Actually, I Am…
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Actually, I Am… ?
Is it just me, or do manga and anime seem to have a long-standing hatred of school newspapers? Most of the “student reporter” characters I can think of are nosy, ruthless, pains in the neck who exist primarily to make someone else's life miserable. It could just be that trying to hide a secret from an amateur sleuth is a common plot point in school comedies. On the other hand, maybe you're just not allowed to write fiction in Japan unless you've had a bitter feud with the editor of your high school newspaper. In any case, the latest character to appear in Actually, I Am might just be the new standard for obnoxious student journalists.
Newspaper club president Mikan might be an old friend of Asahi's, but that doesn't stop her from using him as a subject for her gossip-laden headlines. In fact, it makes him her go-to target for embarrassing and scandalous stories. Given that he's trying to keep secrets for a vampire and an alien, Mikan's attention is the last thing Asahi needs. She knows he has some sort of relationship with Shiragami, so she's prepared to stalk and harass him all day long in order to find out what's really going on. Mikan puts together an article suggesting that Asahi and Shiragami are dating, which Asahi worries will draw too much attention and result in people finding out that Shiragami is a vampire. In the absence of a better idea, the worst liar in the universe tries to save the day by bluffing like there's no tomorrow.
It was almost inevitable that a series about secrets would include a nosy character, and Mikan at least fills the role in an entertaining fashion. Rather than walking a fine line between annoying and endearing, the show just goes for broke and paints her as a comically excessive sadist. Mikan seems perfectly comfortable with her personality, reveling in the fear and dread on people's faces whenever she walks into the room. Her pursuit of Asahi is absurd enough to be amusing, even if it means hitting the same note over and over for most of the episode. The only trouble is that the show overplays its hand, making it too obvious that there's a method behind Mikan's madness.
When all is said and done, the two-part twist in this episode doesn't work quite as well as it needs to. The revelation that Mikan's mean streak is just an act to mask her feelings for Asahi is dragged out over multiple scenes and conversations, which lessens the dramatic impact when the truth finally comes out. Even without the hints, it's hardly the surprise of the season; of course the eccentric girl in a harem comedy has a thing for the main character. The second part of the twist is far less predictable, but mostly because it doesn't seem necessary.
Actually, I Am does at least get some points for creativity here; I can't recall seeing a haunted pair of glasses in an anime series before. Still, I'm puzzled as to why the show felt the need to add a supernatural element to Mikan's character in the first place. It seems like the plan is for each new character to have a secret of their own, but Mikan's fabricated personality should already check that box. Cramming a spirit into her eyeglasses just comes across as novelty for novelty's sake. It's entirely possible that I'm wrong here, and the god in the glasses could end up being a worthwhile addition to the story. For the time being, however, I can't help but worry that the series is over-complicating the plot by adhering too strictly to its own gimmick.
For the moment, Actually, I Am is caught between a rock and a hard place. The shock value of characters not being what they appear is wearing off, but it still has a few more cast members to introduce. Without that element of surprise, it runs the risk of drifting into generic rom-com territory before the plot can really get rolling. The show's comedic elements are picking up most of the slack for now, but it'll take more than that to carry a full season.
Actually, I Am… is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Paul Jensen is a freelance writer and editor. You can follow more of his anime-related ramblings on Twitter.
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