The Winter 2019 Anime Preview Guide
The Quintessential Quintuplets
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Quintessential Quintuplets ?
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The most surprising thing about The Quintessential Quintuplets is how aggressive and uncompromising it is about delivering absolutely no surprises whatsoever. From stem to stern, this harem anime is one hundred percent familiar, predictable cotton candy fluff, with a healthy side of fanservice. It's too honest about its intentions to be frustrating or outright offensive, but it also fails to set itself apart in any meaningful way, outside of the central gimmick of all the female characters being fraternal quintuplets.
The sisterly bond that Nino, Ichika, Miku, Yotsuba, and Utsuki share is the chief bright spot in the premiere's otherwise stock setup. To be sure, they're all tried and true clichés in their own right: Nino is the stone-cold protector of the group, Ichika is the well-intentioned airhead, Miku is cold and emotionless one, Yotsuba is the perky one with rabbit-ear ribbons, and Itsuki is the tsundere that ends up bonding with our protagonist, Fuutarou. Fuutarou is a bit of a wet-blanket, and I can take or leave him either way, but I appreciate how, once he gets his in with the girls and gets to see them in their natural element, the Nakano sisters actually behave like real siblings. They're incredibly protective of each other while also constantly bickering; they steal each other's clothes and tease each other, and when they get together for Fuutarou's tutelage, the whole apartment erupts into an incomprehensible din of jokes, accusations, distractions, and the usual chaos of family life. I grew up with many siblings myself, and big modern family groups like this feel rare in anime.
Outside of that familial connection, this doesn't stray far from the path of every harem anime you've seen in the past ten years. Each of the girls is improbably attractive, and their designs feel suspiciously designed to maximize their sex appeal to the audience as much as Fuutarou himself. That isn't in and of itself a bad thing, but the camera leers at the girls just enough to be off-putting. Essentially every girl is introduced by the camera focusing on their boobs or butt rather than their faces; there's even one random shot that just lingers on the flat chest of Fuutarou's ridiculously coifed little sister, which was definitely uncomfortable.
At the very least, the fanservice doesn't cross the line into being ludicrously over the top (or rather, it hasn't yet). The girls aren't falling down stairs and landing crotch first on Fuutarou's face or anything like that; the camera just gets a little skeevy. The Quintessential Quintuplets isn't for me, but it's got a solid script, and it's well animated enough that I think it will appeal more to those looking for a slightly old fashioned feeling, no-frills comedy that makes absolutely no apologies for what it is.
While plenty of forgettable or downright bad harem comedies have been made over the years, there's no ironclad rule stating that a show in this genre can't be good. Case in point: I genuinely enjoyed the first episode of The Quintessential Quintuplets. The jokes are funny, the characters range from tolerable to likable, the fanservice doesn't go overboard, and there's no creepy or obnoxious plot point to spoil the party. There's nothing revolutionary about it, but it does a lot of basic things well without showing any major flaws, and that's enough to make this premiere good clean (well, clean-ish) fun.
The closest The Quintessential Quintuplets comes to breaking the genre mold is with its protagonist, who seems like an actual character instead of just a cardboard cutout with “viewer's name here” written on it. As his sister points out near the end of the episode, Uesugi has both good and bad points: he can be a condescending stick in the mud, but his heart appears to be in the right place, and he's determined to do whatever he can to help his family. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that he's thoroughly nonplussed by the idea of being a home tutor for the quintuplets. He doesn't freak out over being in the same room as a girl, nor does he descend into any pervy monologues. In a roundabout way, the fact that he's not interested in being a harem protagonist makes him a good harem protagonist. Even when he does act like a jerk, the show is quick to ensure that he receives some sort of humorous comeuppance. The comedy in general benefits from solid timing and delivery, and the writing is able to poke fun at the premise without getting too self-referential.
The girls stick closely to stock roles thus far, spanning a wide range from the obligatory tsundere to the impossibly friendly girl. Itsuki displays a bit of depth thanks to her extended screen time, and the series is at least able to get some decent comedic mileage out of all five heroines. Character designs for the quintuplets are distinctive enough that it's easy to tell them apart, and the production values in general are sufficient if unremarkable. The dinner scene at Uesugi's apartment is a bit too overt in its ploy to add an emotional component to the story, but it gets the job done. Less impressive is the gimmicky hint of a future wedding, which seems both artificial and unnecessary. The characters' present-day interactions are entertaining enough that the show doesn't need to invent a big narrative hook to hold the audience's attention.
There's a bit of fanservice here, but it's pretty tame by genre standards, and we're spared the tired old standards of guys tripping face-first into boobs or half-naked girls screaming about how the main character is clearly a pervert. If this premiere is anything to go by, The Quintessential Quintuplets seems like it'll be tasteful and funny enough to appeal to a reasonably broad audience. Even if this genre isn't normally your cup of tea, this show is worth checking out.
I have to say, after surviving the barrage of horrors modern anime often contains, a traditional harem feels weirdly wholesome. Our protagonist Fuutarou isn't lusting after his sister, isn't trying to creep on actual children, and doesn't even literally own any of his suitors. Just some old-fashioned fanservice, plenty of popular character archetypes, and a “how did I get myself into this” premise to wrap it all together.
It's also nice that as far as harems go, The Quintessential Quintuplets feels like an excellent example of the form. The show's first strength is that Fuutarou is multifaceted and genuinely sympathetic. He can be a jerk at times, but he has very reasonable motives, and tries to make up for his mistakes. Harem protagonists are often either outright buffoons or simply non-persons, so having a protagonist who brings so much character to the proceedings is a welcome choice.
Quintessential Quintuplets also benefits from both its propulsive narrative and its very energetic production. The five sisters here don't just fall into Fuutarou's lap - he's actually forced by circumstance to try and connect with them himself, giving this episode a solid sense of progression and consequence. There are plenty of creative, punchily executed reactions faces, and even great little gags of animation, like how Yotsuba's hair ribbons wave along with her hands. Quintessential Quintuplets is a visually attractive and engaging production in basically all regards.
Finally, all of these strengths are tied together by the show's genuinely effective comedy. The gags here aren't abrasive or oversold, with many of the best moments being quick little asides by Fuutarou, or inherent visual gags that don't require any explanation (like Fuutarou arguing with one of the sisters from inside a ridiculous outdoor display costume). I actually laughed out loud when, in response to Fuutarou saying something rude, his sister stood up and merrily walked around the whole table to smack him. A joke like that doesn't seem like the most innovative thing, but it reveals an understanding of comedic timing and anticlimax that puts Quintessential Quintuplets a step above most romantic comedies. Comedy is in large part a matter of pacing, and Quintuplets seems to have a natural knack for the art.
So far, my biggest issue with Quintuplets is that the five sisters are all pretty predictable character types. But this is only the premiere, and given the necessity of actually setting up the premise, I can definitely forgive this episode for not really humanizing its heroines. All in all, Quintessential Quintuplets probably won't appeal if you're not in the market for a harem, but it offers a fine demonstration of the genre done right.
Meiji Tokyo Renka gave us our obligatory reverse-harem title for the season, so this one looks like it's stepping up to give us the obligatory vanilla-harem series. The twist this time is that all five of the harem girls are sisters.
Actually, I'm pretty sure that something like that has been done before. Making them all quintuplets is a new variation on the concept but a relatively minor one; it doesn't change the standard dynamic in the slightest. Yes, they're all the same age and live together, but that's already pretty normal for harem situations. So the gimmick is entirely inconsequential unless something comes up down the road that draws on them all being sisters.
The series does distinguish itself from its peers in a couple of minor ways. First and foremost is that Futaro isn't a total milksop. He'll have to adjust to dealing with the girls at their speed, but he's not the kind of guy who's always going to get bowled over. He's even a bit abrasive, which isn't typical for a harem romcom male lead, and he's not in that rough a financial situation. The sisters aren't exactly a standard set of personality archetypes, but none of them stray far from their norms; there's the peppy idiot, the sleepy slob who doesn't care about Futaro getting an eyeful, the conniving schemer, the binge-eating tsundere, and the standoffish one. All represent entirely different challenges that should easily keep Futaro on his toes. The only one who shows overt signs of potential romance right now is Itsuki, but potential avenues for the other girls showing interest in him are already being laid. We know that he's going to end up marrying one of these girls, so the big mystery throughout the series is going to be who's in that future wedding dress.
Technical merits courtesy of Tezuka Productions are surprisingly good and provide a bevy of attractive character designs. The one detail that sticks out is that all of the sisters are rather busty, but I guess that makes sense if they share the same genetics, right? The opener, which has all of the sisters lip-syncing, is also kinda neat. Overall, this is showing at least minor sparks of potential, and it's definitely watchable as harem series go, but it'll need to do more to make itself memorable.
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