Episodes 1-4 – Engage Kiss

How would you rate episode 1 of
Engage Kiss ? Community score: 3.6

How would you rate episode 2 of
Engage Kiss ? Community score: 3.5

How would you rate episode 3 of
Engage Kiss ? Community score: 3.8

How would you rate episode 4 of
Engage Kiss ? Community score: 3.9

My first impressions of Engage kiss were nostalgic more than anything else. While once the likes of Future Diary‘s Yuno Gasai and Elfen Lied‘s Lucy seemed ubiquitous, anime and manga have moved on from the age of the scarily codependent and rosily coifed murderess. Maybe that’s for the best too, but as with all passe trends past a certain age, the imperfections of memory erode their exasperations more quickly than their attractions. So I cannot deny that I felt my withered heart stir upon seeing Kisara transform into a Deviantart-worthy one-winged demon with a neon pink blade and painstakingly proportioned zettai ryouiki. And all it took was a bout of tonsil hockey with the protagonist. That is a perfect slice of trashy juvenile edgelordism from a bygone era, and I kinda miss it.

unfortunately for Engage kiss, my rose-colored glasses aren’t prescription, so they can only see so far before the rest of the show impairs my vision with its mess of an introduction. The first two episodes just aren’t very good, and their main crime boils down to paper-thin characterization. The series fails to make any of these people interesting, neither as individuals nor as parts of a relationship. Kisara exhibits no personality trait beyond “is yandere,” Ayano only functions as a killjoy third wheel, and Shu has no redeeming qualities by design. I do actually respect the commitment to Shu’s freeloading deadbeat behavior; scumbag protagonists can be a lot of fun (just look at Better Call Saul), but the catch is that you have to be able to write them in a compelling, or at the very least amusing way, and Engage kiss‘s dialogue is bereft of the necessary wit and charm. None of the jokes land. It’s all tropes and no substance.

Without the characters to latch onto, the narrative suffers from its obtuseness. Engage kiss doles out the details of its oceanic cities, future fuel, demon terrorists, international espionage, PMCs, and virtual reality auctioneering in bits and chunks. It’s only now, after four episodes, that I feel like I have a good grasp on the setting and its major players. Normally, that’s okay, and in fact I think modern anime could stand to be much coyer about their plotting and worldbuilding. I long for a recapitulation to that post-Evangelion period when creators simply didn’t care about making straightforward sense. That said, Engage kiss‘ needed to have better mysteries or better investigators in order to justify taking the long road.

However, you could argue that Engage kiss makes its initial appeal to the audience not through plot or characters, but through action and spectacle, and I’d be sympathetic to that argument. The anime looks great, with glossy production values, well-choreographed fight scenes, and the aforementioned edginess to its demon designs. That’s enough to make it stand out this season, and I’m not surprised there’s some decent buzz about it. To give credit where it’s due, I laughed out loud at the sight of Ayano tearing her dress her, whipping out her pistol, and shooting off the remaining scraps of fabric. That is some endearingly dumb action movie logic. Overall, though, the spectacle wasn’t enough to win me over in the first two episodes. But if all you need in life is a hot pink demon girl slicing up baddies, then you have my respect, and Engage kiss might be for you.

For me, the series improved a lot in its third and fourth episodes, mostly because it started treating its characters less like cardboard standees and more like people with a complicated set of histories together. Engage kiss trades its early goofiness for brooding melodrama, and in doing so, it better embraces the sincere trashiness evoked by Kisara’s character design. A series like Future Diary, for example, can certainly be appreciated ironically, but only because the series itself is wholly and sincerely committed to its own bit. While Engage kiss has yet to even brush against the over-the-top highs of its forerunners, I’d much rather engage with it as a vehicle for angst and action than as a self-aware concatenation of anime tropes.

This development is, of course, a little much coming off the heels of the first two episodes. It’s hard to be expected to take Shu seriously all of a sudden, and his motivation his is as cliché as they come. Still, I ‘m glad we ‘re finally starting to explore the ramifications of his contract her with Kisara, and the high cost of trading his memories her for her demon-slaying power her. It’s neat that the audience learns about his past relationships his at the same time he does. Ayano ‘s frustration her with him looks less rote and more tragic with that knowledge, and now that she herself knows about his Faustian bargain her, I ‘m a lot more interested in what their prior time together was like. Even Kisara’s yandere schtick has taken a backseat in order to show her emotionally reckoning with what she does to Shu. Her scene her this week with Ayano is legit haunting at times, like when she recounts his now-eaten memory her to her in painful detail. I doubt we’ll ever see either of these ladies talk about something that isn’t Shu, but if this love triangle is going to stay, it’s much better for it to be gnarled and full of thhorns.

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As far as the rest of the plot goes, there are some seeds of social commentary that intrigue me, even if they haven’t sprouted yet. Bayron City, for instance, stands out as an independent capitalist hellhole state. All that power and wealth, yet it has entire districts stuck in poverty, rampant terrorist attacks, rolling blackouts, a pompous idiot figurehead, and so on (remind you of anything?). The auctions to find out which PMC gets to deal with the Demon of the Week are nice and dystopian too. And I like that the demons themselves are disgruntled citizens roped in by a pyramid scheme salesman. It’s almost like Bayron is the architect of its own disaster. It’s too early to say whether Engage kiss will develop these themes further, but I hope it does, because I think this is a lot more interesting that Shu’s dead family demon revenge deal.

Right now, Engage kiss is a middling anime, but it’s a middling anime trending upwards. The premiere in particular is much duller than it should be, especially given the outrageousness of Shu and Kisara’s public display of heavy petting. However, I’m keener on its yarn of personal and political intrigue spun within the last two episodes. If it can keep that momentum up, and keep throwing neat action setpieces at us (the mirror scene this week looked very cool), then it’s possible this series will end up more engaging than a quick peck on the cheek.

Rating:




Engage kiss is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Steve’s Twitter DMs are open to vampires and vampires only. Otherwise, catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.

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