This Week in Anime
Does Anybody Love ORESUKI?

by Michelle Liu & Andy Pfeiffer,

Last season's harem-with-a-twist was ORESUKI, a story happy to break the fourth wall and point out the expectations that comes with an anime rom-com. Led by Jōro, a guy who has maintained a perfect facade in the hopes of landing a cute girlfriend, the series wants to have its satire cake and eat it too. Is there anything to love about a series starring a two-faced jerk?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. NSFW: Fanservice, ahoy!

You can read our daily streaming reviews of ORESUKI here!

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Andy
Hey Micchy, it's time to talk about everyone's favorite genre! Where the main character uses their extensive knowledge of anime tropes to come out on top in a fantasy world! That's right, it's isekai harem time!
Micchy

Full disclosure, I'm not the biggest fan of harem anime that don't involve some degree of taboo (helloooooo sisterfuckers), so I was likely never going to be the target audience for ORESUKI: Are you the flimsy wish-fulfillment anime girl for me?. 12 episodes later, I'm still not sure I am.
What I do know: Bench-kun MVP forever
I'd say I'm in a similar spot (minus the sisterfuggin of course) where if I'm checking out a romance I tend to prefer one on one or at most a triangle of idiots. That said there are some harems that have a hook or gimmick strong enough to make it worth watching. Bench-kun could've been that if the true gimmick of this show didn't also ruin its multiple appearances. For you see, ORESUKI isn't just another harem show. It's a harem show that knows it's a harem show.
Honestly, I think I would've liked it better if Joro were more thoroughly a genre-savvy jackass who gets owned by misapplying his knowledge of harem tropes. But like pretty much every harem ever, ORESUKI only sustains the comedy for a handful of episodes, falling into limp romcom conventions as it progresses. My least favorite: the protagonist might be bland or a jerk, but he's secretly a nice guy once you get past his facade. And that's where it loses me - give us the unrepentant asshole protagonist we deserve, cowards!
The character writing in this show should be the selling point, but hoo boy is it weak as fuck. It's one thing to make your character a nice guy on the outside and a jerk on the inside and then have someone like him for being a jerk, but it then goes out of its way to prove he's actually the good guy for dumb reasons while he continues to call women bitches for him sexualizing them. All the while more completely underwritten stock girlfriends continue to line up.
I was on board for about three episodes when it looked like the show would be about Joro getting exposed for the jerk he is and then honestly repenting for his shitty, shitty attitude. That'd be an interesting arc! But then it goes and insists he's actually a good person and the asshole persona in his head is just a lie to himself.

The show's evidence for his supposed goodness: he does the bare minimum of buying snacks for an upset friend. Like sure, it might've been hot and miserable, but that's hardly the noble act of altruism the show seems to think it is?
The odd tone of the show is one of its biggest problems. It insists Joro is good but as you said he never really does anything beyond token gestures, so the thing they resort to is to make everyone else secretly worse, so his persona not being the biggest manipulative asshole makes him the best somehow?

It also cannot commit to this in any way, shape, or form because doing so would require characters to change from single stock ideas. The opening arc that has his best friend revealed as a potential rapist reverts that same character back to stock best friend IMMEDIATELY. Like all it wanted was for the audience to think Joro is better than him and now that the hierarchy is established he can do his normal harem role. It's kinda maddening how much this show wants to be better than other harem shows while being completely unable to stop being one.
Yeah, that's the weirdest part of the show. The characters are generic archetypes except when they're not, and the transition between "stock anime character" and "conniving asshole" is almost never smooth. Likewise, ORESUKI is bland harem paste except when it's not, careening between tones rather than evolving into a solid drama in its own right. Where I take issue is the idea that someone having good intentions under their multiple facades is enough to make them a nice person. Being nice takes a ton of work! And it'd be way more interesting to see Joro struggle to suppress his asshole instincts rather than awkwardly flip-flopping between Manipulative Joro and Bland Joro.
The key to when they are or are not is entirely dependent on how we're supposed to perceive Joro. Despite the show containing a monologue about how they all have unique dreams and desires in contrast to Joro, none of them actually have those things whenever it's not about Joro! It all becomes a weird song and dance of Joro having zero drive to do anything and then him being a generic horny harem lead motivated to do the bare minimum of decent human behavior and getting way too much praise for it. Which yeah, the horniness of this show is also what you'd expect from any other harem show, and the self-awareness doesn't help here either.

We get it. You only care about Cosmos's ass and Pansy's magic disappearing bazongas.
Okay imma be real here, Pansy's boobs really aren't that mystical; any theater kid or cosplayer could tell you how to make tig ol' bitties look like itty-bitties. Besides, it's not like they're drawn a consistent size anyway!
I just want the poor girl to get a bra that fits, but you're right in that it's not an ON/OFF switch, but completely size changing so maybe she just gave up. Since she has them hidden most of the time she gets to have her face in frame more often than Cosmos, who is literally introduced butt first.

Note: this continues for most of her appearances
See also: Himawari, who's introduced crotch-first.

I expect a certain level of horny from a harem cartoon, but this is just tacky!
I mean, I'm not even against tacky horny if it does more than that. The problem for me is the flip-floppy nature of the show, where it does the generic harem "Joro is gross and horny... but look at them, how can you not be, am I right?" thing. Nearly every time this happens my brain would flashback to the 90s as it remembered Golden Boy. A show where the protagonist was somehow way hornier but also a way better person! And the women in it were actual characters! I guess what I'm saying is that this show really made me want to go watch a better horny show.
But on the other hand, Joro does have a pretty strong face game, so it's impossible to say if this show is good or bad.

That there's a Tsukiyama. Once again proving that Joro's strongest ability is making me want to watch something else. Like Kaiji.

Probably not Death Note, but maybe the Netflix movie...
But then you'd miss all the parts where Joro gets clowned on, and that simply would not do!
If only that happened as often as this.
In case it seems like he gets better over the course of the show, just when you think he's gotten acceptably bland he goes and proves himself the actual worst again. Keep in mind that what he actually says is far closer to "slut" than just "bitch."
Speaking of bland, I realize we haven't even gotten into the girls, but that's because they're all typical harem accessorizes to Joro and never rise above that. What I think really needs to be said is how they seem to forget it's a harem until halfway through and while you've got your original trifecta of girl next door, class pres, and library girl, the second half of the show is like a water hose of poorly set up girls that were in the OP/ED so better get them on screen At some point he isn't even doing the base kindness to win them over thing anymore, they just show up already into him.
As this is a harem show, they all need to be in love with the protagonist for some inexplicable reason - just as he planned all along. The childhood friend almost makes sense, but the rest fall for him for reasons I cannot begin to fathom. Only Pansy seems to have a half decent reason for being into him, though the show kinda discards that a bit later
I was so ready to like Pansy's character as someone who just loves seeing through an asshole's facade!
I'm way more into Pansy and Joro's initial dysfunctional couple dynamic than whatever bland nice guy garbage he has with every other character. Their chemistry's fun, especially when Joro gets roasted.
The idea that she'd expose his true self and he'd either have to learn to be better, or be satisfied with the weirdo that likes him as he is, was pretty good, and yeah the playful roasts and throwing him under the bus is GOOD.
It's too bad the show undercuts everything interesting about Joro and Pansy's relationship by making her Hot Actually and him Nice Actually. Like y'all that's so bland I cannot even begin to care. It'd be way more satisfying if they came to terms with their respective rough edges and shortcomings so their eventual friendship/potential romance feels earned, but nope! Gotta cop out here.
This trying to be a meta show means even that bland dynamic ends up thrown out in favor of some BS about how everyone's a secret asshole so him not hiding it makes him better, but also people that aren't secret assholes are worse because they're main characters and thus everyone else is hurt living under them.

Turns out the only thing more annoying than NisiOisin is people trying to lazily ape him.
It draws this weird dichotomy between "nice person" and "asshole who's hiding it" when in reality people are capable of being both kind and selfish. Being a nice person means resisting the urge to be self-serving and doing your best to be considerate. Letting your emotions get the best of you sometimes doesn't mean you're lying about caring, it means you're human. I don't think ORESUKI quite gets that being considerate is a constant struggle - girls fall for Joro because he does one (1) nice thing and they take that as a sign he's good to the core. People are more complicated than that, though.
That misunderstanding is kind of what breaks Pansy's character, as she's the one forced to give all these monologues to Joro and the audience. Watching her go from playful and honest about Joro's character to spilling out half-baked philosophy on what makes all people good or bad, alongside the awkward imagery of her own appearance where Truth = Boobs Out really sours what could've been great.
It's a little unfair that Pansy gets slotted into the role of author's mouthpiece, since she really deserves an arc more substantial than a half-hearted love triangle between her, Joro, and some rando from middle school. But nah, I guess it's more important to blab about how being extremely nice is bad, actually?

Meanwhile I'm here like
Well his Rem and Ram have to live with the burden of uh, unrequited love?

It's really weird to end the show's season on meta commentary about side characters as it continues to not give a single shit about any of its own.
We have the dichotomies of the animation and the actual message, where Pansy goes from physically shirking away at the appearance of the nice guy to grasping her own arm in fear so hard that it leaves marks.

And the reason is... she was the MC love interest character at her last school and all the side characters pressuring her to be with the MC was traumatizing. Now if this was meant as an actual critique of societal expectations and pressures I'd be all for it! But here it's yet another dumb wink and nod at tropes while still employing them in the same exact manner. So we have powerful personal imagery without a strong enough message to accompany it.
It's so close to getting what was so messed up about her middle school experiences, where everyone just assumed that because she's pretty she has to get with the most blandly friendly guy, ignoring whatever she had to say about it. Pansy specifically dresses herself like a dowdy old maid to avoid those expectations! But any commentary is completely undermined by the fact that Joro only acknowledges her as a romantic interest when she reveals her true (pretty) self.
I'd like to say that's a consequence of it being a harem rather than a singular romance and other girls' feelings and motivations taking up that time to be potential choices, but literally none of the other girls are really considered an option throughout the show. So in the end the choice to not explore this nteresting path seems more of this kind of decision:
Gotta love how the genre basically forbids Joro from making any substantial progress with any of the girls, so the only way to keep things moving is to constantly introduce new characters instead of developing any of the existing ones.
Meanwhile, the obvious best girl is RIGHT THERE
One of these days the male best friend will be a serious option in a harem. Make it happen, cowards, let them ride into the sunset on an inflatable dolphin!!
I demand justice for the Tomodas of the world!
Ultimately, ORESUKI doesn't quite deliver on the acerbic Joro/Pansy dynamic it promises early on, settling into basic patterns and a baffling non-conclusion that I absolutely did not expect to be the final episode. But it does end on a pretty good Joro dunk, so I suppose all is well.
On one hand, his final scumbag move of rigging a contest because his ego has convinced him that everyone will do what's best for him is pretty good, and it backfiring is also good! The problem is that it backfires because they all love him too much which is ugh. Also, rather than a popularity contest, why not let THE GIRL WHO YOU ARE DOING THIS OVER CHOOSE HERSELF. It transparently sets up that they wanted this story to keep going, so Pansy's autonomy is again removed in favor of being a mouthpiece.
Such is the fate of an ongoing light novel series, cursed to maintain the status quo till the very end. It's too bad it never quite capitalizes on the chemistry you could get between a misanthropic loser and an unabashed weirdo, doing.... whatever the hell that 3-way non-rivalry for the right to Pansy's hand in marriage be Pansy's boyfriend is.
Someday someone will find that right balance again. It's been done before so I know it can happen again, but I'm actually gonna end on agreeing with Joro because there's so much good coming in the new season
Amen.

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