Eromanga-sensei Review - Let's Talk About Himouto For a Minute
Guys, this is not going to be one of my better reviews.
I know when I’m out of my league. I mean, not only am I reviewing a show in a genre I stay away from in general, but this might be the most bombastic and unabashedly ridiculous submission to the genre since whenever it was first conceived. You know when you go skiing for the first time and you do the green bunny hill first just to get a feel for things?
Yeah, I took the lift straight to the double blacks on this one.
My normal approach to reviewing is going to be mostly ineffective here, I can tell already. I’m not even sure I can try reviewing it as a show. It’s…just an event, like a traffic accident or your computer crashing. There’s nothing to evaluate or pick apart. There’s nothing to analyze or interpret. There’s no meat here whatsoever. And all you can really do is just watch and hope nothing horribly bad happens.
I…guess I can try anyway, though? I’m still convinced this isn’t going to work, by the way, but when has that ever stopped me in the past? This week we’re looking at Eromanga-sensei by A-1 Pictures, a studio that, depending on who you ask, is either god tier or very hit or miss with their works. On the one hand, they did ERASED, Blue Exorcist, Your Lie in April, and Seven Deadly Sins, but they are also the ones responsible for GATE, Aldnoah Zero, and Occultic;Nine.
Anyway, let’s at least agree that Eromanga-sensei was in good hands productionwise. Say what you will about A-1 substantially, but they make some very pretty shows, and I guess that includes this one too. It definitely looks like a well-budgeted show with decent assets and designs. I mean, compared to the some of the crap I’ve seen during my time at Kotatsu Club, Eromanga-sensei is certainly a looker, and might be worth checking out for the scenery and backdrops alone.
And hey, for a show about art appreciation, that’s a really good start off of the gun there! Too bad Eromanga-sensei then ran smack into the first hurdle and kneecapped itself in the process.
I’ve been talking up “this genre” a ton in this review, and I think it’s about time I lifted up the curtain and told you what sort of show Eromanga-sensei is. The story is about a light novel writer named Masamune Izumi (Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Mob Psycho 100, Dungeon, NGNL and SAO to name only a few), whose novels are illustrated by the enigmatic yet very talented ecchi artist Eromanga-sensei, which is kind of like calling yourself IDrawSonicInflation on DeviantArt but I digress. As we find out in a first episode plot development so telegraphed I’m not going to call it a spoiler, it turns out Eromanga-sensei is actually his little step-sister Sagiri (Akane Fujita, Orange, Seven Deadly, this season’s Akashic Records, a bad magical girls show and that’s about all you’d remember her for), a very shy shut-in that never leaves her room for anything and only rarely talks to people when she’s not streaming.
For now, we’ll ignore the fact that I think the show blew its central reveal way too early and get back to the plot, which is about Masamune building a relationship with his sister, getting her to come out of her room and experience the world she had locked herself away from.
I’ll give you a moment to connect the dots here, but it isn’t too hard to see where this show is going with its premise. We have a word for this and it’s called “himouto,” aka the “I think my little sister is hot” storyline. The second arc of SAO did it with Kirito and Leafa, and if anyone remembers a show called OreImo from Fall 2010 (the full title of which translates out to My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute), then you already have a perfect idea of what’s in store for this show.
Yeah, see why I’m not the most qualified person to talk about this now? I know I frequently say a lot of genres aren’t for me or something along those lines, but I legitimately mean it this time around. Had this show just played its premise straight-facedly without the creepy incest angle, then I think I’d actually have a few things to actually unpack and talk about. But above every single conversation between our two leads hangs an awkward, uncomfortable air that plagues nearly all of their dialogue. Maybe their talks are cute for an episode or two, but this show is just shameless in what it’s doing on all fronts and I just can’t take my mind off of the atmosphere it’s setting.
And before you say, “Oh, SnYves, you’re worrying too much. They’re not even blood relatives, so it’s not nearly as unsettling as you’re making it out to be,” um, no. One, she’s twelve, and two, even if she wasn’t, that’s not an excuse. I’ve never had a step-sibling, nor do I really know anybody who has one, but I’d still imagine that it’d be incredibly awkward if they started romancing each other, seeing as how they are technically family.
That might very well be the one iceberg that sinks the SS Eromanga-sensei to the depths of the northern Unwatchable Ocean, but even with the creepy incest vibes played down (or, even better, just not being there to begin with), there’s almost no meat to this show to speak of. It feels like the writers trying to shoot for a brother-sister slice of life comedy show, but then completely forgot how to write the comedy, glimpsed one of the more fanservice-y episodes of NGNL as they repeatedly slammed their faces into their keyboards, and now just about every major punchline in the show involves panties in some way or another.
I’m fairly well known for my hyperbole in my writing, but I swear I’m not exaggerating here. Almost every line I considered laughing at in this show had something to do with girl’s underwear, boobs, or both at the same time. “Ha ha, it’s funny because you can see her panties!” only works as a joke so many times before it becomes monotonous, and as soon as I realized that I was only laughing at what amounted to base level humor, I had to shut the show off.
Look, I don’t have a problem necessarily with sex jokes in my comedy shows; Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid and KonoSuba are two of my favorite shows this year and they had more than their fair share of lowbrow humor bits between Kazuma the Pantie Thief and Quetzalcoatl’s not PG-13 wardrobe. But what those shows did, in addition to actually being good, was strike a balance. There are ways to be funny without having to constantly appeal to the lowest common denominator, and that’s what Eromanga-sensei doesn’t seem to understand. While I have to give it a little credit for at least trying to do some creative bits that don’t involve Sagiri yanking a side character’s underwear down, the writing is so flat and unfunny and the characters react so unnaturally to the show’s events that I honestly can’t think of one genuinely amusing bit to share with you guys.
I tried to get along with Eromanga-sensei the best I could, and for the first couple episodes I thought it was okay. Not amazing, but okay. The more I watched this show, however, the more I realized just how hollow and bare bones it actually was. The character designs and animation are uninspired and wooden, with no liveliness to be found in most of the scenes. Characters are often just standing or sitting around in a room and talking to each other, and nothing else. Very swiftly does House Izumi start to feel like a prison, and I felt relief every time we’d cut out to the bookstore selling Masamune’s novels, or his editor’s office, or his school, or anywhere just not in his house.
Between the unsettlingly straight-faced himouto themes this show presents, along with its incessant pounding of the same drum in its writing, I just can’t recommend Eromanga-sensei past the first episode. And can we talk about that first episode for a minute? Because in almost any other anime that’s an Episode 8 or 9 twist that usually requires a lot more build-up than what we got here. How excellent would it have been to see Masamune slowly unravel the mystery behind his illustrator’s identity? Think of the actually genuine comedic possibilities that could arise from this; Sagiri wants to keep her persona a secret, but Masamune slowly suspects more and more that she’s hiding something, and he could accidentally walk in during her streams or find out that he can hear his music playing in the background…
Instead, he drops off Sagiri’s dinner with a handwritten note, which Sagiri then (in what is probably the most unprofessional move she could have done) leaves her dinner and the note in the background of her webcam, which then immediately connects all of the dots for Masamune.
The only way this development could have felt more contrived, rushed or forced is if it was a Zack Snyder movie.
I thought the first episode of this series was good, but there’s nothing worthwhile for you past that point. It tries to get by hoping it can just repeat the same three or four jokes over and over and over again and constantly getting its audience laughing, and it wears out its welcome incredibly quickly in doing so.
Usually, the honorific “sensei” is reserved for published authors and artists of some sort of renown. With that definition established, I’m demoting Eromanga-sensei to Eromanga-san, and it’s going to stay there until it learns its lesson.
THE VERDICT: D-
Next time: Another list, technically