The Spring 2018 Anime Preview Guide
Tada Never Falls In Love
How would you rate episode 1 of
Tada Never Falls in Love ?
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How was the first episode?
Tada Never Falls in Love comes from the same studio and staff as Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, and that alone is enough is enough to catch my interest. Nozaki-kun stands as one of my favorite anime comedies, so the prospect of an original series from the same crew is pretty exciting. Judging by the first episode, the two titles do seem to share a basic style; both are character-focused comedies with a male lead who seems either indifferent or oblivious to romance. I wouldn't go so far as to call this new series a spiritual successor, though; it swaps out Nozaki-kun's genre parody elements for a more straightforward take on romantic comedy. That change results in a less hilarious but potentially more heartfelt tone, at least for the moment.
There's a nice balance of personalities going on between main characters Mitsuyoshi and Teresa, especially in terms of comedic chemistry. It's a fairly standard setup, with Mitsuyoshi playing the straight man to Teresa's well-intentioned but poorly-informed tourist antics. The writing does a decent job of making their interactions feel charming, with Teresa generally steering clear of “blonde airhead” territory and Mitsuyoshi delivering enough on-point reactions to suggest that he does actually care about what's going on around him despite his mellow attitude. I'm not sure I buy the idea that Teresa learned to speak fluent Japanese from watching an old period drama, but that backstory does at least help to define her perspective on Japan. It seems like there's some romantic chemistry here as well, though how far the series will take that side of the relationship remains to be seen.
The supporting cast is divided up into familiar roles. Mitsuyoshi inevitably has a loud, flirtatious best buddy who naturally runs afoul of Teresa's overzealous friend/bodyguard. We also have a witty little sister and kindly grandfather to provide commentary on the action, along with an abundance of cats. These characters fit their respective parts well enough, though I hope they'll start to break out of those obvious genre molds over the course of the season. Once the full group is assembled at the coffee shop, the humor quickly develops a natural rhythm as their different personalities play off of one another. It's a breezy, lighthearted style of humor that seems more appropriate for a genre hybrid than a dedicated comedy, which makes me wonder if this series might be more of a romance after all.
There's certainly a case to be made for Tada Never Falls in Love having a dramatic side to it. Teresa's conversations with Alec imply that she has some kind of responsibility hanging over her head (I assume she's royalty of some kind), and this episode goes out of its way to show that there's been a death, recent or otherwise, in Mitsuyoshi's family. It would be good if these early hints developed into proper storylines, as some extra narrative substance would do this series a lot of good. It's already pleasant, funny, and easy on the eyes, so a sharper emotional appeal might just elevate it from “charming” to “excellent.” Keep an eye on this one; it has the potential to be a strong dark horse among this season's big-name titles.
We're not even a full week into the Spring 2018 season and it's already looking like a promising one for romances. A couple of days ago, I raved about the more purely romantic Real Girl, which looks to be a story about outsiders coming together to find love. This one is instead a more typical romantic comedy about a young man who might be finding his first love interest thanks to a chance encounter with a foreign girl. While it somewhat shares with Real Girl an emphasis on a teenage boy becoming fascinated by a pretty face, it is otherwise an entirely different animal, providing a good amount of variety for viewing options this season.
The biggest and most readily-apparent difference is that this one doesn't take itself anywhere near as seriously. Its comedy elements are strong enough that I actually laughed out loud a couple of times, especially concerning the behavior of the cat. While “playboy” Kaoru Ijuin is normally the kind of over-the-top narcissistic character who annoys me, he makes a pretty good comedy foil to complement the more taciturn Mitsuyoshi and already has a promisingly prickly relationship with Alexandra. The slightly snarky sister also seems like a good fit, and the whole Rainbow Samurai business is a nice, light parody.
The way the romance plays out is more typical: a young man finds himself crossing paths multiple times with a charming newcomer. He doesn't admit that there's an attraction, but his reaction when she first comes into his camera lens makes his real feelings clear. What makes it work is that Teresa is genuinely charming, the kind of character whose smile lights up a scene even without sparkly effects to reinforce that. Her obvious Japanophile bent not being overplayed also helps. Enough hints have been dropped so far that we can probably assume that she's actually the princess of her small European nation who's studying abroad incognito. While I could do without that twist – I think there's plenty enough foundation here for a good story without that – it does promise some lively complications down the road.
The artistic element isn't spectacular, but character designs still do a great job of making the female characters introduced so far look appealing without being over-the-top glamorous. The male character designs suggest that this is intended to be friendly to female audiences as well. In general, the only real negative I see so far is that Mitsuyoshi fits the “taciturn leading man” profile a little too well, and that's going to limit future potential emotional investment if the writing doesn't step beyond that.
So if you want some romance on the lighter side this season, check this one out.
Tada Never Falls in Love was one of my top prospects coming into this season, largely based on the strength of its director, Mitsue Yamazaki. Yamazaki has a generally strong resume, including directorial credits for several terrific episodes of Mawaru Penguindrum, but it's her recent adaptation of Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun that most clearly established her as a director to watch out for. Nozaki-kun demonstrated Yamazaki has a keen eye for comedic timing, and given that show managed to establish a bunch of incredibly charming couples almost in spite of itself, I was thrilled to see her tackle a less tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy. So how does Tada fair?
Unfortunately, so far all I can give it is a “so-so.” This first episode was mostly preoccupied with introducing the main cast, but I can't say I'm in love with any of them yet, and not even the comedy really grabbed me. This was a very competently executed first episode in many regards, but in the end, I'm left feeling a little ambivalent towards pretty much all of it.
Let's start with the good, though. First of all, Tada's visual execution is quite strong. The show's character designs felt pretty generic, but Doga Kobo did a terrific job of livening them through consistent character acting. The eye for visual comedy that elevated Nozaki-kun is also clearly in attendance here too, resulting in a variety of snappy incidental jokes that kept things engaging even when the plot floundered. And Teresa specifically comes off as believably and charmingly weird - not a caricature, just a sort of odd person with very misguided ideas of what Japan is like. Her obsession with historical drama Rainbow Shogun was likely this episode's best running gag, with the actual cuts to Rainbow Shogun scenes pulling the biggest laughs from me.
Unfortunately, in spite of its occasionally effective gags, this episode ultimately left me struggling to find something to invest in. The episode spends pretty much all of its running time introducing Tada, Teresa, and their various affiliates, but never gives us a reason to see Tada and Teresa as a potential couple, or even to care about Tada as a person. That lack of a hook makes for a frustrating pairing with this episode's generally shapeless structure - I counted three separate times Tada and Teresa just happened to run into each other out on the street, making it seem more like the universe itself wants them to be a couple than they actually have any reason to be together.
It also seems like Tada is awkwardly stranded between two tonal modes. There are dashes of Nozaki-kun's genre-savvy slapstick here, but also moments that seem pulled from a much more grounded character drama, and the two don't necessarily make for the most graceful pairing. The jokes often make the show feel too farcical to engage in emotionally; meanwhile, the loyalty to a realistic tone means the jokes often feel too mild to be particularly funny. It's obviously possible to balance loud comedy and investment-worthy emotional drama, but I don't think Tada's achieved it yet.
Ultimately, I feel Tada is a show that certainly possesses all the necessary tools for success, but hasn't quite applied them correctly yet. This episode clearly held back on revealing much about Tada's personal life, and while I don't really agree with that choice, I'm guessing my issues with the show will fade as it pushes through more necessary character-building. I'm being a little harsh on Tada because I had expectations for it - in a vacuum, this was a perfectly fine premiere. I only hope Tada can rise from “perfectly fine premiere” to actually be a great show.
I sometimes think that the reason why I prefer female-oriented romances is less to do with the fact that I am female and more to do with the lack of manic pixie dream girls. It's a character type I would happily bid farewell to (along with the asshole abusive male lead that stalks the female-oriented romance), and that's what's keeping me from being particularly fond of Tada Never Falls in Love. Heroine Teresa is, if not strictly a manic pixie dream girl, at least her very close cousin, and her terribly quirky ways – love for a random old J-drama, attempts to hop a fence and a river to approach a storm drain she thinks is a secret passage, and her habit of blundering into hero Tada's photos – wears thin very quickly. By the time she reveals that she's learned everything she knows about Japan (language included) from said old J-drama, she's already a golden-haired cliché.
It's a shame, because other elements of the story are done with an impressive subtlety. Tada never explicitly tells us that he and his younger sister Yui live with their grandfather; we see that when Tada brings a drenched Teresa back and Yui takes her upstairs for some clean clothes. That their parents are dead is summed up simply when Teresa glances at the family altar and Alec spots an old photo, and we can extrapolate from there that they were killed in a plane crash, hence Tada's refusal to fly. It's a full backstory without a word of explanation on the part of the cast, and that's both impressive and a very good sign for the storytelling in general.
That's a large part of why Teresa's character stands out so poorly. Yes, we do get some hints that she's very likely royalty (or at least nobility), but the rest of her role is so over-the-top quirky and cute that it's obnoxious. Trusting viewers to understand what's special about Teresa without turning her into a character type would have been a better route to take, and given the aforementioned techniques used with Tada's past, things could still take a turn in that direction. The introduction of Tada's friend Kaoru, along with the immediate transfer of both Alec and Teresa into Tada's class at school, seems to imply that this will err on the goofy comedy side, although that doesn't preclude more serious elements being incorporated into the story.
I hope that they will be, or at least that Teresa is toned down so that she can become an actual character rather than the trope she currently is. Not only is that better writing, but it also would make Tada's burgeoning fascination with her feel like something that could be maintained long term. As it stands, this isn't without potential – it's going to fall on how the characters develop to see whether it can live up to that.
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