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[Crunchyroll promo image]
AKA: セイレン ; Honesty
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Length: Television series, 12 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently available streaming on crunchyroll.
Content Rating: R (Fanservice, mature themes.)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Boys Be, My Love Story
Notes: Written by Kisai Takayama, directed by Tomoki Kobayashi. Wiki seems to indicate this is an original production, not a manga adaptation.




This is Crunchyroll's synopsis:

"Shoichi Kamita is an ordinary high school boy, who is faced with the university entrance exam and worried about his future. This campus romantic comedy, "Seiren", which means honest in Japanese, depicts his pure relationship with three different heroines. Each story is the unique and mutual memory between him and the heroine."


Forget the Crunchyroll description; Seiren is actually pretty much the same experience you'd get playing a sim dating game featuring three girls, following in succession each girl's story arc through to the end. As per usual conventions in sim games, some events are common to all the arcs; some are unique. Each girl's arc has a custom closing theme and animation for its girl, though there's just one opening theme for the show, which is absolutely lovely by the way. The rest of the show, not so much. You see, over the course of watching this show I began to look at it from a different perspective than the show's developers probably expect its audience to have.

This happened during the first story arc, involving a girl named Hikari Tsuneki. Tsuneki is brash, gossipy, and opinionated- qualities which have made her the leader of her own little clique of girls at Shoichi's school. She's by far the most independently-minded girl in the show; that independence can make her sometimes reckless (she endangers both her own and Shoichi's reputation during a summer study camp they both wind up attending, by deliberately feeding rumors about them), but she can also be the most "responsible" in her way, though that doesn't necessarily mean "most obedient"- she has a side job at a restaurant that she's hiding from her parents. She also turns out to be pretty good at giving advice when she's in serious mode; and she is the only one of the girls with an actual career path. In short, she's by far the most interesting of the girls, but when the show lets us see her future in relation to Shoichi- this is a common sim game device, letting us see what the hero's relationship with that particular arc's girl will look like several years later- this one is the only one that's ambiguous.

That reluctance to give Shoichi a clearly happy ending with Tsuneki bothered me a bit, but eventually I came to understand this from a more feminist perspective- an independent woman who speaks her mind still stirs unease in the hearts of many men, maybe even more so among young men possibly watching for fantasy wish-fulfillment. In the remaining two arcs, the girls become progressively more domestic, in succession; and while the girls in all the arcs have some interest in traditionally "feminine" activities (cooking and sewing), only Tsuneki is planning to make a paid career of it.

Another way of looking at is from the girl's perspective- is Shoichi worthy of HER? The show doesn't really make him that outstanding a person, but that's understandable in a show catering to male fantasy- making the hero bland makes it easy for a male audience member to imagine himself easily outshining the show's lead in the romance department. (I think shows aimed more at women tend to make their male leads "difficult", but that's another story.) But Shoichi is- well, not only a bit perverted (maybe even more than most teenage boys), but he's also fairly tactless about it, actually saying to one of the girls, "I guess any guy would be interested in the panties of a girl he asked out." Of course, the girl this is addressed to ultimately responds more positively than reason, or propriety, would seem to dictate.

This might be a good place to bring up the show's fanservice. There's cosplay in skimpy outfits- I never understood why THIS was OK with Shoichi's school in school-sponsored events, while hanging out at the local arcade after school got those same students in trouble with the school's administration, but there it is. Shoichi's sister Tomoe (Moe) seems the queen of this sort of thing; at a comiket event she unveils HER revealing costume with the line, "I guess I have to bring out the goods for my darling brother." I'll have a bit more to say about the show's other fanservice, which manifests itself in a weird way, but while we're on the subjects of sis Moe, the show's cast in general, and its character art, several of the girls in the cast are connected to Moe in some way, including Girl #2, Miyamae Toru (a classmate and friend of hers), and Girl #3, Kyoko Tono (a childhood friend of both Moe and Shoichi.) There are also a number of girls in the show's extended cast, but the events involving them are so unmemorable, and their visual design often so indistinguishable, that I had a hard time sorting them out at the end, even though I took copious notes KNOWING that otherwise I'd never be able to remember much about who-did-what-to-whom. As for the visual design issue in particular, Girl #3, Kyoko, looked so much LIKE Moe to me that when I first saw his three prospects in the title sequence- before Kyoko was introduced in detail- I thought we were going to have an incest storyline here a la Yosuga No Sora, but it wasn't like THAT, anyway. There ARE a couple of guys that Shoichi's pals with- Ikuo Nanasaki, a quiet guy who I kind of liked (and who has really rotten luck with girls); and, at the other end of the spectrum, a guy named Takato Araki, who the girls find very attractive but who has (or maybe developed) a strange fetish including rabbits. On the other hand, two of the show's girls have an equally strange obsession with DEER; for Tsuneki it's a very negative one that ended with her revenge (sort of), but for Girl #2, Miyamae, it's a bit different.

So let's consider Miyamae. She's a hardcore gamer, as noted a friend of Moe's, who enters Shoichi's circle of guys through gaming with all three (Shoichi, Ikuo, and Araki), but ends up pairing as a "game partner" with Shoichi. She seems the chestiest of the girls, though the fanservice with her mainly boils down to a cosplay outfit she wears later on- which IS played for embarrassment/sexual innuendo- but with her, clearest of all, we have what I'll call fanservice-by-proxy, in which statements are made that are in fact innocent in context, but come across as lewd otherwise. She and Shoichi are playing a video game involving deer (yes, again), and their deer get extra points for producing offspring, inevitably leading to the line "So do you want to mate, or not?" (from Miyamae, of course), and "Don't ask me, it was my first time too!" (from Shoichi.)

Next, let's consider Kyoko Tono. Remember I said the girls become more demure as we go through the set? As noted, she's got the "childhood friend" thing going with Shoichi; he'd like to take the relationship up some notches, but she...well, she admits she doesn't really think of Shoichi as a GUY at all, so he has to prove his masculinity (I suppose) by treating her in a patronizing manner, lecturing her on why she's not more popular even though, by his own admission, he's not very popular himself. Part of this arc involves Kyoko falling in with a weird "Home Ec Club", which just seems to consist of Koharu Uno, an aggressive girl with glasses who suggests that Kyoko "win over" Shoichi- who's recently insulted her- by being more domestic (and also showing him her panties, of course; Shoichi's comment about panties referenced earlier was in fact addressed to Kyoko); and resident weirdo/Goth girl Nao Tokioka. More proxy fanservice ensues as these girls make Christmas ornaments out of used underwear (we HOPE washed.) Will Kyoko adopt Uno's suggestions? Will she finally see Shoichi as a guy? Aren't these silly questions? Face it, this whole thing of childhood-friends-becoming-lovers has been done elsewhere, and much better (and, in Boys Be, even without a lot of gratuitous sexual innuendo.)

Despite Crunchyroll's description, one wonders how "pure" Shoichi's relationships with the girls are when he's thinking things like, "I can feel the depravity in my pants." Perhaps as long as he keeps them ON, he's OK? Seiren is neither sweet nor is it really erotic (it tries the latter at one point, but fails to sustain the mood.) Nor did I particularly care about the characters with the exception of Tsuneki- who is maybe more woman than our hero deserves anyway. Honestly, I may never look at dating-sim type shows the same way again.Allen Moody

Recommended Audience: The show is steeped in sexual innuendo, and there are skimpy cosplay outfits, skimpy bikinis, and non-skimpy (but TRANSPARENT) wet clothing. Lots of suggestive dialogue if taken out of context, which the show encourages us to do. The one attempt at eroticism really didn't have any payoff. Better for 16+ though.

Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Seiren © 2017 Studio Gokumi
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