Tada Never Falls in Love
Episodes 1-3

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Tada Never Falls in Love ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Tada Never Falls in Love ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Tada Never Falls in Love ?

Tada Never Falls in Love grabbed me from its first moments. Fish-out-of-water stories are always fertile ground for comedy, especially when they involve tourists abroad. The story of its first episode, about an energetic European girl and a withdrawn Japanese boy being drawn toward each other, was just so charming I couldn't wait to see more. With its soft pastel art style and bouncy music, Tada Never Falls in Love has all the makings of a hit anime comedy, but it also has so many places where it could go wrong.

Tada Never Falls in Love shares an impressive amount of staff with the comedy hit of summer 2014, Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun. Both shows feature Mitsue Yamazaki as director, Yoshiko Nakamura on series composition, and even the same character designer and music composer. Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun boasted a cast of hilarious and lovable characters navigating a series of bizarre yet oddly familiar scenarios, on top of a compelling central romance. It was a show you could really root for, and it made my own top 5 anime of that year. While it was based on a manga that's a lot of fun in its own right, its pitch-perfect translation to screen required a talented team. So fans jumped at the chance to watch this same group take on anime-original material. But can they really make lightning strike twice?

Based on the first episode, I was on board to see this group tackle Westerners' fascination with Japan. Teresa Wagner, like so many otaku before her, came to Japan from her love of Japanese media. It's not anime, video games, or monster movies for Teresa, though—her fascination is with "Rainbow Shogun," an old samurai TV drama. "Rainbow Shogun" has the look and feel of a hokey old show that might be shown on Japan's version of TV Land. That's certainly the way others treat it in-universe, with "Rainbow Shogun" airing during the day for the old-timers at cafés. It sets up Teresa as an odd duck, especially given how passionate she is about her obsession. It also makes her otakudom more endearing; comparing Japanese boys to her anime husbandos could potentially come off as creepy, but her Rainbow Shogun fantasies are so unexpected that they catch everyone off guard. They're able to be funny without any of the unfortunate implications of something closer-to-home. The whole premise promised a fun exploration of the way tourists interact with an idolized place versus how the locals perceive them. Since Mitsuyoshi is so taciturn, he and Teresa are both misfits in different ways. It's easy to see how they'd be drawn to each other, and I'm on board for that story.

But episode 2 was where the cracks really started to show. The focus shifts to high school, with Teresa and her serious friend Alec joining Mitsuyoshi's class as new transfer students. They also join the photography club, giving Mitsuyoshi a lot of potential to share his hobby with the girls. Unfortunately, the second episode introduces a bunch of new characters who are all fairly unmemorable anime archetypes. There's the guy who's unnervingly obsessed with gravure idols, the nervous shy girl, and so on. All the focus goes to the leads' interactions with them, rather than with each other. The show's potential gradually dripped out of that episode, as it became a more by-the-numbers high school club show. Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun succeeded because its characters were unique, offering original twists on anime character types. If Tada Never Falls in Love wants to repeat that success, it needs to shake up its supporting cast.

Fortunately, episode 3 turned things around with the show's best episode yet. It features Tada Never Falls in Love's best character: Nyanko Big. I have a fat and sassy tuxedo cat of my own, so I was a Nyanko Big fan from his first frame, and episode 3 adds is narrated entirely by this feline. For me, there are few things better than watching a too-proud cat judge all the ridiculous humans around him. In the case of annoying (but still entertaining, unlike the club members) characters like Kaoru Ijuin, Nyanko Big validates the feelings of the audience. With others, he expresses his own unique takes on their quirks. I appreciate that even in giving him a distinct personality, Tada Never Falls in Love never forgets that Nyanko Big is a cat. For example, he dislikes sweets, unlike many cartoon pets. (Cats literally lack the receptors for sweet flavors.) Nyanko Big is wry but understanding, and he seems to genuinely enjoy people-watching in the family café. He also tries to play matchmaker, which is adorable until he ends up falling in love with the snooty princess cat Cherry-chan, which is even more adorable. Not everyone's going to be as much of a cat lover coming into this show, but it's admirable to see Tada Never Falls in Love take risks like this. That attitude could be key to the show's success as a memorable comedy.

Aesthetically, Tada Never Falls in Love always has a bright and peppy feel, full of shiny springtime shades like pink and yellow. No matter what is going on in the story, Tada Never Falls in Love is always a visual marvel—which makes subpar episodes more bearable, but also makes you yearn for What Could Be. The musical score is probably the closest callback to Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun. Composer Yukari Hashimoto is back with a similarly bouncy and literally brassy set of sounds, sprinkled throughout with muted trombones and tubas. Hashimoto is capable of varied musical palettes; she's scored everything from Penguindrum to Toradora. So the decision to call back to her Nozaki-kun score is definitely deliberate. It's clear that Tada Never Falls in Love is after a similar sense of humor—but it can't rely on the music alone to carry that impression. The character and gag writing needs to catch up.

Tada Never Falls in Love will live or die on how weird it decides to be. When it takes risks and tries things that haven't been done, like the pet's-eye-view narration of episode 3, it's a hilarious and heartwarming knockout. When it falls back on tired high-school-club clichés, it's surprisingly snooze-worthy. I sure hope that Tada Never Falls in Love chooses the first path, because there's enough potential here, backed by enough talent, to make a truly memorable anime comedy.

Ep. 1 Rating: A-

Ep. 2 Rating: B-

Ep. 3 Rating: A

Tada Never Falls in Love is currently streaming on HIDIVE.

Rose is a Ph.D. student in musicology, who recently released a book about the music of Cowboy Bebop. You can also follow her on her Twitter.

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