Haruo Yaguchi is an arcade gaming fanatic whose ego gets deflated by a girl named Akira Ono, who is even better at games like Street Fighter than he is. Seeing her as a rival at first, his feelings for her grow more complex over time, even though she's gone from his life for long stretches at a time- AND even though he's being pursued romantically by ANOTHER girl as well, named Koharu Hidaka, who's willing to become an arcade ace herself if that's what it takes to get his attention.
I had a little trouble getting into this show at first, since I was a little turned off by its cartoonish character art. (It reminded me a little of Mob Psycho 100's character art.) The characters do begin to look a little more "normal" as they age, though. (The show's timeline starts in the early 1990's, and one of the most interesting aspects- if you're INTO that sort of thing, of course- is the show's coverage of the evolution of arcade games AND the emergence of home consoles as well, all complete with depictions of the on-screen action in each game. If Sega, Sony, and the like DIDN'T pay this show for product placement, they certainly owe it some money.)
If you're NOT particularly interested in looking at old game screens, the most interesting thing here is Akira herself, because she NEVER SAYS A WORD (even though there will be times when someone inexplicably talks about "having a conversation" with her); her communication is ENTIRELY by her expressions and gestures- which do include violence; she punches and kicks a lot. (She also CAN cry, and, rarely, even laugh.) She's from a rich family, and is supposed to be her family's last hope as an heir, since her elder sister Makoto turned out to be rebellious and a bit of a delinquent. (Makoto DOES talk- rather LOUDLY, too- and is sometimes pretty hilarious, especially when paired with Haruo's mom, Namie, who's pretty over-the-top herself. I never did see Haruo's dad though.)
The main dynamic here is the rather familiar one of competition (sometimes via arcade games) between Akira, and the other would-be romantic interest, Koharu, for Haruo's attention. Koharu's got it figured out that she'll need to become a hardcore gamer herself to get Haruo's attention, but she's at a disadvantage, for Akira is as much a TRUE gaming fanatic as Haruo, while for Koharu it's mainly just a means to an end. (The end being HIM, of course.)
Puzzling out exactly what's going on in Akira's head at any given moment, from her expressions and physical gestures, can be kind of fun. There are some specific memorable lines and scenes as well:
(1) Koharu's line, "Yaguchi will probably accomplish things unrelated to academics in the future", is hilarious understatement. Haruo is a TERRIBLE student, though he apparently can be a dedicated worker- to raise funds for his gaming obsession, that is.
(2) Haruo is fighting, at one point, not to immediately "win" Akira, but just to leave the door open for her to come through at a later time. I thought this showed a commendable amount of patience (and willingness to indefinitely delay gratification.)
(3) There's a line, "Any gamer that's loved by a woman isn't a real gamer", that I will offer no further comments (or judgment) on here.
(4) Haruo and Akira both have "imaginary friends" that offer them advice- and that happen to be their favorite game characters. (Akira, interestingly, likes to choose game characters that nobody else picks- and then kicks everybody else's butts with them.)
(5) My favorite scene has Koharu, Makoto, and Haruo's mom ALL thinking Haruo needs more practice dealing with girls, so they have him play the dating sim Tokimeki Memorial while they watch- and offer their ruthless critiques of his responses to the girls. (This segment could have easily been expanded, in my opinion.)
(6) I thought the First Season closer was wonderful- a sweet, very Japanese tune with storybook graphics. (The show is divided into two unequal seasons; First Season is the first 15 episodes; Season Two, the last 9.)
A pretty mixed bag: the romantic plotting is somewhat stereotypical, it took me a while to get used to the character art, and certainly not every viewer is going to be as into video games as our cast, but Akira is an intriguing oddball (though not everyone is going to be happy about her frequent use of violence to express herself); Haruo may start out only caring about others if they share his gaming obsession, but his character shows real, if gradual, emotional growth as time goes on; and Makoto, and Haruo's mom, together are, uh, quite a pair. I almost went for four stars here. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Contains a surprising amount of profanity, as well as slapstick violence. Netflix rates TV-14.
Version(s) Viewed: Netflix digital stream
Review Status: Full (24/24)
Hi-Score Girl © 2018 J. C. Staff/SMDE
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