There are moments where I am glad I can review an anime from start-to-finish, as a show with a strong beginning can sometimes have a catastrophic ending. This was the case in this past season's Masamune-kun's Revenge, which started out as a tale of romantic vengeance that transformed into a show that had no idea what the hell it wanted to be. You might wanna get comfortable for this one, as this trip ain't gonna be pleasant in the slightest.
Based on the manga by Hazuki Takeoka and Tiv, Masamune-kun's Revenge focuses primarily on Masamune Makabe (Natsuki Hanae), a high schooler who believes in the art of beauty and body perfection. Starting high school, he keeps his eye on Aki Adagaki (Ayaka Ohashi), a rich girl who famously gives horribly school life-altering nicknames to the men who confess their love to her. It's a somewhat stoic game of cat-and-mouse for her heart, until Masamune saves Aki from being attacked by a boy she rejected. It's here when Masamune reveals his true motives: to get Aki to fall in love with him so he can reject her, just as she did many years back.
My initial reaction to Masamune wasn't a positive one during the first episode, as he came off as a pompous ass in more ways than one. However the reveal of his true goal made me kinda like where the story was heading. Soon you discover that Aki isn't as perfect as she seems, what with her fits of overeating in secret with her confident Yoshino Koiwai (Inori Minase). Things start to go in Masamune's favor when Yoshino -- who knows of his real identity and plan -- wants to help him succeed in it, resulting in some fun awkward dates. And then, the show started going downhill faster than a Jamaican bobsled team running away from the ghost of John Candy.
Masamune-kun's Revenge begins losing traction with the addition of Neko Fujinomiya (Suzuko Mimori), who is in love with Masamune due to him showing her a thread of kindness when they were children. Usually these sort of characters are unnecessary, resulting in the story going off the tracks and into some unneeded terrain. However the character is written far too well just to push aside, especially when you find out about her health condition and true sincerity. Neko is legit the nicest character in the whole bunch, and when she finally confesses her love to Masamune, he stupidly takes the road paved in hatred rather than a guaranteed happily ever after.
It's that very moment where I found myself truly despising Masamune as a written character. He has no redeeming qualities, thinks very selfishly, and is a straight-up asshole all the way through. While it's understandable that he may act this way due to being bullied for his weight as a kid, no hero of the story should ever reach these levels of douchebaggery. (Hell, even the jerk-wad cast of KonoSuba have enough likable qualities that help make them fun to watch!) While the rest of the cast have their flaws, at least they try to work hard at fixing them rather than avoid them like he does!
The story gets worse with the appearance of an imposter Masamune (Mitsuki Saiga), claiming to be the fat kid Aki was in love with. The two Masamunes then fight for Aki's heart, with the big battle being squared away with a school festival contest involving two plays about Snow White. This battle goes nowhere, especially when the final episode ends it all with everyone going to karaoke and having zero resolution to the main conflict of the story. No reveal, no kiss, no love, and no satisfaction whatsoever! It's a giant middle finger to the viewers, forcing them to buy the original manga to see what happens next.
This is a prime example of adapting a source material poorly. The anime does nothing to satisfy the viewer's quench for a satisfying conclusion. Perhaps Silver Link (Non Non Biyori, Tanaka-kun is Always Listless) was hoping it would be popular enough to get a second season, but in all honesty, who would wanna sit through another twelve episodes of this trash?! I'm not sure if I should blame the manga authors or the script adaptation team of Michiko Yokote & Kento Shimoyama, but considering the impressive resume the scriptwriters have (Cowboy Bebop, Princess Tutu, Gintama, The Devil is a Part-Timer) the fault must solely be on the source material.
Animation-wise Silver Link does an okay job with its visuals. However there is no originality in the character design and the look of the world. Everything looks generic, like a cookie-cutter paint-by-numbers amount of effort was placed into this piece of work. It's not terrible, but it's also nowhere near memorable, resulting in its artistry being categorized as a resounding "meh." (Considering Silver Link also did the gorgeous Yurikuma Arashi, it's somewhat shocking to see them bring forth something this bland.)
As for the voice acting, the cast does a standard good job. Hanae's Masamune is dickish at times, but he can pull off a sympathetic moment or two when it calls for it. Ohashi's Aki is the right level of bitchiness, bringing a good laugh or two when the character gets flustered at times. Minase's Yoshino is rather coy, but it fits with her sneaky attempts at helping the main character get his vengeance. Mimori puts a lot of sincere effort in her portrayal of Neko, bringing real heart and emotion into her cast-off confession to Masamune.
I can honestly say that the least bad thing about this anime is its soundtrack. Composed by Tatsuya Kato (Yatterman Night, Food Wars), it's mixture of nice classical pieces and New Orleans-styled swing jazz was reminiscent of a classic Wallace & Gromit cartoon. Opening theme "Wagamama MIRROR HEART" by Ohashi is a fine affair of pop, rock, and classical string sections with powerful vocals. ChouChou's end theme "Elemental World" is a surprisingly well-done dance melody, although it's best you hear the full version to feel the entire effect this song pushes through.
If there was ever an award for dumpster fire anime of 2017, Masamune-kun's Revenge is its current top contender. What started out as a hopefully good show quickly fell apart due to bad character development, shoddy writing, and a directionless presentation. Some anime adaptations make you wanna read the original series to see what happens next; this one makes you wanna burn down every Barnes & Noble that house copies of said manga. Do yourselves a favor and avoid Masamune-kun's Revenge in the same way its title character avoids fatty foods.
Final Grade (not an average):
Masamune-kun's Revenge can be viewed on Crunchyroll and Funimation, and has been licensed by Funimation. Episodes 1-12 were observed for this review. Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll.