’Tis the season to be sparkly! Or, in other words, it seems that Christmas came early this year for shoujo fans, with not one, not two, but three shoujo anime airing this season, in the forms of Kamisama Hajimemashita, Tonari no Kabutsu-kun and Sukitte Ii na yo. However, quantity clearly doesn’t always mean quality. Or, to put it bluntly: I found the first of the three girl-centric Rom-Coms utterly lame in the ‘Com’ department (I didn’t stick around long enough for the ‘Rom’ part); I thought that the second was the anime equivalent of a headless chicken in terms of direction and characterisation; and I thought that the third was… well… okay. I mean, don’t get my less than kyaarific response lull you into a sense of indifference, I think that Sukitte Ii na yo is a solid shoujo anime and, so far, a pretty good watch. In a predictable sort of way. A bit like Kimi ni Todoke, but with more bed-hopping. In short, if you like downtrodden, but brutally (read: masochistically) honest damsels in frequent distress who are saved by the most popular bishies in school, who in turn, help said damsels to see the benefits of having friends and smiling more, then I think you’ll enjoy this…
Firstly, the opening episode did well to establish our heroine, Mei Tachibana, as the icily taciturn main girl with no mates who, nevertheless, ensnares the ever-smiley and awesomely hairstyled Yamato Kurosawa into wanting to be her friend. Cue the inevitable incredulity and bitching from Yamato’s male and female friends respectively. Sound familiar? That’s ’cos it is. However, what almost sets Mei apart from other shoujo leads is her impressibly unimpressed attitude to Yamato’s luscious locks and her most definitely impressive kick. Yamato is suitably kyaarific as the bishie with the bad side, which is conveniently a thing of the past, with his apparent ‘scars’ having no effect on his otherwise flawless current looks and personality. Add a random stalker who is almost immediately shooed away by an impromptu kiss that Yamato plants on the reluctant but subsequently smitten Mei, and the rest is shoujotastic history.
Thus, while Mei and Yamato aren’t exactly the most unique couple in anime, what gives this show a little more depth is the sex. Yes, you heard me. Sex, as is demonstrated by the other characters’ references to it, is an ever-present, un-sugar-coated undercurrent in the proceedings. From the big-breasted Asami whom other(girl)s loudly assume to be a slut, to always thinking with what’s in his trousers other than his brain Nakanishi, to Aiko the embittered queen bitch who tries to buy affection and self worth through sex and crash dieting… The show has a more adult flavour than you might first think. However, despite the fact that these kids seem more sex obsessed/ sexually active than should probably be allowed, the treatment of sex and its associated issues is tastefully done (well, so far) and has a refreshing honesty about it.
As is indicated in the previous paragraph, episodes 2-4 do better to develop the other main characters, with Asami and Nakanishi emerging on top in terms of the DAWW-factor, and Aiko in terms of the she’s-a-bith-but-she-makes-things-more-interesting-factor, and also the bishielicious Hayako to an extent as creepy counterpart to Yamato’s more genuine bishieliciousness. Thus, with the introduction of Nagi, Yamato’s bratty little sister (and cue Mei’s latent Mary Poppins side to work its magic) in episode 5, we seem to have most of our main players assembled, and presumably ready to provide more DORAMA in the latter part of this series. Clearly, the Mei-Yamato romance and Mei’s development from nobody to somebody are the collective focus of the show, but, overall it’s an enjoyable watch for those who like their shoujo with a bit of bite, with a variety of other undercurrents such as sex, bullying, self-esteem and friendship issues providing plenty of conflict to keeps things less saccharine than your average generic shoujo.
So, in short: it’s shoujo, but not as we know it. And it has sex. And great hair. And cats. Bored shoujo fans, what more could you want?!