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The Summer 2024 Anime Preview Guide
My Wife Has No Emotion

How would you rate episode 1 of
My Wife Has No Emotion ?
Community score: 3.0



What is this?

rhs-wife-cap-1

Takuma is a single guy who does nothing but go to work and come home. Too tired to do chores, he decides to get a robot to cook and keep house. "Mina-chan" is such a good housekeeper, Takuma jokes that she should become his wife. Mina takes Takuma's joke seriously, and slowly the two start doing more things together, like having a picnic outside. As time goes by, Takuma starts to fall for Mina...

My Wife Has No Emotion is based on the My Wife Has No Emotion manga series by Jirō Sugiura. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Saturdays.


How was the first episode?

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Richard Eisenbeis
Rating:

I spent most of my time watching My Wife Has No Emotion thinking about the logistics and implications. From the start, the idea of building an android with the sole purpose of cooking and cleaning dishes is insane—almost as insane as the idea that, even second hand, a low-level office worker could afford one. With such a limited skill set, Mina feels ridiculously over-engineered for what she's supposed to do.

Of course, over the course of the episode, we see that she is more—she is able to learn and make decisions. She is able to figure out how to lay out his bed at night and is able to judge that Takuma's intoxication is too great and throw away his beer—and then lie about it through omission. But all this begs the question, who would put such advanced AI in a combination stove/dishwasher? And why would anyone give such an “appliance” emotions like love? Because in my point of view, if you have emotions and the capacity for conscious thought, you qualify as a person. And if Mina is a person and is still considered property, we have a word for that: slave.

Now you may wonder why I was thinking about all this while watching the first episode—an episode where literally none of the above is brought up in any meaningful way. The answer is simple: I had nothing else to occupy my mind. There is nothing in this episode to engage with. Take our main character for example.

Takuma is a character with no meaningful identity. This is what we learn about him this episode. He 1) works overtime at his job, 2) lives alone in his tiny apartment, 3) had a girl he liked once and gave up on women when it didn't work out, and 4) drinks a lot. And that's it. His apartment is completely empty—its walls bare with no furniture beyond a futon and a table (I don't think he even has a TV). He's the blankest of blank slates.

Now, let's not pretend I don't know the reason for why this is. Takuma is an audience proxy. He is bland beyond belief so that you can insert yourself over him—pretend it is you in his situation. And what is his situation? He is a guy with a cute robot wife who takes care of all the chores he doesn't want to do, feeds him and takes care of him, and, most importantly, will never, ever leave him and devastate him emotionally in the process (because she literally can't, as she's his property). It's wish fulfillment pure and simple. It's also really, really boring.


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Caitlin Moore
Rating:

First things first: in terms of sheer animation quality, My Wife Has No Emotion looks fantastic. It's not a showstopper in terms of flashy sakuga but it has a base-level visual competence that's sorely lacking from most productions these days. The production staff clearly has a strong sense of lighting to set mood, shot composition, and storyboarding. The colors are bright and the lines are clean—with none of the haziness designed to hide poor compositing that drives me absolutely batty with its prevalence. Even the mechanical animation looks hand-drawn.

And you know what? It does a decent enough job making the story clear without stating it outright. It's not hard to pick up that Mina does, in fact, have emotions and has developed feelings for Takuma. It's not exactly subtle, with the heart-covered omurice and her apparent frustration when Takuma tries to force his way into the kitchen and isn't able to cook up to her standards. However, we live in the age of constant narration with absolutely zero faith in the viewer to put two and two together. Because of this, it once again reaches a level of basic competence that sadly is above expectations for modern anime productions.

But wow, what utterly charmless character writing! Takumi is the kind of nondescript protagonist designed for wish-fulfillment romances that the presumed male viewer is expected to map onto. He's the kind of blank slate that's supposed to be surrounded by more colorful characters. His little one-room apartment is dank and undecorated, with no sign of any interests or hobbies. All we see him do is eat, drink, and stare at Mina. Why would Mina fall in love with him? Their interactions mostly left me bored—with the occasional sharp stabs of the screaming heebie-jeebies. I could have happily lived my entire life without sitting through a scene where a blind drunk guy talks about his boner with his robot “wife” on his futon while soft romantic music plays! Very, very happily! Now I have to live with that image forever.

Now, maybe you're the kind of person who's happy taking entertainment at face value without ever thinking about its implications. That alone might make you more amenable to this than me—i.e., a person who absolutely spends time thinking about implications. In that case, there's so much to unpack about the gender dynamics here. Like how having a robot that cooks and washes dishes for you and spends the rest of her time sitting and staring blankly in front of her makes Takuma feel like he's married—as if a wife doesn't have any other purpose. Or the prevalence of virtual assistants being gendered female by default. Did you know that the UN did a study and found that Siri and Alexa reinforce gender bias? There's practically a whole article's worth of stuff to the gender dynamics alone, and there's nothing good to say about it in that regard.

But it's not just my strident feminist spirit that made it impossible to enjoy My Wife Has No Emotion. It's that I'm married and five years of strong partnership has laid bare the truth of series like this. They are hollow, with a shallow understanding of what a life together looks like. I don't look at a series about a woman (or female-gendered object, as the case may be) taking care of a man and think it looks like love. Without a sense of connection and mutual support, it's meaningless.

But then, wouldn't it be funny if she tried to give him a handjob with that crazy robot grip strength and busted his dick? lol


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Rebecca Silverman
Rating:

Do you remember back in 2009 when that guy married a character in the dating sim Love Plus, essentially tying the knot with his Nintendo DS? I'm sure that My Wife Has No Emotion would rather we be reminded of CLAMP's 2000-2002 series Chobits, but it was the 2009 news story that kept popping into my mind as I watched this. Possibly, that's because this first episode is much more uncomfortable than Chobits ever was (although that story has its issues) – Chii at least exhibited some emotions, while Mina has all the affect of a toaster oven. Even Takuma notes that falling in love with her is like falling for your rice cooker, and when the protagonist recognizes the issues present, you probably ought to pay attention to them.

Of course, Mina isn't meant to be remotely emotive – it's right there in the title. She is, however, clearly learning, which also feels weirdly uncomfortable. We know that Takuma bought her secondhand (or possibly third-or-fourth hand, based on a remark he makes about previous owners), so there's a decent chance that she was never intended to be a housekeeping bot in the first place. In fact, it would make sense if she wasn't, because otherwise someone made the terrible decision to create a housekeeping robot that's too short to reach the counter and stove.

She's also able to access the internet, so what Takuma perceives as old programming could be her scraping data from online places that lead to her writing on his omurice and beginning to act like his "wife" when he mentions marrying her. In any event, there's something a little creepy about the way she begins adjusting to suit him, and it feels like Takuma's dream of her serving up her head on a platter because he said he liked her best doesn't seem outside the realm of possibilities.

If this were a horror show it might have worked better. But as a rom com, it simply isn't working for me. Takuma's loneliness feels like it's leading him down a very dark path and it feels like he's not so much in love with his robot as he is imprinting on the one person he regularly interacts with. Mina reads as creepy to me (which could absolutely be a "me" thing), and the tight focus on just the two of them makes the episode feel claustrophobic. I understand what it's going for, but Chobits it is not – it's not even Absolute Boyfriend or Karakuri Odette. Add in Takuma's off-putting character design and this is emphatically not something I want to see more of. Might I suggest one of those other series I just mentioned instead?


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Nicholas Dupree
Rating:

Well, that was depressing.

I know it's not meant to be. Everything about this series' aesthetic and delivery – from the soft colors and heartfelt music to the fluffy OP meant to sell me on this romance – says this is meant to be an adorable little domestic comedy about the quirky lives of a kinda lonely salaryman and his robot wife. We're supposed to giggle at how Mina micro-manages cooking and cleaning because she's literally programmed to do them perfectly. We're supposed to ooh and aww when she unintentionally gets Takuma's heart fluttering. If you can meet it on that level and prevent yourself from thinking about the larger implications of the whole thing, then I'm sure this premiere is a nice, cozy little escape to laugh along with.

Unfortunately for me, all I could do as this premiere went through its jokes was think about how sad it all was. While stories about lonely dudes getting sci-fi or supernatural girlfriends usually feel like cynical fantasies about getting the benefits of a domestic partnership without any of the emotional labor of an actual relationship, Takuma's clearly not about that. He appreciates Mina cooking and cleaning up, but says outright that he wants to do his part too. He obviously wants a partner to be close with, which makes it sad that instead of finding an actual person to build a home with, he's imprinted onto his KitchenAid, because he spends all of his life outside his apartment at work. It paints the picture of a guy who's exhausted and isolated by an exploitative culture of overwork that has left him so starved for social contact that he spends his nights getting drunk and making passes at his Roomba because it's the closest thing to another human he can talk to.

That inescapable sadness just permeated the whole episode, and kept me from enjoying whatever humor or heartwarming moments it tried for. I can recognize at least a few funny jokes in there, and some scenes where I at least sympathize with the sentiment they're trying for. Yet it all falls apart because Mina clearly isn't sentient. Her considerations and kind manner towards Takuma are founded on subservience and meeting his preferences, and there's no indication that this is an I, Robot scenario where she's actually developing feelings or becoming self-aware. She is a sophisticated appliance for Takuma to project a fantasy of domestic intimacy onto more easily. No amount of cutesy anthropomorphism can change that, so the central "romance" feels like self-delusion of the saddest kind. Takuma doesn't need a robot wife to do his chores – he needs a healthy work-life ratio to let him pursue relationships with people who can reciprocate.

That could all work if it felt like this series was trying for dark humor or some kind of commentary, but nothing about the presentation suggests that. I imagine the dynamic is supposed to be that Mina's simple kindness and attention is enough to heal Takuma's lonely heart. That dissonance just leaves me with bad vibes, the exact opposite of what was intended.


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James Beckett
Rating:

Good God, we are in dire straits. In the opening minutes of My Wife Has No Emotion, the protagonist of this romantic comedy, Takuma, is introduced as he arrives home from work and gazes fondly upon his robot “wife,” who is dutifully cooking and cleaning, as advertised. Some of the first lines we get from him are when he remarks, “I bought an appliance today! …I wonder if this is what being married is like?” As a reminder, this is when he genuinely thinks of her as little more than a gussied-up Robo-Frankenstein stitched together out of an Amazon Alexa, a Slap Chop, and a Roomba. Our hero, everyone: A dweeb so pathetic and simpleminded that his regressive vision of domestic life would make Don Draper raise an eyebrow and tell him to dial it down a notch.

Now, the gobsmackingly crass nature of this wish-fulfillment fantasy is odious enough to me as a simple viewer of anime. As a critic, though, it causes this show to fail on another fundamental level: It saps nearly all of the romantic potential out of this would be “romantic” comedy. Do y'all remember that movie Her from 2013, where Joaquín Phoenix has a love affair with a cell phone AI bot? This show is what would happen if someone tried to rip off that movie but completely failed to understand:

A) It is partially a satire of traditional rom-com tropes, filtered through a dark sendup of our codependent relationship with the uncontrollable technology that has come to dominate our lives.

B) The AI that Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with is voiced with alluring humanity by Scarlett Johanssen.

This, though? This is like if Jerry Lewis got cast opposite Dot Matrix from Spaceballs. For those of you who are too young to understand either of those references, the point I'm getting at is that it is very difficult for me to get on board with a romance between the world's most terminally single dingus and a waifu doll whose lifeless voice and features make her only a few degrees removed from a mannequin with a Speak and Spell taped to its head.

I feel like I end up going on a rant about this every season, but I will continue to do so until the anime industry figures out that any show with a romantic premise needs main characters who have chemistry. It can be cute, sad, funny, or hot-as-hell chemistry – hell, the best romances usually go with a potent mix of all of the above. What a rom-com can never be, though, is awkward and dull. It doesn't matter that My Wife Has No Emotion has decent production values; no amount of polish is enough to save a show like this when it doesn't make you laugh and it fails on every level to convince you that Takuma deserves to flash boot his robot wife's OS with his Micro-USB drive.



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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