The Summer 2017 Anime Preview Guide
Convenience Store Boy Friends
How would you rate episode 1 of
Convenience Store Boy Friends ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
Everything about the first episode of this series suggests that it is going to consist of a number of occasionally-intersecting stories about high school romance, all of which to some degree or another involve encounters in a local convenience store: the broad variety of characters shown, a couple of fledgling romances already brewing, and flashed indicating girls we haven't formally met yet interacting with or clearing pining for guys we may or may not have met yet. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that premise; KimiKiss got it to work quite well, after all, as have other titles to lesser degrees. And while a convenience store is hardly one of the first places that springs to mind when one thinks of romance, it's not an outlandish choice, either. I wouldn't doubt that a number of romances have been borne from chance encounters in a LAWSON's or somewhere similar.
The problem is how it is all carried out. Director Haytao Date clearly can handle himself with action series like Naruto, Saiyuki, and Tokyo Underground, but this is well beyond his prior directing experience and it shows. Everything about the first episode is a little off from what would be effective for a series like this: shots linger a little too long, background music is used too sparingly, and shot framing is uninspired. It does attempt some subtlety, such as by animating the eye movement of one boy as he scopes out a girl he likes, adds in amusing symbolism like the popsicle the one boy gets from the girl he likes coming up as a winner, and at least attempts to have characters conversing naturally, but it never really comes together into anything close to compelling. The first episode hardly descends to the level of Sagrada Reset when it comes to being dreadfully boring, but there's too little flair, enthusiasm, or sense of style here, and a very bland set of initial characters doesn't help. If you're going to do a series about interweaving romance, you have to give it something that hooks the viewers much harder than what this first episode does.
The artistic effort, by Studio Pierrot, isn't anything special, either, with the blandness of the events even rubbing off on the flat, uninteresting character designs. Figure that in, too, and I can see this series struggling to find an audience in the West.
On seeing its title, I originally assumed that Convenience Store Boy Friends might be a show where various popular convenience store chains were anthropomorphized as sexy anime boys. Loading up the premiere episode, I was already imagining how our heroine might possibly decide between the loveable but plain mom 'n pop shop and the bad boy 24/7 joint that lives in the sketchy part of town. Of course, we'd also meet the snobby rich chain store that has two dozen siblings scattered across Japan, and the foreigner from America who's probably blonde, a little loud, and insistent on making small talk with people on the subway. Unfortunately, Convenience Store Boy Friends is not that show, which is a shame, because the anime I dreamt up in my head would have been a heck of a lot more interesting than the run-of-the-mill teen romance we actually get.
Watching Convenience Store Boy Friends is the anime equivalent of getting dragged to a high-school play, except it's all understudies, and one of the students wrote the script. The story doesn't really go anywhere, the production values are cheap, and everyone pauses and lingers for far too long and at the most awkward moments. I actually kept track, and almost ten minutes of this episode consists of absolutely nothing happening. Characters go for silent jogs, or flip through magazines, or clumsily pick up some cans, or just kind of generally stare off into space, and it takes up almost half of the entire episode. There have been a few series that premiered this season that I would describe as “boring” (I'm looking at you, Battle Girl High School), but Convenience Store Boy Friends is the first episode of the season that felt like a genuine slog.
There is a story here, to be fair, but even when the characters do engage in conversation there isn't much for the audience to work with. Every character here falls into the category of “blandly pleasant”, and while this means that there isn't anyone here I'm actively turned off by, there isn't anyone interesting to latch on to either. These are vaguely pretty teenagers pining after other vaguely pretty teenagers for reasons that have nothing to do with organic character writing and everything to do with “because the author said so”.
It's the worst kind of romance, really, because it doesn't offer any of the passion or sexiness or drama that people actually look to the genre to get a taste of. Love and Lies may have been ridiculous, but at least I could see why the protagonists wanted to be together. Haruki and Mashiki have about as much personality as department store mannequins, and the chemistry to match. I know this season isn't exactly brimming with great picks for people who are searching for more romance in their anime, but even so, Convenience Store Boy Friends is one series that's better off being left to gather dust on the very back of the highest shelf.
Good grief, that was dull. We've already seen a few weak premieres this season, but Convenience Store Boy Friends is almost impressive in its lack of energy. The characters are flat, the comedy is stale, and there are no signs of life from the story. It's the kind of bland premiere that makes me check my watch every few minutes just to see how much more of it I have to sit through.
We're introduced to four members of the show's ensemble cast here, and judging by the opening and ending sequences it looks like everyone will be paired off into couples at some point. The leading guys are first-year students Haruki and Honda, though I had already nicknamed them Mr. Boring and Mr. Annoying by the end of the episode. Mr. Boring has a long-standing crush on generic nice girl Mashiki, while Mr. Annoying teases class rep Mihashi to cover up the fact that he thinks she's cute. Both of these dynamics are perfectly plausible starting points for relationships between the characters, but the writing far too stiff and clumsy to make any of it seem compelling.
The comedy lands with just as much of a thud as the drama. Once again, the concepts seem decent enough on paper. Honda hangs out overnight at Haruki's house all the time, even though Haruki's annoying little brother wakes them up too early in the morning. It seems like the kind of “bros being best buddies” stuff that would at least help endear the characters to the audience, but the comedic timing and delivery just aren't there. Dialogue that should be funny ends up feeling even duller than the weak attempts at drama. The visuals don't help either, with sub-par art and animation that fails to add any sense of life or motion.
I'm giving Convenience Store Boy Friends an extra half-point because it at least manages to avoid being obnoxious or offensive in its badness. That said, I can't imagine why anyone would want to sit through a full season of it. Neither the romance nor the comedy offer any real entertainment value, and there isn't even any eye candy worth looking at. Save yourself some time and skip this one.
I'm sure I've heard an anime title that sounds sleazier than Convenience Store Boyfriends, but at the moment I'm hard-pressed to remember what it is. That's probably because I'm thinking of the creepy Cumberland Farms I used to live near; any boyfriends you met in there would not have been trustworthy. Sadly, meeting a guy at that sleazy Cumby's might actually have made for a more interesting first episode than what we got – this is so clean and sweet and nice that it feels a lot like it's lacking things like “plot.”
The basic story appears to be following the blandly appealing boys and girls of a high school near a convenience store, and possibly the two vaguely attractive young men who work there as well. This episode features thrilling moments like reading magazines in the store, picking a club, the fact that Towa never seems to sleep at his own house, and getting up at seven in the morning. There's also a couple of romances set up: Hiroki with a girl he's apparently been in love with since elementary school (but who doesn't remember him?) and Towa with the class rep who thinks she hates him, but really he just makes her uncomfortable. It's all very sweet in an insipid sort of way. The one moment when I thought I might come to like the show, or at least give it another chance, was when the class rep, unhappy with Towa holding her shoulders and calling her cute, stomps on his foot in order to resume running away from him. I may have possibly done something similar in ninth grade (maybe), so there was a bit of relatability there, but also it was both the hint of a real personality along with being a nice change from the typical passive anime girl who would stand there, pink-cheeked and starry-eyed, or from the overreacting character who would start slapping him.
Unfortunately that's not quite enough to merit watching more of this series. While the character designs have a very pleasant simplicity to them, leaning more on the realistic side, and the theme songs are sufficiently catchy, the lack of dynamic characters is a major problem. It certainly could change going forward, but this episode is working so hard to be soothing (just look at that color scheme) that it goes wandering past it and ends up being slightly dull. It isn't bad, but it also is pretty uninteresting, which might actually be worse.
Man, I spend a hectic weekend at Anime Expo, get all wound up to finally dive into the summer preview guide, and I'm greeted with this? It's the first new anime I've watched this season, so it can't be preview guide fatigue; I could barely make it through the episode purely because it was so uninspired and boring.
For those who've never undergone the gauntlet themselves, seasonal preview guides can test the patience of even the most enthusiastic anime fan. When I say "preview guide fatigue," I mean that plateau of critical engagement you reach when the sheer volume of new anime is beginning to make your head spin, and you struggle with giving something a recommendation because you aren't sure if the show might be better than you're giving it credit for, since you might just be tired after having watched five shows before it that day. It happens, we're only human. My point is that I have no idea how hard it would be to sit through this show in those circumstances, because I came into this preview guide fresh as a daisy and chomping at the bit for new anime, but there was just nothing in this whole episode worth remembering or recommending at all. I could only justify adding the ".5" because I felt like giving it a "1" would suggest it was worth seeing how terrible the show is. But it's not terrible. It's just nothing.
Production values? Flat art and awful animation. Music? Generic wistful orchestra and boy-band theme song. Story? Well, this is part of a multi-media franchise of some sort that Kadokawa is managing, so maybe they're partnering with some convenience store, giving the show its only distinguishing characteristic—the paint-by-numbers teen romances starring cardboard cutouts all develop in a local konbini. That's a hook, I guess...? At least "Konbini Kareshi" is a much catchier if no less ludicrous title than "Convenience Store Boy Friends." Our protagonist is a featureless handsome guy with a slightly more humorous tagalong friend who spends a perhaps intentionally suspicious amount of time sleeping over in his friend's room and flirting with him. There's a nondescript cute girl (whose only negative trait is "clumsiness") to act as childhood friend/love interest and a stuck-up class president who really just wants to be seen as a "normal" cute girl herself. Several other boilerplate stereotypes wait in the wings to be introduced in future episodes. There just wasn't a spark of life or originality to any of it, and I feel like it will make much more sense once we figure out what it's meant to be advertising.
Anyway, it's an easy skip for all but the most diehard fans of milquetoast romance. Let's hope the flood of premieres that land tomorrow will be stronger.
It's hard to know what to expect from a show called Convenience Store Boy Friends, but ultimately, I was actually a little disappointed by how normal this show turned out to be. Convenience Store Boy Friends isn't about boyfriends themed around convenience stores, boyfriends who work at convenience stores, or boyfriends who fight to defend the honor of various convenience store franchises. It's just a high school romance anthology, and also there's a convenience store.
Convenience Store Boy Friends takes one of my favorite approaches to the romance genre. Instead of setting up some kind of harem or dramatically strained love triangle, it introduces a variety of couples-in-waiting at once, and lets all of their stories overlap. This episode focuses specifically on two pairs of boys and girls, starting off with male friends Mishima and Honda, and then introducing their likely couple-candidates Mashiki and Mihashi.
Boy Friends is definitely not the melodramatic, thrill-a-minute style of romance. This first episode proceeds at a decidedly slice of life pace, letting the understated personalities of its leads emerge through a wide range of everyday conversations. This approach works largely to its benefit, and extended sequences like Mishima attempting to work up the courage to talk to Mashiki are pretty charming. My only real narrative complaint with this episode was that its insistence on at least visually introducing the whole cast meant it felt a bit unfocused.
Boy Friends' reasonably charming, mostly harmless storytelling is let down somewhat by the show's disappointing visuals. The show's character designs are very generic, there's extremely little animation, and the background art is all relatively flat. The direction is also not particularly inspired, with the show mostly keeping to flat mid-distance shots that presumably minimize the need for new background art. That said, like the writing, the visual execution is still perfectly functional. “Perfectly functional” pretty much describes Convenience Store Boy Friends altogether - it probably won't wow you, but if you're looking for a romance that's a bit more realistic than Love and Lies' silliness, it's worth a look.
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