This isn’t the kind of harem anime that you meet out in the streets and be like “Hey how you doing? How’s the family?” This is the kind of harem anime that you meet, you look at it, it looks at you, and then it proceeds to chase wildly after you all the way back to your inexpensive residence, whereupon, […]
This isn’t the kind of harem anime that you meet out in the streets and be like “Hey how you doing? How’s the family?” This is the kind of harem anime that you meet, you look at it, it looks at you, and then it proceeds to chase wildly after you all the way back to your inexpensive residence, whereupon, after you barricade yourself inside, it sets up an incessant hammering on your door screaming “But I love you!!!!” while your neighbors peep out their windows and wonder which of you has the problem.
Kanojo mo Kanojo, or Girlfriend, Girlfriend, might be the zaniest harem show I’ve ever seen. I’m not a huge fan of harem, but this show had me. And it wasn’t because of the girls or the romance or the sweet moments—no sir, it was the devastatingly hilarious and cringy dialogue and the insane situations these people found themselves in!
Because, boys and girls, these people aren’t just in any harem situation. They full-on embrace the harem, from one crazy individual to the next!
Let me lay it out for you: the harem protagonist has no filter, and among the harem members, one is a raging lunatic, another is the kind of timid imposter you can’t find it in yourself to dislike, and the third is a bitch.
But apart from the insanity of the situation these people find themselves in, it’s the power of these characters that drives this show and makes it thoroughly entertaining. Each of them has superb design, great dialogue, and above all, top-tier voice acting.
I cannot say enough about Ayane Sakura as Saki Saki. Sakura-san is extraordinarily versatile in her roles, playing sweet voiced characters like Ochako-chan in MHA and Yotsuba Nanako in The Quintessential Quintuplets, but also playing characters with more forceful voices like Hikari Tsuneki from Seiren, Tomoe from Tsukimichi, and Solution Epsilon from Overlord. Here we hear the forceful Ayane Sakura, and it’s one in a million! Her raging tone hilariously shows off Saki’s incessant frustration and total confusion and discomfort with this bizarre situation! With all the craziness in this show, listening to Saki Saki launch into an embarrassed tirade is probably the crown jewel. Sakura-san perfectly enhances the cringy comedy of this show with her amazing performance.
The other two harem members are the quiet Nagisa Minase, ably voiced by Azumi Waki (of fame as Senko-san from The Helpful Fox Senko–san and Rem from How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord) and the completely intolerable Rika Hoshizaki, played by Ayana Taketatsu, famous for a myriad of roles like Nino Nakano (Quintuplets), Asuza Nakano (K-On!), Konenko Toujou (High School DxD), Yuzu Aihara (Citrus), Suguha Kiriyama (SAO), and Kotori Itsuka (Date A Live). With the exception of Kotori, there’s a common theme running through all those characters, including Rika’s character here in Girlfriend, Girlfriend. I’ll leave it to you knowledgeable and cultured readers to recognize or discover what that feature is.
Either way, these two add two different kinds of side-splitting hilarity to this show. Nagisa is the sweet and shy girl who has admired Naoya (ahem) from afar for a long time without getting up the courage to tell him (oh really?). Once she finally does, it disrupts the entire situation between Naoya and Saki, and Naoya’s straightforwardness goes into overdrive and takes him to places men ought not go. The hilarity explodes all over the place as a result of this insertion of Nagisa into the mix. Like, a mud-pie filled water balloon barrage explosion. It’s big, it’s messy, and you don’t know whether to stop your gag reflex or roll on the floor laughing!
Probably the most hilarious part of this character is Saki’s acceptance of her. This is part of the cringiness of this situation of course, but Saki not only tolerates Nagisa’s presence and love for Naoya, but she finds Nagisa so attractive and cute herself that more than once not only does she state that she understands Naoya’s attraction to Nagisa, but she implies she’s falling for Nagisa too! It’s so idiotic! It’s the goofiest love triangle you’ll ever see!
Then there’s Rika. Rika’s a b—never mind. Talk about an irritating interloper. This boob show suddenly appears and goes on a tsundere rampage that Rin Tohsaka and Asuka Soryu would gape at in horror! Her voice and dialogue will grate on you. Taketatsu-san does a great job making her voice about as irritating as possible. She never goes away after she appears!
It’s unclear (manga readers shizukani) whether Shino Kiryuu will join the harem or not. She doesn’t partake in much of S1 until the very end, when the secret begin to unravel to Saki’s best friend. Only very late in all this is there an implication that even the somewhat serious Shino might view Naoya with an eye of favor. Because before that, she looks at him like she ought to: as a monster in need for some serious slapping. I’m glad she got some more dialogue finally though: no one wants to miss out for too long on hearing Rie Takahashi. Speaking of explosions!
Naoya…bastard. After asking Saki, his childhood friend, to go out with him every day for several years, she finally decides to go out with him, and…wait, Hawk, stop, yamete. Every day? Yes you read that right. Several years? Yep, probably since the day he discovered what that little guy down there is for—hell probably before that. This dumbass says precisely what’s on his mind. Precisely. Let that sink in.
He’s a nice guy and all, so it isn’t all the way out there like you might imagine. But there’s no filter either way. Who the hell asks the girl he pursued for years if she will be in a two-timing relationship with him and another girl whose existence he suddenly became aware of yesterday? Who the hell then tells them that he loves them both equally? Who the hell then proceeds to tell them that her wants to have a threeso—never mind. Yep, that’s Naoya, the walking talking inner id.
It’s hilarious. It totally makes fun of one of the easiest character trope targets in all anime, the harem protagonist. The things he says and the situations they get him into will make you grit your teeth and squeeze your eyes shut in embarrassment! After a while, I knew it was coming. I’d sit there and talk to the TV, “Don’t do it Naoya you bastard. Don’t say it!” He’d say it. Only the girls would look more horrified than I would.
While making fun of the harem protagonist (deservedly so), Naoya as a character at least has something that most harem protagonists don’t: his straightforwardness and honesty actually make him somewhat admirable. We the viewer can see a kind of purity of heart in that kind of behavior. In other words, he’s somewhat more deserving than the average harem protagonist. We want the good guys to get the girls! And Naoya’s a pretty good guy, sexual fantasies aside. But even those he controls. He’s both extremely selfish and extremely unselfish all at once. It’s kind of odd, and actually speaks well to his character design. He’ll do anything to maintain his selfish situation with the two girls, but will then also admit it and do anything he can to make them happy. He even selflessly pushes away Rika’s advances to the very end of S1, despite sticking up for her when she needed someone to stick up for her. He’s an interesting and pretty satisfying harem protagonist for once.
Believe it or not, that’s basically it for the characters. You have a parent here and there, but either they’re not central to the story at all or they play their role and pass from our view. The story focuses completely on Naoya and his small circle. Harem, I mean harem. It’s a great set of characters! Between the design, the situation, and the voice acting, this set of characters is a treat to watch and hear!
Three things; it’s pretty, it’s faithful to the manga, and it does exactly what it should even if it’s not the driving element in this anime.
Sure Hawk, all anime art is pretty. Well, almost all. Here, the artwork is bright and colorful as expected of rom-com. Name me a desaturated rom-com. There probably is one, but you can’t think of it right off the top of your head. That’s because this is the kind of artwork we expect from rom-com. So there it is: it’s pretty, it’s bright, it’s shiny, it’s colorful, it’s rom-com.
One thing that really stood out to me: the eyes. A lot of this two-tone thing is going on right now (2021), replacing just pure darkening at the top of the eyes, and we see that once again here. But more than anything else, Rika’s eyes got my attention. They are the most fantastic green color, just a beautiful color. All the girls’ eyes are nice colors (Shino too!), but Rika’s really stand out.
I don’t know whether I should be surprised that the artwork is so faithful to the manga’s appearance or not. I know this varies by degrees in all adapted anime. If you like that kind of faithfulness, then you’ll like this adaptation.
What do I mean by “it does exactly what it should?” If artwork isn’t the driving force in an anime, it at least shouldn’t get in the way of other elements in the story and at most should enhance those other elements. For those following Ousama Ranking (November 2021), I’m so bothered by the art style in that show that it heavily impacts my gut reaction to the show. That’s artwork not being the main driving force in an anime and then causing a major distraction to everything else. On the other hand, you have Kanojo mo Kanojo here, and the artwork does a great job enhancing certain elements in the show. When you see the average look on Saki Saki’s face and pair that Ayane Sakura voice with it, you have an even better character than otherwise. Or Naoya’s sort of dumb-honest appearance. It’s all extremely well done in the sense that it supports the characters very well.
So the artwork isn’t exceptional, but it’s great in it’s own way, and I enjoyed the visuals in this show as much as anything else for what they did for the show overall. Let me finish this section with this compliment however: this is one of those shows that you could watch without any audio and probably get some genuine sniggering out of it. You could pretty easily laugh at even the antics these people get into. That’s not something you could say about every anime, comedy or otherwise.
Let me lay it out for you. Guy finally gets the girl to say yes. Immediately another girl confesses her feelings to him. His years of pursuing the other girl mean nothing. He accepts the feelings of the other girl. But wait, what about his years of pursuing the other girl? They mean everything to him! So let’s both go to her and ask if we can “two-time.”
Somewhere between vomiting rainbows and laughing my head off, this all works for me somehow. It’s situational comedy at its best.
I could go all kinds of directions with this. I could go all serious and be like “This is male-centric bs and the guy gets everything he wants…” and so on. That’s true, but that’s the way harem is anyway, one of the many reasons I don’t care for harem, whether it’s male-centered or female-centered. Second, I could gripe about the serious issues inherent to a living situation like this. Lastly, I could turn this into a commentary on bucking societal norms, and say the show is trying to make some grand point about society and culture.
But as you probably guessed I would say, I’m not going to go into any of that. If it’s there it’s there, and whatever. It’s a comedy. Comedy makes fun of stuff, sometimes in a non-serious way even if the content itself is serious in any other context. So I don’t intend to drag a comedy into a dramatic realm. It’s not supposed to be. It’s for entertainment, and there is where it will remain.
Because this show is wildly entertaining. The situation is edgy and borderline gross at times, certainly heavily fraught with sexual tension and the weight inherent with characters keeping an important secret. But it’s not dramatic at all. It’s funny, a bit edgy, occasionally heartfelt, and extremely cringy.
While I wouldn’t categorize this as cringe comedy, it certainly has that feel at times. Part of that comes from the situation. But even the situation is brought out by Mr. Balls of Steel himself, and his ridiculous character type and dialogue. The vast majority of the cringe that appears from show to show is from Naoya’s dialogue. He will say exactly what he thinks, and one wonders how he could even stand to think that in the first place. It’ll make you wince. It’s really well done by the writers, and accounts for the vast majority of the cringe feel in this show.
The story is clever, but one has to imagine this isn’t the first story like this ever written. It might not even be unique in anime. Harem will always be harem (apparently), that’s not what I’m saying. It’s the particular setup in this show, getting the two girls to agree to the harem situation, that’s curious but likely not completely unique. Still, it feels unique, so perhaps that’s all that matters. There’s only so many different ways one can style harem, and this feels like a fresher way to do it if nothing else. So I like it for that.
The opening is really fun. It’s snarky, snappy, catchy, all those odd words that we pull out to describe things like this opening. Two thumbs up.
One last funny thing I really like about this show, and something you see in certain comedy genres every now and then: all the characters are yelling all the time. I can imagine how this would be ridiculous in certain contexts, but in this show it’s perfect. It’s so overdone it’s hilarious! Naoya particularly is loudly declaring his unfiltered thoughts all the time, much to Saki’s embarrassment. She in turn will give it right back to him, getting in his face and belting out lectures that he very much deserves. Nagisa is the quiet one, but even she raises her tone several times. And Rika…yeah. Anyway, I like this part of this show.
It sounds silly to say, but anime should be entertaining. Right? Judging some shows, I wonder if sometimes writers and studios and such somehow lose sight of this. But that’s not the case with this show. It’s entertaining from the first minute and never gets old. Character-driven shows have that advantage, as viewers never get tired of seeing those great characters do their thing. This show takes full advantage of that aspect, and from the first episode to the last this show keeps your attention, keeps you laughing, and keeps you gripping the seat begging Naoya not to say what you know he’s about to say.
I mentioned this earlier, but there came a point where I’d be talking to the TV out loud telling Naoya not to do it. I rarely do that. I presume some of you comment along with shows, or actually have made videos of that sort of thing. But if I’m that involved in a show, that usually means something about it has really gotten my attention. Suddenly you’re just a bit more drawn into the world of the show you’re watching. And that’s hugely important in anime.
I loved this show. It didn’t touch my heartstrings, but it made me crazy laughing and smiling uncomfortably. On the spectrum of rom-com, this was further to the comedy end, and it did so very well. I am more than looking forward to the next season! It will be great to hear Ayane Sakura rage at Naoya again, and listen to him fumble with his unfiltered spoken thoughts. And we’ll get to see where they take Shino’s character, and as I mentioned, you can’t go wrong with Rie Takahashi. This is going to be a fun second season when it comes!