The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Tag Archives: Sotoka Rakita

Terrible Anime Challenge: Ishuzoku Reviewers as an Unexpected Commentary on Accepting Diversity

“There will come a time when very few will care about other people’s sexual preference – or preferences.” –Clive Davis

Adventurers Stunk and Zel encounter an angel from Heaven named Crimvael, who’s unable to return because their halo is damaged. While resting up at their favourite haunt, the Ale ‘n Eats, Stank and Zel decide to hit a brothel to blow off some steam at a bird-maid place, hauling Crimvael along with them and, upon realising that reviewing different brothels could be a good side gig, Stank, Zel and a reluctant Crimvael become the Interspecies Reviewers. Along the way, they are joined by Kanchal and Bruise, producing reviews that interest other adventurers, while at the same time, drawing the ire of Ale ‘n Eats’ waitress, Meidri. Over the course of their reviews, it becomes apparent that while there are occasionally places that are immensely satisfying, for the most part, different species have their own preferences: this is immediately apparent when Stunk and Zel have a debate about whether or not a 50-year-old human is more attractive than a 500-year-old elf, and throughout the course of Ishuzoku Reviewers, it becomes apparent that there is more to this saucy anime than first meets the eye. Every episode has Stunk, Zel, Crimvael and the other reviewers checking out different brothels to gauge their experiences as casually one writes about anime, movies or games, and at first glance, this has caused Ishuzoku Reviewers to become dismissed as a mindless series on sex. In fact, Ishuzoku Reviewers‘ content proved to be such that Funimation dropped it and refused to show it on grounds that the show was immoral, and even Japanese television studios like Tokyo MX ended up pulling it from their schedule. However, other Japanese channels continued to air Ishuzoku Reviewers (among the AT-X, KBS and BS11). Ishuzoku Reviewers prima facie appears to be a completely meaningless series intended to titillate and shock viewers, with brazen combinations of sight and sound to remind viewers that Stunk and the others are having a blast (or not). However, looking past the surface, in daring to portray what other anime do not, Ishuzoku Reviewers manages to come up with an interesting message nonetheless.

During its run, Ishuzoku Reviewers has Stunk, Zel, Crimvael (and occasionally, one of Kanchal and Bruise) visiting a variety of brothels, hosting færies, minotaurs, undead, dæmons, lilim, lava beings, cyclops, golems and everything in between. For Stunk, vitality and physical attractiveness is key, while Zel prefers high-mana beings. Kanchal is a bit of a sadist and prefers submissive partners, while Bruise, being a dog-man, prefers beings that are easy on his sense of smell. For instance, at the minotaur establishment, the succubus’ busts are a strong point for many, but for Bruise, his lactose intolerance means he doesn’t have quite as good of a time. Similarly, færies are enjoyable to Zel and Kanchal, but Crimvael is unable to participate owing to their own physical traits and feels scammed because they’d been made to pay a registration fee nonetheless. However, there are also places that score highly: the golem shop allows Stunk, Zel, Kanchal and Crimvael to recreate Meidri, and a distant town allows visitors to hang out with a clone of Archmage Demia. Unsurprisingly, the scores are high here because the establishments cater to the individual’s specific preferences, creating a highly personalised experience for them. It becomes clear that Ishuzoku Reviewers highlights how different people favours different things, and moreover, there’s nothing wrong with this at all. This is ultimately what celebrating diversity boils down to: not everyone likes the same things, with some choices being more appealing to others (such as when Stunk, Zel and Crimvael accept an invitation to go to an egg-laying exhibition but are completely turned off, while Narugami, the fellow who invited them, is having a blast). However, there isn’t a right or wrong answer to what is the “best”, either: the answer to this question is based purely on the individual, and while Ishuzoku Reviewers shows viewers through many visceral moments involving the horizontal tango, the message is clear enough; diversity is a good thing, and differences among individuals notwithstanding, at the end of the day, everyone shares in common the desire for similar things (in Ishuzoku Reviewers, it’s to have a good time). Further to this, that the Interspecies Reviewers themselves all rate highly places that offer a personalised experience speaks volumes to the fact that different people similarly have a preference for being able to tailor things just to their liking.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Like my old Yosuga no Sora post, I’ll remark that papilla mammaria are shown in this post to some extent, so, in the manner of Lemony Snicket, this is a final warning of sorts to press the back button and go read something more agreeable. To bring readers up to speed on things, I do Terrible Anime Challenges to see if my response to an anime matches the reception that the community has expressed towards it. Usually, this entails my watching an anime long after it has finished airing; my schedule doesn’t always allow me to watch shows as they air, and I end up returning to a series once it’s done.

  • This is what happened with Ishuzoku Reviewers, which began airing in January 2020, a busy period: at the time, reports of an unusual new respiratory illness were circulating, and I’d just moved offices as a result of WeWork acquiring most of the floor space in our old building. As the winter set in, I ended up trying Ishuzoku Reviewers out of curiosity. The raunchy content proved amusing, but with Koisuru Asteroid and Magia Record keeping me busy, I put Ishuzoku Reviewers on hold so I could keep up with the other anime and Battlefield V, in turn leading Ishuzoku Reviewers to fall off my radar.

  • Ishuzoku Reviewers initially appears to be the sort of anime that seems quite far removed from the typical shows I watch (according to readers, I’ve developed somewhat of a reputation for writing about moé slice-of-life series), and indeed, when I picked up Ishuzoku Reviewers, I had entered fully anticipating that there wouldn’t be anything noteworthy to say. It is true that writing about what amounts to a group of friends fornicating their way through various types of brothels is about as tricky as it gets, but as I delved further into Ishuzoku Reviewers, I began finding myself more impressed with how well-written this world was.

  • Of the characters in Ishuzoku Reviewers, Crimvael was the most interesting; as an angel possessing male and female genitalia, Crimvael chooses to present as male to prevent people from hitting on them. Pronouns for Crimvael are tricky; on one hand, Crimvael is neither male nor female, but people address Crimvael with male pronouns as a result of their preferences. In this post, I’ve chosen to go with the neutral pronoun for simplicity’s sake. On the topic of pronouns, in Cantonese, 佢 (jyutping keui5) is the only third person singular pronoun, as Chinese has no inflections for gender. Talking about Crimvael would be straightforward, but, if I were I to review Ishuzoku Reviewers in Chinese, I would need to be mindful since written Chinese does have the distinction.

  • This is because radicals (部首, jyutping bou6 sau2) are used to separate characters when writing (whereas in spoken Chinese, context usually assists with meaning). In written Chinese, he/him is 他 and she/her is 她. 祂 is the character used to refer to deities, and Crimvael might count, as they are an angelic being, although a quick look around finds a new symbol for they/them: X也, which is appropriate for Crimvael. Conversely, animals are referred to as 牠, using the radical derived from 牛, the character for “cow”. On cows, Ishuzoku Reviewers did indeed have Stunk and the others hit a minotaur places after the reviewers totally flake on their promise to visit a dæmon place.

  • While I’d expected the minotaur’s assets to score highly, Ishuzoku Reviewers surprised me with the outcome, and it was about here that the anime’s messages became clear. Nothing is sacred in Ishuzoku Reviewers, as every idée fixe imaginable is explored. One episode has Stunk, Zel, Kanchal and Crimvael taking a potion that changes out their sex. After they have a laugh at their bodies, the establishment gives them a chance to see what things are like from another perspective, and similarly to the minotaurs, Ishuzoku Reviewers shows how some things are not what one imagines it to be, acting as a caution for people to be careful of what they wish for. On the other hand, Crimvael becomes blown away by their experience.

  • Indeed, there are several moments in Ishuzoku Reviewers where the reviewers take on more than they can handle: at a lilim establisment, even after being buffed with stamina and resistance bonuses, the reviewers get wiped out by the horde, and here, after collecting volcanic stones for a quest, Stunk and Zel are unable to order the special service from their host because they’d burn to death. On the other hand, Crimvael’s natural resistance to heat allows them to kick things upstairs. Throughout Ishuzoku Reviewers, the once pure and angelic Crimvael slowly becomes corrupted, and despite their objections otherwise, Crimvael’s actions demonstrate this: in one memorable instance, they end up going to a slime brothel on their own without Zel and Stunk.

  • The creativity in Ishuzoku Reviewers was actually quite charming, and when I noted that nothing is sacred in this series, I am not kidding – even fungi are viable candidates for doing the horizontal tango. During their visit, the reviewers find that this particular establishment, despite sounding a little strange, actually does do a phenomenal job for its clients: the receptionist gauges the individual and then suggests something for everyone. Stunk and Zel are immediately assigned a match, and in the end, even Crimvael receives something suited for them. Despite the mushroom establishment being unusual at first glance, everyone ends up having an especially good time in spite of appearances.

  • One aspect that began manifesting was the juxtaposition of doing the deed with an analogous bit of imagery while the characters review their experiences. Doing this sort of thing keeps Ishuzoku Reviewers from being a flat-out hentai series, but it also enhances things by leaving the viewer’s imaginations to run wild. This technique is often used in horror, where violence happens off-screen. These sorts of techniques are successful because everyone’s imaginations work differently, allowing the moment to impact them in their own way. By showing something on screen, this takes away the need for one’s mind’s eye to get to work.

  • This aspect is what Ishuzoku Reviewers suggests as being the most effective; it is after the Golem establishment that Ishuzoku Reviewers indicates to viewers that Stunk and his crew tend to have the best time at places that give them options. When they end up building a phoney version of Meidri and have a blast as a result, it became evident that people tend to rate things better when they can tailor-make something to their liking. This is why things like cosmetics in video games are such a big deal, and why companies offer “build it yourself” options.

  • Ishuzoku Reviewers‘ best moments actually don’t happen at the brothels: my favourite moment was watching Meidri’s delivery of a big-time physical beating to Stunk, Zel, Kanchel and Crimvael after learning that they’d made her. By default, Meidri isn’t one to put up with perversions from Stunk, but she does get along well enough with Crimvael, who works at Ale n’ Eats from time to time. To see Crimvael get trampled shows how some lines shouldn’t be crossed, and although Meidri is beside herself with rage, the episode’s second half has Crimvael back to being on speaking terms with Meidri, although Crimvael is drained after the Ale n’ Eats sees an influx of shadow people.

  • To help Crimvael recharge, Stunk and the others take them to a will-o’-the-whisp place. Although the staff are very friendly, the fact that it’s so bright in here means that nothing can be seen. Through this establishment, one can conclude that intimacy entails all five senses, and that taking away one (sight, in this case), is to diminish the experience. As Ishuzoku Reviewers continued, it became interesting to see what happened to Crimvael: desires of the flesh begin consuming them, and originally, Crimvael had stated their return to Heaven was contingent on their halo healing up. There’s no sign of that happening any time soon, and so, Crimvael increasingly becomes a fallen angel of sorts.

  • Despite clearly revelling in excesses, Ishuzoku Reviewers seems to caution viewers that there is merit in moderation: on a handful of occasions, the reviewers go to places that are a bit more intense than they’d anticipated. To get it out of their system prior to a lengthy quest, the reviewers swing by an actual succubus establishment: from how Ishuzoku Reviewers‘ world works, it is stated that the individuals working at succubus establishments have some succubus lineage in them rather than being a full member of a given species. This in turn makes them much more active than usual, making them suited for “entertaining” clients. While Ishuzoku Reviewers certainly takes things to a new level, the series is by no means the only one to have such a concept.

  • In Konosuba, succubus joints do actually exist, although they are limited to delivering highly realistic dreams for their clients, and unlike Ishuzoku Reviewers, where establishments are presumably legal, the ones from Konosuba operate in a grey area. On the topic of Konosuba, I’ve heard rumours of a third season going around, and I greatly enjoyed the series, having watched it after the health crisis prompted me to work from home. I am wondering what a continuation will entail, although the series’ greatest strength lies in how the characters bounce off one another.

  • One aspect in Ishuzoku Reviewers I found particularly enjoyable was the moment where Stunk and Zel realise that others have taken their review concept and applied it to places elsewhere. Although they consider legal action, after taking some time to think it through, note their concept isn’t particularly novel and in the end, simply enjoy the reviews from others. This moment was particularly relatable, and as a blogger, I myself occasionally have these reactions when learning another blog has covered what I was sure to be an obscure series. For the most part, it’s fun to see what others say, so long as they remain fair about things. Ishuzoku Reviewers also presents a satire of reviewers like myself through the Incubus, whose physiology allows him to find merits in most everything. Granted, such reviewers are actually worthless by default, although if we were to nitpick, I just tend to be more positive about the thing I do pick up, and my criticisms of a work take the form of “things I’d like to see improved” rather than being a tirade against the creators or folks who enjoyed it.

  • Altogether, beneath its vulgar and crass exterior, Ishuzoku Reviewers is actually a surprisingly fun show that capitalises on its outrageous premise to create something that exceeded my initial expectations. In this way, for the Terrible Anime Challenge series, I would count the series as “it was unexpectedly fun”. It appears I’m not the only one: others have praised the anime for daring to go where few have gone, creating humour at every turn, and unabashedly indicating that fun is a matter of perspective in a meaningful way. In short, Ishuzoku Reviewers does deserve the praise it has received. If and when I’m asked, my favourite of the places would probably be the Golem shop, or the Magic Metropolis, precisely because it provides the most customised experiences for the client.

  • Overall, Ishuzoku Reviewers is the sort of anime that does demand an open mind to watch, and no small amount of courage to write about. My decision to go through Ishuzoku Reviewers and write about it would’ve been unthinkable during its airing two years earlier, but in more recent times, after becoming a bit more involved with the community, especially through collaborative posts with Dewbond, I’m more open now than I’d been two years ago. Such posts therefore become more fun to write about, as they allow me to cover topics that I don’t normally cover. Similarly, it was collaboration with Dewbond that eventually led me to wrap up Gundam SEED and even press through Gundam SEED Destiny.

  • In past discussions dating back to 2020, when we’d first done our collaboration on Yosuga no Sora, Dewbond had suggested Fate/Zero as a candidate for collaboration. For this to materialise, I’d have to actually finish the series first, and this year, things have been looking very busy – I’m just barely keeping up with my posting schedule now ahead of the big move next month. Perhaps once things settle down, I’ll have a more concrete idea of where things are, although since Fate/Zero is a two-cour series with twenty-five episodes, I have a feeling that once I get started, momentum will do the rest, and I’ll finish in a timely manner.

  • During the finale, after New Year’s begins, the crew realise that all of their favourite spots are booked solid, but in exchange for having helped bumped up their visitor count, Aloe (receptionist of the Færie place) thanks them by giving them vouchers for an establishment that does dreams. While not the real deal, it does give everyone a chance to start the New Year with their favourite place; this is the moment that brought to mind how Succubus establishments in KonoSuba worked, and also indicates that reviews in Ishuzoku Reviewers are not taken personally: people see a review and may think to themselves that, given what was described, even in a negative review, a place might just be suited for them.

  • Ishuzoku Reviewers thus describes the more positive side of critical reviews, a far cry from how they can be handled in reality; people often see negative reviews as a call to stay away from something rather than a mark of what didn’t work for someone. Negative reviewers in turn utilise this as a chance to keep people away from genres they deem unworthy, in turn creating a culture of gatekeeping. I remark that it is possible for a negative review to be helpful, but this demands good faith from the reviewer. With this, my reflection on Ishuzoku Reviewers draws to a close, and I’ll round things out by remarking again that this series was quite the pleasant surprise.

Beyond a rather hilarious, if roundabout, way of celebrating diversity, Ishuzoku Reviewers also has a surprisingly well-conceptualised world. The series is set in a high fantasy realm, similar to those of an isekai, with Stunk and the others doing things befitting of a typical adventurer like clearing dungeons, completing quests and spending their downtime in their favourite tavern. However, through the brothels, glimpses into this world are provided. There is a dæmon lord, but her leadership boils down to whether or not people will vote for her. Challenges like improving armour effectiveness exist, and there are things that even magic cannot accomplish, prompting Demia’s interest in Crimvael and his unique properties. The world observes unique customs, as seen when Crimvael participates in a New Year’s Eve prayer. Stunk himself comes from nobility, but opted for a life of adventure rather. The world of Ishuzoku Reviewers is surprisingly well-written, conveying a sense that it is thoroughly lived-in: things never feel empty or lonely at any point. It is therefore the case that Ishuzoku Reviewers is one of those situations where judging a book by its cover is inappropriate – although the anime is trashy and lacks a cohesive underlying narrative through and through, it is a surprisingly well-constructed presentation on sex-positivity (which can be abstracted to diversity in general). With a healthy dose of humour, Ishuzoku Reviewers excels in presenting viewers with a world that seems welcoming, even if it is a little perverted. The anime similarly succeeds in one other realm; it is a hilarious satire of reviewers as a whole, and while the Interspecies Reviewers themselves try to be as fair as possible, they are shocked when they learn others have taken their concept and are applying it to reviewing brothels in different areas. Stunk and Zel consider suing until they realise the concept isn’t patented and then consent to enjoy other reviews, bringing to mind how it feels when one reads another blogger writing on their own chosen topics of interest. Similarly, when an Incubus shows up, and demands the Interspecies Reviewers to revise all of their reviews to perfect scores, arguing that he gets the different species in ways the Interspecies Reviewers do not, I do not mind admitting that I am reminded of myself: I tend to score everything highly and view things favourably. Altogether, while Ishuzoku Reviewers is not going to be a revolutionary series, it absolutely succeeds in creating a highly amusing journey that reminds viewers of how different people will have different preferences, and how in spite of this, these differences are less dramatic than one might imagine.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu and An Unexpected Road to Friendship

“Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.” –Thomas J. Watson

When Bocchi graduates from primary school and enters middle school, her best friend, Kai, determines that they shan’t be friends again until the shy and withdrawn Bocchi can befriend everyone in her new class. This seems an insurmountable mountain to climb for Bocchi, who cannot even speak to strangers without getting the dry heaves. On her first day of class at middle school, she manages to strike up a conversation with Nako, who comes to care for Bocchi. Over time, Bocchi ends up befriending the vice representative, Aru, and the foreign student, Sotoka. While Bocchi finds herself unable to convince Kako to hang out with her, she gradually becomes more familiar with her classmates, and so, enters her second year of middle school with a bit more confidence. This is Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu (alternatively, Hitori Bocchi no ○○ Seikatsu, or The Life of Being Alone), a Manga Time Kirara adaptation that aired during the spring 2019 season. While I did have plans to watch Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu, procrastination caused me to sit on this for months, and then years. Fortunately, with a bit of open time now that my schedule’s settled down, I’ve decided it was time to give Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu a go, and for my time, I was met with an anime that is adorable, telling a whimsical and honest story about how friendship comes about. The premise and setup in Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu appears trite at first glance. Bocchi brings to mind Azumanga Daioh‘s Osaka, while Nako is not dissimilar to Yuyushiki‘s Yui. Likewise, Sotoka is Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen. Familiar character archetypes in a purely school setting sets the stage for familiar antics and experiences. However, this is only what the premise conveys; in practise, Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu does a fantastic job of having the characters bounce off one another with their eccentricities, and in the end, contrary to the initial impressions the anime might suggest, the final result is a very rewarding one.

The goal Kai sets for Bocchi is one that appears unbeatable; befriending every last person in class is something that most folks typically won’t consider, since it implies forming a larger social circle than is typical of people of that age group, and indeed, even the folks considered popular usually do not make aquaintances of everyone in their class. Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu chooses to show how this Herculean task has humble beginnings: Bocchi starts out by talking to Nako, and while Nako may appear to be harsh, she’s actually considerate, taking the time to look after Bocchi and patiently walks Bocchi through her troubles. Bocchi herself is friendly, despite being shy, and as Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu progresses, it is clear that Bocchi could succeed in her task; she’s pursuing interpersonal connections to those around her for the sake of getting to know others better, and this falls under the realm of likeability. It is generally stated that popularity is built around likeability and social status. The former refers to how well one gets along with others, and how well others trusts one. Someone who builds relationships around this aspect will be inclined to listen to others. Social status, on the other hand, refers to envy (or admiration) for others. While building relationships around status gives the impression of success, it also entails being controlling, dismissive and unkind: I recall the cliques in high school, during which the popular students were centred around a handful of likeable individuals for clout. While the people at the centre of these cliques were respectable and reasonably kind to those around them, the followers were considerably less so; people who build relationships around status tend to find it difficult to maintain meaningful connections to others, but fortunately, in Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu, Bocchi is not doing anything for status: she genuinely wishes for solid connections to those around her, and while the anime has her definitively friends with Nako, Aru and Sotoka, by the season’s end, she’s beginning to get along with more people in her class, as well: Bocchi’s definitely acting in a likeable manner, and those whom she befriends will likely stick around.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When Bocchi’s journey begins, she starts out with zero friends and only the vaguest idea of how to communicate with people: Bocchi figures it’s a good idea to employ some unorthodox strategies, but these all end up backfiring. Without any outs, Bocchi is forced to introduce herself to others, and while Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu suggests that she’s vomiting out of stress, the reactions of those around her suggest that Bocchi is dry heaving rather than vomiting; no shirts are ruined, and no custodians are called in to clean up the associated mess.

  • It is the case that stress and anxiety can induce dry heaves, so this aspect of Bocchi’s character is not particularly unrealistic or implausible, even if Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu does exaggerate its characters’ traits. After summoning the courage to speak with Nako, Bocchi ends up befriending Aru, as well. One of the most pleasant side effects of Bocchi’s attempts to get to know everyone better means that those around Bocchi also end up becoming friends; Nako and Aru most certainly do not get along, but initially set aside their differences for Bocchi’s sake. Over time, the pair get a long better, although Nako remains fond of pressing Aru’s buttons late into the series (all in good fun, of course).

  • While Aru is occasionally busy with club activities, Nako has more time on her hands, and one weekend, decides to swing by Bocchi’s place. Bocchi’s idiosyncrasies are a little unusual, as evidenced when she wears a full bear costume while hosting Nako. Nako seems to take everything in stride, and while some of Bocchi’s antics are exasperating, Nako also comes to appreciate that at heart, Bocchi is kind and capable: she just needs a little push to be on her way: she’s voiced by Chisaki Morishita, whose roles in other anime are ones I’m not familiar with. Conversely, Minami Tanaka plays Nako, and I know her from Wake Up, Girls (Minami Katayama), Hanayamata (Hana N. Fountainstand) and Yakunara Mug Cup Mo (Himeno Toyokawa).

  • Sotoka is the classic foreign student with a very curious understanding of Japanese culture: like Karen from Kiniro Mosaic, Sotoka makes certain assumptions, leading her to view Bocchi as a ninjutsu expert of sorts. This misunderstanding lingers throughout much of Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu, but initially, the unusual dynamic between Bocchi and Sotoka also means that Bocchi also has the chance to hang out with one more person: Sotoka is fond of learning ninjutsu, and while Bocchi is no ninja, she does pass along some curious skills to Sotoka, including origami.

  • One cannot help but feel bad for Aru (Akari Kitō, Kaho Hinata from Blend S and Harukana Receive‘s Ai Tanahara): despite her attempts to maintain a confident and successful air about her, she’s also said to be “unfortunate”, which really gets on her nerves (to the point where she flies at Nako whenever Nako pokes fun at her). While 残念 (Hepburn zannen) corresponds to “unlucky”, Aru’s circumstance is probably better described as a “loser”: she somehow manages to kit herself out in a grade schooler’s uniform and resorts to increasingly desperate measures to conceal this. While it works on a few people, Nako sees right through things, forcing Aru to go home and change.

  • The characters’ names are all puns on their leading trait. Bocchi’s full name, Hitori Bocchi, means “alone”, Sunao Nako is a play on the phrase “honest child”, Honshō Aru is “true nature” and Rakita Sotoka is a pun on “outsider”. Some folks had a tough time working out why everyone’s names were puns and how this related to Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu‘s main themes; this is, fortunately, a simple enough exercise. Everyone is named after their defining characteristics, and their name thus gives insight as to their circumstances. The variety of situations, when placed together, creates a rather colourful set of experiences for everyone, showing how friendships can form among the most disparate of individuals.

  • If and when I’m asked, Aru is my favourite character: her cheerful personality and efforts to overcome adversity, especially in light of her poor luck, is admirable. It suddenly strikes me that the misfortune that Aru experiences is relatively minor (usually, losing bets or similar); when it comes down to the wire, Aru is helpful and supportive of those around her. The traits surrounding each character’s namesake are not debilitating in any way, and a major part of the charm in Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu is the fact that none of the characters suffer unnecessarily.

  • I’ve never been fond of series where a given character is made the in-show punching bag, and Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu mitigates this by having the characters be supportive of one another. Here, Bocchi recoils at a karaoke session. What happens next shows the extent of Kai’s desire to see Bocchi reach her goal: the pair meet at the same karaoke bar, but Kai adamantly refuses to even acknowledge Bocchi, causing Bocchi no small amount of distress. It turns out this was just as hard on Kai as it was for Bocchi, and fortunately, Bocchi’s small circle of friends do end up supporting her.

  • In this way, it is clear that Bocchi’s journey forward is about how well she can overcome whatever setbacks she may face; with everyone in her corner, Bocchi’s journey is no longer one she must undertake herself. This moment, of Sotoka carrying Bocchi, demonstrates the sort of artwork present in Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu – from a technical standpoint, the anime is middle-of-the-road, offering smooth animation and consistent artwork. Where the anime stands out is how the voice actresses play their part to bring their characters to life.

  • Kako is probably the toughest challenge for Bocchi: unlike Bocchi, who wishes to further herself by building up new connections, Kako is the polar opposite and believes that the best way ahead is to be independent, relying on no one. This is why Kako refuses to be friends with Bocchi: it’s got nothing to do with any shortcomings on Bocchi’s part, but rather, the personal code that Kako has set for herself. While this is unusual (no-one is an island, after all), it means that Kako is the perfect foil for Bocchi.

  • Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu does an excellent job of showing how being likeable (exhibiting politeness, empathy and a willingness to listen) is more important in maintaining good interpersonal relationships than status alone. In popularity, likeability and status are the two leading factors; the latter entails traits that make one appear more respectable or impressive, requiring one keep up appearances all the time. While Aru is prone to doing precisely this, I like her character precisely because she shows her true self around Bocchi and the others.

  • However, Aru’s desire to be seen as doing alright often means she will go out of her way to help others. Altogether, being more honest about herself and doing good will likely result in Aru learning to accept herself while, at the same time, continuing to do right by those around her. When Bocchi messes up during a home economics class, Aru steps in to help Bocchi: this action is seen by others as a sign of how well-adjusted Aru is, but she’s primarily helping out because she wants Bocchi to be happy, as well. The sum of these actions help two of Bocchi’s teammates, Peko and Ito, become friends with her later on.

  • While Kako might refuse to count herself as a friend to Bocchi and her crew, this doesn’t stop her from agreeing to team up with Bocchi on a class trip. It’s clear that of the two facets of popularity, Bocchi (and Nako) are spurred on by likeability: they do the things that make them more approachable to others. Looking back, I always approached friendship from the likeability side, and I’ve always preferred maintaining a small group of close friends, with whom I could confide in about various matters, as opposed to having a much larger social circle.

  • When I entered university out of high school, I ended up following a very similar route that Bocchi took: I made friends with exactly one of my classmates during orientation, and as term wore on, and there was a chance to work with different people, our social circles grew. One of the topics we took, Christopher Boorse’s Health as a Theoretical Concept, galvinised the entire class into working together, and after my first year ended, while I couldn’t say I was friends with every one of my classmates, I could say that I became acquainted with everyone to the point where we could talk about both coursework and other matters. I’m not sure this satisfies Kai’s expectations for Bocchi, but being on good terms with my entire graduating class (around ninety students) was a fun experience.

  • Back in high school, assuming my memories are still accurate, while I wasn’t in popular clique or anything, I found that I got along fine with most people (save those with a profound interest in activism), and maintained friendships with a comparatively smaller group of people that I still am in contact with today. Ironically, I actually do have a few friends now that I’d met because I’d unintentionally antagonised them, although we made amends on short order and ended up with amusing stories to tell. I imagine that this will naturally happen with Nako and Aru, although since it is relatively early in the game, Aru instinctively jumps into Nako every time the latter mentions the word “unfortunate”, resulting in some visual humour.

  • As a general rule, I don’t like making enemies of people because antagonising others always requires twice as much effort. Conversely, being nice to people comes quite naturally and entails almost no effort beyond approaching someone and making their day brighter. Here, Sotoka, Aru, Bocchi and Nako make acquaintances of Mayo, who hails from a wealthy family; her parents are always working, and she’s somewhat lonely, but after encountering Bocchi, Mayo becomes curious about Bocchi and suggests that Bocchi take up a job of making paper cranes. Thanks to Sotoka’s skill, they manage to make a bunch.

  • In the end, Mayo joins Bocchi’s group of friends, sharing a day with them. She later writes to her parents, saying that she’s made new friends, but also would appreciate it if her parents could make some time for her. With this, Bocchi is one step closer to her goal of befriending every single person in her class: towards the end of Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu, the rate at which Bocchi befriends others increases: she manages to convince Sotoka that they’ve been friends the whole time, as well. This isn’t too surprising, since she’s gotten over the initial hurdle, and now, has a group of people in her corner to support her goals. Along the way, Bocchi has also brought others together.

  • As Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu sees Bocchi enter her second year, she acquires a smartphone, allowing her to better keep in touch with her friends. While smartphones are superior to feature phones in terms of functionality, feature phones (flip phones) remain relatively common in Japan owing to their durability and ability to hold a charge. In anime, smartphones are slowly displacing feature phones: everyone in Yuru Camp△, for instance, rock iPhones. In having Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu transition over to smartphones, then, the anime is suggesting that technology might be integral in helping Bocchi on her quest.

  • The finale has Bocchi successfully pin a corsage on a graduating third year student, and finding an uncommonly cheerful Kako who’s afflicted with a fever. Despite her stoic mannerisms, Kako is grateful that Bocchi goes to the lengths that she does to ensure everyone’s alright. If memory serves, Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu‘s manga began in 2013 and finished running this year – any continuation of the series in anime form would probably have Bocchi befriend Kako towards the end and reunite with Kai a changed person, better equipped with navigate the complex social networks of the world.

  • Where the anime ends remains satisfactory: overall, Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu earns a B+ grade in my books (3.3 of 4.0, or for folks more familiar with the ten-point system, eight points). Despite being a seemingly unassuming anime set in a mundane setting, Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu does a wonderful job of showing how chance meetings can precipitate something much bigger. The anime thus exceeds my expectations for this Terrible Anime Challenge: Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu is not terrible by any stretch, although my propensity towards procrastination are, and I imagine that I’ll only get worse from here on out as I become busier.

Ultimately, Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu suggests that the first step of the journey is always the hardest. It takes several episodes for Bocchi to open up to Nako, but once she does, she’s able to slowly get to know Aru better, as well. Similarly, Bocchi and Sotoka realise that they’re as close as friends are, and openly acknowledge one another as such. As Bocchi becomes more connected to the first group of friends she’s had outside of Kai, she is able to reach out to and interact with others in her class. While Kako is a special case (and reluctantly joins Bocchi’s group anyways), Bocchi manages to even strike up conversations with Mayo, a girl from a rich family, along with Peko and Ito, who were in Bocchi’s home economics group. The initial chat with Nako thus sets in motion a series of fortunate events for Bocchi, and while she still has a long way to go before she can speak in front of a crowd with confidence, at the very least, Bocchi is starting to mature and appreciate that her classmates are generally friendly and warm people who enjoy her company as much as she enjoys theirs. Things do speed up towards Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu‘s final few episodes; the series suggests to viewers that having now taken her first steps, Bocchi’s future is a bit more exciting and bright than she’d imagined it to be. Leaving this anime, one can therefore be confident that whatever happens next, Bocchi has good company in her corner: her own increasing comfort around others, coupled with support from Nako, Aru, Sotoka, Mayo, Peko and Ito, will be a valuable asset in helping her to overcome her own limits and fulfil a promise to Kai, who, despite her cold reception towards Bocchi, very much gives the indicator that she wishes for Bocchi’s success, as well. It’s certainly an optimistic message, and consequently, I am happy to say that I had a great time with Hitori Bocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu: this is another one of those cases where, my tendencies to procrastinate notwithstanding, I should make an effort to check out the series in my backlog where possible, as there are many solid anime dating back many years that are quite worthwhile to watch.