The Spring 2017 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Love Tyrant ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
Love Tyrant has a lot going on. Not in any sense of character or narrative complexity; its actual story is dumber than a sack of hammers, and it knows it. No, Love Tyrant as a show is simply an explosion of activity at such a breakneck pace that there's barely time for the viewer to stop and consider any of what's being thrown at them. The jokes come, you laugh at them, and then there's another batch of jokes to laugh at. Rewatching this premier to check out Funimation's simuldub, I was amazed that I'd been able to catch everything that I had the first time I watched it, given the sheer comic density of the show (though I was reminded of a couple great bits I'd forgotten about, like the Solve-It-Skillfully Shark).
If the audience can barely keep up with the show's pace, the English voice actors trying to match its clip is the dub's biggest liability so far. Japanese may just be better suited to this level of rapid-fire delivery, and several times in this first episode, you could hear the actors straining to deliver the entirety of their lines within a short window (and still match the lip-flaps!). Jad Saxton's Guri was the biggest victim of this, but there were moments for just about everyone. Notably, the segment where Coraly is introduced, and he talks over Seiji's rambling badly suffered from how the two characters' voices ran together, making that moment nigh-incomprehensible. The show's Manzai-esque delivery of its jokes also presents a unique challenge for the cast, but they do well with the overreactions and pointing out the jokes. They actually turn the show's habit of explaining its own jokes into more effective punchlines in a couple of cases, which I was happy to see, since it's one of my biggest misgivings with the series so far.
Constraining issues with the performances aside, they work pretty well for the show so far. Like Guri herself, Saxton's performance is the brightest spot so far; she hits just the right spot for the character between cutesy and trollish. Her endearingly dumb side comes through in those moments, and the actress does a particularly good job with Guri's aside comments, making them come across amusingly disconnected to their current situation. Austin Tindle's Seiji isn't quite as strong. He does very well with the crazy and comedic overreactions of the character; when Seiji's yelling or panicking, he's great. However, any time the character needs to slow down or deliver something a bit more deadpan, he instead shifts to a rather flat, almost monotone performance. These parts are also impacted by the need to speak the lines quickly, leaving them feeling the most ‘artificial’ of the performances. Amber Lee Connors's Akane is a surprising treat, she brings an impressive amount of range to a character who is otherwise rather one-note. Akane was already amusing, but here she's quite fun to watch. Monica Rial as Yuzu is so far a bit of a standard squeaky performance (maybe too high-pitched sometimes), but the experienced actress will likely iron her delivery out as Yuzu gets more to do in the series.
Love Tyrant as a show already thrives on sheer bizarreness and fast-paced references, and the dub script's handling of those elements is a bit uneven so far. Odd choices are made about what terms to translate, with probably the biggest sticking point being Seiji referring to Guri as a ‘Shinigami’ throughout the first episode. I question why they couldn't have gone with ‘Grim Reaper’ or something similar here. The show does opt to localize ‘Yandere’ as ‘Psychopath’ which is an acceptable substitute for the term, but it just makes the other untranslated concepts stand out more. References to ‘flags’ may fly over the heads of some viewers as well, though there's not really a well-known western equivalent of the visual-novel/dating-sim term in that case.
The English dub certainly isn't the best way to enjoy Love Tyrant so far, since its comedy and delivery are just so distinctly suited to its native tongue, but it is enjoyable nonetheless. It's definitely a worthwhile choice for those who were interested in the show, but maybe found it daunting trying to follow all the craziness while reading subtitles at the same time. And I have to admit, I'm curious about how that demon penguin will be handled in English.
What? What?? Whaaaaaat???
Well, Love Tyrant sure was a thing that happened. Right up front, I'm surprised that an anime with such a blatant unauthorized parody of a different anime got made, considering how much trouble Mr. Osomatsu got in for tripping this same line in much more trivial ways. Japan has very different laws regarding fair use of IP that keep many parodies from openly acknowledging the exact thing they're riffing on. Even Gintama, which is serialized in Shonen Jump, frequently cracks wise about how often they have to pointlessly bleep out the jokes they make about other titles in the magazine. So how does Love Tyrant get a pass for revolving around a "shinigami" ensnaring a human boy with a Kiss Note, complete with multiple direct gags about the source material, without the copyright holders of Death Note breathing down their necks? I'd love to hear the story behind it, at least.
Given the premise, I was expecting something a little more ecchi or romantically focused heading into this episode, but Love Tyrant is one of the most frenetic and fast-paced anime romcoms I've ever seen, just barely dependent enough on continuity and character development to keep it from feeling like some kind of Nabeshin gag anime, but it's otherwise closer to that level of madcap insanity than the slower and cutesier Actually, I Am... or the heavily sentimental Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches that it otherwise resembles in premise and visual style. The characters are all such over-the-top cartoons engaging in bizarre behavior that there's not really any room to be either offended or attached; you might not find it funny, but it's too ridiculous to be off-putting either.
Love Tyrant's wild irreverence and speed of gags is both its greatest strength and weakness at the same time. On the one hand, the jokes are largely dumb and obvious, so the only way to make them land with any weight is to pack as many of those stupid punchlines into as short a space as possible. If you can't go for quality, go for volume, right? I can respect that approach in a medium where even "wacky" comedies can be plagued with slow pacing to spare production resources. At the same time, this onslaught makes it feel like we're racing through vignettes and comedic subplots with no room to let any setup or payoff really land. Love Tyrant's first episode easily has two or three full episodes of plot twists in it, and while it's not at all hard to follow this plot thanks to how colossally dumb it is, there's not really any room to build or betray expectations about where a joke is going.
Given its potentially insufferable premise, Love Tyrant could have been a whole lot worse, but just because it's a speedy watch doesn't make it a good watch either. This might be worth a few more episodes if you're seeking dumb laughs, but it's hard to summon much enthusiasm for a show that's plowing through all its ideas with such feckless abandon, as if it's desperate to reach the end before it's already begun.
I was initially pretty wary of Love Tyrant, since the premise seemed like an extremely skeevy direction to take a Death Note riff. If the show were actually taking the feelings of its characters very seriously, I'd probably still have reservations - but within the broader romcom genre space, Love Tyrant is a slapstick farce through and through. Frankly, being coerced into kissing people is probably the least terrible thing this show's characters do to each other.
This first episode plays out somewhere in the same genre space as Actually, I Am… and Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. Our protagonist Seiji Aino finds himself wrapped up in the adventures of Guri, a not-so-angelic cupid who's tasked with pairing people off through the power of the Kiss Note. Seiji's name has already been written in the note, but unless he's given a partner within twenty-four hours, Guri dies and Seiji remains a virgin forever. And so a variety of hijinks ensue.
Love Tyrant's greatest quality is probably its sense of energy. This episode bounces quickly through setup and immediate drama, crafting a four-way love quadrangle with time to spare. The show is full of great expressions, and the direction is active enough to keep energy high throughout. And Guri in particular is basically a gleaming ball of absurdism, bringing life to the show both through her ridiculous angelic contrivances and her alternately lazy and utterly self-serving personality.
If there's anything holding this show back, it's mainly that the larger cast just isn't that strong yet. Guri brings a lot of fun to the proceedings, but Seiji is basically a blank slate so far, and his crush Akane is a one-note yandere. The show's comedy isn't so great that it can survive on jokes alone (there were already a fair number of clunkers in this episode), so Love Tyrant will likely have to find a reason to care about its characters if it wants to maintain interest. But a snappy sense of timing and a strong visual aesthetic are a great platform to start from, so Love Tyrant certainly has the potential to be a pretty fine comedy.
Love Tyrant throws you right into the thick of it from minute one when Seiji answers the door to find the fast-talking Guri. Thanks to her Kiss Note she's going to die and he'll lose his soul if they don't write another name down next to his and kiss in 24 hours. The episode keeps charging ahead at its breakneck comedic pace which is the primary problem for the comedic timing. The staff weren't interested in establishing Seiji and his crush Akane prior to the entrance of Guri, and I think this causes a lot of the subsequent jokes to miss their mark and is compounded by the decision to break the episode into two segments and barrel through the material.
This problem is felt most strongly in the episode's yandere gag and Guri and Yuzu's addition to the growing love quadrangle. The revelation of Akane as a yandere didn't get nearly as many laughs out of me as it could have, had it been a genuine surprise. She's on the screen in her underwear for a scant few minutes before the yandere reveal is rolled out. It wasn't expected, being that yandere aren't nearly as common a character type as the other -deres, but it didn't land as well as it could have if the audience had spent a longer measure of time thinking she was a stereotypical, busty love interest. Basically, it didn't subvert my expectations because I wasn't given enough time to establish any yet.
The addition of Guri then felt equally rushed. Seiji landed a kiss on her early in the episode but there's little evidence to show that she cares, at least not enough to write her name down and declare them an eternal couple. The second half is then a long chase scene before Akane's sister Yuzu is also added, again after not much more than a minute or so of dialogue. It seems like the show is in a hurry to introduce all of its wacky characters and then move on. The thing is, with the exception of Guri, they aren't all that funny. Even Akane's yandere mode stabbing schtick was old by the end of the episode. It's a gag that needs to be used sparingly. Her sister's ardent, starry-eyed “Onee-san!” exclamations don't leave much to work with, either. I had a better reception to Guri since the animators aren't afraid to manipulate her for physical comedy, making her bald except for a prominent ahoge or chubby and cartoonish.
This felt like a rushed first episode that missed the mark more than it hit despite a few unique concepts. Character introduction might just be its weak point, so here's hoping once the cast is assembled it can get down to actually making me laugh.
In my preview of Armed Girl's Machiavellism, I mentioned that that series did a lousy job of working the “stupid fun” angle. How convenient, then, that Love Tyrant has come along to provide an example of what this formula looks like when it's done right. This episode dives straight into its silly premise and immediately jumps as far over the figurative shark as it can go. This looks to be a show that takes almost nothing seriously apart from its comedic craft. It's dumb, it's ridiculous, and it's a surprising amount of fun.
One key thing that Love Tyrant seems to understand is that a rapid-fire approach makes it much easier to get away with lowbrow humor. You'd be hard-pressed to find a period of sixty seconds in this episode that doesn't contain at least one sight gag, otaku reference, or piece of comedic dialogue. Not all of them work, but the best way to deal with a failed joke is to immediately bury it under a better one. If Seiji's exasperation with Guri doesn't work for you, Akane's next moment of yandere rage is probably right around the corner. If that falls flat, the show also has a talking cat with a human face and a shameless yuri parody waiting in the wings. This episode could probably get away with flubbing half of its punch lines, but its timing and delivery are strong enough that the success rate is much higher than that.
It's also a good sign that Love Tyrant doesn't appear to be interested in pairing its comedy with any sort of dramatic element. Everything, be it the characters' feelings for one another or the risk of death if they fail in their angelic activities, is treated as a source of humor to be mined until it's empty. There's no clumsy emotional content to get in the way, and that makes it much easier to sit back and laugh as everyone's best intentions go horribly awry. When all of the characters are either dumb as rocks or completely crazy, it doesn't feel like the writing is picking on anyone in particular.
My one concern is that Love Tyrant's antics start to get exhausting by the end of this episode. With this show's relentless pacing, I have to wonder if it might have been better suited to a shorter format. As it stands, I'm not sure I have the energy to keep up with it. I also worry that the characters are too limited by their personality gimmicks, which could lead them to wear out their welcome before the end of the season. In order to keep that from happening, Love Tyrant will need a constant supply of new comedic material to work with. For now, though, just sit back and enjoy the madness.
This is one of those cases where I can tell that something is pretty funny…but not really my cup of tea. Love Tyrant is a parody of harem romance tropes with some plain old shounen references thrown in for fun, like cupid Guri's “Kiss Note,” a notebook that makes people fall in love with each other…or at least forces them to kiss and become a couple. Guri's a fujoshi, so her favorite thing to use the notebook for is making male/male couples at random, like, for example, the prime minister and another high ranking governmental official, on live television. (The “technical difficulties” screen after the kiss did crack me up.) But since she's accidentally written hapless Seiji's name down instead of a cute voice actor, now he's just going to have to kiss someone, whether he wants to or not.
While it's very clear that this is all in good fun, I'm not particularly thrilled with the forced couples thing, nor do I find piling the torment on characters especially entertaining. Surprise yandere Akane – the former girl of Seiji's dreams – is funny at first, when she hauls out her blades, but that gets old fairly quickly. Guri's thoughtless addition of names to her notebook, and more specifically the page where she's already paired up Akane and Seiji (who is now really regretting his former crush), does have the potential to escalate things at ludicrous speed, but it's also a gag that could wear out its welcome pretty quickly. I suppose I just don't see this series as having enough plot to take it beyond a handful of episodes, while at the same time running the risk of getting mean.
I did enjoy the visuals, however, from Guri's angelic mullet to the intense creepiness of Coraly the angel-faced cat (poor Blue!), and the deliberate sloppiness of the art really works for the wacky story. But this isn't my kind of humor, something that become increasingly obvious over the course of the episode, and when Akane's blood-related (but differently surnamed) little sister got added to the love geometry, I was out. Escalation is fine, but there needs to be somewhere for the story to go beyond that, and this episode doesn't appear to have that sort of destination.
It's going to be pretty hard to beat out Love Tyrant as the stupidest show of the new season. But damned if it isn't funny in the process.
First, let's get the negatives out of the way. This is a mishmash of fairly common anime gimmicks and tropes thrown together in a frenetic mess and paced so rapidly that the production seems intended to not give the viewer enough time to think about anything or roll their eyes over how tired the elements may be. It involves the incompetent supernatural girl who falls for the protagonist, the supernatural girl who winds up living with the protagonist and coming up with some was to brainwash the protagonist's parents into accepting it, a yandere girl, a lesbian girl with a Big Sister Complex (and yes, that means she's head over heels for her blood big sister), the character who likes to cosplay in inappropriate circumstances, and a Death Note rip-off/parody so blatant that Seiji even wonders if the Kiss Note is a Death Note. So yeah, it wallows deeply in otakucentric fare and you have to be at least tolerant of that to appreciate the first episode.
However, the content also loads itself up with jokes, and many of them are quite funny. Exactly who Guri uses as an example to prove that the Kiss Note works may catch viewers off guard, and it won't be last time in the episode. Mileage will vary on the swiftness with which Akane switches to Murderous Mode, especially given how out of character it seems for her (which is, of course, part of the joke), but the gimmicky way that the episode comes up with to allow her to stab Seiji with her big knives without actually killing him is funny exactly because of how stupid a gimmick it is. Even the scenes which conspicuously show Akane's bouncy bust take on the character of a joke because they seem framed more to be ridiculous than just pure fan service. The supervising angel who imposes a human face on Seiji's pet cat is disconcerting at first but not a total shock since he is shown that way in the opener. Guri also gets in a good one with the “villain theme music” bit. The series isn't showing all of its cards yet, though, as the third girl has some kind of special ability whose nature isn't explained by the end of the episode.
The look of the series isn't anything special, but with such a madcap approach it doesn't need to be. The artistic and animation efforts get the jokes across well enough, though the soundtrack seems a little hyperactive. Still, if you're in the mood for silly, high-spirited fun and don't mind it delivered rapidly then this one is definitely worth a look.
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