OP: 「恋のうた 」 (Koi no Uta) by (Kitaou Akari)
So we come to the first premiere of the fall for a series I really have high expectations for, Tonikaku Cawaii. I’ve read some of the manga, by Hayate no Gotoku mangaka Hata Kenjirou, and it’s really a winning series. Not especially groundbreaking or challenging, but a smartly written romcom that manages to avoid most of the pitfalls that often trip up the genre. I don’t see masterpiece potential here by any means, but with so few really good prospects in anime these days even one dropping the ball would be a disaster.
So far, so good. Tonikaku Cawaii is not a series that strikes me as needing a lot of brilliance from an adaptation, just competence. The staff at Seven Arcs is very experienced if relatively undistinguished, and they do fine with the first episode. It’s a bit slow in the development but that’s faithful to the original. Incidentally, while you will often see this series Romanized as Tonikaku Kawaii – and “kawaii” is the normal Romanization for “cute” – the author and editor expressly chose the spelling “Cawaii” so that’s what I’m going with.
The protagonist here is Yuzaki Nasa (Enoki Junya), who we meet as a lad of 15 in his third year of middle school. I’m with Nasa-kun – parents giving kids weird names to indulge their own whimsy should be a felony offense. Nasa’s name contains the Kanji for “starry sky” and would normally be read as “Hoshizora” (far more normal). Nasa responds to a childhood of people seeing his name and giggling by being an overachiever, trying to outperform his namesake (which isn’t as hard as it used to be). He’s a driven kid, with plans to make his way into an elite high school, but all that is derailed when he becomes smitten with a girl he sees on a snowy night and follows across the street – right into the path of truck-kun. And there’s no winning against truck-kun…
It’s pretty clear that in addition to being generally cute (that’s the rough translation of the title) there’s something odd about this girl (Kitou Akari). In the first place, she steps in front of the truck to shield Nasa from most (not all) of the damage, and walks away seemingly unhurt. After the mangled Nasa staggers away from the scene (and a horrified Kuroneko driver) after her, tracking her down at a bus stop, she expresses concern that the boy might die once the adrenaline of the moment wears off. After that, she responds to his confession by telling him that she’ll agree to date Nasa – if he marries her.
Three years later, Nasa (who was in a coma for months after the accident) is directionless – working a service job and living in a tiny apartment, lacking motivation to pursue any goals in life. One night the doorbell rings, and it’s none other than the girl herself – whose name is Tsukasa, though in his mind Nasa has conflated her with the Princess Kaguya from Taketori Monogatari. She bears a marriage certificate and a permission slip (she’s 16) and seems surprised that Nasa is surprised to see her. But smitten is smitten, and soon enough Nasa whips out his inkan (get your mind out of the gutter) and events are moving full speed ahead.
The main couple getting married (incredibly easy in Japan, really) in the premiere is certainly unorthodox for a romcom manga, but Tonikaku Cawaii’s asks a lot more questions than it answers. Nasa may be so in love that he’s happy to play along and worry about the details later, but I don’t think we as the audience are expected to. Tsukasa is obviously not a normal person, that’s certain – both her physiology and her perspective show serious signs of being rather alien. But there are no signs that she bears any ill will towards Nasa (though she seems disinclined to share a single mattress on their wedding night).
Tonikaku Cawaii is a bit of a slow burn by modern anime standards. And indeed, I think Hata-sensei’s writing style is more typical of an earlier time in manga and especially anime, which makes this show feel quite old-school in demeanor. For me it’s a real charmer, though – the main couple is very likeable, and it’s altogether less snarky and punchline-driven than most romance anime are these days. I have no idea how long this adaptation is going to be – I’m suspecting one cour – and with the manga ongoing and still quite new, I’m not expecting a comprehensive telling here. But this is the sort of series that’s very enjoyable in the moment, if you let yourself be swept up in its charms.
ED: 「月と星空」 (Tsuki no Hoshizora) by (KanoeRana)