The Quintessential Quintuplets
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Quintessential Quintuplets ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
The Quintessential Quintuplets ?
Going by its premise alone, there's not much to distinguish The Quintessential Quintuplets from any other harem comedy from the past few decades. Its teenage protagonist Futaro Uesugi is minding his own business as the story begins, trying to focus on his studies while cutting costs wherever he can to help his debt-burdened family. When he gets set up with a side job as a tutor, it seems like things are finally turning in his favor, but that optimism fades when he meets his new students. The Nakano sisters are indeed quintuplets, and none of them seem inclined to study. Itsuki thinks Futaro's a jerk, Miku thinks he's weird, Nino seems willing to poison him if necessary, Ichika is more interested in romance than academics, and Yotsuba almost seems proud of her rock-bottom test scores. Nevertheless, Futaro is determined to do his job as a tutor whether the girls want him to or not, and both comedic hijinks and romance are bound to ensue.
Quintuplet gimmick aside, this could be the setup for any number of harem comedies, and The Quintessential Quintuplets doesn't seem terribly interested in breaking the genre mold. If it's going to stand out, then it'll have to excel through good old-fashioned quality. Thankfully, the series manages to deliver just that in its opening episodes. It's already avoided or mitigated a number of the genre's most common problems; there's no outlandish premise to explain, nor have there been any super-creepy plot points to ruin the fun atmosphere. The protagonist is even a fleshed-out character, rather than being a single-minded horndog or a bland audience stand-in. Futaro has his own goals and problems outside of the harem scenario, and he even seems actively disinterested in the prospect of teenage romance. He just wants to get this tutoring job done so he can get paid and move on with his life.
The series itself appears to be more interested in humor than romance, though that impression may just be a side effect of the surprisingly strong comedy in these opening episodes. The Quintessential Quintuplets has a good grasp of how to tell a joke, which isn't a total surprise considering that it shares a screenwriter with Hinamatsuri. The fundamentals of good timing and sharp delivery are comfortably in place, and in many cases the show successfully goes one step beyond the more obvious joke. Futaro doesn't just get spotted by Miku while trying to follow Itsuki, he gets spotted while trying to hide in one of those goofy “your face here” displays, and then he stays there throughout the ensuing conversation. Miku doesn't just trick Futaro into thinking she's Yotsuba by copying her sister's trademark hair ribbon, she somehow also tricks Yotsuba into thinking she's her doppelganger. It's little details like this that put The Quintessential Quintuplets a step ahead of the curve, and that good sense of humor may be its best bet for attracting viewers from outside its core demographic.
Of course, if you're looking for a series capable of fueling endless debates over which anime girl is the best, the Nakano sisters appear ready to fill that niche. They all fall neatly into familiar archetypes early on, but the gears of character development are already turning. Itsuki's unplanned visit to Futaro's apartment softens her tsundere stance somewhat, while Miku's central role in the second episode reveals some personal passion behind her calm and quiet attitude. That episode also introduces what may be a central theme of the story through the test Futaro makes the girls take. Their combined failing scores add up to a perfect 100, and between them the sisters answer every question right. Teams of underdogs with complementary strengths and weaknesses are nothing new in this medium (see every sports anime ever made), but by forcing Futaro to figure out what each girl is good at, the series gives itself a convenient excuse to develop them all as individuals. With some competent writing and direction, that setup should be enough to lend this story some emotional appeal.
If there's one area in which The Quintessential Quintuplets seems destined to be no better than average, it's the visuals. The art and animation in these episodes is perfectly decent, but nothing jumps out as being especially impressive. The five sisters are mercifully easy to tell apart despite being quintuplets, even if their individual character designs are nothing special. The animation is good enough to maintain a consistent level of quality, which is about all it needs unless there's a surprise action scene lurking somewhere down the line. The visual direction complements the comedy reasonably well with some nice reaction shots, but it's less sure-footed when it comes to fanservice. There's not much of it, and it's pretty tame by current standards, but the cheesecake integration in this show doesn't always feel smooth or natural. A shot of legs or cleavage will suddenly pop up in the middle of a scene, linger for a couple seconds, then vanish as if it never happened. Working some mild fanservice into a harem comedy is fine, but The Quintessential Quintuplets could stand to choose its moments a little more carefully instead of just tossing something in whenever it has a spare spot on the storyboard.
While I don't expect this series to rewrite the rules of the genre any time soon, I've had a surprising amount of fun watching these first two episodes. Its comedic elements are strong enough to carry most scenes on their own, and the characters are beginning to display an encouraging level of depth. I don't know if that will be enough to win over folks with an aversion to harem comedies, but there's enough entertainment value here that viewers who don't dislike the genre would do well to give The Quintessential Quintuplets a try.
The Quintessential Quintuplets is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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