The Winter 2020 Anime Preview Guide
Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove It
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Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove it ?
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How was the first episode?
Last winter, the farcical romantic comedy Kaguya-sama turned out to be one of the highlights of the season. Centered on a pair of straight-laced, extremely proud student council members who refused to admit they were in love, the show reveled in them dancing around their mutual affection, as each of them attempted to corner the other in a romance-acknowledging trap. This year, Science Fell in Love offers a very similar sort of romantic comedy, as the two scientists Homura and Yukimura attempt to scientifically prove they're in love. It's a very silly show, and an altogether charming time.
This premiere sees Yukimura and Homura trying a variety of quasi-scientific tests to determine the exact parameters of their affection, ranging from pie charts assessing their relative preoccupation with each other, to kabedons repeated a hundred times in order to reduce any outlying variables. Though you might think a show like this would quickly run out of material, I was impressed by how well the naturally inquisitive yet oblivious perspectives of its two leads bounced off each other, leading each new test to some unique extreme. My one major worry regarding this episode's writing was that Homura and Yukimura felt too similar in their personalities, meaning it was hard to invest in their actual chemistry, rather than just laugh at the gags. Shows like this are primarily comedies, but they really shine when that comedy is elevating a sympathetic, relatable romance, and Science Fell in Love isn't quite there yet.
In visual terms, Science Fell in Love is a fairly average production. It's a little unfortunate for this production that Kaguya-sama is such an obvious comparison point; Kaguya-sama was blessed with one of the industry's most talented directors, Shinichi Omata, and Science Fell in Love's more bare-bones visual approach can't come close to matching that show's visual invention. That said, Science Fell in Love has solid character designs, and does a fine job of adding visual intrigue to scenes that could easily be dominated by sterile charts and graphs. Also, Homura wagging her ponytail whenever she's happy is a very good gag.
On the whole, while Science Fell in Love can't reach the visual heights of the similar Kaguya-sama, it's still a very charming romantic comedy in its own right. If you're a comedy fan, this one's probably worth a shot.
Usually, I applaud any anime that focuses on characters that are past their teenage years – for as much material there is to mine from characters' adolescent years, I think the industry would benefit from widening its scope and approaching its stories from more diverse perspectives than just middle and high schoolers. That being said, there are some stories that might have been better had they stayed in the realm of youthful fantasy. Case in point: Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove it, which is basically Kaguya-sama: Love is War, except if the two protagonists were two STEM graduate students with cartoonishly stunted emotional and social skills. The premise is laid bare within the first few minutes of the episode, and what you see is what you get for the whole of the premiere: Shinya and Ayame are two hyper-logical “science types” who can calculate formula like supercomputers, but have next to no understanding of human relationships. So, when Ayame casually hypothesizes that she is in love with her longtime colleague and rival Shinya, the two go about meticulously trying to document and quantify the very emotion of love itself. Cue shenanigans.
Shows like Kaguya-sama lean hard into their protagonists' naivety, because sure, the lovebirds might look like idiots trying to run circles around their feelings for each other, but they're kids. Kids are supposed to be stupid, especially where love is concerned. Ayame and Shinta being fully-grown graduate students might seem like a meaningless difference compared to the likes of Kaguya-sama, but it does become much harder to buy that two people who are obviously already a couple could be so face-palmingly bad at even recognizing it. The joke is that they are Mr. Spock time a thousand when it comes to their obsession with logic, practicality, and turning life into a formula, but that isn't really a funny joke in-and-of itself. Spending a whole half-hour watching these two dorks document their biological responses to manga tropes like sexy wall slams, sexy sleeve rolling (?), and sexy glasses-removal isn't gut busting, or even very cute. It's mostly just awkward.
In fact, “not being funny” is truly the core of my issues with Science Fell in Love. I was slightly amused by one or two of the sillier gags, but this episode didn't get me to laugh once. In the case of one specific scene, where the show's bear mascot gives us an extended statistics lesson on the concept of a “null hypothesis”, I was actively begging the episode to just end already. Maybe it's because I am in no way a “science type”, but the absolute last thing I would ever want in my anime romantic comedies would be math lessons. This series might work for viewers who are craving a kooky comedy about two dorks who don't even understand that they're already dating, but it's a pale imitation of superior shows.
For the second time in two days, a series of full-length episodes has made me wonder if it might not have worked better as mid-length shorts instead. (The previous one was Uchitama?!) It's not so much that the concept can't work at a full 24 minutes, but humor of this kind may be better-enjoyed in more bite-sized form.
That's all the more important because this would seem to be largely a one-joke premise, with that joke being the efforts of two people to define love scientifically while others around them look on in amusement, befuddlement, or simply aghast. This episode (because of time constraints, I only watched the first one available) also shows an inclination to philosophize about love, but hopefully that will mostly be kept on the back burner as the series progresses. What humor the series has is much more about how ridiculous the behavior of these two is as they try to quantify one of the most notoriously unquantifiable aspects of human life.
This comes though most clearly in the whole “wall slam” business drawn from hoary shojo manga tropes. I've always been mystified by the appeal of this one, so seeing fun being poked at it did amuse me, especially when it started getting compared to sumo slaps. That Himuro can have her emotional reactions to Yukimura but then still immediately try to quantify it is a joke that might also work for a while, especially when she dryly points out – with a graph – that Yukimura appearing in her dream is when her interest spiked. This shtick can last forever with just the two of them bouncing off of each other, however, so bringing in a “normie” right away was a good move. Looks like one other girl is about to join the mix, and eventually another guy as well based on the opener.
The visual design of the series offers up pleasing character designs in a good variety, though fans of stockings should be especially delighted. Himuro's little unconscious fidgets – such as how her ponytail bobs – are also adorable in a more mature way. Despite this, the artistic effort as a whole is not one of the sharper ones this season, and there are a couple of shots where Himuro's face seems weirdly out of alignment. Admittedly those are only minor distractions in a series where concept matters more than appearances, but they are distractions nonetheless. I might give another episode of this a try when I have more time, as the second episode looks like it's shifting its focus a bit, but right now the
Although I'm certain this isn't intentional, Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove it doesn't do people in STEM fields a whole lot of favors. The stereotype of the scientist who lacks the emotional intelligence to process things like falling in love without quantifiable evidence is right up there with the Mean Old Librarian or the Overly Emotional Romance Writer in terms of job-based typecasting, and while it certainly is used for a few laughs here, as a premise I'm not thrilled with it. It's fortunate that the main cast also includes a colleague who recognizes how ridiculous Himuro and Yukimura are being in their pursuit of hard evidence for falling in love, because she gives us some cues that it's not meant to be a show of mean humor, but more gentle ribbing that isn't quite apparent from the set-up. (Of course, that Kanade is an avid reader of shoujo romance slots into its own stereotype…)
As of the first episode (Crunchyroll dropped the first three at once, but I'm only discussing the one in the interests of time and sanity), the storyline consists of Himuro and Yukimura being so uncomfortable with the idea that they might have feelings for each other that they've decided to use equations and graphs to analyze the situation and prove once and for all whether being in love is even a scientific possibility. Basically, it feels like a two-fold excuse – one, to downplay their discomfort with warm emotions, and two, to sneak in some excuses to get close to each other in a way they can write off as being Science. The latter works better, and the few chuckles I got out of this episode were from their repeated testing of the kabe-don as an indicator of feelings (clearly Yukimura was enjoying leaning into Himuro) and Himuro blissfully falling asleep leaning on Yukimura while he frets himself into a nervous wreck. Kanade's faces and internal reactions to their shenanigans is also a fun piece of the story, so when the other people in the opening theme show up, that may mean that the humor is able to be less one-note as their reactions factor in.
There are some good details thrown in as well, such as the way Himuro walks so very, very precisely, making all directional changes by pivoting sharply, and the dedicated use of formulae and graphs. The science notes by inexplicable talking teddy bear Rikekuma, on the other hand, is deadly dull and absolutely unnecessary; the story really should be able to appeal to non-science-inclined viewers and romance fans without throwing a cute mascot and terminology at the screen. I feel, actually, like Rikekuma exemplifies my issues with this show: too heavy-handed in places, too self-aware in others, and trading in ideas of what people and things are supposed to be like without ever considering that some stereotypes are old enough to go away. This is cute, but not quite enough to interest me in watching more.
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