Alya Sometimes Hides Her Feelings in Russian – Episode 1

By: Alex Henderson July 3, 20240 Comments
Closeup of a silver-haired girl making a catlike mischievious smile

Content Warning: fan service

What’s it about? Alisa Mikhailovna Kujo, a.k.a. Alya, is the silver-haired, straight-laced ice queen of the student council, known for being uninterested in romance and blatantly turning down any boy foolish enough to even ask for her contact details. The one exception is her classmate Kuze: she tells him off constantly, but occasionally admits that he’s cute… in Russian, and thus in secret, understood only by herself. What Alya doesn’t know is that Kuze does speak Russian, and her flirtations aren’t as hidden as she thinks they are. But how does Kuze tell her that without making things super awkward?

No matter the quirky premise, a rom-com lives or dies based on the chemistry of the characters—and whether you as an audience member are actually invested in seeing them interact in the short-term, and get together in the long-term. I’m pleasantly surprised to report that despite the tsundere schtick and miscommunication issues potentially baked into this set-up, I found Kuze and Alya’s dynamic quite fun. They have a back-and-forth banter and teasing that (most of the time) feels mutual. She tells him off for being distracted by his hobbies but also genuinely seems interested in chatting about his interests, and he leans into the very geeky goofiness she gets him “in trouble” for. It feels like the two of them are deliberately bouncing their carefully-constructed personas off each other—with occasional semi-accidental bursts of sincerity.

Kuze and Alya sitting next to each other at their desks. Alya looks calm and serene and Kuze looks cartoonishly horrified, with no mouth and huge eyes, because Alya has just woken him up by sticking a pencil in his arm

Would you believe there’s a ridiculous “oh no, I saw your panties and got kicked in the head!” fan service moment, but it actually ends with an apology and an earnest conversation? The whole thing is still deeply silly, of course (and be prepared for a hefty dose of lovingly animated thigh, leg, and foot imagery along the way) but this skeevy, tropey scene also leads to a weirdly nice character moment. Their silly little power play goes too far, things get zany, and then they talk it out and repair the damage. Maybe this is in service of restoring the status quo of their dynamic so the series can repeat the same joke fifty more times, but hey, it also felt like an earnest emotional beat between two teen friends navigating their more-than-friends feelings for each other. If you’re going to have over-the-top anime rom-com shenanigans, it helps if they’re couched in solid character writing.

And honestly, this is a solid first episode. The central character dynamic is fun, the pacing is pretty neat, and the visuals are crisp, doing a lot to make a standard high school setting seem vibrant and lived-in. My concerns are twofold: firstly, that there’s going to be more fan service and Alya’s embarrassment is going to be used as both the butt of the joke and a source of titillation. This isn’t the only joke in the episode, but it (and the resulting chaos and emotional resolution) does form a pretty big part of the runtime. Secondly, that “Alya sometimes hides her feelings in Russian” is going to remain the status quo and the dynamic between her and Kuze is never going to evolve. Sure, it has fun elements, but can this premise carry a whole series? It would be a shame to see the relationship stagnate and the writing just recycle the same gag.  

Alya extending her leg, mid-kick, and sending Kuze flying backwards

It would also be a shame to see a love triangle (or dare I say harem genre elements) introduced, but that may well be on the horizon. Alya is visibly agitated when Kuze’s pretty childhood friend cozies up to him during lunch—though of course she needs to keep a lid on this to save face, much in the same way that Kuze needs to play it cool and pretend he doesn’t understand when she calls him cute in Russian. Or, you know—they feel like they need to. Do they really? Are we going to unpack that, or keep spiraling around the central gimmick and introducing other characters for Alya to be envious of rather than progressing the actual central romance?

Alya could be a sweet show about two young people playing in, and eventually breaking down, the facades they’ve put up out of a fear of being emotionally honest… or it could devolve into jealousy, fanservice, and endless repetitions of the same character moments to the point where they lose what gave them such chemistry. The premiere is mostly strong, but it may be too early to tell how much the show is willing to grow from the foundation it’s set up here.

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