Given how it works within the romcom genre of anime, 3D Kanojo is an odd show to begin with. It eschews a number of tropes that make so many of the romantic plotlines in those series feel contrived and samey through how it approaches the awkwardness and insecurities of new romance, and in turn makes its characters feel surprisingly relatable. As we reach the midpoint of the season, however, things seem to have gotten a bit muddied in terms of some of the show’s strong track record out of the gate. While episodes 5 + 6 do have their fair share of heartfelt moments that get to the core of what makes this show so good (in my view), it definitely suffers in terms of a few pretty important story plotlines and character-building moments.
3D Kanojo got off to a fascinating start in the first two episodes, giving us some perspective and a view into our awkward, complicated romantic leads Tsutsui and Igarashi. It was a pretty solid foundation, in my opinion, to base the rest of the show off of, and episodes 3 and 4 have both proved to have not dropped the bar of quality that has been set for the show thus far. While the first two episodes acted as a primer of sorts, episodes three and four focus quite heavily on the ways in which insecurities can develop on all sides of a new, burgeoning romance, how they can complicate issues between partners, and ultimately how people can respond to those issues in healthy, trusting ways.
3D Kanojo, on the surface, isn’t exactly a show we haven’t seen before. At first glance, it appears to follow the archetypical show/book/etc. formula of “nerdy boy finds love through beautiful girl”, a trope which, obviously, is fairly problematic. But there is far more to this show going on below the surface. From these first two episodes, we find that, in fact, it has so far come to us as a show about harmful misconceptions, and how looking beyond them can lead to genuine, satisfying relationships. While there’s a lot that we could focus on for a discussion of this show, I want us to look specifically at our main characters, Hikari Tsutsui and Iroha Igarashi, and the fascinating, complex spaces that they inhabit.
I’m not entirely sure what compelled me to watch the second season of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT (popularly shortened to Haganai NEXT). Haganai’s first season was an intriguing invitation into the world of the Neighbors Club at St. Chronica’s Academy, fronted by Kodaka Hasegawa, Sena Kashiwazaki, and Yozora Mikazuki. The show itself has all of the trappings that you would expect of a comedy-harem-school-romance-slice-of-life, and though I can’t say that I disliked the show, I can’t really say I cared much for it, either. I can at least say that, if nothing else, the show crafted a cast of characters that stood out in my mind some time after I had finished watching the season. It is perhaps because of this – that I cared for the characters but not the show itself – that I decided to give the second season a shot.
Unsurprisingly, the second season was largely more of the same – oversexualized high-schoolers, misunderstandings, and a whole lot of Kodaka being his protag self and missing every romantic advance that his female counterparts sent his way. Honestly, the second season’s pacing and timing of jokes was an improvement over the first, yet there were still moments where I found myself wondering “do I really want to keep watching this?” It was not until episode 10, “The Sad-Case King and the Stone-Cold Story” (“Zannen Ō to Waraenai Hanashi” [残念王と笑えない話]), that I stopped asking myself this.