Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika Nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei Shiteshimatta...
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In brief: Hitori Bocchi is about to start middle school. Her only friend from elementary school isn't going to the same middle school as Bocchi; worse, she gives Bocchi the task of making friends with her entire class - and she promises *she* won't be friends again with Bocchi unless and until that happens. This would be a difficult enough goal for an ordinary girl, but Bocchi is terrified of interacting with other people. How will she ever make even one friend, much less ~30 of them?
This sweet gem of a comedy relies on getting its humor from its character interactions and on a hurricane of funny moments laced with puns (which aren't always obvious, and I give credit to the translators for their attempts - I understand why they usually turn them into straight-up jokes or ignore the untranslatable ones). For the former, you have a handful of girls who Bocchi is able to get close to over the course of her first year at middle school. Each viewer will probably have their favorite girl in the bunch; some get more focus than others, but they all share the same camaraderie. They all have their own quirks and foibles, and are nothing but supportive of Bocchi's needs. Crucially, the show depicts anxiety without demonizing it, and while Bocchi is shown to need coping strategies, there's no attempt to "cure her with friendship" - the other girls just accept her and encourage her to be her best self. As for the puns, well, the first example I can think of is names; every character has a punny name, so get ready to break out a Japanese dictionary. I found out about the other jokes after the fact, by trawling message boards dotted with comment from fans who were Japanese language/culture experts.
Some viewers may find Bocchi's childhood friend distasteful in her decision to turn away from a friend in need. On the one hand, it does seem cruel for her to not even acknowledge Bocchi's presence. Surely the occasional "hello, how are you" is not the same thing as canceling the promise to wait until Bocchi's befriended her whole class to be friends again. On the other hand, given just how clingy Bocchi can be, if I were her childhood friend, and had been the sole focus of her attention for years, I would have been desperate to spur a change as well. One can't expect the best plans from 7th graders.
This is a show I would recommend in general to most viewers. There's no action/adventure, so those who watch only shounen may not be engaged. It's also clear that Bocchi is going to need all three years of middle school to befriend everyone, and the season ends at the end of year one, so unless more seasons are announced, this may feel too unfinished for some potential viewers.
One small last note: the opening and ending credits were some of my favorites, between the music and the fun animation. The ending credits evolve as Bocchi makes friends - they get added to the line of girls walking through the manga panels.
My reviewing system for films and shows that are NOT anime: 1-5: I hated it. I also don't think it has redeeming qualities, so you shouldn't watch it either. 6: I didn't like it. It's not my thing, I didn't like the execution, I don't want to see it again. However, I don't think it is a BAD film or show - it has qualities that will recommend it to those who like that kind of thing. 7: It was fine. I didn't love it, and I don't need to see it again. I won't be sad if I never see it again. 8: I liked it. I didn't love it, and while I'd like to see it again, I wouldn't want to see it often. 9: I loved it. I would be sad if I never saw it again. I might want to see it every few years. 10: I loved it beyond description. I wouldn't mind re-watching it every year.
Clarifying my Anime rating system: My number key below is an attempt to parse the small differences between 5 and 6, 7 and 8, & 9 and 10. When I rate, I consider my own enjoyment, the characterization and the plot, the appearance of the animation, and occasionally the soundtrack - in roughly that order. An anime will lose at least 1 point for presence of deal-breaker tropes (for example, comedic pedophilia), and more if the trope(s) ruined my enjoyment. On the other hand, it will gain at least 1 point for artistry in animation or sound.
Never Recommend: 1-4, inclusive. Further clarification: I don't expect to rate anything 1-4, as I would probably never finish watching something in this range of rating. It's likely to have bad plotting, subpar animation, bland characterizations, silly and/or irritating tropes, etc.; I would consider it to be pure excrement, and I would rather be getting unanesthetized surgery for the entire running time.
Cautious Recommending: 5: I watched at least part of it, and may have stopped due to not liking the plot twists, character derailment, specific tropes, etc. In this case, it started out with a higher score and slipped over time... because I normally don't watch anything that I would score below 6, except for movies (small time commitment). 6: I may or may not have watched the whole show, but I recognize deal-breaker issues in it, and I'm unlikely to rewatch (I would rewatch only if a friend begged me to). It just wasn't enjoyable enough for me to forgive its flaws. There would be huge caveats to any recommendation.
Likely to Recommend: 7: Not my thing, but usually I at least respect it. Generally, I didn't like it enough to think I would rewatch it, but also didn't see huge problems in the plot, characterizations, etc. and thought it was worth finishing. I might suggest it to someone if I know they like the specific sub-genre or other work by the studio. 8: I had a good time watching it, but it didn't move me the way a 9 or a 10 does; it's possible that over time I would upgrade it to a 9 if I liked it more on reflection. I would be willing to rewatch it. I'd consider it mostly harmless to view, and would recommend it with the occasional caveat.
Highly Recommend: 9: I enjoyed very much. It may have had one or two issues, but not enough to diminish enjoyment. It's possible that over time I would downgrade it to an 8 (changing tastes) or upgrade to a 10 (realize it's never left my mind). I'm likely to rewatch, and likely to buy the DVDs. I'd recommend it to most audiences. 10: Virtually flawless. I'd definitely rewatch, and definitely want to buy DVDs. I would shill this to anyone.
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