Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions > You and Me Episode 1 – Change of Scene

You and Me Episode 1 – Change of Scene

Anime genres are fairly well established by now; so are the medium’s target demographic audiences. The interesting part is when and how genres one would expect to appeal only to one type of demographic are directed at, and succeed at drawing in, an entirely different clientele. The shift in magical girl shows from being targeted at pre-teen girls to college age men is one of the most obvious shifts of this type.

Mostly, these shifts come from adapting a type of genre meant for a young audience to an older one, trying to match the change in tastes and emotional development one would expect (or hope) a grown-up audience would have. The recently finished Kamisama Dolls gave an example of a shounen genre being adapted for a seinen audience, not just aging up the characters, but also the content.

These are the sort of shifts that make sense. The shift represented in You and Me (Kimi to Boku) does not make sense to me: The show takes a concept that looks, acts, and feels like it was meant for a classic shoujo, or even josei, audience, and pitches it at the shounen crowd. I’ve doublechecked, and the original manga was and is still running in a shounen magazine alongside several action series, and is obviously popular enough to get an anime adaption. I have no idea how this happened. Maybe it has something to do with the fact the series is just plain good.

Well, there's also continual asides to cats in the anime, which seem to be ubiquitous on the school grounds. Not that I mind this either

Me and You follows four high school juniors, who have known each other since kindergarten. They mostly seem to follow some basic stereotypes, with Kaname Tsukahara being the rich kid and class overachiver, twins Yuuki and Yuuta Asaba being the more lazy, laid back types, and extremely effeminate Shun Matsuoka trying to keep everyone together.

Like many slice of life shows, the official plot doesn’t seem to amount to all that much, with a good chunk of the episode being devoted to a kindergarten flashback and the majority of it focused on Kaname’s doomed attempt to find a club for Yuuki to join. A lack of things going on doesn’t hinder popularity when the people doing nothing are cute girls being cute, but when it’s a cast of mostly bishounen, that explanation doesn’t cover it.

I would mistake Shun for a girl in about half the shots he's in if not for the male uniform. Yuuta's even doing his hair

There is, however, an obvious dramatic core to the show, one which wouldn’t have been possible if the show was based on a 4-koma manga series like most slice of life series are. Each incident no matter how minor, reveals a little more about the characters. This comes in ways both obvious, and occasionally extremely subtle, but while the show is styling itself as a slice of life comedy now, I won’t be surprised when more serious content starts to drop.

It’s worth repeating how traditionally feminine the show is. The original manga is written by a woman, obviously, but so was Fullmetal Alchemist. Here, everything about the production, from the character designs to the cast balance to the overall aesthetic (the show apes the art style of Production I.G.’s Usagi Drop and Kimi ni Todoke, complete with a watercolor-styled closer and occasionally inserts), feels like it’s made with a female audience in mind. Likewise, the emphasis on slow character development coming out of a seemingly episodic formula is reminiscent of Natsume Yuujinchou, another show which isn’t seen as being very shounen-y.

We know that Kaname had a boyhood crush on his kindergarten teacher; we don't know why he's so awkward around his high school teacher. I'm guessing we'll find out, though

Why, then, does the show work with a male audience? Why does it work with me? Well, I liked Usagi Drop, Kimi ni Todoke, and Natsume Yuujinchou, so perhaps I’m not the one to answer that question. But the closest thing I can come up with is the just restarted season of Bakuman, which treats its comedy aspects in a somewhat similar way. Bakuman has a much stronger central plot, and is far more willing to utilize super-deformity to get its jokes accross. But both series derive their humor almost entirely from “real life;” the genuine awkwardness, confusion, and occasional silliness that characterize adolescence in its more rosy depictions.

And this show is genuinely funny, albeit not in the gut splitting, have you rolling on the floor sort of way. Anime humor tends to rely far more on slapstick and sight gags rather than clever word play or, in this case, just the reaction and counter-reaction of the characters. It takes very well-realized characters to pull that sort of dynamic off. That was Bakuman’s greatest strength; here, it’s the driving dynamic of the show.

It takes something special to make a bunch of six year olds arguing about bed placement for naptime funny. Whatever that something special is, this show has it

The trick is in making the group close, but not too close: These aren’t the sort of guys who would have paired up if they were starting tabula rasa. Rather, they stick together as much from shared history and inertia than shared interests; they may not always get along, but no one understands them like the rest of the group does.

Given the opening is clearly signaling about a soon to be fifth member of the group, Tachibana Chizuru—who, like all half-Caucasian, half-Japanese kids in anime, is blond. What brings him in? How will he change the dynamic of the group? I don’t know. But I’m very curious to find out.

Here's a shot of all five of them; you can probably figure out who is who. Except for the twins, obviously

Perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised at this series. After all, since all the action-oriented, fanservice heavy, generally plotless manga slots have likely been claimed, it was only a matter of time before someone tried a different type of series out on the teenage male demographic. This show, and I assume the manga it was based on, went with the assumption that you could offer in a package with real characters, subtle humor, substance over flash, and no fanservice whatsoever, and have it catch on.

And what do you know? Not underestimating the target audience paid off. You can watch the result here. I certainly will.

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