What’s it about? Maru Sueharu (Haru for short) fell hard for his seemingly untouchable classmate Kachi Shirokusa, only to be crushed when it turns out she’s dating someone else. His childhood friend, Shida Kuroha, offers to help him show Kachi what she’s missing by posing as Haru’s girlfriend. Which is a little awkward, since he turned Kuroha down the day before.
Osamake has good timing, of a sort. Fans of rom-coms have been left with nowhere else to turn in a season where the main offerings center on the intermediary archetype between tsundere and yandere and romanticized stalking (and I continue to side-eye at the other show involving an adult man and a teenage girl). If you’re desperately craving a brand-new romance series, then this one will probably tide you over. If, however, you’re willing to expand your parameters to “a romance released any other time than this very season, currently,” then I can’t muster up a very enthusiastic recommendation for Osamake.
As a romance enjoyer (mostly of queer romance, granted, but I sometimes branch out into hetero stuff; love is love, after all), love triangles are pretty much the bane of my existence. While plenty of compelling stories in the genre have included plot points where people’s feelings don’t align neatly, when a story makes two people competing for a third’s affections its central conceit, the results almost always wind up leaning heavily on contrivance and shallow character development to keep those wheels spinning until the end. It’s why I have a such a fondness for School Days, a flaming trash pile that ultimately twists the concept into a bleakly comedic, cathartic bloodbath.
Osamake has no shortage of archetypes, many of them deeply irritating. There’s Haru’s best friend, who is cut from the “hapless supportive bro” cloth even as he’s introduced juggling girls from multiple other schools without their knowledge. There’s the trio of fanboys who follow Kuroha around and long to beat up Haru for stealing the attentions of their “older loli.” There’s the stubbornly Dutch-angled camera that insists on framing scenes like they’re the introductory CG of a visual novel. And there’s the fact that the main cast is named after Fire Emblem characters. That’s not an archetype of the genre (unless you count the plethora of high school AUs out there), I just haven’t been able to get it out of my mind and I want you to suffer with me.
What’s worse is that those annoying bits of fluff are covering up a few halfway decent scenes where characters actually talk to one another. Haru is pretty good about quickly owning up to it when he’s being unfair or a jerk, especially to Kuroha. And despite his terrible taste in friends, he seems generally like a shy, okay kid. The quiet scene he and Kuroha share on the riverbank has a pleasant quietness that actually sold me on why they would work as a couple through their interactions. When it stops trying to be loud and Anime™, I was able to get into it a bit. Then again, I said the same thing about The Day I Became a God, and look where that ended up.
As if just to scold me for hoping, the episode promptly took that nice moment and threw it out the window. I buy Haru, an impulsive teen, being goaded into wallowing in his hurt. I get Kuroha encouraging those feelings as part of a long game to spend more time with her friend/crush. But there’s a layer of unpleasantness on top of the proceedings that’s almost uncomfortably nasty. The two of them are dunking hard on Kachi for the high crime of not knowing that a dude who’s been nice to her in the past was secretly interested in her, with Kuroha (who also states that she’s always hated Kachi, because of course) going so far as to insist Kachi must have known and just been stringing Haru along to feel better about herself.
Sure, it could easily be coming from the characters’ inexperience, but it’s also close enough to charges I’ve frequently heard levied at female characters’ feet without irony, primo Nice Guy rhetoric put into the mouth of the seemingly-worldly female character in order to give it more weight. And the attack of the archetype brigade hadn’t imbued me with the necessary confidence that the show planned on unpacking these ideas rather than just rolling with them.
To make an especially cruel comparison, masterwork of hetero school rom-coms Toradora! spent half of its first episode leaning hard into tropes that were popular at the time—and then ended on a quiet, raw scene of the two leads venting their frustration at the archetypes that people thrust on them. It spent its time wisely between setup and examination. Osamake yo-yos back and forth constantly, such that the moments I appreciated—Kachi’s best friend has a really cute pudgy design! Kuroha and Haru have a “forward girl/shy boy” dynamic I’d like to see more of!—got drowned out by the surrounding irritation. It’s also, on a pure technical level, consistently irritating to see the long strings of onscreen flavor text that usually do little but regurgitate a recent line of dialogue.
In a weaker season, I might be tempted to give this three episodes to get itself together. But this spring is absolutely packed to the gills with quality, so unless you’re a hardcore romance buff, maybe give it a miss.