The Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Kanojo ga Flag o Oraretara

Apr 8th 2014

Hope Chapman

Rating: 3

Review:
Everything you think you know about the complexity of causality in our universe is a lie. All that junk about butterfly wings flapping in China and starting a hurricane in Florida, it's all just hooey. Changing the future in large ways and small is as easy as snapping a toothpick, if you know what to look for. At least that's what our hero Souta thinks. He can see flags over people's heads that determine if they're about to die, become his friend, fall in love with him, and all number of other life-changing events. (This is a reference to the term "flag," for when a player activates a path in a visual novel, often past the point of no return. You either obtain the flag, or you break it. This could apply to video games on the whole too, I suppose, but the harem setup here makes the visual novel connection more obvious.) He tries to use his power to save lives, but resists getting close to anyone, fearing that he would be knowingly manipulating their feelings. All this changes when he meets Nanami, a curious and practical girl who wants to prove that his powers exist and seems to have no interest in being his friend or lover, and Akane, a stepford waifu in search of a project who sprouts more friendship flags toward him the more he pushes her away. Not long after meeting a girl who wants to study him and a girl who wants to "fix" him, Souta's life is turned on its head as he unwittingly overturns more causal tables than he ever has before.

This anime really shouldn't be anywhere near as cute and funny as it is. But Kanojo ga Flag has just enough skip in its step to rise above some struggling animation, art design, and a frankly ludicrous premise. Tonally, the show most reminded me of HENNEKO, so take that as positively or negatively as you wish. Character designs and sense of humor are similar in their childlike exuberance, as well as a reliance on over the top characters with strong personalities and strange dialogue. (Nanami is particularly likable.) Most importantly though, it doesn't waste our time with lame toothless gags. The status quo is constantly changing throughout this initial twenty minutes, and by the end, the protagonist has somehow put himself in the path of certain death a la Stranger than Fiction without really knowing why or how to fix it.

This show is running at 78 RPM in both its comedic and dramatic aspects, and that might not work for everyone, but I can appreciate the sense of fun and seeming affection for the material the production team has, even if they're flying by the seat of their pants. (The actors seem to be enjoying themselves too, the breathlessly bubbly seiyuu for Akane is especially good.) This seems like a love it or hate it thing, especially if it gets any loonier as it goes on, so give it a try and see if its style grabs you.

Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretata is available streaming at
Crunchyroll.com.


Theron Martin

Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Review:

One day on the way to school Nanami Knight Bladefield, the 13th princess (out of 27 siblings) of a small, poor European nation, witnesses an unfamiliar boy in her school's uniform do something odd that she believes influenced the course of an automobile accident in progress. When he appears in her class as new student Souta Hatate, she notices that he shoots down all offers of associations but always looks above the heads of the requesters when doing so. She confronts him and eventually gets the truth out of him: he can see supernatural flags on people's heads which indicate the person's ambitions or fate, including Friendship Flags, Love Flags, and even Death Flags, an ability he somehow gained from being the sole survivor of a cruise ship accident a few months back. For her own reasons Nanami is determined not to let Souta use that as an excuse to isolate himself, even if that means beating sense into him. Another girl also proves impossible to put off: Akane Mahougasawa, whose name catches Souta's attention more for the “Mahou” part than because it makes her the heir to a major conglomerate. (Exactly why is not revealed in this episode, but will eventually be a major plot point.) Bubbly, perky Akane sees Souta and Naname as stray cats and dogs that she just can't leave alone, but her background has also prevented her from making true friends and she is implied to seek a more genuine friendship than the superficial ones with other classmates. However, a Death Flag appears above Akane when the trio visits Souta's new home in a derelict building, and since other methods of trying to break the flag fail, he saves her by converting it to a Love Flag instead. But who will save him from his own Death Flag?

Kanojo ga Flag o Oraretara,
also known as Gaworare, is a light novel-based series which is listed as a romantic comedy but does not purely play out that way in its first episode. Although the humor takes a while to gain traction, it can be very funny when it does, especially when the whole business with the flags (a stupid gimmick undoubtedly meant to refer to dating sims) is used to humorous effect. However, the first episode also has its very serious moments, too, such as the two incidences when people's lives are at stake or when any of the three main characters are reflecting on their reasons for being isolated from others and how that affects their motivations for connecting up with each other. Numerous other girls are featured in the closer (which may be the regular opener), so this is clearly headed in a harem direction, with Nanami being the obligatory tsundere. Details I have heard about the novels suggests that the harem will have a purpose beyond just romance, though; it will, in some way, be necessary for keeping Souta alive.

Having some hint of that in the first episode would probably help attract viewers in, but the episode is packed enough as it is, to the point that the pacing the biggest problem so far. Developments feel like they are happening at breakneck speed and without enough time for proper set-up and follow-through. Even so, the seeds of a good story are here for when the pacing settles down, and the utter lack of anything even remotely resembling fan service already sets this one apart from most of its ilk. (This is all the more surprising given that it is produced by Hoods Entertainment, the studio behind some of the most brazen TV series anime has ever seen.) The other reason for hope is that it is directed by Ayumu Watanabe, who has worked magic before as the director of Space Brothers and Mysterious Girlfriend X. The technical merits may not be spectacular, but the series has enough potential that one episode is much too little to justify dismissing this one even if harems are not normally your thing.


Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretata is available streaming at
Crunchyroll.com.

Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 3 (out of 5)

Review:

Souta, the lone survivor of a cruise ship disaster, has a special ability – he can see the “flags” on top of a person's head that signifies whether they want to be friends, are in love, or are about to die. Apparently this has caused him some problems in the past, so he now makes it his goal to break the flags through a casual comment here or there. Sometimes this saves lives, other times is saves him the trouble of dealing with someone. Unfortunately for Souta (but fortunately for the plot), Nanami witnesses him breaking a death flag on her way to school, thus derailing an accident in the process of happening. She confronts him and learns his secret, and the two form and uneasy alliance. Then perky Akane enters the picture, so determined to be friends with Souta that her friendship flag cannot be broken. Souta's life is clearly not going to go as he had planned.

I enjoyed the start of this episode much more than its finish. Based on a light novel, although you could be forgiven for initially assuming a game as its origin, Kanojo ga Flag wa Oraretara at first seems to both buck its harem trends and to make fun of them. Watching Souta shoot down the curl with the fat blond curls who tries to make him her boy toy is really fun, and Nanami's unintentional poetry when she's trying to be convincing is also pretty great. The over-the-top nature of Akane's character also feels more like parody than straight harem, right down to the exaggerated amount of cutesy noises she makes every time she moves. In fact, up until the very end, I thought this was a very entertaining parody of the genre. Sadly that changes when Souta has to kiss Akane to remove her death flag, resulting in a “capture complete” flag popping up on her head. While it still is possible that the show will proceed in a more humorous fashion, that feels a bit like a warning flag to me.

Humor and harem aside, there are a couple of very interesting details that presage some good plot development. While we finally see Souta's flag at the very end of the episode (and are thus reminded of the cruise ship disaster), we have yet to see Nanami's. Souta looks at the top of her head a lot, but he doesn't react to it, and I for one am very interested to see what her flag is and how that will play out. She's a real draw – not too violent (although she has her moments), not too kind or gruff, Nanami feels more like a real character than a stereotype, although she certainly has elements of one. Souta also has some more realistic facets to his character. It's clear that he's trying to come off as a cool loner, but there are definitely moments when he has more trouble with that than one might expect.

Kanojo ga Flag could really go either the tried-and-true route or it could lampoon the genre. Either way, it looks like it'll be worth giving it a couple of episodes to see what it decides to do.


Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretata is available streaming at
Crunchyroll.com.

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