By Dustin Cabeal
For some reason, Renai Boukun translates to “Love Tyrant” which personally doesn’t make a damn lick of sense with this story. A longer title for it is, “The Very Lovely Tyrant of Love” which makes even less sense. Mainly because there’s no tyrant in the story nor does anyone act like one. I'm not picky, but rather preparing for anyone that complains about me not calling it “Love Tyrant” and instead referring to it as Renai Boukun throughout the rest of this review.
The anime has one of the worst, yet best, first episodes I have ever seen. A girl that looks like a gothic elf shows up on Seiji’s door and informs him that if he doesn’t kiss someone, he’s going to die. After a fainting spell he, of course, invites her in to get more info. The story makes a huge fucking reference to Death Note when Guri (the goth elf) pulls out a notebook that says “Kiss Note” and tells Seiji that whoever has their name written in there must kiss who’s written next to them or they’ll die.
Most of it turns out to be shit, but Seiji thinks that Guri is asking him for a kiss, so he musters up everything he has and kisses her in order to live. This establishes Seiji as the straight man as Guri gives more information informing Seiji that no one is written next to him yet and that she’s a cupid. A gag that runs throughout the series is established here as Guri asks Seiji what man he’d like to be matched up with, which he quickly declines. We find out that Guri’s hobby is matching up any two dudes to fall in love to satisfy her love of BL manga.
Seiji does have a crush that he would love to kiss, and so they head to school where his crush that he’s never talked to runs up to him, much to his surprise. Guri says she’s invisible, but Akane asks who the girl is… suddenly this lovely, popular girl turns into a demon. Seiji and Guri end up running as Akane tries to kill Guri. Eventually, Seiji is tied to Akane (who is deathly afraid of now), but so is Guri. This makes them all part cupids which is what Guri turns out to be. More female characters are introduced, of course, the little sister of Akane who is in love with her and their cousin Shikimi who is a sadist.
The humor in the first six episodes is off the walls. It’s bonkers and feels as if the story wants nothing more than to tell bad jokes and be slightly perverted. Which is great. I’m sure some viewers hated it, but not me. Especially since I started watching the series around episode eight, I dug right in and enjoyed the parody and puns. There was a bit of fan service, but nothing too annoying until Shikimi arrived on the scene. Her character uses her body to lure men and so even though she supplied some fan service, it was only for a select few… to put it mildly.
There is a complete tone shift to the series after Shikimi’s arrival. It was as if someone told the creator to make some plot lines and not just have the characters screw around making dudes fall in love, which is a shame. The plotlines are solid and well-plotted, but the comedy is minimized to the point that some episodes bare have a single joke. Shikimi tries to steal Seiji and trick Guri into becoming part of their harem, but Guri crushes her hopes. All of this is to set up the backstory for Akane and her half-sister Yuzu, which instantly plays out in the next art. This also sends Seiji to heaven where he meets Guri’s father and the angel that’s been inhabiting his cat’s body… which is gross looking. This sets up Guri’s backstory which plays out over the remaining episodes.
It's not bad, but the tone shift steals from the joy that was established in the earlier episodes. It gets too serious, and it was as if the writer didn’t know how to include the humor while still telling a serious story (see Prison School for the perfect example of how to do just that). The few jokes that do continue with the series are callbacks to previous jokes.
The characters are unusual. They feel like heavy-handed tropes most of the time, but then characters like Guri and Shikimi are new twists on their archetypes. Shikimi, in particular, is an unlikable character, most of the time to the point that it’s not even fun to dislike her, but she never goes away. The strange thing is that Shikimi ends up being one of the most developed characters by the end of the season. Which is a complete misstep. Every other character besides Guri and Shikimi are quickly developed over the course of one or two episodes, but these two are developed eight out of the twelve episodes, and one of them isn’t a main character.
The animation was clearly done on a tight budget. There’s hardly any background characters nor is there a lot of detail to backgrounds in general. Every time Guri does something funny or Akane puts a knife in her head, Guri turns into a poorly animated 2-D stick figure-esc character. It a style choice, but it’s not great. It was funny a few times, but then the show relies on it to the point that one episode you hardly see 3-D Guri. Even still the fighting was wonderfully animated, and that’s where the series shines. The comedy had a lot of decent moments in the beginning, but towards the end that two is recycled and misses the mark.
While Renai Bokun is worth watching, there were still problems with the show. If I hadn’t enjoyed the first four episodes as much as I did, I don’t know if I would have finished this series. It had plenty of problems which is just a damn shame, but if it manages to get a second season, I would give it at least another four to win me over again. If you can watch it easily, then I would recommend it, but it’s personally not one that you need to go out of your way for to see.
Renai Boukun – Season 1
Creator: Megane Mihoshi
Director: Atsushi Nigorikawa
Writer: Natsuko Takahashi
Studio: EMT Squared