OP: 「for…」 by Aida Rikako
「戦う乙女」 (Tatakau Otome)
“The Fighting Maiden”
The first episode of Val x Love harkens back to the kinder time-period of the early 2010s when the wondrous ecchi harem battle genre was at its apex. What helps support Val x Love as a formidable anime is that its nestled between the humorous set-up of a withdrawn misanthrope being forced to stay with a group of sisters and the fanservice that uses skinship as a means of powering up. When placed together, it makes for a soft, ample, and welcoming premiere that might just be your guilty pleasure for the Fall season.
Far from being your standard bland harem protagonist, Akutsu Takuma (Hirose Yuuya) is a hilarious lead because of his predicament. Due to his scary appearance, he’s chosen not to associate with people around him, going so far as to focusing entirely on his studies. Although he’s largely sympathetic because of the unfair hand he was dealt by looking intimidating and losing his mother, I burst out in laughter when one student named Yamada flung himself out of a window because he’s frightened of Akutsu. Even though his Val x Love Wiki page doesn’t discuss him in the past tense and says he has a tendency of jumping out of windows, there are no updates on Yamada’s survival in this episode. He just leaps two or three stories out of his classroom. It’s absurd, but it was at that point where I knew I’d have a fonder impression of the anime than I thought I would. At this point in time, it’s amusing to see how much he recoils about the idea of needing to hold back his discontent with his home’s new residents. But nonetheless, Akutsu’s sympathetic background of being an avoidant student who learns to relate to humanity through his closer interactions with the Saotome sisters makes him a rewarding character to cheer for.
Despite the lack of over-the-top fanservice in the premiere, it is nice to follow the Saotome sisters as well because the ones introduced have fun and vibrant personalities. Natsuki (Hondo Kaede) might indulge in some of the more overbearing harem lead tropes as the volatile and angry popular girl, but she is seen as more bearable later on when she grows comfortable with being around Akutsu. Of the sisters introduced, I’m partial to Itsuyo (Kakuma Ai), who bucks the dignified and refined veneer of your standard student council president by being the most forward about her ulterior motive towards getting as close as she can towards Akutsu. Another stand-out sister in this episode was Futaba (Hara Yumi), the motherly sister who finds a way to push Akutsu towards letting them stay in his house, having him study with Natsuki and getting him to walk to the store with her whilst holding hands. There is an illusive and harsher sister who makes a short appearance named Ichika (Uchiyama Yumi), but unfortunately, the most screentime she gets in this episode is in the ED. Overall, Val x Love is visual comfort food that might be an acquired taste based on your personal appreciation of lewd harem battle anime, but it is a guilty pleasure that is appealing and has a fun sense of humor. If you’re looking for an ecchi anime this season, Val x Love is your best bet.
ED: 「UP-DATE × PLEASE!!!」 by Hondo Kaede, Kawase Maki, Uchiyama Yumi