[Review] BLEND-S – episode 1

Maika Sakuranomiya is a regular high school student who dreams of studying abroad, though she has one problem. Despite being a naturally sweet and friendly girl, she tends to look scary and imposing whenever she smiles. Having failed to find a job anywhere else, Maika eventually finds work at Café Stile, where the employees all play specific character types when they interact with the customers, such as the playful little sister or the tsundere. Despite her misgivings, our heroine must adopt the dominant and aggressive role of a sadist. Together with the rest of Café Stile’s wacky crew, Maika will work to make new friends and fulfill her dream!

Source: Anime News Network

In the foreground is a girl in a maid uniform with a bottle of squeezed ketchup gripped in one hand. Behind her are two boys sitting at a table with omelette rice in front of them. Their faces are covered in red splotches.

How much you enjoy Blend-S will depend on your tolerance for moe comedy, full-stop. People who enjoy moe or have a decent tolerance for it may enjoy its slightly off-kilter character-driven comedy. If you have a low tolerance though, look elsewhere. While it may do some fun things with the formula, Blend-S takes no pains to conceal its moe outlook and iyashikei (healing/soothing) atmosphere.

The first thing I noticed is that this is a damn fine looking show. The colors are bright, the lines crisp, the motion fluid and detailed… but the next thing I noticed was how tiny the girls are compared to the male characters. I’ve always been somewhat weirded out by series where the female characters look significantly younger than their male counterparts, and Blend-S is one such show. I’m okay with stylized, youthful-looking characters, but major gaps in style just draw attention to how much moe characters look like small children.

Five girls in multicolored maid uniforms are flanked by two significantly taller young men in waiter uniforms. They all stand with one arm outstretched, as if posing in a dance. To the right stands a fluffy golden dog wearing a neckerchief.

But maybe the gap is part of the appeal, because “gap moe” is the name of the game here. Much of the comedy comes from recognizing the artificiality of the stereotypes the characters are forced to adhere to, and the difference between the acts they must put on versus their actual personalities.

Maika’s sweet nature makes acting like a sadist difficult, while a grumpy college student named Mafuyu pretends to be a peppy imouto because she looks young for her age. None of them seem especially put out by it, and some moments will be particularly relatable for people with experience in the service industry. Who among us hasn’t had to hide their enthusiasm for a topic when they overhear customers discussing it?

In the foreground, the back of a young man wearing glasses as he clenches a fist. In the bakground, a girl in a maid outfit looking uncertain, hands clasped in front of her chest. Subtitle: "Please sit down, shut up,and don't get in the way."

There are still some moments that, as a feminist, made me roll my eyes or cringe. There’s some leering framing and camera angles from time to time, a few jokes about Kaho’s breast size, and her clothes are drawn specifically to emphasize her bust. She and Maika are also still in high school, which adds an uncomfortable element to them performing moe traits for the enjoyment of male clientele.

This is made worse by Dino, the 26-year-old Italian cafe manager who openly crushes on 16-year-old Maika. It’s inappropriate on so many levels, and sweet, sheltered, eager-to-please Maika, who so desperately wants to study abroad… Well, suffice to say it’s a situation with a lot of potential for abuse. It won’t actually happen, probably, because this is a lackadaisical slice-of-life comedy and nothing of actual consequence happens, but it’s creepy.

A young man in a waiter uniform bows slightly and extends a hand to be shaken. Across from him is a pigtailed girl in a pink school uniform, looking startled. Subtitle: "Won't you work here as a precursor to going out with me?"

In the end, it’s really hard to make a call on Blend-S. Its sense of humor and relaxed workplace comedy offer something for more than just hardcore moe fans to enjoy, but there’s still some elements that could make viewers uncomfortable. No red flags—just a couple of yellow cards.

 

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  • Shakar92

    You won’t find trans characters in this show though, because Hideri is not trans, he’s a crossdresser. That Wikipedia article is shoddily written, probably translated from some Japanese promo material by someone who doesn’t even know about the series, so you must’ve been misled by the poor wording. Hideri identifies as male and always refers to himself using Japanese male pronouns. He does want to be an idol due to a number of reasons but nowhere does the manga imply that there’s something bad about a male wanting to do that.

    The characters are a bit surprised at him being male at first, but they immediately accept him and just run with it. No big freakouts, overractions, characters being horrified or anything, which is usually par of the course for these types of characters. He just wears cute otufits and no one objects to it. I found that pretty refreshing.

  • Orokana Angel

    This show presents character development. Being a feminist means you, lersonally, believe in equality. Japan and America are extremely different cultures, I respect your review, however, it sounds ethnocentric of you.
    Maika choose to take the job and these types of cafes are normal in their country. The girls are told to play a character to present customer service in different forms. The manager, is always a gentleman which is almost expected from every guy in various cultures. When men can have multiple types of personalities like it is suggested with this anime. So please keep in mind that anime will possibly continue to disgust you. A great example, the most romantic relationship in anime was Card Captor Sakura an elementary schooler with a teacher. In our society that is bad and CPS is called indeed. But in the end, this is a show to explore creativity if yoy continue to judge shows based on your belief well then..you’ll always be frustrated. You probably shouldn’t be watching anime.

    • Caitlin

      This is incorrect.
      Every prefecture in Japan has an age of consent of 18 years old. Relationships between children and adults are not legally or socially acceptable, and the relationship between Rika and Terada in Cardcaptor Sakura would be considered just as aberrant as it is here. The writer of Rurouni Kenshin was just arrested for possessing pornography of girls in that age range.
      Just because anime depicts it, even commonly, does not mean it is accepted within Japanese culture.

      • Orokana Angel

        I understand, however, many fans still find their relationship beautiful. That’s is what I’m trying to say. People should give art a chance and not constantly judge it. Love is mysterious and it’s not just Japan. Countries like the Philippines don’t find a problem in a teenager marrying an adult. I’m not saying it’s right, but everyone sees life differently…

        • Caitlin

          It’s not beautiful, it’s abusive. A ten-year-old is not capable of consenting or being on emotional or intellectual equal standing as a thirty-year-old, and child marriages are a major human rights issue worldwide. It’s not a matter of seeing things differently. Art is not morally neutral.

          • Orokana Angel

            If that is what you believe.