Is Romantic Killer Worth Watching? – This Week in Anime

Netflix‘s new “unromantic romance” centers on a teenage girl who values video games and her cat above any kind of romantic entanglement. When she’s forced into the role of a harem protagonist, will she stick by her no romance mantra?

This series is streaming on Netflix

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Chris

Well, here I am all set for this evening to sit down with a big bag of leftover Halloween chocolate, this new video game I’ve been wanting to check out, and my sweet kitty to cuddle with!



I sure hope no jerkwad fairy shows up and takes all these things away until I can find a suitable review partner to talk about a new Netflix anime—



Aw dammit.

Nicky, could you help me out on this one?

Nicky

Only because the Evil Netflix Wizard demands it!!



Just as we thought to be safe during a packed season, Netflix strikes again to zap away all of our remaining free time! And what better way to kill time than the feisty new romcom, Romantic Killer?

This full twelve episode run of a series was produced for and dropped all at once on the streaming service, starting with a rather simple premise: You’ve got this horrible little magic gremlin as the seeming reincarnation of Shinzo Abe, whose pilot program for motivating Japanese teenagers to get busy has just happened to select one Anzu Hoshino, the least romantically-interested subject possible.



Anzu, understandably, takes news of her new assignment well.

To be fair to Anzu here, she’s just a simple girl satisfied with simple pleasures. Why seek out human relationships when you have all you need from a cat, chocolate, and video games? It’s not that she’s NOT interested about the prospect of hot guys doting on her as a fantasy. She’s already played plenty of video games about it. She even mentions her favorite video game crushes!



But Riri’s, the evil potato wizard as I calls ’em, idea of romance is uhhhh…corny? Dated? Unrealistic? It throws Anzu’s life into disarray, removing her treasures and her family, and creating all kinds of wacky situations like a cruel god of fate.


Oh yeah, I should get out in front that, for as iffy as I can see some reading that initial premise as being, I feel like the narrative is exuberantly sympathetic to Anzu here. Yeah, it’s shitty of Riri to try to force someone who can very easily be read as being on the aro/ace spectrum into these kinds of relationships, but the writing regularly frames them as annoyingly shitty about it, and has Anzu aggressively fight back in any way she can.



And therein lies the core appeal of the show: watching someone with no interest in engaging with romance tropes in real life wrestle with them as outlandishly as possible. A killer in the world of romance, or something to that effect.

I personally see Anzu as a lot like myself when I was her age, basically a late bloomer, rather than having no drive at all. After all, a lot of romance and even strong friendships are based in social faux pas that can be challenging to someone as socially-isolated as Anzu. However, you’re right that we’re totally on Anzu’s side here. Anzu is a unique heroine for how un-heroine like she is. She’s totally awkward, loud, and lame, but she never holds back how she feels. As a character, she’s super entertaining and feels extremely authentic. AND HER FACE GAME IS AMAZING!!





I was really surprised to see how damn animated this thing is! DOMERICA mostly does CG production for other series but despite the simplistic style, things really get moving when it matters. Anzu’s three hot love interests never look bad either!







So of course, looking nice aids both the sincere romance elements and the boat load of tongue-in-cheek visual gags this thing has!
DOMERICA do let themselves look bad on purpose occasionally and break out that aforementioned CGI experience for these absurd uncanny mock otome game segments.



It’s a situation where I’ll allow the ol’ anime joke of “we’re explaining the tired trope we’re invoking,” since the objective is to make clear what it is Anzu is trying to avoid at any given moment.
Such as, for instance, being rescued out of a rainstorm by Hot Boy #1!

Our first love candidate is Tsukasa Kazuki who Anzu first met by complete “happenstance” when she bumped into him and accidentally broke his cell phone. He’s a resident cool hottie who can’t stand all the unwanted attention he gets from girls who like him for his looks. This makes him come off as a bit of a jerk at first, but after a series of magic interferences aka Shitty Wizard Spells, we discover that he’s a rather considerate and down-to-earth guy. Which is somewhat bad news for Anzu’s plan to smite her potato oppressor. However, like Anzu, he has no interest in romance due to his negative experiences with girls.


We get more details on Kazuki’s full deal much later in the series, but even earlier on I think they do a good job of bringing around opinions on him. Sometimes pretty’s a curse, and he doesn’t want to give anyone the wrong idea or lead them on by making it even seem like they might have a chance against his current romantic disinterest.




It, ironically yet appropriately, makes him a perfect fit for Anzu, at least in terms of acquaintanceship. I like how Kazuki seems utterly resistant to any of the kinds of dramatic misunderstandings that would drive up tension in the more typical kinds of romance story shenanigans Riri is trying to orchestrate between the pair.




In terms of simple friend-shipping, absent any romance, they end up rather delightful to watch together.
Even when they end up living together thanks to Riri’s demonic magicks, it’s nice to see two fairly isolated people grow close to each other, even if Anzu feels bad about putting him in such a bad situation. After all, good romantic relationships are based on good communication just like any other kind of relationship. Being able to form strong platonic bonds is a key factor to relationship success!

Though, it also helps that Kazuki is handy around the house, killing unsightly roaches (censored by cake) and cooking delicious meals now that Anzu has no choice but to fend for herself with her parents and beloved kitty, Momohiki, shipped all the way overseas!

Although, the circumstances between the characters are artifices by Riri, it doesn’t stop the relationships from feeling authentic largely thanks to Anzu’s stubbornness against bullshit of all forms. She’s the kind of gal who treats everyone like a person first and that’s the part of her that’s admirable despite her many dorky qualities. Though, her lack of shame is another reason why she’s so easy to get along with even though she doesn’t own any clothes that don’t have cats on it.

In her defense, they are all very cute cat-themed clothes. Plus it seemingly runs in the family.

All her attempts to make herself unattractive (intentionally or unintentionally) only make me love her more.

Her floofy bed-head look early on was already Iconic™.



Part of me was initially worried that Anzu’s presentation as a thoroughly unromantic weirdo, compared to the fangirls Kazuki was trying to brush off, would paint her connection with him as a product of being ‘not like other girls’. But I think the series threads the needle of selling Anzu’s overall appeal as just that genuine, even if they make some later…choices in portraying the affections of ladies who aren’t her.

It probably helps that Hot Boy #2 really has always been purely attracted to Anzu just for being Anzu.

This is Junta Hayami, Anzu’s childhood friend. Only, Anzu has no idea who he is and assumes he’s someone Riri imagined and/or brainwashed with false memories in order trick him into liking her. Otherwise, he’s a very athletic and pure boy. He also ends up living with Anzu, along with Kazuki, due to shenanigans.

Turns out Riri can’t actually manipulate anybody’s feelings either, otherwise there would be no point. Meaning any potential feelings the boys have to Anzu, Junta’s in particular, have always been real and not the result of some ungodly curse.


It’s probably for the best, since for all the crap Riri gets up to putting people through, straight-up brainwashing someone would be a bridge too far even for them, especially as Romantic Killer seems to swing towards wanting to portray them as a smidge more sympathetic as the story goes on.



It means Junta can serve a simply sincere Childhood Friend role instead, providing a window into Anzu’s past and making apparent that, despite her screwball style and alleged disinterest in relationships, her cavalier comradery with boys and girls alike has resulted in her being something of a natural Ms. Popular.



#AnzuSweep
It’s also nice that we get to see that Anzu has always been very true to herself, and we even get to peak into how she’s like outside of a romance situation and just as a regular friend. Something we didn’t get to see before as her video game obsession overshadowed things like going out and bowling or singing karaoke. This is key in her relationship to her best friend Saki. I was surprised to get any depth to the secondary characters in such a short series.

We see how she so bravely defended her friend against bullies, rumors, and attempted assault. It really shows that despite being a lame-o, Anzu has always had the potential to be a great person and I think forcing her to expand her social skills is really just about helping her come into her own as a more well-rounded person even if her Fairy Tot Mother is annoying and rude about it.


It’s all stuff that we see come back in Anzu’s dealing of issues for the guys in her life in other parts of the show. And a character like Saki getting a whole segment in an episode that gave her a full-on backstory, and demonstrated those aforementioned aspects Anzu had always exercised? That was a pleasant surprise for someone whom I had resigned to serving the simple role of ‘Anzu’s girl friend’!







Alongside the implication that Saki might prefer to serve the role of ‘Anzu’s girlfriend.’

Anzu using her dumbass energy to attract morosexuals of both genders earns my bi approval, as is tradition.

She’s is like some sorta inverse Catarina Claes, charming others in her circle by simply being understanding and empathetic, but avoiding relationships with them not because she’s too dense to notice most of them, but because she simply does not want to.

Even the birthrate-boosting fairy winds up not immune to her unconventional charms!



Hell, her utter dismissal of being a love interest is what ends up drawing in Hot Boy #3.


He gets some funny bits, but of all the main dudes that get dragged-and-dropped into Anzu’s would-be harem, Hijiri’s probably the one who does the least for me. I get the idea behind his character, what that’s supposed to say about some people’s entitled perception of relationships and someone like Anzu’s effect on that. But he just doesn’t get enough to do compared to the others.



I mostly like having him around just for Tsuchiya, his chauffeur who imparts to Anzu what a positive effect she’s already having on the little guy, and generally just comes off like a cool, helpful dude.


He’s definitely a bit of an Alfred-type in that he feels more like a father figure than a servant. Also they take pictures together. It’s cute. It gets to the point where Anzu and her anti-romance harem feel pretty chill. Even Junta and Kazuki get along pretty well living together. There’s a subtle tension between the guys but it’s low-key and everyone gets along and Anzu’s social life feels brighter.

Yup, everything’s great and there’s surely no way any injection of shockingly intense drama could disrupt this sort of pleasant platonic polycule!

I initially read Kazuki as somewhat socially-anxious rather than simply prickly. He hates going out without a hat in fear of getting noticed, and when on a shopping date with Anzu he almost has a panic attack when left by himself, viewing women as hungry predators waiting for the kill.

Same for me, it’s why I initially thought Romantic Killer might be affecting that ‘not like other girls’ bit for Anzu, marking Kazuki as this victim of his own hotness who just wanted fangirls to leave him alone. Instead, it turns out the show was seeding all these bits to pay off a way denser backstory for the poor boy, even tying into parts, like his solo living situation, that at first seemed just to be contrivances.

At some point it became clear to me that Kazuki’s reactions were triggers from trauma, things like a hat help serve as a kind of security blanket. And his aversion to romance and cold defenses are all stemming from his experience with a female stalker. Having re-located him on social media, his stalker boldly approaches Anzu and announces that she and Kazuki are dating. She mentions that people always try to keep them apart, especially Kazuki’s older sister. Having met his sister recently and knowing that she’s pretty cool, this is an immediate red flag to Anzu and the audience.

I like how this introduction lets Anzu repay Kazuki’s ability to avoid misunderstandings from earlier in the show, immediately clocking the atrocious vibes of his stalker and going into defense mode for her guy-pal.


Kazuki can’t even go online shopping without being reminded of all the gifts his stalker sent him. As a middle schooler this adult woman latched onto him for his kindness and wouldn’t let go. It’s extremely harrowing, evening going so far to spy on him in his home, drug him, post pictures of him on social media. It’s no wonder he wanted to get away.

Even though some of the people around him don’t take Kazuki’s victimhood seriously, Anzu, the heart of the show, does. The show affirms him that the harm done to him isn’t his fault. Leading to an incredibly touching scene.


I ended up overall uncertain about devoting nearly the full two final episodes to a story as intense as this one, but damn if this bit didn’t make it feel worth it. She even lets him know he can comfortably opt out before she goes to hug him, which just apart from the backstory, is a move utterly respectful of the personal space Romantic Killer is playing in! Love it!


After the little tip-off from Saki and how a bit dark her own backstory is, I was probably more prepared for the shift and it portrays Kazuki as a surprisingly well thought-out character where there’s a lot of intent in most of his actions and having him come out to her like that about his own trauma is great pay-off for all the time they spent bonding together.

Yeah, it’s not that it feels totally out of place after stuff like all the foreshadowing we’d already gotten for things like Kazuki’s backstory. And I was wholly invested in the likes of him and Anzu enough at this point that it was satisfying seeing them come out of this kind of emotional wringer. It’s just that Romantic Killer could almost feel like a completely different show in this stretch, with a virtual absence of jokes and Miss Stalker going all Higurashi on everyone.




Maybe it would’ve arrived there more gradually and gracefully had the series had more than a single-cour run, but as-is, I will appreciate it for providing a suitably finale-level event to end on for this adaptation, as opposed to simply coasting to a more generic finish.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, even when the danger is apparent, Anzu still gets plenty of help from her friends. Receiving advice, getting saved from a group of thugs, even Riri stepped up! And it’s that feeling of love and support that prevails. It’s a victory that feels earned and one deserving of someone as tough as Anzu. She really doesn’t back down!


One of Riri’s ways of assistance directly highlights that support group aspect, since they’re the one who sent magical text messages to all of Anzu’s pals who could come save her from those aforementioned thugs. Much of this seems to be in service of highlighting the value of the kinds of companionship and connections Anzu has wound up forging, apart from any ‘romantic’ potential.



Genuine connections between groups of friends, as opposed to the singularly selfish idealized obsessions of a stalker. Even shifting from over-the-top comedy to over-the-top drama, the ideals of Romantic Killer remain salient.

Even the Evil Potato ended up with a strong attachment to Anzu, there’s consequences for this but Anzu deals with it in a perfectly Anzu fashion. She’s really an OP non-heroine and her personality colors the whole show. If you love Anzu from the get-go you’ll definitely like the rest of Romantic Killer.

Going through the trouble of getting Riri back for…some reason was probably the final odd choice for Romantic Killer for me, but you’re right that Anzu’s approach makes it fun to watch from a personality standpoint.




Plus even if things do wrap with Kazuki confirming that he has at last moved past his own romance-aversion and developed feelings for Anzu, I absolutely appreciate that, by the end of things, Anzu herself is still 100% adamant in her dedication to being the Romantic Killer. It’s a last commitment that really seals the whole show for me, since I wasn’t sure the story would actually be willing to stick to that!




She even gets her cat back!
Well for the time being. It still seems like there’s more for the story to explore and I’d be more than happy to spend time with Anzu and friends again in the future. I can’t speak for others, but I think it might be love! Just leave the magic out of it, okay?

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