2024 spring animes, ranked from my favorite to least favorite (Part 2)

This is the second part of my ranking. If you also want to read the first part, click here.

6. Kaiju No. 8

An angry yoju that wants to kill Kafka and Reno

And now we arrive at, arguably, the most popular show from this ranking.

I'll be honest, I had high hopes for this one.

Not because I was a fan of the manga that this was based off of, but mainly because Crunchyroll was hyping this anime up, big time.

When the first episode of this anime came up, Crunchyroll introduced this streaming feature, as well as a countdown, where it allowed its users to watch the anime live, as it was being aired. The countdown was there to let users know exactly when the episode would air, as up until then, Crunchyroll users would have to patiently wait for new episodes to roll in, since there was no exact schedule for when they would appear.

Leaving aside whether these features were any good or not, as the userbase on Crunchyroll seemed to have mixed feedback towards them, it was also a big event.

Crunchyroll was hyping this show up like it was the next Attack on Titan, and I was a bit worried whether it would live up to the hype.

Still, given that it was being hyped as much as it was, I eventually felt compelled to at least give it a shot.

And, well, it's time to let you know of my feelings towards it.

But before I get into that, let's start this ranking off with a brief summary of episode 1, first.

Basically, the show introduces us with a big kaiju attacking the city and with the Anti-Kaiju Defense Force successfully eliminating it.

Kaiju are giant monsters that occasionally attack human cities and are treated pretty much like natural disasters. They are pretty mindless, without any rational thoughts or emotions and they simply seem to wreak havoc around them for no reason whatsoever.

The Anti-Kaiju Defense Force is a military group whose sole purpose is with dealing with them whenever they attack and getting rid of them, while trying to minimize the amount of casualties in the process, as much as possible.

Soon after this particular kaiju is dealt with, Hibino Kafka is introduced. He's a 32 year old single man that works for the cleanup company that has to get rid of the dead remains of kaiju.

He is quite experienced at his job, working quite diligently and fulfilling his tasks very well, but is dissatisfied with the way he turned out to be.

Mina Ashiro is the 27 year old captain of the Defense Force's Third Division and is among the most talented members of said Defense Force. She is renowned in Japan for her work in getting rid of kaiju swiftly and without many casualties, with everyone around her recognizing her for her hard work and accomplishments in life.

She and Kafka used to know each other back when they were young kids, with the two of them promising to each other to become members of the Defense Force once they become older, so that they can fight kaiju together.

Kafka still remembers that promise, and yet he is filled with remorse, knowing that, unlike Mina who was very talented, he had applied many times to join the Defense Force alongside her but was rejected every single time.

Now, at the age of 32, Kafka is too old to be eligible to join the Defense Force, and has to resign himself to living the rest of his life working as a regular and underappreciated cleanup worker, who has to clean smelly dead kaiju corpses for a living, while Mina is treated as an overly competent hero that saves lives.

One day, as Kafka goes to work like usual, he meets up with an 18 year old young man named Reno Ichikawa, who also got hired at the same cleanup company and will be joining Kafka's team in disposing of corpses.

Reno is aspiring to also join the Defense Force, and is disappointed when he hears how Kafka was forced to give up on his dream because he eventually got too old.

After a long day at work where they have to dispose of another kaiju corpse left dead in the middle of the city, Reno informs Kafka that the minimum age eligible to join the Defense Force has very recently been raised, so now Kafka can once again apply if he wishes to.

Kafka is happy to hear this and thanks Reno only to then, out of the blue, have another yoju (a smaller kaiju) appear out of nowhere while the two of them were alone and attack Reno.

Kafka saves Reno at the last second, and orders him to run away from them so that he can call the yoju in while he will distract it.

Kafka grabs the yoju's attention and runs away with it following him, trying his best to survive even though he's a mere civilian, but he eventually gets caught by the said yoju, who tries to eat him.

Reno returns and saves Kafka from the yoju in the nick of time (after having called it in), and they both get saved by Mina and her squad that have been dispatched to get rid of it.

Later on, at the hospital where Kafka and Reno are being looked at after their encounter with that yoju, Reno commends Kafka for saving his life from that yoju and says that he was very cool, and recommends he still give joining the Defense Force one last try now that he has become eligible for it again.

Kafka decides to listen to him and vouches to give it one last try but, at the last second, a flying insect-like kaiju appears out of nowhere in their hospital room and shoves itself inside Kafka's mouth, Kafka effectively being forced to swallow it.

A couple of seconds later, Kafka's body transforms and he becomes a humanoid kaiju, complete with an exoskeleton and the full appearance of a human-sized kaiju, but with Kafka's mind controlling it.

Not knowing that said kaiju is actually Kafka, another patient that was passing by immediately phones the kaiju in, and Kafka is forced to flee from the hospital, knowing that they would be after him, while Reno joins him.

Thus ends episode 1.

So yeah, that's the premise.

Episode 1 wasn't very compelling for me. It felt very cliched and slow and it followed all of the beats that most Shonen Jump anime would usually take.

The whole “old man that missed fulfilling his dream and now is sad” trope wasn't grabbing me at all, mainly because, ironically, I am of Kafka's age, and I felt like the show was insulting me for “being old”.

I can understand the idea of wanting to live a better life, regretting the “road not taken” cliche, and all of that, but for some reason it just wasn't pulling me in.

Not helping matters is the entire premise of the show, too. I'll be honest, I've never understood the whole “giant monsters that attack cities” Japanese thing. I was never a fan of Godzilla, I never understood the appeal to it, and this show wasn't doing it for me either.

I just feel like, if giant monsters that would occasionally appear out of nowhere to attack human settlements was indeed a thing in that world, then society and the nature of cities would be very very different to how they are in our world, since humans would naturally build other types of structures that would be more resilient to such attacks, most likely have underground bunkers and other means of adapting rather than having conventional regular cities with tall buildings that are fragile and easy to get destroyed all the time.

The lack of imagination and world building that this show exhibited, as a result, was turning me off a lot.

Moreover, if kaiju were indeed a thing to exist, I would have many questions like “How did they appear? What do they want? How did they evolve?” honestly I would treat it as entirely new species of animals being discovered and I would want a documentary style breakdown to learn how they work.

The show doesn't do that, though, it treating these creatures as mere monsters to be slaughtered, with no emotion, no habits, nothing of any substance about them. They are just killing machines that are plot devices to get the story going. I found that to be so very unimaginative and boring.

The only thing which was kind of grabbing me, to some extent, was the fact that the show was trying to portray Kafka as having the potential and personality of a true hero.

Even though he has a slow body, is unfit and generally not as athletic as his younger peers, Kafka is shown as having the right personality to become stronger and be willing to put himself into danger in order to save others.

I liked that idea.

Honestly, I was hoping for an underdog kind of story, where the moral would be “If you have the right state of mind and the heart for it, anyone can be a hero, regardless of how old or physically unfit they are”, and it would use Kafka to prove that point. That was my hope, at least.

But no, obviously it wasn't going to be that unconventional.

The first episode didn't even end yet and Kafka had to transform into an overpowered kaiju with the strength to decimate an entire city at his will, and the entire point of “even small guys can be heroes” went right out the window with that. All my hopes were smashed into smithereens, just like that.

I've seen other anime like this one, where the protagonist had incredible powers and had the potential to change the course of a war. Anime such as Attack on Titan, Seraph of the End and others where the potential lied in the protagonist, but ultimately what mattered was his heart rather than his powers.

But what made those other shows stand out was their world building, combined with their story and characters. Here, the world building is almost non-existent. It's all about Kafka keeping his kaiju identity a secret (since he later discovers that he can turn back to his human body at will), deciding to join the Defense Force along with Reno, and then be treated by everyone like crap initially for being old and unskilled, only for him to have to prove his worth to everyone and also, in the meantime, have to save his fellow Defense Force companions using his secret kaiju powers every once in a while.

That's the show in a nutshell, and I feel like this story is pretty much Attack on Titan but diluted into just the standard cliches, with nothing new added to it.

The point of the show was to have cool epic fights, that's kind of the highlight of it, and maybe that could have worked but, again, I've seen the overpowered protagonist trope done before. Given the amount of isekai anime that I've seen, that should surprise no one. Just having an overpowered protagonist isn't doing anything for me, anymore, as I've seen epic fights where the protagonist overpowers his enemies so many times already that I'm numb to it.

And the only show that managed to pull off the overpowered protagonist being overpowered and actually being entertaining was One Punch Man; and that's solely because that show was creative in how overpowered a single punch could be, and it was having fun with it.

Here, the show doesn't even seem to want to have fun with how powerful Kafka seems to be in his kaiju form. It just plays it 100% straight, treating it as this cool never-before-seen idea that will blow our minds, even though this isn't the first time I've seen this, and probably won't be the last time, either.

Another example of this idea done right would be Chainsaw Man, where these ideas were utilized to a great extent but there, at least, it felt like the show was having fun with itself and the fights taking full advantage of Chainsaw man's skills.

Here, it's entirely just “Kafka can do an incredibly powerful punch” or “Kafka is super fast and can evade all attacks” or other such tired nonsense. It was just so lame. I mean, grow a tentacle! Spit firebombs! Turn Giant! Do something original!

And the violence in Chainsaw Man was another point that was keeping me glued, because all the punches felt like they had weight and it was bloody and gruesome on every corner. Here, nothing was registering to me. I was seeing the violence, but there was no gore, no blood, no nothing.

It was just....I don't know, it just wasn't doing it for me.

Maybe had I never seen other shows that did these tropes before, like maybe had I never seen Attack on Titan, Seraph of the End, Chainsaw Man*, One Punch Man or anything like them before, maybe, just maybe, I would have felt like this was original and worth a watch. But as is, I didn't.

After seeing enough anime, this one just felt like it didn't bring anything new to the table. It felt like just another Shonen Jump anime that wanted to do the overpowered protagonist idea all over again, reinvent the wheel but doing nothing to make itself stand out.

Honestly, I just didn't enjoy it.

By the time this show was done, I couldn't muster the power to care.

I know there will be fans of this show, particularly people that don't watch a lot of anime and aren't used to seeing these tropes be overused, like they actually are, and that's perfectly fine. Everyone needs to have their junk food, and I feel like there's value in shows like these, regardless of how cliched and recycled they are.

It's just not for me. The action sequences felt weightless and without any impact, the protagonist that wanted more from his life and became overpowered felt cliched, the constant bonding with his fellow Defense Force cadets was boring, the occasional overpowered minor character was cool but I've seen that done better in Seraph of the End or Attack on Titan (where, incidentally, the characters felt cooler), it was just all around a boring experience.

Would I recommend this show? Sure, if you like kaiju or what I described up until now, you might like watching the show. It wasn't doing it much for me, but I will admit that I am a bit of an outlier, since I watched a lot of anime in my life, so I could immediately sense these recycled tropes and realize how tired it was, but for the average occasional anime enjoyer, I feel like they might enjoy this show more than I did. So I'd say at least give the first two episodes a shot, since I feel like it could be worth your while, and then see what you want to do from there.

And would I watch another season of this show if it came out? Honestly, I think I would, just because season 1 ended on a high note and it does make me wonder where the story can go from there, but I won't be as hyped for it as other people might be.

It wasn't a bad watch per se, but it wasn't as great as Crunchyroll was making it out to be, that's for sure.

7. Gods' Games We Play

Leoleshea being cute

And now it's time we talk about some games.

This is another one of those shows that I didn't know what to think of when I started watching them, but I was hoping they would turn out to be better than what they ended up being.

Honestly, while Kaiju No. 8 was the most underwhelming show of this lineup, simply because Crunchyroll kept hyping it up as the next big thing that they had, this one didn't even get that much attention.

Sure, it had its fans, but I felt like most people didn't watch this show on Crunchyroll, and that left me wondering why. But, as the episodes of this went by, I soon realized why that was. And the reason was because this show sucked.

So, what's it about?

The show is about a dragon goddess that woke up from a frozen slumber at one of the poles, and broke free from the ice that kept her there.

Immediately after coming out of her hibernation, the goddess, named Leoleshea, asks to meet the greatest Apostle of that world.

Apostles, in this world, are humans who have received Arise, which is a special power that they become capable of controlling, and which confer that Apostle the right to play in the Gods' games, a series of games that Gods have created so that Apostles can compete in them.

Gods have descended in this world onto humanity because they were very bored and have challenged Apostles to play in the games that they created, so that they can prove their wit and intelligence against them. Any Apostle that loses any three Gods' games will lose the right to play in these games for the rest of their lives.

However, any Apostle that manages to win at ten such games will trigger what's known as a “Celebration”. Nobody knows that this Celebration entails, but humanity has agreed to send their Apostles to compete in these games nonetheless.

Fast forward one year, and Fay, a teenage boy Apostle that's very intelligent and talented, returns to his employer, Miranda, after complaining that he had ended up in another dead end in his search for a missing person.

Fay has been searching all his life for a young girl that he remembers to have been his games instructor, who had gone missing some time ago and whom he had never seen since.

Once he returns to their base, Miranda takes Fay to meet Leoleshea, as Fay is believed to be the best and the brightest Apostle that's currently still alive, as he is a rookie at the Gods' games that he, nonetheless, has already won in three times already.

Fay meets this Leoleshea goddess, only to be completely amazed at the fact that she seems to 100% physically resemble the young girl that Fay remembers having played with during his early childhood and which had instilled a love for games to him since then. Leoleshea resembles the person he had been looking for, his whole life, to his amazement.

The problem is that Leoleshea doesn't seem to remember Fay at all, her acting like this is the first time they have met.

Fay is tasked by Miranda to act as Leoleshea's caregiver, as she is extremely dangerous given the fact that she is a god in that world, and has incredible powers that can destroy the entire human race at her whim.

Fay takes up this task and says he wants to introduce himself to Leoleshea, only for her to ask him not to.

Instead, Leoleshea had devised a game for them to play together, in which they would get to know each other.

The game is like the game of Memory, in which players have to pick face down cards on a table and, for every two cards that they pick, those cards get to be turned face up and then, if they match, then that counts towards that player's score. The player with the higher score, at the end, wins.

This game would be similar, except for a couple of differences.

Using the above rules, Fay and Leoleshea start playing the game against each other, to get to know each other better.

Fay quickly proves to be very skilled, as his memory is so good that he can still remember the exact positions of the cards that had already been revealed previously, despite the cards literally flying in circles through the air.

Using this skill, Fay strategically picks the pairs of cards that allow him to find the pieces of information that he was interested in, about Leoleshea.

Leoleshea, for her part, is also very good at this game and she ends up picking the blank cards pair, which allowed her to ask Fay any question of her choice.

She asks Fay, directly, what his end goal is with being her caretaker and, since Fay is bound by the rules of the game to answer truthfully to her question, he admits that his end goal is to figure out, as a god, why she doesn't just return to her realm and what she's doing in the humans' realm.

Satisfied that he had answered her honestly, Leoleshea stops the game and reveals to him that she had come to the human realm to play games with the humans.

After playing a game of tag with humans in antiquity, Leoleshea had hidden herself underwater but, after waiting for so long, she fell asleep and, eventually, the water around her had frozen over, trapping her in ice for millennia, until she had woken up a year prior to these events.

Now, she discorvered, she is unable to return to the gods' realm as the connection between the gods' realm and the humans' realm is only one-way, which means that she is now trapped in the human realm for the foreseeable future and, the only way for her to return to her realm, is to win at the gods' games as well.

Consequently, she wants Fay, who is the brightest Apostle of his time, to team up with her and for them to play the gods' games together, so that they can win together so she can return to being a god once again.

After hinting that she knows what will happen when the first Apostle will win ten times at the gods' games, and after Fay presses her on to explain, Leoleshea reveals that humanity will get to have a wish granted to them (it's actually any number of wishes, as many as they want, given that the games are almost impossible to beat).

Seeing how Leoleshea wishes to participate in these games and how Fay, himself, had already been playing in them as an Apostle and had already beat three of them, he agrees to team up with Leoleshea (or Leshea, as she agrees for him to call her), and they both embark on a journey to play these games together, as a team. Leshea wishes to win all 10 times so she can return to being a god and Fay wishes to find out why Leshea looks so much like the girl from his childhood that had gone missing many years back.

And so ends episode 1.

OK so, right off the bat, I want to say that, just from episode 1, I feel like this show had a lot of potential.

The story intrigued me, a lot, but there were some small issues that I had with it which, while they didn't ruin the episode for me, they did raise a bunch of flags in my mind, that was difficult for me to ignore.

My biggest issue with the show was Fay. He had all the potential to be a truly genius player, and the show likes to portray him as a prodigy of his generation, however, that already made me worried, since I've always hated the overpowered protagonist trope in isekai anime.

Granted, I know that this isn't an isekai anime but, still, the trope is still unchanged, so that caused me issues.

And yeah, I was right to worry, as the “invincible and incredibly powerful protagonist” trope continued to be a severe problem that hampered my enjoyment of this show, all throughout its first season.

I hate it when protagonists are overly fit and talented in the story, so much so that they never even fear the possibility of losing.

Fay has this uncanny characteristic that he's always optimistic and analytical at all times. He's friendly and always has a smile on his face and he never gives up or show any weaknesses.

While that's all nice and cool, it really caused a disconnect, for me at least, when I just didn't see him as human after a point.

Real humans have weaknesses, they have doubts, fears, insecurities, especially in games where the stakes are so high and when, supposedly, the entire human race is putting their hopes on your success.

The fact that Fay never loses hope, never once doubts himself and is portrayed to always be right and come up with the correct solution to the problem at just the right time, it really made me feel like Fay was less of a character and more of a plot device, rather than anything else.

And the simple fact that he was able to literally memorize the placements of the cards in the Memory game against Leshea, despite the cards literally flying in circles in the air at different speeds, made him look so very inhuman to me.

I don't doubt that there are geniuses with incredible visual memory in this world, photographic memory is indeed a thing, but I feel like even those people would have some trouble in a game like this, yet Fay performed flawlessly at it.

That made me feel like he was more of a robot than an actual human being.

And it won't get any better later on, either.

Fay will simply be treated as the always right hero, that always solves the puzzle at the right moment, with the right solution, all the time.

And again, I've said this many times in the past and I'll keep saying it as many more times as I need to: if the protagonist doesn't worry that they might lose in the face of adversity (the way Fay never worries), then I, as the audience of the show, don't see why I should care about said challenge either.

And that, pretty much sums up this show quite nicely for me: I just don't see why I should care about Fay, nor his challenge.

The fact of the matter is that, also, the stakes are quite low.

Yes, Fay is humanity's best bet at winning ten gods' games, so him winning is something I'm supposed to be in support of, but I really couldn't muster the energy to care at all.

The reason why I didn't care for this end goal is that Fay, hilariously enough, has no dreams or wants that he's fighting for.

Literally, the show says that if any Apostle ever manages to win at ten gods' games, then humanity will be granted infinite wishes, yet, ironically enough, Fay is never shown to have any wish that he wants to be granted.

Leshea is the one that is portrayed as wanting to beat the games, but that's simply because she wants to return being a god (and even then, it's implied in the show that she plays the games more for the fun of it, rather than the sole purpose of returning to her original realm).

One could argue, maybe, that Fay's end goal is to find out why Leshea physically resembles the girl from his childhood, but even that plot point got entirely sidelined after episode 1 was over. Why? I don't know. This was only briefly mentioned again in the last scene of the last episode of season 1, to remind the audience that yes, that's still a thing apparently.

I don't get it.

A protagonist that is just an emotionless husk that has no desires, no fears, no insecurities, but is just a genius that likes to play games just for the fun of it, was not doing it for me.

I was constantly asking myself why I should care.

And the sad answer to that is that I shouldn't. And I didn't.

Some might say that the games themselves would need to provide for the reason to care, as Fay may lose his life if he's not careful in the games that he plays but, it's quickly established that Apostles don't even die in these games; in the event that they would normally die, they instead get teleported back to the human realm and receive a loss in their record. If an Apostle receives three losses in total, they lose their rights in playing in the gods' games for the rest of their lives.

And yeah, Fay losing the right to play in the games would be a big deal, since humanity would lose their most talented Apostle and, probably, never get to have their wishes granted, except for the fact that, again, nobody in this show makes a big deal out of needing for their wishes to be granted, in the first place.

Had humanity been on the verge of extinction, starvation, had Fay been living in poverty or anything like that, then maybe I would have a reason to care and want for him to win the right to have his wishes granted. But that's never done, Fay just plays for the fun of it, not out of any necessity.

That just killed it for me.

And couple that with the fact that Fay now has a literal almighty god in his team (namely Leshea), who can pretty much do anything almost, and the odds became very much stacked against the games.

Granted, the way Fay wins is usually through his incredible wit and strategizing, rather than relying on Leshea helping him, but her assistance was really dissipating any sense of impending doom, seeing how powerful she was.

And Leshea won't end up being his only ally: there will be other girls that join him as well, one that can teleport herself or other people that she had recently touched anywhere she wanted, another that has super powered foot kicks and then another, this time another god, that decides to assist him later on.

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention? Most of Fay's allies end up being girls around his age (or female gods that just look like they are his age). Yep, that's right, this is a harem anime as well.

This show felt sleazy with its fan service, I'm not gonna lie.

It tries to put Fay's allies in dubious positions, exposing parts of their bodies in the weirdest of moments. A good example is how they shoehorn a swimsuit episode, in the middle of a gods' game, for no reason other than fan service.

Usually I'm quite forgiving of fan service in anime, seeing how they are done for my pleasure by definition, but, for this show at least, it just felt out of place.

Like, the entire point of the show was to take it seriously and constantly wonder how Fay and his allies are going to win in the current game, only for that tension to immediately evaporate when the story decides that it's time for a swimsuit scene with the girls because, why not? Those are popular, right?

And, I mean, if the fan service was notable, at least, I might give it a pass, but it's the most held back, watered down, fan service I've seen. Like, they show the girls in bikinis for two episodes, just for a couple of seconds each time, with nothing more than that.

I mean, it's nice seeing them in swimsuits, I guess, but this is by no means groundbreaking. Anime has been doing these types of scenes for decades by now. If you're going to be raunchy, at least be raunchy and push the envelope. Be unique!

The fan service feels almost like a studio mandate, a checkbox that executives behind the scenes wanted to check, just for the sake of doing everything they could to gain even the slightest bit more audience for their show. The fan service had no soul or heart behind it.

I was hoping for there to be some romantic progression between Fay and Leshea, but there is none. The story doesn't feel like it wants to commit to anything serious like that.

Literally, the only reason why one would want to watch the show is for the gods' games in it.

And yeah, I will admit, there are some cool ideas behind the games, like games where you have hidden victory conditions, hidden losing conditions, hidden rules, video game mechanics, card games, gambling games, pretty much anything and everything you can think of.

I do like that the games were getting quite creative, although I do feel like certain times, the game should have been over had Fay just asked Leshea to do something specific that would have shortened the game specifically.

There was this one game, where Fay needed to put a flower on top of a pyramid, where I feel like, had he relied on his ally that can teleport, the entire game should have ended very quickly, but the staff deliberately ignored that to prolong the adventure more.

Another time, there was another game where Fay needed to roll a bunch of 20-faced dice in such a way as to have all of them roll to the number 1 to unlock the next event.

Fay literally admitted that it would take hundreds of millions of times to roll all the dice until they would get to that specific outcome, as rolling dice is supposed to be, by design, entirely random, and there were like 5 or 6 dice there.

And yet, even when the story admits that it's impossible, one of Fay's allies manages to roll those 20-faced dice in the correct way just once, and they got the correct outcome of rolling them all to 1. Like, I feel like the story is cheating, whenever it tries to pretend that it's very down-to-Earth logic based but then it resorts to pure incredible luck like that to advance the plot.

I just....I don't get it.

This feels like another one of those anime that, had I been younger, I may have enjoyed it a bit more, given the focus on games, but as a grown adult, I just lost interest. With low stakes, no real end goal from our protagonist, lack of a plot and the occasional unnecessary and watered down fan service that felt out of place, it just didn't do it for me.

Maybe if I played the games myself, I would have liked it a bit better, but as anime is a non-interactive medium that's very linear, I just couldn't muster the will to care. The story always felt like it was Fay's, not mine, which made me not care.

If a new season of this gets announced, I don't know if I would watch it. I'm not saying I wouldn't, but it would highly depend on my mood when picking the shows. I kind of want to give this show another chance with a new season, but I don't know if I'm willing to spend that much time just to risk wasting it on a boring plot like this.

Maybe I will, maybe I won't. Right now, I cannot say.

8. A Condition Called Love

Hotaru hugging Hananoi from behind

And we finally arrive at the end of this ranking.

It's safe to say that, since it landed on this spot, this is the show which I dislike the most from this particular lineup.

This show is one for which, if a season 2 will ever get confirmed, I won't watch it, nor do I care much for the source material that this was based off of.

But before I can go into why I dislike the show, I should first start off describing its first episode.

The show is about a 16 year old first year high school student named Hotaru Hinase who, one cold winter day while at a local cafe with her friend, they both witness a messy breakup scene between a girl and her boyfriend named Saki Hananoi, a handsome young man who Hotaru's best friend recognizes as a student from a different class at the same school as them.

Left heartbroken, Hananoi leaves the cafe in silence.

Later on, after Hotaru and her friend also leave and separate, Hotaru just so happens to meet up with Hananoi again, who's still dejected from his breakup and is standing alone, on a bench while having snow constantly fall on him because he had no umbrella.

Feeling sorry for him, Hotaru approaches him and positions her umbrella so that both of them can be under it. In those moments, while looking up at her face, Hananoi falls in love with her.

The next day, Hananoi visits Hotaru in her class, at school, and confesses to her in front of everyone, only for Hotaru to reject him.

After school, Hananoi waits for Hotaru at the school's exit and decides to still follow her when she comes out and, when she asks him why he's still after her seeing how she had rejected him, Hananoi says that he should still give her the chance to get to know him before allowing her to make a proper decision.

Hotaru has a good life with her family and her friends, she's happy with the way things are going, but she has never understood feelings of romance or crushes.

When Hananoi asks her about what types of hair styles she prefers, Hotaru casually says that shorter hair is probably better, just because it's easier to wash.

The next day, Hananoi shows up with his long hair cut short, this being obviously because of Hotaru's previous suggestion, which makes her feel uneasy a bit.

Later on, while having another conversation with Hananoi, Hotaru admits that she has never felt romantic attraction towards anyone and, as such, she wouldn't be able to be in a relationship or reciprocate Hananoi's love for her, thus she wants to avoid hurting him by rejecting him.

Hananoi suggests that, her not understanding love isn't an issue and that she should, at least, give a relationship with him a trial just to see how it feels like. He suggests she should try being in a make-believe relationship with him until Christmas, which was already approaching.

Hotaru is unsure about his proposal and doesn't agree to it immediately but allows herself to consider it.

Later on, Hananoi is seen also removing his earrings because he feels like Hotaru might find them too flashy but, when Hotaru suggests that he shouldn't change his looks just because of her and insists that him put them back in, Hananoi reveals that he had lost one of them.

Later that day, Hotaru lends one of her hair pins to a friend while they run around the track field but said friend ends up losing one of the hair pieces there.

Just before they can go on the field to look for the missing piece, it begins to snow outside so the entire field becomes covered in snow.

Realizing that it would be impossible to search for her lost hair pin now, Hotaru decides to leave it and return home.

Later that evening, Hananoi calls Hotaru asking her what the pin looks like, causing her to worry and making her realize that Hananoi was on the track field of their school that night, rummaging through the snow trying to find Hotaru's missing hair pin.

When Hotaru also arrives there and confronts him on this, she reprimands him for not thinking enough about his own well being, as his hands were already frozen from rummaging the snow and she takes him to the nurse's office to take care of him.

Finally, the next day, Hananoi returns Hotaru her lost hair pin, him saying that this time he had waited for the snow to melt before he went again to search for it. In response, Hotaru also gives him his missing earring back, and she says she had found it by the school's vending machine.

Seeing how much he had put himself through just for her sake, Hotaru eventually says that she wants to give dating him until Christmas a shot.

And so ends episode 1 of the show.

OK so, yeah, this show is a slice of life high school romance story.

It's about this girl, Hotaru, who never understood romance and is otherwise very casual and sheepish when it comes to love, and has her discover what being in a relationship actually entails.

Hananoi will be her very first boyfriend and they will have to navigate the realities of being in a relationship with each other, for the first time, despite Hotaru's inexperience.

Honestly, I liked the premise of this show, and I genuinely saw a lot of potential behind it.

The first episode seemed pretty promising and nice, although Hananoi left me with a pretty bad taste in my mouth due to how much of a stick figure he was.

I hoped that as episodes went by, this would improve over time and become less of an issue but, really, it didn't.

This is where I get into my first and main problem with this show: I really dislike Hananoi, a lot.

Historically, I've been very vocal about my stance on main characters not defining the TV shows that they are a part of. I've said in shows like Bucchigiri that even if the main character is a shallow dunce that's extremely and wholly unlikable, that the show can still survive and prove to be a good show, in spite of that, if it knows how to play around it in a clever enough way.

However, Bucchigiri was a comedy at its core, and such a thing was possible for them to get away with because his incompetence and shallowness were used as recurring gags. Even more, the protagonist in that show, despite being a simple minded buffoon, eventually grew to be likeable and overcame his cowardice to become a true hero towards the end, which helped that show immensely.

This show, on the other hand, doesn't have those benefits. For one, this is a pure romance, not even a romantic comedy, so I really have to like the main leads in the show because of that. Why? Because in romance, the audience is supposed to want for the main couple to succeed in getting together, that's the point of it.

Here, Hananoi was actively hampering my enjoyment of the show, simply because he felt like a very troubled and, to a degree, disturbed young man that had a lot of issues that made me genuinely worried for Hotaru's well being when she was around him.


Well, even from the first episode, Hananoi was triggering red flags towards me all around.

Granted, I will admit that I am a straight man approaching middle age, not a high school girl, so I understand that I am not the target audience for this show, but Hananoi's pretty boy aesthetic was really rubbing me the wrong way even from the very first episode.

Like, the fact that he was very much depressed because of breaking up with his girlfriend, feeling very dejected and standing all alone on a bench while snow was falling, was very natural and I was empathizing with him at that moment.

But as soon as Hotaru enters the picture and tries to be nice to him, he immediately switches gears and falls in love with her; no cool down period from the previous relationship, no remorse for his ex girlfriend or anything like that, he just sees Hotaru lend him a helping hand and then, the very next day, he's in her class asking her to be his girlfriend.

That's very unsettling. And scary.

Honestly, if I was the ex, I'd feel insulted how this man felt so little for me that the moment I took issue with him and decided to break up, he simply decides to go for another girl the very next day.

And it wasn't because Hotaru defended him, or tried to be there for him, it was entirely because she simply held an umbrella over his head while it was snowing. That's all there was to his attraction.

Well, OK, that was weird, sure, but maybe he is simply that flexible and quick to get back up on his feet. You never know.

Then, it's the fact that Hotaru had rejected him, clear as day, but he still chose to wait for her, at the end of the school day, for her to exit the building so that he can accompany her home, even though she had already rejected him by that point, nor were they even friends.

The show glosses over that, trying to make it seem like not a big deal but, really, he's just acting like a stalker at that point; but instead of actually stalking, he's being upfront about it and tries to follow her home. The only reason this worked was because Hotaru did not get creeped out enough to tell him to leave her alone, right then and there.

Then, when Hotaru says what hair style she likes, in response to his own question, and she answers that she likes short hairs, simply because they are easier to wash, the next day this man came to school with short hair, after cutting his long hair, just to appeal to her.

This man has no self respect, no personal identity, no fashion style or wants or desires. He pretty much just wants to appeal to this girl, as desperately as possible.

The anime tries to play it off as him being earnest and diligent but, really, it came across as very creepy and unhealthy.

Like, in proper context, Hotaru didn't even agree to dating him by that point, at all, so she's pretty much a stranger to him, but her saying that she prefers shorter hairstyles because they are easier to wash was enough to cause him to change his entire body image just to appeal to her; and she didn't even agree to be his girlfriend by this point, mind you.

Worse, after Hotaru's friend had lost her hairpin that day, Hananoi was planning on spending the entire night, on that track field, rummaging through the snow, in an attempt to find the lost pin hidden in it for her.

Like....bro, what?!

It wasn't until Hotaru herself showed up and had to knock some sense into him that that stuff that he was doing was crazy that he changed his mind; and not crazy in a charming kind of way, as the anime was trying to play it off as, but crazy in a “this man is mentally unwell” kind of way.

And this was just the first episode, mind you.

There's way more than that where that come from.

Like, there's another episode where Hananoi arrives early for his date with Hotaru. And by “early”, I don't just mean “early”, I mean at least “two hours early”, where all he does is stand there, waiting for her.

That is not how real men work.

And, worse, this sets a very bad precedent because young inexperienced girls who may be single and who are, coincidentally, the target audience for this show (I assume that's the target audience for this), this show will set these unrealistic expectations for a boyfriend to them, so they will then expect for their future boyfriends to arrive two hours earlier before the set time for their date, they will expect for their boyfriends to be willing to change their appearances and looks based on their whims and they will expect for their boyfriends to rummage through snow, at night, looking for something that they had lost because that's what “romantic” means to them.

Make no mistake, I feel like having high expectations for a partner is a good thing that most people should do, but those expectations have to at least be realistic. This show is setting expectations that no normal human being would ever meet, expectations that only the most desperate of stalkers would ever be willing to fulfill.

But, to some extent, I know what the fans of this show will argue. They would say that I'm a hypocrite, that as a straight man, of course I wouldn't understand why Hananoi is so obsessed over Hotaru; it's not supposed to be logical, it's because he's the impersonation of what the ideal boyfriend should be like. He's more of an ideal, rather than a real human being.

And, everyone will argue, and I can see this argument being made, that men also have anime TV series that set unrealistic expectations for women as well: shows like The Helpful Fox Senko-san, where Senko is overly cheerful and helpful towards the protagonist in that show, how she goes above and beyond to make sure that he is happy and comfortable, and that it sets very toxic examples with how selfless and obsessed she is with him in that show.

I get that argument, and I can see a valid point in it.

Because of this, had this been my only criticism of Hananoi, I would have backed down and conceded that this was simply a case of a TV show simply not being for me and moving on.

However, this was not the only unnerving thing about him. As the show went on, he continued to trigger red flags from me, everywhere he went.

Even if you set aside how obsessed and selfless Hananoi is, the fact of the matter is, he has no true character to himself. Outside of being Hotaru's boyfriend, the man has no qualities.

He has no likes, no dislikes, no passions, no dreams, no motivation outside of wanting to please Hotaru. If you take Hotaru out of the picture in this story, Hananoi has no identity to himself.

Hell, the way he is portrayed, I genuinely believe that, if Hotaru were to be caught cheating on him, I am convinced Hananoi is mentally unstable enough to be capable of committing suicide from that. I wouldn't put that above him; that's how much he relies on Hotaru being a nice girl to him.

Some women might find that romantic and a good trait for a boyfriend to have, but I find it highly unhealthy.

But, again, Senko-san is the same in that regard, so we can chalk this all up to it being what an idealized boyfriend in fiction would be like.

Then, there's the fact that Hananoi makes some dubious decisions while he is in a relationship with Hotaru.

For example, there is a small part of one episode where Hananoi, for no reason whatsoever, selfishly decides to put some distance between himself and Hotaru, so that they can keep their spaces (she agrees to this arrangement at his request, but only because she is inexperienced in the romance department).

Usually setting a distance between yourself and your partner is done for a good reason that warrants such measures, but the show never explained why he did that. It was Hotaru that needed to push the boundary between herself and him to end that ridiculous arrangement. Granted, that decision did allow for their love to grow stronger, but that doesn't change the fact that it was a nonsensical and borderline psychotic requirement that had no reason to be there, to begin with.

Or, in another episode, Hotaru and Hananoi are talking, but it's clear that something is bothering Hotaru a lot. When pressed about it, Hotaru keeps it to herself and doesn't reveal what that is to Hananoi.

As they are about to leave the rooftop, Hananoi reveals to Hotaru that the door to the rooftop where they were on was locked, and that they were stuck on top of the school.

During this time, while rummaging through their thoughts, Hotaru eventually reveals what's been on her mind all along to Hananoi.

Then, their friends come up to the rooftop to unlock the door for them, only for them to reveal that said door had never been locked all along. It is then revealed that Hananoi had lied all along, just to buy himself extra time alone with Hotaru, just so she can reveal what was actually on her mind.

Granted, I'm all for talking about your issues with your partner so that you can discuss your differences as much as it's needed, but if my partner told me that they don't want to discuss something, then that would be the end of it.

I wouldn't then decide that I need to buy myself time alone with them, until they change their mind to talk about it.

That's not only scummy, it's downright manipulative in the worst ways possible.

If Hananoi is willing to lie this easily about something, like that door being locked just so he can keep Hotaru there on the rooftop with him, for a matter this trivial, imagine what else he's willing to lie about.

But the main thing which I hate about his character, besides being manipulative and underhanded, is the simple fact that he is extremely unlikable.

He's not just avoiding conversations with other people, he outright is unfriendly towards them.

Pretty much, Hananoi is merely tolerant towards Hotaru's female friends because he has to, since Hotaru does need to have friends, but he's also extremely cold, to an unnecessary degree, towards her male friends.

Again, the anime tries to play this off as quirky, but it's deeply unsettling.

This type of controlling behavior was triggering red flags to me, non stop.

I'd understand it if they were also courting Hotaru, or being unreasonably cold towards her or him, but that's not the case. Literally, one of them even outright says that he cares about Hotaru and he's looking out for her as her friend, and Hananoi treats that as a bad thing.

Like, what the hell is his problem?! He is literally the newcomer into Hotaru's life and yet, after she decides to allow him into her life as her boyfriend, he wants all of her male friends out just because he doesn't like them.

Normally that would be acceptable if there were reasons why he didn't like them, like if they mistreated her, or something, but they were simply looking out for her.

Hananoi is unusually cold towards everyone, tries to act cool and mighty whenever he feels like it, wants Hotaru to not be around her friends, is over imposing on her male friends whenever he feels like it, and is also willing to cheat at games whenever he's making a bet against them (like he did, once, while playing ping pong with one of her male friends).

The more episodes I was watching, the less I liked his character; and that's a problem when he's the main lead in this romance story.

By the time the anime ended, I was genuinely wishing for Hotaru to break up with him. I liked her enough that I was feeling bad for her, for being with this asshole in a relationship. And, mind you, that's not what a romance is supposed to make you feel like.

I will admit, at the end of the day, I was spoiled by other, much better romance anime, like Tonikawa: Over the Moon for You, A Sign of Affection or hell, even this lineup's Grandpa and Grandma Turn Young Again; shows that are far more genuine in their romances, who have characters that love each other without being underhanded, obsessed or manipulative, and who feel clean cut and honest.

Granted, even in A Sign of Affection, Itsuomi was being a bit of an asshole towards Yuki's childhood friend, but that was because the childhood friend was being overprotective and unreasonable; and even then, Itsuomi was still trying to be curt and nice towards him, not like the asshole that is Hananoi here.

I digress.

Honestly, this show didn't do it for me. This feels like one of those romance animes that had good intentions, but got lost along the way because of the male lead.

However, would this show have been better if Hananoi was written differently? Honestly, I think so.

To give credit where credit is due, the show does evolve the romance over time, to a significant degree. I'll still say it's far better than Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie, by a long mile, and it has redeeming qualities.

And, objectively speaking, I feel like the show ain't that bad. It's on the last spot on this ranking because, subjectively, I didn't like it at all, but objectively, it wasn't half bad.

Objectively, I feel like the show is still better than the likes of The Ice Guy and His Cool Female Colleague, simply because the romance does go somewhere, and I feel like the show does talk about important stuff that are relevant; stuff like knowing how to establish rules about your relationship from the very beginning, knowing how to set boundaries in a relationship and how to take things slowly, how to become comfortable with one another, how physical contact is necessary for a relationship.

All of these are important things to talk about and, I will admit, I was surprised that this show took these topics and treated them as seriously as it did. Honestly, it's got good ideas behind it.

It's a shame that the execution was ruined for me, due to Hananoi being the male lead. That, honestly, ruined it entirely for me and, as the show went on, it got worse and worse.

I hoped he would undergo some character growth towards the end and, the show claims that he did, but I really don't see much of an improvement. He did become tolerant towards Hotaru wanting to spend time with her friends over him sometimes (yes, imagine that was a plot point in this show), but that's as far as it went. He was still extremely intolerant and insecure about her male friends being around them.

Honestly, I just don't like the guy. It's as simple as that.

Had I been a teenage girl with lower standards, maybe my opinions of Hananoi would have been different but, as it stands, I just couldn't stand him. And if this show was done with a comedic edge to it, in which they went all out and treated Hananoi like an irredeemable bastard, like in KonoSuba, then I would have liked it way more; or maybe if the show didn't try to put him in the spotlight and pretended like he's a good guy and made him over the top unlikable, like in School Days, then I would have liked that much more.

I'm fine with a main character being an asshole if he either grows out of it, or if the show plays along with it and makes him get his comeupins or, at least, it's being honest about him and showing him for the asshole that he is. This, however, doesn't do any of those, but tries to play it all off as quirkiness.

As it stands, it just feels manipulative, in trying to make me sympathize with, what it looks to me to be, a pretty annoying insecure unstable teenager that has an unhealthy obsession over his girlfriend.

The show tried to make Hananoi appear relatable by showing his tragic past but, really, while I can see that past making him become the unlikable character that he is now, that still doesn't change the fact that he is unlikable, nor does it excuse it to me.

Like I said, if a new season of this gets greenlit, I will not be watching it.