Review/discussion about: Renai Boukun
When I think about romantic love, simple thoughts come to mind: signs of affection, the giddiness, deeper connections, a feeling like nothing else in the world. Love takes on many different forms, and it means something different to everyone else, but love is lovely all the same.
In Renai Boukun, love attracts the not-so-normal, too. An angel-devil hybrid. A machete-wielding woman. A shield-creating girl. And a sadistic-happy psycho. For them, love also takes on multiple forms and multiple meanings – and with it all comes a lot of comedy to at least like along the way.
Renai Boukun reaches a boiling point right quick. Guri, the demon-cosplaying cupid, shows up out of nowhere at Seiji’s doorstep. Not to share the Bible. Rather to inform him of his impending death lest he kiss someone soon. After she demonstrates the power of her angel tool called the Kiss Note (copyright laws be darned) and her subsequent meddling brings Akane and Yuzu into the mix, this recipe for comedic craziness prepares itself for further taste testing.
In terms of flavoring, the anime seasons its content with almost entirely character-based escapades, delivering funny moments left and right as they act and speak out among the harem. For instance, in episode five, Guri tells Akane that kissing Seiji may bring him back from “death,” so she smooches the lifeless guy for a solid fifteen minutes to the point that his body shrivels up. In other episodes, Yuzu steals Akane’s thrown-out tissues and bathes in her used bathwater in an attempt to wrap herself in her older half-sister’s essence. As for Guri, her constant carefree attitude inherently creates opportunities for silly situations and sillier reactions.
Besides the character comedy, the anime also leverages other avenues. It has running gags (in a figurative and literal sense) as Akane constantly chases Guri around whenever she gets too close to her beloved Seiji. It has hand-waving workarounds like the evil demon-penguin Stolas “communicating” with just his eyes. It has quips like Guri commenting on the fact that Seiji and herself have matching wounds after Akane’s mother’s words stab him in the head (in a fourth-wall-breaking maneuver).
There’s more. Escalating jokes with Coraly the angel and his ever “prettier” forms. Subverting expectations with Guri’s transformation into a school swimsuit instead of her fancy angel outfit. Joking in the background like Guri eating a dozen-scoop-stacked ice cream or police officers fearful of Akane. Reacting similarly several minutes later as a callback to an earlier scene, specifically Yuzu’s reaction in episode three to the Kiss Note burning up.
As can be gleaned, Renai Boukun’s comedy clearly takes on multiple forms much like love itself. Not wanting to tread down too much stagnation, it then attempts to space out its comedy with a smattering of drama here and there. However, the anime loses a bit of steam in the back half of its run when said drama takes higher precedence than the comedy that it touted.
Especially Guri’s final conflict. Without too much fanfare and resolved rapidly, the extra backstory feels less important and more tacked on. The show also ditches the Kiss Note idea almost entirely in the last six episodes of the season, calling into question the show’s general level of focus.
The even weaker premise overall also contributes to its decline. At a surface level, the show is about a guy and a bunch of girls in a love polygon. At a deeper level, it’s about Guri and the gang realizing what love means. Unfortunately, the in-between levels do not have enough creativity to carry themselves all way to the finish line. Another way to view it is that there’s a lot there, but there isn’t a lot “going on.” As if the anime cares only about its characters rather than what is actually happening around them. All because these happenings are a tad too underwhelming in their delivery.
Nevertheless, the jokes do what they can to derive from said premise. Case in point: Akane’s actions. In most other anime, the yandere does not get to harm her beloved for fear of killing him. Yet, thanks to Guri’s angelic powers, Akane is free to stab Seiji as many times as she so pleases. Or take Part B of episode six, a test of courage. Within a haunted section of the school, references to classic Western horror icons like Ghostbusters, Jigsaw, and Chucky pop up while showcasing a few romantic asides between Yuzu and Seiji.
And the anime still has a few words about that aforementioned deeper level. Akane sees love as something that personally resonates. Yuzu sees love as something that cannot be tossed aside. Guri sees love as something that must be experienced rather than explained. Shikimi sees love as something that one desperately craves.
Through these forms, love seeps into almost every aspect of the anime: comedy, drama, or otherwise. Not to mention that the anime contains more standalone kisses than a public orgy. As such, the consistency here offsets some of the issues from the mishandled focus and misplaced premise, keeping the structure of the show in good graces.
ART & ANIMATION
Renai Boukun takes advantage of its visual space to follow its genre quite well.
Key among its artistic choices is the “degradation” of the characters designs. On a regular basis, the anime reduces their integrity to strong effect. Akane’s appearance becomes slightly rounder for a cuter chibi look. Seiji’s head turns into a ball with three spikes jutting out the top. Guri practically morphs into a minimalist, avant-garde piece when she loses all details save for her ahoge and maybe some duck-like lips depending on the joke at hand.
This contrast works because normally the designs are either interesting or attractive. Colors capture: Seiji’s light-blue hair sticks out even more than usual for such a plain protagonist, Shikimi’s pink motif masks her vile personality. Akane’s large bosom (which the opening track’s visuals even hone in on) and Yuzu’s cute demeanor are traits that immediately appeal. And Guri dons almost one new costume per episode, going so far as to have a complete redesign after becoming a devil.
Movement likewise “degrades,” skipping out on strict fluidity and replacing it instead with exaggerated motions for even more comedic opportunities. Yuzu is prone to such actions when she flails her arms in frustration or runs away in panic, but Guri can show it too when she runs with speed as Seiji holds onto her hand for dear life. The show even combines the degraded designs with the degraded movement such as when Akane cuts up a bunch of vegetables when making dinner while at Seiji’s place (with everyone else, much to her chagrin).
Not to say that the art and the animation defaults to degradation all the time. Guri’s sweet scenes and Shikimi’s attacks represent a couple of examples that highlight this statement well enough. Plus, the anime goes out of its way to add additional flair where possible. Out-of-screen speech bubbles. Camera shakes. Smaller details like hearts and sparkles.
A lackluster setting does hold the anime back though; the city and the school do not represent a source of intrigue since they exist to provide little else beyond an area for the characters to run around in. However, the inclusion of goofy, starry, or otherwise imaginative backgrounds continue to aid the comedy in their one-off, supportive behavior.
The cast of Renai Boukun fit rather cleanly into tried-and-true roles.
It has the self-insert protagonist in Seiji. It has the yandere in Akane. It has the tsundere in Yuzu. It has the genki girl in Guri. It has the sadist in Shikimi. Such roles are not inherently a negative; it’s simply an observation and an easy way to succinctly describe those in the show.
Indeed, the characters rarely deviate from their associated actions. Akane threatens Seiji himself for “cheating” on her with other “homewreckers.” Yuzu acknowledges Seiji’s kindness but qualifies most of her responses with a variation of the classic “but that doesn’t mean I like you” phrase. And so on and so forth. However, what they lack in uniqueness they make up for in their connectivity and individual focus.
Looking at the relationships within the harem, they have a level of interaction that brings out more comedy from them than otherwise possible. Akane does not like Guri, often calling her “stupid monkey” and conceding to the fact that the two are rivals in love. Yuzu is in love with Akane so hard that she melts into goo when the crazy woman simply kisses her (on the forehead) for the first time. Shikimi “toys” with these two female cousins of hers. Guri sees the truth within Shikimi’s soul and is arguably Yuzu’s best friend.
Per the harem and the roles they play, each girl also has an affinity for Seiji himself. Akane is madly (read: insanely) in love with the lad. Yuzu cannot help but fall for him as he almost always catches her when she literally falls. Guri adores his reactions and teases him regularly. Shikimi wishes to steal him away from Akane to hurt her as much as possible.
Seiji himself does not get any notable information about him, letting the anime focus on the girls instead. He is nice and normal and therefore not that interesting, but he is still a likable dude nonetheless. If only because he approaches the situation he now finds himself in with a lot of relatability. Guri annoys him to no end. Akane scares him despite the crush he has on her. He chooses to go along with Yuzu’s nonthreatening insults. He wants nothing to do with Shikimi whatsoever. So, while he takes a backseat with everyone else in the cast around, he does not go unnoticed.
Related to Seiji, their feelings and wants do not appear out of thin air. Renai Boukun makes sure to not let that happen when it actively takes the time to showcase more of the backstory, the reasoning behind the affection they carry.
For example, Akane earns much of that time. Growing up, her mother instilled in her the need to suppress her emotions without reservation, training her instead in the ways of the blade rather than the ways of the heart. Boys would confess their love to Akane, but she turned them down since they only viewed her in a superficial sense.
She bumps into Seiji randomly one day in an alley where his cat has clawed his eyes shut (setting up an indirect joke in the moment). Without sight, he double checks that she is okay and remarks on her kindness towards him, valuing her as a beautiful person on the inside and winning her over indefinitely.
Having never expressed emotion and now finding her one true love, it makes sense then that this complete 180 in her thought process turns her into the yandere of today. Even when her mother forces her back home and prevents her from ever seeing Seiji again, she cannot discard the feelings she now holds. After Yuzu’s words, Guri’s actions, and a like-mother-like-daughter bit of exposition, Akane successfully pushes back against the naysayer, finding solace in the love she shares with her blue-haired boyfriend.
To reiterate, Renai Boukun investigates and expands on Akane’s past the most out of the characters, meaning the others do not have the same depth. But they receive attention nevertheless. For example, Guri is God’s daughter, but her (unknown) mother is a demon. Thus, her abilities as a cupid are not as fine-tuned as those in heaven, leading to her keen interest in love and what it means. Yuzu devotes herself to Akane after she saves her from falling in a fountain filled with vicious piranhas (pretty extreme but that’s how Shikimi operates). As for Shikimi herself, her desire to obtain what she doesn’t have and everyone else does stems from the flaunting nature of people and the need for attention that nobody gives her.
Like Akane, they improve for the better, too. Guri returns to angel status when she realizes that the best part about love is having the person one loves love them back. Yuzu slowly but surely appreciates Seiji more and more. And Shikimi even seems to find a teeny, tiny bit of gratitude by the end of the season.
None of the writing involved hits any high notes, but it is still nice to see the anime go out of its way to bolster its crew even if the execution isn’t all there. To that end, smaller side characters help to round out Renai Boukun. Tsuruoka, Yuzu’s (unfortunate) butler, adds a few small comedic asides. Mari, the student (somewhat secretly) in love with her teacher, shows a different kind of love. And Coraly, Guri’s heavenly guide, provides useful information now and again for the characters (and the audience).
The most intriguing side character, though, is Akua, Seiji’s younger sister and therefore potential love interest. Not only does she garner attention but also she has what can only be described as tangible development. In a three-part act of sorts, her encounters with Stolas give her new insight and new chances of her own. In part one, Seiji saves her to let her know that he is the same brother he has always been despite the gaggle of girls who surround him. In part two, Akane saves her, batting away the penguin and earning some encouragement from the frustrated (soon-to-be) sister-in-law. And in part three, Akua saves herself, finally overcoming her longstanding fears.
Altogether, the cast is a net positive. The harem works, they play their roles well, they receive more attention beyond their base characteristics, and the extra side characters pepper in something different when and where they can. Not too shabby.
MUSIC & SOUND
Standing above the rest of the sound within Renai Boukun, the opening track forms fun and frivolity with its upright catchiness. The reserved and occasionally weird instrumentation in the first half gives the clapping, the lyrics (with its emphasis on “daisuki” and “baby”), and the harmonized vocals the room they require to invite the audience with the start of each episode. Eventually a more involved second half rolls in with grander sounds, different lyrical approaches (namely punctual, crescendo-like and back-and-forth styles), and even more harmonizing.
Unfortunately, the rest of the music does not hold up.
The ending track, “‘Suku’ wo Oshiete”, has its heart in the right place, showcasing a softer piece with piano and xylophone. But the methodical pacing and the (low) emotional appeal of the song prevent it from reaching full strength alongside this fast-and-funny show.
As for the rest of the original soundtrack, it too fades away without much to say let alone listen to. Save for a single track: Shikimi’s theme. The heavy pipes, the grating background noise, and the male vocals ooze an ominous atmosphere to a scary degree.
Going in the opposite direction again, the voice acting performances deserve a sizable shoutout. Yoshino Aoyama as Guri infuses the air with a chipper cadence, and Manami Numakura as Akane creeps out the audience with her maniacal mannerisms and evil advances (e.g., “The only one who may hurt Seiji-kun…is me” line from episode two).
Most of all, Yuki Nagano as Yuzu, in her first ever role, nails a proper, shy, and cute voice to make the kindhearted girl one of the funniest characters in the show.
What a darn fun anime.
Almost every character had me laughing on more than one occasion. Especially Akane, Guri, and Yuzu. Akane literally dying of shock at the mere envisioning of Seiji eloping and starting a family with another woman. Yuzu poking Seiji’s eyes out twice: once for ogling at Akane’s bikini and once more right after for giving Yuzu herself a compliment about her own swimsuit. Guri so happy-go-lucky about almost everything despite the slapstick abuse she experiences or must avoid. Alongside Seiji being at the expense and mercy of these three, I was consistently entertained throughout the show’s season.
My only major gripe is Shikimi. I liked her at first given her rather (shall we say) in-your-face introduction. But afterwards, when she became much more annoying and infallible and lame, I often frowned upon her arrivals. Worse still that the ending implied that she would (someday) be officially accepted into the harem. Yes, I’m supposed to dislike her, but that doesn’t stop me from actually disliking her, too.
That’s about it. The anime doesn’t have incredible moments, amazing writing, or nuanced, tangential details for me to praise or hate. It’s simply a fun show that’s at least worth the time invested. And sometimes – when we shift between the ultra horrendous and the utterly stupendous anime out there – we do not need to ask for much more.
Renai Boukun may not have a huge presence within the medium, but it still has the execution present to push it a tad bit higher than the average. Quick jokes, a host of (in a positive sense) silly artistic choices, and a couple of notable music tracks argue in its favor even if the rest of its offerings do not invoke a ton of specialness. To put it differently, it brings to mind a more than passable form.
Story: Fine, a rom-com with a strong helping of comedic chops and several words on the meaning of love, hampered by weak drama and a weaker premise
Art & Animation: Good, from the contrasting “degraded” designs to the exaggerated movements to the goofy additions, the visuals aim for comedy the whole way through
Characters: Good, Akane, Guri, Yuzu, and Shikimi work well together and on their own within the harem format, Seiji is a likable dude, and extra side characters like Akua round out the cast in their own way
Music & Sound: Fine, a forgettable ED and a lackluster OST hold back a catchy OP and strong VA performances
Enjoyment: Good, minus Shikimi, romance plus comedy equals a pretty fun time
Final Score: 6/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3