I don’t know how many series I’ve followed based entirely or mostly based on visuals, but I can tell you it’s a very small number and I can’t remember the last one. So Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou is going to have to show me something in addition to the art and directorial style – but damn, that art and directorial style really is something else. I actually blurted out “God – it’s beautiful!” while watching this episode and I can’t remember the last time that happened, either.
I still feel as if the incredibly lush visuals and the content of this series are (perhaps intentionally) discordant, but I was less aware of it this week. Mayuzumi Masaki’s art and Miya Shigeyuki’s direction are forming a kind of perfect storm of visual awesomeness here – the gorgeous backgrounds and the clever scene composition make this the best-looking show of the season so far for me, bar none. And the look of the show and the tone seemed a bit more integrated this week, despite neither being radically dissimilar to the premiere.
There’s a flip side to Miya’s style, and that’s the fact that it can be a bit too much sometimes, all the on-screen dialogue (I haven’t seen this much of that since Evangelion) and deformed character moments. That’s sympathetic to one of my major issues with Kawaisou in general, which is that it too seems to be trying a little too hard. There were more genuinely funny moments for me this week, but the relentlessness of the attempts to entertain has a whiff of neediness to it. I wish Miyahara Ruri’s writing and Miya’s direction would let the story and character speak for themselves a little more often rather than trying to remind us constantly how funny and charming it all is. Because there’s enough actual funny and charming here to make the show work, I think.
Make no mistake, there was some funny stuff this week – more than last. The carp streamers. The “Birth of Venus“. And the first thaw in the relationship between Usa and Kawai was nicely portrayed, though her overall standoffish demeanor is already wearing on me. The whole glycerin-bubble scene was a winner, visually and narratively. In general everything felt a little more connected this time around, and I was more invested in what was happening. But only to a point – there were still some swings and misses in the humor department, and a sense that the show was trying to be too clever for its own good.
We’ll see where it goes from here – this is a series I really want to like. Those visuals really are spectacular, and there does seem to be a core of something likeable and humanistic underneath off the camping and vamping. There’s a new character on the scene whose impact can’t yet be discerned, and that’s Watanabe Sayaka (Kanemoto Hisako). Early returns indicate a possible yandere trope, and a rival for Mayumi – and someone who, like Shirou, may be more comic relief than a real character. But even Shirou has a few moments this week, so I won’t jump to any conclusions. As with the series as a whole, it’s definitely wait-and-see mode for now.