Tachibana is a high school girl who works part time as a waitress at a restaurant called the “Garden Cafe”. It’s quickly revealed that she has a rather big crush on the manager, Masami, who is a 45-year-old divorced man with a young son.
The first episode uses flashbacks scattered throughout the episode to reveal Tachibana’s circumstances: she was a part of the track-and-field team at her school, but had to quit due to a bad injury. (We’re not shown how she injured her leg.) Early on in her physical therapy to treat her injury, Tachibana wandered into the Garden Cafe and met with Masami, who tried to cheer her up. It was in that moment that Tachibana developed a crush on Masami, and soon came to work at the restaurant.
Alright, this review is gonna be a little bit on the long side.
The premise of this series alone is enough to start some controversy. Yes, it’s a show about a high school girl who falls in love with a man who is significantly older than her. But… honestly, I don’t think this first episode was that bad? Hear me out before you all grab your torches and pitchforks.
Age gap relationships have always been sort of a touchy topic. In my personal opinion, I don’t mind age gap relationships–between two mature adults. If the relationship is between two consenting, mature adults, then it’s their choice and their own damn business. But with Koi wa Ameagari no You ni, one of the characters is pretty obviously a high school girl, which is problematic. As a teenager, you simply don’t have enough lived life experience and mental maturity to engage in a romantic relationship with an adult. The power dynamics in such a relationship would be very heavily unbalanced.
In my 20 years as an anime fan, I’ve noticed a sort of “trend” in anime/manga, where there is a romance between a high school girl and an adult man that end in (usually) happy marriages. It’s not an extremely common trope, but it does appear in quite a few notable series (such as Cardcaptor Sakura and Detective Conan). And it really made me wonder–why does this trope keep showing up in anime/manga? Is it differing cultural standards? Why is it always a high school girl and an adult man? That last point is one of the major reasons why I dislike this particular trope.
On the one hand, I kind of get it–as a person who identifies as a woman, I can kind of get the appeal of a romantic relationship with an older man. But I simply can’t condone a relationship between an older man and a high school girl because of what it implies. That it’s perfectly okay for older men to go after teenage girls? As if female-identifying people weren’t under enough pressure to appear young; as if the idea that women can only be beautiful when they are young wasn’t toxic enough.
“So why did you say that this episode wasn’t that bad, Ari?”
Well… there are a few reasons. First of all, despite the OP seeming to imply that Tachibana and Masami do couple up in the end, the series so far has hinted that the romance is strongly one-sided. Tachibana has a huge crush on Masami, but Masami appears to be a responsible enough adult that he won’t return her feelings. (Throughout this episode, Masami didn’t even realize that Tachibana has a crush on him, and treats her basically like a kid.) I think that this series will mainly revolve around Tachibana’s one-sided crush, and how she deals with it, and hopefully nothing more. If that’s the case, then there’s nothing too wrong with the series. Although uncomfortable, it’s not unnatural for teens to develop feelings for older people; it’s only wrong if the adult in the situation agrees to a romantic relationship with the teen.
Secondly, and this will probably piss off some people but… this is an anime. It is a work of fiction. There are many series I avoid because of the subject matter, but even so I think people are allowed to explore these sorts of uncomfortable themes in fiction. It is all wish-fulfillment, a way to vent, etc. From what I have seen, Koi wa Ameagari no You ni appears to be handling this touchy subject-matter with the right amount of delicacy. It’s not fanservicey or crass in any way.
Controversy aside, I really liked the aesthetics of this anime. The art style for the characters will definitely take some getting used to, but I ended up rather liking the sort of “old school shoujo vibe” that I got from the series. The animation is superb and very much on the higher end. And the OP was just visually stunning.
Overall, this will definitely be a very divisive series. I fully understand if the subject matter squicks anyone out too much. But if you’re a fan of thought-provoking shows with lovely animation, I would definitely suggest you give this one a try.
Out of five: