First Impressions – Aoharu X Kikanjuu

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Let the cascade begin.

Summer 2015 is in full tidal wave mode now, an exhausting time for bloggers (though Funimation’s prominence as a streamer this season means irritating delays for a number of top shows in subbed form).  As we wait for more denizens of the top tier in expectations to weigh in, a few of the second tier are making their opening statements – among them Brains Base’s Aoharu x Kikanjuu.

This was a series that was on my sleeper radar going into the season – perhaps mildly so, but definitely a recognizable blip.  I don’t know the source manga, but the premise struck me as agreeably unusual, and it’s a Brains Base show – and for a fan of that studio, every one of those is critical right now.  Director Nakano Hideaki is exactly the sort of figure that has to step up if the studio is going to survive the exodus of its top director and producer (along with much of its secondary talent) – he’s a guy that’s worked on many shows over the years inside BB and out, but never really had the chance to step up to the plate as director of a major title.

I would say the early returns are pretty positive, both for the material and the director.  I didn’t find this premiere to be great or anything, but it was pretty interesting, and I thought Nakano’s direction was stylish and on-point.  The heroine of the piece is Tachibana Hotaru (Komatsu Mikako), who’s notable because she’s a high-school girl who dresses as a boy.  The reasons for that aren’t immediately made clear, but Tachibana is definitely a kid with delusions of grandeur who fancies herself a hero of justice.  She’s certainly handy with her fists and feet, which in combination with her hair-trigger temper is a ticket for potential trouble, both for herself and others.

The incident which triggers the plot involves her friend Hajime Kanae (Horie Yui), who’s had an encounter with a host, which Tachibana mistakenly interprets as a con job.  That host (naturally – this is anime) turns out to be the same guy Tachibana ran into in front of her new apartment (her parents have left the country and she’s living alone because, naturally, this is anime).  That guy is Matsuoka Masamune (Maeno Tomoaki), and he immediately makes a bad impression on Tachibana by his bawdy phone conversation – not to mention the fact that he seems to be a gun-owner, which offends her sense of social order.  Eventually she confronts him at Orion, the club where he works, and all sorts of truths come out – he’s actually a fairly responsible guy and Kanae’s problem was entirely her own fault, and he’s into survival games played with toy guns.

The scene which follows, when Masamune turns Tachibna’s challenge into a match, is certainly the best in the episode.  It’s nicely choreographed and animated, and does a good job impressing on us just how strong both players are in their own way.  The premise is pretty out there and Tachibana doesn’t really make much of an impression (I’m also not sold on Komatsu’s histrionic performance), but the episode is on the whole pretty entertaining.  It’s definitely more funny and less dark than I expected, and I wonder if that’s a misread of the series’ themes or merely a soft introduction, and that there will be more focus on the kinkier and more offbeat potential in this setup.  Based on his brief introduction Masamune’s gaming partner Yukimura Tooru (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu) seems the sort of character who might take the series in that direction – we’ll see.

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4 comments

  1. B

    I actually think Komatsu killed it as Hotaru, I've always thought playing tomboys was her forte, and she managed to capture Hotaru's hot-blooded nature without without making her sound annoying.

    Another thing I liked about her character was her cross dressing was portrayed as something normal. She's not hiding her gender out of shame or anything; she's a girl who dresses and acts like a boy, and that's there is all to it. In that sense she reminds me of Ouran's Haruhi, though the two couldn't be more different in terms of personality (I've actually seen a lot of people call a "gaming version of Ouran", heh).

    PS: Completely unrelated questions: Have you ever read Inio Asano's works (Solanin, Oyasumi Punpun, etc)? They strike me as the kind of stories you'd enjoy.

  2. I agree, it's interesting that the cross-dressing is handled so matter-of-factly. I am curious to know if there's more there, but if there isn't, that's fine too.

    I've browsed through Solanin at the bookshop many times, thinking that it looked interesting. Never found the time to dig deeper though.

  3. Punpun as well, actually.

  4. S

    Wow, I'm surprised by how little this interested me. If we forget the MC being a girl for a moment, he really is boring and predictable. All the jokes felt so tired, despite the VA's good performance and the really good graphics. I think I've seen all elements before in other anime, and in much better versions. The shooting reminded me of Sabagebu! which might not be top drawer, but the jokes and gags were actually funny.

    Anyway, the MC is not a guy, it's a girl. Is it suddenly more interesting now? Well, the story might become more interesting, but a person being boring or not doesn't really depend on the gender. The introduction was very convenient and …inorganic. I don't have any hopes for this, so I'm going to drop it but continue to read your reviews on it if it turns out I'm wrong. (Thanks Enzo!)

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