My opinion of Kotoura-san has changed.
I think romantic comedy anime can only go as far as the male lead as nothing is quite as soul crushing as having someone like Shinji Ikari or Tomonori Iwaki as the focus of the haremettes attention. For most harem shows, because there is a wide variety of female characters, it isn’t as devastating to have a bad female lead, but it’s nearly impossible to recover because of a poor male lead. Manabe? He’s excellent. It’s rare to see a male lead (a) honest with himself (b) genuinely good guy (c) man it up when he needs to. He is a refreshing choice for a male lead, and he is definitely a billion times more interesting of a character than poor Mochisou.
(Manabe should have been the hero for Maoyuu. I can’t imagine him leaving poor Demon King alone for a whole fucking year because he’s too spineless to meet her. He’s a white knight personality, and he’ll find a use for useless meat.)
And Manabe just gets it. He does all he can to protect Kotoura, and he always tries to use humor to diffuse situations. If we replaced any average male lead in any crappy anime with Manabe, that show would get better. Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru!, I’m looking at you. Still, despite how wonderful Manabe is to Kotoura, the show manages to keep romcom potential because Kotoura is deftly afraid of being close to anyone. So the show ends up being how Manabe can get closer to her and whittle down her defenses like how General Grant whittled down the defenses at Vicksburg.
There’s just the right balance of seriousness and slapstick. For a romantic comedy, it is not easy balancing the two, but Kotoura-san does it and does it well. The slapstick moments (like this one) are perfectly timed, and they’re quite funny. Characters seem to do what you would expect in a generic romcom, but they take it a step further. Like here, Mifune playfully grabs onto Kotoura, and you’re thinking, “Oh, she captured her.” Then Mifune throws down Kotoura as if this were Million Dollar Man going up against Randy Savage. Of course, this all happens right after a very sweet yet not so sweet scene between Kotoura and Manabe.
All the characters, except Manabe and Kotoura, are bat shit insane and broken to some degree. The president has some childhood trauma. The vice-president has a dark sense of humor. The kung-fu girl feels like a character from Melrose Place. And, really, we’re just waiting for the shoe to drop on Manabe or Kotoura. I’m not ruling anything out. Kotoura could re-enact nice boat, Watanagashi-hen, and Beyonce’s halftime show before this show is all over. But romcoms need a supporting cast to stretch shows out to a full 13 episodes, and Kotoura’s doesn’t disappoint.
(Okay, poor Hiyori feels more like a generic villain from Great Teacher Onizuka, but is that really a bad thing? Miyabi Aizawa is a premiere villain. And Urumi…)
Half of this show is watching hope and happiness build up for Kotoura and then seeing it ripped out from under her. I don’t think the show will continue like that, but it did make more interesting stories. It was just enough to hook me, and now I feel too emotionally vested in the characters to not continue watching… damn you better than average writing. This is how you start an anime series, which is the exact opposite of how Da Capo III, Amensia, Vividred, and others started.
One thing I wonder about Kotoura is if she can tell if someone is speaking or if someone is thinking. Generally, in other fiction, people who have this power can tell if the person is thinking something or speaking something, which lets them to better hide their power. Kotoura, though, either doesn’t have this capability or the ability to filter what she says, thus exposing her powers. It’s interesting. I can definitely see how this power can be confusing especially if one can’t see someone’s lips. You don’t know if they said it or thought it. I just find it interesting because mind-reading characters are usually portrayed as people who can instantaneous discern if a thought is spoken or thought.
My biggest complaint now about this show? Manabe’s perverted fantasies aren’t perverted enough. Dude, it’s 2013. Who cares if you want to spank Kotoura or want to take a bubble bath with her? It’s lame. Ali Larter tempted Van Der Beek with a cream sandwich was tame for 1999… and it’s 2013 now. You either want more perverted fantasies or go the other way and have super lame fantasies a la Hosaka. But wanting to spank Kotoura? What are you? A Catholic priest?