What’s it about? After spending middle school friendless, Raido is determined to make some emotional human connections in high school. He starts by making small talk with the girl who sits next to him, Aharen, only to get no response. At least, that’s how it seems at first—it turns out Aharen just speaks in a near-imperceptible whisper, and is just as eager as he is to overcome her awkward past and make pals.
The setup for this one isn’t… bad, per se, it’s just struggling against the tide of a few key factors that really drag the whole experience down. The first is the unfortunate fact that I’ve seen basically all its ideas done somewhere else, and better. Raido has a “scary face” that puts people off, even though he’s really a nice guy? So… like in ToraDora? Aharen is eager to make friends but is not so great at talking, leading to her and Raido communicating via written notes? So… like in Komi Can’t Communicate?
Even looking at Aharen’s character design just makes me think “is that a human version of the baby dragon from Dragon Maid?”, a passing observation that would be way less distracting in a more interesting show. Though it does bring us to Aharen-san’s second problem: the characters sure do look like that.
Aharen is in her first year of high school, so roughly age 15, and she looks like a child. It’s not just that she’s short-statured or baby-faced, as many real people are at that age. It’s the blobbiness of her proportions, the size of her eyes, and the way her immaturity is emphasized. Raido comments more than once in his internal narration that she’s tiny, petite, and “like a doll.”
She’s literally half his size. When they go to a games arcade after school and Aharen smushes her chubby cheeks up against the glass of a crane game machine, it looks more like Raido is babysitting a young relative rather than… setting up the initial character beats of a rom-com. I hope I don’t have to explain why that’s an issue!
It doesn’t help that The Joke is that Aharen is actually a very clingy, attentive person, but she knows that this makes people uncomfortable and so has decided to dial herself back in order to make a fresh start in high school. This is why she initially gives Raido (what he perceives as) the cold shoulder, but latches onto him when he shows signs of wanting to be friends. And I do mean literally latches onto: it’s a running gag that she grabs onto his arm, sits too close to him, and even plops herself in his lap at one point.
Again, this on its own isn’t necessarily a bad running gag, especially if the story is ultimately about two awkward loners trying clumsily to learn how to friendship from each other. But given that Aharen looks like she does, it does little more than gross me out.
At least Raido has the good graces not to be weird about it. Then again, Raido doesn’t react to much at all. I get the joke that he has a “scary face” that looks emotionless even when he’s actually very nice. I get it; it’s just not that funny. Between his deadpan stare and Aharen’s near-silence, neither of the main characters expresses much of anything. The animation is similarly flat and static. There’s just not much going on here, and again, I think that’s meant to be part of the joke, it’s just not as hilarious as the creators might want it to be.
To be fair, I did get one or two sensible chuckles out of this premiere, mostly from gags that were so silly they interrupted the monotony (Raido and Aharen trying all sorts of wacky forms of communication, from carrier pigeons to smoke signals, was one). It’s just not a premiere with a lot of energy, both in the expression of its characters, the general tone, or the sense of humor. Maybe it’s fitting that it ends on a shot of Aharen passed out asleep?
Ah, except it doesn’t end there: there’s an after-credits sneak peek that shows a girl watching Raido and Aharen while seething with anger. Can we assume that she’s jealous, and this will lead into some sort of dopey love triangle in the coming episodes? Maybe. It’s not filling me with hope. I think I’m going to skip this one and go watch one of those other rom-coms it had the misfortune to remind me of.