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The Summer 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Alya Sometimes Hides Her Feelings in Russian

How would you rate episode 1 of
Alya Sometimes Hides Her Feelings in Russian ?
Community score: 3.9



What is this?

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Masachika Kuse sits next to Alya, a girl of Russian and Japanese descent. She's beautiful, haughty, and an exceptional student, while Masachika is nerdy and known for being a slacker. He's an easy target for her comments in Russian, which she's all too happy to translate—except he can understand what she's really saying.

Alya Sometimes Hides Her Feelings in Russian is based on a light novel series of the same name written by Sunsunsun and illustrated by Momoco. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Wednesdays.


How was the first episode?

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Richard Eisenbeis
Rating:

Here we have another fun little rom-com built around a misunderstanding. Alya is a half-Russian girl. She is considered a prim and proper ice princess—always serious and completely untouchable. The trick is, however, that this is partially a façade. On the inside, she is far more relaxed and emotional, sometimes allowing this side of herself out through comments in Russian, which she is sure no one can understand. Of course, someone does understand: her obvious crush, the guy that sits next to her, Masachika.

Now I'm sure some people out there won't be able to get past this narrative conceit. After all, it should be a simple thing for Masachika to explain that he speaks Russian. Yeah, there will be some embarrassment but it'll be a non-issue in the long run. However, for me, the central setup is in no way a downside. In fact, I completely empathize with Masachika on a personal level.

At this point, I have lived in Japan for 18 years and speak the language. Of course, there's no way for the average Japanese person to know this. Instead, they assume I am just another tourist. Countless times, I have listened to people talk about me, certain that I don't understand what they are saying. This was especially true during my time as a teacher (where I was explicitly told to not speak Japanese or respond to it in class).

It's such a weird feeling and one you never quite get used to. On one hand, you don't want to embarrass the person by calling them out, especially if their comments are benign. On the other, there's this little thrill each time—this taboo excitement coming from you, knowing something you aren't supposed to know. So I totally get why Masachika is unwilling to let Alya in on the secret.

All in all, this first episode was quite fun for me. My only complaint so far is that I can't see why Alya or any other girl would be into Masachika. Sure, we see he can be reliable and responsible but he has made the conscious choice to be neither of these things. Basically, he's a pain to get involved with. But hey, this is only the first episode. I'm sure he'll be fleshed out more as the series goes on, and I am looking forward to seeing it.


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Caitlin Moore
Rating:

I don't actually think Alya Sometimes Hides Her Feelings in Russian is a bad show. If you're buying what it's selling, it's probably pretty good! As is the case with most Doga Kobo it has a straightforward premise: Masachika Kuze sits next to Alya Kujo who is half-Japanese and half-Russian. As the student council treasurer, she's a stickler for the rules. She often insults Kuze for his poor work habits but will then follow it with a muttered comment in Russia. What she doesn't know is that Kuze understands Russian—and thus knows exactly how flirtatious she's being. It sounds like a one-joke comedy that would be perfect for a short—only stretched out to full-length episodes

Yep, it's a typical Doga Kobo series. Also typical? Lush character animation in beautifully-realized environments. Alya's every silvery hair toss, her tsundere scowls, her secretive smiles… It's a beautiful series. Now, the most lovingly-animated scene is when she tells Kuze to put her knee sock on her, which leads to him getting a close look at her underwear until she freaks out and kicks him in the chin. Which… no thanks. I'm not in the market for this.

Similar to the animation, the character writing is actually fairly strong… it's just too bad that I don't really like any of them and want to spend time with them. I don't know exactly why Alya would have a crush on Kuze, which I say as someone married to a guy who would get his DS taken away in high school for playing it in class. However, I can totally see why she would act the way she does toward him: that mix of boldness and shyness; the desire to flirt coming into conflict with the fear of vulnerability that brings; the sense of power from being able to tease him in another language... It is deeply human—a perfect example of adolescent awkwardness. That sock scene? Totally the kind of thing that hormonal teenagers would do, up to and including her panic when Kuze took her up on it and things became too real.

But that doesn't change that I don't like them—and that counts for a lot.


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Rebecca Silverman
Rating:

At about the nineteen-minute mark, we glimpse what someone animating this show is really into: Alya's feet and underwear. While the animation is perfectly fine for the entire episode, this one scene really kicks it into high gear. From lovingly showing her sliding her sock down her leg to tenderly animating every wiggle of her toes as she teases Kuze to the final shot of her underwear flashing out from her skirt, someone was really excited about this little sequence. It's not where I would have devoted the most care, but I can at least appreciate the enthusiasm.

That's also probably the most remarkable moment in this episode. It feels old-fashioned in a few ways, mostly relating to the premise and Alya's character. She's a textbook old-school tsundere, desperately hiding her real feelings behind a veneer of snark and taunting, but the hook is that she expresses her genuine emotions in Russian, which we're meant to assume she speaks at home. She assumes that the object of her affection, Kuze, can't understand her, but the fact of the matter is that he used to play with a Russian girl when he was little, and so actually does know the truth. But he doesn't want to embarrass Alya (or possibly face up to his own emotions), so he hides the fact. The result is two people at cross-purposes when they don't have to be, and if that's a style of rom-com you enjoy, this stands to make you very happy.

Poorly pronounced Russian (to my ear; I could be very wrong since it's been a long time since I heard it spoken in person) isn't enough of a hook for me. Neither Alya nor Kuze are particularly interesting characters. However, I admire Kuze's steadfast refusal to join the student council, even if the opening theme clarifies that it won't last. Yuki, the all-important childhood friend with an unnoticed crush on him, also feels very rote. While I enjoy the care that went into animating each of Alya's disgusted facial expressions, the plot's just not there. Most of the episode comprises Alya and Kuze snipping at each other in a classroom, with stale old plot points like her giving him the wrong answer in class and his friend lamenting his lack of girl action filling in the spaces between flirting. It needs a little more depth to make it stand out because this episode feels very much like it's content to stay on the surface of things.

But hey, that ending theme could get stuck in your head, and the characters are all easy to tell apart. This isn't terrible, but I also feel like it's not putting its best foot forward – except, of course, when animating Alya's foot is involved.


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Nicholas Dupree
Rating:

I wasn't sure what to expect going into this one besides the exact thing explained in the title. However, sometimes a girl talking in Russian isn't a premise. It's a character gimmick and mostly something you'd expect from a side character in a rom-com. That isn't much of a hook, and I was wary about how badly it might drag out this premise. Consider me pleasantly surprised when this premiere was a fun, well-produced little rom-com.

It's not anything spectacular or even all that distinct, but sometimes a show like this can get by on solid fundamentals, and Alya has that down pat. Alya and Masachika are pretty standard characters, but they have a solid comedic rapport that lets each character be snarky and vulnerable in equal measure. The central gag of Masachika secretly understanding Alya's multilingual asides adds just enough comedic tension to carry things, and I have to give props to Sumire Uesaka's performance. I don't know enough to tell if her Russian is particularly graceful, but her delivery sounds natural enough to work, especially compared to most polyglot anime characters. Combined with some promising secondary characters, like Masachika's childhood friend, who is either really into him or really into teasing Alya for her obvious crush, it makes for a pretty fun time if you're into dirt-simple romcoms.

What puts it over for me is the production. The character designs are solid on their own but elevated by strong animation, allowing them to be expressive in small but critical ways. Alya side-scooting around Masachika after she kicked him was silly and unexpected enough to make me laugh on its own, and the whole premiere is filled with playful decisions like that. Stories like this thrive when it feels like the creators have as much energy as these love-struck teenagers, and combined with a fantastic OP (and a wonderfully retro cover for the ED), I had a smile on my face through the whole thing. Even the blatant fanservice with Masachika putting on Alya's sock worked for me since they had the wherewithal to get somebody clearly into feet to animate it.

That all said, I doubt this will have much appeal for anyone who isn't inoculated to anime rom-com bullshit. Our leads are funny together but not particularly interesting as a couple, nor do they seem to have any larger themes or ideas to build around this. It's funny enough, but not laugh-out-loud hilarious, and its jokes primarily work off of execution rather than originality. If you enjoy this style of show, it's a solid entry with excellent production values, but if you aren't, it's not going to win you over.


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James Beckett
Rating:

Despite my overwhelming obsession with Teasing-Master Takagi-san, one of the all-time cutest romantic comedies ever made, I actually tend to have a rough track record with gimmicky rom-coms. We've seen other shows based on couples with years-long patterns of sustained emotional/psychological harassment, shows rooted in a shared love for an incredibly niche boardgame/hobby, and at least one where the girl is a Velma-from-Scooby-Doo type who intentionally forgets her prescription glasses and acts like a doofus in order to force engagement from the boy she likes. None of them managed to capture my attention, no matter how hard they tried to force their cutesy sitcom shenanigans, because the lovey-dovey leads of the shows failed to demonstrate that spark of chemistry that every good rom-com needs.

Now, I'm not going to do something crazy like declare Alya and Masachika to be the heirs to Takagi and Nishikata's gilded throne, but I can say that this first episode of Alya Sometimes Hides Her Feelings in Russian has got at least a little bit of the juice. The reason? I genuinely like both of our protagonists, and I want to see them smooch. I've always been a fan of the kinds of pairings where a teasing/tsundere type is matched with a guy who can give as good as he gets, and I think this anime strikes that ideal balance. Alya is clearly enjoying screwing with Masachika, but he comes across as a worthy sparring partner, rather than a mere victim.

Plus, the show looks and sounds great, which makes it a very easy cartoon to watch. The thing about chemistry between romantic leads is that it requires a whole hell of a lot more work to get across in animation, since you don't have the benefit of two flesh-and-blood people sharing the screen and letting their natural sparks fly. That's why even the gratuitous stocking-and-feet display that we get later in the episode works to the show's favor. This isn't some vapid harem romance where titty jokes and panty shots are meant to approximate a twelve-year-old boys vague understanding of what “sex” is. If we're meant to get interested in seeing Alya and Masachika fall for each other, then yeah, there should be some scenes where they're being obviously horny and awkward together.

Finally, I have to admit that I'm a sucker for this rom-com's particular gimmick. Not only is a language barrier the perfect literal and metaphorical conflict to represent the growth in Alya and Masachika's growing relationship, but it's fun hearing Sumire Uesaka get to show off her passion for the Russian language by throwing all of those cute little interjections in. This is one series that I am very excited to keep following this summer.



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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