Anime: Real Girl
Season aired: Spring 2018
Number of episodes: 12
Genres: Romance, Comedy
Thoughts: Spring 2018 had its fair share of romance anime, with two actually focusing on otaku love stories. Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku is the more popular and more celebrated anime, and Real Girl is the relatively unseen second one.
Animated by Hoods Entertainment, Real Girl is an adaptation of a josei manga by the same name. The story focuses on Hikari Tsutsui, an otaku who basically has a single friend in school and avoids communication with everyone else. After being late for class one day, he is forced to help clean the school pool as punishment with Iroha Igarashi, a girl who is the complete opposite of him – brash, loved by boys, and unafraid to speak her mind. Their lives become entangled with each other after that fateful day.
It’s a story that has a lot of potential, but it ultimately falls flat. Its heavy potential lies in the fact that it is actually the male protagonist who has low self-esteem and shies away from romance, while the female protagonist is confident and jumps around relationships like a player, switching the gender roles that are usually found in anime. However, the story quickly became a dead end with its overuse of other annoying tropes such as miscommunication, love triangles, and subpar supporting characters that are only used to make commentary or to force the romance to go a little faster. In the end, what started as a different plot became wholly predictable as the episodes continued.
There is also a huge lack of character development. Though we do eventually see Tsutsui gain confidence, it is at such a snail’s pace that it makes other romance anime look like hares. There is also a lack of exploration of character backstory for Igarashi. Even though the anime made multiple hints of some dark, sinister reason, we never do find out any more information on what made her into such a wild girl who would kiss any boy who wanted to kiss. We eventually do see the buildup of how Tsutsui became so lonely in high school, but its reveal was nothing short of lackluster as his narration makes the audience believe it was something worse, like Hinata’s bullying in March Comes in like a Lion, than it actually ended up being.
The comedic elements and jokes are honestly not very funny. There are only brief moments where I found myself smiling at something funny that happened, and it actually involved the supporting characters more than the actual main characters, which is just another big indication on how much the plotline lacks. The pacing is also extremely off, where the plot is forced to happen in the first three episodes and then immediately backs away to add in all the unnecessary miscommunication conflicts. I cannot help but wonder whether the actual source material suffered with terrible pacing or whether Hoods Entertainment simply made a bad adaptation.
Hoods Entertainment is already infamous in the anime fandom for lacking the necessary budget to even finish animating one of its Winter 2018 anime, Marchen Madchen, but its work on Real Girl once again seems to emphasize the struggling production company. Though the company did manage to completely animate the series, there are very obvious dips in quality that occurs in several separate episodes. So bad were the scenes that any screenshot could have either left the audience in tears from cringe or laughter.
However, it is unfair to say that there is nothing to celebrate in the anime. The voice acting is actually really well done, and I think all the voice actors are well casted for their respective characters. Newcomer Teppei Uenishi does a really good job as the unsure, stuttering otaku, Tsutsui, and he consistently got better as the episodes came out. Seiyuu Award winner Yuu Serizawa has the perfect smooth tone and girlish voice for the much more confident Iroha Igarashi. I personally think Minami Tsuda is the best casted voice actor as her role of Arisa Ishino, the blunt yet helpful friend who eventually is responsible for dispersing the many conflicts and misunderstandings that would arise in the plotline. She would switch her voice from serious and condescending to cute and flirty in a second, just as quickly as Ishino would in the anime.
The soundtrack also fits the anime’s romantic and comedic atmosphere really well. The opening song is very cute, and the ending song is very sweet to listen to. The background score always complemented and elevated the scenes and never at any point seemed to tear the viewer away from what was happening on screen.
The plot does eventually start to pick up after Tsutsui receives his much needed character development. Unfortunately, it occurs too late in the anime to make up for the slow beginning. As a result, I personally do not recommend Real Girl. It’s a generic love story that follows the typical romantic formula with nothing new to really provide for the audience. Even worse, the series ends abruptly. The last two episodes introduce a new obstacle to Tsutsui and Iroha’s relationship in the form of Iroha’s younger brother. That literally left only 40 minutes for the series to even address the problem. What resulted was a half-resolved situation and end to the entire series, leaving the audience with basically no satisfaction and closure aside from cute moments between the main couple.
I am planning to rate all my anime based on the anime rating system that Japanese anime critics use. I will have 5 categories, each with the top score of 10, and then a final multiplier of 2.
Voice acting: 8
FINAL SCORE: 62