Maika Sakuranomiya finds it difficult to get a job due to the fact that her eyes look sinister, but this is actually an asset for a job at Café Stile, where the staff are all anime/game fans and the manager has all the wait staff act like some anime archetype. (The joke here is that none of their real personalities match the ones they're assigned to play; Maika's "look" gets her the role of "Sadist", even though her true personality is cheerful (and remarkably naïve.)) Meanwhile the manager has his eyes on Maika for another reason as well...
I actually liked this better than I believe some of the other THEM staff did. Take away Blend-S's (actually rather mild) obsession with otaku culture, and its (also rather mild) fanservice, and you've got an almost old-fashioned sort of conventional sitcom. Granted, maybe it IS a rather middling one, but still, in almost every episode I found something- some random quip, or some clever sight gag- that made me laugh. OK, maybe it was just one or two laughs per show, but that's pretty much my quota for an "average" comedy. And there was a relationship I was interesting in watching develop, as well.
No, it was NOT the relationship between the manager and Maika. Coming out of the year of #MeToo, I think we're all pretty aware of the issue of sexual harassment, which is one reason for frowning on this sort of thing; on the other hand is the possibility of favoritism, which is also poisonous in the workplace. And yet neither seems to exactly apply here. "Manager" (as he's invariably called in the show, though the character's name is given in the opening credits as Dino) is hardly a predatory boss demanding quid pro quos; his feelings toward Maika are more those of a profoundly addled lovesick puppy, an utter flake, complete with sexual-arousal nosebleeds that occur whenever Maika says or does anything that can be remotely construed as being particularly kind toward him. He's so pathetic that the other staff members actually feel the need to help him try to get through to Maika. The two of them should be naturals for each other- she's got a fetish for all things "foreign", and Dino (who's Italian) has a complementary fetish for "black-haired Japanese girls." But he's completely unable to articulate his feelings toward her, while for her part Maika is so innocent (or perhaps just SO dense) that she can't seem to realize how he feels. Both Dino and Maika have the exasperating tendency to invariably misinterpret each other's words and actions. As for Maika specifically, I thought some of her lines to the patrons in her "sadist" mode were actually pretty funny. (Her innate clumsiness actually helps her roleplay; the customers don't realize that she's really NOT intentionally spilling food on them.) But there is one segment, unfortunately much more fanservicey than funny, where they get her into a full-blown dominatrix mode, but sensibly decide in the end to have her dial that back a few notches.
Kaho Hinata has the designated roleplay as "Tsundere", even though she's actually just a cheerful girl who's into gaming. (In the obligatory swimsuit episode, she's nearly spilling out of hers; aren't tsunderes usually supposed to be spare-chested?) I'll get back to her a bit later.
There's Mafuyu Hoshikawa, a diminutive girl who's cast as the "Little Sister"; continuing the show's casting against type, she's actually the oldest of the girls. Her true personality is of the deadpan sarcastic sort. I finally began to like her a bit better when the show had an episode featuring her and Kaho, in which Kaho has a quite believable dilemma given her obsessions. This episode also featured what I thought a nifty (and subtle!) sight gag involving, of all things, Mafuyu and her brother washing dishes. As with all the main characters (except possibly Maika herself), Mafuyu has an anime-related obsession; hers is with magical girls.
Two more wait staff will be added during the course of the show. Miu Amano is a doujin creator who naturally finds Café Stile's anime-archetype roleplay fascinating (and a good source of inspiration), and so joins the staff, assuming a "Big Sister" persona.
The final server to join is Hideri Kanzaki, who assumes the persona of "Idol Star." I'm not sure where Hideri falls on the transsexual spectrum. Characters like this are often not treated very kindly in anime, but aside from one attempted "wrong bathroom" gag (so this is a "thing" in Japan too?), she seems to be treated with no less dignity than the other cast members (and with much more than Dino, though that's a pretty low bar), and she, Mafuyu, and Koyo Akizuki are the principal perpetrators of the show's (occasionally delicious) snark.
And FINALLY that brings us to Akizuki, my favorite character. Akizuki complains that he's the only person who works in the kitchen (the flighty Dino is pretty useless, "Manager" or no), and I ALWAYS identify with the more put-upon characters. And as I've said before, I'm also a fan of relationships between the more secondary characters, and there's a bit of that growing between Akizuki and Kaho. We see it best in a sequence where Akizuki finds her sitting on the floor, playing a game he plays as well, and he joins her, both of them soon oblivious to what's happened in their surroundings. Akizuki often drops his acerbic attitude when he's alone with her, and while the Dino-Maika dynamic seemed just another overdone trope, I wouldn't have minded a bit more development of whatever is going on between Akizuki and Kaho.
The better gags, and the thing between Akizuki and Kaho- whatever it is- made me willing to forgive the fact that yes, the show is not exactly a masterpiece. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Fanservice includes the obligatory changing room, hotspring, and bikini scenes (as noted, Kaho rather overstuffs HERS.) There's one scene of accidental groping, and there's the attempt to make Maika into an actual dominatrix- which even the characters in the SHOW found ill-advised, in the end. We'll say 15+ for the show, overall.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Blend-S © 2017 A-1 Pictures
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