The Summer 2022 Preview Guide
When Will Ayumu Make His Move?
How would you rate episode 1 of
When Will Ayumu Make His Move? ?
Community score: 3.6
What is this?
Yaotome's the president of the shogi club at her high school, and she's pretty sure that Ayumu, an underclassman and the only other member of the club, has a huge crush on her. They get together to play shogi every day after school, but no matter what she does, she can't seem to get him to confess his feelings. What she doesn't know is that Ayumu has made a pact with himself to reveal his love only after he's beaten Yaotome at shogi for the first time. Yet there's one big issue with this plan...he really sucks at shogi.
How was the first episode?
Much like its titular character, When Will Ayumu Make His Move? doesn't leave a lot of room for doubt about its intentions. Ayumu likes his sole shogi clubmate, Urushi. He overtly compliments her, without hesitation, and doesn't shy away from romantic gestures. There is no coyness to the script, no oblique references to maybe possibly kind of like-liking each other; he gets right down to brass tacks about thinking she's cute and wanting to spend as much time as possible together. However, he will not confess until he can beat her at shogi, no matter how blindingly obvious his feelings are.
I'm not exactly sure how to react to this premise. Adolescents acting vaguely antagonistic and hiding their feelings behind power plays is a tale as old as time, because that's how teens are, and it's been the subject of several truly excellent romcoms in the past few years. The episode changes the formula up a bit with how Ayumu doesn't even try to conceal his feelings, but even then, the back and forth gets repetitive by the end of the episode. He compliments her, she tries to tease him about it, he remains firm, and she gets flustered instead. It's cute, but by the end of the second sketch, I was just plain bored.
The thing is, you really need a sense of visual dynamism when you're repeating dialogue gags, and that just isn't there. Ayumu is even less expressive than the shogi pieces on the board, since those change every so often. (I think? That's a thing in shogi, right?) The storyboarding consists primarily of mid-shots of the two sitting, mid-shots of their faces, and occasionally static shots of the shogi board. The comic timing is weak as well, with no variation to the pace of their conversations.
Maybe if you're into shogi, you'll get more out of it. Maybe there are some really, really funny jokes that I'm just not getting because I could never be bothered even to learn to play chess, let alone a similar game where all the pieces are shaped the same and distinguished by writing in a language I can read so-so at best. But, dear reader, chances are you know shit-all about shogi as well, and will get about the same amount out of it as me.
I was ready to write this one off before the halfway point of the episode. In general, I have little patience for will-they-won't-they relationships in anime, especially when they are the main focus of the entire show. In fact, even wonderfully creative and over-the-top ones like Kaguya-sama: Love Is War are not enough to keep me watching indefinitely. I just hate the holding pattern nature of the whole concept. I want to see characters develop and grow—not stagnate in one of the key areas of their lives for some dumb reason such as pride or a nonsensical promise to one's self.
So what makes When Will Ayumu Make His Move? more tolerable than most? It's the lack of deception. Ayumu is super clear about his feelings for Urushi. He compliments her constantly and without any reservation. He obviously likes her and even she can see that clearly. What's confusing to her isn't how he feels, but why he won't admit that he likes her.
On its surface, his reason for keeping quiet—his promise to himself to not ask her out until he has beaten her in shogi once—is completely asinine. But here's the thing, it's not really about shogi. What Ayumu wants is to become Urushi's equal at the game they both love—their main point of connection. He doesn't want to be her superior (beating a person once in a game like shogi means little), he just wants to show they are on the same general level. This is because shogi is a metaphor for what he wants their relationship to be. He wants to be true partners with her. But as it stands now, he feels insecure, like he can't hold his own weight. And it certainly doesn't help that she is his senpai, both older than him and naturally higher in the school's hierarchy.
In the end, while I doubt I'll watch another episode of this series (because it will almost certainly become repetitive and lose its charm), I didn't dislike the 22 minutes I spent with this one. If lighthearted will-they-won't-they rom-coms are your thing, give this one a chance.
Teasing Master Takagi-san is one of my favorite romance anime ever, but I was really not a fan of In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki, so I guess you could say that I was a bit apprehensive going into When Will Ayumu Make His Move?, especially since the character design of our leading lady Urushi could give one the impression that author Sōichirō Yamamoto is simply relying on the same old tricks as what made his breakout hit such a success. Thankfully, When Will Ayumu Make His Move? is different and entertaining enough to stand apart from its sibling series, even if it might not necessarily be reaching any particularly great heights on its own.
The key to success for any romantic comedy lies in the chemistry of its leads. Urushi and Ayumu are very clearly keen on one another, and they've got a solid rapport that I could easily see leading to the kind of warm n' fuzzy comfort food vibes that shows like this thrive on. They're also both equally inept at translating their feelings into reasonable human behavior, which leads to plenty of shenanigans both inside and out of their beloved shogi club. Not only is it always nice to have characters that are at least aware of their feelings for one another, this balanced power dynamic also helps to differentiate the series from Takagi-san.
That said, the show is held up a bit by some of the more basic components of its setup. For one, the shogi angle isn't very compelling to a neophyte like me, and it gives the slightly competitive angle of Urushi and Ayumu's relationship the veneer of a thin Kaguya-sama: Love is War imitator. Also, and this could very well simply be a “me" problem, but the pair's romance suffers from being neither as cutely innocent as the one in Takagi-san nor as comedically over-the-top as what you'd see in something like the aforementioned Kaguya-sama.
These kids are dorks, yes, but Ayumu's bizarre insistence on refusing to admit his feelings for Urushi can sometimes come across as the frustrating kind of dumb, instead of the cute kind. He sucks at shogi, for one, but he also keeps on openly flirting with Urushi in such a deadpan way that it is difficult to tell if he knows what he's doing, or if he's truly that inept. That's the main reason that, for as enjoyable as this premiere was in parts, I don't see myself getting very attached to the show in the long run. It's a cute enough premise, but I just don't know if the one joke can sustain an entire season's with of television.
I am absolutely damning this with faint praise when I say that it's my favorite of Sōichirō Yamamoto's manga to be adapted, because I can't stand the other two and this one just sort of bored me. Still, I'll take dull over “mean” or “way too cutesy” any day, and there's more character balance here than I was expecting—Urushi is fully aware, intellectually, that Ayumu has a crush on her. Despite his quiet nature, he's actually remarkably unsubtle about it. But he won't actually say the words until he's beaten her at shogi, so she's perhaps starting to think that maybe she's making stuff up, and every time she tries to get him to spell it out, he blankly refuses. If I thought he was doing it on purpose to drive her insane, I'd call it mean, but as it stands, I think he's just not great with emotions and is trying to follow rules that make them comfortable for him to deal with. That Urushi's sanity is the price doesn't seem to even occur to him.
That's not to say that their relationship is entirely comfortable, because Urushi really is having a lot of trouble trying to figure him out, and every single time she thinks she's got a handle on the whole “he likes me, he likes me not” thing, Ayumu says or does something that confuses her all over again. She then ends up bending over backwards to get an answer while clearly feeling a bit awkward about the whole thing, and this becomes a “lather, rinse, repeat” sequence of events for the duration of the episode. It's interspersed with shogi moves that may be more interesting if you know anything about the game and a couple of character introductions, but mostly this is very cut and dry. It looks nice, though, and that's something.
Honestly, this was such a neutral episode that I can't think of much to say. I suspect it may work better in manga format, but when the most exciting thing to happen is Ayumu doling out the world's worst compliment—“Your face is like a freshly-peeled boiled egg”—that may be a sign that it's just not working for me.
For the third season in a row, we've got an adaptation of a Sōichirō Yamamoto manga, and yet another high school romcom to pile on to the metric ton of them this year has already delivered. Not that I'm complaining – I love seeing blushy-crushy idiot teenagers fumble their way through feelings, and while Ayumu is pretty slow-going on comedy, it is funny in how our leads are basically already dating. They just can't admit it to themselves quite yet.
Granted, it takes a bit for this episode to fully establish that dynamic. We start off with the more tropey setup up front, with Ayumu vowing to not admit his feelings until he's finally bested his senpai in shogi. If played too straight it could fall into eye-rolling territory, with Ayumu assuming he needs to be better than the girl he's interested in, but as the episode rolls along it becomes clear that his reasoning is a lot more self-deprecating. He's nervous and apprehensive, just like his style of playing shogi, and despite his desire to both win and smooch his cute upperclassmen, he falls back into old habits of defensiveness or cheap gimmicks when it's time to actually seal the deal. It's classic teenager behavior – a slightly different and more internal version of Takagi-san's Nishinoya, and it works with the particular kind of stoic doofus Ayumu turns out to be. I also like that he's obviously a wife guy in the making, totally unable to stop praising how cute and smart and commendable his crush is because “it's the truth” without realizing he's confessed to her in nearly all the ways that matter.
We don't get quite as much from Urushi, despite her being our POV character through most of the episode, but that's mostly because she's slightly better at keeping her lovey-dovey thoughts inside. Much like her cohort, she's bad at admitting her feelings, as evidenced by insisting Ayumu has to be the one to confess to her, and she's both enamored and embarrassed with how her stone-faced suitor heaps praise upon her without a second thought. It makes for a cute dynamic, and while there aren't many laugh-out-loud funny gags, it was generally just pleasant to see the two of them talk and tease around the elephant in the room.
Really, my major complaint comes with the visuals—specifically certain scenes that have some kind of filter applied that makes the characters' linework distractingly fuzzy compared to the backgrounds. It's not totally detrimental, but there are several moments where I wondered if my video stream was rendering in the right resolution. Otherwise this is very much in line with your typical romcom, accentuated by the big foreheads and increasingly bizarre hairdos Yamamoto is known for. Much like the writing, the visuals are nothing amazing, but are pleasant and expressive enough to work. The show certainly won't light anyone's heart on fire, but it may tweak your funny bone enough to be worth keeping up with.
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