With an adversarial approach to its leads, Masamune-kun’s Revenge looks to cook enough original meat on sturdy production bones to entertain romcom anime fans this Winter, and with a strong premiere, it seems likely to succeed.
From the opening cuts, Masamune Makabe’s narcissistic demeanour portrays a confident protagonist unlike most that appear in standard romantic comedy fare. And the opening third of the episode lets us watch Masamune, who just transferred into a new high school, adjust to his newly achieved status as an ikemen and the perks that come with it. In his own words, “everything depends on whether you’re a hot guy or not. If you’re not a hot guy, you’re not human.”
His binary assessment of human worth is quickly verified. While a nerdy male student gets accosted by the school’s tennis team for texting with his phone at an odd angle while watching their morning practice, Masamune (who’d essentially been doing the same leering while passing by) drops a compliment and a smile and, much to his surprise, the girls start swooning and inviting him to join the club.
Masamune chases revenge, not skirts
While traditional anime-tropes might have you assume Masamune uses his social and physical endowment, and academic aptitude to chase skirts, his motivation for getting in shape and transferring schools is what gives Masamune-kun’s Revenge its forward momentum.
During a flashbacks that intentionally seems to leave several holes to be filled in, daughter of a wealthy business conglomerate owner, Aki Adagaki, saves Masamune from a trio of bullies in their youth several years ago. The pair formed an unlikely friendship and played with each other on the grounds of the Adagaki mansion. But when Masamune suddenly receives the cold shoulder from Aki along with the cruel nickname “Pig’s Foot,” his obese younger self was gutted. The trauma emboldened him to hit the gym and count the calories in every side dish, all to transform into the prototypical “hot guy” capable of wooing any girl. That includes even the cold-blooded Aki, who doesn’t seem to recognize Masamune when they’re reunited.
Aki, another athletic and academic overachiever, rocks the monicker “Cruel Princess” thanks to the way she mercilessly and publicly turns down romantic advances from the boys around her with educated and verbose deconstructions of their personalities. She crowns each spectacle by awarding each suitor with a childhood-scarring nickname like “Moleo,” for a boy with an unfortunately hairy mole.
Watching the developing standoff between Aki, who hates men, and Masamune, who wants to learn anything he can about Aki to get back at her, is a treat. The scenes featuring the pair are lively and revealing of humanizing depth that should make their future escapades enjoyable to follow.
Though there’s nothing spectacular about the animated sequences in this first episode, the few scenes with increased movement carry story beats well. The blowing wind breathes life into an after school scene where Masamune wards off a begrudged boy who tries to cut Aki’s hair.
The beat might otherwise have felt underplayed if it was delivered with the talking heads that most of the episode uses for its exposition, but visual emphasis on these moments leaves me optimistic that the show’s strong story won’t be bogged down by stale animation. And while the anime’s writing does the heavy lifting in this premiere (industry veteran Michiko Yokote is supervising the scripts) small visual touches, like the drowsy stumbling of Aki’s errand girl classmate, Yoshino Koiwai, help quickly develop the main characters’ personalities.
With its focussed and refreshing original romcom scenario supported by great voice casting and production pedigree, Masasamune-Kun’s Revenge is one of my most anticipated debuts of this winter season.