HomeAnimeANIME REVIEW | Conflicted Feelings With One's "Stepmom's Daughter"

ANIME REVIEW | Conflicted Feelings With One's "Stepmom's Daughter"

ANIME REVIEW | Conflicted Feelings With One's "Stepmom's Daughter"

There is no storytelling premise far more dangerous to showcase than step-siblings that fall in love with one another. Such a tale is like walking on a tightrope over a pool of man-eating sharks, with Bugs Bunny on the other side lighting said rope on fire. I’ve experienced watching a few shows with this concept, with Citrus weakly attempting a yuri romance and Eromanga Sensei going the ole Oreimo route. But My Stepmom’s Daughter is My Ex feels different from those, mainly because said romance already came and went.

Perhaps that’s what makes this comedy feel slightly different from those cringey will they/won’t they step-sibling couplings. But does My Stepmom’s Daughter is My Ex execute its narrative in a way that helps make it stand apart from the rest of the pack? Sometimes, the answer is yes; other times, well, it’s complicated.

Based on Kyosuke Kamishiro’s light novel series, My Stepmom’s Daughter is My Ex follows Mizuto (Hiro Shimono) and Yume (Rina Hidaka). In middle school, the two dated for a year, before breaking up due to irreconcilable differences. But the world seemed to want to keep the two together, as Mizuto’s father (Kazuyuki Okitsu) and Yume’s mother (Ai Kayano) decide to wed. Thus the two former lovebirds find themselves living under the same roof, and dealing with their past feelings in a way that’d make the gods laugh at them.

At first, the story treads into old sitcom-y tropes, ranging from attempting to avoid sharing space to not talking to one another at school. But because they need to get along for their parents’ sake, they decide to grin and bear their current situation. It leads them to even play games of chicken, as Mizuto and Yume attempt to falsely woo one another for the sake of — as it’s called in Our Flag Means Death — the art of fuckery. Of course, being a rom-com, these games always blow up in each other’s faces.

The anime’s not afraid to showcase the awkwardness of My Stepmom’s Daughter is My Ex, especially when it comes to Mizuto and Yume’s past. A flashback episode that showcases their relationship demonstrates what made the two click in the first place (their love of books), as well as what drove them apart (Mizuto becoming jealous of Yume hanging with her friends). It does a very good job showing why these two not only broke apart, but why they should stay that way. And yet, even after their separation and current step-sibling situation, they both have a lingering feeling of want from one another.

It’s here where Mizuto and Yume have no idea what’s best for the both of them. They know they can’t date again, but they just can’t turn these romantic feelings off. As such, the step-siblings need to find ways to coexist in friendly ways that won’t get too friendly. And the more they do together (reading in the same room, buying swimsuits for a trip), the more eggshells have have to avoid walking on.

I’ll admit that the treatment of Mizuto and Yume can be a little cringey at times. Original author Kamishiro seems content with pushing these two back together and making them a couple, even if there are better options on the table storyline-wise. Perhaps one of the biggest issues is that neither Mizuto and Yume have a legit friend they can confide to, as classmates Minami (Ikumi Hasegawa) and Kawanami (Nobuhiko Okamoto) have their own twisted gains on why they want to be close with the step-siblings. And then, there’s Isana (Miyu Tomita).

The character of Isana is very likable, and her friendship with Mizuto is simply just that. But then Yume and Minami have to play matchmaker, making things a little bit awkward between the two friends. It awakens feelings within Isana, with her unable to look at Mizuto simply as a reading buddy. It even makes things a lot more complicated, as Mizuto confesses to Isana that he still holds strong feelings for someone else.

Granted, the addition of Isana to the group does lead to some strong comedic moments. Whether it’s reading books in Mizuto’s room or watching a movie with her head in his lap, Isana finds ways to bring about the jealous side of Yume in fun and laughable ways. There’s a great don’t-care attitude that rings through Isana’s personality, with her making Yume blush merely by saying a phrase like “friends with benefits”. It’s refreshing to see a character like this in anime rom-coms, in ways that lean towards a good portrayal of sex-positive mentalities.

But as stories go, My Stepmom’s Daughter is My Ex doesn’t have a clear path on what it wants to accomplish. Yes, it has something of an end-goal in mind, but getting there appears to be problematic. Just when you think some progress is made towards Mizuto and Isana, it’ll take a couple of steps back for the sake of being stubborn. The journey can be fun, but the amount of pit stops it takes can drive certain viewers up a wall.

Even if the material is just okay, the voice cast seems to have a good time performing their roles. Shimono does a solid job balancing being a jerk and being kindhearted as Mizuto, in ways that keep him a likable character. The same can be said about Hidaka’s Yume, who can pull out a moment of coyness in her portrayal that brings a level of sweetness to the role. But Tomita is easily a scene-stealer as Isana, with her delivery of quips and banter feeling a lot more natural than the rest of the cast.

One look at My Stepmom’s Daughter is My Ex, and you know instantly that it’s a Project No.9 anime. The characters look exactly like the ones we’ve seen in such past works as Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki and Higehiro, with the girls looking cute and the boys being very handsome. Granted, that’s not a bad thing, as it fits with a proper rom-com formula. I just personally wish they’d be a bit more original with their art style, something that they can do when they try (i.e. Love After World Domination).

Hiromi Mizutani has a knack for scoring slice-of-life and rom-coms, as evident by his work in Nagasarete Airantou and Non Non Biyori. His choice in soundtrack here fits well with the romantic formula, with a couple of good comedic melodies to punch up the visual and spoken jokes. You can’t have a Project No.9 anime without idol group DIALOGUE+ performing one theme, as they do so with the bouncy and catchy opening “Deneb to Spica”. But it’s harmoe’s end theme “Futari Pinocchio” that delivers something more genuine and heartfelt.

Is My Stepmom’s Daughter is My Ex a good anime? That depends on your definition of “good”. The characters are fine, and it can be entertaining in many instances. However, as storylines go, it can be a hard anime to recommend. Maybe the best way to answer this question is to perhaps dip your toe in to get a good feel of this anime before committing to it. If what you see firsthand makes you want to jump aboard, then by all means do so; if not, I can’t say I blame you.

Check out the premiere episode here!

Even as I reach the end, I still have no idea how I actually feel about this anime. Sometimes I like it, other times it makes me roll my eyes. However, one thing’s for certain: there is some kind of magic hidden deep within My Stepmom’s Daughter is My Ex that keeps me coming back each week to watch it. I just don’t know if it’s the good kind of magic or the bad kind.

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My Stepmom’s Daughter is My Ex can be viewed on Crunchyroll and VRV. It has been licensed by Crunchyroll. Episodes 1-11 were observed for review. Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll.

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The J-POP king of America, Evan has been bringing the hottest sounds of the Land of the Rising Sun to the English-speaking public since his college radio days. He's also an expert in the gaming, anime, & manga realms, never afraid to get critical when the times call for it. For personal inquiries, contact Evan at evan@electricsistahood.com. For press/band inquiries, write to us at thebastards@bostonbastardbrigade.com. (Drawing by AFLM of Wicked Anime)