The Summer 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Hensuki: Are you willing to fall in love with a pervert, even if she's a cutie?
How would you rate episode 1 of
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How was the first episode?
Hensuki's first episode feels like a tease. After an opening of Keiki, the protagonist, dreaming of boobs and under-clothed girls, the episode almost immediately launches into plain old school stuff, with Keiki going to school with his (too attached) sister and then heading to his club, where he and the other members begin to clean the room. When we get to the hook – that someone's left him an unsigned love letter and a pair of their pearly white panties – things seem like they're going to start moving a little faster, or at least in an ecchier direction, only for the episode to sort of stall while Keiki consults his buddy Shoma about his undergarment Cinderella. Eventually things do end on a more interesting note with club sempai Sayuki revealing that she has a thing about being treated like a pet pooch while still not saying if she's Cinderella (and I'd bet money she isn't), but I feel like the show just takes too long to get there while not actually developing any of the characters along the way. If it did that, I could see getting more behind the meandering pace, but this episode just felt downright dull.
It also feels a bit predictable, although hopefully I will be proven wrong on that front. Right now I'm thinking that each girl will both have a crush on Keiki while harboring a secret “perversion” and turn out not to be Cinderella. (My best guess is that it's the student council girl we briefly glimpsed.) Since Keiki is already weirded out by Sayuki's fetish, a lot of the humor could come from making him uncomfortable, which could in turn be uncomfortable for the audience.
All of that is, however, speculation at this point. That doubtless says how uninspiring the episode itself is. There's really nothing about it that makes it stand out, from the pale artwork with colors that appear washed out to the blandness of the characters, which is particularly odd given the series title. And let us not forget the world's scariest looking dog – I think it's meant to be an Afghan Hound? There's something really off about its proportions and the perspective of its face, in any event. While the humans are at times off-model (mostly Sayuki's chest size), the pup stands out particularly as a poor example.
Hensuki may very well pick up next week now that it has finished its initial set up. It looks like the closest thing we have to an ecchi show this season right now, but it also feels afraid to lean into that. Hopefully it gets its act together in episode two, because otherwise this is all title and no action.
The actually noteworthy harem anime are few and far between, but the genre is generally pretty good about maintaining a certain level of bland neutrality. Largely personality-free male protagonist for the audience to project onto, a gaggle of girls who all have some archetypal gimmick and a personal problem to resolve, and plenty of silly gags and racy fanservice. Combine in boiling water, let simmer for twelve episodes, and there you go - a largely flavorless but altogether edible harem stew.
Tragically, Hensuki seems incapable of managing even that level of passable composition. The show puts its best foot forward with its very silly premise, which is basically “what if the Cinderella story, but instead of a glass slipper, Cinderella intentionally left her panties behind?” Thus our protagonist Keiki must engage in some delicate detective work, as he attempts to discover which of his four haremettes is ready to seal the deal.
Unfortunately, that and this show's above-average production values are the only good things about this premise. The biggest issue with this show by far is that it has decided to skip all the “girls falling in love with Blandman” setup material, meaning at this point, every female character is completely in love with Blandman, yet he's still entirely oblivious. Traditionally, it's only during the “girls falling in love” stage that a given show's haremettes actually get to display any distinct personality - by the time they've fallen in love, their personality is reduced to “I love Blandman and would die for him.” That standard still holds true for Hensuki, meaning none of this show's female characters actually have personalities - their entire worlds are centered around cryptically and not-so-cryptically hinting at their feelings for Blandman, while Blandman's entire personality is “I wish I had a girlfriend” and “oh jeez, that girl kissed me right after the other girl took care of me right after that third girl asked about my boob size preferences, I wonder if this means anything.”
With no personalities beyond their love for the protagonist, it was impossible to actually care about or be charmed by any of this show's female characters; they were essentially just a set of haircuts attached to differently sized boobs, duct taped to a voicebox repeatedly chanting “I love you, Keiki.” With the heroines already transmogrified into their final harem forms, Blandman's obliviousness felt less charming than deeply aggravating, as he spent the whole episode trying to solve a mystery that solved itself every single scene. The twist of this episode's final moments seems to imply it'll at least try to be a specific kind of horny going forward, but everything else about this episode was entirely lacking in distinctive personality. An easy pass for this one.
The title for Hensuki is clearly a portmanteau of “hentai” and “suki,” and so could be read straight-up as “perverted love.” That is exactly the premise of the series – that each of the four girls protagonist Keiki associates with has some particular kind of kink, as well as being romantically interested in him – though that does not actually manifest in the first episode until the very last scene. Up until that point it appears to be just another ordinary opener for a harem romcom.
Actually, calling it a “romcom” might not be entirely accurate, as the first episode plays out more like a straight-up romance, with the only real humor being in the mess that Sayuki makes in the club room. (Despite this, the source novels are classified as such.) Calling it ordinary also might not be fair, as the first episode has a visual style and animation level that is definitely a bit more ambitious that the typical harem series. There are several places in the episode which use distinctly different camera angles than normal – ones which aim for more of a 3D effect despite otherwise being a 2D production – and the exaggerated flourishes of Sayuki's brush strokes when doing her calligraphy also show a greater-than-normal artistic effort. Given this, that the actual overall artistic quality is rather ordinary feels incongruous.
There's nothing incongruous about the content, however. Keiki is desperate to have a girlfriend, and he's surrounded by three four candidates. One's a big-breasted beauty, one's very petite but more playful, the third is more of a “big sister” type, and the fourth is his actual little sister. (He flatly rejects that option in discussions with his friend, but everything about her portrayal suggests that she's in play.) Being a harem protagonist, he's naturally slow to pick up on them all being interested in him to some degree, which makes the mystery of the love letter with the panties a perplexing one. I'm guessing that they aren't Sayuki's, since her fetish turns out to be wanting to be treated as a pet and leaving panties does not seem in line with that. Given how extreme her fetish is, that leaves me a little curious about what the fetishes of the other girls are.
Whether or not that's enough to get me to watch more is debatable. As harem series go I see this one as a borderline call, hence the middle rating. Despite starting and ending with fan service scenes, it's not as flagrantly sexy as some, and I could do without the “little sister” option, but it is at least showing some actual effort. I'll give it another episode or two to see if it proves itself worthy.
Nearly every new season of anime has that series that represents the bottom of the barrel for me, and this summer's entry appears to be Hensuki. The plot, insomuch as there is one, involves a featureless boy named Keiki who has inexplicably amassed a harem of classmates (including his little sister, because of course), every one of whom practically slobbers all over Keiki whenever they're in the same room as him. Somehow, Keiki still thinks of himself as a loser with no romantic prospects, until he finally receives a love confession letter, like he's always dreamed. The twist is that, instead of a signature, his secret paramour left him a pair of panties. With so many girls to choose from, which could possibly be such a brazen “pervert” that they would drop a pair of drawers in his mailbox like that!?
The joke is that pretty much all of these girls are as thirsty as a fish on dry land, and with that you have everything Hensuki has to offer. The closest the episode gets to pulling off another gag is when one of the interchangeable love interests keeps calling Keiki “Cake”, because homophones can be amusing, I guess. I don't think it's any surprise that I didn't enjoy a single thing about this premiere - it's easily the worst thing I've watched all summer. It isn't even the interesting, offensive kind of bad that warrants a lot of discussion or debate. For a show that presents itself as an irreverent sex comedy, Hensuki is absolutely devoid of both laughs and sex appeal. The individual girls have no discernable personalities to speak of outside of the body-types and kinks they represent, and Keiki has not an ounce of chemistry with a one of them.
In fact, the dialogue Keiki has with the rest of the girls is the episode's most glaring weak point. Most of the episode involves Keiki running around to one girl at a time to try and scope out of they're the mysterious purveyor of panties, and each conversation is so awkwardly written and paced that they transform into an amorphous wall of white noise of inanity. I remember having a similar criticism of Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai – it seems that my opinion is in the minority given how popular that show became, but even I can admit that Bunny Girl Senpai was clearly aiming for a certain kind of Monogatari-lite aesthetic. I have no clue what the heck Hensuki is trying to do here. The story we're presented with here isn't zany, or scandalous, or irreverent, or satirical, or, well, anything. It is opposite of entertaining, and I would urge even fanservice completionists to steer very clear of it.
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