Jun 1, 2013

Anime Review: Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru

OreShura logo/titleYears and years ago I remember being an extremely hardcore Tenchi Muyo! fan, specifically the original OVA. At the time, I was busy admiring the suave Kagato, digging the funky trees-in-space sci-fi, or feeling so badass because I saw the uncut version where you could see their titties (hey, man, I was pretty young). The fact that it was a harem anime went mostly over my head — I mean, it had so much else to focus on.

These days, your typical eroge-turned-harem-anime are a dime a dozen and, in most cases, predictable, unoriginal, and above all bland. Some clueless d-bag, usually in high school, who over the course of several episodes manages to snag several wildly different cliché girls all without noticing or trying. Beyond the fact that the writers aren’t even usually trying to come up with anything new, the whole charade is just silly and embarrassing. The harem genre is obvious wish-fulfillment and its knee-jerk doinkiness leaves me feeling ashamed to be an anime fan.

But every now and then you get a show that, while exhibiting harem qualities, manages to go beyond the tropes. It offers an actual story, likable characters, or other things like action and mystery. Like Tenchi Muyo!, the harem part becomes so much a minor quality next to all the rest it has to offer. These shows prove to me that harem animes aren’t inherently dumb or despicable, that they can be good, great even, rising above the rubbish.

The four main girls in OreShura standing side by side in a classroom each holding a notebook and wearing their school uniforms

OreShura is not that show.

Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru (lit. My Girlfriend and Childhood Friend Fight Too Much) should clue you in that it isn’t a great harem by the name. It’s much too long and it’s inane. Here’s the premise: plain high school boy Eita is blackmailed by the school’s most beautiful girl, Masuzu, to be her boyfriend. That’s right, the poor guy is forced! To be a fake boyfriend! To the school hottie! Meanwhile, his female childhood friend dotes on him constantly, saying everything but the words “I want to be your girlfriend, not her!” but of course he sees her as basically a sister. Later, we get a girl who’s convinced she and him were lovers in a past life… you know, when he was a dragon knight and she was a princess. Lastly, we get a girl who is brash and constantly hot/cold to him (so, yeah, your average tsundere), but hey why not have four girls fawning on him? Actually, that last girl I kinda liked… until she turned into an insane creepy stalker.

Masuzu turns to face Eita and Chiw, seen from the back, a as they walk home from school in the orange evening light

A pastel feast of syrupy visuals with quite a good budget makes for a delightful sight, and it does just enough with the cinematography to be competent and enjoyable despite never straying far from “tried-and-true”. It’s certainly good looking and it sounds okay, too. Honestly, this helps the enjoyability immensely.

Chiwa eating rice happily with chopsticksEita raises his fist dramatically, seen from above, with a yellow crayon-like outline of knight's armor overlaying himIt’s too bad, then, that the characters are a mix of dumb and despicable for the most part (as I’ve already basically covered). Thankfully, there is enough above average humor to hold this show together, and I have to admit the cliché childhood friend thing hooked me like the sappy sea bass I am (that makes me a Chiwa-bro, I guess). Plus, those nice visuals I mentioned do make for a healthy amount of moe-pandering which is still deliciously cute a lot of the time even if it’s ordinary and uninspired.

For all of the really exasperating harem bullshit, the show is actually quite funny. The brazen bitch Masuzu is ruthless and scheming, using a notebook she found of our boy Eita’s old delusional journal entries as leverage. His embarrassing stories prove to be full of cringe and win, with lots of nods to other anime and general boyish fantasy. Himeka, the girl who believes they dated in a past life, exists purely for comedy as her delusions go far beyond his, coupled with her generally quiet eccentricity. And Ai, the tsundere-turned-stalker, is wild and random and lots of fun.

Ai looks away at the camera dismissively as Chiwa frowns at her angrily, while Himeka tends to Eita in the corner as he rubs his injured head

Additionally, the show really seems to be winking at times, almost overtly by the end. It knows it’s a token harem, and while it never uses this to really break out of the genre it exists within at all, it does use this for a lot of meta-humor late into the series (courtesy mostly of Eita’s aunt and guardian). There are attempts to introduce a bit of sweetness and drama here and there, which might have worked if it were more serious about it. But the constant silliness and fighting over him prevents these not-awful attempts from ever amounting to much. Too bad, too, because the ending shows that they could have told a better character drama if they wanted to.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that OreShura isn’t all bad. If you want a fun diversion and won’t blow your brains out over the facepalming stupidity of the plot and characters and so on, well… you just might have a chucklin’ good time like I did. That said though, even with solid comedy chops and a pretty good animation budget, it’s still a dumb harem show. For me, the pros only sort of outweighed the cons.

As of this writing, you can watch OreShura for free on Crunchyroll.

And, because I’m such a dweeb, here’s some bonus Chiwa:

Chiwa and Eita walking to school in the bright, clear morningChiwa and Eita walking, seen from above and to the side, as Eita rambles on annoyed while Chiwa watches him sheepishly

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