My track record involving discovering new anime is something of an impressive record. Typically speaking, if I discover something new on my own and without anyone else pointing me in the right direction, 7/10 times I’ll turn up some of the most uninspired, uncomfortable and/or illogical garbage the market has to offer. Truly, it’s a talent I possess; one that can be seen as either a curse, or a perk depending on what I need.
In this case, it’s working as a considerable benefit to myself and my friend who, for reasons well beyond my comprehension, will still get together with me for our weekly anime session, where I make him sit through all the shows I come across that I’m invested in. In some cases, this has lead to some absolutely thrilling and enjoyable anime seasons: past season, we were fortunate enough to have great anime like Made in Abyss, Princess Principal, GAMERS!! and My Hero Academia to keep our day busy.
This season, almost assuredly because I am a picky anime viewer, we have much slimmer fixings to work with. Granted, while two of the three anime we are following this season are very good, the third is one I turned up on my own, and I’m determined to see all the way through if, for no other reason, as a learning tool on how to fall short on a premise.
If you’re tired of me beating around the bush on this subject, I’ll come clean and admit that I’ve been watching (with some degree of shame) the anime that goes by the name of Blend-S. Fortunately, the summary can be condensed down to a few sentences, and I’m sure you, reader, will be able to deduce where some of this show’s issues lie.
Main character Maika Super-Traditional-Japanese-Culture wants to get a job so that she can save up enough money to study abroad. The only problem: her eyes make any attempts at smiling look truly cruel and vicious, repulsing those about her. Worry not, though, as she finds the perfect job when she happens across a cosplay-maid cafe and offered the job as a server. On one condition: she must play the Sadistic Maid character. Also, the manager, who is a foreigner from Italy, has a macho crush on her.
See here, the foundations for a two-dimensional comedy. Like a bowl of low-fat, low-sodium potato chips: poorly marketed and leaves you full of regret and sad when you finish it.
I tease; mostly. While I will admit the anime is far from inspiring, or even well written, or even well executed; it is marginally charming. The interactions between Maika (and the unfortunately sparse scenes where the other employees) interact with the customers are quite amusing. You do get a bit of a chuckle, perhaps even a guffaw, from the miscommunications. The customers love how sadistic Maika is, and you’d think this would excuse the writers to allow her to really play up those moments.
See, the main problem with this show is that the writers are trying to create something they clearly don’t have much successful experience with. The primary writer behind the monthly comic strips, Miyuki Nakayama, is also responsible for a similar piece by the name of Spirits and Cat Ears. I have not yet exposed myself to that one, but I’ve not heard good things about it.
From what they’ve established, the anime is well set-up for a basic gag-style anime. If this is where they stayed, it’d be truly entertaining. However, the writers of the anime, of which my experience is based from, seem to want to try their hands at writing a rom-com. And it’s to poor effect. The characters are exposed for how flat and uncomplicated they really are when they’re removed from the cafe setting. This becomes especially evident in the most recent episode, which anime viewers can safely discard as the “fan-service episode”.
On the whole, you tend to be either a patron of the “fan-service episode”, or in utter disdain of the concept altogether. There really seems to be no middle ground with it. In my case, I have no particular care for it so long as it’s well written into the main plot and the interactions and characters are kept consistent. As you might have already guessed, Blend-S fails to live up to these “qualifiers” in its most recent emptisode as it simply panders to the art of mindless trope fulfillment in the token beach episode.
Elitist anime viewers everywhere have just collectively rolled their eyes so far back in their head they may well have done a full 360.
As the episode goes to show: once you remove the cast from their established setting, their gimmicks fall incredibly short and the jokes fall hard. There is little that the high-quality animation that is common of A-1 Studios and Aniplex can do to distract from the emptiness of the soul of the show.
Worse yet, the episode does nothing to really further the artificial and uncomfortable relationship between young adult Dino, the manager of Cafe Stilé, and Maika, the ambiguously aged high school girl. Optimistic estimates place her at age 16 and him at age 20; but you probably know by now that I am not an optimistic creature, and so I peg their ages at a two year difference in opposite directions. What little relationship building the episode manages can easily be summarized into a fifteen second clip wedged into very nearly any other setting.
In the simplest senses, I’ve lost pretty well all of my faith with this series in general. But, I will undoubtedly stick it through to the end of the season, if for no other reason than to see exactly how far they’re willing to take these jokes and inconclusive romance.