This is review number four hundred and fifty nine. This anime is part of the Summer 2016 lineup, and it’s called Hatsukoi Monster or First Love Monster. It’s a twelve episode anime about some age gap romance. Oh boy, let’s just read on already.
Kaho decides to move into a new town where no one knows her, and she falls in love with this guy that saved her from being hit by a truck. She realized she lives in the same building as him, and now she wants to be his girlfriend. The guy actually agrees, but Kaho didn’t know he was actually a fifth grader. So now, she must listen to her heart as she navigates the childish mind of her first love.
Taking the Pants Off
So, yeah, this anime exists. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen this premise before. This show is about a high school girl falling for a fifth grader, and that’s the punchline. I’ve seen this done before, because I used to review anime shorts and one of my fave is this show called Recorder to Randoseru. The short is basically about a brother and sister. The sister looks like a preschooler but she is actually in high school and the brother is a preschooler that looks like a high schooler. Hilarity ensues. Seeing the same premise done in a romance manga is a bit intriguing, but gawd damn, this show is just remarkably stupid. It is just really really stupid, and I had to see what the hell is up with the manga. Guys, the manga is a serious love story about a 16 year old girl and a fifth grader. It flows like a serious romance manga, and I had to stop because it was just uncomfortable to read. I then turn back to the anime, and I actually welcome the stupidity. Thank gawd, the anime spent a good fifty percent of its time talking about wieners and poop. It did hurt watching, but I actually does have good things to talk about here. Also, I’ll just lightly talk about the manga so that’s a good change of pace. Can you believe I’ve seen an anime that made the manga better, because the original source just didn’t digest properly.
Recorder to Randoseru
I think the first episode is good indicator of whether or not you’ll like this anime. It opened with a girl moving into a dorm and then she falls in love with a hunk of a guy. She learns they live in the same house, blurts out a confession and the guy accepted. They are now boyfriend and girlfriend to the delight of onlookers around them. The rest of the episode featured the girl adjusting to the fact that the hot guy is actually a fifth grader and he has juvenile friends. Hilarity ensues. I swear to gawd, the second half of the first episode just feature wiener jokes. You spent the remaining time watching the guy and his friend adjust their underwear, rub the wieners on the climbing poles, and chase each other with hands they used to touch their wieners with. It is perplexing stupid, and I actually had to stop watching the show. Something deep down just waved a white flag, and I felt like I could live the rest of my life not watching this anime. This is a patreon request though, and I am slowly questioning my backer’s taste in anime, so I had to keep moving. To be fair, the anime is structured pretty well. The romance is solid, the comedy is mind numbingly stupid and the characters give off a very strong impression. These are all things I like in a good anime, so my gut instinct did tell me something good is hiding beneath all this wiener jokes. I had to see manga, and learn what’s up.
Yeah, ok, the manga is a lot worse. The entire scene of the guys chasing each other with wiener hands isn’t in the manga, because it was a serious romance from the get go. A lot of the scenes from the original source still made it in the anime, but the show made the comedy more robust and I think I know why. If you read the manga, it keeps talking about a sixteen year old falling in love with a fifth grader, and that doesn’t sound right. While the joke has always been Kanade looking like an available route in Dramatical Murder, the manga plays the story very seriously. There were a lot of moments of Kanade coming onto Kaho, and the girl buckling at the knees. It does look cool, but man, the flavor is just too strong. The serious tone of the manga cancels out Kanade’s innocence, so it still tries to sell you a romantic scene between two people very much interested in each other. If you faithfully adapted the manga, I don’t think it’ll work at all. It just doesn’t feel right. I am having flashbacks of Usagi Drop’s manga ending and I am breaking in hives. I’m glad the anime production team also got hung up with the age issue and did something about it. They took the comedy and they amplified it. They toned down the romance by reducing the handsy scenes and reiterated Kaho’s innocence, and it does work. Studio Deen has competent people on its staff. Thank the great pickachu.
As I said before this anime had three things working for it. The romance will be first to hit you hard on the face. I don’t necessarily find the chemistry between the two characters good, but the way the show presents shoujo is on point. It features a dainty lead that gets easily swept up when a handsome guy gets close to her face. We also have a ton of stupid monologue about young people falling in love, and we have those giddy scenes of the couple being cute with each other. It’s not a love story that honestly intrigues me, but I appreciate the elements that were nicely honored. Akira Hiyoshimaru, the author, knows how to make a good romance manga. He overloads his panels with beautiful people, but he also makes sure their personality comes through. I particularly love how the manga focuses on Kaho and the many reactions she has whenever her heart skips a beat. It’s all so gooey and innocent that you want to cheer for her and hope she gets all the happiness she deserves. I have to circle back on the love story itself though, because it isn’t really that good. While they did their best to make Kanade a cool fifth grader, the wiener jokes just kills him. Every chance he gets, he is always portrayed as naïve, stupid and just downright childish so you never really buy into him being a suitable lead. I think this was done on purpose, because the “monster” in the title kinda alludes to another character that even the manga wants as the lead. Again though, I get it. I understand why Kanade had to be diluted as a character, because he comes off too strong in the manga. He is aware that he is hot, he teases Kaho a lot and the manga tries to make him the cool visual character than his actual age. That was the main joke, to be honest, but it’s not really something you want to see in an anime.
One thing I do love about the show is its situational comedies. A lot of them are related to romance and they’re often so ham fisted that they’re entertainingly bad. It’s often Kaho getting angry with Kanade because he isn’t a serious person, and I had to furl my eyebrows because what the hell did you expect from a child that still find wiener jokes funny? The anime goes through the motion of a romance story though. They would fight, they’d ponder about sh*t and then they’ll try to make up as they exchange sweet nothings to each other. The foundation of the story is really good, but the execution of the entire thing just repels me. I am honestly conflicted with this anime. I don’t like the story, but I love the hints of romance it presents because it does check all the boxes for a good romance anime. Kaho is a sympathetic lead, but there are just forces that work against the show as well. Let’s talk wieners.
The romance in this show is built well, but the comedy takes a lot of its time. I think in one episode, you’ll often be slapped silly with just the random comedy. I still remember the first episode featuring a lot of talks about private parts, the handsome fifth graders playing a game at the park and a lot of noise disguised a child talk. It was a jarring experience, and it was too much for me. The show would often devolve into nonsense, and it runs counter to the serious romance the manga has established. Yup, nothing ruins the mood than a bunch of kids shouting poop at each other. The show is pretty smart though, because the comedy does get better overtime. The randomness and the child play eventually ropes in a lot more people, and you’ll often see the serious characters play into the comedy as well. My favorite scene in this anime involves the characters playing green light, red light while they quarrel over Kaho and Kanade being a couple. You’ll hear serious dialogue about how the two doesn’t belong together and it gets disrupted by Kanade yelling “red light” to which the rest of the characters has to freeze mid thought. Yeah, explaining comedy is pretty stupid of me but I did grow to like the nonsense in this anime. It had a lot of brilliant things going for it, but I think the main reason the comedy worked is because the show amassed a group of really strong characters. Kanade and Kaho might not work as a couple, but she plays a great straight man for the fifth grader. Since you’ll never really know what stupid sh*t he’ll spout next, seeing Kaho react to the stupidity is really entertaining.
I often find myself perplexed at how good the comedy is. Often times you’re just watching the three hot fifth graders play around, but then you’ll get sucked into the dialogue. You just want to see more, and then the show would fall apart and it escalates to levels you’ll never see coming. I still remember when the serious characters setup a fake hotline for the kids to call, and they each took a turn calling. One of them blurts out “what does a boob feel like?” out of gawd damn nowhere, and the person on the end clearly wasn’t prepared for the question and hung up. Why am I explaining the jokes in this anime? Crap, I guess it’s just that good that I want to retell it in all its stupid glory. Honestly though, the romance and the comedy hinges on one important element that made the series a joy to watch.
All the characters are deranged. Upon first impression, they are your generic supporting characters for a romance, like the girl best friend, the other hot guy to chase the girl, and even that stuck up friend that doesn’t approve of the couple being together. It’s all standard fare so far, but the comedy slowly seeps in and madness ensues. Every character in this show has that one stupid trait that makes them a vibrant part of the group. I believe there is one that likes boys that dress up as girls, and he happily shows Kaho his collection of this boy-girl mascot that he creepily worships. The creepy guys is a good character by himself, but he does wonders once he gets to interact with the rest of the cast. The comedy is so inspired that the stupid boy-girl mascot eventually gets some screen time. He sung this stupid crab song, and it’s still stuck in my head. The true genius of the anime happens though when all of this crazy energy comes together. We have the kids doing wiener jokes, the shy guy being harassed, the sadist joining in on the fun, the creepy guy wanting to dress the others up in girl costumes and Kano, the poor girl, quiet in a corner just witnessing it all happen. It is amazing to watch, because the jokes aren’t formulaic. You never know who’ll be focused on at that moment, and even Kaho gets a few jokes in. The characters are so great that they made the show worth it to watch. I think the show got really good at the seventh or eighth episode, because the romance was toned significantly down at this point. The focus was more on the characters.
I’m not sure how it happened in the manga, but the anime’s love story got juicy because a true monster does appear in the show. I’m trying my best not to spoil it, but there was a hint of a love triangle happening in the show and it kept me intrigued throughout. The characters were so compelling that you often forget they were serious to begin with. They started out as part of the romance aspect of the show, and they were just roped into the comedy side. With that being said, there was one character that really stood out and I wished we actually see more of them. They just made the show fun to watch, especially with how they interact with Kaho and her fragile shoujo feelings. I hate tiptoeing around my reviews. It’s stupid because I’m pretty sure I’ll spoil it in the screenshots that’ll go with this review.
Takiyuki and Studio Deen
This anime has three credited writers, which is unusual, because you usually only see one person series compose an anime. You have the original source and the author as a co-writer already, so you don’t need more heads to helm the story. Or do they? The show is able to do a smart balancing act of respecting the original source and adding filler that makes the experience better. Given how methodical the chaos of the comedy is, I guess it really needed three people to make it work. I have no complaints. The show did a good job with a lot of its sh*t. I did reach this portion of my review rather quickly, and I guess that’s just the nature of comedy anime. There’s not a lot to dissect and review. I’m thinking of downsides, but there isn’t really much in this anime. It’s a solid show through and through. A lot of Takayuki Inagaki’s work seems to be from really old anime, so that’s pretty curious. He storyboarded a lot of shows in his career, but he is credited as the director for the Muvluv anime. It wasn’t good. I think I reviewed that show, and I didn’t like it. As a director, he did do a good job but he mostly just followed what the manga has already paved way to. I’m not complaining, since the visuals are pretty great for this anime. His director work isn’t that formative though, since you feel more of the author’s touch than the director’s influence. Now, Studio Deen is a studio I trust because they did a lot of BL anime for a while. They also lean more shoujo, so this does seem like a work they would like. They have a track record for being subpar though, and this anime doesn’t really move the needle. You can trust them with their romance shows though, and I was relieved to see their name behind this show. I just knew the show is in good hands as I watch it. I’m curious how they are doing now as a studio. They always had a solid fan base, so I’m exciting how they changed overtime. Also, holy sh*t, they released a third Log Horizon anime? That’s great.
Sight and Sound
Akira Hiyoshimaru’s manga is amazing. It has visuals for days, but he is still respectable of the shoujo genre. His story doesn’t waver despite the generous panels of beautiful people in his manga. The pacing is a bit fast though, as you’d expect from manga like this, but the visuals never let up. I freaking love Kaho in the manga. She just screams shoujo with the way she is portrayed. There were a lot of close ups, a lot of flutter moments and a lot of monologues to really get in her head. Akira’s manga shines when the characters interact and you get hit in the face with the main couple being cute with each other. From the visuals alone, you can tell the joke was that Kanade’s age didn’t matter. He will do what he wants, and Kaho will just take it. The Kanade in the manga is super beautiful, but also intensely sexual in the way he is portrayed. I remember a panel of Kanade in a bed, next to his recorder, inviting Kaho to get on the bed with him. The visuals were great, but it was too f*cking effective. You can bet the anime did a lot of things to improve the experience. I am getting ahead of myself though.
In terms of design, Akira’s characters are all amazing. I love Kaho’s simple design. Since she also plays the straight man, she comes off as a neutral character but her girly elements are apparent. She is frail, she is cute and she looks good next to any hunk in the series. Kanade’s visuals is jarring at first, especially with the gym shorts, but he is drop dead gorgeous in how Akira portrays him. The author also loves making big spreads for all of his characters, and you cannot help but enjoy the wonderfully designed characters. I love his clean style, and every character does stand out despite having a generic template to them. I especially love the fifth graders overly designed to highlight their eccentric nature. Now, to be fair, a lot of Akira’s awesome design is washed out in the anime. Kaho just looks dull overall, and the colored designs of the fifth graders look weird. I did see Akira’s choice of color palette and it was a bit too bright, so I don’t think there was any way to give true justice to the visuals. The show was still pretty close, since I didn’t really find the visuals of the anime lacking in any form.
I also didn’t mind the lack of consistent animation. The pacing of the show is pretty tight, but there is a lot of scenes that don’t move. They’re often borrowed from the manga, but they often look less impressive than the original. I would usually find the lack of animation a big problem, but the movements does get better during the comedy scenes. A lot of the goofy fifth grade nonsense is done through the animation, and it did have the intended effect. The shoujo elements of the story was also shown through the animation, with stills having flashes of different colors and the soft moments of the manga was given significant emphasis. Takiyuki isn’t an influential director, but he is a talented one since he captured the intention of the manga without actually focusing on the weird age gap. I also love the comedic timing of the show, since a lot of the punchlines are delivered through the animation as well.
I mentioned diluting the creepy age gap romance, and that was mostly achieved through the strong voice acting of the series. The three fifth graders had a hell of time playing around and achieving nothing, and their VAs certainly deserve all the credit. I especially love Tomokazu Sugita (holy sh*t, this guy played Kyon in Haruhi) and his deep voice for Gin. I am often taken out of the show because of how misplaced his voice is. He sounds like a villain, but he talks about wieners the most. Can you just imagine grown ass men voicing child characters with juvenile lines? This is a creative direction that the anime nailed beautifully. They got veteran voice actors to play as the fifth graders, and it was pretty sublime. That stupid easter egg is worth the price of admission alone. I didn’t even notice Yui Horie doing Kaho’s role. Holy sh*t, I’m mind blown right now. I believe there was even a running gag where the anime feature other veteran actors doing minor roles in the show. The stupid Renren character is voiced by a popular stage actor, and I’m pretty sure someone important cameo’d as the crab but I don’t know who voiced her. I am such a geek that I noticed this kind of sh*t, but I love a show where you can tell the staff had fun and this one is a good example.
The anime’s OP is “Innocence” by Shouta Aoi. This is the dude that played the Renren character I was talking about before. The song itself is pretty generic, but it does fit the show nicely. It also pairs great with the stupid OP song featuring still images of the characters, a touch of the age gap romance and even the fifth graders suspiciously being out of place. It does capture the chaotic nature of the show. The anime’s ED is “Kimi ni Sasageru Chinkonka” by Renren (Shouta Aoi). I think the song is about making crab broth or something like that, and it is pretty inspired. I love the rock format, because it is unnecessary. I also love the ED sequence of just a still image of the characters singing, but it zooms, pans and shakes as if it’s moving. This sh*t is funny, and I love the finishing shot of the rest of the band being the fish vendors in that one episode.
7/10 “The jokes is childishly stupid, but the execution of the romance and the memorable characters is worth the stay.”
Honestly, I’d give this a 7.5 but it doesn’t quite get an 8. I think the show by itself is pretty great, but it could’ve been better. I think the premise itself kinda dragged the anime down, since the age gap romance wasn’t that fun to watch. For the characters and the wiener jokes though, I say give it a try. I recommend it.
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