It turns out there is still room in this heart for cute romance.
Some of you might not know this, but I have this tradition on Twitter where I post my own little seasonal preview as a screenshot of a .txt file a week or two ahead of each season to inform the people what might be good to watch. Unfortunately, at the time I was somewhat flippant about the only two shows from the season that I’ve watched so far: Skip and Loafer and My Love Story with Yamada at Level 9999.
I am the fool.
Skip and Loafer
Skip and Loafer caught my attention initially simply because it had actual art direction (thank you, Kotomi Deai, I’m sorry for wishing you were Rie Matsumoto), but it turned out be kind of a remarkable show. The budding romance between Mitsumi and fluffy boy Shima is nice, but what really stands out is the high level of authentic, even aspirational communication that occurs. I observed midway through the season that the original mangaka, Misaki Takamatsu, must have exceptional interpersonal skills because from start to finish Skip and Loafer is filled with instances of people clearly articulating their wants, needs, desires, and thoughts to each other (or to themselves).
There’s plenty of dialogue to be found in anime, but the kind of writing that’s found in Skip and Loafer is pretty unique. The fact that the characters talk so frankly, so often results in conversations that feel specific to those characters, drawing out their humanity and enriching their interactions. A thread of humanity runs through the show because of this, elevating it over the kind of “Mmm delicious!!” nothing dialogue that permeates so much anime. Case in point: In episode 8, during the homework session at Mitsumi’s aunt’s place, Makoto solicits opinions from the girls on some peanut-chocolate rice crackers. Instead of everyone just responding Oishii!, Mika expresses a distinct preference to have the two flavors separate while Mitsumi dorkily attempts to say something saavy-sounding.
That’s minor example, as digging into the intricacies of Skip and Loafer‘s abundant character-focused dialogue, but hopefully it gets the idea across. You simply won’t find another anime that is so in touch with its characters AND also gives them a chance to speak to each other about the things they hope for, the things their fear, and their relationships with each other. There will always be a place in my heart for messy melodrama and misunderstandings, but Skip and Loafer proves that kind communication can be just as compelling.
My Love Story with Yamada at Level 9999
I’m not going to lie, I more or less wrote this one off at the start of the season because of the gaming element. Gaming is just one of those otaku-adjacent topics that I no longer trust anime to handle with any semblance of originality. But it turns out that judging a book by its cover (or a show by its key visual, in this case) runs the risk of making miss out on one of the loveliest shoujo romances I’ve had the pleasure of watching in quite some time.
I’ve always be fond of the visual tropes of shoujo romance—the sparkles, the lingering close-ups, the frequent prioritization of the pretty over the cute—and My Love Story with Yamada doesn’t disappoint on that front. I found out later that the show is directed by Morio Asaka, he of Chihayafuru fame, which is yet another feather in his cap, because the anime is delicate, tender, sensitive, amusing, and heartwarming in turn. Akane is a joy, and the titular Yamada turns out to be much more than the “girl-adverse gamer” archetype he initially appears. His admission of fondness for Akane—“I’m busted, huh?”—just made me plain smile at the boyish joy. No fluttering embarrassment, no denials, only pure happiness. Tsubaki’s right—romance should be fun—and My Love Story with Yamada nails the excitement and pleasantness of a growing crush beautifully.
Now I just need a season two of Yamada and Akane dating. If any show could pull something like that off without needing any real drama, I’d happily place my bets on My Love Story with Yamada at Level 9999.
Feel free to tell me in the comments that I’m a fool for skipping Oshi no Ko (not my fault, blame HiDive) and Tengoku Daimakyo (also not my fault). Or, we can simply bask the Yamada and Akane hugging each other. You can tell me about your fuzzy feelings on that, too.