Tsutsui Hikari is an unpopular otaku just trying to get through life. Iroha Igarashi is a cute girl from his year who is “gaudy, sleazy, and disliked by the other girls”. When the two show up late to school one day they are forced to clean the school pool as punishment, and this chance encounter brings the two together, their relationship changing each of them in ways they could never imagine.
Unlike a lot of anime, Real Girl is based on a manga that has already been completed. I really hope that they use that advantage to either adapt the entire story, or at least to carefully choose an end point because they know what’s coming and which parts will be best to adapt. So many romance anime in particular end on an inconclusive will they won’t they moment, where maybe they’ve kissed once or said they liked each other and that they’ll see where their futures lead them. It’s not especially satisfying, so hopefully they can avoid that particular pitfall here. I have actually read the first volume of the manga and couldn’t get into it, but I found that the way the opening chapters were presented in the anime to be much more engaging so if you have had a similar experience this could still be worth checking out.
Of the two leads, Iroha Igarashi is definitely the more immediately likeable. She seems more misunderstood than anything, because although Tsutsui’s always talking about how he’s heard she’s such a terrible baby-eating monster who could never measure up to his beautiful 2D women, she honestly just seems like a kind of chill yet lonely person. It’s clear she has difficulty making friends (she can be rather blunt, which could be off-putting) so rather than trying to get in with the girls she seeks out romantic relationships with men that she then can’t commit to. Ultimately she just wants someone who she can hang and eat beef bowls with rather than going it alone. Tsutsui, on the other hand, is harder to appreciate. He’s an obnoxious otaku with a volatile mixture of superiority and inferiority complexes – he thinks that he’s so much better and more intelligent than everybody else, and harbours a secret loathing for other people because he assumes that they already hate him and think he’s a weirdo (which they kind of do, because he kind of is…) and because of that he’s only really got one friend. On top of all that, some of his rants towards Iroha and his obsession with anime girls can come off as pretty misogynistic at several points in the episode. Luckily by the end of the episode he already exhibits signs of personal growth when he tries to come to Iroha’s aid not once but twice. I’m sure that Iroha will be revealed to have her own issues, but for now they definitely seem quite an uneven pair.
Their relationship develops quite a bit in the premiere, which is good because by the end the two are already in an established relationship. I prefer it when a romance story is actually about the leads being in the relationship and facing the challenges that come with that label while growing as people, rather than waiting twelve episodes to see if they’ll get together (spoilers: they will) and then it just ends before we get to the actual meat of the issue. His inexperience and her reputation will put an interesting spin on things that could set this show apart from the crowd.
Another of the aspects I appreciate about this series so far is the snappy dialogue. Iroha in particular has some great one liners, but even Tsutsui can occasionally be funny when he’s not whinging. The script has a bit of bite to it without being overly mean, which sets it apart from some other romance shows that are either saccharine sweet or overly cruel to the point where you can’t tell why they’d even like each other.
The sweet, sugary art style from this episode works for the story it’s trying to tell, and even though the animation wasn’t mesmerisingly fluid everything remained on model for the most part except when characters were shown from a distance. However, it’s worth being aware of the fact that Real Girl is being made by Hoods Entertainment, who were responsible for the disastrous Marchen Maedchen from last season, for which the production fell apart to the point where they had to stop airing it a couple episodes from the end. This anime seems to mostly have different staff, but if production isn’t kept on track then there’s a chance we could have a similar situation on our hands here. Hopefully that won’t be the case.
I enjoyed my time spent watching the premiere of Real Girl. The two imperfect protagonists seem ripe for exploration; I can’t wait to find out why they are the way they are, especially Iroha who clearly has some sadness beneath her perfect exterior. She will move away, their romance will be fleeting, but hopefully the two can change each other for the better. I just hope that production issues won’t mar what could be a solid romantic drama.
- Well-done official translations with some snappy one liners – my personal favourite is “Actually, I live because looking down on people who don’t study keeps my spirit in balance”. I live for that kind of pettiness
- Iroha is a fascinating character and the driving force of the narrative
- Male lead’s ranting can veer off into some uncomfortably misogynistic territory