Bayron City - a Mega-Float type city in the Pacific Ocean, which doesn't belong to any particular nation, is well known for Orgonium, a new energy resource. The city is growing in popularity and suddenly incidents caused by demons called D Hazards start occurring frequently. Only a handful of people know about their existence. Shu is a young manga who lives in a city and runs a tiny company. His private and work life are being supported by Kisara, a high schooler who helps him out. One more person keeps him in her mind: Ayano - an employee of a company that Shu used to work for and his ex-girlfriend. At the root of Kisara's strong attachment to Shu is a contract signed between them. Their uncertain bond teeters between love and contract. Where is their destiny headed..?
Very upsetting that I must do this, but it needs to be done. Engage Kiss was: a major disappointment. Probably the biggest letdown of the summer season. When rumors started circulating about a new A-1 original anime back in January, then confirmed in March by the announcement of a collaboration between Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend author Fumiaki Maruto and Date a Live illustrator Tsunako – to say I was excited would be an understatement. There was talent and potential here to make an amazing anime from this, especially a romance given the 2 mentioned above's resumes. And upon seeing the premise and the concept art, I immediately added it to my must watch list. For What it Does Well (Animation and the MC): For what Engage Kiss does have going for it: is top of the line animation and art. It was consistent, high quality all throughout with little for me to complain about. The fight scenes were fluid, fast paced, extremely well detailed and the movement looked well-choreographed. The quality never dipped in the unimportant scenes either, from its characters to its background. It maintained it throughout its entire runtime. Visually, it was beautiful - and I greatly commend consistency of this level. On this end it gets a full 10/10. The main character is also pretty good. He starts off as an unlikable bum but becomes far more interesting as time goes on. The premise of his motivation and what he chooses to go through sets him apart from other generic protags and was by far the main reason I stuck through to the end. Shu is also not some factory-made, vanilla nice guy with a default cowardly urge to shy away from every girl who touches him like most romance or harem MCs. He's a known sleeze who has no problems with taking girls to bed with him and has used sex as a means to an end to gain what he wants; Be it information or personal aid. In short: he's as far as you can get from being a lazily made, indulgent, easy to fit self-insert character - and I appreciate that. ------------------------------- So with all these good qualities, why is Engage Kiss not at the top of the charts? Heck, it’s barely even garnered any mentions at all past its debut. So what happened - How did this go from being one of the most anticipated shows of the summer, to being barely talked about and regarded as a dud? The answer: a combination of many problems, but 3 central ones stand out the most: Bad storyboard planning, shallow worldbuilding, and very poor timing. The Story (is a mess):When making a story, especially an original story, you have to be able to convey to your audience the premise of what is going on. Who the characters are, what are they like, what’s this anime going to be about essentially. Engage Kiss’ first mistake was taking too long to accomplish this. The first 2 episodes felt like you were watching the 2nd season of an anime. It didn’t organically introduce anything and just kinda dragged you along like you should be already up to speed with everything – despite knowing next to nothing. It took till the end of the 3rd and part of the 4th episode for them to finally give an exposition dump that explains what’s going on. But by that point, the damage has been done and it turned off a lot of viewers willing to give it the 3-episode rule. Even after that with the story finally put into gear, it felt like this jumbled mess. The plot didn’t feel like it was planned out, it just felt like they were making things up as they go along with no long-term vision of where they want to take it. The tone was never consistent. The OP and ED made this series out to be a lighthearted comedic romcom, and then attempted to turn it into a dark and serious murder mystery of the MC trying to find his sister while rapidly losing his entire personality and memories. It felt like they didn't flesh out a full story before going into production and had to wing it as they went along. The "twists" they tried pulling feel so half-a$$ed because there was no real foreshadowing whatsoever, then make some far fetched excuse to justify it. It lacks the buildup or development to make the twists interesting, or the interest that makes you feel differently about any character introduced that isn’t part of the main trio. For example (spoilers ahead) when the blond boy we meet in episode 2 finally shows back up as the secret “informant” for Shu and the head of the NSA-like organization of the city... it didn’t affect me in the slightest. It was like the ProZD skit where he makes fun of Pixar/Marvel movie villains for revealing some guy you meet at the beginning of the movie turns out to be the big, evil boss towards the end. But without him doing anything in between those points, you just... forget they existed and when it happens you just go “oh... that guy... who were they again?”. Nothing felt organic, natural, or planned and everything felt like it was made up on the fly. The only thing that felt like it had meaning and impact was the Miles episode. The big difference between him and everyone else is that he continued to show up and proactively be part of the story – which makes his betrayal genuinely impactful. Though it did spend 70% of the episode info dumping just to understand what was going on and try to garner sympathy and understanding for the guy. But unlike the other plot twists, this one was done fairly right and by far is the best episode in the entire anime. If only they could’ve saved it for the finale. Speaking of which, I really dislike the ending. We were led to believe it would be a tense standoff and race between Ayano and Kisara to win the MC over throughout the story. Had the final scene been the MC hooking up with Kisara in his apartment to afirm his love for her after her memory wipe would've been both sentimental and kept the echii enthusiasts happy. We still could've mantained the 2's fierce rivalry and kept the tone of the story intact, as a means to level the field with Ayano's hookup in the earlier episodes. To pull a complete 180 and go "nah, here's the full on happy-harem ending with the little sister now in the mix" was a complete mood-killer that took away from climax and previous scene at the graveyard. Unexpected? Sure, you definitely got me. Good and meaningful conclusion? Big no, I genuninely hated it. Worldbuilding (or lack thereof):Next up, the worldbuilding itself wasn't done well at all. You'd think for a setting of a fictional man-made city island in the middle of the ocean they would go heavy and hard on the amount of creative freedom that give you over a real place. But they barely dipped into it at all, making it just... feel like another city in any other place on Earth. And when the anime debuted and introduced a bunch of different factions vying for control of the city, you think maybe we'd get to know more about this unique factions and the people we keep seeing as background characters pop up. As flawed as Asterisk War (another anime I see Engage Kiss compared to) was, the one thing it did well was with its worldbuilding of a manmade island with multiple factions was give us more insight into those factions - making the experience more immersive, characters developed, and story interesting. Surely Engage Kiss can replicate that it to that level least. These factions and their characters we're introduced to in episode 1 surely will be important, right?... Right?... Please say right.But no, these factions do not matter at all, except for when they're needed to fill space/conflict in the plot. Only Ayano and her Mom's company get any real attention. They just exist in the background just as an excuse for the MC and his company to bid against them. We have no reason to care about them (or even remember they exist tbh) until they start getting involved by banding together in the final few episodes. Same goes with the secret government agency that's in charge of controling the island. There was so much that could've been done, but didn't. With anime based on a LN or manga you can sometimes get away with underdeveloped worldbuilding by citing "if you wanna know more, you can read about it". It's not a good excuse, but it does let some things fly for those anime. But with original anime - you don't get that luxury. You don't have any source material to go off of. So whatever you don't explain ends up as a blaring plot hole, or leaves behind a shallow environment. This is why its such a big deal as a lacking quality for Engage Kiss. Bad Timing (Lycoris Recoil factor):Then comes the outside issue of timing. While not E.K’s fault, it’s relevant to mention A-1's decision to launch 2 originals in the same season. And with 2 originals (from the same studio no less) vying for attention, one of them is naturally gonna outshine the other and soak up most of the attention. And despite Engage Kiss going into the season with more initial hype and attention on it, Lycoris Recoil’s reception was far better. It lacked the problems that plagued this show and quickly established itself as not only a more appealing anime, but also a seasonal frontrunner; leaving E.K in the dust. Had Lycoris Recoil not existed (or just moved to the Fall lineup more realistically) Engage Kiss would’ve probably been notably better received. But it wasn’t, and as a result it was subject to more scrutiny and less wiggle room than what originals sometimes get from the general fanbase. Not sure what A-1's thought process was, but it wasn't a good decision. Final Thoughts:Overall, I’m really saddened by how disappointingly underwhelming this anime was. I try not to let myself get overhyped for anything given the age-old cycle of shows almost never matching the expectations you wanted for them. But this time I caved in as I couldn’t resist the urge to go into this with high hopes – Date a Live is my favorite guilty pleasure anime of all time, and the news that Tsunako was involved in its production was enough to get my attention. And while in visual department I have 0 complaints, it's lacking in almost everywhere else. The hook, story progression, worldbuilding, and many of its characters were either sub-par, or extremely inconsistent. It felt like a bunch of good ideas, but taped together without much foresight for how the final product would turn out. Now with all that being said, I will say that Engage Kiss is not unwatchably bad - if you crave sci-fi action fights and high quality echii scenes without caring for the execution of the story it can be enjoyable enough to at least get you through to the end. I don't blame anyone who find enjoyment in this as a guilty pleasure anime to that extent, but it is definitely not a "good" anime by any stretch. As of right now, there is no guarantee of this getting a sequel to follow it up. There was an alleged leak from one of the more reliable sources in the community that a 2nd cour was already lined up, and it made the rounds back around the 4th week of the Summer season. However, nothing official has been announced yet other than a related announcement set for the series in January. It could be a season/part 2, but it also very likely could just be an update for the mobile game this anime is basically an advertisement for. We'll just have to wait and see. If it does get a season 2, will I watch it? Honestly, idk - but leaning more towards no atm. This show was such a dissapointment that it would hard to convince myself to willingly sit down and commit more time towards this series. Maybe as a background time-waster I can set to binge once it's done if I'm bored, or if I hear it makes some kind of miraculous turn around I'll give it another chance. For what changes needs to be made for it to be better: By far the biggest thing they need to fix is having a more consistent tone and theme. Also, they desperately need to start focusing on making a cohesive story and developing the world more. My advice to the writers (on the extreme off chance they read the reviews for their work here): is to think about focusing on introducing the background of the Celestial Abbey, the other Protection companies and drive the story to interact with those things. It would build depth, help push character development and introduce a bevy of new, interesting characters into the mix. It could be genuinely interesting. Also, perhaps mold more of the secondary characters into people we actually want to care about or at least follow along with? Because outside of the MC and the main Trio: every other character might as well not exist. They're so unmemorable, bland, tropey and 1 dimensional. And because of this, every "twist" made fell flat because - again - nobody had a reason to care about them so it was hardly a shock. Only Miles made somewhat of an impact because he was the only secondary character they kept fairly consistent. And, well... he's obviously not gonna be around for a 2nd season sadly. There's a lot more that could've been done here to make the world and story more immersive/interesting, but they dropped the ball and let it roll away. If you do make a season 2, this needs to be rectified. While I usually give 5/10's for things that simply made me go "meh" while watching, in Engage Kiss' case it's simply the best way to balance out the scales. Half of this anime was a 3 to 4/10, and the other was a 6, maybe peaking at a 7 between episodes 8-12 particularly. 5 is average for this show overall, so that's what I'm gonna have to give it. Really wish it was better so I could give it higher, but cannot. It's sadly not deserving. *Update 2/11/23* January came and went with said announcement being... an update for the mobile game. The rumor and "leaks" about a 2nd cour appear to have been just that: rumors. As such, the chances of season 2 look pretty bleak, especially after today as A1-Pictures officially announced with a teaser trailer that a sequel project for Lycoris Recoil is currently in production. I do not foresee them deviating any more resources away towards funding an hypothetical Engage Kiss sequel, or at the very minimum anytime soon. As Lycoris Recoil was definitely the better preformer of the summer season and one of the most popular shows of 2022 as a whole. I wrote about this back when I made this review in the Bad Timing section, but to reiterate again as it definitely has held up and holds true - It's tough luck for Engage Kiss. Especially when it's direct competition is another original anime that both debuted in the same season and by the same studio. The only way this anime would likely ever get a chance of a second season now is if the mobile game really started blowing up in popularity enough to make it worth the investment. Bar that, I think we've likely seen the last of Engage Kiss as an anime adaptation. *End of update* That being said, if you did like Engage Kiss I do have some recommendations for similar anime: 1. The Asterisk War: In my opinion the most similar anime to Engage Kiss. Shared theme of a manmade fictional island setting with several factions vying for control. MC being a part of one of the factions, and one of the romantic interests being a head of said faction. Main girl is also a pink haired girl with supernatural powers, and the other romantic interests also have supernatural or mech themed powers. Quality Sci-fi fights. And the MC's driving motivation is to find his missing sister. Asterisk War is basically Engage Kiss but with the worldbuilding and faction focus EK should've aimed to make imo. Though the fanservice is more tropey in AW in comparison to EK's more mature approach. If you really did enjoy Engage Kiss then you likely have already watched this - but if you haven't yet then I would strongly recommend it for you personally, as it would be right you up your alley. 2. Date a Live: Probably the anime that Engage Kiss gets compared to the most. Shares EK's echii focus on the MC kissing supernatural girls to control their powers. In Date a Live's case it's to seal them, while in Engage Kiss it's to unseal them. Sci-fi fights, advanced technology, harem tropes, and Tohka/Origami's relationship is very comparable to Kisara/Ayano's with each other and the MC. And similar character designs to E.K's characters, which isn't suprising as - mentioned multiple times throughout this review - both E.K and DAL were illustrated by Tsunako. What DAL has going over EK is that it fully commits to what it is, while managing to successfully lean over into a gradually dark plot - without zig-zagging and whiplashing the viewer around like EK unfortunately did going through it's identity crisis of a story and tone. But EK fights are far better looking over DAL (as it should given the almost decade age difference between the two). 3. Takt Op Destiny: Another orginal anime that shares Engage Kiss's level of high quality animation, propensity for sci-fi action, and a story of 2 partners bound by a contract that lets them fight supernatural beings together - at the cost of the supernatural girl gradually killing the MC as a cost for accessing her powers. Engage Kiss has more an echii focus than Takt Op does though. And while EK has the more interesting premise, the identity crisis it went through it's runtime botched it hard. Takt Op's story was far more consistent and definitively better as a result. If you came to E.K just for the high quality sci-fi action, Takt Op would give you the same kind of experience you might be looking for.
It's enjoyable once it gets into the swing of things. But by far and away, this anime's biggest problem is that it's first 3 episodes are, unequivocably, Bad. Or at the very least extremely poorly written. They make you feel like you're watching the 2nd season of the show and act like you're up to speed on what's happening, when in actuality: we have no idea and it comes off as both annoying to try and follow and boring. Until we get to the end of episode 3 where they finally reveal what's going on and then finally explain the plot and characters in episode 4. After that, the show becomes a par for the course harem-esq sci-fi romcom about girls with demonic/magical powers squaring off against the military wielding pseudo-mech suits and tech to wipe them out and try to contain their existance from the public. The MC also kisses his girl to unlock her magical powers. To sum it up: It's pretty much Date A Live rehashed. The story is nothing special or unique. The losing memories premise was interesting and slightly different than the norm, and episode 11 was a genuinely good plot twist and cliffhanger that could've solidified the series if they kept up with that direction. But they backed out last minute and turned the ending into a cheesy, generic harem ending. Music was okay, but the OP and ED definitely did not match the tone of the show as a whole which was very offputting. I liked most of the main cast, but it's secondary characters basically did not do a thing and practically don't even exist other than to fill background space. Animation however, was phenomenal and by far and away the best aspect of this particular anime. The fights are gorgeous and the motivation this show has to keep people watching. Is it a good show? Definitely not critiquely, no. It's nowhere near the podium to win any awards on any fronts. But is it a fun, guilty pleasure type anime? Yes, it definitely can be. It's premise, fights, and many of its elements are extremely reminiscent of Date A Live particularly, which is an extremely successful guilty pleasure type anime that this anime definitely tried to replicate. If you like shows like Date A Live, I think there's a very likely chance you would very much enjoy this one too! If not, then you probably know to skip this one.
So, the gist of this series is that there is a city known as Bayron City, a prestigious floating city renown for its energy source Orgonium. However with this discovery come beings known as "D Hazards," demonic-possessed humans, and the many organizations that try to quash this. We have the main character Shu Ogata who is looking to avenge the deaths of his family. To do so, he made a deal with a demon named Kisara. In order to power her up, Shu voluntarily allows Kisara to take his memories, including those of his past relationships, in the form of a kiss. In terms of world-building, it does have an interesting premise but the show overall feels like a chore to watch. In my opinion, it's more how it devotes time with Kisara or Ayano fighting over Shu since Ayano used to date him and can't stand how Kisara just stole the memories of it. It does have cool action sequences, but the main story feels empty. As for characters, Shu is a bit of an asshole if I am being honest. He just uses people and discards them like used toilet paper. In some ways, I feel sorry for Kisara who is willing to sacrifice anything for his sake and yet he clearly does not love her as he still has Ayano as his old flame. Kisara herself just feels like the generic yandere character who gets heated whenever other women come in contact with Shu and even tries to kill Ayano out of possessiveness. Ayano herself feels pathetic since she still cares a great deal about Shu even though she herself gets irritated by the way that Shu would use others. Her arguments with Kisara are so annoying and would not be out of place for some high school romcom. The animation is fine. Nothing too immersive.
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