Kashimashi is a yuri anime with a difference. The main character is Hazumu, who is accidentally killed by aliens and restored to life. The problem is that they make a mistake and he returns to life as she. It’s a bit of a silly idea, but somehow manages to be a springboard for some excellent drama.
To the writer’s credit, the obvious thing to do with this idea is largely avoided. We don’t see Hazumu exploring her new body. If anything she is unrealistically unexcited and accepting of her new attributes, but it helps that she used to be a boy with fairly feminine character traits, so it feels like a natural transition, almost like somebody in the wrong body, swapping to the gender they were always meant to be. If anything, it’s the other people in Hazumu’s life who make the gender swap a big deal, although a lot of the comedy springs from her awkwardness in her new body, and lack of modesty, for example. There is far less fanservice than you might expect from a series with this central concept, but inevitably there are a few near-naked moments and the obligatory beach episode. In fact, in the middle of the series we get three episodes in succession which follow all-too-familiar plot beats: a beach episode, a test of courage, and a summer festival. If you’re an anime fan you will have seen these things dozens of times, and their inclusion here does little other than to slow down the main story.
… speaking of which, the whole point of this show is a lesbian love triangle. It works beautifully, springing logically from a situation that was already brewing before Hazumu went through her change. She was turned down by her first crush, Yasuna, while one of her best friends, Tomari, had feelings for her. When it turns out that Yasuna turned Hazumu down through fear, rather than not wanting to be with him/her, things get complicated.
Yasuna is a fascinating character, because events in her past have caused her to have a mental disability, where she can’t see men or boys. It’s as if her eyes won’t focus on them, and they are represented on screen as fuzzy blurs. Hazumu was always the exception to that problem, hence Yasuna’s fear of losing him/her. I have no idea if this is a real condition or not, but it certainly works well within this particular story, especially when she is accidentally betrayed and the conditions worsens, towards the end of the season.
There are some unwelcome distractions. Apart from the main trio of Hazumu, Yasuna and Tomari, all of whom are brilliant characters, almost everyone else is annoying. There is an alien trying to learn about love, a robot twin of Hazumu, who does little other than provide some gentle fanservice, a 35-year-old, desperately single teacher (oh, what a depressingly cynical anime comedy cliché that one is), Hazumu’s nerdy and hopeless best friend, who never quite understands that none of these girls are interested in him, and worst of all Hazumu’s father, whose mission in life is to photograph his daughter with as little clothes on as possible. The only ray of sunshine among the minor cast is a girl who serves mainly as an onlooker, occasionally dispensing words of wisdom to Tomari. But really this show would have been so much better without all the lame attempts at comedy, because when it gets serious with the main love triangle story it’s a different series altogether, and one of the best yuri anime shows I’ve seen.
A couple of words of warning. The dub is awful, one of the worst I’ve ever heard. It’s badly lip-synced, the voices sound like they are in a studio rather than in the scenes being shown (something to do with the sound mix?), and the actress playing Tomari sounds like exactly what she is: a woman pushing 60. That last one is a bugbear of mine, actually. I do wish they would choose young actresses for the dubs, just like they almost always do in the original Japanese. There are very few middle aged women who can convincingly sound like a teenage girl, and this series really suffers from that problem, so avoid the dub unless you really hate reading subtitles. The other thing to be aware of is the way this ends. Without spoiling the details, this is that rare beast: a love triangle show that concludes. That happens at the end of the 12th and final episode, and if you like the outcome you will want to avoid the OVA, which completely undoes and reverses everything. The OVA is very silly, but at least if you are unsatisfied with Hazumu’s choice, you’ll love the ending of the OVA. I suppose they wanted fans of both possible outcomes to have a turn. In a way, the OVA conclusion is actually more satisfying, because nobody has to get hurt. I’m not sure life is ever like that, but hey, this is a show with aliens and an accidental body swap. I don’t think anyone’s looking for too much realism. Instead we have a surprisingly touching love story, in amongst the misfiring comedy. The perspective character keeps shifting between the three girls, which really brings their thoughts and feelings to life, and ensures we are invested in all of them. For that reason, it was very difficult to root for one more than another, so both outcomes felt satisfying. So many love triangle anime shows end with no resolution. This one has two. It’s a rare treat for anime romcom fans. RP
Sounds like a very interestingly dramatic premise for a gender-swapping storyline. Thanks, RP.
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