More Than a Married Couple, but Not Lovers – Episode 1

By: Alex Henderson October 9, 20220 Comments
Closeup of a blue-haired boy and a pink-haired girl, shot in profile. He is making a kissy mouth at her, and she is holding a frying pan and a spatula and looking unimpressed

Crunchyroll, which has long underpaid its employees, has currently declared its intent to recast the English dub of Mob Psycho 100 rather than even consider meeting with SAG-AFTRA representatives to discuss unionizing their dubs—this would help actors gain access to things like health insurance, and help make up for lack of residuals. People continue to pressure Crunchyroll to change their stance on social media; we encourage readers who are able to take part.

Content warning: prescriptive heteronormativity, fanservice

What’s it about? The Marriage Practical is an essential part of the high school curriculum, in which students are paired up and must live together simulating domestic life. Jiro longs to be paired with his childhood friend and first love, Shiori, but ends up stuck with the loud-mouthed Akari instead. Akari, who had her eyes on her own crush, isn’t happy about the arrangement either. But if the two of them can score an A on the assignment within a certain timeframe, they may have the opportunity to swap partners.

There’s a lot to complain about with this premiere, but honestly—aside from everything I’ll get to in a moment—the thing I’m most surprised and annoyed by is its failure to lean into its own premise. If Akari and Jiro want to apply for a partner swap, they need to prove that they’re a compatible husband and wife within the parameters of the assignment. It’s an irony full of comedic potential! It’s a matchmaker quest wrapped up in fake dating—it’s tropey rom-com catnip!

It also opens the door to a (potentially) great satire about social ideals of what Makes a Good Couple. I want to see these two dummies strategizing, drawing on the hyperbolic depictions of heterosexual domestic bliss in old movies and advertisements to game the system and rack up Marriage Points. They’ll stumble, of course, and along the way they’ll fall into their own rhythm and realize that… gasp… maybe true feelings will form underneath all the play-acting??

A pink-haired girl admonishing a blue-haired boy, who looks shocked. Subtitle text reads: I guess Virgin-kun wouldn't be able to manage it.
Crunchyroll is really going to ask their translators to deal with dialogue like this and not even pay them a decent wage for it

As dystopian as the Marriage Practical sounds (their vital signs are being monitored at all times!!) it’s honestly not a bad setup for a rom-com. So… if someone wants to take my little pitch there and write it, you’re welcome to, since it’s not what we get from More Than a Married Couple.

Rather than attempting to unpack, poke fun at, or even address the heteronormativity baked into its premise, this first episode seems intent on playing into the most heteronormative assumptions the writers could get their hands on. And for goodness’ sake, it doesn’t even show the main characters’ attempts at married life. The pacing gets in the way, rapidly jumping a week ahead after two-and-a-half awkward interactions between Akari and Jiro.

You’re asking me to believe they not only survived seven days, but those seven days were so unremarkable that we can brush them off entirely? What happened when they tried to cook? Had to divvy up chores? Saw each other in their pajamas for the first time? Had to choose what to watch on TV? It feels like a weird waste of the narrative’s central gimmick.

A pink-haired girl grabbing a blue-haired boy by his shirt front, seen from above

But maybe it’s not so bad, because I’m not invested in spending time with these characters. Jiro, our protagonist and focal point, is immediately a pain in the narrative ass, making misogynistic comments about Akari and priding himself on being an intellectual geeky outcast who likes obscure Art like… uh… classic fantasy RPGs.

He positions his feelings for Shiori as the sweet, pure love of a childhood friend, but has no problem imagining her in intricately-drawn, weirdly shiny sexual fantasies. Akari too, for that matter, as much as he looks down his nose at her. He immediately shakes his head and goes “no, no! What am I thinking?” as if to suggest that these visions are bad and should not be enjoyed, but the audience still gets to partake in the glossy camera pan over the half-undressed girls. It’s a cheap wink-nudge to the viewership that works to dehumanize the already thinly-written female characters.

A blue-haired boy holding his head and screaming against a heavily pixelated pink backdrop. Subtitle text reads: What am I thinking??

Akari, alas, is also obnoxious, flip-flopping as the narrative requires between brash and extroverted and blushy and tender. We see ample shots of her cleavage and up her skirt, and again, Jiro is both happy to criticize her supposed sluttiness and ogle her. At this point she feels less like a character and more like a collection of cheap tropes stuffed into a skimpy school uniform. The same can be said for poor Shiori, who is similarly hollowed out and mostly exists as The Pure Childhood Friend to contrast the much more overtly sexualized Akari.

More Than a Married couple seems intent on being as idiotic as its premise, refusing to use its school-mandated-fake-dating scenario for any interesting commentary or even any interesting character scenes. It would rather make sexual innuendo when Akari is squeezing out ketchup than try to present a relationship with any chemistry. I think I can unilaterally say I don’t recommend this one, and will be mourning the waste of this batshit but potentially interesting set-up.

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