Man, where do I even begin with this one? Well, for starters, let’s talk about the basic premise; Amano, the male protagonist, ends up meeting the female protagonist Karen and being invited to join her Gaming Club. This gives way to one of the aspects of the show I like; Amano turns Karen’s invitation down and tells her that he isn’t interested in trying to be a pro gamer. I like how the initial expectation that the show will be all about the game club is subverted, since you initially assume that it will be and in all honesty the show does a decent job of getting across the point that the game club itself is hardcore, competitive and its veteran members are elitists. Over the course of the show, Amano ends up making other friends that are interested in games and they eventually go on to form their own games meet-up, focused more on talking about and enjoying games. Well, I say that, but this is where the problems begin; before I continue, though, we need to stop and address the show’s own description. A “chaotic romantic comedy” filled with a “non-stop sequence of comedy scenes and misunderstandings”, huh? Reading that before even going into the show didn’t exactly fill me with hope, especially when my own expectations were already quite low in the first place, but never could I have imagined in my wildest dreams how absolutely literal that description was, and holy shit does it make for a painful watch. The show has at least a decent opening, subverting the expectation of a K-On-esque Slice-of-Life driven by the goings-on of the gaming club, and the initial meeting between Amano and Uehara and their subsequent friendship is done well. Uehara himself is easily the best character in the show by a country mile, and the scene where he confronts Amano for talking down to him about having a life is done well and carries some genuine emotional weight, even if Amano’s response to what Uehara says is played for laughs. Once the two become friends, their friendship feels somewhat believable and a good chunk of that has to do with Uehara himself, being the most realistically depicted gamer of the entire cast and feeling far more down to earth and simple than everybody else. Even before this though, problems begin to brew; you realize early on as the show makes a point of how the female protagonist, Karen, has a crush on the male protagonist that the show is essentially just one big romcom, hidden behind the illusion of a K-On-esque Slice of Life. And it’s not as if there’s anything inherently wrong with a romcom; Lovely Complex is a great example of a really damn good romcom. The issue is that this isn’t a good romcom by any stretch of the imagination; the entire show and all of its comedy is completely focused on its romance, and the romance aspect itself is horribly flawed and frustrating. Remember before how the description described a non-stop sequence of misunderstandings? Well, that’s essentially what the show is at its core; misunderstanding after misunderstanding after fucking misunderstanding in order to drive the plot forward as characters completely fail to understand what everybody’s relationship is to everybody else, which all eventually culminates in a ridiculous love-quadrangle where the protagonist is being crushed on by Chiaki and her little sister while simultaneously being already in a relationship with the female protagonist. And that aspect in particular—the main character confessing to and ending up in a relationship with his love interest early on in the show—is funny, because normally I would praise a show having the romantic partners get together early and focusing the show on their relationship, but here it’s almost completely forgotten about and executed poorly to the point where not only is it easy to forget that the male and female protagonist are even together in the first place when they completely fail to act like or come across as a couple at all, but because all of the drama that exists in the relationships of all the characters is because of the absolutely horribly frustrating, hair-pulling, cringe-worthy misunderstandings that everybody has about everybody else. The actual, basic idea that is solidified about three-fourths of the way through that Amano is caught up in a “love-quadrangle” while already being in a relationship is nothing short of inherently flawed and annoying. And what makes all of this so god-awful is how all of the show’s comedy is predicated on it. “But what about the premise”, you say? Aren’t the characters supposed to be gamers and form a games meet-up? Well, if you couldn’t already guess, it is almost easy to forget this fact entirely. The show’s entire theme of being about gamers and video games takes a complete backseat to the terrible romance story on display here, and even in the few instances where they talk about or, god-forbid, focus on video games, the show absolutely loves to remind you that the characters are entangled in what I can only describe as the most overly convoluted, ridiculous love drama ever. I mean for god’s sake, Aguri, Uehara’s love interest, doesn’t even play video games. Sure, I get the angle of her being the outsider in the group that isn’t a dedicated or passionate gamer like the others, but the issue is that it’s not done well and the show focuses not on that character dynamic but on how she and everybody else are caught up in a bunch of stupid relationship drama. Speaking of characters, let’s talk about how almost none of the characters are likeable. Not only can Amano be easily described as “male protagonist #15072” and constantly feels as though he’s phoning in his relationship with and affection for Karen, but on top of that things that he says feel almost completely counter to his character; since when does a generic male anime protagonist stereotype un-ironically say “meatspace” and call people normies? That’s a silly question, though, since it’s clearly because the show needs to try and remind you that you are, in fact, watching an anime about video games. Gamers call people normies, right? *sigh* The female protagonist isn’t much better; she essentially boils down to a perfect-girl stereotype whose only defining personality trait is her obsession with the male protagonist and the fact that she likes video games, like an awful fusion of Romio and Juliet from Kishuku Gakkou no Juliet. Chiaki isn’t all that bad, but the primary issue with her is her relationship with the male protagonist; the two of them end up on bad terms with eachother early on—with the show making a point of how they hate eachother—despite there being no better reason for them to do so beyond having different tastes in video games and being passionate about said games. I get the idea of the two having a childish fight because one likes moe video game characters and the other doesn’t despite the two having very similar personalities, I really do, but the problem is that this continues for the entirety of the fucking show—and even after Chiaki realizes her feelings for Amano, she still treats him badly, despite never having any good reason to do so beyond having childish fights with him about their video game preferences. It’s painful. Then you have Chiaki’s sister, and while it isn’t directly stated that she has a crush on the male protagonist, that’s clearly the intention which is made blatantly obvious by not only their initial meeting, but later events in the show where she is unceremoniously roped into Chiaki’s romantic drama. Beyond that, she’s mostly uninteresting and her only defining character trait is her obsession over adult games. Pretty much everybody outside of Uehara is unlikable, stereotypical and annoying, with Aguri in particular being an energetic “genki-girl” stereotype. Going back to the topic of video games, I said before that it feels like the show has to try and remind you that it is, in fact, about video games, and to be honest it often gives off the impression that people who had no idea how to make a story with video games and gamers as its central focus tried to do so and just ended up failing and creating a painfully generic romcom instead. When the topic of video games is actually focused on during the show, sometimes it’s not terrible and the characters say some decent things, but other times it’s as if they’re completely missing the point they’re trying to make or just saying things that are wholly stupid. In particular, especially later on, the show seems like it misses the entire point that it tries to make about enjoying games and not taking them too seriously, especially when it tries to push the false narrative that gamers are inherently anti-social loners who care more about games than anything else. On top of sending conflicting messages, there are aspects of how the characters are portrayed that are almost insulting to the core demographic of the show; like, you know, how I mentioned before that the protagonist un-ironically calls people normies and uses the word “meatspace”, for example. One of the only episodes in the show that focuses primarily on video games is the very last one, since the actual ending of the show happens on episode 11 while episode 12 ends up being something of an OVA/side story that has little to do with the main plot. While breaking away from the romcom stuff is admittedly a nice change of pace, the conversation that the characters have throughout the episode as they try to convince and make excuses to Aguri about why video games are the way they are in certain aspects falls flat on its face. Still, I don’t want to get too much into the topic of video games given that this is supposed to be an anime review, along with the fact that the anime’s video game theme takes a major backseat anyways. Going back to what I mentioned about the “actual ending” of the show, it leaves a lot to be desired, and that has a lot to do with the nature of the show itself. Nothing is resolved and the conclusion is wholly unsatisfying because of that fact, all as a result of the ridiculous love-quadrangle that the show sets up. It feels like the prequel to a bigger love-story that the show doesn’t have the time to get into. Honestly, though, I can’t say that the ending was disappointing. On top of being about what I expected, I can only imagine that things would inevitably end up getting worse and worse if the show was given more time, which is essentially a nice way of saying that I’m glad it’s over. The entire thing ends up being a great example of why I often place so much importance on the separation between a show’s serious aspects and its comedy; in my review of Bokutachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai, I mentioned that much of the show’s comedy was driven by its romance but it worked well because of the lackadaisical approach taken with it, something this show completely and utterly fails at. Though it does have some funny moments, more often than not you’ll find yourself laughing at the sheer stupidity of it all rather than the actual, intended humour—the vast majority of that intended humour ends up failing because of how frustrating the entire idea behind it is. In all honesty, though, it’s not all bad; like I said before, I like the initial subversion of expectations and the relationship between Amano and Uehara is done well. Uehara is a great character for the most part—though there are aspects of and characters in the show that definitely drag him down—and he can often be genuinely funny, though I wasn’t too big a fan of how he ended up being relegated to the position of ‘wingman’ quite early on. Part of this has to do with how he encourages the protagonist to get together with Karen, despite the protagonist not really having any good reason for liking her aside from her being the school’s resident idol/perfect girl, which feeds into my earlier criticism about his relationship with and affection for her feeling phoned in. Karen’s obsession with Amano is even more mysterious; initially you assume it’s because of how he rejected her when she is used to guys confessing to her on a constant basis, but the show never addresses this and it could just as easily be the case that she had a crush on Amano since the moment they met, or even just because of their shared passion for video games. All of the above are equally lame, though, so it doesn’t make much of a difference. In fact, Aguri’s reason for liking Uehara is weak as well, crushing on him ever since he won a plushy for her in middle school because it was “awesome”. Wow, how deep… in fact, Aguri tries to justify this to Amano (though not specifically) by saying that “you don’t do love, you fall in love”, give me a fuckin’ break. And here I am, continuing to harp on the show despite the fact that I was initially supposed to be pointing out what I liked about it purely because it’s so easy to segue from that into criticism! For as harshly as I criticize the show, I do feel like a part of that is because I went into the show with a more critical mindset than usual; granted, that fact doesn’t detract from or invalidate any of my criticism. It’s not awful, certainly not as awful as something like Hidan no Aria for instance, but I can’t help but admit that not only did I not like it, but it frustrated me to the point where it’s easy to go on and on about all of its flaws. On top of that, it’s difficult to try and pinpoint anything in particular I liked about the show beyond Uehara and the plot twist towards the beginning; if anything, I’d say the first 3 episodes or so are decent because of this, and because the focus during those opening episodes hasn’t completely shifted away from the show’s intended video game centric theme yet. The music is fine, if unmemorable, and the OP and ED songs are pretty much exactly what you’d expect; the art and animation is good and modern looking, the voice acting is good, etc. But even that comes with its own, small critique; there’s actually a second ED song in the last few episodes of the show, something very out of character for a 12-episode anime like this one. This isn’t a problem in and of itself and the ED song is fine, but the ED song itself is an almost perfect representation of how the show’s initial premise and overall theme of video games and the game club/games meet up is almost entirely forgotten and pushed to the background in favor of the romantic comedy that we end up getting in its place. I’m not sure how much more there really is to be said; the show ends up being an irritating, poorly-done romcom that takes its entire concept and completely fails to integrate it, sidelining it instead and failing to appease its core demographic while being generally frustrating and painful to watch, not to mention super-generic all the while. The bad outweighs the good and I quite simply cannot recommend this.

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