Long ago, in the distant time of September of 2013, I started this blog under the name “Criticism & Thoughts.” Throughout the years, I’ve discussed a large number of visually based mediums and topics, but one thing I never did—either out of spite or laziness or both—was dedicate myself to reviewing an ongoing anime episodically as it released… outside of when I collaborated with someone.
That was then and this is now. Completely on a whim, as many of my decisions are, I decided to start my very first episodic reviewing journey with Aharen-san wa Hakarenai, a topic I am also currently reading in manga form. As it is my first time doing this (alone), I have no idea how I will structure these posts or how much detail I will go into. Let’s find out together!
Episode 1 Synopsis
Starting high school, Raidou is determined to make a head start in his wonderful school life by making an effort to communicate with his classmates. He begins with his seat-mate, Aharen, who seems to reject all of his greetings. Over time, see how Raidou and Aharen begin to close the gap (literally) to become the inevitable couple of goofballs the series’ summary and promotional images already allude to.
In case it slipped by your attention span the first time I mentioned it, I already have a lot of insight into how the course of events will occur here. I am reading the Aharen-san manga and have consumed 102 chapters (need to catch up on recent scans eventually). Even so, some things will end up half-fresh for me simply because it’s been years since I started it.
What became immediately apparent to me was the quality of animation. Perhaps a consequence to how few recent anime I view, but everything seems to be perhaps a little too… glossy? Bright and serene in an almost waxy sense, which doesn’t really do much for what’s an otherwise simple, if not slightly odd rom-com. (It’s far more of a “Com.”)
The studio, Felix Film (which has done very little of note, unless you like Nekopara), takes full advantage of the main characters’ very comically neutral appearances. Raidou and Aharen’s facial features are, generally, muted and one-note. They even make a joke of it early on when Raidou attempts to smile. Nevertheless, there’s a noticeable sense of lethargy to the animation that doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. For a debut episode, so be it, but I would expect more spirit and enthusiasm when the absurdity of situations ramp up.
Only Two People in the World
While this is also the case in the manga, it’s a little strange to see absolutely no one react to the way these two interact with one another. Shoving their desks together, surprise hugs, throwing notes; many things simply happen and everyone in the background makes not a sound. It’s almost as if Aharen and Raidou are the only characters in the universe of the series, outside of the inevitable introduction of new, zany characters in the episodes to follow.
To an extent, this kind of hurts the immersive qualities of the reality. I would think that a teacher, at least, would comment that the two should settle down or pay attention, and neighboring classmates would gossip about the surprise hug, especially. True, there is little reason to question the validity of the behavior given this is something of an oddball comedy. I simply think that there can be room for realism in a setting this benign.
As for the characters themselves, namely the two leads, they have the same kind of energy that made me enjoy reading the manga in the first place. Admittedly, they are not quite at the level of humorous bizarreness that recent chapters showcase, as they’re still getting to know one another. Once this initial tension of unfamiliarity wavers, my hope is that it will become more comically weird. That’s pretty much the appeal of the series to me, outside the admittedly charming physical closeness of the two.
But Is It Funny?
Not really, at least in the first episode. Again, these characters are still in the introductory process, getting to know one another’s quirks before diving fully into the sea of chaos. A growing fear of mine is that the anime will dedicate individual episodes to highlighting new, less interesting characters in a way that extinguishes potential development of romantic tension and charismatic comedic association by the two leads. Anime has a tendency to do so.
Although, there were a few moments in this debut episode that got a smirk out of me. (This coming from someone who almost never LOL’s at anime.) The sequence following “bone conduction” was among the highlights, and the aforementioned “Raidou smile” was humorous enough. Otherwise, the episode seemed content in going through the general motions of a debut episode, letting the characters get a feel for one another.
So-so. In terms of “grip factor,” Aharen-san‘s first episode isn’t particularly strong. Some cute, some funny in spurts, interlaced with questionable effort in animation and a very formulaic means of introduction. Its potential is obviously there, given the manga’s fairly strong characterization and lenience on absurdity. I would personally recommend watching the second episode to see where it chooses to dedicate its time—if it feels the same as the first episode, it may become something of a niche pick.
Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.