A flame of dark brilliance burns within my right hand. Let the Gates of Hell themselves swing open. Unleash! Dark and Dark! (Or, you know, something like that).
What’s the Story?
Five high schoolers get superpowers. Hijinks ensue.
Yeah, this series isn’t exactly plot heavy. Basically five kids get powers completely out of the blue. Yes, I know we meet a 6th character with powers in the first episode, and I don’t care if she’s constantly referenced and appears in the end song, she only shows up in about four episodes. So if the series isn’t going to treat her as a proper main character, neither am I (which is a shame, ‘cause I really liked her, and her second episode is really sweet and heartbreaking).
This is a comedy series, so you have to go in knowing that. Don’t expect some superpowered brawls between near god-like beings, nor are you to expect a dark study of human nature when corrupted by power. The last episode pretty much sums up this series’ approach to superpowers. Powers aren’t meant to hurt people, or even make you happy. Superpowers are cool, and that’s all they need to be. Can I just say how refreshing that idea is. There are times (only a few I admit) where I just get tired of all the drama with superpowered characters, and just wished they’d have a little more fun. That’s what this series is, pure, undiluted fun.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t any drama in this series. There is another story working in the background that works to explain where these superpowers came from, and it is criminally underused. Seriously, it adds about a dozen characters to the series that we only get to see once or twice. I want to know what was going on with them, I want to follow them and see where their story leads. And our five heroes do get mixed up in a couple of superpowered battles, though to say these generally have an unorthodox ending is to basically sum up the series. It likes to give you a typical situation, then throw its arms up and go “Nah! Just messin’ with ya!”
I’ll give episode 2 as an example. In that, one of the characters receives a letter from Andou (our lead male) and misinterprets it as a love letter. This leads to the usual hijinks, but then, at the end, Andou explains the mistake to the girl. I mean…he…she…this does not compute. A character sits another character down to explain a misunderstanding before it gets out of hand? That’s not how this is supposed to go. Surely this is meant to be some kind of running gag, or maybe the girl will turn into the stalker stereotype we see in anime. I can do nothing but applaud this fine story-telling here (it also helps that this is one of the saddest scenes in anime the autumn season).
Speaking of things to applaud with this series, the award for most jaw-drop inducing performance goes to the voice actress for Hatoko, in the episode where she calls out Andou on all his nerdy nonsense. It’s about five minutes of non-stop monologue, getting more and more out of control as she goes along. You feel the character’s buried frustrations and pain just pouring out of her like a tidal wave. It’s…it’s just, like I said, jaw-dropping to listen to. I wouldn’t be surprised if she needed an oxygen mask after performing it. If she did all of that in one take, give the girl an Oscar or something.
That just about brings me to the part of this anime that I am really not fond of. That’s the harem aspect. This is entirely a personal preference of mine. I just prefer stories with couples, where I can get invested in a relationship and watch romance blossom. I’m not so keen on stories where everyone is lusting after one character. For one, why should I get invested in relationship that may never happen? For two, I know this is a story about teens with superpowers, but really? Five nice girls and a kid all fall for the exact same otaku goofball? Sorry, I’m not buying that.
It’s not so bad in the first half of the series, it kind of plays with the angle that they’re all just friends and just care about one another in that way. That was fine. One of the girls clearly has feelings for Andou, but covers it up by constantly fighting with him. That’s ok (a little stereotypical, but ok). The little kid has a schoolgirl crush type thing on Andou. I can accept that (as long as Andou keeps pretending he doesn’t notice and keeps her as a friend only, I can live with that). A love triangle forms between Andou, the first girl and his childhood friend. Ok, we’re pushing it, but you’re going for love triangle drama, I can roll with that. Then, screw it, everyone else jumps aboard the Andou train and that’s it I’m calling time out. You’ve gone too far now series. It wouldn’t be so bad if this kept in the background, was just kind of a series of running jokes, but no, this is a main focus of what passes for plot in this show, and I’m sorry it’s just not my thing. I will gladly ship Andou and Tomoyo, but I can’t really see him with anyone else. The others girls are all nice, and while I certainly feel their affection for Andou, I don’t see anyone where that crosses over into love, in my eyes at least.
I like all of the characters. It’s not like they’re all meticulously crafted people with deep back stories and motivation. No, they’re just nice people who are funny and fulfil their roles. Andou is probably the most stand out character. One part obsessed nerd, one part Gary Sue, one part over the top idiot, but in a fun way. I don’t mean the Gary Sue in a bad way either. Ok, he’s not exactly perfect, he has a tendency to show off which usually ends in him falling flat on his face, but he just has this perfect, wholesomeness that I feel is purely there to make all the girls fall in love with him. Every time he gives one of his speeches about his ideology, you can just see all the girls blushing, and starting to swoon, and I’m still not buying it. When he’s being nerdy and over the top, he’s really funny, and it’s not like the speeches turn me off, it just reminds of the harem stuff.
This series is about the fun of having superpowers, yet surprisingly the superpowers take a backseat to harem drama and hijinks. If you like that kind of thing I’m sure you’ll love this series. Even if not, there is a joy to this series that is simply infectious.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.