Key and Visual Art created this multimedia franchise called Prima Doll. It has some popular voice actresses in the Japanese release of the anime. It’s quite amusing to me, because it takes some staple moe otaku tropes, add Visual Art’s tried and true value props, and shoop it on top of this post-war world-story that resembles Steampunk Taisho (in other words, Sakura Taisen’s setting) and features these androids and war robots as well as other robotic humanoids doing various things. I guess at one point in the past they all went crazy so they’re now outlawed in the country the story takes place in?
My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex, which is also Mamahaha no Tsurego ga Motokano datta, or Tsurekano for short, is exactly what it says it is. It’s a light novel about the main characters becoming step-siblings who were dating just half a year ago. The amusing thing about this series is that the anime adaptation had all the trappings, except not really.
It’s probably a better question as to what do people think of a story like this without first reading it, in anime form? What do they expect? It isn’t exactly surprising to find, 10 episodes or so in, that Tsurekano broached themes like “can you have truly platonic cis male-female friendships” and exploring the limits of intimacy between non-romantically involved couples. Or the more amusing framing that I like to take, which is what is the difference between best friends and lovers? Ever see those obnoxious Jared jewelry ads? But if you asked myself 3 months back, I would not have had guess this outcome from a series titled as such.
What’s really lovely about Tsurekano is how it’s really about two introverted bookworms who approach their romances very much in the same way, and while the same standard tropes are not exactly missing in action, the way they play up is basically exactly the opposite of what you typically see in this type of anime and manga. It captures a lot of the cuteness you imagine that could happen in this sort of setup, and turn it around and make it hostage for the romantic tension, or the lack thereof, the story tries to create.
I guess, it can be boring? There are no sticks to slap, as the term goes. I think the verbal humor can really get hefty, especially having to deal with a J->E translation in process. The female lead in the story goes through this development process from a timid middle schooler into this stereotypical popular honor student type as the characters enter high school and reunited by their parents’ situation. In all, it is almost mundane. The male lead goes through a similar process but they do not really explain his motivations, if anything, it’s the dull, smoldering heat that drives the whole engine. The mundane everyday that cloaks the story is almost is as good of an example of actual light novel culture as practiced by human beings as anything else, given how much both of them live and is surrounded by such things.
I did title this post and called Tsurekano “mid” and that is because this is the ultimate callout for blogs and writers like myself. In a recent episode Tsurekano named dropped I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, which is only too appropriate. Now that’s high light novel culture, the kind of writing that Tsurekano never wants to become, and also never can surpass. But that’s also the whole point. If you are tried of renting girlfriends, tutoring your future wives, or dating influencers, maybe give this a try.