I’m often told I’m too critical, and that sometimes it’s okay to enjoy a simple, easy story. I understand why people think this way of critics, but just because something is lighthearted and easygoing doesn’t mean it doesn’t need effort put into it. If you want to watch a fun, light anime then the anime must use various methods to give yout this feeling. Comedy takes as much effort as any thoughtful story.
There’s nothing very brilliant about Tsuyokiss. Nothing about it stands out from its genre. If you have no interest in Slice of Life stories about school, then there’s nothing here for you. It’s not even an admirable failure, like how Date A Live has sparks of originality but holds itself back. The only purpose this anime has is to deliver a light story with amusing characters, but it’s successful in doing that.
Plenty of school life anime has been released since. Plenty of them tried to add craziness to make it feel alive, like Kemeko DX or Akikan. Nothing worked like this anime. Somehow, I found way back to this unassuming anime and rewatched it. That’s because Tsuyokiss doesn’t breathe life into its world by artificial craziness or just making everyone scream their lines. It does it by having a wide cast of characters, each with their own quirk.
None of them are deep or as memorable as Galaxy Angel, but they’re all branching out out from the archetypes they start with. They start as tsunderes or lolis or best friend or sexy blonde, but quicky get a bit more than that. It didn’t dawn on me that Kani is supposed to be the loli until very later. That’s because she’s defined more by her short fuse and simplistic worldview. Erika isn’t just the beauty. She’s a person who is so successful she’s bored of success, and is dying for someone to challenge her and stand up to her. Her stereotypically beautiful look is just a visualization of this nature.
It’s an anime that’s aware the characters need a life outside the plot. The romance doesn’t pop out of nowhere. Rather, it’s added smoothly like another aspect of everyday life. Romance in real life may be dramatic, but it’s rarely something that traps people’s lives. People keep meeting friends, going to school and do things other than fantasize about their crushes (or if they don’t, that’s a very bad sign and it stops being romantic). Showing Kani playing video games with the guys, Sunao’s fight to establish a drama club and attempting to get a day job are all here to show these characters lead an actual life and don’t just serve the plot. Everyone also seems to have hobbies or things they’re into.
It doesn’t always work, of course. An episode about Nagomi’s familiy problems is means well, but is out of place. It’s a series that creates unique characters with silly attributes, not deep ones. Such a story would be more fit for something like Mushishi (Actually, Mushishi would be a whole lot better if it had one). This stands in contrast to the part-time job episode. That one takes advantage of Kani’s and Sunao’s personalities – one is a self-absorbed actor and the other is childish and vulgar. Boring females with straight long hair seems to be everywhere for some reason.
The whole tsundere thing was supposed to be the game’s selling point, but only Sunao feels like an actual tsundere. Then again, she’s only the second girl to be involved in the romance. Sunao is another good example of using an archetype and playing with it. She’s not aggressive and hides her feeling for no reason. She’s a wannabe-actress with big ambitions and a big obsession. Her obsessive nature comes into play much more than the tsundere one, with Shizuka and Honoka acting as foils (althugh of different kinds). It’s these ambitions that drive most of the episodes, with Sunao trying to do everything in a gradnois way even when it’s not needed. Tsundere is also, in a way, an act – so it fits to make your tsundere girl an wannabe-actress. It’s the hobby and the obsessive nature that lead to tsundere-ness, not the opposite.
As always with these things, the male is competing against growing grass to see who’s more boring. The lack of effort put into such characters is astonishing. Just compare his designs to the other males, who do have a personality. Shinichi has big eyes that give him a soft look that goes well with he’s romantic but wimpy nature. Subaru sports narrow eyes and sleeveless shirts that show his confident, calm nature. These two act in unison.
What is Leo’s personality or purpose? He’s not even a voice of sanity, because that’s a role Subaru or Nagomi often take for that group of friends. Even if a character’s only role is to be a voice of sanity, the character it’s related to can affect how it’s done. Shizuka is the voice for Sunao, but she also acts as an admirer that goes well with Sunao’s view of things. Leo just stands there, doing what requires of him. There was no way to connect anything he does to a personality. When Kani thinks Sunao is sad for a silly reason, it’s because Kani has a childish nature. There is no moment like that for Leo.
That’s why the series loses steam when the romance kicks in. I could live with the switch in tone. These characters are alive enough to make me care about their emotional problems even if they overdo it. When one person in the romance exists so there will be the romance, it’s hard to care about it. A romance never exists alone. A romance always grow out of two people’s personalities. It’s not a mystery that can have no relations to the people involved.
Isn’t it odd that most romances directed at males have these terrible male characters? Look at a shoujo romance and there will be pretty girls and pretty boys. Look at a romance directed at males, and the male lead is so boring you run out of creative ways to say it. What does it say about viewers?
The art style is very simple and contains nothing flashy. There aren’t any unique character designs, except Kani’s braids (co-incidence? She’s the best character) and Yoshimi’s hair color. It’s weird how characters that aren’t very important like Yan, who becomes active only in the second half and Murata have more effort put into their designs than main characters like Leo or Yagomi. It understands its style, and everyone has a colorful hair and the simplicity of it all goes well with the story. If you look at the visual novel though, you’ll get something different. There’s something so lifeless and stiff in it. If they tried to replicat the visual novel’s art style I wouldn’t survive.
This flaw is all too common, but at least everything surrounding it is fun enough. Tsuyokiss has nothing to offer to those who don’t like the genre, but it does what a school anime does good enough. I could tolerate not aspiring to greatness, so long as the creators understand their style well enough.
3 tsunderes out of 5