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Engage Kiss
Episodes 6-7

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 6 of
Engage Kiss ?
Community score: 4.2

If you've ever fantasized about a nun in knee-high boots choking you to death between her thighs, then boy, does Engage Kiss have the episode for you. Sharon is only the latest member in the long and storied religious order, Sisters of Immaculate Anime Combat in a Habit, and she drives the big plot developments this week. After providing a clearer picture of the steamy past shared by Shu and Ayano, Engage Kiss unsurprisingly turns its focus to Kisara's whole deal. After all, it's not like our hero just randomly stumbled on a pink-haired sword-slinging demon lass with a thirst for slaying her own kind and an even bigger thirst for Shu's various secretions. He had to go looking for her, and he needed some sisterly help to do so.

Before Sharon puts her concrete-shattering foot down, our main triangle is still reeling from last week's set of spicy trysts and betrayals. Kisara's moping under a bridge, Ayano is doing Shu's chores for him, and Shu, always mindful of priorities, doesn't want to miss a sale on cigarettes. Moments like this highlight the intrinsic problem with having a quasi-amnesiac protagonist, because if Shu cannot remember these big emotional sea changes, then he cannot react to or grow from them. While the show acknowledges how pitiful that is for him, both internally and externally, it hinders him as a compelling protagonist. All he can do is apologize, and that gets old fast.

Engage Kiss compensates for Shu's stagnation in two ways: handing the emotional burden over to Ayano and Kisara, and turning his past into a mystery doled out in deliberately discrete chunks. This isn't a perfect solution—everything still revolves around a character who can't carry his own weight—but it's better than nothing. Unfortunately, the girls don't interact much this week, so I'm left with a mighty hankering for angst. Fortunately, however, we get some more deets on Shu's quest to kill all demons, which apparently involved ingratiating himself into a demon-killing cult only to ultimately betray them and make off with their top-secret cave baddie. Also, he might have banged a nun.

Sharon enters the scene having been tipped off to Kisara's activities thanks to their epic damage containment failure in the premiere. The existence of the Celestial Abbey and their order of international exorcists answers one question I had, so we now know that demon attacks aren't exclusively a Bayron City phenomenon. But, by the same turn, now I'm curious why Bayron City went private and secular for its extermination team. Surely, it's not just because Kisara is in Shu's employ. This revelation is just the latest hint that Bayron and the demons have a much more complicated relationship than they've let on. This is far from the cleverest conspiratorial angle in the world (and I am begging the show to give me the chance to whip out “No Shu. You are the demons.”), but hey, they're trying.

Engage Kiss is also pretty forthright about being less interested in Sharon as a vehicle to further the plot and more interested in her as a vehicle propelled by powerful nun thighs. And to the anime's credit, her action scenes are pretty fun. They don't quite reach the blasphemous heights of something like Black Lagoon, but they're sprinkled with enough superhuman maneuvers and overt nunservice to stand out from the crowd. I love the disrespect of her strangling that guy from The Guts, making him eat 26 bullets, and then stealing his car. It's insult on top of injury. Of course, the fetishistic element is baked into the camera, and this could undermine Engage Kiss' attempt, should it wish to do so, to explore Sharon as another one of Shu's tragic paramours. But for now, while she's not much more than a Terminator in a habit, that horny tastelessness is an asset.

Ideally, however, Kisara's clash with Sharon will resolve into more than just another fight within Shu's inexplicably large collection of girlfriends. For example, it would be nice to learn some of Sharon's reasons for adopting the faith of demon ass-kicking. And I also hope Kisara's reasons for helping Shu go beyond the fact that he happened to be the one who freed her, so she just imprinted on him like a stabby baby bird. Generally speaking, Shu's the only character who's been provided an independent and defined (if hazily remembered) motivation for doing what he's doing. We only know Ayano's, Kisara's, and Sharon's motivations as they relate to Shu. With the season almost half-over, there's still plenty of time for Engage Kiss to engage with its characters on a deeper level, but that's contingent on it having the intention to do so. If it just wants to be a loud melodramatic mess about demon slaying, that's okay too. In that case, though, I expect a lot more crying and making out next week.

Rating:

How would you rate episode 7 of
Engage Kiss ?
Community score: 4.2

Engage Kiss teaches us two very important things about its combat nun this week. One, her full name is Sharon “The Chaste” Holygrail, and two, Shu once poisoned her mid-coitus by lacing his schlong with a potent neurotoxin. Take a moment to let that knowledge soak in—much like the aforementioned poison soaked through Sharon's mucous membrane. Marvel at the web of sex and betrayal being spun around Shu and his myriad partners. There are much better anime airing this season, but when it takes the time to hone its skeevy melodrama, this flavor of orifice-tingling trashiness puts Engage Kiss into a league of its own.

This is as good a time as any to highlight the netorare angle, since Kisara mentions it by name while taunting Sharon. As a category of hentai, NTR often specifically refers to cuckoldry, and consequently it's a notoriously divisive genre (and one of the most popular, but that's besides the point here). However, the word itself 寝取られ (a combination of the verbs “sleep” and “take”) can refer to any kind of cheating betwixt any genders. In the case of Engage Kiss, then, it's Shu who's sowing his wild oats all over the dang place, and it's his exasperated gaggle of current, ex, and pseudo-girlfriends who make this such a fun trash fire to watch. Ayano begging Kisara to spill the deets on all of Shu's past conquests is just one very funny example. While it doesn't make their characters any richer, their relationships are much heftier for it.

Now, it's important to distinguish this from your typical harem anime, because a bunch of babes inexplicably fawning over a guy several thousand fathoms beneath their league is something I usually find exasperating. I think it only works in Engage Kiss because of the way its characters actually have sex (yes I'm still mad at the cowardice of World's End Harem) and, more importantly, the way they wield those sexual relations with purpose. Shu and Sharon both trying to backstab each other in bed makes for a particularly hilarious instance, but we've also seen a more romantic and bittersweet side with Ayano's safehouse seduction. Sex is a profound expression of both intimacy and power, and it wraps up a ton of emotions and symbolism, from the personal to the societal. To be clear, simply including fornication does not automatically make Engage Kiss a mature anime; in fact, by and large I find it pretty juvenile. But those moments when the soap opera dynamism works—such as when Shu makes out with Kisara so they can both lose themselves to their passions and ignore that they're just using each other—those are the moments that make Engage Kiss worth engaging with.

Sadly, there is a whole lot of story wrapped around these flashes of vulnerability, and that story continues to disappoint. Sharon's interference distracts from the demon conspiracy plot, but it also exposes the blandness of the demon conspiracy plot. The monster of the week format failed to grab me in past episodes, because we rarely got an extended glimpse into the interiority of the monsters. By contrast, Sharon manages to be more interesting because the show connects her to Shu's past in a direct way (much like the directness with which Shu connected his poison dick to her). It's just harder for me to care about the politics and mechanics of Bayron City's governance when it's all so much more nebulous, and that's despite it having so much more exposition. A bunch of talking heads suck up at least five minutes explaining the Celestial Abbey, but none of that information is as important to me as Sharon's last name being Holygrail. Tell me how that happened!

The action, per usual, fares better than the plotting, if only because the battles are willing to reach for a level of absurdity comparable to the characters' love polyhedron. This week, Sharon dons a guffaw-worthy tentacle-possessed demon powersuit that requires her to strip naked EXCEPT for her habit. Holy headgear is okay. I suppose this is for everyone who thought a nun in thigh highs going Xenia Onatopp on her enemies wasn't enough Catholic-tinged fetish fuel for them. And I can't complain, because spectacle-wise, her fight with Kisara doesn't have much else going for it. It's buoyed instead by the banter between its combatants, which is, again, informed by a ridiculous web of sexual jealousy Shu has somehow woven around every woman he's come into contact with. This is the angle Engage Kiss needs to stick to.

Unfortunately, if the post-credits scene is any indication, the second half of the season will veer back into discovering and stopping the impending demon descent. Compared to how the first half began, at least we now have a better grasp on Shu's motivations and weaknesses, and that also extends to the rest of the main cast. With some more focus and direction, it's possible that Engage Kiss' story can stand on its own. But if this week's episode is any indication, I'm just here for the scant precious instances of these characters acting like unhinged sex fiends around each other. While I can't pretend like that's enough to make Engage Kiss good, that's enough to make me want more.

Rating:

Engage Kiss is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Steve's Twitter DMs are open to vampires and vampires only. Otherwise, catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.


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