The Summer 2020 Preview Guide
Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!
How would you rate episode 1 of
Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ?
What is this?
Hana Uzaki is thrilled to discover that she's attending the same college as her high school sempai Shinichi Sakurai, but after a year of watching him, so comes to the conclusion that he's turned into a boring loner. That, she believes, is unacceptable and must mean that he's lonely and doesn't have any fun. Thus begins her project to spend as much time as she can with Shinichi, bursting in on his quiet life like a tiny bomb. Will Shinichi ever make her understand that he likes doing things by himself, or will he be won over by Uzaki's zany charms?
How was the first episode?
This season's Uzaki-chan fits into a relatively well-stocked anime subgenre, a branch of romantic comedies that generally involve a mild-mannered male lead being charmingly pestered by some distinctive heroine. Teasing Master Takagi-san is one of the most beloved of these properties, though I'm personally quite fond of Dagashi Kashi, as well. Unfortunately, Uzaki-chan can't really stand among the better entries in the Cute Girls Pestering Boys field; in fact, there's basically nothing to recommend about this first episode at all.
Okay, I will give it one credit - Uzaki's voice actress Naomi Oozoroa does a terrific job attempting to draw some charm and personality out of this script, and makes Uzaki far more endearing than she would be otherwise. But the plain, fundamental issue with Uzaki-chan is that neither Uzaki herself nor our bland protagonist Shinichi are either charming or interesting, and the two of them possess basically zero collective chemistry.
Uzaki is presumably supposed to come off as endearingly overbearing, but there's no real wit to her pranks, and no depth to her personality beyond that. Meanwhile, Shinichi has no personality at all, and when it comes to comedy, Uzaki-chan leans on tired, overplayed gags like “stop shouting things that onlookers could take in a weird way,” or the ever-reliable “loud noises!” With no real substance beyond the gimmick of Uzaki's design, this episode felt like two minutes of establishing “what if a heroine was short but had big boobs” and twenty minutes of pausing for applause.
In terms of visual execution, there were a few neat flourishes of fluid character animation in Uzaki- chan's premiere, but the overall direction is unfortunately pretty flat. Additionally, the show's background art is actively unattractive; clearly built off digital scaffolding, there's little sense of space in Uzaki-chan's world, and no shots that are genuinely beautiful. On the whole, while Uzaki-chan isn't really actively terrible in any way, it's also completely lacking in ambition or excellence, and frankly a pretty dull experience. You can easily skip this one.
Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! Has precisely two kinds of “jokes” that it tries to spin endless variations on throughout its agonizingly long premiere: The first is that Uzaki is annoyingly determined to become besties with her longtime schoolmate, Shinichi, which makes for really awkward shenanigans. The second gag is that Uzaki has improbably large breasts for her small frame, and…big boobs also lead to awkward shenanigans?
I'll be honest here, I have no idea who this show is for. When Uzaki first showed up with her giant chest and a shirt that has “Super Huge” stamped on it, I figured this would be another big-booby fanservice show. Except, aside from one stupid bit where Shinichi grabs Uzaki's chest while he's testing a VR headset, most of the jokes about Uzaki's big boobs are the kind that would only be funny for an audience that literally just figured out what boobs are. “Uzaki tries a bunch of vibrating exercise equipment and it makes her boobs jiggle!” “Uzaki does anything at a moderate speed, and her boobs jiggle!” “Uzaki tries to hit a baseball, and her disproportionate body shape causes her a lot of back pain!” These aren't even jokes, they're just vaguely mean-spirited observations about a girl who probably needs serious upgrades to her bra/back-brace support.
So, if the boob-joke half of Uzaki's comedy routine is a total bust, what about the relationship angle? Well, here we have yet another show that has made the rookie mistake of confusing “characters being really annoying and loud at each other” for “being funny.” There's nothing else to say on that front, really. Shinichi seems like an anti-social jerk, and Uzaki is clingy and annoying. That's the show. Now, if Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! was a short that was ten minutes or less, I might be more forgiving, at a full half-hour, it's utter failure to induce even a half-hearted chuckle-snort is borderline criminal. Avoid this show at all costs; even if you're in dire need of some yuks these days, you'd be better off watching almost anything else.
When I reviewed the first volume of the source manga for this show, my conclusion was that it got better as it went on and that it was ultimately greater than the sum of its breasts. It was a real struggle for me to remember that as I was watching this episode, because holy crap, is Uzaki intensely annoying. Granted, she's the sort of character I often have low tolerance for in the first place: she's incredibly loud and doesn't actually listen to what people tell her, coasting through on the cuteness of her character design, even with that annoying flesh-colored fang that indicates that she's a bit like a wild (although not feral) animal in terms of her impulse control. But this is compounded by the fact that the entire plot of the episode is Uzaki deciding, all on her own, that her high school sempai must be lonely and bored (or at least not having fun) because he's an introvert.
Granted, Uzaki doesn't appear to know her introverts from her extroverts, but her blind belief that “being alone” equates to “sad and lonely” absolutely rubs me the wrong way. What's worse is that she simply won't listen to Shinichi or take any of the hints he lays out for her – if he ignores her screaming his name across campus, she says he “didn't hear her” and keeps chasing him; when he tells her not to make fun of him for liking to do things by himself, she keeps teasing him loudly. She repeatedly embarrasses him in public, often by deliberately phrasing things so that it sounds like they're in a sexual relationship, which makes him extremely uncomfortable. (The little smirk she makes after the first time she does this says to me that she knows precisely what she's doing.) Uzaki is only gratifying her own sense of what Shinichi “needs” or “wants,” and that honestly makes her something of a nightmare if you're an introvert and at least really annoying if you're not.
The episode isn't all bad or based on Uzaki's failings as a character. Shinichi is absolutely to blame for anytime he sexualizes her or her actions based on her large breasts (it's certainly not her fault she has them), and the there are some very nice artistic touches (Uzaki's eyes, the animation of her skirt early on). She also clearly means well. But all of the good intentions in the world can't make this feel less mean, and even knowing that by the end of the volume I quite liked the manga can't make me want to sit through another episode of her yelling.
Basing your show's comedy around annoyance is always going to be a gamble. What's playful banter to one person can come off as obnoxious and irritating to another, and that's a very quick way to spoil any gags you might have. This applies doubly so if you're going for a romantic comedy, where the audience should want to see your main couple get together, and that can't happen if one or both parties are too irritating to bear following for an entire episode. This is all to say that I found Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! really, really annoying, and definitely not in a good way.
Uzaki herself is the main issue. It's not just that she doesn't have an inside voice or is constantly needling her nameless Senpai over being a “loner” but that she seems to be doing it all intentionally with the end goal of inserting herself into his life enough that he just gives up and starts dating her. It's a pushy, honestly kind of creepy motivation and only gets more obnoxious when combined with her apparent naivete about her constantly bouncing jello-boobs. Girl complains about shoulder pain but she clearly needs a new bra with some actual support.
Senpai isn't much better – as the straight man to Uzaki's nonsense he's uniformly cranky and dismissive, but never in a particularly clever or funny way. He just gets angry with her until he yells or she makes enough of a scene for him to walk away, which gets old quick even in just this one episode. There's also not a sense that he's unhappy with his “solo” lifestyle at the moment, so it just makes Uzaki seem that much more invasive. That he seemingly tolerates her because she's got unrestrained anime boobs and is kind of cute when she's not talking just makes the whole relationship dynamic feel grody.
There are at least a few positives on the technical side: while I don't care for the character designs much, there's a number of nicely animated moments and some smart use of framing to sell jokes. The use of split-screen to sell Uzaki throwing her back out is probably the standout, but in general the presentation does a good amount of work to sell these gags even when they're not really funny. I also rather liked the unexplained, strung-out cat that seems to follow the pair around everywhere. I don't know what it's there for or if there's even a joke behind it, but I laughed a little every time I saw it. Otherwise this is definitely a wash. If you have more patience for high-pitched screeching or aren't turned off by flesh-fangs, maybe this one is for you. Personally I'll stick with Teasing Master Takagi-san.
In the competition for the Creepiest Cat of the Year award, this series is now the leading contender. Those bugged-out, very non-catlike eyes almost gave me the shivers. That aside, this is a series where the break point for most viewers is likely to come down to whether the humor factor is enough to balance out how irritating Uzaki can be in exercising her mischievous enthusiasm. For me, it just barely worked. She may be annoying, but over the course of the episode I found myself chuckling at her antics (and some of the other jokes) more than I would have expected at the start. The hints that there might at least a little more going on here than is initially apparent.
The whole scenario comes down the idea that Sakurai is a loner, and Uzaki, for whatever reason, has decided that she is going to shake up his loner world. Clearly the origins of this have something to do with them knowing each other from swim club in high school, and Sakurai's reflection towards the end about how Uzaki was not like this in high school suggests that Uzaki may be putting on these antics at least partly deliberately, rather than just being the standard genki girl. Nothing yet has clearly indicated that she has fallen for Sakurai, but I don't buy her “watching Sakurai amuses me” claim at all. This may not be as simple a scenario as it looks like up front.
But hints of more depth are decidedly in the background here. This is mostly about Uzaki trying to force her way into Sakurai's life and him getting annoyed by it but still having more fun with it than he probably cares to admit. As someone who usually goes to movies solo (and has for many years), I found Uzaki's insistence about how wrong that is to be obnoxious, but the series makes up for it with silly antics elsewhere, such as the way she gives sexual connotations to things that are completely innocent or her general impish attitude. The writing also wins points for slipping in things like the on-screen messages almost desperately reminding us that she really is just sitting in a vibrating chair or that nearly all of the movie titles at the theater are cat-themed.
Beyond the cat, the artistic merits are nothing special except for one thing: Uzaki is quite well-endowed for her diminutive stature (think Hestia from DanMachi). The camera goes to great lengths to emphasize that, even working it into the humor on a regular basis; for instance, Uzaki wears a T-shirt whose message across the chest is the not-at-all-subtle “super huge.” So while this is not exactly a fan service series, mild doses of that could be a regular feature.
Overall, the sustainability of the concept is a concern, but the first episode, at least, is entertaining.
discuss this in the forum (151 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history