Here’s another of the shows on my sleeper list headed into the season – the B-list, at least. And this time around I’m very happy, because based on one episode it feels like the positive inkling I had going in was justified. I haven’t read Matsuda Eiji’s manga (which seems to be quite well-liked) but I did like what I saw of the story and the art, and in Yamamoto Yasutaka (Shinryaku!? Ika Musume) the series has a pretty solid comedy director at the helm.
In scanning through the reaction to the first episode, it seems as if a lot of manga readers are upset that the art (deformed faces, etc.) is toned down from the manga. I can’t really comment on that, but I can say that for my part, the visuals were great. The series has a very old-school look in much the same way Nazo no Kanojo X did, and the comic expressions were plenty over-the-top for my tastes. I also very much liked Matsuda Akito’s (no relation, I assume) music – he’s done some excellent work, including the beautiful soundtrack for Mashiroiro Symphony (as Nijine).
Really, this premiere hit with me right from the beginning – I really loved the pre-intro scene (helped immeasurably by the BGM) where protagonist Kuromine Asahi (Natsuki Hanae) tried to confess to the mysterious Shiragami Youko (Serizawa Yuu). It perfectly set the mood for the episode, which was sweet, silly and not remotely ironic. I also loved the scenes with Kuromine and his three pals (Shimono Hiro, Hatano Wataru, Hirakawa Daisuke). This was great bro material – the way they teased the feckless Kuromine in a totally affectionate way was really believable and authentic to what good teenage male friendships are often like.
The hook with Kuromine is that he’s incapable either of lying or keeping a secret (he has two pair, the whole table knows) – a veritable “leaky basket“, as his nickname states. Kuromine is an immediately likeable main character, partly but not only because of his quirk – he’s a sweet and mostly clueless guy, but he actually has the balls to push himself to pop the question to his beloved. The problem is that when he sneaks back into the classroom to confess to Shiragami (who always arrives early and stays late) he catches her in the act of spreading a pair of bat wings – and when she goes gap-jawed, he notices an unmistakable pair of fangs.
Again, for this me this setup has such a classic 90’s anime romcom feel to it. And both leads are unbelievably nice – not geniuses, maybe, but hard not to root for. There are some nice little touches, like the fact that Shiragami speaks in a Kansai-ben when her guard is down – there might even be a little social commentary going on here, because in Japan kids from the provinces who move to Tokyo routinely are desperate to hide any regional accent for fear of being ostracized. Also in play is that if Shiragami’s father finds out Kuromine knows her identity, she’ll have to leave school. So you’ve got the boy who can’t keep a secret, a girl whose secret he has to keep, and she happens to be the only girl in school who’s dense enough not to read his secret – that he’s in love with her.
I see a lot of appeal in this premise, which strikes me as a cross between MGX and Majimoji Rurumo. It seems to have a lot of the same unpretentious sweetness that Majimoji did, along with a great group of friends and a memorably oddball supporting cast. There’s more weirdness to come – the class rep clearly has secrets herself, and the school reporter seems a bit unhinged. I don’t know the rules of the mythology here (vampires whose weakness to the sun is that they tan easily?), or why every boy seems to be wearing a different uniform (or why they all look like UPS drivers). But I suspect the star of the show is going to be the comedy, which seems notably lacking in mean-spiritedness or snark. Every season can use a series like that, and it looks like Jitsu wa Watashi wa is going to be a real asset for this one.