Actually, I Am…
Episodes 1-2

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Actually, I Am… ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Actually, I Am… ?

Actually, I Am... seems intent on selling itself as a harem comedy. The promotional art features a hapless guy surrounded by girls, and the main heroine checks the “gimmick” box by being a vampire with bat wings. Given that background, I certainly wasn't expecting what I got in these first two episodes. It's certainly a story about a guy who has multiple girls chasing after him, but it's all rather tame and occasionally just sweet. Color me surprised.

The main character is the kind of generic nice guy that stars in every harem comedy ever made, but he does at least have one distinguishing feature. Asahi is truly, ridiculously terrible at keeping secrets. He can't lie to save his life, he has a terrible poker face, and he tends to say exactly what he's thinking when it'd be better to just keep quiet. This makes him the worst possible person to find out that his beautiful classmate Shiragami is a vampire. Shiragami assumes she'll have to drop out of school now that someone knows what she is, but Asahi promises that he'll keep her secret. All he has to do is avoid spilling the beans to his chatty friends, the gossip queen from the school newspaper, or the pushy class rep who might just have a secret of her own. Easy, right?

Despite its cast of outlandish lasses, this series ultimately comes across as more quaint and simple. The character designs and overall art style feel older than they are, and the story seems like a remnant of the days when harem comedies still felt the need to include something resembling a plotline. The fanservice in these first two episodes is so tame that it borders on nonexistent (unless you've got a thing for bat wings). I keep having to remind myself that I'm not watching a relic from ten years ago, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's a certain kind of charm in the way Actually, I Am... goes through the motions of the genre without feeling the need to throw in a double dose of animated cleavage.

Of course, there's no guarantee that this dusty innocence will stick around for the full season. Going by the opening and ending sequences, some of the characters that have yet to appear look poised to add some sex appeal and dirty humor to the series. Whether that will help or hurt depends on how quickly the show's initial charms wear out their welcome. As long as things don't go too far off the rails, a little extra bite could be exactly what the doctor ordered.

As it stands, Actually, I Am... largely gets by on the low-key chemistry between its main characters. Asahi's atrocious poker face is vaguely amusing in isolation, but it works better when combined with Shiragami's tendency to unintentionally push his buttons. Shiragami herself is a likable character with a fairly levelheaded perspective on the prospect of being outed as a vampire. Class rep Aizawa is initially a pain in the neck, but she quickly steals the comedic spotlight once her own secret is out in the open. Her screw-shaped hairpiece isn't quite what you're expecting it to be, and the big reveal is the funniest thing I've seen from the series thus far. Asahi's trio of nondescript buddies seem like they ought to be dead weight, but they provide enough entertainment to justify their existence. Harem comedies tend to live or die by the strength of their casts, so it's a good sign that Actually, I Am... hasn't introduced any duds yet.

I have reasonably high hopes for this series. It sticks closely to the old harem comedy formula, but it does a respectable job while coloring inside the lines. It doesn't always deliver big laughs, but it's consistently amusing. The occasional moments of drama and romance don't hit particularly hard, but the show manages to be sweet and charming while avoiding any unwanted melodrama. As long as it can keep strolling along at its own pace, it should be fine. Actually, I Am... is the kind of series that doesn't need or want to set the world on fire. Sometimes it's OK to just be harmless and fun, even if you have a lousy title.

Rating: B

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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