If you’ve attended school before, chances are that you’ve gone to a library once whether it’s for studying, research, reading a good book, or just hanging out with a friend. Not unless like you’re Kazunari Usa of course, who happens to wander into the school library not by a chance to dig into a good book but rather seeing a cute girl deep in her thoughts. Seemingly set by destiny and fate, we later learn that Usa also (again by chance) happens to share the same dormitory of this girl. Her name is Ritsu Kawai and here is the enchanting story between these two characters of your normal life.
Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou (aka as The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior) based off the manga of the same name is animated by Brain Base. Coming from the premise, one should expect this to be a normal slice of life show. But what begin during the first episode isn’t as very typical as Usa encounter a local pervert named Shirosaki. Also perhaps labeling himself as a masochist, his meeting with Usa almost has him arrested. It’s a classic and inspires laughter given how much of a contrast characters with such an introductory.
The story itself is simple and straightforward but shouldn’t be labeled as romance tale. Sure, we have the nice guy (Usa) meeting stoic Ritsu alone in a quiet school setting. To add to the topping, we get a clear idea that Usa falls in love with her at first sight. There’s no clear word to describe the circumstance or what illustrate such feeling as it’s pure and natural human instinct. At the same time, there’s innocence as Usa’s feelings seems to be honest, sincere, and at times childish. Perhaps the rest is because Usa’s desire to explore the world by himself after moving out of his family’s house for the first time. The catch is that Ritsu is a polar opposite of his character. Whether he likes it or not, Ritsu is in love with books rather than seeking out a boyfriend or future husband. This sets a rather peculiar instance as Usa tries to appeal to her. But looking at it from a clear angle, we notice Ritsu as a character with resilience, a girl with innate sense for literature, and difficult to articulate a conversation with. Still, that doesn’t mean Usa should give him and throw it all away because his chance with Ritsu is always at hand when they share the same dorm. The problem? Some of the other characters’ interference and even Usa’s self-worth. And while the story initially sets up of what viewers may expect, the series hardly explores romance from a dynamic angle. The “will they or not” isn’t really a question that has answers so your patience will not be rewarded.
To sum it up easily, Usa isn’t exactly an appealing main character. He is just too nice and plain for a guy. And like normal guys, he fantasizes about girls in particularly Ritsu. His initial introduction shows him staring at her for several minutes in awe of her beauty and figure. It doesn’t stop there as he often deludes himself from reality and formulates various fantasies involving him and her in some sort of deceptive dreamland. Usa’s dream turns into disfigured when he realizes the lack of attention Ritsu pays to him. Its’ a rather hard counter to his desire but guys like him always try, try, and…try. And tries he does on many opportunities but the results aren’t always favorable. He isn’t exactly an opportunist and takes advantage of a certain situation though. Rather, he is honest and genuinely wants to get to know Ritsu and hopefully climb out of the friend zone. But most times, their relationship seems to be one sided. Being the bookworm that she is, Ritsu is in a fantasy world of her own surrounded by the imaginative ideas of literature while Usa is hopelessly chasing after her like a puppy in love. Throughout the show though, there are times when Ritsu realizes reality and appreciates Usa’s efforts. She sees him as an honest man who is always willing to lend a helping hand when she’s in trouble. These often extend to aiding her with a task, sticking up to her against others, and settling against her worst fears. To express sincerity, she says simple gratitudes such as “Thank You” and sometimes apologizes when she feels something she has done isn’t right. While this isn’t exactly a confession, it appeals to Usa’s confidence and makes him feel appreciative for his actions. It’s innocent, charming, and strikes out as what friends do for each other. Yes, it doesn’t qualify as a love story but it’s delightful to find how such contrasting characters can get along in the same place, the Kawai Complex.
Speaking of which, there are other residents there as well. And if you thought either Usa or Ritsu might be hard to get used to, then these characters will strike out as complete oddballs. From minute one they enter the story, it’s easy to see just how different they are. We have Sumiko, the dorm manager. As the oldest member of the dorm, she speaks with wisdom but also strikes fear into others with her sarcastic tone of voice when she’s in a bad mood. Being old doesn’t make her frail at all but instead presents Sumiko as a grandma to be respected. The remaining three members of the dorm includes the pervert Shirosaki whom he met before, Mayumi, and Sakaya. The latter two are lovely ladies with the looks and charm. However, they fall under the stereotypical frenzy of college girls. Everything in their mind is about dating guys and partying. This is especially true for Mayumi who is known to dating the typical “bad boys” and having terrible luck with men in general. For Sayaka, she comes off as a mischievous troublemaker. Unfortunately, almost all the dorm members becomes a subject of her trickery at some points throughout the story. In particular with Mayumi, she pours out her endearing “feelings” to the point where some might mistake her as a lesbian. It’s all fun and jokes but the show itself sometimes feels far too forceful to accompany these ideas. Some of the jokes could even be labeled as a fetish whether it’s Ritsu’s obsession for books, Mayumi’s desire to date men, or Shirosaki’s obvious masochism. Yet despite this, the show obviously makes fun of itself and appeals to life in more of a recreational form. Rather than focusing on deep relationships or often dealing with complicated drama, the show settles for a quiet atmosphere with ironic doses of energy. It successfully pulls it off without being dull with this cherry energy and credible realism. Every episode offers something new that explores real life concepts with tastes of eccentricity. A major focus on the show also deals with youth, a reason why Usa moves out of his former home and into the Kawai complex to build a new life. We see how his life progresses with these characters, and although they are depicted as uncanny in some ways can be attractive with their own appeals.
As the show often likes to have fun with itself, expect plenty of comedy. The word plays and gags are all over the place including its dialogues and references. The personalities of the main characters often pokes fun of itself as well with every given opportunity. Usa, perhaps the most normal resident of the Kawai dorm, often compromises himself with situations that seems to draw unwanted attention. The trollish moments Sayaka plays off and Ritsu’s responses to what’s around are also noticeable. Even Shirosaki gets some attention with the surprising attention of a puppy love crush from a younger character. All these are called a journey towards youth through experience, just like how Usa is living his newfound life.
Essentially, the artwork will probably stand out more as a an appealing technical factor of the show. The way it presents itself feels like a dreamscape with its decorative coloring. The Makoto Shinkai vibe may hit home with its artistic visuals that is glimmering with shimmers. Texts are often incorporated to enhance the experience of youth because people likes to explore ideas, and words are a centerpiece of that. Plus, the humor it brings out is charming. Character designs are also created to illustrate how diverse they are. However, some of them are designed to look stereotypical such as Sayaka’s college girl look with makeup aesthetics or Mayumi’s “mature” body. Usa hardly stands out with anything memorable about him and while Ritsu has charm with appearance, her personality can feel dull. However, her charm can come out explicitly when she’s wearing something decorative or putting on her innocent smile with sincere gesture. On another note, the Kawai Complex dorm looks normal without any glamorous features. It looks more traditional like one of those Japanese inns you’d visit during vacation. What it does have though is a girls’ section where Ritsu’s handy dandy kendo stick lies in wait for daring members of the opposite sex…
Credit to the soundtrack can be given based on two dynamics – the characters’ voices which enhances their image and the OP song which is well coordinated with imaginative coordination. For voice portrayals, Ritsu’s soft tone comes from the talents of Kana Hanazawa, well known for her work with similar characters. Mayumi and Sumiko also gets some credit for their voices to fit their characters whether they can be sarcastic or intimidating. On the other hand, Usa’s voice is dull as a rock while Sayaka has the mannerism of a fourth grader. Technical wise, the OST is moderate with some moments that are memorable when the capture the expressive responses of the characters or situation. Other times, it almost feels like it’s not even there.
Take this show as a story of boyhood and girlhood. We get a diverse cast of characters in a simple story, rather than multitude layers of love polygons. It’s set in a normal setting without any explicit violence or sex. And despite some of the generic gags going on, the show is a fun experience for its energy. Don’t expect relationships to develop in ways that tell a Cinderella love story. Rather, the show tells stories about youth and growing up with others who are so different. In the Kawai Complex, that’s something to be thankful for.