I could just give this a one word review, in the words of Homer Simpson:
But I think I, Michael, owe you a little more explanation. So here it goes.
The only reason I was remotely interested in this show was because its director, Kenichi Kasai, was also the director of two of the finest shows ever to grace the slice-of-life genre–Honey and Clover and Nodame Cantabile. The material he had to work with wasn’t promising; this is based on a dating sim, like too many animes these days. Could he make some magic and spin straw into gold and redeem the source material?
I get the feeling he tried. There’s no way to eliminate the standard harem character introductions, but Kasai at least managed to make them relatively subdued. Nobody has that annoying squeaky voice, for instance. There are three actual males of consequence, for once. Mao is actually a kinda likable, though not terribly original character. Because she is the childhood friend and “oneesan” type, she is of course never going to win the sweepstakes. Oh well.
It’s just that, by eliminating the more over-the-top elements of the harem genre, there’s not much else left. It’s just…boring. Things happen but I have a hard time caring too much. The male characters are generic, as are most of the girls aside from Mao. Most of the humor is either bland or predictable, like “misunderstood noises behind a closed bedroom door” type gags. There are lots of girls but few are memorable, with the exception of Stoic Girl (wait till she starts carrying a sword and a sporting a miko outfit), who–reminiscent of the end of episode 1 of School Days–kisses a guy she barely knows. Though in this case, unlike with Sekai in that aforementioned genre-buster of a show, her deviousness is obvious from the start.
The art is also very generic, though I like Mao’s hair and face; out of any of the characters, she looks most like a Honey and Clover one. The resemblances end there, though. The visual similarities between Honey and Clover and Nodame Cantabile turned out to be more coincidental than a directorial trademark. Even the signature next-episode-clips-in-the-credits wasn’t done. This feels, honestly, like “pay the bills” kind of work for him. JC Staff probably told him–“hey, Kasai-san, you free for like 3 months? Here’s your next job.”
It’s probably also a good example of simply being unable to transcend one’s source material without making drastic alterations. I wouldn’t credit the director of the TV show for the brilliance of H&C and Nodame; from what I know, it’s all in the writing of the original mangas.
I’ll watch one more episode probably, though more likely I’ll pass on this one, unless I start hearing word that this gets significantly better.
EDIT, 11:14 PM: commenter “lol” and further research (info in English on this show outside the blogs is rather hard to find, even on Wikipedia) has alerted me to the fact that there is actually a lot of alteration in the show compared to the game already, considering that one male character is now two! I also just remembered that there is in fact a Strong Silent Bishounen who is clearly marked as a love interest for Mao, which is not something one typically sees in a harem show; that could be an interesting relationship in its own right. Moreover, it turns out the game is non-H; as the title implies, the furthest one gets is a kiss. That factor alone might help.
Nevertheless, my overall judgment still stands–I felt bored throughout most of this episode, in ways I wasn’t in the first eps of H&C and Nodame. But I would like to give Kasai the benefit of the doubt. It’s still just a tad too early to make any final judgments, sure. But you can probably see I am rather cynical of the harem adaptation genre and I perhaps ought not to be reviewing these shows anyway…but as I said in my initial disappointment with Lucky Star, I like being proven wrong!