Content Warning: Suicide played for dark comedy, adult man dating a high schooler, misogyny
What’s it about? Shu lives in the bustling Bayron City, and recently quit his company job to go solo as a contractor in the demon-fighting business. How’s it going? Well, his power’s been shut off and he’s mooching food and bill money from his former boss (and ex-girlfriend) Ayano. He also has a high school girl, Kisara, who comes over to make him meals and sleeps in his bed. But Kisara isn’t just any girl: she’s a Super A-Class demon who’s happy to be Shu’s secret weapon, so long as she can power up from his kiss.
There’s a lot to like about Engage Kiss. The colors are bright and appealing, there aren’t any panty shots despite the amount of flipping around Kisara does in short skirts, and the big action set piece at the end is inventive and smooth as hell, managing to elevate some ho-hum monster design with elegant character-driven choreography. Series composer Maruto Fumiaki was previously co-lead on the criminally underrated otome anime Phantom in the Twilight, which I don’t get enough chances to reference.
Unfortunately, then you get to the plot.
Here is what the show would like me to think of Shu: he’s kind of a loser and needs to get his life in gear, but he’s also got big dreams and something to prove because of some mark against his father’s reputation; he doesn’t deserve either of the women in his life, but at least he has the good sense to grovel when they do something for him and he looks mildly uncomfortable about the high school girl who’s throwing herself at him, so he’s probably got a heart of gold.
Here is the impression I came away with: Shu isn’t so much a freelancer chasing a dream and falling on hard times as an asshole who only works when he feels the job is good enough (as we learn he’s turned down previous bids for the past three months) and plays on the affections of the women in his life in order to facilitate his life style in a manner that’s uncomfortably close to my experiences with real-world financial abuse; he’s undeniably broke but because this episode focuses on all his needs being met by Ayano and Kisara while his suffering remains off screen, it feels more like an excuse he whips out whenever he’s late or otherwise inconsiderate to the women supporting him rather than actual hardship (I say, a person living decidedly below the poverty line). In short, this is an unintentionally accurate portrait of a real life scumbag, fuck him. I spent the entire premiere rooting for his death.
There’s a coercive element to his discomfort with Kisara’s advances, but I absolutely can’t take it seriously in the context of genre traditions: technically this high school girl has enough power to smash Shu into a pulp, so he can’t say no, but on a meta level this is part of a long tradition of inventing scenarios where adult men can say “but she came on to me, your honor!” (meanwhile, news headlines continue to look more like this). Kisara doesn’t just wear a school uniform—she acts like a besotted teenager too, acting out insecurely when Shu interacts with his ex, making dinner for him and declaring they’d better take sleeping pills together and go to Heaven to escape their crushing poverty. There’s an offhanded line toward the end that Shu has been putting off at least some of Kisara’s advances for sex, but that doesn’t stop the episode from including a lengthy scene of her laying naked in his bed. It’s rolling around extravagantly in legally deniable fetish-bait, all the more glaring given that Shu’s job is so absurd it could just as easily be the work of a Teenage Anime Prodigy.
And that’s all before Ayano and Kisara have a catfight in the middle of the big monster-of-the-week battle. This is where that excellent fight choreography comes in, with some fantastic sleight-of-hand shots where the two seem to be attacking one another only to snipe a monster just out of sight. It’s fun, and creative, and then it gets really hard to enjoy when Kisara drops the line, “a useless old woman is nothing but an obstruction even simply by existing.”
Neither of these women seem to have goals outside of chasing a mediocre dick, and that depresses me. I’d happily watch a show about just the two of them being frenemies who fight really well together without the scumbag in the green coat shuffling around the sidelines, but it’s not to be.
Those with a high tolerance for anime bullshit or a priority for animation quality above all else might consider giving this one a shot; otherwise, dump it directly in the trash where it belongs.