I am once again liveblogging a harem anime as I watch it for the first time. Because that worked out so well the last two times.
I'll be the first to say that Harem Anime is sort of like the comic xkcd: when it's either really, really good, or really, really, really bad. And it really as if when I choose something to watch on my own, I always choose the best stuff in the world ever (High School Dx D; Hagani, Sora No Otoshimono, Seto No Hanayome, Baka Test). But when I decide to liveblog blind, I somehow manage to choose the most boring, terrible things and I end up quitting before the third episode (Majikoi, Campanella).
So I watched ten minutes of this new thing before I decided to Liveblog it. And I'm kind of liking it so far?
It's called Shuffle, and appears to be your standard High School Harem-type thing. And since those four I described as “good” are also set in a School for the most part, that may be a good sign.
Well, let's dive in, shall we? You can watch it Here if you live in the US (it's rated M for some reason, but so far, this has yet to break TV-Y7).
For the first ten seconds of the series, my ears are assaulted by an alarm clock that could only have been forged in the fires of Mordor. It's the kind of sound you'd get if you were to throw a thousand bells into a wood-chipper.
Our protagonist tries and fails to turn it off, but the clock is just out of reach, and it looks like he'll have to get out of bed to end the agony. Luckily, a girl comes in to turn it off for him.
Oh, goody, it's one of these. You know what I'm talking about. The main character plus his close childhood female friend who breaks into his house, wakes him up every morning, cooks him breakfast and- wait, they live together?
Yes. When Rin's (Johnny Q. Main Character) parents died, Kaede's (Jill K. Obvious Love Interest/Harem Girl #1) folks invited him to live with them. For free. And Kaede still does all the housework, even though Rin should be the one doing it, seeing as he's basically freeloading. The fact that he comments as such does not justify it. Though I guess Kaede's obvious crush on him does.
And, actually, that's worth noting. Kaede is literally the first “main character's close childhood female friend who wakes him up every morning, cooks him breakfast and stuff” I've seen who isn't a raging Tsundere. Seriously, practically every other time I've see this happen, it goes something like this:
- Jill trying (and failing) to wake up Johnny by calling his name,
- Jill pulling his covers off, *
- Jill noticing that thing that tends to happen when guys sleep*
- Jill karate chopping him in the face for being a pervert *
Anyway, they walk to school, noticing that eight families have moved off of their block. We also learn that Kaede's father (her mother died some time ago) is overseas on business and as such she and Rin are alone in the house for a while. This is talked about at length.
On their way to school, they are assaulted by a guy with a baseball bat. He works for the Kadee's family guard, the Kitto Kitto Kaede. And he has a name tag with those initials on it, making every black person watching (myself included) feel incredibly uncomfortable. Anyway, he challenges Rin for besmirching Kaede's honor or... something, but Kaede tells him that they're engaged or... something. In typical anime reaction, he falls over. Then another guy comes out of nowhere, biting on a handkerchief and weeping. Yeah, I dunno.
Anyway, they run to school, just barely get there on time, and then have a couple seconds of conversation before realizing that they're holding hands.
Then Jane U. Genki Girl girl slaps Rin off his feet and starts flirting with him. This is Asa, who is in a higher grade (I only know this because he calls her senpai). And I admit, this flirting actually comes off as natural. She's obviously interested with him, and says as much, but he still thinks she's messing with him.
And then, we get to the scene at which I decided to liveblog this. Kaede is about to enter the classroom, but Rin switches places with her. He opens the door, and a guy jumps out expecting to glomp Kaede, but finds Rin instead and gets punched for his effort. Given that this is a harem series, I can guarantee that given the setup, everyone was expecting a girl behind the door ready to jumping out to hug Rin. So this is a nice role-reversal that made me decide to do my best to actually try to like this.
Note: From this point on, I'm completely blind as to what happens.
Midoriba, our glomper, has a deep heartfelt conversation with Rin and Kaede about girls, wherein Mido is really up-front about his crush on her. That's what I'm liking about this so far: THIS NEVER HAPPENS. Rich Burlew says that his characters don't make the best decisions because if they acted smart, there wouldn't be much conflict. It's like the reverse of that. Everyone so far has been very straightforward about their feelings toward everyone else, so the pitfalls of the standard Harem Anime stuff where I usually go “you guys are such idiots why are you so stupid” seem to be gone.
Anyway, Rin tells Mido to stop focusing on Kaede; there's plenty of fish in the sea... like that Mayumi chick! Except Mido doesn't like her small breasts. And who shows up but Mayumi, who basically tells him that she subscribes to the notion that “more than a handful is a waste.” Whilst placing her hands on her chest and winding about provocatively.
… I just checked; This Anime is based on an H-Game dating sim. That explains so much. Still nothing to get an M rating (I'd say it's PG right now).
Thankfully, someone brings up the new transfer student coming in, taking the focus away from breasts for the moment. And here, I pause because this really needs to be screencapped.
That's Mayumi and Rin, by the way.
And they're discussing the possibility that the new transfer student will either be a god or a devil.
… Left field much?
I mean... okay, I guess we're only about ten minutes in, so it's as good a time as any to introduce the concept, but I feel like they didn't drop a big enough bomb. This looked to be a kind of slice-of-life affair, then suddenly “gods and demons exist and we're all okay with that.”
Don't get me wrong here. Because High School Dx D is about angels and demons, and Sora No Otoshimono is about Robot Angel Genies. And they all started out in a slice-of-life way, gradually became more and more about the supernatural world. But with those, it didn't start changing until some big event occurred. Issei has his girlfriend sprout wings, summon a spear of light, and stab him in the gut. Tomoki has an Angeloid fall out of the sky, along with parts of a floating temple or... something. It's all a big flashy spectacle. Here, they're talking about it like they're inured to it. So I... didn't expect that, I guess?
Also, every named character thus far has brought up the fact that Rin and Kaede are, by all appearances, an item.
The teacher walks in and discusses an event from a decade ago called the Gate Opening. That's when gods and demons started coming to the mortal world. At this academy, gods, demons, and humans all live and study together and stuff. Also, her boobs bounce a lot. H-Game and everything.
Rin is like me in that he can never pay attention in history. Right now he's musing on what he wants from life. He thinks about all his friends; Mido who lives for girls, Kaede who lives to take care of him (both by their own admission, mind you), Asa who lives to bring energy and life to everyone she meets, and Mayumi, who- according to him- lives for pursuit of news. What is his thing? What does he like?
We don't know, because the teacher catches him gazing out the window and the bell saves him from some kind of punishment, but she calls him into the hallway to ask him if he'd ever met girls from the other worlds. He says no, and then she leaves, spouting general “you can do it, tiger!” cliches.
Also, the first eye catch for this is a little kitten performing Street Fighter moves. The second is a different kitten sucking on a phallic-jellyfish while a third one looks on. Stay classy.
At the end of the school day, Asa and another girl in her class, Kareha, come by to mess with Rin about shipping and take Kaede to a Cooking Club meeting. Then Mayumi comes in with news that there are two transfer students, and they're both girls.
How much do you want to bet that Rin ends up taking care of them?
So Rin goes shopping, not knowing what to buy because Kaede always does the shopping for him. He sees a girl with funny ears and realizes that she's one of the gods.
And I'd bet anything she's one of the exchange students, the other one is a demon and he'll meet her, too.
This girl is calculating which piece of meat is cheaper to buy. By gram. And I have no problem with this because I would do the same thing. Anyway, Rin is walking by and she asks him to decide for her which one to buy. After that, she leaves, muttering about a sale on Toilet Paper somewhere.
And she knows Rin's name, even though he never said it.
Then when he's walking home, he hears a girl singing in the park. She also has funny ears. They talk for a bit, and then she has to run off. She knows his name as well.
He doesn't notice how odd this is until she leaves.
So yeah, next morning at school, all the boys in the school gather to welcome the new exchange students. And these guys show up.
The guy in blue is a god, and the other guy is a demon. You should be able to tell by the ears, no?
For a fleeting second, I thought these guys were actually the students, and I almost declared this the most original, expectation-screwing harem anime of all time. But these guys are just the fathers of the exchange students. They go to Rin, indicating that both of their daughters are set to marry him. Or, more specifically, each of them wants his daughters to jump his bone.
That's Lisianthus (AKA Sia) on the right and Nerine the on the left.
And they're princesses of their respective realms.
And Rin is fiancee to both of them.
I love it when everyone's on the same page.
And to top it all off, back to the beginning of the episode, everyone moved off of his block because Sia and Nerine will be his neighbors on either side of his house.
So far, I'm liking this. Okay, so it's not exactly original by any stretch, but I'm pretty sure that there aren't any new ideas in the realm of storytelling anymore. It's what you do with them, how the idea comes to life, that allows something to be original. And it's done enough to set itself apart. The comedic timing is great, and I love how it played with my expectations thus far. I'm hoping that could continue.