The Summer 2016 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Momokuri (ONA) ?
What is this?
In his fifteen years of life, Shinya “Momo” Momokuri has never had a girl confess to him. Then one day he finds a love letter from a second-year student, the lovely Yuki Kurihara, in his shoe locker. He agrees to go out with her, and their beautiful love life commences…except how does Yuki know so much about Momo, from his height to when his phone rang in class? Why is she carrying around the used straw from his strawberry milk? Maybe Momo is getting in over his head, but the two of them are just so cute together that it's hard to be too worried! Momokuri is based on a web manga and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Fridays at 9:30 am EST.
How was the first episode?
Momokuri is listed as an ONA rather than a TV series, and is actually only supposed to be 13 minutes per episode. Exactly why it's airing two episodes together as a starter is a mystery, as story-wise there's really little reason this couldn't have been spread over two weeks (unlike with, say, the first two episodes of last season's Re:Zero). In fact, 13 minutes seems like about the right length for the content the series offers.
If I had to describe the first two episodes in just two words, I would use “cutesy” and “sweet,” with the former applying about equally to the male and female leads. And really, there's not much more two this series (at least so far) than that. Momo and Yuki are in the fledgling stages of a high school relationship, and much of the content involves the hormone-driven neuroses they suffer as they try to figure out their feelings for each other. In classic anime tradition, Yuki actually has a stalkerish obsession with Momo that would border on yandere if it wasn't for the fact that she doesn't seem to have a mean bone in her body, while Momo has his head so in the clouds over a cute girl confessing to him. Fortunately he has skeptical friends which keep him grounded, while she has a dry-witted friend (think Ruri from Nisekoi) who seems to regard the extremities of Yuki's romance with equal parts amusement and dismay. That and all of the cutesy behavior provides at least some humor value.
The one thing which could make this one stand out a bit is how the viewpoints are handled. Unlike many of these type of series, this one regularly switches back and forth between the internal voices of Momo and Yuki, with Yuki's friend also getting a minute or so of her own perspective. This allows us to see how all of the major players are thinking, which prevents it from being narrowly-classified as a male-learning or female-leaning series. It also has one other neat (albeit gimmicky) touch: at one point a piano piece is playing, presumably as background music until we can see that it is actually Yuki's friend playing the piano.
For all of that, though, the series does not stand out much. It is pleasant and a bit funny but not particularly exciting, and the technical merits are nothing special. This could be a nice, light diversion amongst more raucous series this season, but it is nothing to anticipate from week to week.
Momokuri is one of those shows that's probably best described as “mostly harmless.” It's about first love, but in a way that seems more intent on being light and charming than particularly emotionally resonant. Its premise is a little weird, but it doesn't take itself seriously enough to be particularly off-putting. It just sort of is.
The clear focus so far is not Momo-kun, but his new girlfriend Yuki. Yuki is a stalker, but the show doesn't really treat her actions as threatening - she finds her boyfriend extremely cute, and so she treats getting closer to him as a sort of odd game. Some of Yuki's actions are actually somewhat relatable, like the way she engineers her days to run into him more often, or overtly plans to forget her umbrella in order to share his. In moments like that, Yuki evokes the general insecurity of all young people with crushes, as she tries to perform casual romance in the most calculated way possible.
But more of Yuki's material here is played as comedy, as she creepily covets Yuki's trash and generally acts like an uncomfortably obsessive teenager. I felt the show's framing was too light for any of this to come off as emotionally distancing, but more importantly, her behavior just wasn't generally that funny. The show's saving grace so far is Ai Kakuma's enthusiastic voice acting; the actual content of Yuki's actions are just one joke repeated over and over.
Aside from Kakuma's voice acting and the occasional bits of relatable charm, there's not much else to recommend in this one. The show's music is generic and visual design middling; there are some occasional funny faces, but nothing here is actually pretty or impressive from an animation standpoint. While I welcome more shows that are centered on couples already in a relationship, I'd prefer them to have a little more to dig into than Momokuri.
As far as I can tell from this first episode, Momokuri is a series that can't quite figure out what it wants to be. The premise of a slightly crazy girl who likes her new boyfriend way too much seems like it might work as a dark comedy, but the show's atmosphere and visual style is more in line with something warmer and fuzzier. I assume that such a severe mismatch must be deliberate, but the contrast isn't quite as hilarious as it needs to be.
The stalker-in-training heroine Kurihara embodies the show's conflicted nature, alternating between cute yet forgettable and a little too unstable for comfort. Some of her antics manage to be awkward in an endearing way, but others are either too generic to be funny or too creepy to make you want to cheer her on. The good news is that Kurihara benefits from some respectable voice acting, with both her normal and unhinged personalities sounding convincing. As the oblivious object of Kurihara's affections, Momo doesn't really do much apart from blushing in response to everything that happens to him. I don't dislike either of them, but I can't imagine Momokuri staying interesting all season long when both of its main characters only have one joke up their sleeves.
At least both Momo and Kurihara have a friend or two to play the comedic straight man. The scene of Momo's friends giving him a hard time over whether or not his new girlfriend really exists is one of the episode's funnier moments, and having someone around to keep Kurihara in check is certainly helpful. It looks like the show will be adding a few more characters later in the season, and this is where I can see some light at the end of the tunnel. If the lead couple can't carry the series on their own, then perhaps a decent supporting cast will be able to bear the extra weight.
I'm all for shuffling a few wild cards into the harmless, fluffy comedy formula, and it's nice to see Momokuri take a shot at doing something a little different. The trouble here is that I'm not convinced it works. The creepy factor makes it tough to enjoy it as cutesy high school romance, and the warm and friendly atmosphere keeps it from going all in on the “humor through discomfort” approach. With not much to fall back on beyond the romance and the comedy, there's just not enough here to justify a full-length series. Give me My Love Story!! or give me WATAMOTE, but gluing them together and calling it a day doesn't seem like the greatest idea.
Cute and fluffy romance, meet Little Miss Budding Yandere. Momokuri, which appears set to run in two-episode sets, is an odd combination of an adorable little high school romance and a vaguely disturbing one probably best described as “mostly harmless.” The show is divided between cute and creepy right along the lines of its title, which is a portmanteau of the protagonists’ family names, Momotsuki and Kurihara. Momo makes up the sweet part of the romance – he's an all-around nice guy who has never had a girlfriend until a second-year leaves him a note in his shoe locker. Flattered by both the attention and the fact that she's adorable, Momo agrees to go out with Yuki Kurihara. Together they blush a lot and he tries really hard to be the bestest boyfriend ever, worrying about holding hands and seeing her bra through her wet shirt.
And then there's the other part. Kurihara fell in love with Momo at first sight, she tells her friend Noriko…and then proceeded to take secret pictures of him, had to be stopped from pulling his garbage out of the trashcan, and basically stalked him, telling herself that she'd ask him out when she had taken one hundred secret pictures of him. She plots to forget her umbrella so that she can walk home under the same one with him, she keeps his used straw when she offers to throw out his milk carton, and she waits forty minutes behind a pole so that she can “bump into” him on the way to school. It's sort of funny because she has no idea that she's being a creepy stalker and Noriko has to keep warning her to knock it off. But it's also seriously creepy to watch her get turned on by the thought of putting the used straw in her mouth or standing outside of his classroom during class, spying on him. Essentially she's a yandere in the making (is there a term for that?), and it goes just far enough to be off-putting rather than funny.
That Momokuri does want to be a gentle comedy is very clear. It uses exclusively pastel tones, the character designs are soft and fluffy, and the background music is serviceably sweet and light. The animation takes a lot of shortcuts, using colored or polkadot backgrounds rather than drawing them, and Kurihara makes faces more often than she moves her mouth while speaking, eliminating the need for those pesky mouthflaps. (Those are also avoided by having many of the spoken words being inner monologues rather than dialogue.) It tries so hard to be harmless. It just takes the whole “tee-hee! I'm a stalker!” aspect just a bit too far to make the whole thing work.
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