“I Love You, Shiraishi”
Sundays at 12:30 pm EST on Crunchyroll
Yamada does whatever it takes to unite the seven witches and makes his wish.
As has always been the case with Yamada-kun, the final episode is a bit of a mess but the end result bails them out. Getting us to care about Saionji was a tough sell. I like her in the obnoxious antagonist role much better. Showing the impact of her power with Miyamura’s sister’s backstory was much more effective, but again totally rushed and undercooked. I’m also not sure how I feel about the wish thing. Maybe I’m overestimating the witches’ power level but if you had that kind of ability just kicking around school you’d think they would aim higher than they did. I guess Yamada’s solution was the best way to go as no one really deserves that kind of power, so I can’t complain too much.
Fortunately the final moment with Yamada and Shiraishi validates our patience. I cannot emphasize enough how much I love it when a big confession is not necessary. It’s the #1 sign you’ve correctly built up a relationship. Sure Yamada still goes for it, but it was already a foregone conclusion. Shiraishi’s role as the aggressor without being too aggressive is perfect as always, and closing the series’ out with those two together is certainly the ending everyone wanted. If only it wasn’t so abrupt.
As I’m taking a moment to reflect on my time watching Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, I feel like my ultimate verdict is going to come down to “read the manga” – and this is coming from someone who has not actually read it yet. At it’s core it’s a remarkable romantic comedy with a goofy anime gimmick, but the adaptation leaves a bit to be desired.
It’s not to say the anime doesn’t have anything going for it. The art and character designs are pretty to look at, it’s well animated, and the directing has a touch of subtlety you might not expect from a bright and colorful anime comedy. The voice acting is top notch as well, particularly Saori Hayami’s turn as Shiraishi and, more importantly, Shiraishi as Yamada imitating Shiraishi. In addition to just being funny, it really helps sell the body swapping mechanic. So the presentation does make watching the anime a worthwhile experience.
The main problem is time. Even without reading the manga, I can tell there is probably 18-24 episodes worth of content crammed into 12. Plot points are given little or no explanation and most of the witches don’t get the screentime they need to develop their characters, making it hard to feel truly invested in what is going on. What makes it particularly painful is how well the first few episodes, covering the first 2 witches, are actually well paced and comfortable. So after getting a glimpse of how great the show can be, they have to step on the gas to make sure they fit all seven witches in the 12 episode limit. Throw in some relatively tame but very out of place fan service and Yamada-kun’s flaws become impossible to ignore.
Fortunately in the limited time frame the focus mostly stays where it belongs: on the main relationship between Yamada and Shiraishi. It’s an incredibly sweet, well written spin on the “opposites attract” RomCom setup, developing in a natural, non-confrontational way that is so much better than the petty bickering you’d usually see in their situation. Their refreshingly honest interaction is far and away the main reason you should watch this show, which brings me to my opening point: Yamada-kun has a great core story and characters that should definitely be experienced, but is the anime the best vehicle to do so? I think it’s worth watching and deciding for yourself and in the meantime I’ll be checking out the manga to see what I missed. Or maybe I’ll check out the live action version, nothing could go wrong there, right?
Yamada is both a mix of fresh air and disappointment, and it’s such a tragedy that I have to describe it that way. While the plot of the witches initially went along at a great clip, letting us get to know each new character in due time, the sudden shift to a witch of the week format upended a lot of the good faith that had been built up to that point. I know we often criticize anime for telling rather than showing, but these later episodes made so many leaps from plot point to plot point that it was impossible to stay engaged. We know this wasn’t for lack of content either, as there are several manga chapters that are straight up skipped on the way, some that give us the context necessary to understand later developments. So many unknown details get passed over as common knowledge to the main characters that it became overwhelmingly jarring.
Similarly to my praise of Sound! Euphonium, Yamada-kun gave us a main pair whose chemistry on screen was incredibly palpable. Yamada and Shiraishi make for a cute couple, and despite some of the show’s creepy raper vibes, the relationship remains one of equal footing between the two of them. As the ending started rushing onwards at its insufferable pace, the bond between these two continued to build naturally. It comes to a head when Yamada comes to terms with his feelings, giving the audience a payoff that feels well deserved. If there’s anything good to be taken away from this show, it’s that we do get some satisfaction by that final episode. The closure that the adorable rooftop confession gave almost made up for the other issues. Almost.
Yamada-kun will always be less than it could have due to the directorial decisions that ran rampant in its latter half. It’s a sad thing to think about that we can only wonder how much better it would have been given an extra cour. Sure, some parts were super creepy. And I mean super, super creepy. That alone definitely takes away from the show somewhat. Still, the character development we were shown proved that there was more to this show than its skeevy fanservice and impromptu makeout sessions would lead you to believe. At the very least, the Yamada-kun manga is licensed on Crunchyroll, so any interested parties can catch up on the chapters that were skipped, and continue to follow the adventures of Yamada and Shiraishi for a long time to come.