What’s it about? When Shinozaki Takuma started his new job, he expected it to be pretty routine. and most definitely didn’t expect Katase Shiori, his cute, petite, tiny senior, to take him under his wing. As love blooms in his heart, will he remain just a coworker, or will his hopes of her affections having a double meaning turn into something more…?
In my past life as a woman (i.e. before 2022), I was five-foot-seven. I mean, I’m still five-foot-seven, which is a pretty solid height for an American AFAB person, with the average height being five-foot-four. That said, I want to offer a shout-out to my short folks because while My Tiny Senpai might seem like a show for you, I regret to inform you that it’s not here for the shorties. If anything, this show made me long for a height difference relationship I could actually enjoy.
So with all that…let’s get into the premiere.
Episodes 1, “My Senpai Is Small and Cute,” is kind of just that: an episode about Katase Shiori, a petite woman, and Shinozaki Takuma, the junior office worker who likes her and who’s also (naturally) much taller than her. It’s as straightforward as that…or is it?
Yeah, it kind of is. Like, spoiler alert but there’s not much here in this premiere. Even a relatively new anime fan would be able to telegraph the plot beats without trouble.
Most of episode 1 is spent getting to know our main characters: Shiori is sweet, a bit klutzy, but tries her best. Takuma is a dude who’s constantly pressing my nerves. Er…Takuma is a guy who’s still learning the ropes but won’t stop subtly sexualizing his senior coworker. And that’s kind of it: this is definitely one of Summer 2023’s most straightforward offerings.
Aesthetically, My Tiny Senpai is a nice enough show. Shiori’s definitely somebody’s something with her design though: she’s that classic short girl with G-cups, something that does exist, but in the context of this show, just feels like someone’s personal preferences shining through. That said, she’s a perfectly fine character, and easily the best part of this show.
And that’s a shame. I’d like to have more to say, but after watching this premiere twice, I’m just kind of generally meh about it–which is shocking to me. I’m a big fan of romantic comedies, but even as someone who almost always watches The Proposal when it’s on TV, I found this premiere to be lacking in the charm I look forward to in a story about a couple coming together.
But I think I know why that is, least for me.
There’s been a lot of discussion online about whether or not it’s weird or sexually inappropriate to date young-looking people, to the point that I’ve seen fully adult women be called “child coded” for… being five feet tall, even with developed, post-adolescent body features in their late twenties and thirties. It’s an argument that, to me, comes from personal discomfort with the fact that adulthood doesn’t look a specific way, that AFAB individuals who align with their gender (cis women) may choose to look incredibly feminine in a way that simply can’t be sexualized. Or, counterpoint, may dress however they want because their body is just their own.
My Tiny Senpai is pushing a different vibe: the camera leers at Shiori, and often, she seems more like a teenager in adult’s clothing with her overly cutesy mannerisms that push the envelope on what’s cute and what’s desired as part of making a woman…well, desirable. Rather than seeming like a genuine part of her personality, her behavior feels like a peek into someone’s ideal fantasy of what a woman in their twenties–specifically in Japanese culture–should be, which is cute, appealing, single, and constantly ready to help the men around her feel good. While there may be the start of cohesion–that all important glue that gets a couple together and actually results in them sticking–so much of that is tucked between this really discomforting dynamic of a genuinely kind woman who’s just constantly being privately sexualized by her male coworker.
It’s not helped by the fact that Shiori is portrayed as “cutely” incompetent at times and “cutely” sexual at others, depending on which angle the series and the camera want to take. A lot of the former is from her own perspective, but the latter? That’s completely from her junior coworker, who is old enough to know better but ultimately, often lets his thoughts get the best of him in pastel laden daydreams of Shiori that result in this subtle discomfort that just kind of sits with you the entire watch.
Ultimately, this is what it is: it’s in the title, after all. It’s a rom-com about a tiny coworker with the largest breasts and the tall, completely average guy in her office who likes her. Either you’ll like this or you won’t. It’s not bad, but it’s not good: in fact, perhaps My Tiny Senpai’’s greatest crime is that it’s just okay and so middle-of-the-road that any criticism will probably go under the radar, even though there’s certainly a lot to call out in this very discomforting premiere.