Engage Kiss Review: Shu’s Company, Three’s a Crowd

Directed by Tomoya Tanaka

Produced by A-1 Pictures

Streaming on Crunchyroll

I tried to play it coy on my last review, though considering there’s only a few anime anyone’s talking about this season, it shouldn’t be surprising we wound up here. Plus, two of those are original anime by A-1 Pictures, so if you had that on your Summer 2022 bingo card, mazel tov.

I have had a heck of a time making my mind up about Engage Kiss. I thought if I saved it for last, I’d be able to decide. Yep, I’m a fool for thinking that. I already wrote three pages of a review before going back to square one, and I can only hope I pull it off this time.

Engage Kiss has visual flair, comedic chops, and a questionable premise, but it still needs a foundation to bring it all together. Lycoris Recoil has yuri-baiting, Call of the Night has a hot vampire gf, and RWBY has literally nothing going for it. The question is whether or not Engage Kiss can take these disparate elements and fuse it into a greater whole.

I guess it’s just one of those reviews where I don’t know what the rating will be until I get there. Usually, I can convince myself one way or another just by talking about the show, but there’s only one way to find out.

Bayron City has a teensy little pest problem, and by that, I mean the city is terrorized by demons and 99% of the population is unaware of that fact. Y’know, between this and LycoReco, I’m starting to think A-1 Pictures is telling me not to trust the government. Based.

To manage the demon threat, the city contracts freelancers to take jobs in an auction where the lowest bidder wins. That lowest bidder just so happens to be Shu, a bumbling young demon hunter who manages to undercut the competition with low prices they just can’t afford to take. It’s actually rather unfortunate for him, seeing as he needs to pay his electric bill and buy some groceries other than bean sprouts.

But Shu isn’t in it for the money; he’s tracking down the demon that killed his family, and the best way to find it is to cut through demons until somebody coughs up the information. In the meantime, he’s employed the resources of Kisara, a demon high school student who just so happens to be madly in love with him.

The relationship is, erm, more than a tad one-sided, but seeing as he needs her to keep his business and personal life afloat, they get on just fine. Or would be, according to Kisara, if not for Ayano, a fellow demon hunter and Shu’s ex. That particular breakup was messy, the feelings are nasty and contradictory, and this cocktail of action and juicy personal drama pairs excellently together.

For a studio working double-time this season, Engage Kiss looks pretty darn good. Similarly to how Cloverworks putting out My Dress-Up Darling, Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, and Tokyo 24th Ward all at the same time, you can definitely tell who the favorite child is. Engage Kiss is never going to match up with the excessive love and detail poured into Lycoris Recoil, but it’s still made by one of the best studios working today.

The action scenes are excellently shot; Tomoya Tanaka’s vast experience really comes out here, resulting in fast and frenetic sequences, while taking advantage of a vibrant almost neon color scheme. Even if you don’t care for the series’ sense of humor, it would be saved by the battles.

I’m torn over the character design. Anime in general is terrible at communicating age, but the fact is that Kisara is younger than Shu, who is younger than Ayano, but you’re really not able to tell by the look of them. You also wouldn’t be able to tell by their behavior, either, so that’s a little visually confusing.

Other than that, I quite like the monster designs. The visuals remind me a lot of last fall’s Takt Op. Destiny, but I’d prefer not to relive that tragedy. Here’s hoping Engage Kiss manages to follow through on the promise it has shown so far.

I think my instinct to roll my eyes at the concept of an anime where the girl gets her powers by kissing the boy is usually on the money. So, to make up for that, the rest of the show must be really unique, right? Er…

There’s nothing terribly novel in and of itself about a yandere and tsundere love triangle, but it bears repeating that formulae are used in stories because they work. The voice actors are clearly having fun with the silliness, the character animations are expressive and endearing, and it’s sufficiently entertaining. It also helps that the series has a rather interesting twist on your typical harem protagonist.

Watching the first episode or two, you’d be correct in assuming that Shu is hapless, a burden, and an all-around bum. He relies on a high school student to pay his bills, on his ex to avoid starving, and you really wonder why any girl would fall for him. That’s a problem with a lot of harem anime, but there’s a reason why these girls are in love with him; Shu isn’t that kind of guy, or at least he wasn’t.

In pursuing revenge for his family, Shu made a deal with Kisara, and their relationship is just an extension of that. Kisara doesn’t actually get her powers from kissing Shu, but from devouring his memories. Ayano will reminisce about fond memories they share, but the reason Shu seems like a forgetful jerk to her is because he no longer remembers the moments where he was a thoughtful boyfriend.

It’s a surprisingly poignant plot point that I didn’t assume the series was capable of initially. I was rather impressed, and that’s where it won me over.

So yes, I quite like Engage Kiss. In my rush to get a review out, I appraised the series too soon. Now that I’ve taken a moment to slow down, the third episode rewarded my patience. Maybe in the future I’ll ease up, but considering how Google search trends punish that kind of thinking, probably not.

So, in typical harem protagonist fashion, I have not learned my lesson, but I did watch a pretty good anime. I’m going to give Engage Kiss an Entertaining Pleasing. You may have notice I already gave that to LycoReco, and I generally don’t double up, but I did an oopsie. I have since corrected the original post, and the change is seen here, so please, no pitchforks.

With that, another season in the bag. I’ve mentioned it before, but fall is going to be a big one, and I’m going to try to put out essays on series that are getting sequels, so I had to go for fewer reviews this season than usual. I’m not promising an essay on Mob Psycho 100 where I rip into Zack Snyder, but I kinda am.

So, if you want to see that post when I work up the nerve to make the Snyder fanboys on Twitter mad, you can follow the Otaku Exhibition on WordPress to get notified. Or, you can follow me on Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku to watch the crucifixion up close! Until next time, thanks for reading.

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