The Spring 2022 Preview Guide
Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie

How would you rate episode 1 of
Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie ?
Community score: 3.9

What is this?

Shikimori seems like the perfect girlfriend: cute, fun to be around, sweet when she wants to be, but she has a cool dark side that comes out under the right circumstances. And her boyfriend Izumi loves to be around when that happens.

Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie is based on Keigo Maki's romantic comedy manga and streams on Crunchyroll on Saturdays.

How was the first episode?

Caitlin Moore

I read the first volume of Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie for an ANN manga preview guide some time ago. I enjoyed it, but it was one of those single joke premises and I didn't really like it enough to spend actual money on it, so I set it aside. Then Doga Kobo announced they'd be producing an anime, and I figured I'd finally get the rest of the story.

Doga Kobo has produced some fantastic comedy adaptations, even with ones that seem like their single joke couldn't possibly stretch to full-length episodes, such as Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun and Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle, so I had high hopes for Shikimori. And the first few minutes of the episode, wherein the titular Shikimori rescues her hapless boyfriend Izumi from getting hit by a truck and looks impossibly cool doing it, I thought I was going to be in for a good time. Since it is impossible for a critic to be wholly objective, I will reveal one of my biases: I have a huge weakness for gender-reversed tough girl/soft boy romances. Probably my favorite kind of heterosexuals. And Shikimori pinning Izumi against the wall and gently chastising him? That's some good fucking food, right there.

Alas, as the episode wore on, I realized it was more of an excellent amuse-bouche preceding a middling meal than a feast. The comic timing is piss-poor, causing things to drag the entire runtime. The episode is divided roughly into three segments, and each one gets maybe one or two jokes while the rest is paced like a slice-of-life series but without the necessary level of personality. Oh, there were still parts I liked, such as Shikimori choosing to discard her friend's advice to lose on purpose because fake incompetence is cute. I could go into full feminist rage mode about gender roles and it irritated me that Shikimori even entertained the idea, but the important thing is she decided to be her amazing self and bowl a perfect game, and Izumi loved it. Girls, get yourself a boy who doesn't want you to cut off bits of yourself to make them feel better, but instead adores everything awesome you are.

Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie gets three stars for having a good core concept and some good moments, but otherwise kind of boring. The adorable rhythm game ending gets it another star. I wonder what Mitsue Yamazaki is working on these days…

Richard Eisenbeis

One thing I've always hated about romantic comedies is how 90% of them end with the couple finally getting together. Admitting you like each other is the first step of a relationship, not the last. I've always found the rare story about a couple dealing with the problems that come up over the course of a relationship to be far more heartfelt and interesting—which brings us to Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie. This episode doesn't even bother to tell us how the two got together—it's that unimportant. What matters is that they are together and are trying to make things work.

Of course, each of the pair has their issues. Shikimori wants to be seen as cute by her boyfriend—so much so that she is embarrassed by the badass athletic powerhouse side of herself. Meanwhile, Izumi hates that he is getting someone he loves caught up in his perpetual bad luck.

But what's great about the two is that they are working on their communication skills—something more than a bit difficult in a couple's first relationship. The last thing Izumi wants is for Shikimori to lessen herself to appease him. He wants her as she is—both her cute side and her badass side. So he makes sure to cheer her on and verbally support her at being the very best she can be.

On the other side of things, Shikimori is not bothered by Izumi's curse. She simply sees it as the price of entry for having such a kindhearted guy in her life. If she has to block the occasional flying newspaper or jump-kick a falling sign to protect the man she loves, so be it. And the fact that she tells him this is what makes them a couple with true lasting power. It's great to see such a healthy relationship in anime.

And while I've been gushing at the way the anime handles its romance, I'd be amiss if I didn't bring up the visuals. Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie is a master class on how changing one single visual detail can completely change a character's impression on the audience. When Shikimori does something awesome, all that changes is the shape of her eyes, turning into something resembling the eyes of a villainess—or of Goku whenever he gets serious in Dragon Ball Z, if you prefer. It's a fantastic shift that I find myself waiting for with bated breath in each scene.

All in all, if you're tired of will-they-won't-they romances and want a light-hearted story about two good people growing up into even better people thanks to their relationship with each other, don't miss out on this one.

Nicholas Dupree

Man, of all the shows this season to wind up a big disappointment, I didn't expect it to be this one. Granted, the premise isn't exactly comedic gold, but it was at least a novel dynamic for a romcom anime, and I was hoping that with Doga Kobo's A-team in charge this could be a fun complement to the other romances this season. Instead, I got 20 minutes of dull characters delivering jokes that are conceptually funny, but get totally smothered by lifeless pacing and timing.

There really is just...something missing here. Maybe it's the languid pacing of every scene, where characters seem to need a moment to start up before they start moving and talking. Maybe it's the strangely lifeless use of music that only ever serves to undercut jokes rather than punctuate them. Either way, despite being the world's biggest mark for even the dumbest romcom anime, I sat through this episode stonefaced. I could tell when jokes were happening, and I understood the punchline, could even imagine a version of it where it made me grin, and yet that never happened. It just wasn't funny, which destroys half of the romantic comedy moniker and left this episode a chore to get through.

More than that though, it also undercuts the romance angle of this whole endeavor. Especially poor Izumi, whose whole gimmick is he's got cosmically bad luck that results in pratfalls and comedic accidents for his dashing girlfriend to save him from. So when those jokes fall flat, it leaves him a boring blank slate who mostly exists to tell us how cute and/or cool Shikimori is. That's on top of the friend character who just states the point of any given scene out loud, proclaiming “It seems we're going to become better friends” when they all go out bowling. Shikimori herself is easily the most interesting character, both because she's the most active, and that she obviously has a secret side she's trying to hide from her boyfriend. The closest this episode comes to compelling is when she wholeheartedly reassures her hapless bae that he doesn't need to worry about being worthy of her – she likes him and wants to stay by his side, and that's all that matters. That's a nice sentiment, but it also gives half our central couple permission to not be interesting, and that hinders any chance of the romance being engaging.

That could maybe work if we got more of a look at “Cool” Shikimori, or if the jokes landed with anything besides a deafening thud. But as-is, this is easily the least entertaining romcom of the season. Aharen-san wa Hakarenai is similarly low-key, but its jokes are built for that delivery. Love After World Domination has a way stronger premise with a more active central couple. And even with a great production this show is not going to out-direct Kaguya-sama. In a weaker season I might continue with this one, but there's way too much competition to bother with a disappointing also-ran.

Rebecca Silverman

This is a bit of a tricky one for me to (p)review, because I know that the story gets so much better from here. Not that this is bad, mind you – Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie is, even in this first episode, about the absolute cutest couple in all of anime, and while it does have a bit of a lather-rinse-repeat feel, once the characters become more than their stock selves as the plot develops, it simply becomes more – and this is coming from someone who felt that the first volume of the manga was intensely boring. The problem is, knowing what I know about later events, I'm not sure if I'm more kindly disposed to the anime's first episode than I otherwise would have been.

But my own probable bias aside, this is still pretty darn cute. Izumi and Shikimori are already a couple when we meet them, and very much an established one. It's nice that their initial meeting and going out were omitted from the episode, because we don't necessarily need to know how this whole thing started – what's important is that they clearly care a lot about each other. And believe me, Izumi needs someone who loves him as much as Shikimori around, because he's a danger magnet the likes of which cannot be overstated. If not for her quick actions this could have devolved into an isekai (thanks to a run-in with everyone's favorite motor vehicle on their walk to school) to say nothing of him taking a chalkboard eraser to the face and getting strangled by a stray page of a wind-borne newspaper. Essentially Izumi is the damsel in distress to Shikimori's prince charming, something that she's at times a little bit uncomfortable with.

Not that she has any intention of stopping. Izumi's continued presence in her life appears to be something she's willing to do anything to protect, as we see demonstrated over the course of the episode; it's just that she also wants him to think that she's “cute.” Fortunately she's not so foolish as to take her friend Neko's advice to fake being bad at bowling, because I think a piece of her does realize that Izumi likes her no matter whether she's “cute” or “cool.” The opening theme implies that she has a past that makes her worry more about it than she needs to, but it also makes her a bit more human – she's not a superhero, just someone with less of a danger magnet and with better motor coordination than Izumi.

Although the almost aggressively pastel colors can feel a little too precious at times, this is basically just a nice episode. Izumi and Shikimori aren't joined at the hip despite their mutual adoration and maintain friendships with other people, the story is gentle, and the ending theme, with Shikimori trying to protect Izumi is framed as an obstacle game, is a great way to sum things up. It's not exciting, but it is sweet, and it should only get more so from here.

James Beckett

The blurb on Crunchyroll described our boy Izumi as “naturally unlucky”, but that's underselling it a bit. This poor kid is straight up cursed by the universe itself; his entire life is like if the Grim Reaper from Final Destination made it his life's purpose to dunk on a sweet-natured Japanese boy for years on end, and the boy just kind of learned to deal with how reality itself will seemingly warp and defy all logic or reason simply to embarrass him in front of every human on earth. Thankfully for us, this is the kind of comedy cliché that really never gets old. Charlie Chaplin was making bank off of the same material a hundred years ago, and now Izumi's casual suffering can provide us oodles of comic joy here in the second round of the Roaring 20s.

That's not the whole shtick of Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie, though, and it's the title character that transforms the anime from a solid premise to a bonafide hit. Izumi's too meek and resigned to mind his cruel fate, but the show would honestly lose a lot of its charm if it was nothing but watching this nice kid have a bad day, every day, for a whole season. That's where Shikimori comes in. You see, Izumi may be a living punchline to the universe's running joke, but his consolation prize is that he has literally the coolest girlfriend in all of anime. That isn't me just being hyperbolic, either; that's canon. Shikimori is the kind of idealized cartoon love interest that actually works because she still feels like a real person, despite being gifted superhuman reflexes and genuinely terrifying levels of charm and charisma (not to mention some wicked bowling skills). This girl loves her boyfriend so freaking much, and since Izumi also feels like a genuine character instead of a bland self-insert, their relationship is as wholesome as it is amusing.

Seriously, who among us hasn't dreamed of having a partner who kicks ass, is hot as hell, has a sweet side that melts your heart whenever it comes out, and is yet still vulnerable and empathetic enough to make her love for you apparant in every way she possibly can? I mean, I already found that—my wife is literally the coolest woman alive, after all, and I may have to investigate Keigo Maki for ripping off her life's story—but that means that everyone else on Earth could only imagine how awesome it is to have a Shikimori for a girlfriend. Until now, that is!

The Spring of 2022 seems to be the Season of Rom-Coms, as our collective cup runneth over with the likes of Kaguya-sama, Love After World Domination, and now we have Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie to add to the roster. Drink deep from the well of “Dawwwwwws”, my friends, and revel in the cuteness of it all. This show looks like another keeper, indeed.

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