Real Girl – Anime Preview
Synopsis: The character-driven story follows reclusive Hikari Tsutsui as he falls in love with popular Iroha Igarashi, despite aversions to real-world girls. They develop a close bond neither expected and it challenges their biased notions of who people are. (Official HIDIVE Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Real Girl’s protagonist, Hikari Tsutsui is the epitome of the bitter otaku who perceives persecution everywhere he goes, some real and some self imposed as he, himself goes around being unnecessarily rude to anyone who dares to interact with him, the exception being his one friend. It’s a bit of a cliche, especially when the show seems to really encourage his self pitying ways with lots of monologue eye-catches to instill greater drama with each line of pained anguish. Thankfully his best friend acts as a bit of a moral compass, reeling him in at the end of the episode and making him realize he has been unusually cruel to someone who had just helped them.
Tom: There’s no doubt that Hikari Tsutsui, despite his self-perception, is really just a raging asshole. As Linny mentioned there’s some dialogue at the end that hints at the character journey he’s in for, perhaps challenging his world view and opening his eyes as to how others perceive him and how he himself reacts to that. Ultimately this transformation will largely be due to Iroha Igarashi, an aloof, seemingly slutty girl who’s as much a social outcast as he is, but in a wildly different way. As it turns out Iroha isn’t nearly as nasty an individual as Hijari thinks, gradually crawling her way into his bleak and blackened heart. She’s a Manic Pixie Girl (or Manic Pixie Dream Girl) a type of character that is frequently used in romance tales who causes a male character to open up and change for the better. They’re typically characterized as female characters who exist solely for the purpose of expanding the world view of the hero and causing him to embrace life. They’re lively, aloof, silly and often charmed or unphased by the lead’s more nasty characteristics. Iroha isn’t a bad character, but Manic Pixie Girl’s can often feel like a male fantasy, a woman who is willing to get to know them and accept them for who they are, even if they are rude and difficult to deal with. Iroha might have a slightly different appeal, as this is based off a shoujo manga, but what’s here seems to largely serve the same purpose.
Linny: Real Girl’s first episode is ‘dramatic’ and how effective it is will really depend on how much you connect with Hikari. The show seems to ham things up a bit too much, at least for an older audience. When it first depicts Hikari getting truly bullied by an ex classmate, the girl is ridiculously cruel to him. Yes, bullies exist and yes bullies can be pure hell but the show injects her into the story so suddenly, clearly having not seen him in a few years, yet spewing as much hatred as possible that it starts to feel fake and contrived for the sake of justifying Hikari’s extreme persecution complex. And it’s not just Hikari’s character and storylines that are dramatic. When Iroha Igarashi is accused of shoplifting in the episode, she initially refuses to let her bag be searched. But then, for whatever reason, she then dumps all the contents of her bag on the floor defiantly and then proceeds to strip off her clothes in the middle of the bookstore for added dramatic flair. It all feels so over the top that it’s hard to see most people taking the show seriously.
Tom: Outside of the melodrama, Real Girl goes about exactly as you’d expect for these kinds of coming of age, self-realization narratives, just with the Otaku backdrop for why Hikari is such a ‘loser.’ If it wasn’t for the melodrama Real Girl might feel played out. Its over the top depiction of events adds a sense of character that might otherwise be lacking, but is much more likely to grate on anyone who’s long moved past their high school persona and can look back on that time for what it really was rather than wallowing in the melodramatic feelings that typically pepper one’s teenage years.
Linny: Real Girl seems like a show that might best resonate with those who are still in their teens, enjoy large doses of drama, or maybe can connect to the bullying the lead character has/is facing. The heroine’s story arc screams of manic pixie dream girl, as she is described in-show as someone in her own world and like most manic pixie dream girls, she’s already informed our hero that she will be transferring out of the school and leaving his life in less than a year. If those are elements that usually entertain you, you might do well to check out Real Girl.
Tom: I agree with Linny, Real Girl’s best audience are teens still locked in the mire of social struggle and peer acceptance, who perhaps feel near as persecuted as Hikari believes himself to be. Assuming the series follows through with its hints of self-examination, challenging Hikari’s self-perception and worth, it might be a good series for teens seeking comfort during those tough transformative years. But if you’re well past that part of life, Real Girl is more of a tough watch than anything else.
Real Girl is available for streaming via HIDIVE.