Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie

Alt title: Kawaii dake ja Nai Shikimori-san

TV (12 eps)
3.67 out of 5 from 5,523 votes
Rank #3,354

Shikimori and Izumi are high school sweethearts. They hold hands walking home from school, they flirt in the halls, they tease each other. But Shikimori knows what she wants and how to get it. She can turn from cutie to cool in an instant and Izumi loves to be around when that happens!

Source: Kodansha

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I know some folks will immediately jump to the conclusion from looking at my overall grade for this that I'm just another of the mindless crowd that took one look at Shikimori and just dumped as "mid" then moved on, or gave it the unreasonable expectations of trying to have it fill the shoes and itch that My Dress-Up Darling left at end of the Winter season. But that isn't the case. I wanted this anime to be good, I stuck through all 12 episodes on weekly basis hoping for Shikimori to be just that. Didn't have to be out of the park good either; just a wholesome, enjoyable and interesting enough s.o.l that could make me smile and keep me engaged at the antics of a couple already together at the start. In short: what I was hoping for was something along the lines and on the level of Tonikawa. Unfortunately though, it was quickly made apparent after a few episodes that it wasn't going to be on par with those moderate expectations. Because while Shikimori does have its moments here and there, it doesn't do much to try and keep things interesting nor be creative to keep me interested or invested. The main duo's character dynamic/relationship is cute and different, but very flat. It kinda just repeated the same gag over and over again, making it quick to stale. The optimism and enthusiasm I went in with began waning around the end of the 3rd episode. By episode 6 I had become so uninterested and bored that I came very close to dropping it. I almost did, and honestly finished it mostly because I was already halfway through and knew if I didn't stick with it I'd likely never come back to pick it up again; sitting forever in the unfinished list. I was willing to give Shikimori the chance to make comeback in the second half, though I didn't have high hopes at that point tbqh. And admittedly they did somewhat do that towards the end; episodes 7-12 were a definite cut above the entire first half of the season. But this came along too late, and still was not nearly good enough to where I can genuninely say it was worth the time investment. I was able to finish it, but don't really feel rewarded for doing so.  This anime's best aspect and biggest saving grace is honestly it's secondary characters: they're far more interesting and were given quite a bit of scope and depth. The episodes that centered around them, which mostly came in the later episodes, were by far the most enjoyable ones in the series. Even some the lesser characters that don't get episodes dedicated to like Izumi's parents or Shikimori's brother were given enough subtle build-up that it made the story better and world/background of the protagonists more cohesive - a rare trait we see constantly overlooked and half-a$$ed in some many other generic romcoms. Shikimori's writers did a great job with them, I just wish they did a better job at making a more overarching story and shaping the 2 protagonists into more than mostly 1-note characters.  Shikimori's Not Just a Cutie isn't bad by any means, but's it not what I could objectively consider "good" either. It has enough positive elements that I wouldn't go out of my way to deter any dedicated romcom/s.o.l lover from watching it - as it certainly can scratch that itch just as well as any decent romcom or s.o.l can. But that's just it: it's not particularly special or unique. Ngl, I don't think it was good or interesting enough to be memorable in the long run. This term has become so overused and generalized to the point where it's lost most of its meaning and weight, but Shikimori kinda embodies it's definition to where it can be labeled it accurately: it's just "mid". A bit above a 5, but not enough to reach a 6 or higher. Sadly, it's not on the level of something like Tonikawa: Over the Moon for You - which I would say is this anime's closest comparison as well as strongest recommendation if you want another show like Shikimori. 


Shikimori's Not Just a Gimmick I really didn't expect this to be the show that impressed me the most this season, if anything I expected that from Summer Time Rendering. I think that one is full of anime tropes that it doesn't really do anything with.The two aren't comparable in terms of plot or goals but there's something to be said for the value of playing with tropes in a medium where so often things are exactly what they seem. The girl character is a girl with the personality of girl, there are like three types and every character is one of them. It gets old.Shikimori's premise is like a SOL romance role reversal which on its own doesn't really demand a lot of respect from me. Like, okay sure you reversed the roles. Now the guy in the relationship is a blushing maiden and the girl is the cool one. Now what? But Shikimori is a lot more than that. It kind of plays with the audience's expectations a little, for it to just be a gimmick where every story beat moment typical of a romcom anime is spiced up slightly by the boy being in the girl's place and vice versa- with them instead developing the two characters to be more nuanced versions of those tropes. They don't exactly fit into an archetype. Even though yes, the shikimori is athletic and competitive and wants to impress the boy, and is naturally protective she also is a romantic and has a lot of varied interests, and is continually impressed by her boyfriend, and feels safe around him. She kind of pressures herself to be more girly because her upbringing was one of trying to be more like her brother and mom who were very into sports and excelling at them, so she kind of fights against that part of her nature with her current goals and natural desire to just be... an anime girl. but of course at some point, settles into somewhere in between those archetypes because it's a combination of all those traits that makes Izumi so fond of her, not just her "coolness".Meanwhile, Izumi is the clumsy helpless one and also very feminine, but at the same time he'll be sticking up for Shikimori, and ends up impressing her with his own sort of manliness, but he never settles into one or the other either. He isn't defined by his clumsiness, really, and even though that's usually the hook of the show's stories, it hits harder during the moments where it explores the points of view of their friends around them and how they see each other, providing a much more nuanced look at each character. Their character designs also play into this. While at first glance they DO look genericly like role swapped romance characters, that alone is kind of intriguing, and they use that as a kind of distraction from the people they really are while their characterizations are slowly built up over the course of the show. The reasons for how they look, and what they do, and all that are more complex than they seem. The only unrealistic part really is izumi being so accident prone that he's basically cursed by a demon and shikimori having godlike reflexes to save him from death. But every anime needs one thing to elevate it to fictional status in my eyes, otherwise it might as well be a live action sitcom. The main two aren't the only great characters, all the side characters are equally nuanced and are more than what they seem on the surface, as well as their relationships. Even though you might percieve a character to be like, the tomboyish one, or the loner one that turns out to be this or that, they will always surprise you and in a good way. The character designs are also very unique, at least for the female characters, which is something that you usually don't see in anime. They will usually just have the same person again, but with different hair colors or slightly different eyes, all very boring to look at, but each and every girl in this anime looks totally different and distinct visually. The character design philosophy that went into this is incredible. All girls, and they aren't just recolors with slightly different hair. What a breath of fresh air. Even some of the side characters that are one-offs are well designed. I think really at its core, these designs come from an author just wanting to draw some cool looking girls. Even while balancing SOL comfiness, romance, and a little comedy, they never really manage to fall into melodrama... there's a little bit of drama of course and i think the reason it's rated so low is that there isn't enough, for people... like first of all the characters are already in a relationship, neither of them are abusive or creepy, they're both good people and so are all their friends even though they all do have their flaws, they both genuinely care about each other in an unselfish way, there's no love triangles, and there's no toxicity because everyone is honest with each other... it's really just unproblematic. So people are probably like... what's the point of watching it then?Well if you want to see a trope reversal that when you dive just a bit below the gimmicky surface is actually a comfy show about two relatable genuine humans who actually trust and care about each other, then I'd recommend this one highly. I think this is pretty high praise coming from someone who usually hates romance. You can have realistic characters without having them be total pieces of shit. 8/10

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