Hajimete no Gal Review - Blacklist Night Came Early This Year
There’s a very good reason you don’t see me review harem shows on this website.
This probably has a ton to do with my tastes personally - well, actually I know it does - but after three years or so of literary analysis classes, I have this itch in the back of my head that goes off whenever I watch something. I always feel like I need to pick things apart and look for meaning in about every show I review. I like getting deep in regards to a show’s purpose, themes, motifs, imagery, and a bunch of other words you forgot right after you got that C+ on your AP Lang exam.
Just about all of my favorite anime series - Death Note, FMA: Brotherhood, KonoSuba, Gintama, Death Parade, Paranoia Agent, JBA - in addition to being great shows on the surface, also have a ton of thought-provoking and meaningful material to unpack and analyze. When shows come together like that, that’s how I know everything is being taken seriously. Every step is deliberate, each shot portrayed in just the right way to convey the message the show wants to send its audience.
For harem anime, that message is almost ubiquitously, “Here are some cute, incredibly large-chested girls who communicate only in sexual innuendo and gainaxing. Have fun, fellas!”
There’s hardly anything of substance there. It’s like these shows don’t want to be analyzed on the level I typically analyze shows at. Sure, every now and again something like NGNL or Dungeon comes around and I can get a pretty good kick out of it on a literary level in addition to its…more obvious assets, but 99 times out of 100 I have no idea where to go with these shows.
And just to be perfectly clear here, even though this should go without saying for all my reviews, I’m not trying to deride any of my readers personally when I review something I don’t have a great disposition towards. There’s obviously a decently sized fanbase out there, and if this is what they like watching and how they like spending their time, more power to them. Happiness always trumps anger and detraction, as I’ve stated before.
All of that said, however, I think the genre may have finally bottomed out this season, because…hoo boy.
Hajimete no Gal is…
It’s a show.
Before we start, I want to pick at the title of this show. Because Hajimete no Gal’s English name is My First Girlfriend is a Gal, which is a pretty stupid title considering this is a universe where Knight’s and Magic exists (what the hell is “and magic”?). Ignoring the fact that the last time the word “gal” was used unironically was at least fifty years ago, I’m pretty sure your dating partner wouldn’t be called your girlfriend if they weren’t, you know, a girl!
And trust me when I say this is one of the lesser problems I have with this week’s show, but we’ll get there soon enough. Meanwhile, I should tell you that Hajimete no Gal is a manga adaptation brought to you by NAZ, and no, you don’t remember that name. They did two shows in the winter and summer of 2014, neither of which were remarkably good, following which they disappeared off the face of the earth.
The story to put them back on the map? Junichi Hashiba (Shintaro Asanuma, Tatami Galaxy, Accel World, Tokyo Ghoul) is a lonely high-school student who gets coerced by his friends into confessing his love for his class’s sweetheart Yukana Yame (Yuki Nagaku, Akiba’s Trip, a side role in Sailor Moon Crystal, and a Shirobako knockoff). She agrees to be his girlfriend, because this is a harem anime so of course she does, and the standard dating antics ensue.
“Sounds pretty benign to me so far, SnYves.” That, reader, may be because you haven’t actually tried watching it yet. No doubt you’re curious as to why the subtitle to this review is what it is, and why it took me half of the article to get there, so allow me to explain.
Once upon a time, CSM’s Anime Club held an annual blacklist night, right around the end of fall semester. Everyone would gather in the viewing room, pay a couple of bucks for some soda, and we’d put on some of the lewder shows in our library (Cross Ange was one of the memorable ones). And yes, we used soda instead of alcohol, because the game was you took a shot every time boob physics happened, and nobody wanted to be blackout drunk three seconds into the night.
So, how does this week’s show stack up, you ask?
Four and a half minutes into its very first episode, Hajimete no Gal has unnecessarily and sloppily censored a girl’s panties, gainaxed at least thirty-one times in the OP alone, made multiple uncomfortable suggestions that the lead should look into elementary school girls, and heavily doused itself in the leftover himouto vibes Eromanga-san didn’t use from last season.
Shortly afterwards, we are treated to a lengthy, also nonsensically censored sex scene with two characters we hardly know, concluding with a transition that left my jaw hanging for the rest of the day.
I use the word “shameless” more times than I feel like I should in my reviews, but…can you cut me some slack on this one? There exists no other word to poignantly describe Hajimete no Gal. It embodies the word in every sense, with no intentions of showing growth, maturity, or self-awareness. This show gave me an actual legitimate headache that I actually needed to step out and take an Advil for.
At this point, I realize that just about everything wrong with this show are things that I talked about in length when I reviewed Eromanga-san a couple months ago. The jokes are one-note, lowest common denominator sludge that don’t show an ounce of originality or creativity. One of Junichi’s loser friends can’t open his mouth for an instant without making a tactless, creepy, horribly delivered pedophilia joke. Junichi’s thought process is conveyed through a bunch of little people in his head - fine - but one of them is a masked figure completely decked out in panties, and you’ll never guess what he symbolizes!
The love interests are about as flat as they come (from a writing standpoint, that is), with close to zero character. Hints at a more intriguing backstory for Yukana are suggested briefly, but that would mean sitting through the rest of the series to actually get to the payoff, and I know a bad deal when I see one.
The story isn’t interested in going anywhere special. The virgin protagonist hooked up with an incredibly hot girl. I’d be interested if this wasn’t labelled in The Idiot’s Guide to Writing Romcom Anime as Sample Plotline #3.
If all of these complaints are sounding familiar to you, then congratulations! You have now seen the entire ensemble of reasons I do not like watching these shows. They’re horribly written, poorly conceived, overly cliche white noise that I can’t begin to process, and Hajimete no Gal is no different.
If it sounds like I’m intentionally dumping on this show because I’m the cranky old critic who doesn’t know how to have fun, it’s because that’s exactly what this show is not. Oh, it tries to have fun with its audience, but that’s like saying Taco Bell tries to make its breakfast menu edible. The conceit seems to be that the single 15-24 male demographic will be able to project onto Junichi somehow as a timid, lonely full-time student that can’t seem to get a girlfriend, as is the strategy with a lot of other harem shows. The issue is, that sense of connection goes right out the window as soon as he starts hooking up with every single girl (excuse me, “gal,” damn this show is stupid) who so much as coughs in his general direction.
Let me pitch an idea and see if anyone thinks it’ll work: how about a harem show where our protagonist doesn’t get with every single girl in existence? Rather, he tries a bunch of one-off dates with the love interests, realizes none of them are really going anywhere, and in the finale he finally connects with the one girl he’s had his eye on but couldn’t really work up the courage to talk to. That’s the kind of touching, introspective plotline that seems like it would be right up the harem/romcom genre’s alley! Is it too much to ask we get a non-cliche and somewhat unique storyline in what is already a pretty bare-bones genre?
“What was that?” yells Hajimete no Gal. “Sorry, we were busy giving the loli character impossibly large boobs for someone of her stature. We have to justify the creepy incest and pedophilia vibes somehow!”
And to reiterate, I’m not always this grumpy of a person. I really do not mind when shows take a turn for the lewd. Fanservice is not necessarily a bad thing in anime; when used correctly it can punctuate cute scenes, reinforce good punchlines, and, well, keep the audience engaged at the lack of a better expression. When I think of fanservice done right, I think of NGNL. Recall that Episode 6 had its female leads completely naked for over half its runtime, and yet, not only is it the eleventh most popular show of all time according to MAL, it’s rated at an 8.44, putting it above some classic stuff like Toradora!, Angel Beats!, Ouran, and Ghost in the Shell.
The primary difference between NGNL and something like Hajimete no Gal, however, is that although NGNL had a ton of fanservice, it didn’t dominate the show. It was also telling an engaging, striking story with excellent, not-always-sex-related humor and interesting, varied setpieces to compliment.
Hajimete no Gal, meanwhile, is not interested in doing anything like that, and holy hell does it show. The writing is terrible, the jokes are terrible, the art and animation are probably way better than they appear but the horrendous censorship make it look terrible, the plot is generic and also terrible, the characters don’t leave any impact at all apart from their cup size and their terrible senses of humor, and there’s almost nothing of merit left once you strip away all the terribleness this show wraps itself in like a mummy made out of R-rated fanfiction and used toilet paper.
It’s shallower than an inflatable kiddie pool and thicker than a concrete milkshake. I’d rather be chased around my apartment by a swarm of hornets than continue watching this abomination. I probably put more effort into writing these insults than the writers did with this entire show.
And if this the genre of show that you enjoy watching for whatever reason, then that’s perfectly fine. I don’t like to judge people or their tastes.
But that courtesy does not extend to the shows I have to watch on a weekly basis, and Hajimete no Gal has to be one of the worst shows to come out this year.
THE VERDICT: F
Next time: I put on my video game gloves