What’s it about? Ever since he was little, people have been scared of Akutsu Takuma’s imposing looks. Takuma insists he’s just fine with this, and would love nothing more than to commit himself to his studies. The problem is that his house has been invaded by the Saotome sisters, nine Valkyries who gain strength by falling in love with their wielder: him!
Content Warning: NSFW screenshots.
It’s been a while since a premiere has so systematically robbed me of every gesture of optimism I tried to offer it.
“Love is the source of a maiden’s power,” this premiere opens, and my internal bar set itself just a little bit lower. Nothing like having a show about female fighters frame their abilities in terms of their (presumably) heterosexual relationship.
“But wait!” cried the tiny voice of hope in my brain. “Didn’t Kaguya-sama turn out to be a pretty great comedy, despite having a mostly-tongue-in-cheek heteronormative start?”
Reassured that sometimes things are good, I resolved to give the show more time to win me over.
Its establishing gambit was to open on a classroom of two background male students commenting on the assets of three of the girls in their school while one of them, probable Main Girl Natsuki, sits within earshot and also gets comedically felt up by her female friend.
But then Takuma got one of those dudes to jump out a window just by existing, and I smiled a little bit. Hope: sustained.
After a brief spate of Sad Backstory establishing Takuma as the angsty version of Top-Tier Good Boy Takeo, Takuma returns to the tragically large and empty traditional home left to him by his mother. While waxing poetic about how he likes a quiet life, he opens the door to find the three girls mentioned earlier in mid-compromising position, boobly bits hanging aaaaall the way out.
My brain snapped back so hard to Love Hina that I think I am still recovering from a tiny aneurism, even before Natsuki started to smack the shit out of Takuma for doing absolutely nothing but apologize and try his hardest to leave.
Listen, I’m not going to pretend I didn’t read all fifteen volumes of the Love Hina manga or watch all of the anime and two movies. People did a lot of regrettable things in the 2000s. Drew Barrymore agreed to marry Tom Green! But there is a much, much wider selection of quality anime and manga available these days. You don’t have to do this. I don’t have to do this.
Except I do have to. Because this is my job. It is my job to watch this generally pretty inoffensive meat-man try to retrieve his eraser from Natsuki’s crotch by sneaking under the table rather than just asking her for it, because his brain has been eaten by harem worms. And to discover that some fiction still thinks “physical violence as a trade-off for accidental panty shots” is a tool that will make me want to root for a couple, instead of just being, you know, physical abuse.
Also all of these women are here trying to get into Takuma’s pants not because they like him specifically, but because their dad told them Takuma was the winner of the Fuckability Lottery. Don’t love that.
“Fine. Fine,” said I, making my notes. “It’s a throwback harem anime mixed with a Magical Girlfriend series, where she’s actually the interesting one but he has to be there to give her a power-up. Fate still makes a lot of money, so I guess those are never going away. At least if I kind of squint I can see how this is leading up to her learning to protect him rather than him protecting her, and it’ll be sweet or something.”
Little did I know that as my back was turned, the show was gearing up for one last turbo-kick to my pancreas.
So, after Natsuki has stripped to her underwear on the battlefield and had Takuma feel her up… sorry, that sentence gives him too much agency in this, let me rephrase: after she’s placed Takuma’s hand in the vicinity of her naked nipples and plants one on his gormless face, Natsuki powers up and wins the fight. Going through the hallmarks of coupledom apparently allows a fighter to “level up.” Even if it’s just going through the motions and the other party seems completely baffled by what is happening.
There’s some kind of commentary to be made about the genre there.
But when that’s all over, we learn in fact that this isn’t about Natsuki’s journey at all. No, no. Takuma is the chosen one. Papa Odin came to him and was like “Yo, I need you to save the world, don’t worry, I’ll send you some weapons.” And those weapons are his nine living, sentient daughters, all of whom are now bound to get their bone on with this guy regardless of their own agency and desires.
They are literal objects for his world-saving mission, even if it’s one they’re currently dragging him into kicking and screaming. Every worst suspicion I had from the opening minutes was confirmed in triplet by the time the credits rolled.
In conclusion, I’m starting to think optimism is a hoax.
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