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The Summer 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Pseudo Harem

How would you rate episode 1 of
Pseudo Harem ?
Community score: 3.5



What is this?

pseudo-harem-nd1.png

Eiji is a second-year high school student and a member of his school's drama club as a stagehand. He meets Rin, a first-year high school student and a member of the same drama club. Rin serves as the long-awaited hope of the club.

Pseudo Harem is based on the Giji Harem manga series by Yū Saitō. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Thursdays.


How was the first episode?

ph1
Richard Eisenbeis
Rating:

I feel like Pseudo Harem is one of those shows I expected to like more than I actually do. After all, I was a theater kid growing up—acting in both school plays and local theater troupes. I've done work backstage as well—dabbling in set building and lighting. And through all that, I've seen tons of things that could be used as material in an anime. There's always more than a bit of backstage drama—especially when you mix in big egos and horny teenagers. You could easily make a comedy out of it.

Yet, for Pseudo Harem—at least as far as its first episode is concerned—the theater club aspect is basically a backdrop. It could be cut entirely and nothing would change. At most, it's a way to explain how Rin and Eiji met—and why Rin is able to act out being a one girl harem (i.e., because she's an aspiring actress).

And this brings us to the biggest problem in this series: Rin herself. In this story, Rin is supposed to be able to become a dozen different characters on a dime—to go from kuudere to tsundere to bratty kid to little sister and back again. Obviously, for this role you'd need someone with one hell of a range—and sadly, Saori Hayami isn't this. Oh, don't get me wrong, she's an amazing voice actress with tons of well-known, leading roles under her belt but she tends to play either innocent or cool characters (or a mixture of both). Her voice doesn't really fit things like a tsundere or a bratty kid. Heck, her voice sounds too grown up for Rin's normal voice, when it comes down to it.

The point I'm trying to make here is that Rin being a vocal chameleon is the core to the whole story. If she can't believably play all these different character types, then Eiji's reactions don't make sense. He seems like he's either placating her or is just plain clueless—and that not the vibe this anime wants to give off. This is supposed to be a cute and innocent little love story with comedic bits.

So, in the end, I felt like this anime missed its mark a bit. I wouldn't say it's terrible—and I suspect more than a few out there will enjoy this one—but for me the voice acting just didn't fit and that ruined it for me. Though, this has left me wondering, who could have done Rin justice? Honestly, only one name comes to mind—and that's Aoi Yuuki. (Though, I'm curious to know who our readers would cast.)


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Caitlin Moore
Rating:

Pseudo Harem carries the distinct odor of a story that started its life as a web manga. The episode is made up of stitched-together vignettes made up of moments without the connective tissue that gives proceedings a sense of time and progression. It's not quite a gag manga but it's brief episodes seeking to create the emotional payoff of two characters connecting without the hard work of building their relationship. So I looked it up and sure enough, the series ran on Twitter for almost three years before getting picked up by Monthly Shonen Sunday.

Sometimes a series can overcome this and win me over despite my dislike of this format, but Pseudo Harem did not. In fact, it's fair to say that I actively disliked pretty much every single minute of it, which may have come to 23 but felt more like 300. Why does Rin like Eiji? I have absolutely no idea! He's not attractive or charming or witty. They're both in the drama club but it's not like we're ever shown them connecting over their shared love of the theater. The first real conversation they share is him telling her that every guy totally wants a harem.

And she just… indulges him? Supposedly this works because she's just such a gifted actress, except all her characters are just moé archetypes like “the cool type” or “the tsundere.” He doesn't seem particularly interested in her true personality, since in every conversation he asks her to playact as one of her characters. He just wants to feel like there's a bunch of different girls fawning over him. But why? Why would she waste all this effort on a guy who wants to be able to pretend he has a bunch of different girlfriends who have one personality trait apiece? It just skeeves me out.

And I know this may be blasphemous but Saori Hayami is terribly miscast as Rin. Her voice is beautiful and she's done some wonderful performances but she doesn't have much in the way of range. I simply don't believe her when she's trying to do a tsundere or a cool oneesan type. Maybe, just maybe, if they hadn't established in-universe that Rin can put on a convincing performance at the drop of a hat, I'd think that her roleplaying was lacking because that's just not who she is. But I still wouldn't like it.


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James Beckett
Rating:

Dang, romantic-comedy fans are eating pretty good this summer, huh? I won't lie, Pseudo Harem is a show that took me by surprise with how much I loved its first episode… until some more time passed and I realized that I was settling into more of a “like like” mode, instead of head-over-heels infatuation. I do want to emphasize, though, how much I will go to bat for our main couple, Eiji and Rin. These two dweebs were obviously destined for each other and I have already decided that they must get married and raise a whole troupe of little theater dorks. Any rom-com that gets me so on board with the protagonists as a pair must be doing something right.

Indeed, Pseudo Harem gets one of the rom-com's prime directives right: It is charming as all get out. Seriously, with such cozy and bright production values, being married to the talent of actors like Nobuhiko Okamoto and Saori Hayami, this is the kind of anime that I could probably watch for hours without getting bored. Just watching these two kids mess around and have so much fun being together—and playing out their make-believe harem shtick is all the entertainment I need to get through a rainy afternoon.

That being said, by the end of the premiere I did find myself wishing that the show had more creative ideas for its brilliant little gimmick. Rin being able to effortlessly embody all of the anime harem archetypes has so much comic potential and yet we don't see much of it realized on screen. Rather than using Cool-chan, Tsundere-chan, Spoiled-chan, and the other girls that Rin can embody to craft fun genre spoofs (or set up clever gags that fit each individual “character”), all Pseudo Harem does is run through the same basic rom-com routines—except every now and then Eiji will ask Rin to repeat her thoughts in a funny voice and then she complies. The skits that make up the episode give the premiere such a shaggy structure, too, that it becomes all to easy for one's eyes to glaze over as you simply let the vaguely funny sights and sounds blend together and flow by without much notice. I said I'd never be bored watching this show but I also don't know how excited I could get over the material after twelve-straight weeks of it.

Still, this is not a bad show by any means. Pseudo Harem is one of the cutest and most infectiously positive cartoons you could watch this summer. Just don't expect for it to stick with you for very long once its over.


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Nicholas Dupree
Rating:

I'm a simple man. You put Saori Hayami in a show where she gets to talk a lot, and I'll watch it. Put Nobuhiko Okamoto in there with her and I will definitely watch it. I was fully prepared to coast through this episode on the appeal of hearing two of my favorite voices in anime try on a bunch of different hats. Instead, I spent the entire runtime with a big, dumb smile on my face as I watched one of the most endearing romcom setups I've seen in quite a while.

You'd think something with such a gimmicky premise would run thin, especially since this episode is basically a collection of disconnected shorts with almost no plot. However, none of that matters when you have two leads who are this much fun together. Eiji and Rin are both cute as the dickens, capturing that awkward energy of two kids who are obviously crushing on each other, but too insecure to admit to it. Yet instead of blushing into silence, they bounce off each other with goofy acts and tongue-in-cheek teasing, with Rin letting her numerous “acts” work as ways to express her feelings without being totally vulnerable. Eiji pulls his own weight, carrying some of the comedic load with enthusiastic reactions that only egg Rin on, until these two are playing 4v1 Romantic Chicken.

The visuals are a bit of a mixed bag. The art and character designs feel rather sloppy, but the show makes the best of them, and delivers some spectacular faces from both Rin and Eiji. There are a few moments of solid character acting, but most of the comedy gets the job done through smart timing and the main vocal performances. Stuff like that is ultimately more important than the overall quality of the animation, and any issues quickly fade into the background thanks to the speedy pacing.

Part of me still worries that this premise will run out of steam sooner or later, but for now I'm too charmed by this pair of goofballs to really worry. I'd usually say the show could bolster itself through its extended cast, but in this case that just means giving Rin more weapons in her acting toolkit. The premiere, at least, never lost steam. For now, this is a highlight of the season, and absolutely worth checking out.


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Rebecca Silverman
Rating:

Rin is the only girl in Eiji's harem. But wait! She's not just being her everyday self, she's an actress with the amazing ability to morph into different tropes! She's a tsundere, a spoiled rich girl, a little imp, and so much more – she is, in fact, an entire harem in one person. Congratulations, we have a title that makes sense with the story being told.

That's also pretty much it, although this isn't without its charm. At the bottom of everything is the increasing suspicion that Rin is so good at acting because she doesn't see herself as anyone special. She's able to change so completely into these various stereotypes because she's seen them have more value in stories than the normal girl she is. Or maybe she's just looking for an easy way to catch the eye of the upperclassman who managed to tap into her personal fantasy by spontaneously playing out a scene she loves when they first met. Since Eiji says that he dreams of having a harem, a harem Rin will become in order to win him over. She'll cycle through the characters he asks for, although by the middle of this episode she already seems to be regretting her initial choice at least a little bit. Things come to a head – or would, if this wasn't a comedy first and foremost – when she realizes that Eiji is coming up with costumes for all of her “personalities” to wear in an upcoming relay race, and when she asks if she couldn't just go as herself, he says that she'd have to wear loungewear. Even if I'm reading too much into her playacting, that still is clearly a blow she wasn't expecting.

I suspect, however, that this doesn't intend to be anything so deep as a commentary on why Rin plays roles for Eiji. Instead, it's a fluffy rom-com, and it does a decent enough job of that. It got a couple of real chuckles out of me, especially when we see Eiji's amazing case of bedhead, and there's an air of good-natured ribbing to all their antics. I like that all of Rin's personas have distinct hairstyles and body language, and the ending theme's animation is really neat – I love how it blends manga and anime styles together. But on the whole, this just didn't speak to me, and I couldn't quite embrace its premise. It's cute and a bit sweet, but it didn't do enough to make me want to see these two kids get together.


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