What’s it about? First year high schooler Shiraishi Junta is the most basic background character to ever exist, unnoticed by anyone and everyone. Kubo is an S-Tier school beauty who’s the polar opposite of him. Oh–and she can also see Junta and loves to tease him.
I swear to the anime gods I got whiplash when I saw the splash image for this because Junta looks so much like Tadano Hitohito that I thought HiDive had picked up Komi Can’t Communicate. Then again, I think that’s just going to be the case when you’re talking about completely average teen boys: there’s only so much you can iterate on when you need them to be as basic in design as possible.
And mistaking the male lead for being from Komi actually isn’t too far off here, though I expected Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible! (hereafter Kubo) to be a less sexually-charged version of Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro! than the more sedate Komi. And that’s kind of what I took into my watch.
Now let’s see if that’s what actually happens.
Episode 1 starts of with Junta giving the most sad story about just how invisible he is. This child is so unnoticeable that the school edited him into of the school year book because they thought he wasn’t there…and yet he was. Brutal, but a solid way to demonstrate how invisible our initially faceless, expressionless lead really, truly is. In his own life, he’s a side character—that is until we learn that the stereotypical beauty Kubo notices him.
From there, the show turns towards making it very clear that Kubo loooooooooooves teasing Junta as a form of mild bullying/flirting. That’s kind of the plot, at least as far as this premiere goes: Kubo teases Junta, Junta pushes back, Kubo gives the puppy dog eyes, Junta gives in, antics ensue. Rinse, wash, and repeat, though that might be a bit too harsh of me. There’s a lot of tender moments in this show, tucked around Kubo poking hella fun at Junta’s nigh supernatural ability to disappear even if he’s the only one in the room.
Kubo is nice in its simplicity: the animation is pleasant, the backing track atmospheric, and the color is nice. That said, the titular Kubo looks like an amalgamation of ever cute girl in a slice-of-life rom-com from the past decade; and like I said, I did a double take at Junta because he’s so painfully generic, even if that’s kind of the point. Together, they make your typical odd couple of geek and girl, which is fine as is.
What’s going to make or break things is whether or not you find the plot funny: a lot of your enjoyment and general milage are going to hinge on if you find Kubo and Junta’s tender, teasing beginnings funny or enjoyable. I honestly did not, though I certainly don’t begrudge anyone who does. After all, my favorite rom-com is The Proposal, and half that movie is two characters snipping at each other. It’s just the case that neither is as pathetic as Junta.
My biggest worry, however, is the comedy: Junta’s lack of visibility, something that pains him, is the entire joke, and it just feels mean-spirited. I mean, it’s so clear that Juna is really genuinely troubled by how much the world ignores him, and yet you hear his classmates tallying up how often they can spot him like he’s Japanese Waldo! Rather than laughing, I just kind of sighed and felt bad each time Junta was on screen: doubly so when the not very charming Kubo decides to bother him.
Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible! is, at base, cute: it’s a rom-com with very low stakes with a simple cast and a very straightforward plot with two leads that have all the trappings of a couple you’ll likely come to have pretty neutral feelings on, unless the series leans into the teasing on a Miss Nagatoro level. That might be what divides folks, or at least, may be what leaves a slightly bad taste on your mouth. Still, the formula here is pretty rote, and rote can be enjoyable, no question about it.
What doesn’t sell this formula for me is a very specific thing: Junta’s discomfort with Kubo’s actions. He’s visibly unsettled and discomforted by her pushing his boundaries around such a specific thing that bothers him (whereas in Nagotoro leans into Senpai being into the whole bullying thing), and honestly, so am I. I think this is partially because I’m an adult and have perspective, but also, I just don’t think it’s funny. It doesn’t help that this plays out multiple times in the premiere, making episode one drag quite a bit.
While I’m decided in the nay category, I am on the fence about recommending this to folks, largely because I don’t like to yuck anyone’s yum when it’s largely a question of whether this basic kink appeals to you. I’ll say this: for me, where this series stands, I sense that the bulk of the cour is going to be Kubo ignoring Junta’s boundaries for various gags until she realizes that he’s human and not just someone she can tease. If that’s something that you can set aside to enjoy what is otherwise a cute teen romance, then I definitely encourage you to watch and have fun with this show. But if you’re not into a low-stakes romance where teasing is a central part, then I think I’ll encourage you to pass Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible! up this season.