I would like to start with the following disclaimer: that this review will be far more hyperbolic and vulgar than my usual reviews. I tried to think of a measured way to review Hajimete no Gal. But it’s impossible to review it while pretending that everything is alright – that I had not just seen a festering pile of fecal matter, passing itself off as “entertainment.” And mind you, my issue is not that Gal is ten episodes of titillation and gelatinous breasts. That’s all fine and dandy. My issue is that a show thinks it can get away with being so bad.
Another quick disclaimer: I did not watch the show in its entirety. I watched enough to know I wanted to write this angry rant, and then watched a bit more, so I could properly write said rant. So who knows –I could have missed a scene that redeems the show. Maybe the characters developed awareness and try to escape their poorly animated reality, only to realize they’re trapped and collectively lose their minds.
Yea, that would explain a lot.
The problem is, I want anime to improve. But that can’t just happen from the top. A handful of “masterpieces” each year is meaningless when everything else is so careless. Now, someone could say
“who cares that my harem anime is poorly animated, paced, and written? Boobs are still boobs.” But there is no reason for things to be this bad. The beauty of good animation, direction, and writing is that they are non-intrusive. If any of these aspects distracts from the plot (or the “plot) then they’re not being handled well. And that is the case with No Gal.
And the fact of the matter is, a harem anime can be competently written, directed, and animated, and the experience is better for it. Just look at Monster Musume. Early on, the show establishes that sleeping with a monster girl would be a diplomatic incident, and lead to the arrest of our protagonist. Now, do I actually believe no one is sleeping with monster girls in this universe? Hell no. But I believe the dual threat of arrest and death by monster girl is enough to deter this particular protagonist. It’s a small thing, but we have an in-universe explanation for why our hero remains virginal. But what is No Gal’s excuse? That our hero is cowardly and sexually uncomfortable?
Just because a show is “low brow” does not mean that it can avoid continuity and internal logic. We need a reason for our hero to not make a move – a reason women find him so irresistible. They don’t have to be good reasons, just something that helps us make sense of it all. After all, the purpose of these shows is to self-insert into a world or cleavage and panty shots. If the world makes no sense whatsoever, the immersion is broken.
No Gal does the fundamentals poorly, which is bad enough. But what about that aspect specific to its genre – titillation? It somehow messes that up too! But this comes as no surprise, since conveying an idea depends on having a strong story. Even if that idea is something as simple as “boobs,” you need good writing. If a show is not going to commit to being porn, it needs to meet the standards of longform TV. Something needs to lead up to “boobs.”
So what does No Gal do, when it’s not shoving boobs in our face? It mostly focuses on main guy’s friends, since it needs to fill up its runtime somehow, and doesn’t have any better ideas. But seriously, is this the best they could come up with? I understand that these scenes are supposed to be funny, but they’re not. And on top of being unfunny, they demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the show’s purpose.
The idea of these shows is to show off cute, cartoon women. So why does a good chunk of the show have no female characters whatsoever? Why the perpetual sausage fest? Not to put too fine a point on it, but the male characters are creepy weirdos. Who wants to watch that? Not the target audience of a harem anime. But No Gal has little choice, since the female characters lack any depth – they can’t fill a twenty-minute episode, even when there are four of them.
These characters do not need to be entirely realistic or complex. All they need is a guiding principal. The aforementioned Monster Musume is a good example of focused characters. The girls are all very simple, but this works to their advantage. They’re easy to understand. In any given situation, it’s clear how each would react. All you need to do is introduce a setup and watch them do their thing.
No Gal is lulled into a false sense of security, but the mere existence of boobs. Surely those will overwrite the horrible animation, plot, and characters. But the fact of the matter is, anime boobs can be found without sitting through twenty minutes of mediocrity.
But I want to be clear, my point is not specific to harem anime. No anime is above (or below) functioning as a narrative. No matter the goal of an anime, it benefits from a solid story – from strong characters and clever directing. Even harem anime. Anyone can draw bigger boobs, but it takes talent to draw out a personality. A climactic showdown only works when we care about the characters. A romance only moves us when it speaks to life. A joke only elicits laughter when it follows some sort of established logic.
In short, no show has any business being as bad as Hajimete no Gal. No genre is exempt from a bare minimum of quality, no matter how “trashy.” No Gal lowers the bar on all fronts. It looks horrible, the characters are boring, and it forgets to do the one thing it exists for – be bad soft-core porn. We wouldn’t accept this level of terribleness in other genres, so why accept it here? I fear a hierarchy of genres is forming, where we accept that some genres can get away with being worse than others. A drama or psychological thriller must be well done to get any attention, but a harem or Shonen can get away with being truly bad. Every story benefits from care and quality – we should expect better from our anime. Even the lowbrow ones.