Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie
"Yu" Izumi is the boyfriend of one "Micchon" Shikimori, the most popular girl in school, though the two couldn't be more polar opposite. Izumi is plain, clumsy, weak, accident-prone, prefers the indoors, and has only a few friends. Shikimori, meanwhile, is a gorgeous, brilliant, excellent athelete admired by the entire school. The young couple, alongside their three friends Shu Inuzuka, Kyo Nekozaki, and Yui Hachimitsu, enjoy high school life together.
Tim: In spring 2022, when I was watching this show alone before Stig and I watched it together the following spring, the one big thing I kept bringing up to Stig, and still do, was this; "Stig, this is a high school comedy series with a group of friends in it that actually ACT LIKE REAL FRIENDS!"
I have complained many times in the past on T.H.E.M. Anime about toxic friendships in anime, and how many series have That One Character, a character so annoying/unlikable, I wondered why the rest of the cast chose to hang around them. Well, Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie has no such character. It also doesn't have annoying kids that eat up screen time like Aharen-san wa Hakarenai, obnoxious scene-stealers like Chio's School Road, or yanderes/stalkers like Komi Can't Communicate. (One of the reasons I canned my planned review of the latter is Ren, one of the single worst characters I've seen in a high school gag manga series in many a year, and the reason I stopped reading the manga altogether.)
Stig: I'm honestly surprised that I've gotten so many romantic anime under my belt during my time here, even though I've only reviewed a small handful of them. Like Tim, I've had my share of shows that would have been good if not for either a character or an element that at least partially ruined the experience for me, like Golden Time's amnesia angle or Waiting in the Summer's tendency to have characters "accidentally" overhear the absolute worst "taken out of context" parts of a conversations as a means to drum up drama that feels more like stalling for time. And much like Tim's examples above, Shikimori is not having any of this nonsense.
A common criticism with a lot of TV shows, both animated and live-action, is why the beautiful female lead would want to be around someone well out of their "supposed league". (Although it could probably be argued that a lot of girls do like more gentle guys, it's not that Izumi is hardly lacking in the looks department.) Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie actually addresses this, and it does so really well. A late series flashback reveals that up until the end of junior high school, Shikimori admired her older brother and initially followed him in everything he did, including martial arts. When he quits, she's annoyed, but decides to take the opportunity to change herself for high school after advice from her older brother. She grows out her hair, curtails some of her tomboyish personality traits, and becomes more feminine, wanting to find a nice boy her age to fall in love with. And then she meets in the beginning of high school Izumi, helping him before she even starts high school. A later fast forward scene that fall has them pairing up for the fall festival activities, where she officially becomes his girlfriend.
We know we're skimming a few things, but that's how it goes; a genuine explanation why someone the polar opposite of her boyfriend would fall for him. Izumi's gentle, kind, generous, and likes Shikimori for both of her sides: her cute, feminine side, and her cooler, more tomboyish side. And she wouldn't want it any other way. The two find things together they lack in themselves, although that might very well be just in their own minds, as the two seem to have no problems bringing these perceived lacks out of each other with seemingly little effort.
Stig: I was a little bit annoyed at the start when it came to Izumi's almost supernatural bad luck. It felt a bit artificially crafted just so Shikimori could be the cool one, but the show thankfully never overplays this, so it's a relatively minor beef from me. In fact, given that the ending animation of the episodes is actually playing this up as a minigame, I eventually wanted this to be an actual game you could play. It would even work on a Game & Watch level.
And luckily for us Shikimori isn't a Mary Sue. Far from it. In fact, at home she is shown to be just as adorkably shy about her boyfriend as Izumi is on her, something her older brother knows far too well. And while at school she's seen as the pinnacle of feminine beauty and grace, at home she's the bratty, occasionally demanding little sister of an older brother who loves to tease her to no end, and she's just as insecure about her own worth in the relationship as Izumi. (Even if I thought she was a bit TOO bratty in the home scenes. - Tim)
A special shoutout goes out to Izumi's best male friend, Shu Inuzuka. He's one of the very rare male best friends of the male lead in a high school comedy series that isn't a pervert, jerk, or toxic as hell. There's even a bit of an ironic joke throughout the series that Shikimori gets jealous not when Yuuki is around other girls, but with him. Inuzuka's reactions to it - as if he's being stabbed with icicles - are pretty funny. Yes, this series even makes the "jealous girl" trope work, as the series never has Shikimori go too far in her "jealousy" of Yuuki and Inuzuka's closeness. Inzuka is just an all-around chill guy as a whole, even if he's used as the butt of jokes maybe one too many times by one of his other friends.
Said friend is Kyo Negozaki, the tomboy of the group. She met Shikimori when playing volleyball opposite her in high school, immediately falling for her coolness. She's basically Shikimori's opposite: loud, brash, and having no filter with her thoughts. It's a testament to the series' writing that instead of being the obnoxious tomboy friend a la Tomo Takino from Azumanga Daioh, she's the more open-handed, expressive best friend who loves her friends. Yes she teases them - especially Izumi and Inuzuka - but it's always playfully, not maliciously. And Inuzuka's not afraid to talk back when she does so to him. Which is, again, playful ribbing rather than malice.
The last member of the gang is the one with the least amount of screen time and presence. That would be one Yui Hachimitsu, a tiny blonde girl with no irises in her big yellow eyes, who has a near perpetual smile on her face even when she's angry. Like Izumi, she's more of the indoors type, and isn't so great with the outdoors. This ties into her only episode in the series, where she practices for a relay race alongside Izumi who, while faster, tends to trip up whenever he does so. Otherwise Hachimitsu stays on the sidelines, making cute quips as the straight man to her other friends' eccentricates.
Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie even handles love triangles well. Later in the series we meet Kamiya, a tall, beautiful girl who also knew Izumi in her first year of school. Alongside Shikimori, she's considered as cool as, if not more so, than her. That coolness earner her the nickname "lone wolf" due to never going out with anyone or making any long-term friends. During the fall festival arc we learn that she's also very much in love with Izumi, something Shikimori eventually learns as well. The way the two handle the revelation we will not spoil, but it's both sweet and tear-jerking at the same time. A box of tissues might be required.
Heck, even the ending animation in Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie is super charming. Like Stig mentioned earlier, it features chibis of Shikimori and Izumi walking down a sidewalk, as Shikimori constantly blocks obstacles in her boyfriend's way, ranging from balls, papers, and even protecting him from animals and other people with her own body. It's like an anime version of Muse Dash, and it's super cute.
The main theme of Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie seems to be about support: between friends and rivals, kids and adults (as we will also meet the parents of both our main leads; Izumi gets his clumsiness from his mother, it seems), and especially between couples. And that support thrives on the fact that the characters in this show are willing to not confront, but just sit down and talk. I think most people can relate to the topic of insecurity, including how it doesn't necessarily come from a place of bullying. Watching Izumi and Shikimori get together and resolve their problems with just a conversation and gentle support is an incredibly encouraging and sweet thing to see. Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie doesn't just get by with its almost complete lack of conflict; it thrives in it.
Tim: I watched Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie at the same exact time as Aharen-san wa Hakarenai last spring, and while I liked the latter, a bratty little girl character and having most of the cast repeat the same tired gags (especially Aharen's tall friend who stalked her in school to "protect" her) made me realize how much I preferred the former. b>Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie isn't just sweet and adorable; it's, to me, the purest high school comedy anime I think I've ever reviewed for T.H.E.M. Anime, free of all of the archetypes that typically annoy me in this genre. (With the exception of the scenes with Shikimori and her older brother.) I highly recommend this series; it's easily my favorite of the cute slice-of-life genre I've seen since the early seasons of Encouragement of Climb and Non Non Biyori.
Stig: Despite its almost complete lack of dramatic moments, Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie just works so well as a romantic comedy based around a couple that was already established from episode one. It is encouraging that romantic comedies are willing to work with what comes after the "I love you" rather than just write it off as a "happily ever after". It's a trend I hope continues. Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie isn't the only one - or even the first - to do this, but it is one of the very strongest.
Also, if it hasn't been done already, please someone make a game out of the ending credits like I commented on earlier.
Recommended Audience: Older kids and up should be fine watching this. We couldn't think of anything majorly objectionable, aside from maybe a bit of fanservice with swimsuit discussion and the lakeside the kids visit later on.
Version(s) Viewed: crunchyoll stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie © 2022 Keigo Mori / Kodansha / Shikimori-san Production Committee
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