Content Warning: Sexualization of minors, Ephebophilia, stalking
What’s it about? Amakusa Ryo cares about one thing: sex, and getting more of it. When his wandering eye lands on everyday, otaku high schooler Arima Ichika, she finds herself being romanced by an adult, which absolutely disgusts her. Yet Ryo is convinced that Ichika is the only one for him, and spurred on by her rejection, dedicated himself to actively pursuing the high school girl of his dreams.
I hated Koikimo, and I’m going to hold fast to that because there’s no world in our infinite galaxy—not any culture on this planet, including Japan—where an adult pursuing a child is okay. I’m sure that in saying this, and simply writing this article, I will probably make some corner of the internet mad at me; but I’m willing to weather that, come what may. I think what I have to say is important, even if I’m the only one who feels that way… though I doubt I am.
Normally, I’d give you some background on the staff and the production, but honestly, Koikimo kind of killed my enthusiasm for that this time around. Instead, I’m just going to dive right into the trash pile this time.
So… let’s talk about Koikimo, a portmanteau for the full title that reads, in English. It’s Disgusting to Call this Love.
Episode 1, “He’s Not Entirely Bad,” is what we like to call an oxymoron because the “he” in question is entirely bad, seeing as he’s an adult man pursuing a child.
But anyways, let’s take this from the top.
Arima Ichika is a high school girl, who’s having a normal one… until she sees Amakusa Ryo, a full ass adult, nearly face plant on the steps at the train station. Like a decent human, Ichika reflexively tries to save him from falling, hooking her umbrella handle into his bag and tugging him back from eating plastic-covered pavement on his way down. Should’ve let him fall, Ichika. Should’ve let him fall.
Amakusa Ryo, on the other hand, is your average adult businessman, save for the fact that he chooses to act on his infatuation with a child. When he reicounters Ichika, he asks to thank her with a kiss, though he does recant and say that that might be too much for a high school kid. Claps for Ryo, Ani-Fam. Claps for Ryo.
Presumably, what ensues is supposed to be a series of comedic bits where Ryo intensifies his pursuit by… let me check my list… sending her flowers to her residence, along with using his high school age sister (who is supposedly Ichika’s friend) to gift Ichika chocolates? Maybe my sense of humor is broken, or maybe, I was fully checked out, because my spirit had ascended to another plane of existence.
For a while, I thought, “Well, this is as bad as it’ll be… right? “Then Ryo gets down on one knee, as if proposing to this literal high school girl, and gushes about how he feels about her. It was then that I felt sick to my stomach because I realized that this is just what Koikimo is going to be for the entire cour: one long, horrific joke about an adult man trying to get with a high school girl.
And y’all, spoiler: this scene happens about six minutes in.
From there, Ryo starts actively following Ichika around as if he’s her boyfriend. In any other anime, I might groan, feel irritation, and push through… except Ryo’s a full ass adult man who’s essentially stalking a teenager. He’s forcing her to entertain his advances, even when she is visibly uncomfortable. In fact, Ichika’s visible discomfort only seems to spur Ryo on—he treats every encounter where he gets the slightest bit of ground as a victory, sans the Final Fantasy victory fanfare blaring in the background.
Worse, no one in the world of Koikimo seems to be uneasy about Ryo pursuing Ichika. In many ways, I can’t blame her mother because she doesn’t know about Ryo. I hope that if she did, she’d put a stop to things. Hopefully, Ichika will eventually tell her mother about this gross older man who’s been stalking her. At least… I hope she will. I don’t know if the source material has a lick of nuance in this arena. Additionally, the one person who does know about this situation—Ryo’s sister, Rio—doesn’t think anything of her brother’s actions. In fact, she kind of facilitates and enables him, which isn’t fair of me to say because she’s also a child.
And… that’s pretty much the plot. Ryo approaches Ichika, she express extreme discomfort with being pursued by an adult man, and there’s some sort of gag that I guess should make me laugh, but only makes me want to dial 119 on my smartphone. It gets worse when Ichika—in both the English subs and the spoken Japanese—calls Ryo a stalker.
If that’s not evidence that Koikimo sucks, then I don’t know what is.
The one thing positive I can say about Koikimo is that it draws Black men in a very respectful way. He didn’t have big lips, and just kind of looked like a Black guy lost in Japan. That was pretty nice. Other than that, I can’t really say a lot about Koikimo. The OP isn’t particularly revolutionary, and the music, sounds, and general atmosphere aren’t really outstanding. The art is generic enough to be okay, I guess, but not particularly stylish or even good.
It’s just like me as I write this review: just kind of… existing and upset, though I’m never bland.
In many ways this show is average, which is the truly dark part of Koikimo even existing. This anime being made normalizes the idea that high school girls secretly want to be in relationships with older men, even when they show explicit discomfort.. Worse, it normalizes the idea that it’s “natural” to pursue a high school girl as an adult man, that it’s okay, and even rom-com levels of “charming” to go after her.
I’m a fanfic writer, as a side hobby. In fact, I’ve written fic for about 15 years now. I understand writing about certain tropes and taboos, and have even written about certain taboos myself. I’ve read them as well: in fact, I read some Explicit fanfiction this morning. I’ll probably read some fanfiction tonight. I might even write some this weekend.
However, I’ll never be comfortable with stories where older men pursue underage girls. There’s no “sexy power dynamic” because one is an adult with leverage and know-how, and the other is a literal child. To me, that’s a living nightmare, and has wider ramifications outside of fanfiction than most tropes do.
There’s a lot of discussion, these days, about reality versus fiction, at least in certain Twitter circles. I, myself, am someone who sits in the middle: fiction is absolutely influenced by our real world, but fiction doesn’t always directly affect or impact reality… except for things like this, which are very real-world issues that have yet to be even slightly resolved.
The trafficking and mishandling of teenagers is a global issue. It’s especially an issue in Japan, a country that I spent years teaching high school girls in. I spent most of my days talking with high school girls after school, helping them prep for tests and assessments, sharing cultural tidbits, and being their teacher. But after work, I frequently worried about their bodily autonomy and their ability to stay safe for themselves. Heck, I still do, even though I teach a different age range now.
My honest suggestion is to not even watch Koikimo. Don’t hate watch it. Don’t watch it just to bash it. Honestly, don’t give the show any views. It’s not sensationally bad: it’s not even particularly sexual. What it is is distinctly uncomfortable, enough that I felt incredible unease during my entire watch. It’s a show that shouldn’t even exist, especially because of the on-going battle to desexualize teenage bodies packaged for adult consumption globally.
I don’t know who Koikimo is for, or who saw this in a Kinokuniya and was like, “Heck yeah, let’s make an anime for this in, say, Spring 2021?” because Koikimo definitely isn’t for me. Technically, it’s a josei manga, meaning it’s targeted toward adult women, but I don’t know what AFAB viewer (or any viewer, for that matter) would find this appealing. I say this because so many women know how horrific it is to have older men sexualize your body, especially as a teenager.
So, don’t watch Koikimo. Instead, waste your time watching The Promised Neverland Season 2, which is bad because of compressed plot, but at least doesn’t have an adult-child romance plot.