Erika Shinohara is the typical high school girl who desperately wants to find a clique to avoid loneliness. She befriends two girls in her class, both of whom have boyfriends, so she resorts to lying about being in a relationship in order to gain their friendship. To convince them, she takes a picture of a random cool guy she sees in town, claiming he’s her boyfriend. It just so happens the guy is Sata Kyouya, who is in the same grade at their school. Erika explains the situation to Sata, and he agrees to fake being her boyfriend on the condition that she becomes his “dog”.
So to start off, I’m going to say that the rating I’ve given here does not reflect my personal options on how a relationship should be conducted, or personal philosophies regarding gender roles. I review based on: characterization, how true the characters are to themselves, their growth, their goals, strengths and weaknesses; plot, the actual events of the story and how it is told, the exposition, conflict, rising action, climax/crisis, falling action and resolution; pacing, how quickly to the plot and character arcs happen; authenticity, how well the anime delivers on what it’s marketed as; realism, to what extent the plot and characters make sense, given the setting in which the anime operates. Sometimes I’ll tell you if I enjoyed it (usually using the criteria above), or if I feel this is a binge series or not. When it comes to this anime, I’m not giving it 2.5/5 based on the fact I think the relationships are unhealthy—I knew it would be, because it says as much in its advertising.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get on with the review:
On a plot level, it’s pretty basic. Two people begin pretend dating and then they fall in love but can’t admit it (Nisekoi, anyone?!). Will they get together? Will they not? This is a ploy we see constantly in romance anime, and it certainly exists here. The characters’ starting points are believable. Erika’s strong desire to make friends over honesty is endearing and relatable. Kyouya’s double-nature makes sense and is widely accepted in the genre. Ultimately, the anime is true to its marketing.
Some of the pacing felt inauthentic in terms of character development. Erika first admits she has feeling for Kyouya in episode three, “A Precipitous Drop – Fall in-”, which is fair when we consider this is a quarter of the way through the series. It is Kyouya’s confession to his best friend, “I’ll fall in love with Erika my way” in the following episode, “Daily Anguish—Love Attack -” which feels unauthentic and rushed. From a writing standpoint, it makes more sense for Kyouya to expression this conviction later, perhaps halfway through the series. His character is proud, sadistic, and conniving. While the phrase makes sense, the placement doesn’t. Yes, he’s annoyed and this phrase would probably do the job of silencing Takeru’s insistent pushing to get them together, but this confession would break his apathetic image.
My second issue is on the seventh episode, “Mutual Love—White Day-”, when Kyouya just magically appears after Erika rejects Kusakabe. I’m taking off points for realism here, because we don’t see Kyouya beforehand and have no idea he’s following her until he pops out of the snow like a daisy. Furthermore, he declares “I’m taking her back”—fine in terms of the possessive and objectifying tone, which is true to his character, not fine in terms of his confession to Erika and the kissing scene afterwards.
But he loves her! Seeing her with someone else convinced him of it!
Really? You think?
He’s sour. He’s a sadist. Let’s look at this spicy pickle for a second: he masquerades as a Prince Charming while he torments Erika, this is a fact. This goes beyond tsundere, more than abrasive, it’s abusive. Some might argue he’s actually a tsundere under the guise of both a prince and sadist, which for all I know could be true. However, this uncertainty is my point of criticism, and ultimately why his growth feels superficial. Even when he asks for help in what he should give Erika for her birthday (love)—is there anything to justify this humility? I just don’t think the plot events are solid enough to outweigh his character and jaded views on love.
Overall, this anime was pretty average, hence its 2.5 rating. It’s not necessarily a bad anime, but there are similar animes with execution: Blue Spring Ride, Citrus, Fruits Basekt and My Little Monster are all good examples.
What do you guys think? Am I wrong? Am I forgetting a crucial event? Let me know and sound off in the comments below!
Watch on, Anniemaniac!