Admittedly this season is mostly a vast wasteland, and there’s a tendency to look for succor wherever we might find it. But even so I still find myself legitimately interested in Masamune-kun no Revenge. It’s here that you can insert the idiom of your choice: “in spite of myself” or “against my better judgment”, or any of a dozen more – you get the point. This series exists at the place where the map says “here there be dragons”, but that doesn’t stop me from being curious enough to venture into those perilous seas.
There’s an ugliness to Masamune-kun, no doubt about it, and it’s not a pleasant thing to see. But there’s a compelling aspect to it too, because high school is often a place where the ugliness in human nature reaches full flower, and it seems as if this series embraces it. It makes no qualms about what it’s about – a shallow boy wasting his life trying to achieve revenge against a horrible girl. I don’t think there’s a sheep in wolf’s clothing here – Masamune-kun probably really is that dark and cynical a story. But even in a story such as that there can still be room for a little light.
We know not everyone in this school is fucked-up or a sadistic wretch – for starters Kojuurou seems like a perfectly nice and gentle boy. Then there Futaba Tae, the Iinchou, who likewise gives off no signs that she’s anything other than the sweet and earnest person she seems. Yoshino is a totally different animal, though – her shy dojikko routine is a cover for a sly and devious nature. She’s the one who sent Masamune the “Pig’s Foot” note, having recognized him from her time as a servant at Adagaki’s mansion. What’s not certain is whether her offer to help Masamune-kun achieve his revenge is serious. I mean, one could hardly blame anyone for being resentful towards someone who treats them as Adagaki treats her. But this could just as easily be a trap for Masamune, for reasons obvious or less so.
One thing Masamune-kun no Revenge does quite a good job of is depicting just how unnerving school humiliations are, and just how scarred Masamune-kun is by his experience. When he teared up in class remembering the dark days of his past and worrying about the note, that was quite a powerful moment. He and Adagaki are both living a lie that’s tied in with vanity, but the similarity seems to end there. He’s engaged in a misguided quest for what to him feels like justice, but she seems to hurt people for no other reason than that she considers them her toys to do with as she pleases – and it pleases her to be cruel.
The irony here of course – and it’s by no means subtle – is that Masamune is passing up a perfectly good chance to have a school life 99% of adolescent boys would dream of in his misguided obsession with Adagaki. Futaba, for example, is clearly interested in him – so much so that she asks him out on a date. She’s kind, good-looking and successful – but he can’t see the moment in any context but how it fits into his master plan. Ironic, too is that Masamune-kun is just as lonely and isolated as any “ugly” or unfashionable kid – and in his case, it’s by his own choosing. He does finally get an email address – Yoshino’s – but she’s so shady that it’s hard to imagine it was a simple overture of romantic interest on her part. She’s one of the ones with agendas in this story, and unless given firm reason otherwise I refuse to take anything any of them say or do at face value…