The Summer 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Actually, I Am...
How would you rate episode 1 of
Actually, I Am… ?
Community score: 3.6
This one was really cute! I wasn't expecting much, but it turned out to be overall pretty charming. The plot here is a pretty standard romcom setup, with our protagonist Kuromine Asahi's one big Personality Attribute being his absolute inability to keep any kind of secret. In spite of this, he's been nursing a crush on his mysterious classmate Shiragami Youko for most of a year, and with a push from his helpful friends, he decides to finally confess. Mustering up his courage and confronting her in the classroom, he learns that Shiragami has a secret of her own - she's actually a vampire. Shiragami seems pretty harmless as far as vampires go, though, so after he gets over his very light shock, Kuromine offers to share her secret, at least as long as he can.
The variables here are all pretty standard; Kuromine's your good-hearted average Joe protagonist, the vampire twist isn't anything particularly unusual, and the show's already filling out with a number of other cute girls who all seem to have their own angle on the proceedings. But the show moves well, and the characters are actually pretty charming. Shiragami's easily the standout so far; her mix of positivity and obliviousness makes her a really fun character to be around, and the dynamic between her and Kuromine already feels very natural and endearing. The humor isn't as strong as the characters (a whole lot of “wild overreactions are jokes, right?” and the like), but there were a couple nice gags (I particularly liked Kuromine's deadpanning that Shiragami's vampirism is actually just kinda cute), and silly faces always have a certain appeal.
The aesthetics are somewhat less strong. I've seen portions of the manga this show's based on, and the character style comes off as far more expressive and unique in print than on screen. It's one of those unfortunate side effects of the adaptation process - the need to adopt a uniform character design for animation rounds off the unique panel-to-panel appeal of the original style, leaving characters that look a bit awkwardly designed in spite of their very expressive eyes. Kuromine in particular really looks more like a background character than a protagonist, and the backgrounds and music aren't much to speak of either. Still, overall I had fun with this episode, and that counts for a lot. Strong chemistry is the foundation of a solid romcom, and though Actually, I Am…… doesn't seem to aspire to anything more than that, being a reasonable genre piece is a perfectly respectable goal.
Actually, I Am… is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
Review: Actually, I Am… . . is the anime adaptation of the manga My Monster Secret, which is due to make its way to American shores in early 2016. Its opener and descriptions of its premise suggest that it is going to be a wacky supernatural harem series, perhaps in the vein of Rosario to Vampire, and since those are a-dime-a-dozen in anime, I had not expected much from the first episode. What I saw instead was a surprisingly sweet and amiable first episode about a boy who can't keep secrets until confronted with the one which he absolutely, positively must keep.
That boy is Asahi Kuromine, whose posse of friends refer to as a “leaky basket” because he is so easy to read that he is utterly incapable of convincingly lying or keeping secrets. Playing Old Maid is a losing proposition for him, and the Class Rep, whom the guys refer to as the Iron Lady, once harshly told him off when she picked up on him looking her way a little too often. (The end of the episode suggests that she may have had other reasons for dissuading him than just being annoyed by possible romantic interest, however.) His friends are even, as Asahi discovers, aware that he has long secretly been infatuated with classmate Youko Shiragami, a pretty girl who always seems alone and unapproachable, and so push him into confessing to her, since being rejected is at least better than a repeat of the Iron Lady incident. When he does go to confess, though, he discovers that she has a good reason for isolating herself: she's actually a vampire who must keep her true nature secret if she is to be allowed to attend school. Her having to leave school because she has been discovered is the last thing Asahi wants, so he vows to keep this one secret and be the friend whom she can trust. As the epilogue indicates, though, Youko is not the only girl in the class who isn't normal, and an almost maniacal female school newspaper reporter is also sure to be a problem.
The artistic effort from TMS Entertainment is only a mediocre one, which is glaringly obvious from the beginning, and has more of an old-school feel to it. Unexpectedly, though, it doesn't take a lewd approach; in fact, there isn't a stitch of fan service in the first episode. The opener suggests that this will not always be the case, but unless the first episode is seriously misleading, that won't be a focal point. Nothing really stands out about the premise or humor, either, but the writing has just a bit more earnestness than normal and conveys the sentiment of Asahi's feelings and Youko's predicament with surprising effectiveness, an endeavor helped along greatly by some atypically soothing and gentle background music choices. Asahi's posse is also a likable and personable bunch, a group of guys who may tease Asahi but without an ounce of malicious intent, and that further helps separate this title from others of its ilk. The unique bit of vampire lore here is also amusingly different; vampires in this setting don't turn to ash in the sunlight but they do tan really fast, which would still be suspicious for Youko, hence the reason she goes to school early and stays late.
Given what the opener shows, I still have great concerns about how well the series will play out, but the first episode, at least, isn't at all bad.
It's kind of hard to believe that Actually, I Am… is based on a manga that began serialization in 2013, because it has something of the 1980s about its look, specifically Takashi Shiina's Ghost Sweeper Mikami. Sadly in this case, that's not a good thing, because this is not an attractive show, although I do appreciate that all of the characters look very distinct. Actually, I Am… tries very hard to be funny, but it tries a bit too hard, resulting in an introduction that drags on and doesn't use what it has going for it to its advantage.
There is a kind of nice understory to this show, although how it is executed leaves something to be desired. High school student Asahi is known among his friends as a “leaky basket,” incapable of keeping a secret to himself – they just leak out through his mouth. Even when he's sure he's kept it tightly locked away, like his crush on mint-haired beauty Youko, it turns out that everyone's known all along. In a surprise (for him), Youko turns out to be the one person who hasn't noticed, although she's been keeping a secret of her own: she's a vampire. When Asahi goes to confess, he finds her stretching her bat wings and ends up promising to keep her secret and be her friend so that she won't have to leave school. How well this works out remains to be seen.
While Asahi and Youko are the main characters, there's a fairly large cast of Asahi's friends and apparently a group of three other girls, only two of whom we've met so far: the class rep and the so-called “heathen queen,” Mikan, who is your typical anime girl reporter stereotype. I'm not thrilled with the “heathen queen” title, although I see where they might come up with it given her brash character; I do feel like there could have been a better name that might have been more to the point, however. There's something off about the class rep, of course, besides her large screw hair-tie, suggesting a science fiction element to what would otherwise be a stock paranormal shounen romance (by which I mean using strictly fantasy elements).
While I wasn't particularly thrilled by the whole thing, what really stands out is the fact that it felt like it ended three times before actually ending: before the ending theme, after it when Youko and Asahi were walking down the hall, and then again after that when the sci fi moment reared its head. It's probably meant to be funny. I wish I'd laughed...which is how I can sum up the entire episode.
This show has a good heart, and I can appreciate that. The characters are good-natured, the romance is sincere, and the jokes are at worst just a little lukewarm. The opening song implies there will be more raucous humor in the future, but this first episode focused way more on the "romance" side of the romcom equation, and that's okay. This tale of "boy with terrible poker face" falling for "incognito vampire girl" and forming a friendship that may become ~something more~ is perfectly alright on paper.
But great googly-moogly, "Actually, I Am…" is ugly as sin! (And what a title...)
The low production values, unattractive art design, and sluggish pacing of this dated-yet-timeless premise really cut the legs out from under it. This series is based on a fairly recent manga, so it didn't have to come across as a forgotten relic of bygone days somewhere between Tenchi Muyo! and Karin (Chibi Vampire to some), but that's definitely the strongest impression the first episode leaves. Outside of its slightly more modern style of physical comedy and HD resolution, this could very easily have been dug up out of a pile of forgotten digipaint anime romcoms from 2004. It's a brand-new show that feels like a relic, and that makes it weird to discuss. Your eyes instinctively slide off the screen, and whether fairly or not, there's a creeping suspicion that you already know everything that will happen in the show ahead of time. It's just too familiar, in a "thick layer of dust on a childhood beanie baby" kind of way.
It's really difficult to get away from the show's moldy aesthetic and threadbare execution, but trying to judge it in a void as a comedy, it's perfectly sweet and competent. The romantic leads have complementary gimmicks that give them solid potential chemistry, and the future side characters previewed in the opening theme look like they'll be providing the extra raunch and spice the show needs to be more memorable. It's a nice little show that's cruelly hampered by its hideous appearance. (Even the aforementioned opening song is pretty ear-poisony.) Beauty is in the eye of the beholder of course, so if you're on the lookout for a charming harem-style romantic comedy, there's some warmth and joy to be had from this one. There's not much bite in it, but it certainly doesn't bite in the bad way either.
Rating: 2.5? I guess?
Kuromine Asahi is nicknamed “leaky basket” by his friends because he's incapable of keeping a secret, but he has a big one he can't wait to share: he has a huge crush on the green-haired loner Shiragame Youko, and he finally works up the gumption to confess to her one day after school. As he bursts into the otherwise empty classroom to spill his guts, Shiragame is just then taking the opportunity afforded by solitude to stretch her bat wings and pop out her fangs. She's a vampire! That doesn't deter Kuromine, though – he tells her he'll take this secret to his grave and intends on becoming friends for life.
If that all seems a little threadbare, it's because it is – typically when it comes to supernatural romantic comedies, the premise is a little more complex than this, but Actually, I Am…… has no pretensions on being anything more than a lighthearted romcom. It feels like it time-traveled here from the early 90s – the green hair, the (frankly kind of unattractive) retro character designs, and the script leans on wacky characters with clearly-defined comedy archetype personalities filling out the rest of the cast rather than introducing a ton of lore-heavy supporting characters that complicate things. I don't know if that makes it good or not – I was a little shocked at just how slight the whole thing really is and I didn't find myself particularly engaged with what was going on, but this is a stripped-down, very simplistic romantic comedy that is unabashedly a throwback to the way anime looked and sounded 20 years ago.
The end of the episode introduces another plot element – some kind of mysterious science girl who's watching our two leads from a 90s anime science lab, so obviously the story does get more complicated (the opening credits are full of characters who don't show up in this first episode at all) but obviously the screenwriters didn't feel the need to rush anything along. I wouldn't watch more of this based on the first episode, but it's so wide open it could go anywhere from here. Here's hoping they introduce a twist or two to make it interesting – right now it's only unique in that it feels like a museum piece even though it's ostensibly a brand new show based on a manga that's only a couple years old.
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