting and obvious lures this show has going for it, is keeping fans hooked and coming back for more. There are plenty of shows out there featuring a cast of supposed good looking guys and while people do tweet their images and the like I’ve certainly not seen anything like the Yuri fever that has happened every week after every episode. While a lot of the attention has been on the kiss, the hand holding, the rings, the sleeping, a lot of the tweets have focussed on those more character driven moments and the moments where we learn something more about one of our favourites in the support cast. What really makes this special though is that all of these moments build on one another. That’s why this was a slow burn at the start where you might think pretty but aren’t seeing all that much more but all of those small moments and details have a snowball effect as the series goes on.

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But let’s get back to Yuri and Victor. The are they/aren’t they arguments have raged, the fan art has gone crazy (and is incredibly beautiful given the short time frames some people have worked on) and both of these characters have been analysed to within an inch of their animated lives at this point. For me these characters became amazing at episode 7. Up until then I’d enjoyed watching them grow closer and how Victor had learned how far he could push Yuri before he would have to draw back and how Yuri was starting to take steps toward Victor, but they were still just two good characters in an anime I was enjoying. At episode 7  they crossed some sort of line as they showed such an incredible depth of human emotion and their relationship became something that felt genuine. It is in that sincere expression of emotion that the audience is completely blown away. These characters have real conversations, real conflict, they don’t understand each other sometimes, they try to understand each other, they dither, they hesitate, they act impulsively; they just feel real.

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It’s really odd for me to say because normally when I talk about seeing genuine emotion or human expression it is relation to a psychological thriller or a moment in something that’s fairly dark. To talk about two characters in a reasonably feel good, rom-com, sports anime (not trying to be condescending to any of these genres) in this way is a fairly unique experience for me as generally I don’t connect with the characters in these stories the way Yuri On Ice has achieved.

I’m honestly going to say that I do not care if Yuri wins the competition. I don’t care if Victor and Yuri get married or whatever. I am watching this show to watch all of these characters grow and show us what they will do and what choices they will make. While I would be delighted if Yuri get’s a fairytale happy ending I will also be really satisfied with him coming to a sound realisation about who he is and where he stands in the world.

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When I come to review this series as a whole I have no idea what I will have left to talk about but I’m certain I will talk at length anyway given I just never get bored of these characters at the moment. But now I’ll turn it over to you; why do you think Yuri On Ice has appealed?


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Karandi James.

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Yuri on Ice Episode 10

Review:

Normally, in a show like this when we have an episode almost entirely devoted to the characters taking a break from fighting (sport) what we end up with is a shallow filler episode filled with comedic moments that don’t really work and some very casual characterisation. Yuri on Ice shows us what an episode like this can really do in terms of furthering the plot and the character development.

Having Victor narrate and give his view of the events up to now and the skaters was a great choice given Victor has taken the back seat for the past four episodes. Bringing him back into the mix this way was fantastic and also gave us a bit more insight into his character and proved once again he isn’t just a narcissist.

We also spend time with each of the skaters who’ve made it through to the final and none of these encounters fill meaningless. Each one gives us insight into the skater and their relationship both with the other skaters and with skating itself. Probably my favourite moment in this episode came when all of the skaters (minus JJ) were eating together and Phichit announced that Yuri and Victor were married (then corrected by Victor to engaged) and everyone was celebrating until Victor said they’d get married after Yuri won gold. The change in tone was palpable and very effective. Every person at that table wants to win. They’ve all got their own reasons but they want to win and while on a personal level they may be happy for Victor and Yuri they aren’t going to hand over gold without a fight. Of course JJ shows up and breaks the tension by being his usual self and they all return to their hotel.

This episode was exactly what we needed and hit all the right notes. The charcterisation was spot on and it felt like we grew closer to the entire cast. The upcoming competition was never far from anyone’s thoughts so it wasn’t like they just ditched the plot for a week. It underpinned everything the characters were doing. And the closing credits were hilarious.

Too many good moments to decide on an image this week.

Yuri on Ice is available on Crunchyroll.

Momokuri Series Review

Overview:

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. They begin dating but both of these characters have a few issues.

I did review this week to week so if you are interested in individual episode thoughts go here.

Review:

I’m going to preface most of this review by pointing out I thought this series was actually kind of adorable and sweet and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Now I’m going to spend a few paragraphs tearing it apart.

Firstly, the central relationship is beyond unhealthy. 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.

Starting with Kurihara, she is obsessed. She’s a stalker. She collects Momotsuki’s used straws for goodness sake. She learns his time table, 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 isn’t coming out of this any better. 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, the side characters. 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 plow 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.

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Thirdly 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 this series 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?

 

Momokuri Episodes 21 + 22

Review:

It’s nice that both Kurihara and Momotsuki have just kind of accepted that they are both weird and they like each other. I also like that Momotsuki is starting to teach Kurihara a little and their interactions feel a bit more natural (at least in the first half of the episodes). Another pleasant feature this week was some tension amongst Momotsuki’s friends caused by a misunderstanding. I’m looking forward to seeing that sub-plot developing so let’s hope it doesn’t just fade away. My least favourite moment this week was probably the ending where Momotsuki gives in to unreasonable jealousy when another guy pulls a cobweb out of Kurihara’s hair. All and all, if you’ve watched the show this far, this is a good episode. Is this anime amazing? Not so much. But the characters are cute and quirky and some of the weirder parts of this relationship seem to finally be getting sorted.

Momokuri is available on Crunchyroll.

Orange Episode 11

Review:

Suwa is taking an awful lot on faith that the science teacher was right in his theory on parallel worlds. And even if Suwa in the other timeline has regrets, why should current Suwa be forced to bear the consequences? I was super relieved when this happened.

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Good job. Now just do the same to Naho and Kakeru.

While they might still pull off a mushy, happy, and fairly unsatisfying ending at this point, it really feels that this episode has tipped the scales firmly toward tragedy. The only question remaining really is how much has their meddling messed with the original timeline and did any of it make any real difference?

Orange is available on Crunchyroll.