The Spring 2023 Anime Preview Guide
My Clueless First Friend
How would you rate episode 1 of
My Clueless First Friend ?
Community score: 4.0
How would you rate episode 2 of
My Clueless First Friend ?
Community score: 4.2
What is this?
One lonely, gloomy fifth-grade girl is the target of her classmates' relentless bullying and teasing—that is, until a new kid arrives on the scene. Friendly Takada is as clueless as he is well-meaning, but somehow he possesses the magic ability to start drawing "Grim Reaper" Nishimura out of her shell. As the elementary schoolers experience all the fun of a childhood summer together—from going to the pool to picking sunflowers to watching fireworks—an unusual friendship blossoms.
My Clueless First Friend is based on Taku Kawamura's My Clueless First Friend (Jijou wo Shiranai Tenkousei ga Guigui Kuru.) manga and streams on Crunchyroll on Sundays.
How was the first episode?
I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of a lighthearted comedy about a kid being relentlessly bullied. I mean, I know kids are often mean and don't truly understand what they are doing so there's no actual malice but the fact remains they've turned Nishimura into a social pariah because of what? The shape of her eyes? This poor girl's been a verbal punching bag for years and she just takes it, having accepted it as normal. That's some heartbreaking stuff right there and not exactly what I'd call a situation ripe for comedy.
The central joke of the whole show is that Takada, the new transfer student, doesn't realize that everyone is bullying Nishimura. He hears the pejorative nickname they've given her, “Shinigami,” and thinks she must have cool, dark superpowers like the “shinigami” characters he's seen in popular media. And even when she tries to explain it to him, he can't understand. He simply cannot believe that he exists in a world where everyone would bully a girl for no reason. It's far more likely in his mind that she has out-of-control superpowers and they're trying to protect themselves with their own superpowers.
Despite the “clueless” in the title, that's not quite the case here. It's that Takada simply sees the world as a better place than it actually is. There's not a single negative thought in his head, so he's not afraid to say exactly what he thinks about any given situation—something that baffles the bullies. He's never embarrassed and has nothing to hide. Moreover, he also has the physical talent that kids value, meaning he has popularity outside those who actively bully Nishimura. And, most importantly, he doesn't respond how the bullies expect him to even when they do target him—which is already forcing some serious introspection upon these grade school kids.
I know this is supposed to be a heartwarming show with Takada standing up for Nishimura time and again without realizing how much his actions mean to her but… I mean… this is like the saddest of escapist fantasies: “What if the relentlessly bullied kid got a friend?” Who knows, maybe you were that kid and this happened to you—so seeing it on screen fills you with joy. Or maybe it didn't and watching this hurts more than heals. But regardless, if you've been bullied in your past, prepare yourself before heading into this one. It might hit you in some unexpected ways.
At least half a star here is for the ending theme's imagery, because, art references aside, it captures exactly what most of my elementary to high school years felt like: desperately running, looking for an exit that was always somehow just out of reach. Nishimura's position as the kid everyone bullies for whatever reason is painfully familiar, and I could see that making this a difficult story for some people, because it does understand what it feels like to be that kid. But there's one shining beacon in all of this, and that's Takada, the clueless friend of the title.
Takada transfers into Nishimura's school and class in the fifth grade, and that means he wasn't present when the bullying started. When he hears the other kids calling her a grim reaper (Shinigami in the Japanese), he has one immediate thought: that's so cool. In his mind, the fact that everyone treats Nishimura like something else means that she is something else, and that something is the most amazing person in the school. It's almost better than if he'd sought out her friendship because he saw her get bullied; in Takada's mind, Nishimura really is special, and that's the entire reason why he wants to be her friend. He doesn't feel sorry for her—he admires her. Even if she can't bring herself to believe it, that's something that Nishimura desperately needs.
This is shown quite well in this first episode, which closely adapts the source manga. Takada is aggressively friendly, and Nishimura really wants to believe him but can't quite bring herself to. Although it isn't said, the implication is that she's been burned by false fronts before, and she just couldn't handle that being the case this time. Her attempts to fend him off are clearly painful for her; the scene of her crouching outside the infirmary, afraid to go in because Hino has done so first, is incredibly familiar. Meanwhile, Takada is framed as “clueless” because he appears oblivious to what's really going on, but there are moments when we have to question that. The way he handles lead bully Kitagawa is either brilliant or the best application of non-understanding possible, and watching Kitagawa flail around for a response is pretty darn cathartic.
Some of my issues from the manga remain, such as the art, which is both too square and too noodley, but at the end of the day, it's the story that matters in this case. It does come with a warning for bullying, which we see exactly zero adults doing anything about (so like real life), but the heartwarming factor outweighs it. It's worth getting through the bad to see the good that Takada brings to Nishimura's life.
Well isn't this just cute as the dickens? That's really the only way to describe this one, an exceedingly and incessantly precious little comedy that makes you want to exclaim “d'aww” every couple minutes. It's not exactly the most substantive comedy you'll ever see, nor is it particularly hilarious, but there's something to be said about just being very simple and sweet.
That sweetness is balanced out by just a little bit of sadness in there, though. While the bullying Nishimura endures isn't the most brutal or derisive, it can still be hard to watch this lonely little kid shrug her way through constantly being ostracized and mocked for the crime of, uh, looking slightly different? The bit that really hits you in the gut is when Nishimura lies to her dad at home, insisting that everything at school is fine. There's a genuine and authentic dejection to the way she's just accepted being treated like a walking punchline, and tries to shield Takada from the same treatment, that makes the whole episode work as more than pure fluff.
Still, fluff is definitely its primary appeal, and it mostly succeeds. The animation isn't anything to write home about, but it's carried by simple, charming character designs. I especially love how much Nishimura resembles the lead of Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro, which I have to assume was intentional. Takada is perhaps a bit too guileless to be a real kid, but his unerring optimism is a cute salve to Nishimura's stoic loneliness. The biggest issue is that the central gimmick of him taking all the rumors about her as true gets repetitive very quickly. By the halfway point of the episode it's basically been exhausted, and I'm hoping the pair's rapport is allowed to grow beyond his initial misunderstanding.
Knowing the nature of shows like this, that probably won't happen for a while, which might make following this one a little tiresome. Simple and sweet is perfectly fine, but a diet of nothing but sugar will quickly dull your taste buds. So here's hoping that, if this friend can't get a clue, he can at least learn a couple new tricks.
This season kicked off with some wonderful romantic comedies, so I went into My Clueless First Friend with high hopes. Sadly, it turns out that My Love Story With Yamada-kun at Lv999 and The Dangers in My Heart may have set the bar a little too high, because all of that impressive competition only serves to make My Clueless First Friend even worse in comparison. It doesn't seem to be a terrible show, necessarily, but it's never a good sign for any premiere when I find myself checking my watch before we've even hit the 10-minute mark.
That's the greatest sin that the first episode if My Clueless First Friend commits: It's really, really boring. There is a fine line that a lot of anime walk between being low stakes in a comforting way and simply failing to tell interesting stories, and My Clueless First Friend definitely falls into the latter category. I think the biggest misstep that the show makes is in focusing on such young characters; Nishimura and Takada are only in the fifth grade, so while their budding friendship is cute, they're also barely even people at this point, so it is difficult for me to get invested in their whole dynamic when there isn't any funny comedy about their childlike perspectives to make the interactions interesting. If we had some older characters to switch to and change up the tone and pacing of the writing, I might be singing a different tune, but that doesn't seem to be the case. It is simply 20 minutes of a bunch of kids being casually cruel to the weird girl in their class, as kids are wont to do, and then some scenes of Takada being nice and cheering Nishimura up.
Then again, it could be that I am being hard on a show that is genuinely just meant for little kids, though that wouldn't really change my perception of it. The plain and simplistic art style certainly reminded me of the kind of kiddie fare you might find on Nick Jr. or PBS when I was a tyke, and that only turned me off of My Clueless First Friend even more. If you happen to be an anime fan that is raising a family of tiny Weebs-in-Training, this could maybe make for a fine introductory cartoon, but otherwise, I suspect that the appeal of this show will be very limited indeed.
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