Ah, Under Your Radar. The most consistent column on this entire blog, and it’s been two whole years since it started. So what better way to celebrate than to revisit the work that started it all?
(Sorry for the Spanish subs, but the only clean one I could find was this one, which I can’t embed on a free WordPress blog.)
Girlish Lover by Chinatsu Akasaki (voice of Chiwa), Yukari Tamura (voice of Masuzu), Hisako Kanemoto (voice of Himeka) and Ai Kayano (voice of Ai)
(I’ve labelled the lyrics with who’s singing because it’s in-character and parts of it make no sense otherwise.)
[All] Ready, set…
[Chiwa] Welcome back! (YEAH!)
[Masuzu] Come, let’s go out. (YEAH!)
[All] I stole a march to meet with you!
[Chiwa] Our bond is precious,
[Masuzu] Being lovers is precious.
[All] Girlish Lover…
[Chiwa] Are you the cause of this pain?
[Masuzu] And I’d thought of acting as if this beating in my heart was a lie…
[All] I wonder what will happen to our positions
In the future…
[Chiwa] Hey, let’s stay longer together! Can we?
[Masuzu] No! Only with me!
[Chiwa] You don’t let your guard down nor show any openings,
[All] But I want to cross the border between us!
Yes, I have to be
[Himeka] Bolder than this! (YEAH!)
[Ai] More forceful! (YEAH!)
[All] I want to show you all your chances!
[Chiwa] The gentle you,
[Masuzu] And the thoughtless you,
[All] Are all mine!
[Himeka] Notice me! (YEAH!)
[Ai] Nevermind, don’t! (YEAH)
[All] I’m all backwards when I fall in love…
[Chiwa] More than friends
[Masuzu] But not quite lovers.
[All] Girlish Lover…
Yet again, we cover Oreshura, short for Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru, or The Fight Between My Girlfriend and My Childhood Friend is a Battlefield. This is a light novel series by Yūji Yūji that received several manga adaptations (all of which ran in Square Enix magazines) and a 13-episode anime by A-1 studios that has been streamed on Crunchyroll and brought overseas by Aniplex USA. This series is of the harem genre, but isn’t as focused on the harem elements as it could be, to its benefit.
Burning Fighting Fighter, or, as known in present day, Eita Kidō, has forsaken the concept of love and is studying to become a doctor for the sake of his childhood friend Chiwa Harusaki, who had to quit the kendo club after a certain injury made it too dangerous to continue. However, one day, a like-minded popular girl named Masuzu Natsukawa, blackmails him with his delusional past as Burning Fighting Fighter into being his pretend boyfriend to ward off unwelcome romantic pursuers. This, understandably, pisses Chiwa off, so Masuzu starts a club with a bad pun for a name, then two other girls come out of the woodwork and our story kicks off.
Before I continue, I have to point out how amusing one particular common detail about all these girls is. You see, in harem series, the ultimate winner of the protagonist’s heart is almost always the first or last girl, either introduced to the audience or in terms of meeting the protagonist, except in series that go for inconclusive or polygamous conclusions. However, in this case, every girl is the first girl. Chiwa, Eita’s childhood friend, is the first girl introduced to the audience. Masuzu, Eita’s girlfriend, is… err… Eita’s first girlfriend. Ai, Eita’s fiancee, is the first girl in the main cast to have met Eita, preceeding even Chiwa. Himeka delusionally claims to be Eita’s lover from a past life, and fights alongside Burning Fighting Fighter. As such, you honestly can’t call the winner this way. Though it is worth noting that the childhood friend almost always loses, and the first girl to shake up the protagonist’s life wins more often than not, so things are more in favour of Masuzu than Chiwa, but it’s still amusing to note.
This series has a simple premise and it does everything it can to make that premise interesting without ever leaving the realm of realistic. There are four girls fighting over one guy for varying, but mostly overlapping reasons – FIGHT! …Except the series takes its time to establish all of these characters as characters first and foremost. Masuzu is very clearly established as an evil girl with family issues who hates the concept of love, and is a big fan of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. We spend quite a while learning about the motivations Ai has behind pretty much talking herself into a corner ever time she speaks.
You may be wondering what’s so special about that, since most harem series end up establishing their characters after a while. Well, simple. Most harem series do that via filler that doesn’t move the plot forward in any way, or just the introductory chapter/episode. This series, on the other hand, ties it all into the story – there is little-to-no notable filler to be found. So, that information about Ai? We learn it as Eita tries to get dirt on her (at Masuzu’s urging) so Masuzu can blackmail her with it.
And I suppose there’s not really much else to say without going into the very specifics of everything, but that isn’t particularly necessary. No matter how you slice it, a harem series is a harem series is a harem series, and it’s the parts unique to it that are worth paying attention to. Some comedic moments only made possibly by the setup aside, there isn’t much that is wholly unique to this series, as it seems firmly-grounded in doing things right more than radical new ideas. However, this makes the series work as an excellent palette cleanser between any highly unusual or fanservice-filled harem setups.
Actually, that’s another thing I have to credit this series for. Fanservice is at a minimum. Sure, we get some swinsuit shots, etc, but the worst we get is the hinting at Masuzu not wearing any panties, and that’s just a gag that pops up every so often. The viewer/reader doesn’t get to see anything, and they don’t overplay this either. With that and most potential filler out of the way, Oreshura only leaves its storytelling behind for people to see. This is a rare thing indeed, as it becomes a series focused on good writing instead of what contrived ways we get to see the protagonist become a pervert by accident like in most other harem series.
If it feels as if I’m struggling to say much, that’s because I am. This series’ strength is that it doesn’t do much that is strictly wrong, but rather chooses to side-step most of the pitfalls of the harem genre. As avoiding pitfalls seems like a stupid thing to praise and not falling into said pitfalls leaves little to criticize, there isn’t much left to say at the end of the day. Not even the delusional angle from Burning Fighting Fighter leaves much to say, as it doesn’t receive as much focus as in, say, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions!.
Oreshura‘s anime adaptation is available on Crunchyroll, and Aniplex’s DVD release of it is one of their more reasonably-priced disc releases.
Oreshura is mainly good due to the things it doesn’t do wrong rather than the things it could have done wrong. This is more a statement about how easily terrible a harem anime can get, but Oreshura is not a terrible harem series. It’s quite nice, actually, and the lack of absurdity is refreshing.