By Dustin Cabeal
I was surprised to see a meme based on the opening of Blend S. I suppose that shows how mainstream anime has become. Too bad the meme sucked! I’ve yet to see one that made me laugh and even worse, I couldn’t think up a joke that would make the meme funny. All that aside, Blend S was one of the best anime of 2017. It came close to making my Top 5 list, and if I had done an expanded version, it would definitely be on there.
The story is straightforward. Maika wants to study aboard and to do so she wants to pay her own way. She’s obsessed with other countries, and as the show goes on, we learn it’s for a variety of reasons. Part of it is that her household is old school Japanese, from the design, furniture and the clothing that the family wears. Maika sets out to get a job but can’t find any luck due to her eyes. You will likely look at her and think, “What is wrong with your eyes, they seem very anime to me?” It’s a wonderful setup for a gag later on.
After a chance encounter with a foreigner at the train station, she makes her way to her interview only to not get the position. The same stranger runs into her again and awkwardly offers her a job, though it looks like he’s soliciting her public. His name is Dino, and he’s the manager of the coffee shop that is at the center of the show. He wants Maika to play a character at the shop which has an “anime trope” theme. There’s a tsundere character, a little sister character and with Maika, he’d like to add a sadistic character. This is quite hilarious in that Maika doesn’t understand the character at all and just wants to do her best. The problem is, her eyes and awkwardness allow her to play the character perfectly. That and her understanding of customer service is lacking considerably as the show points out over and over.
Aside from a deep cast of supporting characters that contribute to the story and humor, there’s a quaint love story happening in the background. Sure, it’s a little age inappropriate, but at least it doesn’t cross any lines. Dino is in love with Maika, and it’s evident to anyone with half a brain, hell, you even think she knows for a while, but then, sure enough, she’s clueless. This was a great role reverse since normally the guy is the clueless one. That and it’s not a harem. It’s not as if Maika picks up other love interests or that Dino likes other women. Eventually, Maika begins to question if she has feelings for him as well, but then the season ends.
The first seven episodes of the season are solid. They were great in that they make this restaurant believable, but also entertaining. It’s instantly a place that you’d want to visit and not just for one element. After the “surprise” character is introduced the story begins hitting all the cliché events from hot springs, to the beach and it doesn’t even remotely fit with the slice of life restaurant theme that’s been established. Granted, it’s boring to stay in the restaurant the entire time, but the diverse traveling is out of place with the rest of the story. The surprise character is a boy that dresses as a girl, and it’s never really clear what his sexuality is, and it doesn’t even matter. Hideri and Miu, the last two characters introduced, never really contribute to the story the same way the original three waitresses do. They feel added just for the sake of adding characters which is a pet peeve of mine in anime. Anything added should add to the story, but even the damn dog they call Owner didn’t add to the story. Sure, there was a great gag with him, but you could easily lose the joke, and the show wouldn’t suffer.
The animation is by A-1 Pictures, so of course, you’ll shit your pants while looking at it. It’s a great looking show. The women aren’t sexualized too much and considering its A-1 and anime, that’s saying a lot. It’s all kept realistic and decent with the exception of the beach and hot springs episodes. Then it’s just default anime sexualization. The coloring and color scheme of the waitresses makes this show stand out for sure. The pastel colors make it different looking from a lot of other anime out there. The background characters are unfortunately too plain and considering they’re given a lot of actual dialogue, it's strange that they lack any features. Especially when it was clear that a few of them were reoccurring to the restaurant. Otherwise, that opening alone throws down the gauntlet and establishes the beauty of the animation right from the beginning.
The voice acting is superb. Each voice actress is asked to essentially play two different characters. The core three waitresses nail this, while the second two kind of just play the same character for both parts. But the core three, they nail it. Especially the voice actress for Mafuyu who plays the little sister character perfectly and then switches to the meanest person in the world (only directed at Dino though). The way they flip the switch though is nothing short than amazing.
The curse of success often means that good stories like this are spoiled when they force themselves to continue. This could have been a quaint and interesting love story or at the very least just a love story, with the first season show the infatuation and the next season showing the start of a relationship. For some reason, anime is afraid of ever showing that with properties like this and so we’ll just continue to see tropes and pining if the show comes back. For the first season though, it’s a lot of fun. The characters are great, and the simple fact that every character plays two character is brilliant and talented. Blend S has a lot to offer its viewers so give it a shot and be amused and delighted.
Blend S – Season One
Creator: Miyuki Nakayama
Director: Ryōji Masuyama
Writer: Gō Zappa
Studio: A-1 Pictures