Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Jul 20th 2014
Kanojo ga Flag o Oraretara
Ever since he was the lone survivor of the doomed cruise ship Premium Ambriel, high school student Hatate Souta has been able to see “flags.” If someone is about to die, he can see – and maybe change – their death flag, if a girl likes him, he can see her love flag, and so on. Souta isn't sure why he has this power, but he seems unable to break his own swirling death flag, so he's not sure it's worth it. Then one day he meets Nanami, a princess of the Principality of Bladefield, which as a strange legend about flags...could the truth about Souta's powers be contained within the legend? And if he recreates it by gathering all of the required companions, will he finally understand what that truth is?
If one could sum up If Her Flag Breaks (Kanojo ga Flag o Oraretara) in one sentence, it would probably be, “Well, that escalated quickly.” Part fluffy shounen harem, part intense tale of danger, if nothing else, each episode of the show keeps your attention by throwing something bizarre and/or unexpected at the viewer at some point, generally just about when you're thinking that things have gotten a little dull. It isn't a fantastic series, but it is far better than it at first appears to be, balancing excitement, cute girls, and self-referential humor to make one of the better surprises of the 2014 spring season.
At first glance, If Her Flag Breaks is a fairly classic harem show. Hatate Souta is a good-looking-enough nice guy. He's just transferred to Hatagaya Academy, and he quickly proves that he's not going to be the charmer he looks like: almost immediately he quashes all of his classmates' interest in him with a few cutting comments. When confronted about this by Nanami Bladefield, an exchange student from the European Principality of Bladefield, Souta reveals that he can see the “flags” on people's heads, indicating their emotions and, in some cases, their futures. Since he didn't want to get close to anyone, he said exactly the thing that would snap whatever flags he saw growing from their heads. A little further explanation tells us that he gained this power after the Premium Ambriel cruise ship disaster, of which he was the lone survivor. Contrary to his expectations, Nanami decides to be his friend anyway, and thus Souta begins gathering his harem.
Part of the humor of the series comes from how Souta interprets the flags he sees. Certainly the death flag is obvious enough, but others are phrased as pertains to the girls they belong to: Akane gets a love flag, Okiku-nee has a sibling love flag, and others include the “capture complete,” “yandere,” and “annoying” flags. That last one is a particularly amusing meta moment for the show; it belongs to a very clingy girl and Souta's assessment of her flag seems to answer the question of how nice guy harem leads feel about that particular type of girl. All of the harem types are present and accounted for: the loli, the big sister, the tsundere, the yandere, the robot, the clingy one, and the trappiest trap who ever trapped. This last is Megumu, and while we may still have our doubts by the end of the series as to his masculinity, he did get a man flag early on, but even Souta at times voices his doubts.
While If Her Flag Breaks isn't precisely formulaic, it does have a basic pattern to it, as was mentioned above: things start out with goofy harem antics and then a more serious event occurs, forcing Souta (and often Nanami) to move the plot forward. This mostly works, and the legend about flags from Nanami's home country of Bladefield does provide the show with a (mostly) valid reason for gathering so many girls. Souta is supposed to complete his quest by joining forces with a large RPG-style team of players. Many of the girls' roles can be guessed from their last names – for example, Akane is the mage and her last name is Mahougasawa, with “mahou” meaning “magic” - and the fact that everyone lives in Quest Dorm serves as a reminder of this plot requirement. We do eventually get to this in the final two episodes of the show, and while it doesn't necessarily feel rushed getting there, the actual denouement does feel like it goes a little too quickly. This may be a result of cramming too much of the original eight light novels (by Toka Takei) into thirteen episodes. It does manage to play on one's emotions a bit though, especially in the final episodes.
The animation is not top-notch, but it also isn't particularly shoddy, with the bounce of a ponytail and the swirl of Souta's vortex-like death flag both looking pretty good. The pastels that primarily make up the colors get old fairly quickly, especially in terms of the girls' uniform skirts, which look to be made out of baby blankets. Fanservice is mostly limited to short skirts or bathing suits, with the odd jiggle or grope thrown in. (A pretty funny groping joke is made when robot Ruri asks Souta to press yes or no, which light up on her breasts.) There is a girl for every preference present, and if some odd color choices are made – such as Nanami's thin braid that she wears on the side of her hair being a noxious green compared to the rest of her blond hair – everyone is decently pleasant to look at. The music tends towards the cute and perky, and both theme songs are pretty catchy.
If Her Flag Breaks moves quickly but not overwhelmingly so. It carefully plants surprises in each episode to keep things interesting, and some of its plot bombs are genuinely surprising, including one that changes the entire romantic trajectory of the story. It is giggle out loud (if not laugh) funny in places, enjoyably self-referential in others, and just generally an entertaining show to watch. It may not be top-notch, but If Her Flag Breaks is enjoyable, so if you like a bit of mostly light, kind of goofy, and sometimes surprising entertainment, ignore the pastel skirts and generic character designs, and give this a chance. It is definitely a case of more than meets the eye.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Souta is an amusingly reluctant harem lead, surprises all the way through. Megumu's a pretty great trap, songs are light and catchy.
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