• remind me tomorrow
  • remind me next week
  • never remind me
Subscribe to the ANN Newsletter • Wake up every Sunday to a curated list of ANN's most interesting posts of the week. read more

The Spring 2024 Anime Preview Guide
A Condition Called Love

How would you rate episode 1 of
A Condition Called Love ?
Community score: 3.7

What is this?


Hotaru is a 16-year-old high school first-year who has always been ambivalent about love, preferring instead to have a lively life with her family and friends. So when she sees her schoolmate, Hananoi-kun, sitting in the snow after a messy, public breakup, she thinks nothing of offering to share her umbrella. But when he asks her out in the middle of her classroom the next day, she can't help but feel that her life is about to change in a big way.

A Condition Called Love is based on a manga series by Megumi Morino. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll and Netflix (in select Asian territories) on Thursdays.

How was the first episode?

Richard Eisenbeis

I know this show is supposed to be romantic—I do. However, I can't help but see this episode as the start of a deeply unhealthy relationship. On one side of this, we have Hotaru, who seems to be aromantic or demiromantic—she simply doesn't have crushes like the people around her. She's noticed that this sets her apart—makes her “not normal.” While none of her friends are directly pressuring her, it's clear that she feels a form of societal peer pressure—pressure she gives into by the end of the episode in agreeing to date Hananoi (despite having no romantic feelings for him).

Hananoi, on the other hand, has a completely different problem: he's in love with the concept of “true love.” He will do anything to get it. He'll change his appearance—cut his hair and remove his piercings—or even cause himself bodily harm in his pursuit of it. All his time, money, and effort is spent on doing stuff to make the target of his affection happy.

What all this means, on a practical level, is that he has no personal identity. He has nothing he likes or hates—nothing he won't immediately throw away if his crush doesn't like it. All he wants to do is make himself as appealing as possible to his current “true love.”

Of course, this is highly unattractive and explains why his relationships crash and burn so often. He doesn't feel like a real person to those he is dating. Everything about him feels like it is built on lies. There is no real emotional connection—nothing they share with him. And he is so blinded by his perception of what “true love” should be that he can't even hope to see what he's doing from an objective standpoint.

Frankly, the relationship between Hotaru and Hananoi looks like it'll be an absolute train wreck filled with endless amounts of drama. But when you think about it, that's exactly how most high school relationships are. So no matter how it turns out, here's hoping this relationship will teach them about themselves at least—and hopefully they'll take these lessons to heart.

James Beckett

I had an instinctively negative reaction to the leading man of A Condition Called Love, Hananoi, from the first moments of the show's premiere. He's not hideous to behold or anything, and it's not like he behaves like a completely reprehensible asshole when he awkwardly dumps his girlfriend in front of our leading lady Hotaru. Rather, the dude just gave off an incredibly strong “This boy is a giant pain in the ass” vibes from the second I set eyes on him, and nothing about his weirdly dramatic and clingy behavior throughout the rest of this “romantic” comedy did anything to change that. As for Hotaru herself, she sure does occupy space and breathe oxygen at a rate that indicates normal human functioning.

Look, here's the thing: Romance and comedy are two genres of storytelling that rely more than most any other (except maybe for horror) on pure, visceral, biological response. Something either makes you laugh, or it doesn't. The two characters that we're meant to root for and vicariously experience the thrilling joys of romance with either have “the stuff” that you crave, or they don't. I'm not going to sit here and act like A Condition Called Love commits any unforgivable writing or animation sins, here. Hananoi is a dweeb and Hotaru is a wallflower that would barely pass muster for a featured extra if she weren't the actual main character of this story, but plenty of rom-coms have bet everything on the same archetypes and won big. Hananoi is not the first over-eager and naïve boy who will try way too hard to change himself for the girl he likes, and Hotaru will not be the last time we find ourselves following a heroine who considers it a reality-altering moment of character development to raise her voice to above “library quiet” levels to chastise said dweeb.

Unfortunately for A Condition Called Love, I just couldn't be bothered to care one bit. These kids are completely lacking in chemistry and charm, nor are they the kinds of beautiful disasters that can make watching romantic trainwrecks kind of fun despite the cringe of it all. Rather, they are ordinarily uninteresting couples that make up the vast majority of the human race. Think about it: How much fun would you have if I just plopped you right into the middle of a high school cafeteria and forced you to watch some of the most awkward-yet-somehow-deeply-boring interactions that two teenagers could have? You don't even have to think about it that hard, because I do that for a living in the real world, and let me tell you, it's no fun at all. It's certainly not how I want to spend my free time. I wish them the best in their relational endeavors, but I'll be cheering them on in spirit, from very far away, while I watch better anime.

Rebecca Silverman

I recognize that my opinions about the source manga for this series are unpopular. Recently, I attempted to reread it, hoping that maybe I was just in a bad mood or having a particularly vicious high school flashback when I first read it during its digital-first release. I was forced to conclude that I was not and that I find Hananoi-kun unbearably creepy, a walking red flag in human form. His first lines about how he believes that love can only be felt for your soulmate already tell me that he's got some very unhealthy ideas about and expectations for his relationships. How he immediately begins trying to tailor himself to suit her preferences (or what he perceives to be her preferences) is deeply unsettling. He feels one step removed from creating a shrine to her in his bedroom, and they've barely known each other for a week.

Not that insecurities are uncommon at his age. The episode does a much better job of highlighting Hotaru's in a way I can relate to more easily. She has never been in love, has no interest in being in love, and really can't understand the whole "in love" thing anyway, but her friend Kyo-chan acts like that's somehow the weirdest thing ever. Although she doesn't mean to, she makes Hotaru feel like maybe there's something wrong with her, or, as she phrases it to Hananoi, that she doesn't have the right to fall in love because she's not willing to devote herself solely to her boyfriend or to change her appearance for him. Hananoi, to his credit, believes that she can fall in love (and has the right to), but that's tempered at least a little by his dedication to devote himself solely to her and changing his appearance for her. He eventually gets the message that he might be doing just a little too much in his dogged attempts to ignore her initial refusal to go out with him, but by that point, it feels like too little, too late.

Hotaru may not realize it, but she's under a lot of pressure from both Hananoi and Kyo-chan to be more "normal." I do like seeing that represented on the screen, but I'm not entirely comfortable with how it's going or how the episode clearly paints Hananoi's actions as romantic. I have loved many problematic shōjo romances in my time, but this one just isn't working for me.

Nicholas Dupree

I'm of two minds on this one. On paper and in practice, I like this setup a lot. I'm always down for a good romance, especially one specifically aimed at interrogating what "love" means to each person. The problem is, I'm just not sure how much I'm supposed to read into the bad vibes I get from the male love interest.

Taking Hananoi's actions as generously as possible, he comes off as desperate to please the people important to him at the cost of his sense of self. He's willing to drastically change his appearance if he thinks it will appeal to Hotaru and seems to be constantly on the lookout for ways to please her, even when risking his health. Both Hotaru and the story call him out on the unhealthiness of those impulses and urge him to chill out, so I feel fairly confident the show is trying to pick apart the self-effacing style of "love" that Hananoi's consumed by. That could make for an engaging character study, especially paired with Hotaru's fumbling attempts to understand what "love" means to her. If all this is intended to feel like red flags, then mission accomplished, and now we have a setup for a potentially compelling drama.

Being less generous, you could read Hananoi's actions as supremely manipulative, constantly putting pressure on a girl he barely knows to reciprocate his feelings through sheer attrition. He straight up tells her that he'll change anything about himself to make her happy, risks bodily harm for the sake of a romantic gesture, and is unwilling to take "no" for an answer no matter how many times Hotaru gives it. All of this, and it's based on a single kind gesture from someone he'd never spoken to, and his constant attempts at wooing her draw tons of attention that Hotaru's uncomfortable with, applying the same kind of pressure public proposals do. That's the setup for a creepy, uncomfortable story about wearing down the object of your affection until you get what you want and an altogether shallow story on top of it.

As of this episode, I'm unsure which way the show will go. My intuition says it's the former and that the uncomfortable energy around Hananoi comes from some flubbed attempts at setting up a complex character arc, but I can't be sure. I'm also not wild about the muddled, washed-out aesthetic the show has going. Maybe I'm still riding the high from last season's A Sign of Affection, but so much of this premiere felt flat, static, and drab. Even the soaring moment of connection at the end just looked sickly, with the post-processing rainbow filters desperately trying to wrench the color palette out of the doldrums. The character art and animation are simple and serviceable otherwise, so it's not a terrible-looking show, but it's not at its best.

At the very least, I'm willing to give it a couple more episodes to see where this whole thing goes. There's tons of room here for a compelling, complicated romance with a lot of emotional nuance, and I hope we see that potential bloom.

discuss this in the forum (465 posts) |
bookmark/share with: short url

this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history

back to The Spring 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Season Preview Guide homepage / archives