Welcome to the next episode of anime pocket reviews!
This time, we’re taking a look at two of the latest anime series. Later, we review the return of a fan favourite from last year, but first, something a little different…
Wave, Listen to Me!
(2020, S1, 12x24mins) Comedy, Slice-of-Life
Minare Koda (center) is a waitress working in an everyday restaurant in Sapporo, Northern Japan when she is broken-hearted by her now ex-boyfriend. Drinking in a bar alone, she rants about him to a stranger, only to hear her drunken frenzy the next day on a local radio station. Outraged, she storms to the radio station, where the stranger – radio producer Matou (center-left) – gives her a chance to defend her outburst live on air. When she passes the test with flying colours, Matou offers her the chance to host her own late-night show on the station.
Basically Plot: When Minare, fresh from a bad break-up, hears her drunken rant about her ex played on local radio, she storms to the station and inadvertently into a career behind the microphone.
Wave, Listen to Me is a good example of the seemingly boundless nature of anime and mange narratives. A popular series in its comic form, this anime delivers a similarly alternative but incredibly grounded series that offers something different but perhaps lacks the scope to become a great show.
One of the most interesting things about Wave from the outset is its location. So many anime are either set amongst the skyscrapers of Tokyo or in some non-descript rural location. Wave is not only set in Sapporo, the popular capital of Hokkaido in the country’s snowy north, but is also proudly representative of the region. There are very few anime you see that feel like they’re representing an area and its lifestyle, but it’s apparent from the start in Wave.
Part of that Sapporo energy comes from this story’s representation of an ‘Everyday Japan’ that is prevalent throughout, perpetuated by a really interesting female lead. Minare works a basic job and, besides her ‘gift of the gab’, is a very normal person, albeit one that’s easily annoyed. This normality isn’t just apparent in her career and relationships (or lack of in both cases) but, more notably, in her behaviour. She’s just an average person, which is most notable in this show’s sporadic swerves into the romance genre.
Everything is approached with the constrained pride and courtesy that exists in the real world…
When these romantic moments do appear, there are no major histrionics, exaggerated tears or desperate please for affection as you would often see from a female lead. Instead, everything is approached with the constrained pride and courtesy that exists in the real world when relationships are messy. It’s a pattern seen across this show’s cast of ordinary people – emotions are still there, but it’s much more subtle, just as it happens in the real world.
Sometimes, you’re crying out for a bit more passion from the characters. Realism is great, but to pull it off to such an extent requires writing of the highest order. ‘People watching’ at a café is fun, but only for a bit, and reality TV relies on ‘larger than life’ characters for the same reason. In this sense, Wave falls victim to many other shows in the sense that it’s story, taken from a manga, is designed for quantity as well as quality. The twelve episodes here are all pretty good, but it doesn’t feel like the characters or story has progressed much at all in the nearly five-hour run time.
Overall, this is a story that, thanks to its grounded characters and story, delivers a much more real slice-of-life comedy that is great to connect with. There’s also something to be said about its older, predominantly 30+ cast, which gives another element to this series’ ability to connect with a different audience. However, it’s simple characters and plot also lead to a somewhat simple storyline where the realism that makes this show engaging also serves as its anchor, stopping it from delivering the high-emotion drama associated with the great slice-of-life comedies.
ANIME RANKING: #67 – A solid ranking for a stable but effective slice-of-life, putting it alongside shows such as Recovery of an MMO Junkie and The Wallflower!
If You Liked This You’ll Love: Servant x Service (#100) – It’s really hard to find a recommendation for this anime, as it hits many different notes that are hard to find in other series. If you enjoyed the romance element of this series (however small), then Honey and Clover is the perfect show for you. However, if you simply enjoyed the workplace comedy, then Sevant x Service delivers this, albeit with notably more slapstick than seen in Wave.
Kaguya-Sama, Love is War
(2020, S1, 12x25mins) Comedy, Slice-of-Life
Following on from Season One, the show continues to follow the adventures of Shuchiin Academy Student Council’s Vice President Kaguya (center-right) and President Shirogane (center-left), as they try to force the other into confessing their love first. However, new students, stories and an upcoming Student Council Election threaten to separate the would-be couple from each other!
Basically Plot: The two affluent and successful leaders of Shuchiin Academy’s Student Council are deeply in love with each other. However, desperate to protect their pride, they spend their time together scheming to make the other confess first!
The follow-up to one of last year’s surprise successes, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the second season has whipped up a storm. However, while there are many high points, this feels like a classic case of comedic second-season syndrome.
Back in 2019, the first few episodes of this new, bright rom-com immediately set it out as an exciting show to watch. The chemistry between the main two characters and the organic yet dramatic circumstances they found themselves in were gripping, and made every episode such a draw. You get a sense that those small but perfectly executed ideas from the first season have dried up in season two, as the show begins to take on a more slice-of-life tone than any romance.
Kaguya-sama season two fleshes out the show’s wider world, bringing a more linear feel to the series that plays on the growing cast. This expansion has come with positive, namely the increased involvement of fan-favourite Chika Fujiwara and the discovery of Ai Hayasaka as a key, hugely entertaining part of the show. More characters have been introduced on top, but all of this has come at a cost to the main duo around whom the show is built.
It feels like the spark that was there between them has been somewhat extinguished.
Second Season Syndrome is a classic issue that plagues anime rom-coms, when the show feels the need to add depth and character progression which only serves to unearth the one-dimensional nature of the cast. The biggest victim in this extent is Kaguya-sama herself, a once scheming but innocent woman who becomes painfully ditzy in this series. Shirogane also becomes slightly blander than remembered, maybe because of the lack of awkward interaction between the main two characters that made this series so popular in the first place.
Ultimately, this second season is decent viewing for fans of the first season. Plenty of fan service surrounding the wider cast produces enough memorable moments to make it worthwhile. However, this season struggles to build on the work done in season one between the main characters and, as the series pitters to a close, it feels like the spark that was there between them has been somewhat extinguished.
ANIME RANKING: #80 – A slight drop for a series that hits hard at the beginning but falls flat overall, putting it alongside shows such as Isekai Quartet and High School Host Club.
If You Liked This You’ll Love: Wagnaria!! (#52) – Swapping the Student Council for staff at a fast food joint, Wagnaria delivers similarly fast-paced rom com that trades the sketch-esque narrative of Kaguya-sama for a more flowing storyline. Filled with laughs, it remains the quintessential anime romantic comedy!
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