My anticipation level for Tsurezure Children was probably higher than it’s been for any short since Tonari no Seki-kun. It’s a well-regarded manga, comes from a studio that’s often underrated in Gokumi, and featured music by the already legendary Tenmon (5 Centimeters per Second). In addition to all that, it focuses on a theme that’s woefully underutilized in anime – middle school romance (though it’s obviously been a good few months for it lately).
This premiere is quite good, probably about on-par with what I expected (though I wish Tenmon’s score had featured more prominently). By reputation Tsurezure Children is an odd mix of kawaii and kinkiness, and I saw nothing in this episode to dissuade me of that preconception. I also saw nothing that convinced me that this show needed to be 12 minutes rather than 24, to be honest – even if the stories are presented as vignettes, there were four couples in focus in the premiere (and I assume that’s not all of them).
We have an intriguing mix of comic elements and personality types here, all seeming to be a general riff on the supreme awkwardness of first love fumbling in junior high. We have a girl who attempts to have her cake and eat it too by inviting her crush to meet her only to ask “Is there anyone you have a crush on?” We have a teasing popular girl who likes to toy with the extremely shy boy she shares class rep duties with. There’s also a guy who blackmails a self-styled delinquent girl into kissing him (he notes that he’s “tested” whether he’s gay or not, and exposes the fact that the girl isn’t as experienced as she pretends). And there’s the genki girl in the astronomy club who couches her real feelings for her graduating sempai in supposedly fake daily confessions.
What do these situations have in common? Well, for one they’re all built around kids basically trying to say something without saying it – through braggadocio, or teasing, or false jocularity, or simple trickery. Middle school (I really don’t think this series would have worked with high schoolers) is all about posturing and positioning, and middle school romance often about fear of confronting your own feelings or of rejection. These kids are really cute, but there’s a lot of edginess to their interactions – some couples more than others, but none of these boy-girl interludes are comfortable. I see a lot of potential here, because there’s clearly some real incisiveness and fearlessness (and wit as well) to the writing. I wish Tsurezure Children were full length, but it may just end up packing an awful lot of entertainment into its allotted twelve minutes.