The Winter 2023 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Ayakashi Triangle ?
Community score: 3.6
What is this?
Japan may be brimming with mysterious monsters called ayakashi, but they have a special exorcist ninja force to counter the threat. Young exorcist ninja Matsuri spends his days fighting ayakashi to protect his childhood friend Suzu. But when an ayakashi cat named Shirogane shows up, things get turned upside down.
How was the first episode?
I was baffled watching the first episode of Ayakashi Triangle. I kept wondering how and why such a generic anime got greenlit. From the secret ninja clan fighting demons and the perverted old master to the will-they-won't-they childhood romance and the “dark secret” keeping them apart, there was not a single trope I hadn't seen before and done better.
Yet there was clearly some serious budget behind what I was watching. The fight scenes are both well choreographed and well animated, and the music is simply amazing. (It's so amazing that I have written a note to myself to buy the soundtrack when it comes out.) Yet I couldn't figure out why—what possible twist could have inspired such faith (and investment) in this story full of stereotypical characters and cliché plot points?
And then we get to the final scene and it's all laid bare—literally in this case.
While it didn't appear so at first, this is 100% a fanservice anime. It's the story of a boy and girl who are in love but *gasp* the boy has been turned into a girl! Whatever will they do? (Probably quite a lot as our heroine seems more than a little bit turned on by our hero's new buxom body). If this setup titillates you, then congratulations. You are the target audience for this anime. And if not... well, you should still listen to the soundtrack.
Y'know, I'll give this episode this much: it does a decent job pretending to be a shonen action series for the first 19 minutes. It's got the sound and music perfect for a run-of-the-mill Shonen Jump action series, some nice animation for the fights, and it spends just enough time faking you out that the uninitiated might not immediately realize what this show is actually about. In an era where Surf Dracula-style premieres are becoming more common, this one does a reasonable job burying its own lede until the closing minutes while still resembling a real – if bland – show.
If you were invested in the generic ninja adventures of Matsuri and his childhood friend, you'd probably be disappointed when the twist reveals this is a fanservice vehicle where plot and action are tertiary to “T” and “A,” respectively. And if you came in knowing the gender-bender twist or just knew this was from the artist of To Love-Ru, you spent this premiere waiting for them to get to the fireworks factory, only to be greeted with the hilarious Shirogane Censors in this review's thumbnail. So I guess it's an exemplary execution of a questionable idea because, as somebody who's read a good amount of the source material, I can tell you the scene of Matsuri fiddling with his newly-developed boobs is a lot more indicative of what this series is going to be. Matsuri and Suzu are largely inoffensive but unengaging characters. Their primary role in the story is to provide copious amounts of skin to expose and be placed in a compromising situation. If the streaming release is going to cover that up with scandalized cats, you might as well not bother.
In terms of fanservice, Ayakashi Triangle is practically quaint, to be honest. It would feel right at home in the early 2000s, when all you needed to sell like hotcakes was an excuse to draw some anime tiddy, with how straightforward it is. Look, this boy has been turned into a girl! He has big boobs now! But he has a female love interest, so every time they get romantic, it'll be like two GIRLS kissing! How scandalous.
Compared to other fanservice offerings like World’s End Harem, it's practically chaste. If you're entering the fanservice market, you've got way more specialized competition than Love Hina or whatever. That relative tameness makes the censorship even funnier, but without entering the realm of genuine hilarity like the error code boxes of Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World.
So yeah, this is a non-starter, at least in this episode. If the promise of some technically-not-girl on girl action with a sprinkling of supernatural ninja fights is your bag, you'd be just as well-off reading the manga, where Yabuki's designs are sharper, shapelier, and not covered up by LINE stickers. If you have read the source and want to relive it with color and sound, well, I guess wait for the Blu-rays or hope Crunchyroll gets an uncut stream at some point. Otherwise, there's not much here to savor.
Can it jiggle? Then it will jiggle - that is Ayakashi Triangle's plan for its animation. You may think I am simply talking about the breasts of our heroine and the girl that our hero is transformed into, but you would be wrong because this show goes the extra mile to bring you jiggling cat balls. No, not the toys you give cats to play with, cat testicles. While I don't find either set of jiggling things particularly attractive or sexy, I have to hand it to the show that it went that route and gave us equal-opportunity jiggling.
If you think that this makes the episode relatively horny, you're right. Although there isn't much to this episode beyond the basic setup of the story's trajectory, this is a show that features jiggling and girl-on-girl boob groping in its opening sequence, has its hero grabbing its heroine's thighs while demanding to know if she has gained weight, and some relatively improbably shaped and moving breasts. It knows what the audience will want and is more than happy to give it to them. The question then becomes whether or not there is a plot for it to hang all of this on, which depends on what kind of plot you're looking for. If you're looking for a racier Ranma 1/2 wherein a guy is transformed into a girl, I suspect this will deliver. But if you're hoping for this to be about hunting evil ayakashi, the episode is quite frankly a little thin. We learn that Suzu is an ayakashi medium, meaning that she has enough life force to make her very, very delicious to any ayakashi looking to increase their power. At the same time, Matsuri is an exorcist ninja, exorcising evil spirits daily. He never bothered to tell Suzu about her condition, which led to some coldness between them, although not enough to make her reconsider her feelings for him.
Those very feelings are why Shirogane, the ayakashi cat, turns him into a girl in the first place: he wants to ensure they don't get up to any mischief together. Yes, Shirogane's entire motive in turning Matsuri into a girl is to prevent opposite gender hanky-panky. It may not be a great motive, but at least it's a clear one. And really, that's what can be said about this entire episode: it's not great, but it has a catchy opening theme and is very honest about its focus. I appreciate that Suzu appears to be the more interested party in terms of what she and Matsuri might get up to, and this is not without its ecchi potential, although it is censored. That may make it less appealing, so just know what you're getting before diving in.
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