Content Warning: Mild fanservice
What’s it about? High school freshman Aijo Rentaro has been rejected by 100 girls. His incredible bad luck with women, however, is about to end as God himself promised him that he will meet 100 soulmates in high school. Running into two of them on the first day of school, Karane is the sweetest tsundere while Hakari is bodacious. Rentaro feels torn on which one to date, but then god tells him a major caveat: finding a soulmate is the luckiest thing a girl can do in life; rejecting her means she will die. Ultimate wife-guy Rentaro can’t let either girl die, they’re both too good! He will just have to date them both.
On the surface, The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, REALLY Love You seems like exactly the harem trash everyone loves to rag on.
“This is just another harem anime that teases male fantasies!” you might say, and you’re right. Hakari is nearly tripping over herself to get at Rentaro while Karane shrieks out the world’s most tsundere lines about how she’s really, really, really, really, REALLY not actually into him.
There’s a low angle shot of Hakari’s skirt revealing she has a distinct mole on her inner thigh and Rentaro thinks of the two girls clinging to him like two naked cicadas on a telephone pole. But this isn’t what sells the show.
No, what really sells The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, REALLY Love You is that it puts the comedy in rom-com front and center as it unleashes a multi-joke-a-minute barrage of wordplay and sight gags that even the showrunners know is pushing their limit.
Absurd one-liners get dropped one after another. Rentaro spends four hours looking for a teacher’s dropped contact lens. The God of Love accidentally assigned him 100 soulmates because he was watching Castle in the Sky for the first time and was blown away by the ending. Most of the jokes are ephemeral and once a bit is done it moves on (except, weirdly enough, the fact his four-hour search for a dropped contact lens was very important), but the show knows to slow down and focus on what’s important so the important story beats hit home.
And it’s through these core story beats we immediately recognize who Rentaro, Hakari and Karane are as characters. In a show that will presumably one day maybe have 101 principal characters, The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, REALLY Love You really needs to “get to the point” quickly for everyone involved or this will end up longer than Logistics (2012).
The characters are paper thin, but that’s fine. There is a schtick to this show and the showrunners handle it very well. I’m not here for deep emotional connections or a riveting drama here, and what’s important for me is whether I was laughing or not; I was, indeed, laughing.
Writing a harem comedy might seem easy on its surface, because you might figure there are certain tropes to follow. “You gotta make the protagonist feel flustered.” “The girls need to be catty with each other.” “Horny jokes!” But what The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, REALLY Love You doesn’t do is fall back on stereotype.
Karane is a tsundere, but the fact she’s so head-over-heels in love with Rentaro means she’s flubbing her schtick. Hakari wants to be coy and do an indirect kiss with Rentaro, but he foils her by being too well-prepared; she still pushes on to try for the indirect kiss by any means necessary. There’s a reversi joke that comes out of left field. The jokes feel familiar, but it’s not fucking 2001 anymore.
What’s more, I’ve seen shows couched in polyamory before, but few shows handle the topic ethically because monogamy is so ingrained into cishet society that it presumes polyamory is a scandalous thing to do. While The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, REALLY Love You still has some hesitancy from Karane, Rentaro’s open confession to date both of them from the get-go makes this one of the healthiest depictions of polyamory to date in an anime.
What’s more, the ending relays a positive tone on what’s to come as far as the polycule shenanigans go. This being a show about 100 girlfriends (although the manga is still only up to like 25 girlfriends), it’s gratifying to see a well-functioning polycule that’s built on friendship rather than rivalry for the lone dick. Jealousy is normal among lovers at times, and polycules don’t necessarily require all of its members to be BFFs, but it seems we might avoid those pitfalls here.
And part of why the show can ignore the whole “girls fight over Rentaro” bit in The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, REALLY Love You is because Rentaro isn’t hiding behind will-they-won’t-they pussyfooting that stretched out a premise for 30-some-odd volumes. No, Rentaro loves these girls and he’s trying to be the perfect wife guy to them both, and I assume (and kinda know from reading the manga) that he’s going to continue to do this for all of the women in his life, no matter the cost.
This show is what some might consider, “Chiaki-Core.” I was going to watch it regardless of whether it was good or not. All I can tell you, dear reader, is that you should also watch The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, REALLY Love You too.