「未解決で大団円」 (Mikaiketsu de Daidanen)
“Unresolved Grand Finale”
Well I guess that’s all there is going to be for Engage Kiss after all. In way it does make sense, this is only the prequel/advertisement for a forthcoming (mobile) game and other mixed media is likely to follow, but ehh, really? That’s all we got for the grand daddy (mommy?) Asmodeus in the end? We’re going from demonic sister to, well, equally demonic sister in the blink of an eye? And seriously, teasing future shenanigans without so much as a hint of something more? Maybe it’s just me liking how well-paced this show wound up being that I’m sad this is the end (among half-hearted Shuu redemption story), but it’s hard finding noticeable satisfaction in an ending which could’ve been so much more. Alright, enough complaining – it’s final impressions time!
When looking back on Engage Kiss as a whole the word which springs to mind is competence. From the outset this was a show we knew would be derivative and ‘seen it all before’ in some capacity, yet also a show with strong potential courtesy of it coming from the mind of Maruto Fumiaki and being an A-1 Pictures production. In the end such expectations held true, even if the bad arguably balanced out the good.
In terms of positives, without a doubt Engage Kiss’ claim to fame is its characters and character chemistry. Again, likely no surprise given Fumiaki’s writing, but it’s not that easy in practice taking a stereotypical light novel premise and creating complex and interesting characters from it, especially in a harem-lite scenario. Kisara and Ayano are case in point, two harem competitors on the surface, and yet two girls who are both flawed, willing to see and understand the other side, and not wind up hating the other just for the sake of story progression. This yields some frankly hilarious interactions at the start, but it also produces some quite touching moments later on once details are gleaned and conclusions arrived at. Couple it with the likes of Sharon and Mikhail for interaction spice and there’s quite a few slice-of-life shenanigans here to get a kick out of. Even if in the end they only leave you wanting more.
That wanting of more is what directly ties into Engage Kiss’ biggest weakness: Shuu – or shall we say, Shuu’s lack of proper rehabilitation, and by extension the lack of further overall character development. Given how story progression went here, the more viscerally negative aspects of Shuu’s character only came to the fore near the end, leaving little time to both make up for what he did and to give some room to improve his image in the audience’s eyes. It’s not to say Shuu should be absolved or approved of (doubt few would actually argue that), but rather that Engage Kiss seemingly left off right as its story was set to properly begin and further flesh out its cast. Here we are with a slice-of-life setup not unlike an Indexverse arc, only we’re not getting any of those tasty downtime episodes which give the Indexverse and its eclectic characters such staying power. By cutting off now the house making, the harem rivalry, hell even the development of Bayron City itself, all become annoying omissions for something which could’ve certainly been made quite interesting. Again, not to say potential masterpiece material, but a fun popcorn-fuelled romp? Oh most definitely.
Overall while flawed in spots and cutting off too soon for my liking, I cannot say I disliked the time spent watching and covering Engage Kiss. This show was fun, its cast – specifically its female cast – were a blast, and (complaints about lack of second season aside) it featured a well-paced and complete story serving to give reason for all the various character comings and goings. Engage Kiss shows just well how good writing and strong characterization can easily make up for a common premise and ubiquitous tropes, particularly when paired with well-funded animation and production work. Considering how much of a coinflip anime original works are these days, to have one do as well as Engage Kiss is a win I’ll take anytime. And if it does manage to eke out an anime continuation later on, hey I cannot say I’ll hate that either.