Random Curiosity

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Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – Defying Categorization


I am the bone of my sword.

It’s hard to put Inou Battle in a box, because it refuses to go into one. Slice-of-life, probably, and harem and comedy too, but what of the drama, the heartfelt feelings, or the surprisingly brutal turn at the end? It’s hard to define, but one thing’s for sure: It was entertaining all the way through.

Slice-of-Life In Spite of Its Premise

The premise is a solid one. “A bunch of high schoolers get supernatural powers, and then … continue with their everyday lives.” The tendency of stories is that, when the main characters have awesome powers for whatever reason, they’re going to do something awesome with them … I should know, I wrote a book that did exactly that. And that’s a trope for a reason, because it works damn well. But Inou Battle subverted that, and in doing so carved itself out a niche that immediately grabs attention.

That it was able to resist ever becoming an action show, even when it occasionally indulged in action bits, was to its credit; it kept it from losing what made it unique. The superpowers weren’t the sum total of these characters, but merely an aspect of them, as was explicitly noted in the ending narration by Tomoyo in the final episode:

“We might have special powers that normal students don’t, but everyone has something that’s a bit different from others, right? But we still worry, get angry, and laugh like normal, and spend similar yet slightly different days together.”

Superpowers are the selling point, and they keep the characters together, but it’s the characters themselves that hold up the show. Their superpowers are just one small part of them. When I get to the end and realize there were whole episodes at a time where Chifuyu, Hatoko, and everyone else didn’t use their powers at all, it becomes even clearer.

Building a Harem Without Becoming a Harem Show

Calling something a harem show has a very specific connotation, and that’s another thing Inou Battle avoids. In the (by the end) six different girls and their growing feelings for Andou, it never turned into Infinite Stratos or High School DxD. It reminds me of Log Horizon, where one day you realize that Shiroe has three women interested in him, and three makes a harem … but it’s still not a harem show. Even when the harem is more of the focus, like it is here, I think it avoids becoming a “harem show” because it paid attention to every character to such a degree that it wasn’t about Andou and his harem, but about Andou, Tomoyo, Hatoko, Sayumi, Chifuyu, Kudou-san, Kuki, and all the others. It’s not about Andou’s haremettes, but about the girls’ feelings … who just all happen to be directed at the same guy.

To evoke another of my favorites, consider Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo. Even when it became clear that Mashiro and Nanami were both vying for Sorata’s heart, it never felt like “Oh, that lucky dog. He has two girls.” No, it was about Sorata’s feelings, and Nanami’s feelings, and Mashiro’s feelings, and how they intersect and would become resolved. There’s a certain amount of respect for the characters in all of these examples that prevent them from becoming harem shows, even when ostensible harems develop.

Seriously Not Serious

But the most delicate trick was in the tone. Somehow Inou Battle managed to throw out some surprisingly dramatic moments without making it feel at odds with it’s usual light tone. I think it’s resistance to classification earns the credit again—because it never sat comfortably in the mind as a “slice-of-life show,” when deeper things happened, it didn’t jar. Still the best moment of the series was undoubtedly Hatoko’s explosion in episodes seven. It was so well-paced, well-direction, and filled with emotion as to make it uncomfortable to watch. The good kind of uncomfortable—the type that makes you realize it’s speaking to something true. But this last episode did it as well, when they used a flippin’ guillotine not once, but twice. Because Inou Battle refused to tell us why Andou promised to not use his evolved power for so long, when it finally came around, I was so curious … and wow. Shock and awe. Mostly shock. I didn’t expect that, and defying expectations is a great way to wow people.

But it never lost its generally carefree air. It remained funny, the characters remained relatable, and it remained upbeat and optimistic throughout. That let the moment of drama stand out, while the rest was a pleasant ride.

Final Words

I haven’t a clue who to suggest Inou Battle to, save to say that I enjoyed it. It defies categorization, but it’s stronger for it, because it doesn’t take shelter (wholly) in any one genre’s tropes. It’s character-driven before all else, it’s optimistic and its core, but it packs a surprising punch. It’s easily in the upper third of shows I watched this season, probably the upper quarter, and it’s one I easily, effortlessly, and enjoyably watched as soon as it came out. I wouldn’t say it changed my life, but I would miss it if I hadn’t seen it.

I wrote a book! My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now! (More info) My personal site has also moved. Last four posts: Interview with Little Red Reviewer, Sneak Peek: Wage Slave Rebellion prologue, Action Politics—a FREE short story, and Wage Slave Rebellion is available NOW!.

December 22, 2014 at 9:20 pm
41 comments »
  • December 22, 2014 at 9:25 pmPhantom

    A definite underdog of the season. While I would not mind a second season, the show stands great on its own with just first season. Gotta hand it to Hayami Saori for the epic speech. Really powerful stuff she pulled out.

    • December 23, 2014 at 5:47 pmKarmafan

      It could have been a much better series, there seemed to be huge holes that got hopped over. That happens when they try to put too much material into one cour. It was fun to watch but could have been better and had a smoother continuity.

  • December 22, 2014 at 9:41 pmRed HeartGold ZX

    DARK AND DARK: OF THE END !!!

  • December 22, 2014 at 9:48 pmrooserloom

    episode 7 was amazing! It had the perfect buildup leading to an outstanding payoff that is the outburst of emotion from hatoko. You could really hear the strain in her voice in that seen.

    That was what sold me on this series to be one of my favorites this season

    • December 22, 2014 at 9:53 pmRed HeartGold ZX

      “Wakanai!Wakanai!Wakanai!”

    • December 23, 2014 at 5:12 amJustpassingby

      Female seiyuu of the year!

  • December 22, 2014 at 10:31 pmstarss

    Now I wish I didn’t drop this anime early on and actually had the time to catch up.

  • December 22, 2014 at 10:53 pmPancakes

    Inou was probably this season’s biggest clusterf*ck label-wise, but somehow it worked. For all of the defiance of categorization the show managed to produced a pretty unique and enjoyable ride. Largest reason for its success IMO is the organic romance; the ubiquitous harem element is present yes, but it never once feels overbearing, hell Andou has to be one of the most levelheaded and tolerable harem “leads” to come out in a while. Top it off with scenes such as Hatoko’s speech and you get a solid show with plenty of pragmatic material to chew on. Only thing that didn’t really work for me was the Fairy War, it seemed out of place, haphazardly inserted, and superflous compared to everything else we got here.

    Overall what Inou reminds me of in a way is Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! The show starts off seemingly about superpowers and chuunibyou before morphing into a SoL/romance hybrid using chuunibyou as the vessel to promote character growth, with Inou’s differentiation being the presence of actual superpowers and a harem theme. Unlike Chu-Shitai though Inou never pushed its romance as the central story and avoided the pitfalls of pandering (the main issue with Chu-Shitai’s second season). Without a doubt Inou should be a contender for black horse of the year for how well it pulled off and integrated what are by now very common plot elements. 8/10.

    • December 23, 2014 at 6:56 pmStilts

      On the Fairy War, a few people mentioned that, and I can see how it would go either way. I like that they justified why they suddenly got superpowers, because without a reason it would be pretty mystifying. I think they were wise to avoid spending too much time on it, though. That’s not the point of the series; it’s just an occasionally interesting counterpoint, as long as it stays occasional.

  • December 22, 2014 at 11:03 pmGoodwill Wright

    Am I the only one who’s glad that Kudou Mirei is once again another option for Andou?

    Anyway, definitely one of my favorite anime this season. This show knows how to disappoint but gives you a nice meal in compensation. Especially loved the scenes where Andou tells Kudou about the false love-letter, Hatoko’s break down and the resolution of the last conflict.

  • December 22, 2014 at 11:07 pmNex

    Unlike seemingly most people, I wasn’t sure what to make of Hatoko’s explosion several episodes ago. Everything worked out just fine, thankfully, but that sudden burst of dramatic dialog was quite a shock, the show had felt very comedic up to that point.

    Though it was probably colored by various novel spoilers I’ve overheard here and there, where Hatoko sounds much less endearing than the anime.

    Regardless, Inou-Battle really was an entertaining, chaotic storm of a show. Andou himself really sold me on everything, his speech about main characters before unlocking Dark and Dark was probably the highlight of the finale for me. Great performance from Okamoto Nobuhiko too, this must have been a fun role.

  • December 23, 2014 at 12:13 amughitslate

    “Defying Categorization”

    the anime itself is confusing, it does not have depth because it wish to branch out on all possibilities, a jack of all trade is horrible thing for an anime. As an audience i do enjoy the show but would not recommend it to anyone, the feeling it give to me is simply something to watch while i wait for other shop. Simply put it a filler in bleach, even if several more episode were added and another season. its really hard to really like all the character, even one is hard enough to capture my interest.

  • December 23, 2014 at 12:18 amnanoed

    Studio TRIGGER really outdid themselves again.

    With Kill la Kill, they showed that they have a styled, outlandish side. With the over the top part of KLK, I wasn’t sure how they were going to do with adapting InouBattle. (Heck, at the time, I wasn’t even sure if InouBattle was good or not!)

    That was me at episode 0. With the final episode, I’m pretty awed. Not sure how TRIGGER felt about adapting this kind of LN, but they certainly had a LOT of fun with it! From KLK references to a new-found TRIGGER style (akin to SHAFT style), they definitely had some fun. And not just that – they also did an amazing job at adapting it. I laughed with the characters; I cried with them too. Sure, there were bumps, but overall it was a great ride.

    Unless anything changes between now and next season, it seems like Studio TRIGGER will be taking a (well deserved) break. Can’t wait to see what they got next!

  • December 23, 2014 at 12:33 amlegwkio

    It is my favorite anime of the season by a country mile.

    Heck, it’s my favorite anime ever!

    Why did it have to end. T_T

  • December 23, 2014 at 12:47 amsosbrigade1991

    I have to say, I was a bit underwhelmed after finishing the first episode. “Oh here we go again, another annoying nerdy guy with a bevy of cliches pining after him”. But honestly something urged me to keep going and I found myself really enjoying every episode. Andou really grew on me and each of the girls really blossomed into their own. All in all I had fun but would have enjoyed had they expanded on the fairy war back story a BIT, but that’s never really what this series has been about. I would thoroughly look forward a season 2.

  • December 23, 2014 at 1:16 amHalfDemonInuyasha

    There’s definitely potential for a second season or, at the very least, a few OVA episodes.

    Bringing up the whole Fairy War and those actually participating in it just makes me too curious to just leave it alone now, and it’s quite clear in the last couple episodes that, whether Andou and co. know anything or not (and if they do learn the truth about the Fairy War, tried to stay out of it), it won’t matter because there will be others who will end up targeting them to forward their own agendas, so the group would probably end up dragged into the conflict one way or another.

    • December 23, 2014 at 2:00 amStilts

      I wouldn’t be so sure. I bet they’ll be dragged into it to a certain degree, but it doesn’t seem their style to get into a bunch of battles. Not after Andou told Chifuyu to never hurt anyone with her powers and all that. It would clash with the message of the series.

    • December 23, 2014 at 4:56 amStripes

      Well a second season or OVA wont be on the table for a while because Trigger is going to be working on that Ninja Slayer anime next

  • December 23, 2014 at 1:51 amaprub

    2nd Season!!!!!!!!!!!

  • December 23, 2014 at 1:56 amkageKun

    Hatoko best girl!

    • December 23, 2014 at 4:04 pmdeVacto

      but osananajimi always got bad record :(
      until now i still hear her rant :(

  • December 23, 2014 at 4:14 amKuntzy

    Haha, it’s funny to see Sakurasou mentioned in this. I had the sudden itch to re-watch that recently. That graduation episode still owned me…

    But enough about Sakurasou, this is an Inou Battle post.

    I can honestly appreciate a good harem male lead. Usually they’re idiots with a heart of gold so it’s really awesome to see characters like Jurai. Pretty much the best harem male lead since Sugisaki Ken. To be honest, I really wouldn’t be surprised at all if the author was a fan of Seitokai no Ichizon.

    My biggest problem coming out of this show, is that I have zero idea what to ship. I love the fact that Tomoyo and Jurai’s past encounter caused them to flip-flop positions because they both inspired the other to change (through both words and feelings). They really do just seem to fit together.

    But then we get to Hatoko. I could go on and on about how much I loved that scene in episode 7, but hooooly crap. Never have I changed my opinion of a character so quickly. Despite being voiced by Hayami Saori, I never really liked her all that much early on. And then she just goes through that rant, listing off all of Jurai’s chuuni fascinations one by one, showing that she wasn’t such an airhead and did take the time to try and understand him but still couldn’t all the while knowing that girl who understands him is “taking” her position. The sheer emotion from that scene was just amazing and, quite frankly, was THE best performance of Hayami Saori’s career.

    So yeah, I love the chemistry of TomoyoxJurai, but I just can’t help wanting to cheer for Hatoko simply because of all the effort she’s putting in. Honestly, there’s a part of me that wishes that the show had more male characters for the other girls simply because it feels like it doesn’t need to be a harem because of how far ahead two of the ships are from the others.

    I just love the fact that despite being a harem, it isn’t using the usual antics of having the girls appeal to the protagonist by seemingly throwing themselves at him and instead getting by simply through their personalities. Hatoko and Jurai’s beach section was probably the best example of this and really felt like the author was sort of satirizing the genre with it.

    • December 23, 2014 at 6:59 pmStilts

      I agree—though the harem aspects worked pretty well, I do wish there were more romantic possibilities around, since I, being a larger fan of the Mass OTP, always love the chance for beta couples.

      And to be fair, I mention Sakurasou all the time, so we’re not hurting for opportunities to talk about it, lol

  • December 23, 2014 at 5:04 amcryarc

    The girls’ feelings is handled in quite realistic fashion, I bet the author really have romantic experiences in his/her life. I’ve read/watch lots of harem troupe’s series but mostly they felt artificial in a way that the author crafted the story purely trough imagination and disregarding life experiences as source of inspirations.

    The strongest contender for me is Hatoko, her jealousy and outburst feels natural. She’s been there the longest; have been trying to understand Andou forever, then suddenly a girl that seemingly taking her position and can understand him much better than her appear… The frustation and stress is a natural progression of event, plus Hayami Saori’s voice acting put the notch up. Even as a guy I could feels her feelings strongly.

    Then Mirai, though she’s only appears briefly at the beginning and the ending, she shows us what happens when a girl’s heart broken. Shortly after the false love letter incident resolved she’s hardly shows up around Andou, event though it’s happening off screen I could imagine that she’s trying to maintain a safe distance a bit from him while still occassionaly in contact. It’s like a lover breaks up but still trying to maintain friendship afterward, it hits home quite close.

    And lastly Tomoyo, the type of girl that’s upgraded from a friend with similar hoby to potential love interest. Her progression fromo a normal friend to crush is handled naturally, and probably the one push the final is Hatoko when she tells Tomoyo that she loves Andou. A pang of jealousy that she probably didn’t even understand started to arise in her mind.

    Unfortunately the other girls is underdwhelmed by those three in my opinion, I likes them but they have low probability of getting Andou’s love.

  • December 23, 2014 at 5:24 amprojectnoa

    One of my favorites this year. Granted, this show does not fit on any box, as stated. Yet I think that it does a great job in each individual facet of itself. Its a good Slice of Life, a good Harem, a great comedy, an interesting supernatural show… it shines in every color.

    Jurai Andou (I like how the name sounds) really represents the ideal MC in this kind of setup. Energetic, optimistic, supporting, understanding, hilarious, friendly, easy going, pragmatic sometimes, and incredibly sharp emotionally with himself and everyone else. I’m usually agains idealized MC, but this one certainly worked… it just worked.

    Each and every girl had their unique merit and traits, yet I could never just classify them into just one role. They never where just this, or just that. They felt compelling, and in the final minutes of the crazy Andou operation, when they just cried I felt moved, as they where just girls who witnessed their dear friend do something so traumatic and just painful for lack of words to protect them and rescue their friend. And all with a smile in his face.

    Finally, let me just say, I don’t like harems. To me it just doesn’t work, its not realistic and always leaves the story in an open ended situation. I feel its just a device for writers to expand the range of characters to “catch” the audience attention with a few different mediocre characterizations instead of one really good one. BUT I think this one kind of worked for me as they didn’t really focused on that aspect much. The girls may have strong compelling feelings for Andou, but most of them may probably grow out of it as life happens to them. I felt this as Andou was talking to Hatoko at the beach and telling her that she is really important to him. that frase might not mean much, but the whole conversation made it clear that he does not see the world in a romantic way. He just really loves her, and all his friends.

    Thanks for the end post Stilts!

    • December 23, 2014 at 5:44 pmTori

      He’s like the antithesis of Kirito where people dislike him cause his character is a mega-level showboat who tends to overshadow the potential brilliance of other interesting characters for the sake of being the accepted awesome character.
      Andou just organically comes into the equation, and his brilliance isn’t showcased simply on its own, but as a result of affection for his friends and helping them deal with their own problems while supplying adequate advice.

      Andou is bae

  • December 23, 2014 at 6:34 amBrian

    I like how “slice-of-life” is the go-to descriptor for animes that can’t be immediately defined (that being said, Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de looks baller.)

  • December 23, 2014 at 9:27 amFabio

    I want a second season… :(

  • December 23, 2014 at 1:33 pmTrap Masters

    This was definitely hands down one of the best series this season had to offer for me, along with Amagi. I just can’t find one episode I didn’t like, and inou battle brought a bit of everything to the table, with romance, comedy, (kind of) harem, some drama, and even a bit of action and it finds that right balance where I felt everything was so well done, there wasn’t an over the top amount of service or focus on the harem it self (as stilts mentioned) but each individual girls’ feeling, some drama that really caught me off guard but I really loved (which didn’t feel out of place!), we got some good chuckles out the comedy aspect and to top it off, we got some badass action going on! I came in not really knowing what to expect, but inou battle has really impressed me and is one of my top rom-com series I have seen!

    Also love how they ended but hinted for a second season if it ever comes around, since the war is still going on, and I would warmly welcome a second season if trigger ever decide to come around with a new season! :)

    PS: really interested in where andou’s friend stand, maybe I missed a bit in the episode, but he seems really mysterious right now. Is he working with F, or is he with tomoyo’s brother?

  • December 23, 2014 at 4:50 pmVoyager

    Wow, all the girls were best girl. Maybe I liked Mirei a bit more (even if she had the least screen time), but truly, it’s quite unusual that I really like all the girls.

    Best nickname, no doubt: Cookie!!

  • December 23, 2014 at 5:40 pmKabble

    Episode 7 had me like: DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYUUUMN
    Seriously wasn’t expecting something so powerful it felt as though I was watching it happen live in the flesh? Holy cow. (Just watched it again) Oh maaaan. Holy lordy lawd.
    Also, everyone needs some Andou in their life…is it fair to be that charming and understanding?
    The fairy war seemed like a stretch…but if it gives me a season 2 I can’t wait.

  • December 23, 2014 at 5:46 pmWakanai

    Easily one of the better SoL/harem/romcom shows I’ve seen in a long time.

  • December 23, 2014 at 6:25 pmchromenova

    I’m glad there’s a post on this on random curiosity, it definitely deserves some attention. Trigger definitely has done something right with this adaptation.

    The one thing I love about this show is how very realistic all our characters are. No one is just a “harem mate” for our main character, but they’re all real people with real feelings of their own. Hatoko’s outburst was very powerful, and I could really see her frustration just pouring out. Also, our MC was amazing, he’s the perfect blend of chunnibyo awesomeness and just being a really cool, understanding guy. At first, I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t as many action sequences as I originally expected, but what I got instead was just as good, if not better.

    I honestly don’t know how I would recommend this show either, but it was a fun ride, with great characters, powerful dramatic moments, and lots of comedy. Definitely one of the better shows this season.

  • December 23, 2014 at 10:37 pmCorin

    This show was easily one that I looked forward to each week, and I think (from what I’ve seen bandied about here and there) that it owes in equal parts to the strengths of the source material and to the studio’s directorial choices.

    The concept is just unusual enough; the characters are just real enough; the developments are just believable enough for the source material to straddle both slice-of-life/harem and supernatural elements while having them work. It’s a refreshing spin on taking all the usual elements and giving each and every one of them just that slight twist, then piecing them together into an interesting and believable whole.

    And then from there, you add a studio that understands the strengths of the source material, and rearranges LN events to, episode after episode, surprise you with something that’s never quite what you expected the next episode to be, yet never in a way that makes you feel like the ski ramp and the sharks are ready and waiting, and which never really made you feel something particularly crucial was missing.

    I would most definitely not be averse to another season of this, if the quality can keep up.

  • December 24, 2014 at 12:58 amOwaranai

    This has been a really fun watch. You’re right to say it defies categorization, though I would probably have compared it to a mix bag of different flavored chocolates – You don’t always know what to expect, but the end result is good. And the magic of it is how the series doesn’t come across as grand, but pure, simple fun with dashes of good drama and friendship themes.

    The only negative that had me frowning is whether they plan to make a sequel or not, and despite the harem aspects of the show, it was never the main focus nor did it butcher Jurai’s personality and character.

    I’m gonna miss the show too, that’s for sure.

  • December 24, 2014 at 10:11 amAki-Chan

    Definitely going to make time to watch this now, even if that means not watching one of the Winter 2015 shows I planned on watching (Death Parade, Ansatsu Kyoshitsu and Kofuku Graffiti). Everything I’ve heard about InouBattle has been really good, and this just seals the deal :) :)

  • December 24, 2014 at 1:35 pmSolaris

    This was nice, I guess. Hatoko’s speech moved mountains with its emotional power. Tomoyo’s fake tsundereness is cute and earth warming. Chifuyu’s innocence is gold and even Cookie is a real sweet cookie. Mirai was going to steal the scene to even Tomoyo (not only superpowers, I mean) and so she was promptly removed from the main cast. Dis I miss somebody? So except from the wonderful chemistry between the main cast everything else felt so little relevant they could have done so well even without any hint at superpowers. Why put something that was not going to be used to its fullest? There are full episodes when there’s actually no need for them, but at a certain time we were told about this enigmatic Fairy Wars. Nice. Finally some real fantasy element in the plot. Nope. It was a fluke. I really hope for a continuation because half of the plot is hanging unresolved, and an open finale like this is something a good show should avoid like hell.

  • December 25, 2014 at 10:31 amHurricaneBlazer

    I gotta say, this anime is one of my favourate. It does not go as expected, but that makes it so unique and fun in my opinion. Favourate moment is gotta be Hatoko’s rant, it sold me immediately and from that point on, I proudly say with other Mirei and Tomoyo’s fan that Hatoko is my my favourate :]

    • December 29, 2014 at 1:08 amWhyWai

      LoL, I just made the exact same comment with you before reading the comment section.

  • December 27, 2014 at 2:25 amThe Last Idiot

    ANDOU’s THIRD LEVEL AWAKENED POWER IS HE BECOMES ACCELERATOR and at 4th, ANGELERATOR—- LOL.

    ever since episode 1, i have already felt that the anime IS SOMETHING and is NOT YOUR USUAL SCHOOL SLICE OF LIFE/COMEDY like the rest to the point i have been keepin on saying that the anime deserves to get blogged even once or thrice just to see the response of wether its good to be continued to be blogged but RC didnt anyway UNTIL AS OUR GOOD WRITER commented in one of blog post, “TOO LATE” — yep its too late.

    i hope that this anime will change our views and our way in deciding what to watch or before saying “this anime sucks”.

    anyway, unlike most adapted anime we have watched, we have no idea as in 0% or so when it comes to its ORIGINAL LN MATERIAL thus it gets dropped that easy because we dont know what lies ahead (and as story goes, most dropped it because of supposedly lack of plot) but TRIGGER still picked the series up and succeeded in surprising us.

    so yep since season 1 ended in such an open way… i cant wait for season 2 (and longer too since 12 episodes is too short which is why the FAIRY WAR plot isn’t focused that much)…

  • December 29, 2014 at 1:07 amWhyWai

    Glad that RC blogged about this show. Definitely one of my favorite show in 2014. The episode with Hatoko’s ranting made her my favorite girl in the show…