I finished this just under ten minutes ago, so the mixture of criticism and feelings are still fresh and hot. I’m not sure if it’ll inspire me to write harder than I have been lately, but I’ll give it a shot. Hopefully I don’t go on a tangent about one thing, much like many of the characters in this show.
Okay, so this anime is pretty different in numerous ways. Normal readers will know that I gravitate towards “different” like a moth to bright lights. Crossdressing, otaku, and sex are thrown around as if they’re nothing, with little more than hesitancy being the response to said topics. I like that a lot. Makes the show feel more unique and of its own style, rather than conforming to the trends of fetishizing any such topic. Even more, the energy and eccentricity of the characters also livens up a lot of the more normal aspects to the show’s working parts. I immediately recognized why this show is so highly regarded, though it wouldn’t last.
Everything I said above is fine of its own volition. What becomes more of an issue moving forward is that the show does basically nothing with any of it. Being otaku, crossdressing, sex, jellyfish, whatever. All of these are just things. And Kuragehime presents them as just things. There’s no explanation as to why they’re present or why it continues to fester within each episode—it just does. Why are these characters otaku? Because they are. Why does this pretty boy crossdress? Because he does (though there’s some subtle hinting that it’s influenced by his absent mother). Why is it so amazing that this thirty-year-old dude is a virgin? Because it is. Why do people fall in love? Because they can. Where is this all leading to? I don’t know. The series doesn’t know. Nobody knows.
When it all comes down to it, what actually happens in Kuragehime? Nothing. We’re introduced to the characters, let them be eccentric, have a bunch of uncomfortable situations occur as their home might be sold off (only to not have it happen because happy endings are king), then leave with a cliffhanger where little is actually resolved. Some optimism for the future is introduced through the benefit of a rich fashionista combined with an otaku’s love for jellyfish, but that’s pretty much it. After eleven episodes, I’m left with the conflicting feelings of “That was fun” and “Wait, that was it?”
Plus, there are numerous plotlines that kind of happen just because, then hover around not getting resolved until eventually things just take a different course and resolve themselves in the least satisfying way possible. What’s worse is that the characters involved seem to just forget about it. A lot of what the anime is doing seems to be thrown in there out of obligation, to ramp up the drama for the sake of spicing things up, then forgetting that they kept it on the grill and now it’s black and hard as stone. Why are they even here? Some of the plot devices here are fine (albeit cliché) at the start, but don’t ever actually end. They float into oblivion hoping everyone will just forget about it. I don’t forget
Despite it all, it’s fun. I’ll give the original author credit, she knows how to write an entertaining story. (Go read Kakukaku Shikajika. It’s amazing.) For all the problems it has with its loose ends and unimportant drama, it has a really fun assortment of characters and has a different vibe to it. It’s expressive and upbeat without being over the top. While I didn’t find all the characters likable (looking at Mayaya), there’s an encouraging amount of care that’s put into every joke, line, and delivery when it comes to them. There was also quite a bit of references that I thought was clever. Props to the author for doing her research (or maybe she just likes most of the things she puts in there).
Animation was a little off. There were definitely moments where I found myself saying “Oh, that didn’t look natural in the slightest” while watching characters move (normally). Perhaps excusable in 2010, there’s a bit of a nasty glaze that hinders the overall vibrancy of colors in this anime that’s only alleviated by the most unusual colors, such as with bright purple wigs. The crossdressing character looked fabulous in most cases, but everyone else was so… dull. Even with their “after” transformations they looked dull. Where is the color? I thought the series would be brilliantly saturated by the cover. It’s almost a staple of older anime to have this ugly gray-ish scale that makes everything look plastic, which unfortunately inhabits even this series. But hey, at least we got some differing female body types, right?
In hindsight, this anime is horribly overrated. It offers very little in terms of clarity or closure, as well as introducing conflict for the sake of it, seemingly uninterested in doing anything past the initial premise of “A bunch of otaku have misadventures with a crossdressing fashionista.” While different on the surface, many of the situations scream typical Shoujo tropes, with the female lead serving as a barely different super-shy lead who lacks confidence in their own abilities. Even so, there’s a great energy to this series that makes it not quite shit, even if there’s a lot more reason to consider it shit than otherwise. An interestingly conflicting series right out the gate for my sudden switch to anime this ongoing, confusing Summer.
Final Score: 5.5/10
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.
To see the ratings for all entries in this Summer and all others, check out the Summer of Anime Archive!