The Spring 2023 Anime Preview Guide
The Dangers in My Heart
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Dangers in My Heart ?
Community score: 3.8
How would you rate episode 2 of
The Dangers in My Heart ?
Community score: 4.0
What is this?
Kyotaro Ichikawa, a boy barely clinging to the bottom rung of his school's social ladder, secretly believes he's the tortured lead in some psychological thriller. He spends his days dreaming up ways to disrupt his classmates' peaceful lives and pining after Anna Yamada, the class idol. But Kyotaro's not nearly the troubled teen he pretends to be…and it turns out Anna's a bit odd herself.
The Dangers in My Heart is based on Norio Sakurai's manga and streams on HIDIVE on Saturdays.
How was the first episode?
As some of you might know, in addition to sharing my opinions about cartoons for a living, I also work as an English teacher for high schoolers. In the public school system. In the United States. So, as you can imagine, it was just a tiny bit difficult for me to fully buy into the concept of a romantic comedy starring a self-proclaimed “messed up in the head” edgelord who obsesses over human anatomy textbooks, carries around a box cutter as a personal murder totem, and fantasizes about how nice it would be if the pretty girl in his class, Anna Yamada, was a corpse that he could do with as he pleases. Yes, I realize that this is all just a front for a lonely goth kid who likes horror stories and feels like he has to own and internalize his own social awkwardness—he doesn't really want to massacre all of his classmates…probably—but surely you understand why the subject matter might still hit a bit close to home for folks like me.
All of this should actually help you understand just how irritatingly good the premiere of The Dangers in My Heart is, seeing as the show was able to overcome some deeply rooted personal biases and get me to audibly go “Daaaaaw, I ship it!” multiple times. I'm a simple man, damn it, and if you give me two genuinely sweet and awkward dorks who are just trying their best to fit in and tell me that they might be the perfect fits for one another, I will be utterly unable to resist your story's charms, no matter how much weird anime nonsense you pile on top of it.
It is difficult to pinpoint when, exactly, my defenses utterly crumbled in the face of this show's relentless onslaught of cuteness. It might have been when Anna revealed herself to be a hopelessly relatable mess who can't even make a class poster for a group project without getting publicly shamed by her partner. It might have been all of the times that our would-be serial killer protagonist, Kyotaro, reveals himself to be a deeply empathetic and sincerely nice guy who is willing to make himself the butt of other people's judgmental glares if it means getting a girl like Anna out of the grasp of a serious creep that won't stop hounding her for her LINE info. Actually, you know what? The answer is actually obvious: It was that scene where Anna and Kyotaro both end up meowing like fighting cats in the back of a library to save a pair of their friends from some potential social awkwardness.
Either way, this show is just absurdly freaking cute, and I need more of it in my life, immediately. It also helps that it looks and sounds gorgeous, thanks to the efforts of the crew at Shinei Animation. My only hope is that the series can tone it down just a smidge with Kyotaro's “Maybe it would be fun to do a mass school murder, actually” shtick.
Every so often a show that I wasn't expecting much from springs out and catches me off guard. That's what happened with The Dangers in My Heart. Not only does it have some pitch-perfect middle school moments, like Ichikawa's desperate need to believe he's “dangerously unbalanced” and the way Yamada eats, but it also blends a good sense of humor with what I suspect is going to become a warm emotional undercurrent. Why does Ichikawa need to think he's seconds away from a murder spree? As the episode goes on, it starts to look like it might just be a way to make himself feel better about being on the outskirts of the class, while Yamada's attempts to get some people to notice her and others to bug off also indicate that she's not being quite sure of who she is and where she stands yet. Again, this feels very true to the age, but it's handled in a way that doesn't cause bad middle school flashbacks.
The episode also has a couple of moments that made me laugh out loud. The best is, without a doubt, the entire “there's a cat in the library” fiasco, wherein Yamada, realizing that she's intruded on a confession, attempts to manufacture a cat fight starring her and Ichikawa as the cats. Between his yodeling version of a feline and her weirdly accurate one, the whole scene is completely absurd in a great way. The same goes for her attempts in a bookstore to get girls to notice that she's one of the models in the magazine they're looking at; that she drives them off instead is both funny and a good way to underline her personality.
Both Yamada and Ichikawa stand out, which is another plus. He has one image of her born of zero actual interactions, and he's targeted her as the first to die when he inevitably goes berserk. But then he catches her stuffing her face in the library and half-assing her homework, and all bets are off. Ichikawa's perhaps having to grapple with the idea that Yamada is a person before she's a girl (whatever those mysterious beings are in his mind), and he falls into fascination with her before he realizes it. There's some implication that she's always noticed him as well, and that's a good foundation for the “rom” part of this story to build on.
I don't love the character designs or the way Yamada's face is animated—I can't put my finger on it, but there's something creepy going on there. But the plot is good enough and the humor consistent enough that I'm going to stop putting off reading the source manga and come back next week to see if it keeps it up.
While there are many flavors of RomComs, most of them tend toward the sugary sweet side. The Dangers in My Heart is decidedly not one of those. With our male lead's opening monologue being about how he's filled with dark fantasies, even expressly saying he wants to kill the object of his affection, you might think this was some kind of morbid, twisted take on romance ala Angels of Death. However, as this premiere went on, it became clear that wasn't the case. Rather, this is a show built from the ground up on pure, undiluted cringe humor, and it will force you to stare into that abyss until you want to crawl out of your own skin.
Not since WATAMOTE has there been such an uncompromisingly honest presentation of what it's like to be an edgelord teenager. You get lots of chuuni characters in anime, who cover a wide spectrum of embarrassment, but I struggle to think of one that feels quite as authentic as Ichikawa. He spends his free time reading books with fake blood spatter on the cover, monologuing about how he's got a sick, twisted mind that intimidates those around him, which is definitely for sure the reason nobody talks to him at school. He constructs elaborate fantasies about being a secret killer who's going to destroy the prettiest girl in class, only to shrink into a corncob the moment she makes eye contact. If he didn't have to wear a uniform you know he'd have a different skull T-shirt every single day of the week. As somebody who lived the life during puberty, I got a lot of laughs at seeing the brutally honest way this episode kept peeling back those defense tactics to expose the embarrassed kid hiding behind them.
However, that shockingly authentic portrayal is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I can appreciate and squirm in sympathy with just how true to life it feels. On the other, the show's portrayal pulls no punches in how genuinely lousy teenagers—and specifically teenage boys—can be. It makes no bones (ba-dum tish) about the fact Ichikawa is buying a magazine with Yamada's pictures in it for the express purpose of getting off to them. The other boys in class brazenly make gross, immature, and deeply disrespectful remarks about the girls in their class, quite often within earshot. All of that is certainly true to life, and we're at least partially supposed to be laughing at the characters in question, but being stuck inside the head of an authentic teenage boy is most certainly one of the deepest punishments awaiting me in Hell. I imagine a lot of people will be put off by this particular brand of humor, and I can't blame them for bailing out.
At least Yamada herself is pretty charming. While everything we see of her is filtered through Ichikawa's perspective, it paints the portrait of a lovable doofus who is very fun to watch, even as it's kinda uncomfortable just how much watching Ichikawa is doing without her knowledge. If nothing else, watching her awkwardly fish for recognition at the book store got the biggest laugh of the episode from me, alongside her startlingly great cat noises. There are hints that she's got more going on than the friendly ditz most of their classmates treat her as, and ideally she'll be the spoonful of sugar that makes the cringe go down easier.
Altogether, it makes for an interesting premiere, albeit not one that's easy or simple to recommend. At the very least, I'm curious to see where it goes from here, as there's at least a lot of room for our leads to develop. That said, I wouldn't blame anyone for not wanting to stick around.
There's nothing objectively bad about this show. The animation is fine, and it's acted well. The characters and the story both make sense. However, my problems with this show are simply a matter of taste: I don't enjoy awkward humor. Seeing people in uncomfortable situations and reacting in a way that only makes things even more awkward makes me physically cringe instead of laughing. I feel so uncomfortable that I don't want to continue watching the show.
It's even worse in this case because I can highly empathize with Kyoutarou. I understand his thought process far more than I'd care to admit (which makes the awkward cringe hit twice as hard). When it comes down to it, he is a shy guy who has trouble making friends because their interests simply don't align with his own. He's been rejected enough in his life that he preemptively attacks first, keeping everyone at arm's length so they never have a chance to harm him. In his mind, he's alone because he's "different" (read: "better") than everyone else. No other reason.
The truth is that he's just envious and would give anything to be as happy and sociable as everyone else. But that is something he can't admit to himself because, in doing so, his ramshackle mess of self-esteem would collapse in an instant—which is why his interactions with Anna have such an effect on him.
In the narrative that Kyoutarou has created for himself, Anna is the stereotypical popular girl—a vapid professional model with a life of nothing but happiness. He hates her for how he assumes her to be—i.e., the opposite of him. However, the more he learns about her, the more he realizes how false that idea has been. While she keeps up a happy front, she becomes sad when her hard work is disregarded, uncomfortable when hit on by strangers, and depressed when not recognized as a celebrity. She loves snack food and seemingly has a passion for military aircraft. Even in this one episode, it becomes clear to him that she is not who he thought she was. If this is the case, it begs the question: How does he see everyone else? What about how he sees himself?
Frankly, this show has a well-written protagonist alongside a great message about growing up and the lies we tell ourselves to protect our hearts. If it weren't for the awkward humor, I would probably spend my time watching it this season. Alas, I have to accept that this one is not for me.
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