My Love Story With Yamada-kun at Lv999
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 8 of
My Love Story With Yamada-kun at Lv999 ?
Community score: 4.4
The gang of gamers we follow in Yamada-kun at Lv999 have never been the calmest and most collected crew, but you throw them into a crowded school festival setting to exacerbate their nerves and they're going to dive into even more disastrous dispositions. Akane may be here acting as a "sponsor" for the guild's attendance to pay back her computer repairs, and she puts on a good, supportive show as things start, especially for Runa. But she's not immune to simple story-propelling standbys like mild misunderstandings or teasing, and that leads to some semi-revelatory looks towards the likes of Yamada.
Akane has never been one who could be accused of being especially sharp, but she's not oblivious either, and I appreciate how that manifests in understated, even realistic ways. She's shown to be aware of the daggers that get stared at her via Yamada's legions of in-school fangirls, even trying to mitigate the apparent connection between her and the guy via an adorably animated little fast-walk. Similarly, though Akane is initially pressed by her serious interpretation of Eita's joke about her and Yamada dating, she realizes partway through her storm off what the actual intent was and is consumed by simple embarrassment instead. It's an intensely relatable sort of feeling, being unsure of the way you might return and respond when you understand the mistake you made.
That incitement and the resultant reactions between Akane and Yamada form the center of this episode, with everything else around it building up the atmosphere that nurtures those nerves. There's an earlier kind of example run in the way Runa is overwhelmed by the visit and the prospect of her upcoming entrance exams. And Akane's empathetic response shows that she is capable of a little more clarity when it's not her emotional state that's escalating. It's in line with Akane's trend towards transactional helping that led her to this sponsorship role in the first place, and it again makes clear how much harder it is for her to function when any attention is properly turned inward on her. This goes double when it's regarding romance, a subject that's been a sore spot for her since the very beginning of this show.
Akane's extant issues do make for a funny contrast in the overall concept of this episode. The sensationalism that follows Yamada and the possibility of him having an older, college girlfriend rings as an absolute gap for us in the audience because we know what an uncool disaster Akane really is. The twist then comes from the revelation that Yamada might actually think Akane is pretty neat anyway, in her own manner. It turns out he noticed her straight away even as she was struggling with getting his attention upon first seeing him at the school. And then of course there's his odd, passing confession late in the episode that he would see Akane's affection as an actual honor to strive for. As he describes himself as a "nobody" in comparison, this would seem to connect to his dissonant confidence issues we caught onto in last week's episode. It also dials up our desire to get just a bit more context on Yamada and what led him to these perceptions of himself and others.
That "Ha ha, just kidding…unless?" approach to the potential Akane/Yamada romance works in this case because of how clearly others can see it regardless of the pair's own immobility on that front. Tsubaki's glimpse of the duo is immediately framed with some strongly rendered shoujo-bubble-vision, while Eita's "joke" about them dating is a none-too-subtle nudge at them going for it seriously. Odd age gaps aside, those around them seem to think that the immediate mental struggles that Akane and Yamada are grappling with are ones they could work through better if they just gave going out together a try. Would it actually turn out well? That would remain to be seen, though it's worth noting that in my viewing, Yamada-kun at Lv999 hasn't yet dealt with especially intense relationship drama. Such a dry run at dating would thus either escalate the series in a fresh way or simply continue to deliver on exploring the characters' personalities in their regularly goofy, messy state.
This episode is overall effective at swinging from the goofier sketch segments into strategically deployed simplicity once the peak shoujo ponderings of drama kick in. The direction has a keen knowledge of how to use minimal backgrounds in a way that might make lesser shows come off as cheap. That said, the former segments of the chaotic comedy points do start to chafe under running a bit long and repetitiously in some parts of this episode, with even the chibi segments looking looser by the anime's usual tightly tailored standards (Runa looks oddly taller than she should at some points). It all mostly still works, but some of those bits, plus a wholly disposable post-credits comedy sequence, kind of comes off like the team on this episode wanted to arrive at this specific moment in Yamada and Akane's relationship, and were willing to utilize some potent padding to make that happen. It's fine, since it ultimately just leaves us with further anticipation about where Yamada and Akane might go from here.
My Love Story With Yamada-kun at Lv999 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Chris is keeping busy keeping up with the new anime season and is excited to have you along. You can also find him writing about other stuff over on his blog, as well as spamming fanart retweets on his Twitter, for however much longer that lasts.
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