I love girls with glasses. I don’t know why, meganekko just kill me. I wear spectacles myself, I have poor eyesight. So, it’s no wonder that this title and this premise caught my eyes. All four of them. I wasn’t expecting much, to be fair, just some stupid love comedy I’d be watching just because I’m too curious for my own good. Instead, I was presented with something that, while simple and mostly unoriginal, struck me as surprisingly enjoyable.
These four OVA consist of four unrelated short stories, all concerning, of course, girls with glasses: a teenage girl wearing spectacles with pride in a literature club with a boy secretly in love with her; a top idol disguising herself with spectacles to relax at her favourite café, where she is asked out by a waiter not recognising her; a shy young couple whose bent nose pads bring them closer together; an high schooler now grown out of her past shyness and insecurity who keeps avoiding who was her best friend in middle school, much to his chagrin.
I’m having a hard time finding the words to describe why exactly such an unimpressive premise works… first of all, the fact that each chapter begins and ends within a 10 minutes OVA means that the story, devoid of any pretence of being artsy or mind-blowing, develops fast and tight, going right to the point without wasting time on fanservice or pointless scenes. Each is built up effectively, even in its extreme predictability, managing to have all the effect it can, also thanks to some genuinely good comedy. The fourth story is a bit more melancholic in tone but also, in my opinion, the best one, since there is a little more conflict in the couple and the resolution is just so damn cute. Talking about resolutions, all of them are, in typical Japanese fashion, a bit inconclusive and in medias res (for the fourth one you could even say in incipiantes res. Hey, guys, I know Latin!): you will see no kiss scene, no “I love you” line, no “happily ever after”, half of the couples don’t even actually get together on-screen, there’s just hints, the reaching of a potentially important change, and then it’s all left to the viewer’s imagination. Another thing that I personally appreciated, is how the spectacles aren’t there for fanservice only, but they actually play a role: they’re a loved person’s important possession and a way to connect to them, they give away a character’s emotion, they’re a disguise, they’re part of a character’s self-image, they’re needed by a character with poor eyesight and become an element of connection to his crush... it's interesting, and it's something I can relate to.
Megane na kanojo does manage to make the best out of its lame premise: it’s predictable, but does well what it set out to do, and if it suits the viewer’s tastes it has the potential to genuinely involve them.
Interestingly enough, the original manga’s writer had managed to create strong and mostly active female characters, at least compared to their male counterparts: in the episodes 2 and 3 the female lead (an idol actively playing with the fact of not being recognised by the guy asking her out, and a girl trying to bring some life into a slow-moving relationship) is the focus of the narration, with the male lead’s only characteristics being insecurity and a lack of initiative (there’d be room for some deeper analysis of some of the idol’s actions, but that would probably be reading too much into it); in episodes 1 and 4 the focus is on the male character, and only the protagonist of the fourth has some more personality, while the female leads (an energetic and intelligent senpai and a shy girl working hard to overcome her weakness and thus turning into a tsundere) are again far more flashed out. Now, mind you, I’m not talking about deep three-dimensional characters with impressive development, but they at least have an interesting, relatable personality, worries, struggles, in the frame of a lifelike situation, which is quite remarkable for a 10-minute story.
The art in this anime is mostly quite good: not spectacular in any way, most scenes are either dialogue or people walking, but the character design is effective and so are the facial expressions and the comedy moments (with the over-the-top expressions and transitions so typical of comedy in anime, and even an hilarious Gendo pose reference). The male protagonists are a bit too similar in appearance, but I’m thinking that it was done on purpose. Ito Koji’s direction isn’t stylish, but does a great job in making the stories as effective as they are even in their unoriginality. However, it all loses points for one really amateurish mistake it keeps making: the eyes cover the glasses. Especially on half-face shot, the glasses’ arms disappear over the temples and the eyes and magically reappear behind them. At times even with the eyes closed, for Pete’s sake, or even on frontal shots, with the eyes covering the spectacles’ LENS. It may have been intentional, but it’s really distracting, a freaking Rocket Punch to the suspension of disbelief.
The soundtrack, while not bad or anything, doesn’t add much to the scenes: it sounds like the generic background music to a generic visual novel videogame, and thus fails to effectively help in giving poignancy to some moments that could have needed some. The OP and ED song are generic J-pop, but they’re both pretty catchy, and have lyrics mentioning glasses,so at least they tried to pick something that would fit.
The voice acting is generally solid, even if not astounding. I found some performances quite effective (Moriya Satomi as Asō, Imai Asai… who judging by her ANN page has worked in a lot of hentai… as Aya, and Shimono Hiro as Tatsuya) and some others a bit lacking (the prolific Okamoto Nobuhiko as Kamiya and Hayami Saori as Mitsuki), but there really isn’t much to say here. Better performances could have helped the characters, but this is not the kind of project where there’s much room for a voice actor to really get into a character. Don’t get me wrong, though, it still works.
This is definitely not a masterpiece, nor something I’d consider a “must see”, nor would I earnestly suggest it. But it’s definitely not bad, what it wants to do it does well: it’s light-hearted, funny, genuinely heart-warming from time to time, and in the end harmless. If you don’t like romantic comedies or slice-of-life, you won’t like this one either; if you do, it’s a collection of four decently entertaining stories with characters that at least have some personality… and cute glasses, if you have that kink like I do. Being so short (it’s four 15-minute-long episodes, so in one hour you can see it from beginning to end), it’s also harmless enough to be worth a try when in the mood for something like this, and you may actually get emotionally involved. The best words to sum it up would be “surprisingly good”: simply enough, better than the premise would make you think.