The Winter 2020 Anime Preview Guide
A Destructive God Sits Next to Me
How would you rate episode 1 of
A Destructive God Sits Next to Me ?
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How was the first episode?
Out of all of the first episodes that I have previewed so far this season, this was easily the most difficult one for me to get through. Not even the one I almost fell asleep during tried my patience anywhere near as much. The main reason this one isn't getting a minimum rating from me is because there was precisely one joke – the one about the amino acids notes in manga form towards the end – that I actually got a chuckle out of.
The problem, I think, may be that I've just lost my patience with the whole exaggerated chunibyo thing. Sure, there are plenty of middle and high school students out there with unrealistic fantasies, such as how they are pro-level basketball talent or are going to be able to get into the Special Forces with their weak grades and not-military-worthy discipline, and there are plenty of high schoolers who get caught up in elaborate dramas that are all in their head. However, none of them are as irritating as Hanadori is. These displays can get old quickly, especially if there's no effort to show how they can be connected to deeper problems like Love, Chunibyo, & Other Delusions showed. (Granted, that might necessarily be a fair comparison because that one took most of a season accomplishing that task.) These displays of his just come off as grandstanding and desperate cries for attention rather than comedy, and I'm not sure that such an impression was intended.
Beyond Hanadori, Tsukimiya is only slightly less annoying as the dedicated instigator. Again, he's just an exaggerated version of a familiar real-life personality type, but he's not being that funny here, either. While I almost feel sorry for Koyuki for having to put up with all of this, he has to blame himself at least some for not more diligently ignoring their crap. The late twist that Hanadori and Tsukimiya, for all of their idiosyncrasies, are actually top grade performers was obvious a mile away, so that didn't help salvage anything.
At the very end of the episode the story does show at least the slightest bit of sincerity, in that Hanadori does genuinely want a friend, and the technical merits are at least average. However, that's nowhere near enough to make this watchable. Can I have back the 24 minutes I spent watching this one, please?
Chuunibyou characters and chuunibyou-focused comedies have become a semi-regular feature in anime over the past few years. Along with Kyoto Animation's Chuunibyou, there's been When Supernatural Battles Become Common Place, Love Live! Sunshine!!'s Yohane, and even last season's Outburst Dreamer Boys. A Destructive God Sits Next to Me clocks in as the latest example of the trend, but it unfortunately does little to change up or even energetically execute on the chuunibyou formula.
The problem with chuunibyou-focused comedies, at least as I see it, is how easily they allow writers to embrace their laziest comedic instincts. “A character does something unusual, and others extravagantly react” is generally understood to be a fairly simplistic form of humor, and yet chuunibyou-focused shows return to that gag structure again and again. Additionally, the exact popular tropes of chuunibyou are at this point established enough that even beyond their structural similarities, many of these shows feature literally the exact same jokes - the joke about containing their power, the joke about their eyepatch, the joke about their “dark familiar” (both KyoAni's production and this one feature a dog named Cerberus), etc.
To be a chuunibyou-focused show and also a genuinely good comedy, then, requires going beyond simply pointing out the abnormality of some character's behavior. You can't just have the joke be “their behavior is unusual,” you have to set up actual gags and punchlines that go beyond merely reacting to their actions. A Destructive God is thus at its best when it embraces the contrasting personalities of its three leads, or illustrates the unique strangeness of its non-chuunibyou characters. The reveal of Tsukimiya's “study methods,” wherein he learned about the amino acids by framing their reactions as a skeevy doujinshi, was a particularly inspired gag - and the episode's ending, where all three characters were able to energetically bounce off each other, demonstrated their friendship might have some emotional pull as well.
On the whole, though, Destructive God suffers from an unfortunately low strike ratio on its jokes. When you couple that with its middling aesthetics and strong resemblance to other chuunibyou- focused shows, you end up with a production that I'd recommend for fans of this particular trend, but qualify as a pass for anyone else.
It probably isn't a good sign when a supposed comedy has you checking how much time is left roughly every six minutes. That, sadly, was my experience of A Destructive God Sits Next to Me, a show that desperately wants us to find its combination of vaguely unpleasant characters entertaining but falls short of the charm of last season's Outburst Dreamer Boys. Largely this is because the character the main focus is on, Koyuki Seri, is an awkward combination of mean and feeling badly about that meanness. It's easy to see how Koyuki could find Hanadori, the eponymous (and self-declared) “destructive god,” difficult to take and annoying, but his response to that is to alternately try to completely avoid him and then half-assedly try to make up for that, which basically never works. This has a lather, rinse, repeat feel to it throughout the episode, and if you didn't find it funny the first time, by the fourth, it's gotten really old.
There's also a mean edge to this that doesn't always sit well. Tsukimiya, the third major character introduced in this episode (theme songs indicate at least two more coming), is equally as difficult as Hanadori in the way you can't quite tell if he's good-naturedly playing along or just being a jerk and picking on Hanadori while pretending to play along. Mostly he just seems to really enjoy interfering in the dynamic between Hanadori and Koyuki, appearing to know full well that Koyuki would rather distance himself from the other boys. While no one's especially nice in this episode (except maybe Hanadori; he did save the puppy), Tsukimiya's brand of “teasing” is particularly unpleasant because he seems to be aware of what he's doing. Similarly, watching other students relentlessly pick on Hanadori to the point of egging him on until he punches out a window isn't a lot of fun. Maybe it isn't textbook bullying, but it sure isn't great.
This is all too bad, because handled with more grace, there could have been some humor here. The meetup in the game world had potential, as did the reveal about the other reason Koyuki was paired up with the other two to study. But the gentle pastel color scheme can't hide the sharp edges, and this gets a definite pass from me as being not funny and mean-spirited.
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