ANIME REVIEW | "My Tiny Senpai" Cute, But Lacking Comedic Smarts
It can be tough when one anime winds up being too similar to another series. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t help but compare the two, especially if one is far superior. This has been happening with me while watching My Tiny Senpai, the latest anime from Project No.9 (Love After World Domination). Almost every moment I spend watching it, the same thought keeps popping up in my head: “I wish this was My Senpai is Annoying.”
Both series have very similar premises: a tall guy and a short girl work in the same company. It’s clear they have chemistry, but either one or both people do their best to hide it. But no matter how hard they try, their coworkers and even their boss try to put them together. And it’s a countdown towards the inevitable hookup. The main difference: the tall guy here — Takuma (Yuki Shin) — is the one working under the short girl Shiori (Hina Tachibana).
And honestly, that’s really the only thing that makes My Tiny Senpai different from My Senpai is Annoying. Even their storylines, especially ones involving work projects, feel the same. It’s a shame, as there are some likable qualities in these characters. Sadly, they’re not placed in situations that feel unique or — dare I say — intelligent. It’s the laziest kind of rom-com, where every scenario results in either or both main characters becoming flustered and/or embarrassed.
But it tries. You can tell that the writers are doing their best to improve on Saisō’s original manga, whether it’s via witty dialogue or a peculiar happenstance. Yet no matter what the setup is, they can’t find a way to find a different punchline. It results in My Tiny Senpai feeling like it has all the ingredients to be memorable, but all of the measurements are off due to tablespoons being misread as teaspoons.
This anime is cute, I’ll give it that. The character of Shiori shines in an adorable light that makes her a top-tier waifu. Whether she’s envisioned in a cutesy outfit or acting all catty, Shiori does find a way to make those bored with this anime’s antics crack something of a smile. One can’t help but understand Takuma’s lovesick troubles, as any sane person would be smitten by someone like Shiori.
However, there is a saving grace to My Tiny Senpai: the boss character Akina (Nobunaga Shimazaki). The guy just wants to see Takuma and Shiori together, and he does everything he can to make sure they’re together. From hiding in the bushes in a theme park to occupying a dinner booth close by with cohort and cosplayer/doujin author Hayakawa (Yumiri Hanamori) Akina tries every trick in the book to get these two to become an item. It’s here (and only here, sadly) where the writing is funny, with the lengths Akina goes to actually be laugh-out loud.
Alas, there’s not enough here to help make this rom-com stand out more. With it competing against a superior product like My Senpai is Annoying, it’s practically in a losing battle right from the start. In a way, it’s like this anime already gave up with delivering an impressive story and just focused on it being as cute as possible. It succeeds in that standpoint, but in the same way a seven-foot tall guy jumps over a gap that’s half a foot wide.
With it being a Project No.9 series, one can’t also help but see that its visuals look the same as the majority of their other series. Shiori and Takuma could easily wander into the worlds of My Stepmom’s Daughter is My Ex and Higehiro, and you wouldn’t think that they were from a different show. It’s bright and colorful, but said colors are merely shells to cover the blandness of the narrative. The animation also does suffer from being a tad wooden and lacking polish (a bad sign for Project No.9, who have three anime coming out in Fall 2023!).
Its voice acting is all right, and that’s the best I can put it. Tachibana and Shin put their all into Shiori and Takuma, but it’s not enough to hide the flaws of the story. Shimazaki is a hoot as Akina, as he weasels his way into the private affairs of the two leads. Although she acts as a third/fourth wheel, Hanamori puts some good comedic oomph into Hayakawa that help make her somewhat memorable. (At times, her and Shimazaki’s performances make me wish this anime was about their characters!)
For a soundtrack, Sumika Horiguchi tires to add extra flavor to the bland narrative, but it doesn’t do much to hide the flaws of both the plot and the okay animation. However, the same can’t be said for the opening and ending themes. Toya Kobayashi’s “Honey” is a delightful OP, with a stellar pop rock melody with lyrics that are both endearing and sweet. YU-KA brings a 90’s women’s rock vibe to end theme “Sugar”, crafting a sound that feels akin to Natalie Merchant’s softer rock selections.
I can’t help but feel bad for My Tiny Senpai. It can’t escape from under the shadow of a predecessor that’s better in every single way. As a result, this anime will more than likely be forgotten by year’s end, due to its poor story and a lack of creativity. Those who watch My Tiny Senpai will no doubt wish they were watching a new season of My Senpai is Annoying, just like I have been every time I put this show on my TV.
Voice Acting: (Japanese dub)
Final Grade (not an average):
My Tiny Senpai can be viewed on Crunchyroll, and has been licensed by Crunchyroll. Episodes 1-12 were observed for this review. Promotional consideration provided by Crunchyroll.