It’s fairly obvious to Terui Chiaki that her classmate Ajikawa Yoshio has a crush on her. He is completely not boyfriend material in her eyes and, even if he was, Chiaki already has a boyfriend. Their mysterious teacher Mr. Yamada sees this relationship between the two students and offers an experiment. He is able to make copies of people and objects and does so with Chiaki, creating a copy of her, except the copy has no knowledge of her boyfriend. Yoshio will hit on the Chiaki copy, who is named Koaki, and he'll try to make her fall in love with him. After a specified amount of time, the copy and original will be combined back together and which ever love is stronger between the current boyfriend and Yoshio will overwrite all other emotions. So this love experiment begins and both Chiaki and Koaki, being the same person, thinks Yoshio has no chance in hell but with each passing day, some feelings begin to bubble.
As much as I'm a sucker for the romance genre even i have to admit they are a source of tedium through common cliches and contrived drama especially in the face of love triangles. After a long familiarity with said contrivances Uwagaki, a sci-fi slice of life romantic dramedy(if thats even a thingl), acts as a breath of fresh air utilizing one of the most unique ideas of a love triangle that perfectly juggles comedy and drama that actually feels warranted.
The premise drips with potential from the very first chapter. The main character Ajikawa has been in love with his classmate Chiaki for a
long time, Chiaki however already has a boyfriend kazuo whom shes loyal to, and shoots down Ajikawa's feelings before he even gets the chance to confess. Overhearing Ajikawa getting shot down is the teacher Mr Yamada whom posses many magical/sci-fi abilities. He offers Ajikawa a proposal then copies Chiaki into a separate and identical entity (later named koaki) but without any memories of Chiaki's boyfriend, If Koaki falls in love with ajikawa and that love outweighs chiaki's love for her boyfriend then the 2 will combine into 1 with the feelings for ajikawa overwriting the feelings for the boyfriend as well as vice versa if the feelings for the boyfriend are stronger than feelings for ajikawa.
Thankfully this premise is not wasted, instead of focusing on a romantic tug of war between the 2 couples it instead decides to lets the 2 relationships act as their own individual stories intertwined with each-other free from malice of competition, in fact the relationship between both parties are encouraged and supported by one another with 0 attempts to hinder. This route makes the characters way more sincere and generally lovable as they dont force any malice of ill content brought on by competition but rather lets the relationships take the natural course of development allowing more dynamic and ironically natural drama real couples may face despite its sci fi elements.
The strongest aspect of uwagaki comes in the form of its writing, to put it bluntly, it cuts the BS and gets the point. In other stories there'd be some development only to be hindered by forced misunderstandings, characters halting due to embarrassment of their predicament, or interruptions which only reset possible developments in character relationships, Uwagaki has NONE of this, sure there is some embarrassment after certain actions but it never does the reset to development and is always moving foreword. The problems characters face aren't forced and it delves into territory such as what it means to have unrequited love, the results of being in love with 2 people but favoring one more than another, and one of the most satisfying is how it addresses head on how circumstance plays into the characters lives/relationships. The opening scene where Chiaki shoots down Ajikawa's feelings is a great example of how the series writing is performed, Blunt and doesnt sugar coat the obvious and even the not so obvious. Its not a psychological story but it delves in what the characters are thinking, their motivations, and their feelings as well how they feel in the face of the idea of one of the 2 girls being overwritten which is handled very maturely and feels considerably darker in comparison to the other themes expressed within the story without feeling forced.
The characters are a highlight in the series especially because of the previously mentioned lack of malice or rivalry between the characters, In fact the most interesting relationship is between Chiaki and Kaoki, the 2 being the same brings out an interesting dynamic in the dialogue as they know mostly everything about each other whilst sharing similar personalities but also delves into how the 2 begin to separate and establish themselves as individuals from one another brought on by different experiences which is handled excellently especially in the later half of the story. The main character is basically your generic timid romance MC, however unlike most he actually develops as a character and grows a backbone as the series goes on, establishes clear and justifiable reasons for his feelings towards chiaki/kaoki and later in the series takes some very noble and ballsy moves youd never see out of many of his fellow archetypal characters in other series. Hes a character who in my eyes was just your standard and hard to like protagonist but then transforms into a competent and developed main character who takes the initiative in situations. Hes not exaggerated through some over the top personality to make him likable and while his true personality may be kind of bland that what honestly makes him more relatable in the end, hes a normal guy and actually feels like it, this can be said for all the characters with the exceptions of the possibly supernatural teacher as well as one off comedy characters. The characters feel real and face believable obstacles which is not something i can say for many romantic slice of lifes.
One thing to note about the story that may turn off some is how the final events of the story transpire. While i personally found the finale to be perfectly fine with its typical transitions between comedy and drama and even to the ending being a very satisfying and conclusive experience, I do believe there will be some that will find the final events to be jumping the shark. The series does begin to get a bit more over the top near the end as it does begin to put alot of context into its previously unexplained sci-fi elements as well as add a bit of danger to the situation.
Those who have found frustration with how the romance formula plays out should definitely take the time to read this as well as anyone who just likes the genre in general. uwagaki may not be groundbreaking by any means and may suffer from occasional bouts of cheesiness, but none of that stop it from standing out from the rest with a clever premise, great tonal shifts, lovable characters, and a all short but sweet experience.