Alternative title(s): Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui, It’s Too Creepy to Call This Love
Manga Adaptation by Nomad
Streaming on Crunchyroll
A high school girl makes the extremely ill-advised mistake of saving a businessman from falling down the stairs. Fully convinced that this means they are destined to be together, the man then proceeds to bother, harass, stalk and proposition her for the remainder of the episode and I can only imagine the rest of the show. This is supposed to be funny, by the way. Yeah.
Aqua’s verdict: Stranger Danger
Okay, if I had to choose one of the two “twentysomething paper pusher romances a high school girl” shows some suit somewhere has apparently decided this anime season needs, I would have picked this one too. When the only competition is a show where the main character valiantly saves his teenage runaway vict—I mean, “love interest” from the wretched tendrils of (gasp!) prostitution, at least Koikimo had the decency to point out how intensely creepy it is in its very title. Unfortunately for me, you, the anime industry’s ever declining reputation and the state of social mores all across the so-called civilized world, the efforts this show pays to signal Ryo’s behaviour as unacceptable is worth less than the proverbial lip service. Not only does it depict a world in which a grown man perving on a teenage girl is accepted, nay, actively encouraged by the girl’s peers, it also happily plays into the deeply harmful conviction that if a man’s advances get on a woman’s nerves, he simply hasn’t tried hard enough. Koikimo wholeheartedly commits to the idea that Ryo’s intentions are pure, but he just doesn’t know how to properly express himself. This show truly, madly, deeply wants us to buy into the idea that his love is genuine, but misunderstood. The episode is even called “He’s Not All That Bad”, for crying out loud!
Yet how exactly is what Ryo feels for Ichika in any way different from the supposedly shallow lust that powered his many flings? He doesn’t know her, has barely talked to her and clearly does not respect her boundaries, nor her intelligence, nor her emotional independence. Even leaving all of his borderline illegal activities aside, how are we possibly to believe that this story could become genuinely romantic when one side confuses basic human decency with true love and the other isn’t really much of a character at all? From the get-go, Koikimo makes obvious that even if Ichika were a flesh-and-blood human instead of a mere facsimile created and pre-programmed to grant legitimacy to its lunatic assumptions about what teenagers like and are like, she would have no choice in actually deciding if she likes what Ryo’s doing or not. In fact, no one in this show acts like a real human being. From Ryo’s scorned ex-lover to Ichika’s best friend who inexplicably supports Ryo in everything he does, the characters are just puppets in a dollhouse, acting out a botched staging of all of the Bush era’s worst romantic comedies, directed by an alien who formed its entire concept of human romance around reading the collected works of Daryush Valizadeh.
So, as usual with these kinds of shows, I am left wondering who the hell this is for. The original manga is published in a josei magazine, but it certainly doesn’t seem particularly interested in what, y’know, women have to say about romance. Heck, when Ryo’s ex shows up, she is depicted as this obnoxious, scantily-clad bimbo who bursts into tears when Ryo messes up her make-up. Come on now. This character serves no other purpose than to make the plain, virginal Ichika look like the one who will set that rascal Ryo straight, and to hammer home the absurd point that stalking a high school girl is somehow a purer form of romance than sleeping around with consenting women your own age. The lady rightfully makes a point of this and how does the show reward her? By having her publicly humiliated for the heinous sin of… wearing fake eyelashes. Ah, but you see, Ryo didn’t mean to literally physically assault her, he just doesn’t know how to express himself! Hilarious!
On the other hand, this show is also not nearly saucy enough to serve as a scandalous “problematic fave” à la the Fifty Shades trilogy. That really only leaves us with one more option. What if Ichika’s not who we should emphasize with here? What if this show is intended to make us root for Ryo? I would say it doesn’t even manage that. We’ve seen just how low anime will go in pandering to kiddie fiddlers, and this is nowhere near the bottom of the barrel. In a way, however, that makes Koikimo worse than shows like UzaMaid or Jobless Reincarnation. No actual adult is going to run around wearing knickers on their head or wipe the drool from their mouth as they peek on a girl having a bath — at least not without facing severe repercussions. This stuff, though? Being followed around wherever you go by someone you don’t know, touched without giving permission, begged for “just a little kiss”, and told by your own friends and family that the person doing all of that is just being nice, or considered, or clumsy, or romantic? That is something countless people, women especially, have to go through, and if they’re particularly unlucky, all the goddamn time. To turn the discomfort people would feel — actual people, mind you, not cardboard cutouts designed to act according to one deeply deluded writer’s misconceptions — into a punchline, is repugnant. Or, as the Japanese would put it: kimochi warui.