‘cool, I’ll just stand awkwardly to the side while you two do that, ok?’

Since a young age, Mei has been able to see and talk to ghosts – something which has made her unpopular as other kids found this incredibly creepy. Because of this she had become accustomed to always being alone and not drawing attention to herself. One day when she walks through a festival on the way home from school, though, she does get noticed in the crowd by a mysterious tophat man doing magic tricks, who makes her volunteer for his disappearing trick. After she climbs into the box, however, she doesn’t just disappear – she is transported back to Meiji era Tokyo and loses a lot of her memory.

She is nearly run over by a stage-coach, but two mysterious and dashing chaps decide to help her out and take her to a ball currently underway to celebrate a visit from Russia’s crown prince. She ends up running into multiple dashing, colour-coded young men, who all turn out to be Meiji-era historical figures; including Ogai Mori – AKA Rintarou – a lieutenant general also famous for his novels and translation work, Otojiro Kawakami the actor, Izumi Kyoka the playwright, Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (AKA Yakumo Koizumi) the famous Dutch folklore researcher, and even more. Because this is based on an otome game, Mei presumably needs to choose one to date, but apparently Mori wants to choose for her, and has already declared her to be his fiancee.

can we make the entire anime be just about Kyoka

I didn’t have high hopes for Meiji Tokyo Renka because my expectations for anime based on otome games are always pretty low. And when the opening started and a bunch of pretty boys literally start sashaying down the street toward the camera, I just about lost any chance of being able to take this one seriously. The animation is also on the lower scale – it seems pretty simplistic, and will likely go downhill in future episodes. I feel it should look brighter than it does as the colours used seem rather drab to me. This all comes as a shame because to be perfectly honest, if the show had the polish of an otome anime like Uta no Prince-sama, it might actually be fun to watch.

It’s incredibly silly, but it’s certainly unique. Usually when historical figures appear in anime, they’re reincarnations, or summoned into the present time. In Meiji Tokyo  Renka they’ve certainly taken a lot of liberties in turning them all into otome date options, but they’re all in the right time period – well, to an extent. While these guys all did coexist at the same time historically, many of them weren’t that close in age – certainly not close enough for them to all look like teenagers. Maybe there is a supernatural justification for this (as well as a justification while they’re all coveniently in the same place), or maybe we’re just not meant to think about it. There already is supernatural elements present in the plot, though – Mei’s timeslip, as well as not only her but Izumi Kyoka being able to see ghosts. (That rabbit thing on his shoulder is apparently some kind of supernatural entity that only he and Mei can see.) The ghost part of the plot does come up again with another character trying to harm a ghost fox and Mei defending it, but we don’t really learn enough about this to see where it goes yet. So, I can give Meiji Tokyo Renka props for being a little unique, and for having Mei at least have some things about her character rather than just being a blank slate for the viewer, but ultimately it’s not really my cup of tea. While she spends most of the run time gasping at how dashing all these lads are, especially Mori, it’s all a bit too cornball for me, especially with how borderline creepy Mori is to her.

The only character I am a little drawn to is Izumi Kyoka, because…he’s really cute, ok. I’ve said it time and time again but I’m weak to angry tsundere boys, especially when their hair is a certain length. Kyoka is portrayed as comically germphobic, which does run the risk of becoming stale humour, but it’s not a character type I typically see in this kind of thing.  Apparently the real Izumi Kyoka was also incredibly germphobic as well as superstitious, and the weird ghost rabbit thing is likely a reference to the rabbits he collected as lucky charms. (Incidentally, when I tried to look up some info about him, the bulk of what came up immediately was for a character in Bungou Stray Dogs, who also apparently has a stuffed rabbit.) I can’t really say if he’s enough to hold my interest in the entire show – especially when the other boys don’t really do anything for me – but any otome game anime that has me even contemplating watching the next episode has to be doing something right, as this is extremely rare.

If you love otome games and their anime then you probably don’t even need my recommendation and have probably already decided which Meiji-era figure is your husbando. It’s super, super corny, but you could do a lot worse.

mori do you wanna stop acting like this for five seconds

Out of 5,
1/2