The Spring 2023 Anime Preview Guide
My Love Story With Yamada-kun at Lv999
How would you rate episode 1 of
My Love Story With Yamada-kun at Lv999 ?
Community score: 4.0
How would you rate episode 2 of
My Love Story With Yamada-kun at Lv999 ?
Community score: 4.2
What is this?
Akane Kinoshita is a female university student who just got dumped by her boyfriend after he cheated on her with a woman he met in an online game. Akane is left with just her game character in the online game Forest of Savior (FOS) that she started to share her boyfriend's interests. While she was blowing off steam in the game's hunting ground, she happened upon "Yamada" who was from the same guild as her. She started complaining about her failed relationship only to be met with a cold "I'm not interested". When she then joined an offline meeting in an attempt to look pretty and make her ex regret dumping her, she hears those exact same words once again. This is her fated meeting with Akito Yamada.
My Love Story With Yamada-kun at Lv999 is based on Mashiro's manga and streams on Crunchyroll on Saturdays.
How was the first episode?
My Love Story With Yamada-kun at Lv999 already had my attention when I realized that it was a romantic comedy that starred two protagonists that are legally able to drink. Sure, they're college students, and so not that dissimilar from teenagers from my crusty old perspective, but I'll take whatever meager scraps of Real Adult Problems™ that I can get in my anime these days. I was also very impressed with the anime's visuals. I dig the shōjo manga character designs and lush production values, and the premiere of the show continued to impress me with some inspired directional choices, like merging Akane's anxious memories of encountering her ex-boyfriend with his new gamer gal pal and the shot of her staring wistfully into the carbonated bubbles of her beer. It's heightened and melodramatic stuff, but that's warranted, given the subject matter.
What really got me invested in Yamada-kun, though, is simply how well written and acted the characters are. Akane is a very likeable and relatable young lady who is trying to figure out how to get herself out of her post-breakup funk and feel good about herself again, while Yamada is the typical “preposterously aloof hottie who ‘doesn't care about romance’ but is nevertheless a good and caring guy deep down” archetype on which this genre of romance fiction has thrived for generations, and for good reason. By the end of this episode, you want to see Akane bounce back and find herself a man who will appreciate her. I defy anyone to not be at least a little bit swept off their feet when Yamada takes it upon himself to buy our girl a bandage for her scraped ankle and even apply it himself, even though he very obviously doesn't want to be hanging out with a sad stranger all night. And then he takes her home and gives her a place to sleep when she drinks too much and presumably can't make it home on her own? Be still, my heart.
So, yeah, if the Spring of 2023 is going down as “The Season of the Anime Rom-Com,” then it's sure as heck off to a great start. More cartoons like this one, please.
Akane is a lot to take in this episode, and she has every right to be. Dumped unceremoniously by her boyfriend after he finds someone new in the MMO they both play, she spends most of this introduction reeling. Not only did he get her into the game in the first place so that they could play together, but she spent money on the thing, and now what was supposed to bring them closer together has ruptured their relationship. Although she doesn't say it, I do like how we see that she does actually enjoy playing “Forest of Savior,” which is kind of the saving grace here. It would have been easy to just paint her as someone who got into it for her guy, but the fact that she logs on to kill things for stress relief makes it clear that even though she lost the man, she's still got the game.
I think without that I wouldn't have enjoyed the episode so much. It's overwhelmingly pastel, and Akane's depression isn't a lot of fun to watch, no matter how much it's justified. The eponymous Yamada is also kind of a pill, although that may be more from a lack of social graces than his personality. His choice not to get involved with Akane when she first pours out her troubles in-game is quite frankly one I'd likely make, but that he sticks it out and eventually does help her (bribe notwithstanding) is a hint that this may turn out to be worthwhile. Like I said, she's a lot right now, especially when she tries to say he's her new boyfriend. If he's not keen on social interaction, that could translate to a warning siren for him.
Despite the aggressively pastel color scheme, there are some good visual elements here too. Akane and the other girl avatars we see in the game aren't sexualized at all, and her armor shows no skin. Human character designs are pleasant to look at, and when she gets herself all dolled up in an attempt to make her ex jealous, she still looks like a human being, just one in fancier clothes. There's something grounded about this that belies the game reference in the title. I think that once Akane evens out emotionally and Yamada becomes more comfortable with her, this could be a good romance to follow. It needs another episode to be sure, but right now, it's worth giving it that chance.
This one kind of slid under my notice. There are few things in life I love more than a good RomCom, and while this season has a healthy smattering of them, this particular series just hadn't pinged my radar. Yet almost from the moment it started, I was charmed by the premiere's style, its deliberately paced humor, and the complicated mess of our lead heroine.
Akane is the main appeal of this first episode. Most of this episode is about following her through her less-than-mature attempts at getting over her ex as the central romance gets off to a purposefully stilted start. She lets off steam by killing mobs in an MMO, only to immediately vent to the first player unlucky enough to listen. She puts together a whole revenge plan to make her ex jealous, only to be devastated when it turns out he's happy with his new partner. At her lowest, she drags our awkward romantic lead to go drinking with her so she can vent in meat-space this time. She's a mess, but a relatable mess who's almost certainly like somebody you knew in college, or perhaps uncomfortably close to who you were back then. Most importantly, for all her foibles, I did want to see her be happy and get over the old guy, which is important for getting invested in her new love interest.
That charisma carries this episode, because the other half of our lead couple is so bad at conversation that you very much have to read between the lines with him. Yamada has all the social grace of a drunken sea slug, and seems genuinely unsure of how to handle all the chaos Akane brings into his life out of nowhere. Yet it's clear that even when he's being rude, it's only because he's trying to be honest and direct, and there's no malicious intent behind it. The guy just isn't great with social situations, let alone the fake-dating lunacy he gets bribed into, yet he's also kind enough to help Akane at her lowest. It's a purposefully awkward dynamic that makes for some good laughs, and acts as an amazing setup for the ending punchline of the episode, which ensured I had to see what happens next.
The show looks great, overall. The characters have a mature appeal to them, thanks in part to all of them being college age, and they're rendered well in variety of styles. I especially love how varied Akane's expressions are, and adore the evil cat mouth she gets whenever she's scheming. The character animation is solid, giving certain moments a lot of weight and intimacy, while flipping to cartoonish smears where appropriate. There are some really clever direction choices throughout that manage to balance the serious and comedic tones perfectly, before sliding into suspense for the final scene. Morio Asaka's deft hand made My Love Story!! and Chihayafuru compulsively watchable, and that stays true here. In all, it's just a really solid, charming premiere that made me excited to see more, and managed to surprise me in a very good way.
This first episode suffers from a problem that completely turned me off to this anime overall: every single character we meet is thoroughly unlikable. I mean, I'm sure we're supposed to hate some of the characters—namely the ex-boyfriend who cheats on Akane (because that's what it is when you ask another girl out while already having a girlfriend) as well as Akane's “friend” who shows zero sympathy. But I'm nonetheless surprised that Akane comes off as unpalatable as she does.
Don't get me wrong. I understand Akane's feelings and where she is coming from. We're seeing her at her worst. She's heartbroken—i.e., short-sighted and in emotional turmoil. She alternates between impulsively striking out for revenge and emotionally dumping on anyone willing to give her the time of day. She wastes a ton of money trying to make her ex jealous without thinking about how much this will hurt her wallet and feelings, regardless of how he responds.
But worse still is how she dumps her emotional baggage on Yamada—both in the game and the real world. In both instances, he flat-out tells her that he is not interested in her problems, yet she forces them upon him. She even had to have her drunk butt taken to his place or left to her own devices. Of course, Yamada is no saint himself—he is rude and self-centered—but that pales in comparison to the hot mess Akane is.
Honestly, this is one of those shows that should have started with an “in medias res” episode—something to introduce us to who Akane usually is, rather than the monster she becomes in the midst of heartbreak. Maybe if the show had portrayed the relationship between her and Yamada as cute and silly right from the start, I would have been okay with an episode like this one. But as it stands now, I have no interest in spending even another second of my life with Akane or any other characters we were introduced to. I am 100% out.
Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa Group of Companies.
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