What would you do if you found out that a marriage had been arranged for you, and your fiancé was a near-stranger you hadn’t seen since childhood? I can’t really get myself into that head-space, but it’s an interesting premise and one that is not uncommon in rom com anime. However, it is normally used as a way to throw a hot girl into the life of a no-hoper boy. Engaged to the Unidentified instead reverses the genders with the boy turning up out of the blue to throw the girl’s life into chaos, and it works very well, especially as the girl in question is such a well-rounded character. Anime rom coms tend to go for extreme reactions to these kinds of scenarios, but Kobeni is remarkable level-headed. She naturally raises objections to her life being mapped out behind her back, but she is willing to give the idea some time before completely rejecting it.
That means finding out about her fiancé, and he is a fascinating character with a hidden secret. I won’t give it away, but let’s just say this is not just a slice-of-life series. It has a supernatural element. But it is not just his hidden secret that makes Hakuya interesting. Superficially he is one of those near-silent, near-characterless teenage boys who are ubiquitous in school-based anime, but there is a lot more to him than that. He is chivalrous, loyal, and oddly narcoleptic, and when you find out his secret it is a perfect fit, which throws light on his character and makes sense of so much. It’s also actually a really cute idea. The way he fails to show his emotions while being often in turmoil on the inside is definitely a path worth exploring for an anime, and as the budding relationship between Kobeni and Hakuya progresses she starts to tune in to his emotions so she can understand what he is feeling when he is a blank to everyone else. Leaving aside the supernatural element to the series, that’s a very real representation of one important aspect of a relationship.
A romantic comedy by its very nature blends two elements, and I have only spoken about the romance so far. Much of the comedy comes from the usual rom com misunderstandings and awkward situations. Of course we get a Valentines Day episode, and a White Day follow up when Hakuya agonises over what gift to give Kobeni in return. As is usual for rom coms, there are also supporting characters to provide a lot of the funny moments, and the main two split the fanbase for this series right down the middle. There is no doubt that Hakuya’s little sister is an incredibly cute character, with enough individuality to set herself apart from the standard anime cliché little sis. But the character you will love or hate is Kobeni’s older sister Benio. She has an unhealthy obsession with little sisters, which is uncomfortable to watch. At times I thought it was going to be about her attempt to recapture the big sis relationship she had with Kobeni when she was younger, the need to be the surrogate mother when her real mother is constantly at work, and that is actually something worth exploring as sisters get older and drift apart. Although there is an element of that, unfortunately it becomes much more about her simply being a pervert, stalking Mashiro at school, buying her underwear, and that kind of unpleasant stuff. Just about the only thing in her favour as a character is the way she is the stereotypical popular girl in school, and yet behind the scenes she’s an obsessive, perverted maniac, which is a fun contrast.
Most of the other supporting characters are relatively forgettable, although the newspaper club girl who is after a scoop on Benio is a useful and funny character. Love triangle rivalry is provided by student council member Suetsugi, who is obsessed with Benio (like most people in the school), but manages to throw a spanner in the works of Kobeni’s relationship with Hakuya while simultaneously causing even more trouble between Benio and Mashiro. She rises above the stereotypical loser in love by having a secret of her own. There are few other memorable characters, although Hakuya and Mashiro’s diminutive, sweet-treat-obsessed mum is quite fun, even though she pretty much just exists to throw Benio into an inner conflict about her attraction to an older woman who looks like a young girl.
So this series is very much a mixed picture, but at just 12 episodes it flies by quickly and has a dramatic final episode to round the series off nicely. There was plenty enough content that goes beyond the usual rom com clichés to keep me interested, and the humour works more often than it misfires. There are also two short OVA episodes, but I am yet to track either of those down. As one of them is apparently the obligatory hot baths episode, I probably haven’t missed much.
My wife has a very odd habit of choosing anime series to watch based on opening title sequences, and bizarrely it never seems to fail her. This was one example where she thought the opening looked fun so we bought the series on blu-ray (it’s not available as a UK release so if you’re in the same boat as me you’ll need to buy the US edition and have a multi-region player). I’ll leave you with that opening, which features one of the cutest dance sequences in anime, plus a whole lot of weirdness. But there’s nothing wrong with weirdness. RP