Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I am pleased as punch to be returning to The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You, a show whose first episode proved its clear and compelling candidacy for the “heartwarming harem” subgenre. Though harem anime don’t exactly have the most sterling reputation, the field’s superior entries are actually quite endearing, featuring varied casts of characters who are all having an excellent, intermittently horny time together. Romance doesn’t need to be serious or melodramatic; it can also be energetic and silly, and shows like 100 Girlfriends demonstrate the clear merits of such an approach.
Perhaps most crucially, 100 Girlfriends understands that for a harem to be compelling, the actual nexus of that harem must be as engaging or endearing as their potential paramours. And indeed, Rentaro has proven at least as cute as his first two girlfriends, charting a charming course between “bewildered everyman” and “perfect boyfriend.” Let’s see what madness awaits him next!
Again appreciating this show’s delicate linework as we drop in on Rentaro rambling about his good fortune. From what I’ve seen of the manga, the adaptation is doing an excellent job of recreating the intricate, wispy quality of the manga’s aesthetic, through a combination of uniquely thin linework and unusually detailed lines for hair, ears, and eyes
His unnamed friend from the first episode has been demoted out of the show, so now he’s regaling a power line post with his victories
Yeah, you can really appreciate both the detail and the looseness of this show’s linework as Rentaro’s two girlfriends arrive. The ribbons and hair buns of Karane’s twintails are articulated with far more detail than you usually get for such intricate hairstyles, and her pointing hand is both detailed in its capturing of joints and playful in its exaggeration of form
The OP celebrates both the genuine fondness Rentaro has for his girlfriends, as well as the overwhelming pressure of being a perfect boyfriend to all of them simultaneously
It’s essentially a little episode narrative in its own right, conveying the careful romantic calculations implicit in the battlefield that is a school lunch date. We’re also apparently going to cover five girlfriends within this first season, meaning Rentaro will have completed his journey after a brisk twenty seasons
Oh my god, he just swallowed a can of juice whole
The show is ruthlessly abusing the usual tonal signifiers of “heartfelt romantic moment,” steering into gentle piano runs and soft focus with all the grace of a bull in a china shop
The detailed linework matches neatly with the characters’ own obsession with adolescent romantic thresholds – they’re constantly thinking about holding hands or touching lips, and thus hands and lips are drawn in unusually careful detail
Karane offers plentiful easy comedic layups – tsunderes are already a comical exaggeration of romantic insecurity, so you just have to tilt the dial a touch on both the tsun and dere ends to shift her into total farce
Hakari’s request that Rentaro call her by her first name again demonstrates the emotional impact of this show’s delicate linework, with the animators paying particular attention to the fluffy disarray of her bangs
With her and Karane here, it’s easy to see how we’ll progress these relationships collectively: as a competition, with each girl egging the others onto new horizons of intimacy
It’s remarkable how this show manages to be so earnest and so absurd at once. Genuinely reveling in passing the threshold of calling each other by their first names, even with a girl on each arm
Welp, this gag about a student-molesting vice principal is pretty unfortunate
It at least initiates a far more wholesome conflict, as Hakari and Karane realize they’re competing for Rentaro’s first kiss
We swiftly cut to lunch break. If the OP is anything to go by, Rentaro’s lunch breaks will prove themselves a consistently ferocious battleground, as girlfriends compete to monopolize this precious, romantically charged slice of the school experience
The show balances its detailed character designs with charming superdeformed expressions. I imagine the manga is an even richer repository of goofy reaction faces
Karane is distracted by a cat, giving Hakari the opportunity to share her lunch. And he loves it! He thinks her egg rolls are the best in the galaxy! A staggering victory for Hakari, and a devastating error by Karane
But Karane rallies back with her homemade cookies, and after an unfortunate misstep stabbing Rentaro in the eye, secures another “best in the galaxy!” The score is tied in the first half!
Oh my god Hakari. She whips out a packet of pocky that she actually sabotaged beforehand, leaving no chocolate-free handle for feeding to your sweetheart. Of course, there’s only one thing to do in this case – mouth to mouth
And of course, Karane counters with a pocky stick that inevitably finds its way straight to Rentaro’s other eye socket. If he’s taking this much damage just with two girlfriends, I can’t imagine how he’ll survive the affections of all one hundred
Kaede Hondo is doing a terrific job as Hakari’s voice actress. Love her sobs just dissipating into this absolute wail of despair as her pocky plan is defeated
Huh, apparently she also plays Maple in Bofuri. Quite some range, clearly. Also Sakura in Zombie Land Saga, which was probably good practice for this nonsense
Karane is countered by Hakari boob-swiping her out of the way. What am I supposed to say about this show
“They went so far to kiss a guy like me… that’s so sweet!” Once again, an unspoken gag in how swiftly the show veers from complete lunacy to ostensibly heartfelt romantic moments. It’s basically making a game of how preposterously unearned its tonal shifts can be – which in turn feels like a genre-savvy riff on how frequently shows like this try to guide the audience’s emotions with cheap tricks like upbeat piano melodies and slow zooms
At the same time, it is encouraging genuinely positive lessons like working to communicate your desires honestly with your partner, even if it is in the most absurd possible context
Rentaro apparently spent all night running simulations as to how to make both of them the happiest girls in the world, and has already got a plan for precisely this situation
He recommends a blind first kiss scenario, by introducing ambiguity regarding who actually received the first kiss. Glad to see his keen scientific mind being applied to such worthy challenges
Dear lord, he’s actually developed a blind randomization engine specifically for engineering two ambiguously timed kisses. The boy is a genius of polyamory
Hakari outright praises him for concocting something out of Liar’s Game, saving me the opportunity
“But why would anyone break a pinky swear? You’d have to stick a needle in your eye – you’d lose your eyesight!” See, this is why the whole production works: in spite of Rentaro’s keen analytical mind, he is still ultimately the Goodest Boy you could possibly imagine, who will clearly make all one hundred of his girlfriends happier than they could otherwise ever hope to be
Being blindfolded, Rentaro of course immediately jabs Hakari’s boob and voids the test
And then a cat starts batting at the dangly threads of Karane’s panties. Just your usual double blind first kiss complications
Hakari and Karane start arguing again after several more failed attempts, a scene that demonstrates both the strengths and the limitations of this show’s art direction. There’s a lot of personality in their expressions as they bicker, but basically no actual fluid movement – the designs are just too complicated for a production with modest animator resources to truly capture in motion. But every anime production is defined by aesthetic compromises, and I think this team made the right choice here; rather than simplify the manga’s designs for the sake of animated fluidity, they’re working to capture the distinctive, detailed aesthetic that made the original compelling in the first place
Rentaro actually runs off, blaming himself for being a “useless, inexperienced boyfriend.” Again taking a role that would traditionally be assigned to the girl in these stories, a tactic this story is effectively employing to ensure he seems just as fragile and vulnerable as his girlfriends, thereby balancing the relationships’ power dynamics
“I know this is selfish, but I want my girlfriends to get along.” Yeah, things will swiftly get impossibly messy if he can’t manage that
With Karane and Hakari having affirmed their respect for each other’s feelings towards Rentaro, he suggests a collective three person kiss. Another excellent way to counterbalance the inherent lopsidedness of this arrangement: if all the girlfriends are each other’s girlfriends as well
And we end on the introduction of soulmate number three!
Excellent work, team! Sure, we might have sustained some injuries along the way, and there was that one time Rentaro almost fell off the roof, but our initial lovey-dovey trio have nonetheless passed the rite of passage that was their collective first kiss. Along the way, we also explored the unexpected logistical challenges of a double blind first kiss scenario, as well as the growing respect and affection shared by Karane and Hakari. Attempting to create a “wholesome” story about a man’s acquisition of one hundred girlfriends seemed like an impossible task, but 100 Girlfriends is doing a terrific job of portraying Rentaro as just as earnest and lovable as his lovestruck companions. It’s absurd, it’s endearing, it’s a perfectly lovely time.