[Review] Fuuka – episodes 1 and 2

Yuu Haruna moves to Tokyo to live with his three sisters when his parents go overseas for work. Before starting he runs into an overbearing girl called Fuuka, who breaks his phone when she thinks he is taking upskirt pictures of her then turns out to be a classmate in his new school.

SPOILERS: discussion of specific scenes and plot points from the first two episodes of Fuuka

I mostly found Fuuka frustrating.

The panty shots, starting <90 seconds in and turning into a running gag? Frustrating.

Yuu looks on in horror as Fuuka throws his phone to the ground, smashing it, while the wind blows her short skirt up to reveal her underwear. Subtitle: "Huh?!"

The frequent misunderstandings, usually ending in the main character’s physical pain or embarrassment? Frustrating.

Fuuka has just smacked Yuu in the face, and Yuu is reeling with his cheek red and swollen. Subtitle: "...total pervert!"

The three sisters, who seem to exist purely to walk around half naked? Frustrating.

Yuu stands in his bedroom doorway yelling at his sisters to leave him alone. Yuu's older sister stands in black lacy pants with only a towel around her neck, while Yuu's younger sister is in a frilly pink bra and pants set.

(By the way, as someone with a lot of siblings, the idea that you would just casually walk around your teenage brother topless feels so squicky to me. I’m pretty familiar with Japanese culture, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t feel squicky to most Japanese people from large families too. Of course Yuu’s sisters are going to feel comfortable dressed down around him, but granny pants and old T-shirts are probably closer to the truth than matching lingerie.)

A point of view shot looking out of the window as a guy in school uniform grabs Fuuka's wrist and she tries to pull away from him.

In my least favourite scene, Yuu sees some guy grabbing Fuuka’s arm and telling her to come with him while she repeatedly refuses. He runs down to intervene, saying the guy should back off since she so obviously doesn’t want to go with him. Also, “You shouldn’t be rough with girls…”

To which the guy laughs and says, “I don’t know if I’d call it rough.”

The guy who was grabbing Fuuka stands in front of her, smiling as he speaks. Subtitle: "I don't know if I'd call it rough."

Why? Because he’s not trying to date her, he’s trying to recruit her! For the track team! And forcibly trying to drag somebody with you is only a problem if you have no intention of sleeping with them, right?

“I don’t know if I’d call that rough,” says the guy grabbing a woman’s wrist and continuing to pull on it long after she’s told him to stop.

See also: “I don’t know if I’d call that racist,” say the college students singing cheerful songs about lynching.

See also: “I don’t know if I’d call that homophobic,” say the kids calling their effeminate classmate slurs and telling him to kill himself on social media.

Anyway, the conversation does not improve.

The guy who had grabbed Fuuka stands next to her with one arm around his shoulder as she looks troubled. Subtitle: "She's what you'd call a thoroughbred."

Turns out Fuuka’s dad is a champion athlete and she has inherited some of his gifts. That makes trying to drag her to a club she doesn’t want to be a part of completely okay, right? Really, it’s her own fault for being talented but not using it. If she didn’t want to be harassed to join the track team, she should have just been untalented! Instead, she has great athletic potential but “goofs off” every day, and that kind of unacceptable display of will must be corrected by any means necessary, apparently.

Fuuka knocks away the hand the guy has around her shoulder, with a displeased expression on her face. Subtitle: "That's my choice, isn't it?"

When he brings up her “goofing off”, Fuuka finally speaks up, knocks the guy’s arm away from her and says, “That’s my choice, isn’t it?” Yes, it is. And that could have been a really great point to reinforce, perhaps through the main character and love interest…?

Not in this anime. Yuu has completely bought into the guy’s reasoning, apologises for the misunderstanding then runs away. He proceeds to berate himself for objecting to the guy’s behaviour without realising Fuuka didn’t actually need help after all. You know, after the guy explained to him that the girl he was grabbing didn’t need any help.

Yuu grabs his head and shouts up at the sky. Subtitle: "I look like such a loser!"

Alternative version of events: Yuu tells the guy that grabbing someone to get them to do things is never okay, and/or Yuu asks Fuuka straight out if she needs his help, and/or Yuu gives Fuuka some excuse she can use to get away from the guy if she wants to, and/or…

There are so many ways this scene could have been more feminist than it is. It reminded me a lot from the scene in yesterday’s Masamune-kun’s Revenge in which one guy apologises to another guy who accepts his apology, even though the action he’s apologising for was violence against a woman.

Yuu walks into his bedroom past a wall with a few posters on it, his eyes closed and face resigned. Subtitle: "Women..."

I don’t use the M word often, but there is an undercurrent of casual misogyny in Fuuka that I didn’t enjoy watching at all. Yuu seems jaded by women, all except his famous and beautiful pop star childhood friend who he’s not actually interacted with for years. She’s okay, I guess. From a distance, anyway. As for his sisters, they seem to fit into various archetypes, all of which fall under the umbrella of “bane of a teenage boy’s life”. There are more interesting things you can do with a male character surrounded by female relatives, but Fuuka goes too often for the easy joke.

I’ve seen some praise of Fuuka’s assertiveness, but I actually found it uncomfortable to watch. There is a difference between “Let me buy you a drink!” and “You should buy me a drink!” and Fuuka’s assertiveness with Yuu  is more of the latter. For most of the characters, there is a pattern of invading personal space and disregarding someone’s wishes until you get your way. That someone is usually Yuu, the bland, put-upon everyman in the middle of it. Women…

Fuuka stands in casual clothes on something to raise her above a surprised crowd, as she shouts at the top of her voice.

Fuuka initially struck me as a manic pixie dream girl for the quiet, smartphone-reliant Yuu, showing him such 21st century eccentricities as “not owning a mobile phone”, “listening to CDs” and “using violence as a first resort in any situation”. Quirky. However, it looks more like the opposite is closer to the truth, as Fuuka is actually going through her own struggle to find a direction in life and it makes sense for the person to help her find it to be Yuu’s successful and career-driven childhood friend Koyuki.

…Just kidding, it’s obviously Yuu.

If you’re picking up hints of a love triangle, by the way, you would be right. Love triangles are not my favourite thing, and as Fuuka is a fan of Koyuki’s it’s likely to be particularly painful. It could potentially focus on a more complicated relationship between three people who all like, respect and envy each other in different ways, but the cliches they’ve packed in so far don’t inspire me with confidence that they’ll stray far from the beaten path of standard love triangle tropes.

Yuu and Fuuka are walking home together at night in casual clothes, Fuuka laughing and Yuu smiling as he watches her, a slight blush on both their cheeks.

That all said… the second episode was definitely an improvement on the first. Pulling back Fuuka’s violence, introducing a gay character and bringing Koyuki into the mix all helped. Once you tone Fuuka down from aggressively quirky to just dynamic and pushy, she becomes both more likeable and more relatable. Showing Yuu actually connecting with and appreciating Fuuka does the same for him. Moments in both Fuuka and Koyuki’s behaviour resonated with my own teenage memories, and the more Yuu and Fuuka seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company the more promising the show becomes.

At its best, this will be a cute story of plausible portrayals of teenage love and friendship between characters who become more engaging as they are fleshed out. At its worst, it will be a string of overly mined tropes. Chances are it will be somewhere in between, leaning heavily on tired cliches with flashes of quality to remind you what it could have been.

Like I said. Frustrating.

Read the ANN Preview Guide review.

 

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  • Im Worls

    Fuuka anime actually angers me reason for this is simply the straying from the manga and the sort of prequel suzuka. I dont understand how blind people have to be to make an anime so very different from its manga and how the art style of suzuka anime was able to follow the art style just fine. I hate seeing manga i like turn into horrble anime