The Fall 2017 Anime Preview Guide My Girlfriend is Shobitch
How would you rate episode 1 of
My Girlfriend is Shobitch ?
What is this?
Haruka Shinozaki has admired the beautiful and smart Akiho Kosaka since high school began, and now in his second year, the two are classmates. Haruka musters up his courage to ask the girl of his dreams out, only to discover that Kosaka has some very strange, intense ideas about what it means to be a “couple.” Haruka isn't sure what to do about Kosaka's insistence on trying to figure out his fetishes, kinks, and other sexual preferences, nor is he certain what his older childhood friend Shizuku is doing by egging Kosaka on with misleading statements about their relationship. Only one thing is for sure – nothing has prepared Haruka for any of this. My Girlfriend is a Shobitch is based on a web manga and streams on Amazon's Anime Strike on Wednesdays.
How was the first episode?
It seems this season really is saving the worst for last. Yesterday we got the ugly edgelord slog of EVIL OR LIVE, and today we get My Girlfriend is Shobitch, a romantic comedy that's neither romantic nor comedic. This show comes from Diomedéa, a studio that has produced some quality shows in the past – Aho Girl was funny in its own unbelievably stupid way, and Action Heroine Cheer Fruits was a surprisingly sweet and entertaining show. However, Shobitch's first episode is a mess though and through, probably the single most boring premiere I've watched this season.
My Girlfriend is Shobitch takes every flaw associated with bad anime romcoms and consolidates them together into a single shoddy-looking package. Unbelievably bland protagonist with no personality traits or relatable characteristics? Check. A cadre of pretty girls that throw themselves at this walking mannequin for no understandable reason? Double check. A love interest who's just a collection of lame gags based around a single stupid quirk? How many checks can I possibly add to the list at this point? The sole source of jokes in this comedy is right there in the title; Akiho is the titular “shobitch”, a girl who obsesses over sex despite being woefully unfamiliar with how it actually works. Almost every gag in the episode revolves around the same basic setup: Haruka wants to have a conversation with his new girlfriend, but it invariably becomes much dirtier than he's comfortable with. Akiho asks Haruka about his fetishes in a public place; cue laughter. Akiho listens to porn instead of music; cue laughter. Akiho invites Haruka to the gym and ends up showing off a collection of sex toys; cue laughter. If you don't find the basic idea of “cute girl talks frankly about sex” funny, then there's almost nothing else to get out of this series.
Even if you ignore the fact that this romantic comedy is largely devoid of humor, the romance doesn't work well enough to make up for it. Haruka is a literal void of personality, and Akiho's insistence on making literally everything in her life about sex is equal parts aggravating and kind of sad. It's unclear how much of her behavior is based on her own desires and how much of it comes from the belief that this is the only way for her to behave like a “proper girlfriend”. Unsettling undertones aside, the end result is a couple almost entirely devoid of charm, charisma, or chemistry. The side characters don't make any better impression either. Kanata and Shizuku act as nothing more than “the perky little sister” and “the childhood friend with an obvious crush”, two cute girls who want nothing more than to fawn over the hero.
In the end, that's what all of My Girlfriend is Shobitch seems to be: a poorly animated collection of lazy tropes that have been done better in hundreds of other anime. It isn't funny, it isn't particularly romantic, and its half-hour runtime felt like an eternity. The final scene hints at an emotional sincerity that could possibly cut through all the lame jokes, but that isn't enough to redeem material so completely disposable otherwise.
One thought was prominent in my mind at the end of this series' first episode: what a waste of Aoi Yūki's great voice acting talent.
Sadly, not even she can save this series, which is based on a manga that was originally serialized online and plays out like a 4-koma comedy. The intent is clear: make a raunchy romantic comedy that compensates for its light level of visual fanservice by loading up on the heavy innuendo, à la Seitokai Yakuindomo. The problem is that neither the writing nor the direction nor the artistry is up to that task. This is director Nobuyoshi Nagayama's first lead effort and it's not an auspicious debut.
Pinning down exactly where the first episode goes wrong isn't easy, but some of the problem is definitely in the timing. In many places, jokes are forced in, coming up short on the build-up necessary for a worthy comedy pay-off. In other places, it reaches for its jokes, crafting situations that lead to a punchline rather than let the jokes come out naturally. (Even if this is the process behind the scenes, better comedies avoid revealing that they're doing that.) This isn't a totally wasted effort, as an occasional joke does land well enough to be worthy of a snicker, but the miss rate is much higher than the hit rate, and even the more rapid-fire nature of its brief vignettes doesn't compensate for this lack.
Utterly uninteresting characters don't help either. The intent was to make Kosaka so straight-laced and even-tempered that she has no proper understanding of propriety, but she just comes off as unbelievably dense. One line suggests that she's a social outsider despite being a star student, so perhaps the story intends to play on her being so intent to make a relationship work that she goes overboard, but I honestly think she'd be more interesting and plausible if she was just flat-out interested in sex. Haruka is practically interchangeable with any other put-upon male harem lead surrounded by aggressive girls, and making his childhood friend also be sexually-charged is overkill—that's without the addition of a little sister who gives the impression that she wouldn't mind boning Haruka either. Overall, there's little to nothing here to care about.
The artistic effort is also disappointing. Kosaka's character design is a fairly close reproduction of the original manga design, but something just seems off about her aesthetically. This definitely isn't one of the better series at portraying breasts under clothing, and the artistry has a half-hearted feel about it in general. While the see-through skirts are an interesting trick, there just isn't much that's sufficiently titillating in the visuals for the first episode to fall back on.
So whether you're looking for comedy or fanservice here, this one misses the mark big-time. You're better off with A Sister's All You Need if you want purely raunchy fare this season.
I'm pretty sure that there's no good way to translate the title of this show into English so that it doesn't sound offensive, but the story of My Girlfriend is Shobitch actually has more in common with Yamada's First Time than anything more salacious or mean. Unfortunately, it also lacks the lighthearted sense of humor of that other show, so while it's clearly intended to be funny, it just falls flat. Mostly I found this being due to Shizuku, protagonist Haruka's one-year-older childhood friend, who begins sexually harassing him the minute she finds out he has a girlfriend and trying to convince Kosaka that she and Haruka have been sleeping together. Even before she randomly groped Kosaka's breasts, she was knocking the show down half a point because she's not only unnecessary to the plot of Kosaka thinking that “girlfriend = sexual relationship,” but she's also incredibly annoying.
The root of the story is that Haruka's new girlfriend, the smart and beautiful girl he's been crushing on for a year, thinks that being a good girlfriend is an entirely sexual endeavor. While Haruka isn't opposed to a physical relationship, he's also more than a little weirded out by Kosaka's insistence on figuring out what turns him on – her first statement after she agrees to go out with him is that she'll immediately memorize forty-eight basic sex positions for his delectation. Things just get worse from there for Haruka – it turns out that she's really committed to being his sex partner long before they've even gone on a date. It's not hard to see how it's supposed to be funny, and the scene where he opens a door to find her playing a cat-eared dominatrix is worth a chuckle, but for the most part the episode seems to rely on the juxtaposition between Kosaka's solemn demeanor and her outrageous words, along with shots of boobs and butts. I'm sorry, Shobitch, but just having your scene changes be skirt flips or a girl crossing her legs does not make your show a sex comedy.
There's also the fact that this looks pretty ugly. The character designs are plain to the point of being generic and the best animation is probably those scene changes. The colors feel flat as well, and girls’ figures seem to change from scene to scene. Add in the troubling thought as to why Kosaka has these sexualized ideas of a relationship in the first place – she doesn't actually seem too eager to sleep with Haruka despite her efforts, which appear to be solely because it's what she thinks she has to do. If the show is going to go in the direction of Haruka explaining that a relationship doesn't have to be sexual to be successful, I'll be more on board with this, but I do think that's a longshot.
If you're looking for a sex-positive comedy set in high school, I'd suggest re-watching Yamada's First Time or reading Kodansha's digital release of the Peach Heaven manga. This may eventually get to a point where its humor works better, but I'm not holding my breath.
You might expect a show with a title as absurd as My Girlfiend is Shobitch to be either the most tasteless or mean-spirited of all sex comedies. But in truth, while Shobitch isn't exactly tasteful, it also feels like the most charming of this season's super-horny offerings. There's a decent idea here, even if the execution isn't always the best.
The big joke of Shobitch is that after first getting together with his crush Kosaka, young high schooler Haruka Shinozaki finds out she's the most bluntly sex-focused person in the world. This episode is full of gags like Haruka thinking “I want to get to know Kosaka better” and then running into getting-to-know-you questions like “what are your favorite fetishes?” It doesn't seem like Kosaka is actually desperate to push their relationship forward - she's just framed as a person who only understands relationships in terms of sex stuff, despite her own innocence. And so the two play off each other across a series of sometimes effective gags, drawing closer in the strangest way possible.
At its worst, Shobitch's “let's talk about sex but also be entirely innocent towards it” tone feels like an awkward mix of repression and exploitation - like the show wants to present a fantasy of a girl who's both ready to fulfill all your deviant desires and also the most innocent of all potential lovers. But my skepticism of the show's tone faded through the second half of this episode, where it adopted a style closer to something like Mysterious Girlfriend X. The final scenes, where Kosaka directly admits her insecurities about how to proceed in a relationship, were easily the episode's best. A show like this requires you to believe in the relationship between the main couple, and though it took a little while to get there, I was on board by the end.
Comedy-wise, things are murkier. Many of this episode's jokes felt almost unfinished or just too basic to laugh at. There were some occasional decent visual gags, but most of the actual dialogue fell into pretty stale “she said WHAT?!” territory. The best gags unsurprisingly played on the personalities of the characters, but aside from the main couple, this episode's third central character was an absolute terror. Haruka's childhood friend Shizuku spent basically all of her scenes being impossibly aggravating, sabotaging her friend's relationship and falling back on simple “I'll say something that could be misunderstood in a sexual way” gags.
Still, if you're looking for a fanservice-heavy romcom, you could do a lot worse than Shobitch. The show's visual execution is quite solid, its main couple are likable enough, and its concept may actually lead to some nice reflections on the strange horniness of young love. This is a fairly rough first episode, but it's a lot better than the title would tell.
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