Honestly, if you looked at this series and thought it was a harem series (mostly because of how ubiquitous they are in anime), I wouldn’t blame you. This series looks like it should be a Haganai-esque harem series. However, the truth is that the other girls are just there as bland supporting characters. This is a (albeit fanservice-heavy) romantic comedy between the male and female leads. And since this series is aimed at a male otaku audience, the male lead is bland and milquetoast, so the entire appeal of this series falls on the shoulders of it’s female lead. Unfortunately, she is most everything that fails about this series. For a series that wanted to make a huggable Asuna, they instead made a more irritating Tomoko.
When Hideki Nishimura, a high schooler and an avid player of the MMORPG Legendary Age, learns that a character he asked to marry him in-game was played by a man, he begins to reinforce the idea that the game and reality are two separate things. After a while, he’s married in-game to an inept healer in his guild, who all decide to meet up in real life. To his surprise, the other three members of his guild are classmates of his. In particular, the player for his in-game wife, Ako Tamaki, is actually an attractive shy girl. Except, she can’t really differentiate between the game and reality, demonstrated by referring to her guildmates in real life by their in-game characters, her complete aversion of “normies”, her tendency to just not go to school sometimes, and her insistence that her and Nishimura are actually married. Worried about her, the guild begins a club for playing games together in order to try and get her more used to reality, rather than keep trying to run away into the games she spends all of her time on.
As mentioned, the other female characters are one-note and boring (rich student council president, tsundere, teacher, perky friend of tsundere), so while the camera will have no reservations of trying to show them off (the beach episode and couple of bath scenes really love to show them off), they are almost non-entities in this show. As mentioned before, this is the Ako show. Every aspect of the show is meant to endear this useless, “squishy”, shy idiot to the audience and sell character goods of her (like body pillows and sexy figures). Unfortunately, her “endearing” attributes make her a fundamentally obnoxious and annoying character.
Earlier, I brought up perpetual waifu evergreen Asuna (of Sword Art Online) and the cult phenomenon (but not enough to keep the series from bombing in Japan) Tomoko Kuroki (the lead character of Watamote, a personal favorite of mine). These two characters represent two distinctly opposite approaches to the same type of character Ako is supposed to fall under, but both succeed at what they attempt for completely different reasons. Asuna is the idealized gamer-girl waifu: while not better than the series’ perfect lead, she’s an avid fan of games, is really good at them, and generally seems to resemble a friend you like to play games with (who also happens to be attractive and has some traditionally wifely attributes). She’s become a staple of the anime community largely due to how she is what most guys (that SAO is targeted at) fantasize about a girlfriend. She’s a perpetual seller for providing that fantasy, while not really having too many moe traits (as mentioned, she’s actually capable, which keeps the admiration from being that of “look at the cute puppy”, which is my best description of what moe is supposed to make the viewer feel). Ako was probably envisioned as “the moe version of Asuna”, but this show proves why tat approach just doesn’t work.
Tomoko, unlike Asuna, is not really a popular character (fitting for Watamote’s long title’s english translation), but she has a sizable cult following (mostly outside of Japan, but enough dojin and fan art of Pixiv convince me that she does have some following there) for being intentionally awkward. She’s shy, neurotic, horny, and bitter. She’s a huge otaku, spending many, many hours watching anime and playing video games rather than socialize with people, but holds a grudge against the world for her status as a loner in class (at least, until she gets forced to interact with the other loner weirdos in her class, where she’s still basically unable to function properly). She’s intentionally off-putting to the audience, yet a large amount of the series’ fans actually do find this unkempt, baggy-eyed, bitter character endearing (as a side note, a sizable chunk of the fan art on Pixiv for the series is of the NSFW variety, so make of that what you will). She’s relatable to many introverted nerd’s worst tendencies, yet her suffering is mostly of her own doing, which somehow makes her more endearing to the audience (as mentioned, despite being designed to be unattractive, if not outright ugly, many find her to be cute and attractive enough to create fan art of). While she was probably not a thought in the mind of the creator of Ako, Ako comes across as the more intentionally cute version of Tomoko. Except nowhere near as endearing.
This series wants us to feel endeared to this ditzy, clumsy, well-endowed, introverted girl so much that every other aspect of the series is kept bland to make her stand out, yet the moe aspects she exhibits are just obnoxious. It’s one thing if her “moe clumsiness” was just an occasional gag to make the audience go “dawww”, but it happens so often that it becomes distracting. Likewise, her tenuous relationship with reality could possibly be charming (look at the collection of delusional morons in Love Chunnibyo And Other Delusions for proof of that), but it’s not used in a cute way, but instead in a way that actually makes her seem mentally unstable. Her cluelessness is also not really used well either, as she is either oblivious to everything going on around her or she’s off in her own world trying to ignore everything around her (either way makes her look like an asshole). This is a case where I seriously wonder how the writer would describe a girl they hated, since this is not a good case for a girl we’re supposed to like.
Especially since her most noteworthy trait is her clinginess (bordering on unhealthy dependence) on the male lead. As a disclaimer, I should point out I’m not opposed to romanticized depictions of unhealthy relationships on principal. A story is the creator’s fantasy and they should be able to make whatever fantasy they want, regardless of who agrees with it or not. But, when you are clearly making a story around a character the audience is supposed to fall in love with, especially when that character is already bordering on unintentionally unlikeable, DO NOT MAKE THAT CHARACTER CLINGY OR DEPENDENT! Making Ako this dependent kills the fantasy, since instead of having a “she’s so cute and fragile and I must protect her” fantasy about this character, it goes right to “she’s more trouble than she’s worth and is actually kind of pathetic”. This show fails at it’s intended goal.
And unfortunately, the series clearly bet all of it’s chips of Ako. As mentioned previously, every other character is incredibly bland. The script is a mess, littered with annoying slang and blunt to an almost insulting level. The animation isn’t bad, but it is the most uninteresting direction for a series like this. The music is forgettable. The cast shows up. Everything besides Ako is hovering at the D+/C- range.
In the end, this show is a failure in exactly the way you’d expect it to be. There is no real reason to ever watch this show. Unless the idea of a clingy, overly dependent girls who is well-endowed, is shy and introverted, and has a tenuous relationship with reality appeals to you, just stay away.
FINAL GRADE: F
Pros: I don’t know, maybe a character design or 2?
Cons: AKO TAMAKI, everything else is bland to make Ako stand out