Just a day in the life of a romcom protagonist.
Between Ore Monogatari, WORKING!!!, Akagami no Shirayukihime and more, fans of romance (and romantic comedies) have had a good run as of late. But if you didn’t watch Jitsu wa Watashi wa, you may be missing out on a little gem in its own right.
The first thing you’ll notice about Jitsu wa Watashi wa is the art, and it might make you balk. I’ve heard it described as “ugly-cute,” though I feel that applies much more to the manga than it does to the anime, where the character designs were softened to bring them closer in line to the anime norm (while still retaining some of its charm). Predictably, not all manga readers are enthusiastic about this choice, but being the perennially anime-only viewer that I am, I enjoyed them. It reminds me of Majimoji Rurumo—once you get past the unfamiliar art style, you’ll find that there’s a worthy story beneath. After all, these series got greenlighted even though their producers and studios had to know their unfamiliar art styles would impact sales. They had a harder hill to climb.
The premise isn’t anything special. The male lead, Kuromine Asahi, is a nice guy, but what romantic comedy/harem protagonist isn’t? As Alec Baldwin would say, “Nice guy? I don’t give a shit.” (Name that reference without googling it, people.) His only attribute that initially stands out is his inability to keep a secret, in a series that is going to explicitly force him to keep a secret. Which can be a lot of fun in practice, but I understand if it doesn’t exactly light one’s imagination on fire. Similarly, all the girls around him are vampires, aliens, wear talking glasses, are a wolfman, etc. It’s MonMusu where the monsters mostly look (or are) human, so it’s not tickling the same itch.
Where I enjoyed it was the execution. Primarily in the comedy, which is where I remind you of something—comedy is subjective. It’s far more subjective than drama. It’s laugh or don’t laugh, so if you watched some of Jitsu wa Watashi wa and didn’t laugh, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong, or I’m wrong to have enjoyed it. Some comedy is demonstrably better than other comedy (Louis CK is going to get laughs much more reliably than some newbie scrub stand-up comedian), but if you laugh, it’s funny to you. If you don’t, it isn’t. End of story.
And I found this series funny. Especially when the whole cast got together—by the time Shishido Shiho was flitting around in her perverted way, the alien Class Rep was also hitting her comedic stride. It also took a few episodes for Asahi’s childhood friend, the “Heathen Queen” Akemi Mikan, to mellow out. ‘Cause yeah, her first episode? Cringeworthy. But once she mellowed out, she was revealed to actually be a nice person, and contributed to the comedy as well. Then there’s Akane-chan and Koumoto-sensei, who were pretty much hilarious every time they were on screen! Episodes like the world-ends-if-Aizawa-doesn’t-make-Akane-a-cake were laugh out loud hilarious.
The romance was solid too. It’s clear that, over the course of the season, progress has been made—Shiragami has begun to realize her feelings, Aizawa has absolutely realized her own, and Mikan, whose known she likes Asashi for a while now, softens into a nicer character. What I especially appreciated is that, like in shows like Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, they gave everyone a reason why the relationships weren’t developing faster, so they all shared the “blame.” Asahi is a wuss, but Shiragami is dense, Aizawa is in open denial until she realizes a love triangle has developed, and Mikan has been holding back the whole time. I still want them to get over it and progress, but when it’s everybody’s fault, it’s harder to zero in on one person and go, “Her. Yoko Ono did it. Let’s all agree to hate her.” There’s no Ichika here.
Then there’s perhaps my favorite part of the series—Asahi’s friends. Okada, Sakurada, and Shimada—I’ll say their names, since they don’t get enough credit. In the very first episode, when they were so supportive of Asahi (even as they assumed he would get shot down again), it gave me the full-on warm and fuzzies. Fiction is fantasy, even when it doesn’t contain “typical” fantasy elements, and one of my favorite fantasies is the friendships we all wish we had, or could keep forever. High school (& college in Western media) is lionized for a lot of silly reasons (in my opinion), but one I absolutely get behind is the friendships. That’s the last time everybody is about the same age and at about the same life stage, which makes the friendships much closer. Whenever Asahi and his friends were on screen, the series shone.
I won’t throw around claims like “AOTS” or “AOTY!” This is a romantic comedy, firmly within the traditions of its genre, so I can’t say it’s anything earth shattering, and you might not even like it if the comedy doesn’t hit home. But it was one of the shows that I watched religiously every week, when I’m more of a marathoner by nature. I couldn’t wait for new episodes to come out. Whether that’s because I enjoyed it that much or just because it went down smooth, I couldn’t say. But I did enjoy the series a lot.
P.S. The OP and ED rocked.
My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel novella. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: My best content is in email, My morning routine, True Ends, and Rejection, the secret place, & fundamentals