What’s it about? Every time Uzaki Hana sees her classmate Sakurai Shinichi on campus, he’s on his own—whether he’s gaming, studying, or taking a nap on a bench. Frustrated by his lack of a social life, Uzaki takes it upon herself to drag her old friend out of his shell.
For some, I’m sure that the premise of this series is a fantasy: the idea of a peppy, cute young woman who has unwavering dedication to your personal betterment, and who will stop at nothing to make sure you’re experiencing life to the fullest instead of staying stuck in your comfort zone. For me, as an introvert, this setup is closer to nightmarish.
Sakurai is, so far as we can figure at this point, just a guy minding his own business. It makes for a stark contrast to Rent-a-Girlfriend, which takes the time to explicitly set up its protagonist as being lonely, upset, and desperate for company. Sakurai? Sakurai seems fine. Sakurai seems like an ordinary guy who happens to be on the introverted side, who prefers his own space and who is living what appears to be a perfectly content and quintessential college existence. But Uzaki is not satisfied with this, and so drags him—literally—into her lifestyle.
He asks her to stop following him, explaining that he’d rather spend the afternoon alone. She starts loudly accusing him of treating her badly, drawing the attention of the students around them—essentially manipulating him into inviting her along so he doesn’t look like a bad boyfriend.
He says that he likes seeing movies on his own. She bursts out laughing and calls him a loser. He pays for her movie ticket with all the points he’s saved up from his solo movie-going. She teases him for seeing so many films as “a loner” that he can get her a free pass.
They go to a baseball arcade. She laughs at him for being bad at it. When she injures herself, he takes care of her, then buys them both dinner. She eats all his chicken and does not apologize.
I feel like the writers have placed Sakurai as the “blank slate” sort of character that the audience is meant to project themselves onto, and they succeeded… with the perhaps unintended consequence that, in empathizing with Sakurai, I could not stand Uzaki. From a personal taste perspective, she is deeply annoying to watch. From a character analysis perspective, she’s an excruciating construction. Her personality thus far consists of “loud” and “has a large bust,” and she essentially spends the entire first episode bullying her love interest.
It does not escape me that if the genders of these characters were reversed, this would be presented as far less “cute”. And there is something that feels insidious about the gag where she makes it appear as though Sakurai is a controlling boyfriend to get what she wants. It’s a small thing in context, maybe, but it furthers the stereotype that women will throw around abuse accusations willy-nilly to gain social capital. The joke where Sakurai accidentally gropes Uzaki’s breast while wearing a VR headset (yeah) is dumb, but the former gag felt gross for a deeper and more sinister reason.
Across their chaotic first hang-out session, the camera occasionally cuts to a cat who is following them around, who is most often looking on with horror. I can only assume the cat is meant to be a sort of Greek Chorus standing in for the reactions of the audience, because it represented my feelings pretty well.
Far be it from me to offer relationship advice in an anime review, but if the person you’re with emotionally manipulates you, actively mocks the things that you enjoy, and repeatedly belittles your comfort zone? That is probably not a sign of a healthy and harmonious romance. For our purposes here, it certainly doesn’t bode well for a healthy and harmonious romantic comedy. The love interests seem fundamentally incompatible, Uzaki is conniving and self-centered, Sakurai swings wildly between “I suppose I’ll tolerate her since she’s cute” and “I want to fling this woman into the sun”, and any sense of sexual/romantic tension between them mostly comes down to him being flustered by the existence of her big bazonkers.
There could be room for improvement ahead. The show hints at a shared backstory between the two, and depicts Uzaki as much less outgoing in the flashback—presenting something of a mystery as to what changed. If your romance dynamic of choice is a Manic Pixie Nightmare Gremlin and the man caught up in her hurricane, you may enjoy the love story to come. I, however, am exhausted after twenty-three minutes of exposure to Uzaki-chan, and do not plan on hanging out with her again.