Masamune-kun is a tall, handsome rich dude with a hot bod, and all the ladies love him. Except, gasp, that wasn’t always the case! When he was a child he was overweight and a target to bullies, and even the girl he had a crush on, Aki, laughed in his face and rejected him when he confessed his love for her. Now that he’s a gorgeous, smart high school prince he’s determined to get his revenge on Aki by having her fall in love with him so that he can reject her in the most heartbreaking way possible. But is she already onto him?
So, let’s get right down to it: this show, through the lense of its protagonist, has some very weird, negative, and sometimes hostile views regarding women. Masamune is a narcissistic pick up artist who has trained obsessively for the day that he can finally get revenge on the girl who spurned him. Unlike some other shows that have a main character with a bad personality (e.g. Girlish Number, OreGairu) Masamune-kun’s Revenge doesn’t seem to try and challenge this idea through its narrative framing or the extended cast’s reactions to Masamune, nor does it do a lot to poke fun at his warped sense of reality by showing just how ridiculous it is. This is a problem. While many will look at this show and understand that Masamune’s worldview is ridiculous, others could find the messages that this episode espouses vindicate their own views.
There is a particularly troubling scene in the first episode where Aki gets attacked by one of the guys who tried to ask her out earlier in the day, who she rejected. Masamune knows that this is going to happen but does nothing to intervene until he can be her “knight in shining armour” because that way he can score extra points to try and make him go out with her. Later, the attacker apologises to Masamune for cutting him with the scissors, but not to Aki for trying to attack her in the first place like a huge MRA weirdo. I know she was kind of rude to him, but this dude is lucky that she didn’t press charges.
Aki, the… antagonist, I suppose, since that’s how Masamune views her, is no angel herself. She’s cold and callous to every guy at school, and publicly humiliates anybody who tries to ask her out. However, her humiliation is never physical and is mainly just lame nicknames or bringing up embarrassing things they’ve done. It does beg the question though – why would any of the guys in this show’s universe want to date her? The writer hasn’t really given us any conceivable reason except for the fact that she’s pretty (her only other positive quality we’ve seen so far is that she’s nice to girls) which just further stretches the inherent disbelief of the premise and stops the character from being more than a one dimensional caricature.
Despite how much I’ve ragged on Masamune-kun’s Revenge so far, there are a few positives. The soundtrack is pleasant to listen to and evokes the correct mood in each scene without being intrusive. The artwork is pretty, and the animation is fine. What’s more, there are also some solid jokes in this first episode! In Aki’s first takedown of a potential suitor, they slip in a light novel title joke that was a big hit with me, because despite how easy they are they never fail to make me laugh. There’s also a part where Masamune’s in his bedroom cackling over his evil revenge plot like a mad scientist, and when we cut to his family downstairs they can hear him laughing maniacally and their response is to happily comment on what a good mood he seems to be in.
Ultimately I don’t know how to feel about this show. It’s well presented and got some solid laughs out of me but at the same time I find the whole premise to be a huge turn-off. If there was more going on this season I wouldn’t bother with it, but as it stands I have nothing to lose by giving it a few more episodes to see where it goes. Who knows, maybe it will address Masamune’s toxic worldview. Dare to dream.