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The Summer 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Days With My Stepsister

How would you rate episode 1 of
Days With My Stepsister ?
Community score: 3.8



What is this?

rhs-stepsister-cap-1

After his father remarries, Yuuta suddenly finds himself with a new stepsister: Saki, the greatest beauty at school. Neither of them is sure how to act around the other at first, but the two gradually grow more comfortable living together. Slowly, cautiously, patiently, two strangers become more. So begins an unlikely love story.

Days With My Stepsister is based on the light novel series written by Ghost Mikawa and illustrated by Hiten. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Thursdays.


How was the first episode?

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Caitlin Moore
Rating:

I'll give Days With My Stepsister this: at least it's trying to do something. The episode is shot more like a short film or a live-action drama than your typical anime—replete with carefully lit shots of characters standing and staring out a window, oblique camera angles that highlight Symbolic Objects in the foreground, and other cinematic techniques designed to emphasize people and the space they inhabit. The mood is quiet and contemplative, unafraid to slow down and emphasize Saki and Yuuta's thoughts and feelings.

There are moments where this works, like Saki tracing her fingers along stickers on the wall that Yuta put up as a child—clearly reflecting on what it means to grow up in a family home when she never had that kind of stability. To have an expensive bathtub that heats the water to a certain temperature and tracks when it changes. Yuta knows where the light switch is but Saki has to flip several to figure out the right one. Yuta tells Saki about the furnishings they got for her but she's mostly surprised by the size of the room.

Maybe the grounded cinematography threw it into relief but the script stinks. Saki and Yuta don't talk about anything normal teenagers talk about. They have no “getting to know you” conversations or awkward small talk. Instead, Saki launches straight into trauma dumping about how she had to raise herself in her small apartment since her mom's schedule as a hostess meant that she was too busy to. A conversation about Yuta's formal language transitions into her telling him how she cut off her friends for being rude about her new family situation. But it's fine because she “can't read their minds.” When Yuta offers to help her unpack, I can't help but feel like he doesn't know how to respond to all that she just put out there and feels uncomfortable. I know I would.

I can see what they're going for but with such poor dialogue and a total lack of energy, it doesn't come out right. Instead of being lifelike, the overall effect turns out to be lifeless.


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Rebecca Silverman
Rating:

There's an argument to be made for the reason Days With My Stepsister has such glacial pacing in its first episode. The premise seems to be the deconstruction of the stepsibling romance trope, at least in the characters' heads (and no promises that it won't turn into an affirmation of the trope later on), and two strangers suddenly being forced to live together can be intensely awkward. Neither Yuta nor Saki are all that keen on their parents' remarriage, although they're also not dramatically opposed to it; they're just trying to figure out how it's going to change their lives. The changes seem to be more drastic for Saki: not only is she living in a new house, but her mother's schedule is implied to have changed a lot, too. And even if she is still working nights, the presence of Yuta and his dad means that she's no longer a latchkey kid. Both of those factors are beautifully demonstrated by the post-credits scene where she first forgets to turn off the hall lights, then has to figure out which switch will do it.

So I do appreciate what this is trying to do. In some ways it's setting itself to be the anti-Marmalade Boy, with stepsiblings who aim to give each other space and just get through this whole awkward situation. The problem is that it's interminably boring. Scenes, like the aforementioned light switch debacle, drag on just a little too long every time, to the point where several times I had to check to make sure that the video player hadn't frozen. Day-to-day details are all treated with a seriousness that they don't merit, even when they're showing how the teens' lives have changed. Saki finding old stickers on her closet door and realizing that little Yuta put them there is one thing; showing people opening packing boxes is quite another, and the episode has trouble realizing that not everything is symbolic and beautiful. The music and art direction both try to assure us that such is not the case, but all of the shots of flowers in the world can't change the fact that there are some lines in the source novel better skipped than filmed.

I will give this credit for not having Saki freak out when Yuta finds her bra. She just laughs it off like anyone else, with the understanding that yes, she is a girl, and that means that she wears a bra. There're also no moments of panic when Yuta realizes that he will be expected to cohabitate with a girl his own age; he's more mildly annoyed that his dad waiting until he was engaged to a woman with a kid his age before bothering to tell his son he was even dating. But that's the overall feel of this episode: mild. Mild surprise, mild annoyance, mild actions, etc.; nothing is important, and life goes on. I suppose that's the definition of a slice-of-life show in some ways. I could see this feeling soothing for that reason, but it's not my cup of tea.


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Nicholas Dupree
Rating:

If you're an anime fan, you probably made some immediate assumptions about this show and how the titular days with the main character's stepsister would go. Well, this premiere starts off right away telling you that's not the case in far more words than I care to quote. The following episode then proceeds to insist and reiterate that no, this isn't one of those kinds of shows. Nobody's getting stuck in the dryer here, thank you very much! Yet if an episode this plodding and uneventful is the alternative, I'd almost prefer the trashy sex comedy instead.

I think I get what this premiere is going for. It wants to be a genuine exploration of the awkwardness of suddenly having a new person in your life and home who you barely know, and how that combination of physical proximity and emotional distance takes time and work to navigate. Considering how often anime treats “Step-sibling” as synonymous with “convenient love interest” I do appreciate the attempt at a grounded story about two lonely teenagers becoming family when they aren't prepared for it. The problem is that basically nothing happens in this episode. Yuta and Saki pretty calmly negotiate their boundaries, both agreeing to not “expect anything” from each other, and then they just kinda sleepwalk around one another.

I imagine that stilted awkwardness is intentional, and in some scenes it makes that work – like the after-credits scene where Saki has to quietly figure out what all her new home's light switches do. Yet by the time credits rolled, I wasn't intrigued to see more or excited to watch these two grow closer – I was just thankful it was done. Maybe it's a production issue? While this episode doesn't look terrible, its character animation is pretty standard for TV anime, and that may be preventing the characters' internal emotions from being communicated. The direction and soundtrack try to compensate by ramping up every minute or two, adding delicate piano numbers and intense long shots wherever it can, trying their best to make these meandering conversations feel poignant. They don't work, and in fact just contribute to a heavy atmosphere that isn't supported by the script, but they're trying!

Like I said, I can see the bones of a good idea here. There is some solid characterization for these kids, like how Yuta seems to constantly apologize for taking up space, or the ways Saki has internalized being alone thanks to her mom's work schedule. These are fine pieces to build something on, but the episode never capitalizes on that or builds any momentum. Yuta and Saki's understanding of one another has not advanced or changed since their first conversation, and without some kind of forward progress, there's nothing to keep me coming back. Call it a slow burn if you want, but when the first episode doesn't even finish assembling the kindling, I'm not going to wait around for it to find a match.


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James Beckett
Rating:

Man, a couple of minutes into the premiere of Days With My Stepsister, I already had some good jokes to use as a hook for this writeup. I was planning to go with, “Somebody needs to establish a Bureau of Accidental Incest Prevention in Japan so we can make sure these wacky single dads don't keep suddenly remarrying women with hot daughters for their sons to develop inappropriate feelings for!” Come to find out, though, that Days With My Stepsister isn't even that kind of show; at least, it sure as heck doesn't seem like it's trying to be ludicrous trash in this first episode. Yuta and Saki really come across as two relatively believable young folks who are both navigating the strange circumstance of waking up one day to find out you have a new parent and sibling to learn how to live with. The closest we get to anything saucy is when Yuta accidentally stumbled upon one of Saki's bras when he's helping her unpack, and the show treats that like the slightly uncomfortable but completely uneventful non-issue that it would actually be in real life.

On the one hand, this makes Days With My Stepsister a breath of fresh air for us anime fans, especially when it comes to those of us who actually have step-siblings and therefore recognize the utter absurdity of how the relationship is typically treated in certain kinds of romance stories. Yuta is not the prototypical self-insert dude who's only hope for romantic salvation is for a gorgeous and unusually intimate young woman were to literally be forced into his life by the whims of their mercurial parents. Saki is not whichever of the different cliches that the female lead usually has to be in order to possess the lack of social and moral qualms necessary to be cool with dabbling in a little bit of incest for the sake of her hot new brother. They're just two normal kids. The fact that their parents are being given a shocking amount of warm characterization makes me think that Days With My Stepsister might be content to let the family stay functional, rather than going the route of ripping the poor parents' relationship apart so as to make their kids' love more acceptable in the eyes of God/The law/Everyone else in the world.

On the other hand, though…Days With My Stepsister is just unbearably dull. That's the other side of the coin when it comes to treating your characters like real people instead of emotionally unstable drama dolls: Real life is pretty boring! Most of the time, two families moving in together turns out exactly like this, with people just living their day to day lives with more than your usual amount of icebreakers and awkward conversations about house rules and whatnot. What's more, Days With My Stepsister seems to be unaware of how boring its subject matter fundamentally is in this first episode, because it has this overbearing and treacly piano score that insists upon itself so damn much, even when literally nothing of interest is happening on screen. Like that scene I mentioned earlier, when Yuta gets his whole family chuckling over a misplaced bra. Why on earth is does that montage sound like it was ripped from the cathartic climax of a Studio Ghibli movie?

At the end of the day, while I appreciate the vibe that Days With My Stepsister is going for, I cannot imagine myself watching any more of it in the future. Unless, of course, my melatonin craps out, in which case it would be handy to have such an effective sleep aid at my disposal…



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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