Actually, I Am…
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Actually, I Am… ?
Between Actually, I Am and Monster Musume, I'm learning quite a lot about half-human mythological creatures this season. For example, it turns out that cloudy skies are just as troublesome as direct sunlight for vampires when it comes to walking around during the day. That's the kind of practical, everyday knowledge you just don't pick up from watching giant robot shows.
This episode focuses on one of Shiragami's classic vampire problems: her weakness to sunlight. While going outside in the daytime isn't as deadly for her as most horror movies would suggest, she does tan absurdly fast. Tired of walking to school before dawn, she enlists Aizawa's help in learning to dart between patches of shade like a soldier dodging gunfire. The boot camp pays off nicely until the gang comes across a stretch of road with no shade at all. As Asahi and Aizawa try to come up with a better solution to Shiragami's daytime woes, an embarrassing fact comes to light: it never occurred to Shiragami to try wearing sunblock. With her problem finally solved, Shiragami drags Asahi off to the amusement park to celebrate. It's a fun afternoon, but Asahi is more than a little worried to learn that Shiragami has a werewolf for a childhood friend. It looks like a wolf man is about to throw a wrench into the harem comedy machine.
The sun-dodging training relies on some well-worn drill sergeant jokes, but it still has its moments. Shiragami dives from shadow to shadow with an amusing abundance of energy, and it's hard not to laugh at Aizawa's shock at discovering that the sun never runs out of “ammo.” Asahi spends the sequence on the sidelines, playing the exasperated straight man to the exuberant duo of Shiragami and Aizawa. The storyline ends on a strong note with the revelation of the sunblock solution, which gives the impression that the series is laughing at itself for not thinking of this sooner.
Throughout the training storyline, Actually, I Am has some fun at Asahi's expense by disproving his ideas about traditional vampire weaknesses. The poor guy does his best to protect Shiragami from what he thinks are mortal dangers like garlic and crosses, only to find out that these old anti-vampire weapons don't quite live up to their reputations. It turns out that Shiragami just finds garlic really unappetizing and feels uneasy whenever someone waves a cross in front of her face. It's fun to see the series poke fun at corny monster mechanics, but the jokes become predictable once you figure out the gimmick. If a few pieces of vampire lore turned out to be completely accurate, it would add some useful variety to the humor and keep the audience guessing.
The amusement park date starts off on romantic comedy autopilot, but the show's quirks occasionally provide some good material. Asahi and Shiragami's trip through a haunted house offers the funniest moment of the episode as Shiragami gives a hapless employee in a vampire costume an angry lesson on proper blood-sucking etiquette. The date also develops the relationship between Asahi and Shiragami through some reasonably sweet conversations, but the mood is repeatedly broken by the script's habit of having Asahi narrate the bleeding obvious. The audience is perfectly capable of figuring out how he feels from watching the episode, and the extra explanations only make the scene less emotionally compelling. Having characters narrate their reactions is a lazy shortcut typically employed by shows too poorly written to string together an effective story, and Actually, I Am doesn't need to lean on such a cheap crutch.
Even if it doesn't always make the most of its material, Actually, I Am remains a fun little romp. What it needs now is the confidence to let its good ideas lead the show from start to finish. The characters' odd qualities are funny enough to work without resorting to old comedy routines, and the direction is good enough to let the romantic scenes stand on their own merit. This series has the potential to be something special, but it needs to take the training wheels off first.
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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