Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible Review: Mob Justice

Directed by Kazuomi Koga

Produced by Pine Jam

Streaming on Hidive

It feels good to be vindicated. There’s a sense of euphoria that you experience when the anime adaptation of a manga you love captures everything that made the source material so special.

Oh, dang it. Usually, I try to avoid spoiling whether or not the anime is actually any good before we get into the review. Whatever. Even if I were a little better about hiding it, you could tell that Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible was going to be a banger. Sure, it’s only got the one joke up its sleeve, but it also happens to be a really good joke.

Based on the manga by Nene Yukimori, Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible is about as simple as the title says. If you’ve been reading any of my stuff for longer than 27 seconds, you know I’m a sucker for a simple and sweet rom com, and from the studio that gave us last season’s sleeper hit Do It Yourself and…the director of Rent-a-Girlfriend, oddly enough, Kubo and Shiraishi deliver.

Junta Shiraishi is afflicted by a unique condition; he simply isn’t there. Well, that’s if you ask his teachers, classmates, the clerk at the convenience store he’s trying to shop at, and so on. He is so utterly unremarkable and inoffensive that it’s considered a sign of good luck to spot him twice in the same day, and some people go months without ever catching a glimpse of him.

He tries to not let that bother him, and works around the hand life dealt him. He goes up to the teacher to ask questions at the end of every class…just to make sure they know he was present. He’s mostly content to be the side character in his own story, but Kubo is not.

Nagisa Kubo is the protagonist of a rom com, down to her good grades, excellent athletics, and playful personality. She also happens to be the only person who can pick up on Shiraishi’s presence, even if she’s not ready to admit why.

And that’s pretty much it. I mean, there’s more characters, and the Yukimori manages to stretch Shiraishi’s unwitting stealth to a whole slew of situations, but it’s a chill slice-of-life deal. You’ll probably know whether or not that’s your deal by the time you finish your first episode of Yuru Camp. If it’s not for you, my condolences, because Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible happens to be a particularly saccharine sweet example of the genre, and I am here for it.

The fact that Kubo is not for everyone is probably the worst criticism I can levy at it. It’s a character-driven comedy with a lazy pace, and while it does a good job of being that, there will be those who call it boring.

If I’m digging for something to say about the series, it would be that it’s derivative. It’s not a great critique; many excellent anime are excellent precisely because they are emblematic of their genre. In addition to whether or not you care for homey rom coms, your mileage will vary according to how many of the species you’ve seen, and how tired you are of it.

Kubo and Shiraishi have good romantic chemistry, and genuine platonic chemistry, which is a rarity. I’ve always been fascinated by the way that some writers are able to craft believable relationships, where you see why a couple would be attracted to each other and why their relationship would succeed when so many fail. A crucial part of that is the element of friendship that a lot of anime, especially the ones with the ultra-violent tsunderes, ignore outright.

If I could direct one piece of criticism towards Kubo, it would be that we don’t see the titular character’s process towards developing feelings for Shiraishi. It’s plain from the first chapters and episodes that she has a crush on him, but considering his whole personality is milquetoast, more could have been done to explain this to the audience.

Ultimately, though, those are nitpicks. Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible is a cheesy slice-of-life affair that is meant to evoke that sweet doki doki feeling, and both its writing and its presentation do an excellent job of that.

As I mentioned before, Kubo has a distinct art style. I know I can rip on some anime for being too generally anime, but I really love when a mangaka takes that universal aesthetic and infuses it with their own flair. The characters here are a particular type of moe that Yukimori-sensei excels in.

Last week, I criticized Kubo’s peer, The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten, for taking shortcuts around looking good, when really they pulled off some really impressive lighting effects, used some soft line art and a bright color palette, and called it a day. If you want a comparison for how a romantic comedy can use soft line art and vivid colors to their advantage, Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible does all that plus fluid character animation and better shot composition.

I know it’s not fair to hold these two anime up against each other, but seeing as we are in a flooded market of rom coms this season, it’s hard not to. It’s a little frustrating that everything has to have a gimmick, but for what it’s worth, Kubo’s gimmick is a lot funnier and more effective as a storytelling device than any of the other rom coms I’ve reviewed this winter.

And unlike those other shows, Kubo has some outstanding character design, and I’m not just talking about the cutesy parts where they go chibi, though those are adorable, and I won’t underestimate the strength of such cuteness.

Kubo makes ample use of its bland protagonist, exacerbating that mob character look until it’s singular enough that, oddly enough, Shiraishi does stand out. The anime might take its time getting to some of the other side characters, but Junta’s little brother Seita is just the best, and Nagisa’s sister Akina could absolutely step on my…sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah, the presentation…yeah, it’s good.

Maybe you’re disappointed in the lack of new action-driven shows this season, but this just proves that the golden age of romance anime has finally arrived, and we don’t have to pretend to like shonen anymore. Friendship ended with Chainsaw Man, Kubo is my best friend now.

Okay, maybe it’s not quite that significant, but I’m glad that there’s a little bit of wholesome rom com goodness for everyone right now, no matter your favorite flavor of the genre.

Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible gets a respectable Boring Pleasing; no, seriously, it’s a good thing, it just means that it’s a slower paced show and…ugh, this grading system might not be as intuitive as I thought. Oh well, too late to change it now.

So, if you’re looking for anime to not remind you of how desperately lonely you are…er, next week’s review is an ecchi anime, if that helps. Maybe the week after that will be better? In any case, make sure to follow the Otaku Exhibition on WordPress and Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku for notifications when those go live. Until next time, thanks for reading.

MediocreThe Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten
FineTomo-chan is a Girl!
PleasingKubo Won’t Let Me Be InvisibleNieR:Automata Ver1.1a
FantasticTrigun Stampede

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