Jun 21, 2019
84DaysWithout (All reviews)
Imagine a teenage girl so traumatized by her perverted father that she develops a phobia of males. This girl is brave enough to transform that fear into a positive motivation - to attend an elite college and obtain an independent career where she can support herself in the absence of family.

But Ao-chan is not allowed to have that level of agency. Her ambition is instead made secondary to a forced, awkward, unnatural relationship with a popular teenager of unreal pureness who is a continual source of anxiety. This is to the detriment of her studies that are sacrificed at the altar of fickle teenage romance. The more she participates in romance, the lower her ambition to establish independence becomes.

It is problematic that this anime presents Ao as a character who must change herself to accept that men are a necessary component to happiness as a teenager. As if a boyfriend is something that she needs to obtain in order to be whole, when in reality nothing was really missing to begin with. She just wasn’t ready for a relationship at her age, and that’s fine. But according to this anime that is not fine. So we’re subjected to misunderstandings about phallic instruments, forced and awkward sexual tension, extreme anxiety and hyper-erroticism that is skewed towards the male gaze.

Some of the greatest romantic narratives feature partners who are equally prepared for a relationship and have as much to lose or gain as the other party does. There is then a mutual level of understanding between them and they grow through their experiences with each other. But in this narrative Ao is very clearly the one changing the most as a result of her relationship, undeniably for the worse, while stale male kun is for the best. He gets to date the super sexy socially awkward virgin girl who only shows her fun side to him. She is sacrificing her academic career to the extent of failing every single subject while stale male kun is shown to have no such decline.

Perhaps I would be willing to forgive this push for Ao to sacrifice her studies if the anime were entirely satirical of romantic pitfalls and never took itself seriously. I am not an unfun curmudgeon who doesn't appreciate humor - for some episodes that were entirely silly and focused on secondary characters (such as the sardonic best friend Miyabi) I was able to forget how offensive the premise was and chuckle at the absurd situations the characters found themselves in. But when the tenor switched to being dramatic, or the comedy was at the expense of a teenage girl who wants to be free of her family, is when I was reminded of the reality that Ao is actually being pushed by her degenerate father to hook up with an unknown boy before she’s emotionally or mentally prepared for it at the sacrifice of future outlook. More creepy than it is cute or funny.