Review/discussion about: Masamune-kun no Revenge
When I was a teenager, my mother and I would sometimes try to spook the other for fun.
I can’t remember who started it, but my mother was mad because it often happened near a dangerous area: the steps leading into the basement. The door would be closed, and someone would round the corner after reaching the top, only to find the spookster ready and waiting.
It was initially revenge on both ends. “She scared me, so I’m going to scare her back” and vice versa. But the petty revenge eventually waned and it became more of a “game” that kept us on our toes.
Nowadays, my spooking habits are over. No more revenge either. Yet Masamune-kun no Revenge reminds me of just how far some people are willing to go to exact the latter (minus the spookiness).
Poor Masamune-kun of Masamune-kun no Revenge has been bullied his entire life. His only friend as a kid was a young girl by the name of Aki Adagaki. However, she also (presumably) turned on Masamune-kun, going so far as to call him “Pig’s Foot.” In that moment, Masamune-kun concocted the ultimate revenge plan against her: become the hunkiest hunk imaginable, make her fall in love with him, and turn her down as cruelly as possible.
When thinking about the anime, it’s actually a very fun setup. In other, similar stories where the show “asks” the audience to place themselves in the shoes of the main protagonist – otherwise known as “self-insert” – it’s usually done with someone as plain, as normal, and as unassuming as possible. All to feel as though the audience are the ones in his or her shoes.
Masamune-kun no Revenge takes a slightly different approach. Rather than “becoming” the main character, the audience gets to live vicariously through him. Beefing up? Regulating a diet? Dedicating a portion of a lifetime to exact some petty revenge? A lot of people don’t have or cannot have the chance at such a life, so the anime provides that opportunity for them.
And it does so with the usual rom-com-drama direction in mind. A normal venture for most viewers given that the anime doesn’t do anything exceptionally unique.
Comedically, the anime (understandably) achieves most of its laughs through the characters’ attempts at maintaining their facades. Aki hiding away to munch on a lot of fattening foods all cute like. Masamune-kun cursing Aki under his breath. Neko coughing up “blood.” This constant contrast of the characters easily gets at the laughs the anime aims for.
Doubly so when the characters clash and interact. Masamune-kun’s “son of a bitch” line during Aki’s rapid-fire, mid-hallway questioning comes out of nowhere in hysterical fashion. And his mother worries about her baby boy when she believes him to be catching a cold, sprinting into the room with blankets and love at the ready. None of these examples even count the harsh responses from Yoshino or the running gag of Kojuurou always tagging along with the girls despite being a boy himself. In short, Masamune-kun no Revenge can be quite the funny show when it so chooses.
Dramatically, the anime doesn’t always do its best, for it can sometimes lean on many a cliché rather than going for more inventive setups. Opening the dressing-room curtain as Aki undresses earns Masamune-kun a punch to the face. Later, he saves her from an oncoming vehicle to win her heart. The whole group tackles the super-common test of courage while away at a private island. Then, near the end of the show, there’s the classic (in this case Snow White) on-stage, mid-play kiss.
It’s not all clichés, though. In using its façade premise, the anime takes the time to present its plot through other means. Small flashbacks of the characters provide better insight on their pasts. Their inner thoughts in the moment feel natural given the motif. And it has a few memorable scenes, too, like when Neko lays bare her own feelings to Masamune-kun in her room. In this sense, the anime balances its comedy with a reasonable level of drama.
Romantically, Masamune-kun no Revenge does have its moments, too. There’s sacrifice when Masamune-kun gets injured from a crazy dude with scissors, and there’s affection when Aki gets extremely shy when she can’t comprehend why Masamune-kun has been ignoring her on purpose for so long. Much like the comedy and the drama, the romance can work. If only because Masamune-kun and Aki must do a lot to make it work, giving their romance a more meaningful backing.
Yet much of the romance feels like a game of one step forward, two steps back. Masamune-kun will often have those romantic moments – only it goes nowhere or, even worse, regresses their relationship. This annoyance amplifies when Neko officially arrives. Aki’s about to reveal her feelings for him, but Neko throws herself into his arms. Masamune-kun is distracted by Neko stealing the picture of him as a kid, angering Aki when he doesn’t listen to her. He gives Aki the cold shoulder when he leaves Neko’s hospital room.
Altogether, it’s a lot of highs and lows mixed between the comedy, the drama, and the romance. If any one item should be discussed, though, it’s the final arc due to its conflicting nature.
When Gasou appears, it does feel entirely too convenient since he shows up out of nowhere and Masamune-kun just-so-happens to be out of the loop as he trains in the mountains without cell service. Worse still, Gasou maximizes that romantic regression seen multiple times throughout the season, practically ruining all that Masamune-kun had done up to this point.
In all honesty, it’s very annoying to watch unfold. But (as hard as it is to admit) that’s exactly how it should feel. If Gasou’s interference wasn’t frustrating, then this plot point wouldn’t be doing its job. Not to mention, it’s a natural extension of the plot itself. Masamune-kun cannot reveal his true identity without compromising his revenge, so a “rival” impersonating him simply makes sense on a narrative level.
Even so, the final episode is poorly constructed. It gives the audience the climax of the plot: Masamune-kun kisses Adagaki. The kiss itself doesn’t really have any emotional foundation since it’s tied to the play in which it happens. But it still gives the audience the satisfaction of seeing the two destined lovebirds having a decidedly special moment together. That’s pretty good.
What’s bad comes in the second half of the episode, and it’s a two-fold problem.
One, the anime doesn’t resolve its last conflict. Gasou doesn’t leave Aki’s side let alone have his cover blown. Instead, he sticks around, the whole group taking part in an awkward karaoke scene that sucks away the satisfaction from the climactic moment minutes prior.
Two, the anime introduces a final plot point very near the last scene of the show. It’s what people in the community call a “read the source material” maneuver. Rather than ending on a narrative high, it chooses instead to conclude the story in an unfinished state.
All told, Masamune-kun’s plan may be nicknamed “Dead or Love,” but it’s leaning towards dead for the time being.
Masamune-kun no Revenge doesn’t do too much on a visual level. In other words, it continues its standard streak with a standard set of visuals.
It doesn’t get too adventurous, sticking with its simple school setting and nominal level of cinematography. Given how the anime mostly focuses on the characters talking or interacting with one another, its subdued presentation does make sense. But it leads to a less engaging experience overall.
A couple of noticeable errors do pop up, like when Masamune-kun runs away with his bag over his shoulder but without a bag when the same scene is shown from Aki’s perspective. Or how, when he’s talking to Neko in the hospital room, he’s standing in one shot but suddenly sitting down the next. These errors are few and far between, though, and they don’t cause a huge distraction, so they can be mostly ignored.
The anime does include fantasy-based scenes from time to time. For example, Masamune-kun imagines what the finale of his revenge will look like, and Aki quarrels with Tae about their competing plays, the backdrop changing into a menacing dragon and a fierce tiger ready to attack each other. Again, these scenes aren’t used a whole lot, but they do help in spicing up the visuals whenever possible.
The characters’ designs are the only constantly interesting visual aspect.
Aki’s predominately blue-and-white outfit highlights her ice-cold personality while simultaneously hinting at a depressing, more innocent girl trapped within.
Masamune-kun’s contrast between his derpy child self and his super-handsome current self makes his transformation even more impressive.
Yoshino’s small white hair clips and yellow eyes give her a semi-robotic look that fits her character well.
And Neko is just unfairly attractive: long brown hair, ample assets, beauty marks, and a gentle demeanor. She no doubt has the looks, but it also serves the purpose of further hiding her sickliness behind an air of perfection. (It also helps that she’s constantly going commando.)
Thematically, the cast of Masamune-kun no Revenge do well in keeping focus on a common idea: ulterior motives. These main characters are by no means complex, but their façade-formed parallels keep a nice consistency within the cast, upping the show’s execution overall.
It’s somewhat easy to pinpoint. Masamune-kun does tone his body, and he gains the brains to boot, but he only strove so hard to eventually exact his revenge against Aki. Aki herself seems to suppress her original “betrayal” on Masamune-kun. Yoshino pretends to work for Aki, but she secretly helps Masamune-kun in his quest. Neko lies about her lies. Gasou impersonates the Masamune-kun of old.
It’s an interesting setup. As the characters interact, they sometimes know of their deception and sometimes not. What results are characters making deliberate actions that progress their façade that much more. For instance, Gasou befriends Aki’s “defenders,” giving him more outs as he pursues his own motives. Yoshino, too. She becomes Masamune-kun’s “master” as she guides him on how to best melt Aki’s icy exterior.
They also accentuate the characters who don’t have ulterior motives. Characters like Kojuurou and Tae wear their intentions and personalities right on their sleeves, allowing them to balance out the façade-laden main cast.
Beginning with Neko, she makes her appearance at the absolute worst (but for her the best) time possible. She’s quite the saint, what with her formal speech and utmost kindness. However, her no-panties policy and penchant for dietary nuance suggest that she’s (like everyone else) more than meets the eye.
Indeed, the more Masamune-kun interacts with her, the more obvious it becomes that Neko isn’t being very honest. She makes up a backstory as to how she came to fall in love with him, and she even goes so far as to steal his childhood picture, the biggest piece of incriminating evidence against him.
It’s what makes Neko arguably the most interesting character of the show. She lies about being sick by pretending to be sick (the ultimate cover-up move), and she lies about her origins even after her butler reveals her medical problems. Constantly lying, her façade has a façade, and her façade’s façade has a façade. It’s what ultimately makes Masamune-kun reject her advances, for, while her feelings are true, he sees himself in her, acting dishonest in her delivery.
Aki is nowhere near as interesting as Neko, but, as the main female love interest, she gets attention all the same. Her rejections of the boys who ask to go out with her are almost as legendary as the nicknames she “bestows” upon them. She despises men, and she actively proves it by leading Masamune-kun on a wild answer hunt that ends with his rejection, too.
But she’s not entirely an ice queen. She seems to eat a lot of food (a habit she keeps secret from everyone else), and, in true tsundere fashion, she has her cute moments such as when she attempts to justify why she went on her first date with Masamune-kun to begin with.
Unfortunately, while Aki may get a lot time, she doesn’t have much substance. She rarely has the chance to improve herself as a character since whatever potential progression she earns is stripped away by the plot. Neko’s interference, Gasou’s arrival, and some of Masamune-kun’s decisions push her away rather than bring her closer, disrupting the shift in mindset that must inevitably occur for her character.
Because, as far as the audience can tell, she’s troubled by something. Her gluttonous eating habit derives from an event in her past, she’s saddened by Neko’s loneliness, and her flashbacks reveal that she wasn’t always so cruel. Indeed, Masamune-kun no Revenge seems to imply that Masamune-kun’s beef with Aki may not be exactly as he remembers it.
Whether he’s an unreliable narrator or not (unintentional or not), Masamune-kun proceeds with his plans. After becoming the hunkiest hunk imaginable, he commences his revenge against Aki, plotting to make her fall in love with him just so he can reject her without remorse.
Expectedly, the time he spends following through on his plan and interacting with Aki affects his feelings. Especially when the other characters get involved. Yoshino makes him realize he cannot always rely on somebody else to grant him the personal revenge he seeks. Neko’s rejection and sickened state acts as a metaphor for what could be Masamune-kun’s fate should he fail in his quest. And Gasou pushes him to fight harder than he ever has before.
To reiterate once more, the season doesn’t have him flip his switch about Aki, meaning his whole character arc isn’t finished either. However, he messes up a lot, and he sometimes makes the right move, crafting him into at the minimum a believable guy whose trying his best at earning love and seeking revenge.
As for Kanetsugu Gasou, the anime surprisingly doesn’t go as cliched with him as it does with its story. He’s the fat guy who’s neither gross nor evil but instead normal. A regular dude who, while holding similar schemes as everyone else, isn’t outwardly menacing. At the very least, he’s no different from the others in that he lies and does whatever he can to get his way. Plus, he’s only in it for the money. That’s more to appease the minds of the audience since it makes his “marriage” to Aki less creepy and more about his own personal gain.
There’s nothing else to him besides being a wrench in the works. And he still deserves all the hate he receives for his insufferable goody-two-shoes attitude. Despite this direction, he does deserve credit for his slightly unconventional antagonist role.
Most people praise Masamune-kun no Revenge for its original soundtrack – and for good reason. These tracks are not only filled with variety but also fit to a tee. To the point that almost nothing else could work within the show. A pronounced acoustic guitar signals tension like a modern Western film. Flutes, choirs, and harps spell out mystery. Sharp, high-pitched piano keys haunt the air. An Italian accordion arrangement spells out a bittersweet feeling. It’s musical diversity at its finest, and it gives the show a lot of power during its different scenes.
Voice acting also remains strong throughout the season. In particular, Natsuki Hanae as Masamune-kun channels his frustration when monologuing his inner thoughts, and Inori Minase as Yoshino delivers deadpan speech with softness in mind, proving yet again how cute her voice tends to be.
The opening track doesn’t reach the same heights. It’s a rather upbeat piece due to the dainty instrumental choices and the quickness of it all. The English “please don’t; please wait” line doesn’t flow very well within the middle of the song, but final lyrical push, where the words and the beat step together, does introduce some much-needed flavor. Overall, though, the song is about as standard as the story itself.
The ending track is a small step above its OP counterpart. A prominent electric guitar leads into yet another normal beat that doesn’t go for anything interesting. However, compared to the OP, its English lines fit a bit better, and the higher focus on the vocals gives it more emotion. Again, though, it’s not too immersive.
And, while a strange complaint, it should be noted that the stomach sound-effects are weird in design. It seemed as if the anime didn’t want to use the same stock sound (which any anime fan can hear in his or her head right now), but it tried way too hard. Aki sounded more like she had to go to the bathroom due to constipation than needing to eat food loaded with carbs.
Like most others who watched the show, I, too, was very frustrated and annoyed by Gasou. Even though he was only it for the money, and he’s technically the same as everyone else in his conniving, I still disliked those last three episodes either because of or indirectly due to him. He was annoyingly, overly kind, and Aki being all super sweet when around Gasou got on my nerves right quick.
That’s why I liked Masamune-kun quite a bit; he wasn’t afraid to call her a “damn bitch” or a “stupid ham.” Under his breath or in his mind, of course, but seeing and hearing him being absolutely fed up with her horrible personality had me both laughing at the show and relating with its main protagonist.
The other characters could also be a lot of fun, too. Yoshino’s innocent and emotionless personas made for a hilarious silly-serious combo. Neko trying to play off dropping her ketchup packet had me laughing. And Kojuurou always failing to explain that he is, in fact, a boy was a simple joke, but it got me smiling with ease.
And even though Aki was a big meanie, that -dere side of hers was often worth such abrasiveness. Sadly, she didn’t have enough moments in the way romance, and, even when she did, she was usually the one ruining them. So, as a mega-fan of romance – it’s my number-one favorite genre – Aki was too much of a brute in this regard. Upper-cutting Masamune-kun as he went in for a kiss that she herself asked for? Lame.
I get it. She can’t change her tune instantly, and she can’t fall for him fully. Doing either would eliminate the crux of the conflict, leaving no story to tell. Still, I wish Aki would have been affected a bit more than she was. Her progress simply never felt all that satisfying.
So, in the end, my favorite character was the secretary lady, Midori Yukisaki. Beautiful, mature, and she likes to sing death metal songs during karaoke? Yes, please.
Masamune-kun no Revenge has its plans backfired. A consistent set of characters and a very strong original soundtrack do what they can. However, the story does more wrong than right, the art and animation are plain, and it can be too frustrating to watch at times. It’s not spooky; it’s simply unfortunate.
Story: Bad, fun comedy, mixed drama, and weak romance support a vicarious premise that ends up unfinished and unresponsive
Art/Animation: Fine, a plain visual offering does little else besides give the audience something to look at, but the character designs no doubt have their appealing qualities
Characters: Good, a consistent ulterior-motives motif connects the characters, Neko’s lies make her the most interesting of the bunch, Aki doesn’t have much substance, Gasou isn’t a conventional antagonist, and everyone affects Masamune-kun in their own way
Music/Sound: Fine, a strong OST and some nice VA performances offset the boring OP and ED, but the stomach gurgling sound-effect is weird no matter what
Enjoyment: Bad, Masamune-kun, Neko, and Yoshino are fun, Midori rocks, but lacking romance scenes and the infuriating last arc doesn’t do any favors
Final Score: 4/10