The Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Engaged to the Unidentified

Jan 9th 2014

Hope Chapman



Rating: 2.5

Review:
Engaged to the Unidentified is a frustrating show to try and review, because there's not much to like or dislike about it. "One man's trash is another man's treasure" only really applies if there is great trash or great treasure to be found. If you run across a turnip, it's probably just a turnip to everyone. Engaged to the Unidentified is a turnip.

On the plus side, it is not even remotely offensive. This is more laudable than you'd think considering the premise entails a sudden, wacky arranged marriage between 16-year olds and a possessive, molest-y older sister played for laughs. It all comes across as benign and silly rather than loud, obnoxious, or uncomfortable. It also has nice animation to go with the soft, attractive art, (reminiscent of Oreshura or My Little Monster.) Because most of the action is talking heads, you don't really notice until a scene where lead girl Kobeni is racing down the hall and stops herself from turning the corner at the last second, with a subtle change of expression on her face. The characters are also restrained and potentially endearing, rather than loud, obnoxious stereotypes. It's hard to believe this show is based off a 4-koma gag series, as the whole thing flows naturally, without routine breaks for gags or sudden changes in setting. There's plenty of not-bad here.

There's also a lot of not-good too though, which is ultimately what pulls the show down from average "not funny but not unfunny" comedy into forgettably boring. For starters, it's hard to call this a comedy, as all the gags are simple character interactions with slight overreaction thrown in, identical to what you'd find in a "lighthearted" scene in an anime drama. Not even a comedic episode, just a "lighthearted scene." There's a dearth of any real laughs, just a perpetual smirk of "this is...fine." Nice people talking to other nice people. It's "fine." And so it plays more as a saccharine character drama than a comedy, but the characters are all stereotypes. There's genki-but-sweet betrothed protagonist Kobeni, her outwardly-perfect-but-inwardly-perverted older sister Benio, and a sheltered, stoic love interest who only says two words at a time, but isn't he just so moe-moe? This isn't the entire cast, lover boy also has a pushy younger sister, but it doesn't matter. Engaged to the Unidentified is a bland turnip with a mushy center, and there are so many better things to watch out there in this category (Oreshura and My Little Monster among them,) that it can't really be recommended.

Engaged to the Unidentified is available streaming at
Crunchyroll.

Bamboo Dong



Rating: 3 (of 5)

Review:
Despite its heavy usage of common archetypes—the older girl who can't get enough of cute little girls, the childhood friend, the bossy little sister—Engaged to the Unidentified manages to be cute, entertaining, and surprisingly not stale. As it turns out, it's all in the details, starting with the idyllic, snowy backgrounds and the chipper but gentle soundtrack that helps take the edge off some of the more predictable jokes.

There are a few minor tweaks in the surprise-fiancé formula, as well, that help keep the first episode fresh. Rather than the prototypic milquetoast dude who's suddenly saddled with a childhood friend who's keen on marrying him, the roles are gender-flipped. Heroine Kobeni is the one who has to wrap her head around a surprise arranged marriage (the logic for which is a beautifully deadpanned, "the countryside lacks suitable brides"), and although the fiancé is keen to carry out his side of the bargain, he neither pesters her nor forces his emotions on her. It nudges the character relationship down a more potentially realistic and romantic pathway, rather than just a comedic one, and looks like it might actually have room to grow.

Older sister Benio is a weird duck, too. Even though she carries the burden of being the stereotypical older gal who can't stop pinching the cheeks of little girls, her persona at school is anything but sloppy, opening her character up to further development as well. The cute-girl-loving side of her personality veers a little too close to being creepy and harassing at times, and is the one major thing I'd change about the show, but I'm willing to see how that plays out in the next few episodes.

Overall, Engaged to the Unidentified is surprisingly fun. It's not anything novel or unique, but it's notable in that it manages to be entertaining, despite recycling genre-specific jokes. The humor is goofy, but not outlandish enough that it feels forced. Better yet, the characters seem like they have an actual shot of developing real lives. I'm tentatively looking forward to seeing more.

Engaged to the Unidentified is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Theron Martin



Rating: 4 (of 5)

Review:
On the morning of her 16th birthday Kobeni Yonomori was not expecting anything too special to happen. She certainly did not expect to hear that a young man would be living with them starting that day, and that the young man, one Hakuya, had been chosen by her deceased grandfather to be her fiancé.  She also wasn't expecting that Hakuya's grade school-aged sister Mashiro would be tagging along to look after Hakuya, as he's so unobtrusive that he could stand in the same room as others for several minutes and not be noticed by anyone, or that both Hakuya and, strangely, Mashiro, too, would be transferring into her class at school. Kobeni doesn't know what to think of the whole situation, beyond being flummoxed about not having had more of a say in the matter. She isn't the only one with problems, either, as Mashiro quickly comes to regard Kobeni's adoring older sister Benio with mortal terror.

The concept for this apparent romantic comedy does not feel like it should work anywhere near as well as it actually does, but in execution this episode quite pleasingly funny. Much of the credit for this doubtlessly goes to the original manga-ka, but that its series composition was done by Fumihiko Shimo, who composed and scripted the all-time comedy great Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu?, certainly helps, as it is in the writing where this comedy is sharpest. Kobeni is one of those level-headed, instantly likable characters who stands as the comparatively calm center of a maelstrom of comedic action, an approach which works quite effectively here because it allows everyone else to play off of her. Besides, the cast immediately surrounding her is colorful enough that Kobeni does not need to contribute much; that Benio, who at first looks to be a little sister-obsessed idiot, turns out to be totally different at school is an almost sputter-worthy moment, and the way she interacts with Mashiro, who fashions herself as much more mature than she actually is, is comedy gold even though it is hardly original. Hakuya, contrarily, is so deadpan that almost everything he does ends up being either sweet or funny. The late school scenes suggest that some more characters will step up on that front as the series goes on.

The artistry provides appealing enough character designs without being spectacular, and the closer (which is probably the regular opener?) is both a hoot and the sole source of anything close to fan service in the episode. The quality of this first episode all comes back to the writing and direction, though. It avoids going too far overboard on anything or taking the totally spastic route and provided just the right touch of romantic potential while finding plenty of ways to mine the humor inherent in the set-up. Whether or not the series can sustain this is a big concern, but the awful title aside, it is off to a very good start.

Engaged to the Unidentified is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rebecca Silverman

Rating:  2 (out of 5)

Review:

Sixteen is, for whatever reason, a rite of passage for girls. Kobeni knows that it doesn't really mean anything, but she's excited to be turning it anyway, at least until she gets downstairs, has some cake, and discovers that her fiance and his little sister are moving in. This is, naturally, the first she's heard of having a fiance hand-picked for her by Grandpa, and oh, if only she hadn't had that accident as a small child, she'd remember having met him.

Actually, the frame story is the least of my issues with Engaged to the Unidentified. I would have been perfectly happy with a textbook romance about a girl and her silent, awkward betrothed, and given the characters of Kobeni and Hakuya, this could have been sweet. What gums up the works are the two main (as of this episode) supporting characters, Kobeni's older sister Benio and Hakuya's younger sister Mashiro. Mashiro is clearly meant to be the precocious loli with delusions of maturity and a bit of a brother complex, while Benio is Little Miss Perfect at school and a lolicon with a major sister complex at home. Her delight in having another little girl move in is creepy, to say the least, although it is doubtless intended to be funny. Mashiro for her part was more irritating than cute, although her trick of hiding by hanging from her brother's shoulders was funny. Perhaps part of the issue was her too-cute voice, provided by newcomer Yuri Yoshida, which just grated on my nerves.

There are moments that really work, like Kobeni's simple delight at it having snowed on her birthday, Hakuya's small kindnesses, and a few moments of really nice animation cropping up now and again. As I said earlier, Hakuya and Kobeni seem like good characters right now, and if the focus can remain on them rather than devolving into the hijinks of their siblings or Benio's fanclub, there is potential here. Basically, Engaged to the Unidentified seems to be having some issues sorting itself out in its first episode. This may stem from trying to turn a four-panel manga into twenty-four minutes of animation – it just may not have worked out pacing kinks yet. It also feels a bit like it is rushing to get to a certain point, visually introducing characters left and right, although only our main core of family members have names thus far.  Given time, this could improve itself...but I'm not sure that I can deal with Mashiro or Benio until it does, no matter how much fun the theme song is.

Engaged to the Unidentified is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Carl Kimlinger

Rating: 3.5

Review: Pleasantly funny and moderately romantic, Engaged to the Unidentified is a show that does nothing extraordinary. But by delivering the romantic comedy goods—in a light and enjoyable form—while avoiding all of the worst pitfalls of the genre, it nevertheless manages to be an almost unmitigated pleasure. A mild one, mind you, but warm and consistent.

If you're looking for something inventive or clever, or for that matter remotely original, this is not where you want to be. Though the sexes of the leads are switched (from the usual pattern), Engaged is an archetypical shonen romance: Normal person—in this case, ordinary girl Kobeni Yonomori—is surprised one day to learn that they have a not-so-ordinary fiancée. In Kobeni's case it's spacey country boy Hakuya Mitsumine, who naturally moves in with her family and transfers into her school.

That sounds pretty dispiriting, but Engaged has an engaging habit of tweaking its formula just enough to dodge the usual irritations. Swapping the customary sexes of its leads avoids the bland-guy, antic-girl trap and also removes the smelly wish-fulfillment of having an extraordinary girl throw herself at some Joe Schmoe. Kobeni is believably sweet as the ordinary anchor of her increasingly odd household, and Hakuya is weird and engaging as a boy whose invisible quietude and unthinking honesty hide a warm core.

And so the show goes. The obligatory perversion is supplied by Kobeni's seemingly perfect older sister, which makes the requisite lolicon panting and incestuous attachment surprisingly funny. To avoid overplaying the fiancée-from-nowhere card, the episode quickly shifts focus to Kobeni's relationship with Hakuya's precocious, overprotective little sister. Who in turn supplies all of the show's best—and cutest—jokes. Yuri Yoshida lays the moe on extra thick as little sister Mashiro and there are a couple of eye-rollingly clichéd romantic moments, but all told Engagement is a lovely little surprise.

Engaged to the Unidentified is available streaming at Crunchyroll.


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