In case you haven’t read this show’s Summer Preview Guide Coverage, here is a quick rundown of what I thought about the first episode of When Will Ayumu Make His Move?: It was pretty okay! I know next to nothing about shogi, but the show doesn’t seem to really have that much interest in the game either, and instead it focuses on the cute relationship between Urushi and Ayumu. Really, the main hurdle that Ayumu has to overcome is how dearly I love it’s close cousin, Teasing Master Takagi-sanwhich is right up there with Kaguya-sama: Love is War! as one of modern anime’s rom-com masterpieces.
I promise, I’m going to do my best to keep from directly comparing Ayumu and Takagi-san too much, since these are different shows that are trying to do different things, but I won’t be able to avoid it entirely, especially right off the bat, since some of what I have to critique about Ayumu is much easier to explain given the bar that author Soichirō Yamamoto has already set with Takagi-san. That said, don’t worry about me hating on Ayumu or anything; while it isn’t perfect, it’s a perfectly acceptable teen romance, and there’s potential for it to become even better down the road.
Let’s start with where these first three episodes go right, which also serves to highlight the biggest difference between this anime and Takagi-san: While Urushi and Ayumu are in many ways just as goofy and naïve as every other pair of would-be soulmates in this genre, they’re much more aware of their feelings than the likes of Takagi and Nishikata. These kids don’t just admit their feelings to themselves, they’re both perfectly aware that they like each other. Hell, despite the silly self-imposed restrictions that lend the series its title, Ayumu is already formally asking Urushi out on dates by the end of Episode 3. That degree of (relative) maturity helps set When Will Ayumu Make His Move? apart from the pack.
The show has also got a likeable cast of side characters that we get to meet in Episodes 2 and 3. Rin is Urushi’s mischievous wing-woman, and there’s even a secondary couple in Takeru and Sakurako, the latter of whom can literally hypnotize the former to do her bidding—like, with a little swinging coin and everything—which is a spin I definitely wasn’t expecting. Between these goofs and the reliably silly shenanigans of our protagonists, Ayumu has so far succeeded in delivering the kinds of low-key high school chuckles that many fans crave.
However, I’m the kind of guy that needs some kind of hook to spice up these sorts of mellow affairs, some secret ingredient that will bring out the spark of chemistry that makes romantic comedies so endearing in the first place. That’s a big part of what makes Takagi-san such a heart-melting tour de forceeven though the whole show is just one goofy boy getting mildly owned by an equally goofy girl over and over. Takagi-san is able to get sparks flying from something as innocuous as a fishing contest because every single ounce of its creative energy is committed to making you believe that its protagonists are meant for each other.
Here, though? I’m not feeling it so much. Urushi and Ayumu are cute together, don’t get me wrong, but we haven’t seen anything yet that has managed to get me to really feel anything for them, either as individuals or a couple. A big part of this is likely due to the very lax pacing of these vignettes. Outside of the sports competition in Episode 2, most of the skits are simple to a fault. For example, in Episode 3, it seems like the first half of the episode is devoted to Urushi wanting Ayumu to notice her her hair her… until he does just a couple of minutes in. Then, the scene switches to introducing Takeru to the shogi club, which leads to precisely one joke about Ayumu wanting to make cool shogi sounds like his buddy her… until Takeru just gets hypnotized into going back to the library with Sakurako. That only leads to a very middling back-and-forth between those two, and then the scene just moves on to the festival date.
There’s no oomph here, is what I’m getting at, and thus no emotional response more intense than that thing people do when they exhale air out of their nose just a little bit more forcefully in recognition of a kinda-sorta decent gag. It doesn’t help that SILVER LINK‘s production work here is simple to the point of being almost anonymous. Good portions of the episodes are little more than slide-show montages or the most basic of shot-reverse-shot exchanges. I’m not expecting Ayumu to suddenly become Kaguya-sama or anything, but a little bit of visual pizazz would go a long way toward getting me more invested in the show overall.
If it sounds like I’m being especially critical of When Will Ayumu Make His Move?, it isn’t because the show is bad. It’s simply so aggressively “okay” that it will inevitably take more time to explain what doesn’t work about it compared to what does. The fact that its romance is moving so quickly could mean that it will pick up in quality just as fast, but for now, it is doing everything it can just to hit all of the basic notes.
James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitterhis blog, and his podcast.
When Will Ayumu Make His Move? is currently streaming on HIDIVE.