Winter 2024 doesn’t strike me as a season that’s crowded in the bubble area – it’s more top-heavy than anything. But Dosanko Gal wa Namara Menkoi is certainly going to be in the conversation. Three weeks in and I’m not tiring of it yet. What stands out more than anything is that it seems to have a genuinely sweet temperament – it’s not in this for victimization-based humor, even if the hero is a bit of a dweeb. The girls aren’t cruel by nature, and refreshingly they’re not perfect either.
You get conflicting reports on whether Dosanko Gal is a harem series, and while I can only make up my own mind on that based on future evidence, it strikes me that the definition of “harem” may be at the heart of the disagreement. Is any romcom with one male lead and multiple females in significant roles a harem? I don’t really think so – it’s the feelings of the characters who determine that as far as I’m concerned. And as far as I can tell Tsubasa only has eyes for Minami in the romantic sense, but that’s admittedly based on incomplete evidence.
What’s indisputable is that at least one and possibly two more girls are going to be major characters, and we meet the first of them here in Akino Yumuri. She’s a frosty girl who Minami insists she wants to be friends with, and describes as something of a “nadeshiko gyaru” (my wording). That seeming contradiction in terms has Tsubasa fascinated and he stares Yumuri down on the bus to the ski resort (I imagine Hokkaido schools do routinely have ski days). For her part Yumuri pretty much ignores all entreaties, even putting earbuds in to get the message across. I even thought for a second they were going in the hearing-impaired direction, though that was a misread.
Being a Tokyo boy Tsubasa is unsurprisingly useless on skis, and since Yumuri is too for reasons we’ll soon discover, the two of them get paired off as the beginner class – though it’s that in name only, as the two of them are promptly forgotten by the teacher (until halfway through lunch). It’s not until he walks in on her in an awkward moment on the bus that the deep freeze begins to thaw a bit. Again, this was certainly a cliche development but it winds up going in a different direction than it would in a different sort of show. There’s no slapping, no screaming – just the first real conversation between the two of them.
Akino-san’s story is kind of interesting. She sweats a lot (some people do) and as a result, is embarrassed to be involved in any physical activity. She retreats into games, in fact, which is another area where Tsubasa is suspiciously inexperienced for a modern teen. I totally get where she’s coming from in Tsubasa being a safe person to reveal all this to. He is indeed freakishly earnest, he’s someone she barely knows, and he’s as socially isolated as she is. I don’t know whether Yumiri has suffered actual bullying over this and obviously the series is sugarcoating her situation a bit, but this exchange still comes off as very heartwarming.
I’ve been there – on top of the bunny hill (even the lift was scary) thinking “how in the hell can that be the beginner slope?”. This is all pretty understated and realistic, and things end up with everyone friends and only a little bit of trouble with the teacher (who has some nerve getting mad at Tsubasa after abandoning the newbies all day for more fun slopes. There is some sign that Yumuri likes Tsubasa, and that Minami is a little jealous of the two of them becoming friends, but I don’t expect things to get too cringey in that direction based on the tone of the series so far. Let’s hope so, anyway.