This article is a part of AniTAY’s Summer 2021 Early Impressions series, where our authors offer their initial thoughts on the new, prominent, and exciting anime from this season!
A new day, a new harem anime.
I’ll be honest, before this anime was announced I hadn’t heard of the property. The character designs were eye-catching in that each character looked like they could be someone’s favorite idol. And that’s not a knock against the designs; characters like these are popular for a reason. Further, I kind of figured what kind of anime it would be from its title:
What immediately comes to mind when you see the title coupled with this image? Threeso — oh, harem, you say? Funny, that’s exactly what I was thinking!
I won’t lie, I’ve watched and enjoyed my fair share of harem anime, but that’s only when they play with the harem premise in a unique way. Think Quintessential Quintuplets, Rent-A-Girlfriend, or Rascal Doesn’t Dream of Bunny Senpai. The question to answer today, then, is does Girlfriend, Girlfriend bring anything new to the harem genre, or is it another skippable filler show?
Girlfriend, Girlfriend is a romantic comedy centered around Naoya, a highschooler trying to earn the affection of his childhood friend and crush, Saki. After years, she agrees to go out with him and neither of them could be happier. Naoya loves Saki with all his heart, doting on her as any good boyfriend would, resulting in some cute moments between the couple.
Seems like a pretty decent setup for a romance anime right?
It would be, but then we get a wrench thrown into things before a minute can pass in the first episode. An adorable wrench, but a wrench nonetheless. Its name? Nagisa, and she confesses her love for Naoya the first time we — and Naoya — meet her. What follows is Naoya insisting that the only way for the three of them stay happy and unhurt is for them to form a polyamorous relationship. Well, this coupled with constant, nonsensical bits about Nagisa’s cuteness; seriously, you’re reminded how cute, innocent, and pure she is in every other scene.
Watching Girlfriend, Girlfriend knowing that R-A-G, Quints, and Bunny Senpai exist, all of which handle topics like self-worth, affection, and identity crises masterfully, in my opinion, is a bit tough. The only thing Bunny Senpai and Girlfriend, Girlfriend share is the fact that they’re harems, but I can’t help but compare them. One has the male protagonist actually cherish the person they’re in a relationship with, while the other sees him all but force their significant other into an atypical relationship that has her questioning her own self-worth.
And I can’t blame her. Saki, by Naoya’s own admission, is his dream girl, but that doesn’t stop him from disrespecting both her and Nagisa. And I don’t mean that his wanting them to be polyamorous is what makes the situation disrespectful. Polyamory may not be as socially accepted as monogamy, but it isn’t amoral. No, the fact that Naoya doesn’t truly value either of them is what makes it disrespectful in my eyes. I run the risk of generalizing here, but polyamory isn’t just about being with multiple people at the same time; it’s about appreciating and accepting the affections of multiple partners with everyone’s consent and well-being at heart.
Girlfriend, Girlfriend doesn’t embody this. While there are some pretty solid comedic moments, most of the humour around the relationship itself falls flat. It misrepresents polyamorous relationships without the humour to make it genuine. Maybe I’m just taking this too seriously, but if I don’t, who will? Surely not the show.
Part of the fun of harem series is finding your own “best girl” and hope that they end up with the protagonist. It’s not even funny how much I don’t want anyone to end up with Naoya — I just hope he ends up alone because that’s the best ending I can see to this one, because all the cute girls deserve better.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I hate this show. Not only because it’s a perfect representation of polyamory portrayed poorly, because we can all see that. No, because there are much better harem anime out there, anime that take the time to properly set up and explore unorthodox premises. And that’s not all these better anime do; they also give you entertaining and endearing characters to root for. Girlfriend, Girlfriend isn’t showing me any of that. Though, If I’m being honest, apart from Aoi Yûki, there are only a few other VAs that can get me to follow a show, and Ayane Sakura (voicing Saki) and Rie Takahashi (voicing Shino) are two of them. So, I’ll be in this one for the long haul. Hope to see you with me.