“Peace is present when things form part of a whole greater than their sum, as the diverse minerals in the ground collect to become the tree.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupery
When Futaro Uesugi receives an offer to take up a position as the tutor with a good pay, he accepts: despite being highly studious, he comes from a difficult background and lives frugally as a result. As it turns out, Futaro is set to look after not one, but five students. These quintuplets come from a wealthy background, but all of them are disinterested in academics and have poor grades as a result. However, determined to ensure their success, Futaro presses forwards despite their initial hostility towards him, and over time, manages to turn them around: the girls gradually begin to see merits in Futaro’s methods and accept him while their grades begin improving. This is The Quintessential Quintuplets (Go-Tōbun no Hanayome, literally “Five Equal Brides”), an anime adaptation of Negi Haruba’s manga, which was serialised to Kodansha between 2017 and 2020. With its interesting premise, the anime proved an unqualified success, and a second season is set to air in 2021, now that the manga has concluded. The positive reception thus prompts the question: what about the series made it particularly successful, even in the eyes of those who are critical of the genre? The answer is almost immediately apparent; The Quintessential Quintuplets‘s success comes from doing things well on a broad spectrum of categories, from its animation and artwork, to top-tier voice acting from an all-star cast, and above all, likeable characters in conjunction with a genuine curiosity to see what methods Futaro uses to help each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki find success. The journey is a warm and rewarding one: while it is evident that The Quintessential Quintuplets was to be a love story out of the gates (the anime opens with a wedding ceremony), it manages to keep things exciting by making it tricky to ascertain who Futaro ends up marrying in the end, as well as presenting another, rather unexpected theme as a result of Futaro becoming the quintuplets’ tutor.
The Quintessential Quintuplets is a romance, but thanks to the premise of Futaro taking up his post initially to help his family pay off a debt, and the fact that Futaro himself is remarkably studious, the anime demonstrates that individuals, however similar they are, each have their own unique style. Consequently, in order to get to each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki, Futaro must first understand the girl as a person before he can decide how to best motivate them. This aspect of The Quintessential Quintuplets became visible with Miku: she’s the first to open up to Futaro and reveals an interest in Japanese history, specifically, surrounding the Sengoku era. Once Futaro realises that he can motivate Miku by matching her in knowledge and showing her that, were she to approach history the same way she approaches the Sengoku, she can pick up the materials quickly. Miku, Yotsuba and Ichika thus warm up to Futaro when he begins taking a more personalised approach to things, while Nino adamantly refuses, and Itsuki persists on her own out of pride. However, as The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ continues, it becomes clear that everyone’s slowly begun to warm up to Futaro because he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and use adaptive, flexible approaches in coaching the girls: rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, his personalised approach allows him to motivate each of the quintuplets according to their own circumstance and interests. This is something I’ve noticed during my time as a student and instructor: everyone has their own background and corresponding way of learning, and the way that schools approach teaching is not really the most optimal approach for everyone. As Futaro discovers, sometimes, the best means of understanding someone comes outside the academic setting, where people are truer to themselves.
Screenshots and Commentary
- From left to right, the quintuplets are Yotsuba, Miku, Ichika, Itsuki and Nino. Each of the girls are named after numbers in order of their birth (Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki), and out of the gates, this screenshot captures everyone’s reception to Futaro: Yotsuba and Ichika seem the most receptive, while Miku’s gaurded. Itsuki outright rejects him, and similarly, Nino meets Furaro with open hostility. Ichika is voiced by Kana Hanazawa (Yukari Yukino of Garden of Words and A Place Further Than The Universe‘s Shirase Kobuchizawa), Ayana Taketatsu plays Nino (Azusa Nakano of K-On! and Hana Uzaki of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out), Miku Itō is Miku (Locodol‘s Nanako Usami and Maple of Nekopara), Ayane Sakura plays Yotsuba (Cocoa Hoto from GochiUsa and Oregairu‘s Iroha Isshiki), and Itsuki is voiced by Inori Minase (GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu and Danmachi‘s Hestia).
- In the Terrible Anime Challenge series, the goal is for me to see if a given anime meets the expectations that the community has established. The Quintessential Quintuplets is well-received and enjoyed by many, so entering, my expectations for the series was for it to excel: per some of the harshest critics around, The Quintessential Quintuplets is “nothing revolutionary, but does a lot of basic things well”. This constitutes as high praise from a site whose reviewers frequently draw theory from undergraduate gender studies textbooks to tear down a given work. Exiting The Quintessential Quintuplets, I was impressed with the series for being able to strike a balance between comedy and drama, which really pulled me in.
- As a result, The Quintessential Quintuplets is an anime that matches the expectations that the community had set, being superbly enjoyable. This was apparent from episode one of The Quintessential Quintuplets, as Futaro does his best to get through to a group of girls who are adamantly disinterested in studying. After seeing for himself just how tricky things are, Futaro discovers that Miku has a hidden interest for the Sengoku era based on her love for a mobile game, and decides to verse himself in the period’s history to motivate Miku. For his trouble, Futaro is successful, and Miku begins to accept his tutelage. For me, Japanese history is not my forte, and I much prefer reading about the Cold War and World War II.
- Yotsuba has little objections with Futaro, but her busy schedule leads her to ditch most of their early sessions, typically leaving Futaro alone with Miku. Futaro’s attributes bring to mind my own mannerisms back in the day: as a high school student, I was among the top of my year in academics, but was also a real piece of work in retrospect. Some of my favourite moments include outperforming my chemistry instructor on a practise standardised exam we were giving a whirl ahead of our final exams, and drew scores with my social studies instructors on those exams. For the actual exams themselves, if memory serves, my scores were: 90 for English, 95 for social studies, 98 for mathematics, 96 for biology, 98 for chemistry and 94 for physics. Together with my extracurricular activities, secured me a spot in the university’s undergraduate health sciences programme.
- Once university arrived, I performed well enough in my first year, but second year saw me fall to just a tenth of a grade point above satisfactory standing. This experience was remarkably humbling, and since then, I’ve viewed grades differently: my old performance back during high school isn’t particularly noteworthy at present. One of the possible outcomes of The Quintessential Quintuplets, then, could be that the girls help Futaro to enjoy life a little more and strike a balance between striving for excellence, as well as spending time with those important to him. Back in The Quintessential Quintuplets, Ichika is the next of the quintuplets to begin opening up to Futaro. Itsuki is insistent on pushing forwards on her own and only reluctantly allows Futaro to help her sisters because she’s met Raika, Futaro’s younger sister. Nino goes to great lengths to push Futaro out: on their first session, she spikes his water, causing him to fall unconscious.
- While The Quintessential Quintuplets is about Futaro doing his best to motivate the girls, a series purely about studying would be rather dull. Solving quadratic equations, balancing a stoichiometric expression and reviewing English grammar does not lend itself to more colourful moments, and folks looking to experience that would do better to pick up a textbook. Instead, The Quintessential Quintuplets shows the time that Futaro spends with the quintuplets outside of their sessions. At the summer festival, Miku is the first to explain the significance of the fireworks event to Futaro: she’s the first to develop feelings for him.
- The Quintessential Quintuplets is a visually impressive anime: while not particularly standout compared to the best of something like Kyoto Animation or P.A. Works, Tezuka Productions has nonetheless done a solid job with background artwork and character animations. The fireworks sequences were particularly impressive, although the girls wind up being separated after a failure to communicate. It is here that Futaro learns of Ichika’s secret ambition of becoming an actress; an audition had coincided with the night of the festival, and Futaro encourages her to pursue what she feels to be important. This action causes Ichika to begin accepting Futaro.
- I always found it interesting that of everyone, Yotsuba has the least resistance towards Futaro. Even shortly after meeting, she’s the first to speak with him of her own volition, and never openly objects to anything he suggests when it comes to studying. I will remark that at this point in time, I’ve not read the manga and therefore do not know which of the five quintuplets ends up marrying Futaro. With this being said, The Quintessential Quintuplets manages to keep the viewer guessing right up until the end, and since there is a second season, I am rather looking forwards to seeing this outcome.
- Consequently, I will be most displeased if anyone should spoil the ending for me: a part of the thrill in The Quintessential Quintuplets is the fact that any one of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba or Itsuki could potentially be the special person for Futaro. The first season suggests that Ichika, Yotsuba or Miku are more likely, given that they immediately open up to him, but this raises the possibility that Itsuki or Nino are viable, as well, since there’d be a bit of a journey for Futaro to get to a point where they trust him, and in doing so, this would help Itsuki and Nino appreciate the sort of person Futaro is beyond his love of studying.
- With midterms on the horizon, the quintuplet’s father issues Futaro an ultimatum: should any of the girls fail, he will be dismissed from his post. This pushes Futaro to make a more honest effort in helping the girls study, although he finds it difficult to convey this news to the others. He attempts to tell Itsuki, but instead, Nino hears the news. One recurring gag in The Quintessential Quintuplets is that the quintuplets all look similar enough so that they can be mistaken for one another, and in the anime, everyone is given a distinct colour scheme so that viewers can easily differentiate them.
- For viewers, it is remarkably easy to warm up to Miku, Yotsuba and Ichika even though their disinclination to study is no better than Itsuki and Nino’s. In an attempt to encourage them, Futaro will grant them them concessions in exchange for studying: since the girls became curious to hear what his preferences in women are, he decides that for some milestone they reach, he’ll reveal one of three: these end up being 1) a cheerful disposition, 2) skillful at cooking and 3) cares for her older brother. The last one is a curveball: Futaro won’t easily give up his secrets, but the anticipation shows that everyone has begun to take an interest to Futaro in some way.
- Futaro notices that Ichika is always the most composed and mature of the quintuplets, someone who won’t hesitate to give him advice on how to best manage this rowdy, rambunctious bunch. Recalling her advice earlier about kindness, he acts on it and pets Ichika, causing her heart to skip a beat. By The Quintessential Quintuplets‘s halfway point, it becomes clear that both Miku and Ichika have feelings for Futaro despite is disinterest in pursing a relationship.
- If and when I’m asked, Miku is my favourite of the quintuplets: her quiet and shy disposition brings to mind the sort of traits that I’m fond of. It’s difficult to describe what about these characteristics are so appealing for me. I found myself rooting for Miku early on, and despite her hesitant nature, she gradually becomes more forwards about how she feels towards Futaro, even climbing into bed with him during one overnight study session, and later admitting that while their mother had always taught them to see one another as equals, she wouldn’t hold back where Futaro was concerned.
- When the midterms come, each of the girls pass in precisely one subject and fail the others. Futaro steels himself for the inevitable, only for Itsuki to brazenly lie about everyone having passed. On some technicality, if each quintuplet is a fifth of a whole, then together, they pass, but this reasoning is a non sequitur. For the sake of The Quintessential Quintuplets, however, the girls’ father accepts this as the truth, allowing Futaro to retain his post for a little longer, and given the outcome, it stands to reason that Futaro is successful in mentoring the girls. Because the girls getting their grades up is a foregone conclusion, this leaves The Quintessential Quintuplets free to explore things beyond studying.
- Inori Minase’s done an excellent job of portraying the tsundere Itsuki: Itsuki sounds nothing like Chino or Chito, which attests to her skill. Conversely, since Yotsuba is a happy-go-lucky sort of individual, Ayane’s chosen to voice her in the same style as Cocoa and Iroha: it is rather difficult to see Yotsuba as anyone other than Cocoa, and in conjunction with OreGairu, it’s suddenly struck me just how much I miss GochiUsa. Fortunately, with GochiUsa BLOOM on the horizon and set to air on October 12, Thanksgiving Long Weekend for me, I am looking forwards to seeing what adventures await Cocoa, Chino and the others.
- As the first season draws to a close, Futaro is convinced to join on a class camping trip into the mountains. On the eve of the trip, the girls take him shopping for new gear so he looks a little less shabby, but when Raika falls ill with a fever, Futaro looks after her instead and is prepared to skip the trip. However, Raika recovers, and the girls pick him up instead. When a snowstorm brews and creates a traffic jam, the group ends up lodging at a ryōkan for the night.
- Ryōkan, traditional Japanese inns, are not inexpensive by any means: they can run for anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five thousand yen (186-312 CAD) per person per night, but in exchange, offer unparalleled service and an experience in Japanese hospitality. Most ryōkan serve guests with a full Japanese breakfast that renders lunch almost unnecessary, and full kaiseki ryori courses for dinner that showcase Japanese cooking at its finest. Some ryōkan also have an onsen on premises, allowing guests to fully relax.
- The camping trip could have merited an entire post on its own, seeing an eventful day where Futaro helps Yotsuba with a test of courage and ends up getting locked in a storeroom with Ichika. Prior to the trip, another fellow interested in Ichika had tried asking her out to the bonfire dance, which is rumoured to help a couple stay together if they are holding hands at its conclusion. However, this “Ichika” was actually Miku, creating a bit of a misunderstanding. The other fellow eventually meets another girl thanks to Futaro’s help on the test of courage.
- Ichika falls ill from the previous night’s events, but mysteriously reappears the following morning for the skiing event. Meanwhile, Itsuki has gone missing. Futaro manages to deduce that “Ichika” is actually Itsuki, and while trying to escape Yotsuba and Nino, runs into Miku. The Quintessential Quintuplets has begun setting the stage for a love tesseract, and in any other series, this has the potential of devolving into an unsolvable problem. However, since the series has made it exceedingly clear what the outcome is, this leaves it clear to simply explore the story in between. It is a brilliant bit of writing on Negi Haruba’s part: his decision to break with some conventions and stick with what makes for a clean story in the manga eliminates the problem that plagues most series with multiple female protagonists.
- At some point, one of the quintuplets will walk the isle with Futaro, and the other four will have made peace with this fact despite being in love with him themselves. How this comes to be will likely be what season two deals with, and as season one draws to a close, the anime does not readily give up the manga’s mysteries as each of the girls hold Futaro’s hand during the finale of the bonfire dance before waking him up accidentally, resulting in much commotion. Overall, The Quintessential Quintuplets earns an A- (3.7 of 4.0, or 8.5 of 10): it matches expectations going in, uses a clever setup to avoid pitfalls of other, similar series, and has be excited about its continuation.
What The Quintessential Quintuplets particularly excels at in, during its first season, is creating anticipation: it is known ahead of time that Futaro will marry one of the quintuplets, and as such throughout the whole of the anime, watching Futaro interact with Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki leads the viewer to wonder, which of the five ends up tying the knot with Futaro? Is it the girls who open up to him earliest, or is it going to be those who most vehemently oppose the idea of him helping? Seeing the dynamics Futaro has with everyone thus makes the series quite captivating, as it represents the journey to the wedding altar that began with mistrust and doubt. With a second season on the horizon, I expect that The Quintessential Quintuplets will continue to portray this particular story, stepping slowly away from the studying piece and more towards the sorts of experiences that will eventually lead Futaro accept one of the girls as his bride. The Quintessential Quintuplets has demonstrated that it earns the praise it received; the positive reception for this anime is not misplaced, and considering that even the more difficult-to-please critics view The Quintessential Quintuplets favourably, it speaks to the strengths of the series to stay focused. Altogether, given the strengths in the first season, it is reasonable to say with confidence that the second season will continue to impress, and I am rather looking forwards to seeing how the anime chooses to wrap things up.