The Spring 2021 Preview Guide
Osamake: Romcom Where The Childhood Friend Won't Lose
by The Anime News Network Editorial Team,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Osamake: Romcom Where The Childhood Friend Won't Lose ?
What is this?
The story centers around Sueharu Maru, an average 17-year-old high school boy who has never had a girlfriend, and the "heroine battle" between his beautiful first crush Shirokusa Kachi and his childhood friend Kuroha Shida.
Osamake: Romcom Where The Childhood Friend Won't Lose is based on Shūichi Nimaru's light novel series and streams on Crunchyroll on Tuesdays.
How was the first episode?
“In which Nice Guy™ meets Nice Girl™.”
It's one of those universal experiences: you get a crush on someone, spend time getting closer to them, and plan to ask them out—only to discover someone beat you to it and now they're taken. It's only human to feel disappointed and angry, not to mention heartbroken. This is doubly true when it comes to your first crush. However, a big part of maturing is feeling the hell out of your feelings, accepting them, and then moving on with your life.
Our protagonist, Sueharu, is so close to going about this the right way. He realizes that he still likes Kachi despite everything else and wants her to be happy, even if he's not a part of her life the way he wants to be. Unfortunately, his childhood friend, Kuroha, has a vested interest in pushing him to go full Nice Guy™ on his crush. And she knows exactly what buttons to push to get him to “seek revenge.”
Of course, Kuroha isn't doing this for his sake; it's not like she thinks that getting revenge will somehow make him happy. Rather she's doing it for her own sake. Kuroha desperately wants to be with Suehara, and while he's not totally opposed to the idea of dating her in general, he knows it would be unfair to go out with her while his heart is currently focused elsewhere.
While Sueharu initially wants to get his revenge on Kachi's new boyfriend by exposing some dark secret of his to the world, the plan Kuroha promotes is to make Kachi jealous by pretending that she and Sueharu are a couple. Of course, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that Kuroha has already gone full Nice Girl™ and is basically trying to trick Sueharu into a Shrodinger's relationship in the hopes that he'll realize how perfect she is for him and decide he loves her after all.
While this may be a comedy, it's a surprisingly sad situation when you think about it. We have two people faced with rejection and unable to accept it. Instead of moving on with their lives in a healthy way, both have instead chosen to focus even more on gaining the attention of their crushes, even if the attention they're going to get is not the kind they actually want. Let's just hope that this looming SNAFU of an experience helps them to mature a bit by the time the series' final credits roll.
One of the benefits of Japanese media's “overly long and specific light novel titles" is that they tend to give you a decent idea of what you're in for, and Osamake is no exception. Just like it says on the tin, this does indeed appear to be a Romcom Where the Childhood Friend Doesn't Lose. Or, rather, she at least has enough gumption to give relentlessly pursuing a relationship with our main guy the old college try. If you're a fan of generically designed light novel romcom characters getting into the usual romcom shenanigans, then Osamake is set to be the show that just barely skirts convention enough to be recognizably different from its thousands of competitors.
My problem is, based on the title alone, I was hoping for a show with a bit more ambition than what I saw in Osamake's premiere. Let's face it: Anime romcoms have never been where you go to find shows that revel in risk-taking and subverting expectations, and I feel like the rise of the light novel adaptation has only exacerbated the genre's reliance on shows that consistently churn out disposable carbon copies of whatever sold the most in the last five years. That said, the oversaturation of the market means that the anime romcom is a genre just waiting to be parodied to hell and back. As Osamake's titular childhood friend, Koharu is set to make some serious plays for Sueharu, the boy of her dreams, and I was hoping that her story would have a keener eye for dunking on the overplayed tropes of its many forebears.
Instead, Osamake feels like a show that wants to have its cake and eat it too; it's self-aware enough that Koharu's forthright love (and lust) for Haru is played for laughs throughout the premiere, but the show is never all that funny, because it's still too busy playing its cliché shenanigans relatively straight: The rival love interest is an aloof, intelligent supermodel; the best friend is a sex-obsessed hound that takes nothing seriously; the characters all look indistinguishable from the kids you'd meet in My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, or Girls Beyond the Wasteland, or what have you.
The main hook of Osamake's premise is that Sueharu's crush, Kachi, ends up dating a hot actor guy before he can even confess his feelings, and Koharu promises to help him get his Romantic revenge (while continuing to pursue him the whole time). This could potentially lead to some interesting developments later on, but all throughout this first episode I was too distracted by wondering what in the heck Koharu sees in this guy, anyway? Outside of being kind of pathetically obsessed with a girl who already has a boyfriend, there's nothing about him that is charming, or interesting, or unique (and no, the last-minute revelation that he used to be a child actor doesn't count).
If Osamake was sharper in its writing and construction, the boring premise and lame cast would all be perfect marks for some killer jokes. Instead, despite its declarative title, this is a romcom that feels like more of the same, and little else. It's not terrible, but this spring has been positively stuffed with kickass premieres, and Osamake is going to have to aim a lot higher to nab a spot on such a crowded watchlist.
Typically for me, the biggest hurdle to getting into any harem story, or sometimes plain old shounen rom-com, is the fact that I usually find the female characters insufferable. Possibly this is because they're so often presented as utterly one-dimensional and unrealistic, and as a lady myself, I find that annoying. In any event, so far we've only really gotten a personality out of one of the two main girls (a number that looks destined to multiply, judging by the theme song), but I already dislike her. Kuroha Shida is the eponymous childhood friend from the title, and her oh-so-brilliant plan to both serve her interests and help her crush Sueharu Maru out of his depression, when he learns that the girl he likes has a boyfriend, is to have him pretend to be her boyfriend. In Kuroha's mind, this appears to be killing two birds with one stone while simultaneously allowing neither she nor Sueharu to actually accept “no” as an answer. Genius!
This, however, may only be the tip of the iceberg where the plot is concerned. There's an underlying story where the girl Sueharu likes, Shirokusa Kachi, is a budding author and recipient of a prestigious award (while still in high school, naturally); the boy she's dating, Mitsuru Abe, is a budding actor, and Sueharu is a former actor, a child star who has stopped acting for some reason we don't know yet. (Is Kuroha secretly a budding dancer? I wouldn't be surprised.) Since Mitsuru has clearly heard of Sueharu's work, we could get some exciting love geometry, or at least friend geometry, if he wants to strike up some kind of relationship with the resentful Sueharu. So this is absolutely not without potential. Also interesting is the use of different clover symbolism for the two main girls – Shirokusa wears a white clover blossom in her hair and Kuroha wears four-leaf clovers as hair ornaments. While we all know that four-leaf clovers are a symbol of luck, the clover blossom can have a variety of meanings based on the color – and white clovers are most commonly assigned the meanings of “good fortune,” “think of me,” and “a promise,” as stated in the episode. (Purple or red clovers mean “industry,” if you're curious.) But since promises can be broken, they can also at times take on a meaning of revenge – as in, avenging a broken promise. Since Sueharu trailed off when he was listing the meanings of white clovers in the episode, I feel like that last might be something the series is working up to.
Obviously this episode didn't grab me. Parts of it outright irritated me, not the least of which was Sueharu's skeezy friend who has apparently been seven-timing some girls. (At other schools. Girls at their school clearly have his number.) It also isn't amazing in the art and animation department, although I do appreciate that it doesn't go out of its way to indulge in nonsensical fanservice. But this could still turn out to be a decent romantic comedy once the cast is assembled and the plot gets going in earnest. If this is your genre, I'd definitely stick it out at least one more episode to see.
I'm really not sure what to make of this one. That's weird. I mean, the entire premise is right there in the overlong title: This is a romcom where, come hell, high water, or dark-haired kuudere, the childhood friend refuses to be left in her beloved Potato-kun's romantic wake. Yet somehow, despite watching this entire first episode, I still don't feel like I have a good idea of what this show is actually aiming for.
Part of that is the pacing. This is your standard 22-odd minute premiere, but it simultaneously feels half and twice as long as that. The early scenes of the cast just talking and getting into dull hijinks in their classroom feel extremely slow, to where I was shocked we were only eight minutes in when I looked at the progress bar. But then our hero's crush reveals she's dating someone, and suddenly we're skipping through about three different premises all at once. First Sueharu and Kuroha are planning to get revenge on the girl for uh...not liking him? But then they're going to start fake dating to make her jealous, somehow! And then it's revealed that Sueharu is actually an acting prodigy and the former rival of the guy she's dating! Dun dun dun! It's all very busy and half-baked, and left this premiere feeling pretty wobbly for what should be an easy to get into comedy.
It also doesn't help that I'm not sure how much I'm supposed to sympathize with our leads here. Teenagers being petty or jealous is nothing new, but the idea of getting “revenge” on a girl for the crime of dating somebody who isn't you, because you convinced yourself she MIGHT like you because she's kind of friendly towards you sometimes, is a supremely entitled take. And at points that seems to be what the show is saying, as Sueharu comes off extremely pathetic and embarrassing when he's trying to concoct a plan to totally stick it to Kachi's boyfriend. It's also pretty clear Kuroha is egging him on for the chance to get close to him and make sure the show's title comes true, but that also causes the problem of our two romantic leads being, at best, mildly unlikable in a genre that depends on at least some affection for the characters. That's an awkward, precarious tightrope that other series have fallen off of, and I don't have a ton of confidence that Osamake can make it work.
The other problem is the animation. The actual designs are cute enough – soft, round, and brightly colored to be appealing to look at – and the OP has some nice, if short, dancing segments. But the actual character acting is uncharacteristically stiff for a Doga Kobo production, and it's combined with some genuinely baffling direction. Sometimes it's on point and masks any jerky movement with solid blocking and lighting, but other times there are weird dutch angles with no feasible motivation, or hard cuts that don't change location but suddenly have characters standing in different places for no apparent reason. It's an awkward, inconsistent production from a studio that usually knocks this kind of material out of the park, which is pretty disappointing.
With all of that said, I'll still probably be sticking around for a couple more episodes, mostly because I'm jonesing for a romcom and there's not a ton of selections this season. Nagatoro is on equally shaky ground for me as of episode 1, and my other choice is...Koikimo. So yeah, beggars can't be choosers. But as-is I can't really give Osamake a recommendation on its own merits
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