A common idea you’ll see around this week is that this anime season was very lackluster. While there was nothing truly bad, there was no heavy-hitter or show that really took off. This is mostly due to delays because of the pandemic, and while it sucked, it also gave people, myself particularly, a chance to take a breather. It also let me take a look at the harem and ecchi genre, and two shows this season have reminded me why I love these shows so much. We’ll be talking about both of these this week, so after the cut lets take a dive into the first series: Girlfriend, Girlfriend.
To understand the harem genre, beyond the knee-jerk reactions of people, is that they are at the core, absurdist comedies. I’ve banged this drum when I’ve discussed several shows, but it bears repeating. Harems, from tip to toe are shows that derive enjoyment from the absurdity of its concepts. The idea of a single guy being the object of affection for multiple girls is hilarious, and watching them bounce off each other makes up most of the comedy. It works because people understand that if such a thing was attempted in real life, it would fall apart pretty quickly. There is a reason why School Days‘ ending is so legendary. Throw a bunch of teenagers together and try to make a relationship like that work, and you’ll be saying ‘nice boat’ too.
Which is what G/G gets its success from. While it does pay some lip service to the idea and concepts of its premise. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It allows the absurdity of it’s plot, a high school boy trying to date two girls at once, to just exist. There is no grand message, or attempt to play it seriously, but to let the insanity of attempting to make it work just fall into place. You aren’t watching the show for the animation (it isn’t that good) or the fanservice (none except for some decently drawn butts), you are watching it for the character reactions.
And the character reactions make the show. While nothing on the scale of say Love is War, the cast of G/G is a riot and their reactions to the relationship make the show. Whether it is Naoya doing whatever he can to try and be a good boyfriend, Saki thinking everything is complete bullshit, Nagisa desperately trying to maintain the ‘number 2 spot’ or would-be YouTube star Rika trying to get in on the action. It is one hilarious scene after another and lines like “the people come for the cleavage!” or “Is he going to be a three timer?” had me rolling in tears, because of how insane this story was. But it was also really wholesome and earnest. I may not believe such a thing could work in real life, but there are some people who might and seeing these three teenagers, the confused and bundle of emotions they are, trying to make their love and romance work was pretty compelling. And for a show whose animation budget bordered from ‘meh’ to ‘ugh’, that’s quite something.
To many, Girlfriend, Girlfriend will be seen as a discount knock-off version of Kaguya-Sama: Love is War. In many ways that can be true, and it is an anime that doesn’t have an inkling of that show’s greatness or quality. But as a harem fan, one who deeply loves this genre. Who truly believes that great things can come from it, G/G was a reminder of those feelings and then some. Not the best show by any means, but one that wore its heart on its sleeve and didn’t run away from what it was, instead embracing the absurdity with both hands. It has my respect for that, and has made me fall in love with harem all over again. Give it a look for yourself if you are searching from a decent rom-com and see what you think!