The Summer 2022 Preview Guide
My Stepmom's Daughter Is My Ex
How would you rate episode 1 of
My Stepmom's Daughter Is My Ex ?
Community score: 3.5
What is this?
Mizuto Irido is getting a fresh start in high school after ending a horrible middle school relationship. That is, until he finds out his ex Yume is going to the same school and is now his step-sibling. The pair split after seeing one another's true colors, but now everywhere he looks, he sees her—at home and in class. Rather than give up, Mizuto decides he won't lose to Yume and will keep a buddy-buddy sibling act up to their parents.
How was the first episode?
I'll give My Stepmom's Daughter Is My Ex this: it doesn't waste our time with clunky exposition. No lengthy explanations about Yume and Mizuto's previous relationship, no unnatural “as you know” expository monologues, not even much in the way of setup. It throws the audience right into the situation, making it easy from context clues to understand the entire situation: Mizuto and Yume dated in middle school but had a bitter breakup. They're now stepsiblings, but their parents have no idea about their previous relationship. Now that they're forced into the same space, they're constantly trying to one-up one another.
However, as much credit as I give the script for trusting the audience to understand the situation through context clues sprinkled throughout the episode, it's just not as clever as it wants to be. Yume and Mizuto play a lot of mind games and engage in verbal sparring throughout the episode, but it's hard to get worked up over competitions like “who gets to be the older sibling” when neither of them is much of a sparkling wit. Instead, they come across as bratty and arrogant… although, in fairness, that's the more realistic way to depict the situation. It's unfortunate that this comes straight on the heels of Kaguya-sama: Love is War, which sets the gold standard for teens trying to get the upper hand on one another.
But under all the middling writing, the emotions are genuine. Even if we don't know yet what caused Mizuto and Yume to break up, they're clearly harboring a lot of resentment over it. But feelings are messy, especially when you're 15. Underneath the bitterness, there are flashes of what they liked about each other, and they're both fundamentally decent people. They're also still physically attracted to one another and hormonal as all get-out, which can be, uh, difficult when their parents are away.
My Stepmom's Daughter Is My Ex has some elements that genuinely intrigue me. What happened between Mizuto and Yume? Where will their relationship go from here? However, the script simply isn't punchy enough to keep me interested, so I doubt I'll ever get answers to these questions.
I have to admit, going into this one I was a bit worried that it would be another brother-sister romance anime, only interested in reveling in the taboo excitement such a situation creates. But that's not what we have here, since Stepmom's Daughter makes it clear from the start that these two 15-year-olds are never going to bond as siblings (even ignoring their previous relationship). Both Yume and Mizuto love their respective parents—and fully support their parents getting married even though that means they are being forced to be around each other both at school and at home. This, in turn, makes the pair likeable, since they put the happiness of those they love above their own discomforts.
Thus, this first episode is all about Yume and Mizuto trying to establish a new status quo for themselves and their relationship. Of course, this is complicated by the fact that they used to date. What's great is that we never get an explanation for their breakup (though there are some hints strewn throughout), making it a core mystery for the series going forward. And regardless of how bad their relationship ended, just because they're no longer together doesn't mean their feelings for each other are magically gone. The two are constantly trying to stop themselves from falling into old patterns, yet even then, neither really wants to see the other hurt (even as they bicker amongst themselves).
In the end, we have two kids trying to untangle a complex web of emotions. They both love and hate each other, and are both hurt and sad by what happened between them. Yet, despite all this, they are now on the same team—a team built around protecting their parents' newfound happiness. It's a great setup for romance anime and I'll definitely be back to check out episode 2 next week.
It's hard to get too mad at My Stepmom's Daughter Is My Ex, because it's not like the show isn't upfront about what it's all about. When the title of your anime could just as easily be a genre sub-header on Pornhub, there's little use in pretense. Mizuto and Yume used to date, but now they can hardly stand each other. Except, gosh golly gee, now they have to share the same roof, and even the same last name, all because their parents went and got married. Will Mizuto and Yume find their romance rekindling, even though their love would now be an incestuous taboo!? I'm not usually a betting man, but you can put all of my money down on the spot that's marked “Sister Diddler" and start spinning that wheel.
Now, to the show's credit, this isn't straight-up soft-core porn, like what Domestic Girlfriend turned out to be (at least, not yet). No, if anything, My Stepmom's Daughter Is My Ex seems to be taking a page from the Kaguya-sama playbook by focusing on the psychological warfare that Mizuto and Yume will wage against one another, both to keep their parents from finding out that they used to date, and to generally screw with one another's heads. The problem for me is that, unlike the loveable idiots of the Kaguya-sama School Council, our protagonists here just kind of…suck. They're neither charming nor comically over-the-top, nor do they share any especially compelling chemistry. Mizuto is merely smug, and Yume is usually just haughty, and those are really the only characteristics I can identify of theirs beyond the usual generic traits possessed by the main performers in the thinly veiled sex-rom setup.
If the show had any sense of comic timing or clever storytelling, that might be fine, but there's nothing at all to latch onto in this premiere that inspires. The opening bit with the pair challenging each other to a game of “Who Breaks the Façade of Normal Sibling Behavior First" goes on forever, but it barely arrives at a single joke. Later on, Yume's bath-towel stunt is so obviously telegraphed that you can't even appreciate it as a brazenly stupid setup for sexual shenanigans. Really, the only thing that this anime succeeds in doing is that it offers further proof that nobody involved in making My Stepmom's Daughter Is My Ex has ever observed normal sibling interactions (and the same could be said for much of the anime industry, to be honest.). It isn't awful, but I don't see why you'd want to invest time in this show when you have much better and/or trashier options to choose from.
Upon reading this show's title, one's thoughts might jump to Domestic Girlfriend, or maybe Marmalade Boy if you're on the older side. Both stories are famous – or infamous – for mixing the volatility of teenage romance with the awkwardness of suddenly becoming step-siblings. That's certainly where my brain went, and so I started this one expecting something tawdry and trashy, or at least with a compelling emotional conundrum from the lead duo. Instead, this episode started with an insufferable sequence of two cynical, unlikable teenagers arguing about the pettiest things possible, and that lasted almost half the runtime.
It's rough, and the exact type of dialogue I find insufferable in these kinds of light novel adaptations. Arguments about trivial nonsense can definitely be a good way to establish character and play up comedy, but they require a maintained energy and sharp timing, both of which are seriously lacking as these two nudniks come up with increasingly granular reasons why one of them should be the older sibling in their new living arrangement. It climaxes in the poor man's poorer brother's version of a Kaguya-sama mental duel, and took up just enough time that I was ready to call this whole premiere a wash. It just wasn't funny or compelling and neither of these boringly designed characters were interesting enough to carry the load.
Thankfully, the premiere does pick up after that. Once Yume and Mizuto are in school together, having to navigate a new social paradigm as new siblings, it gets a little more interesting. Mizuto isn't just getting angry at Yume, but is having to figure out his feelings about her as both ex-boyfriend and current-brother when guys start trying to ask her out. Yume is trying to reinvent herself in high school while also contending with how to treat her new bro in front of others. It's not super deep, but it gives the two of them something to talk about that doesn't involve sniping at each other for being a nerd or a loner or breathing too loudly or standing there with the wrong attitude.
Then the trashiness I was expecting finally started bubbling up, as Yume overthinks herself into nearly flashing her step-brother because how dare he not freak out about her boob touching his arm for a second? It's the kind of doofy, horny nonsense you're most likely watching this show for, and it leans hard into it. There's even a tiny bit of character-building in there, as we learn that Yume really does see Mizuto as family...juuuuust in time for them to nearly start making out on the couch. Though even that helps to contextualize their earlier hostility better; they're both still carrying feelings (even if those feelings are “horny because I'm a 15-year-old riddled with hormones”) and are trying to redirect that energy into hostility to get over each other now that they're related.
It's far from the most compelling dynamic, but it's at least got some momentum behind it, and offers hope that their rapport can become something more engaging than cut-rate Kaguya-sama skits. And a part of me is morbidly curious to see how long they can keep up this game of step-sibling porn chicken. How many episodes before one of them gets “stuck” in the dryer? Or they both need to get ready at once so they have to share a bath? If they aren't having to share a single-bed hotel room by the end of the season, this show will be an objective failure. It's not quite enough to make me stick around, but it's at least a hook that I can see drawing somebody in, which is a far better score than the first half. If it can keep up that energy, there may just be an audience for it.
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