This is an odd anime to be sure. It’s a romantic comedy with light harem elements thrown in. Honestly, I was surprised that I found Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa this good. I was expecting a far, far weaker anime. The thing about this anime is that it’s both predictable and unpredictable – in some ways it goes as expected, but in other ways, it is really different for its genre. The strong point is that it’s the twists on the standard genres that ends up making the usual plot points better. There’s a surprising amount of sweetness in the anime, balanced with comedy.
Purpose: Excellent. Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa is a fascinating study in how to blend romantic comedy with light harem elements. Normal harem anime tend to revolve around the infighting – clashes of really strong personalities. This anime, however, casually and smoothly transitions between one on one relationships and love triangles. It’s not really about fighting, although that does come up once or twice. Instead, it highlights several different kinds of relationships between the main character and the other characters. This is one part of what makes this anime surprisingly strong. The other part is how they reversed the focus of the anime; they changed it from the girls to the male lead. This is another surprisingly successful use of the “nice (plain) guy.” The male lead was placed in bizarre and often painful (usually comedic) situations because of his niceness, but he was the main actor. This is different from the norm where the male lead is merely a bystander to bizarre and outrageous fighting, basically trying to herd cats (pardon the pun.)
Characters: Very Good. Another surprise was the characters. I had expected the characters to be defined by a one-off gag, usually involving something monster-related. However, they’re fairly solid and distinctive characters on their own, supplemented by an “inhuman” trait. Make no mistake, a lot of humor is based on those various traits, but it’s more the combination of the characters working with and reacting to those traits. Basically, it provides them situations to react. But to say that almost denies the delicacy through which those traits are used. They are never over-done or overwhelm who the character is. In sum, they are a part of the character, but by no means are the entire character.
The other interesting thing about characters are their relationships. Since they’re generally interactions of two to three characters, it ends up creating very interesting relationships. Much of the anime is spent highlighting the different kinds, and the evolution of the relationships between three characters – a basic love triangle, but with occasional interference and support of other characters. That’s a bit of an over-simplification, but it conveys the general idea.
World: Good. Nothing much to remark upon except for the fact that they do a relatively good job of making a world where you can have all these kinds of oddities without seeming out of place. Aside from that, the anime uses fairly standard settings and locations for the genre. They were able to actually use the plain nature of the world as an advantage. Going through the anime is more like seeing the other side of the mirror – these kinds of crazy things happen, but in an everyday low-key way, outside of human view. As we go on, our eyes are slowly opened to the commonplace weirdness.
Plot: Good. Another surprise, the plot mostly wasn’t about the main character keeping a secret. It followed a much more traditional high-school romance in a magical world plotline. Thus, the variety of plot points involved different situations that would change the feelings of the characters with respect to each other. Though it takes a bit to get there, eventually the plot settles into a solid love triangle, with a potential for more. Really, the point of the plot in this situation is to maintain tension between the characters, never pulling too hard nor letting a character get too far away.
Storytelling: Very Good. The storytelling was novel for what it didn’t tell you. The viewer’s knowledge of events was limited to the knowledge of the main character, for the most part. Sometimes, they did let you know what the girls were thinking to enhance the situation. One of the stronger points of the storytelling was the managing of the character-specific gags and relationship developments. They never lingered too long on one particular character, turning to another before it becomes stale. For that matter, even the most perverted character was not exactly a recurring theme; most anime that involve those characters tend to overuse them almost as filler gags. Instead, we got a really nice balance of both character relationship drama and comedy, done without a “character rotation” scheme.
For the character dramas, there actually were some really well done scenes. They managed to convey a solid emotional impact, either sweet or tense as required. Interspersed in there, they placed comedy as a way to refresh. Another notable aspect of the storytelling was that they were able to use comedy to interrupt more serious scenes without destroying the mood, which is rare.
Pace: Good. There weren’t any particular problems with the pace. One of the more interesting things they did was use the pace to convey the passage of time. In other words, it was clear that we were only really seeing the highlights of relationships that spanned a longer period of time. That aside, they did a relatively good job of spacing out the introductions of the girls, although it really takes about 6 or so episodes for the full cast to be assembled.