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This Week in Anime – Is Engage Kiss Ruined by Its Main Character?

promises a lot of things on the tin: a sexy love triangle, demons, mercenaries, and an underdog story courtesy of protagonist Shū. But what happens when it turns out that dog has a bad case of fleas? Nicky and Nick try to find the show’s redeeming factors when it hinges on an extremely unlikable protagonist.

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @BeeDubsProwl @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Alright Nicky, it’s time for another round of “What is even worth talking about this season?” here on TWIA. Let’s usher in this latest article by picking up our favorite piece of antiquated mobile gaming paraphernalia and giving a big ol’ smooch goodnight!

…get it?
Unfortunately, yes. But I advise against anyone who tries to use tongue. I saw what you guys did to Switch cartridges!

Anyway, this week we’re engaging with the hot new anime !!
I was curious about this one, mostly because it’s one of the few anime original titles of this season. We don’t get too many of those in-between all the manga and light novel adaptations these days, so if nothing else I figured it’d be novel. And it sort of is, in that it feels like a show that should have come out 10 years ago.
It’s also supposed to get some sort of mobile game tie in called Engage Kill! as part of a wider “project engage” media tie-in which feels like one of the few ways we’re getting originals now. it’s got some pretty interesting staff as Fumiaki Maruto, the creator of , is the head writer and character designs are by Tsunako, of and fame.

along with a couple of talented folks from A-1 Pictures, of course.

If nothing else it’s certainly one of the better looking shows from this season. Both in that it has some nicely choreographed action scenes, and in its depiction of anime girl leg wear.

It’s not quite on ‘s level, but you can tell there’s some very talented perverts putting their hearts into this.
Well Maruto did also do series composition for the entirety of , so maybe there’s a coalition of tights perverts working in anime we don’t know about? Lol. Though, I did think there was something very specific about the scene where one of the characters shoots off her fancy ball gown.

But it was kind of hard for me to notice that level of detail when I was too busy staring at the absolute walking trash fire that constitutes ‘s main character.
Ah, you mean the biggest-brained moment in the whole show.
A moment totally unearned by how much I dislike the central cast but, yes. Been a long time where I’ve felt like an anime is both extremely very competent and by all merits should be enjoyable and yet somehow is so unlikable.
Yeah, I guess we might as well start there. See, while there’s definitely a plot to —one that is, let’s say, Raildex adjacent—it all hinges on a love triangle between two anime girl clichés and the shittiest dude you knew in your 20s.

Dude, I’d love to, but you keep finding new avenues of suckage to skip down.
Our main protagonist, Shū Ogata, is a total scrub. We’re first introduced to him sitting in an eatery that was paid for by his ex-girlfriend who’s trying her goddamn best just to help this dude land some jobs. However, he brushes her off and says that he’s perfectly fine handling himself even though he’s basically begging to have her bail him out. Dude can’t even afford to pay his cell bill to keep up with work contacts. He’s completely hopeless. But that’s not even the half of it!
It is perhaps the worst first impression of a main character I’ve seen this year that doesn’t involve buying sex slaves. Through the entire first episode Shu is characterized as a total deadbeat sponge, and that’s not even getting into him dating Dollar Store Yuno Gasai here.
On top of this, his current work partner and girlfriend is waiting as his place trying to cook in his trashed apartment without electricity, even though she happens to be a high schooler. She ends up paying this month’s bills, too.
But don’t worry! She may go to high school, but she’s (presumably) actually super old because she’s A DEMON. And you can tell she’s a demon because she transforms into this MCR looking getup to fight other demons.
Turns out everyone in this garbage situation is a demon hunter who contracts for the city government, and Shū’s current girlfriend is a gothic magical girl demon ripped straight from the pages of a middle school notebook. Her full powers can only be activated by a kiss. Her design is the best thing about her character and maybe the whole show?

There’s an inner middle school girl in me that would’ve killed to have her be the protagonist and watch her fight evil creatures, but the reality is that 80% of it is watching her fawn over the lamest dude in existence.
Oh no, there is most definitely a different part of this show that’s the best, but we’ll get to it in time. For now though, we’re stuck with the Bermuda Love Triangle, which we spend the first three episodes focusing on before the story actually starts. Which means the majority of the first quarter of this show is just watching two catty anime girls fight over this dude’s dick like it’s prime cut steak.
The the show goes through every effort to be clear this guy is a complete loser who makes bad decisions and treats both the women in his life badly. His current girlfriend feels so neglected that the moment she gets power she complains about her sexual frustration and starts fights with his ex mid-job. He strings his ex along knowing she’ll always help him because she, for some reason against her better judgment, holds a candle to this dude. It’s all completely frustrating because even though they should be kicking this guy to the curb with the rest of the trash, it’s all framed like we’re supposed to empathize with him, or at least find him amusing. This is all supposed to be light-hearted comedy.
There’s a delicate art to having an unlikable protagonist, especially when you still want him to be capable of carrying dramatic weight later on. And Shū absolutely faceplants in that regard. He’s not charming or clever or sympathetic, he’s not even that fun to hate on. He’s just the lousy roommate you had to deal with when you first got out of college, who somehow has two different women obsessed with him for reasons nobody understands. But see, it’s funny, because the pink one might cut off his dick if he looks at the blue one for too long.

Women sure do love being overly emotional and competitive, am I right, guys? Huh? Huh??????
The “Women, amiright?!” is extremely the tone and it feels dated even for most anime comedies. The show isn’t without some self-awareness. Even Shu knows what he does is wrong, but it stings worse when Shu suffers little lasting repercussions, even though him and his demon gf Kisara are perpetually poor.
I will say, they at least pull a couple of funny jokes about their demon destitution. Like Kisara sneaking a Tupperware container into a party like she’s a mom at Golden Corral.

I just want a show about the coupon-clipping adventures of a broke demon hunter tbh.
I should also mention that his money situation is entirely his fault, because his freelance rate is too low and everyone else in the industry hates him for it!! On top of the usual collateral damage cost or the occasional impulse-driven work expense.

This would be super funny if it wasn’t just entirely at other people’s expense! But it’s nowhere near the fantasy comedy of something like .
Again, to be fair, as somebody who freelances I did get a sensible chuckle out of this picture of me every month.

Part of me wishes I could like it simply because the direction actually has a lot of energy and they’re trying hard to make this stuff fun. The show has great pacing and timing even in the average scenes, but it always feels a little slimy whenever it tries to play this guy off as someone still deserving of being called a hero. It’s part of what makes these comedic moments and the serious plot of the show feel tonally dissonant.
Honestly, it would work a lot better if the show was just a full on trash parade. Make Shū a total scumbag who’s happy to mooch off his terrible girlfriends. They already climax (no not like that) every fight with him swapping spit with Kisara, so just fully embrace the dumpster and be true to yourself, show! Don’t burden you or me with this doomed attempt at giving Shu pathos.
I’m in full agreement. I’ve talked about how I have no problem with having trashy morally-reprehensible characters as protagonists, but the show spends a bunch of time making unfunny jokes about how careless this dude is, how he hurts others, and it still expects me buy that he’s got a heart-of-gold in there. He’s just acting recklessly because of his tragic backstory!
Also, at this point “dead family” barely counts as a motivation for anime protags. They hand those out for free outside of newly opened Starbucks locations. If you want me to sympathize with this guy you gotta do better than “oh but he’s destroying himself to save/avenge his sister,” guys.

Also stop bragging about how good your girlfriend’s head game is, nobody asked.
What’s more is that everyone is somewhat aware of his past and that it’s tied to some bigger conspiracy. The serious half of the show develops most of the plot and involves a lot of serious agencies doing serious business and investigating potential demon threats. It turns out that Shū’s and Kisara’s relationship is more than meets the eye: as a price for making a contract with the demon he’s actually trading away all of his important memories, piece by piece. Including, all his past memories of Ayano, whom he actually still cares for.

And this is supposed to be seen as sacrificial, sweet, and totally an excuse for his dishonesty and deception or why he spends nights on the slot machines and then uses the prize money to buy boxes of cigs.
It could be a decent dramatic idea if we had ever seen the two of them together as the seemingly happy couple they were before Shū signed himself over to a demon. But we never see that, so our only portrait of their relationship is a desperate and insecure woman chasing after her loser ex-boyfriend.
Concerning Ayano, she’s not terribly interesting because she’s the typical strong independent career woman from an influential family where her only flaw is her man troubles. Both Ayano and Kisara’s entire characters are just about how they’re devoted to Shū. And nobody is ever against it. Ayano’s mom, her best friend, and others are all in support of her having feelings for her ex and tease her about it. Her bestie even jokes about her being a cradle robber because Shu was apparently a teen when they were dating. It’s really bizarre.

And with Kisara all her high school friends are concerned her adult boyfriend is treating her badly, and they’re kind of right! But the show portrays this as a funny misunderstanding.
That entire joke is so fucking weird. “Haha, Kisara keeps making it sound like she’s being abused! lol!” And that’s before the obligatory cocky blond dumbass shows up to shout in his dumb, loud voice that’s supposed to be funny.
Honestly, he was the highlight and for some reason he might have a plot connection as the son of the mayor, but the comedy in this show always feel out of place no matter how much effort is put into its delivery. We also spend a lot of time constructing the setting of the Bayor City and the organizations surrounding it. It’s well-constructed but I didn’t find it terribly interesting.

Especially because it involves so many cops. The monologue where the cops lament they legally can’t use Bigger Guns to fight the demons was the worst!

Also, don’t expect any additional important text to be translated!

It’s window dressing that shouldn’t take up nearly as much time as it does, and is not helped but the often stilted official subtitles that make even simple sentences a tiny headache to read.

Like if you sit there and untangle the syntax you can figure out what they’re saying, but it shouldn’t be this much of a hassle when the characters clearly aren’t meant to be speaking in weird or confusing ways.
Since this is supposed to be a franchise, it really feels like this window dressing is part of the main thing they’re selling. Even though all I wanna see is some cool demons getting their butt kicked in stylish fashion!
It’s a slog to get through, and it makes the whole story feel padded out. It takes three episodes just to find out about Shu’s memory loss, and another two-parter for anything to come of it. Or should I say for anyone to cum of it.
The one thing I will give Ayano’s character some credit for is having the “balls” to go for what she wants even if it’s the worst dick in the world. Few anime are brave enough to actually portray their moe women having sex. Especially knowing that Kisara would immediately erase that and all the things she said about giving up out of sheer jealousy.
Also Kisara keeps all of those memories she sucks out of Shū’s throat, meaning she now has an entire mental Netflix of getting NTR’d. No wonder she spends the whole next episode sulking under a bridge.
Which is short-lived because the plot has decided to even things out by having them both get NTR’d by this nun lady.
And NOW we get to the best part of this show.
Actually, upon recollection, the best part of the show might be this throwaway gag about kitten videos, but I will concede that the kung-fu nun is much more interesting than watching both Kisara and Ayano catfight with each other.
Sharon Holygrail is the one point where this show actually embraces its most base, trashy instincts. She’s ridiculous, indulgent in both a violent and sexual sense, and anime as all fuck. I love her and every moment she isn’t on screen the other characters should be asking “Where’s Sharon “The Chaste” Holygrail, The Nun Who Fucks?” because that’s how much better she is than than everyone else in this show.

Also the answer to that question is she’s donning demon tentacle power armor so she can kill our protagonists, making her the true hero of this story.
Also, I wasn’t joking about the NTR because turns out Shū really did rescue Kisara after by poisoning Sharon with his dick and not just his toxic personality like he does to everyone else. He has no memory of it due to Kisara’s possessive nature.
Sharon “The Chaste” Holygrail remembers, though, and the sheer power of her pillow talk is enough to jog the black hole of Shū’s memory. Just in time for him to remember there’s a big evil villain he’s supposed to be hunting down.

Sorry Kisara and Ayano but neither of you can counteract Alzheimer’s with your coochie so she wins. I don’t make the rules.
Other than giving absolutely no fucks, I also think it’s the most the show feels like itself because it’s not being held down. Kisara even became a little more tolerable because trying to protect her own life and feelings is a little more interesting than taking orders. Sharon as a character still exists to compete for more of Shu’s (poison) dick but at least she’s got flare about it.
Sadly Sharon’s spotlight ends after her own two-parter, and we go back to mining this flopsweat soaked hoodie we call a protagonist for drama. This time because his cop father figure killed his cop friend.
Again, the cop and detective stuff is easily the most boring to me. There’s no shortage of bad cop anime and I enjoy some detective anime so it doesn’t really seem like it should have a place here when we already established the police are useless and yet there’s so much of it?!
Doesn’t help that they decide to drop in a whole thing about surveillance states that’s somehow more ill-conceived than the one in The Dark Knight.

In another show I might think they had something worth saying about the supposed dichotomy between personal privacy and collective safety, but nah it’s here for some incest jokes with Blondie McSparkles.
Again, just another way this show is just completely from another planet. It’s difficult to describe how it can be several different things at once but none of them really gel.

Like, doesn’t feel unambitious and it can have a lot of confidence, but it never quite sticks in the way you might want because its emotional core is just fundamentally broken. It’s not funny, it’s too mean to be truly sweet, and it’s too serious to be full trash.

It really does feel like it lacks an identity. You’ve got all these established creators and potentially interesting ideas, and the production to carry the action wherever you want to take it. But it can’t commit to being the fun dumpster dive it’s suited to be, and is foundationally ill-equipped to achieve the drama or sentiment it’s trying for. I really wish somewhere in planning somebody had realized that they outta just make a Sharon Holygrail show instead.



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