Episodes 1-2

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Blend S ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Blend S ?

Maika Sakuranomiya comes across as a sweet and charming high school girl, at least until she smiles. She looks imposing and even malicious whenever she tries to look friendly, which has made it impossible for her to find a part-time job. Maika finally finds employment at Café Stile, a restaurant where all of the waitresses adopt over-the-top personalities when they interact with customers. Her scary smile earns Maika a job as the café's sadistic character, though she's not sure she has the guts to pull off this persona. Together with gamer-turned-tsundere Kaho and faux little sister Mafuyu, Maika will have to embrace her adopted persona if she's going to succeed at this unusual restaurant.

Most of the humor in the opening episodes of Blend-S comes from a single core concept: the main characters are the polar opposites of who they pretend to be at work. Mild-mannered Maika plays a vicious sadist, straightforward Kaho acts like a classic tsundere, and sharp-tongued Mafuyu becomes the cutest little sister you've ever seen. That contrast is most effective in Maika's case, because she doesn't quite have her act together yet. The image of her telling customers to leave and never come back, only to frantically apologize once they're out of earshot, is one of the first episode's comedic highlights. Kaho's tsundere act has been the least impressive thus far, if only because the tsundere archetype has already been parodied to death by other comedies. Mafuyu falls somewhere in the middle, and the script makes good use of the night-and-day difference between her little sister act and her actual personality.

The three girls are consistently entertaining, but I can't say the same for the two male leads. Fired-up chef Akizuki works well enough as the show's perpetually angry dude, but his obsession with yuri tropes is awkwardly shoehorned into the second episode. As character quirks go, it just feels too much like an afterthought to work well. Dino, the café's Italian owner, has also been hit-or-miss thus far; his frequent clashes with Mafuyu are amusing, but his tendency to swoon over Maika strikes me as more obnoxious than humorous. At least Mafuyu and Akizuki are on hand to act out my desire to pummel Dino whenever he goes overboard. On the whole, the comedy in these episodes is largely of the “smile and chuckle” variety, rarely crossing into genuinely hilarious territory.

Honestly, that may not be a bad thing though. Whether by design or coincidence, Blend-S seems to have a lot in common with Wagnaria, which has long been my gold standard for workplace comedies. It has the same setup of quirky restaurant employees doing silly things on the job, and there are parts of the opening credit sequence that feel like they came straight out of one of Wagnaria's stylized openers. The light, character-focused comedy is easy to take in without demanding your full attention, and it's mostly harmless despite the occasional fanservice shot. There's also a small but significant nugget of substance behind it all, with a recurring theme of the characters accepting one another's odd behavior instead of trying to change it. When everyone's a little weird, nobody seems too far out of place.

On the technical side, Blend-S seems to have its act together. The character designs are distinctive, and the individual colors of the girls' uniforms add some nice variety to what could have been a monotonous wardrobe. The animation has been able to keep pace with the visual direction so far, even if it hasn't been challenged to tackle any truly ambitious shots. Within the context of its genre, Blend-S is a fine-looking series.

Considering how thoroughly stacked this season's weekend lineup is, I'm glad that Blend-S is in the mix. My initial impression is that this could be a good “palate cleanser” show, the kind of thing you watch to help your brain relax after binging something more intense. It hasn't made me fall out of my chair in a fit of laughter yet, but I'm not sure it needs to. As long as it can make good use of its central premise, it should be able to deliver lightweight fun on a consistent basis. If it rises above that genre baseline, great. If not, then that's all right. Sometimes a reliable supply of brain candy is exactly what you want.

Rating: B-

BLEND-S is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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