You know it’s occurred to me recently that despite the numerous amounts of fiction that are copying Evangelion, the number of anime fans who have actually seen that series are getting lesser with each passing year. A large part of the reason for that is due to how hard it is to watch Evangelion legally nowadays. The Rebuild films are always in supply of course, but the original series has yet to get any kind of physical re-release and is not legally streaming anywhere I can find. Given how influential the series was to anime as a whole along with how we’re apparently fine with giving School Days a blu-ray release, you’d think that Funimation would be all on providing us a sweet blu-ray version of what’s probably the biggest game-changer to the medium. But then again, even if they had provided it, how many of us would watch that show now?
Anime fandom has always been about staying in the present whilst clearing out some backlog on the side, but lately that philosophy is being taken way too far to the point that you would never have known Haruhi Suzumiya was once big enough to rival Death Note more than a decade ago. I’ve talked before about how a lot of anime fans love living in the moment to the point that even something as critically acclaimed as Made in Abyss can’t stay in the public consciousness to the extent that classics used to when it ends, along with how series that can only be enjoyed in that way never have any shelf life. My Hero Academia is still everywhere of course, but that’s mostly kept relevant due to the new anime adaptations coming out fairly quickly along with Crunchyroll’s promotion of it. I can’t think of one recent anime besides that one that’s achieved the same amount of legendary status that Death Note still has. Attack on Titan came close, but we all know how many people discussed its second season while it was airing, let alone when it stopped, don’t we?
After I did the Franxx review, someone brought up in the comments section how it’s sad that a lot of people refuse to watch the much better mecha anime that inspired it because they’re so old now, with a noticeable level of spite towards the people who criticized the new hotness for good measure thrown in. Kind of reminds me of how a lot of people won’t watch the 2003 adaptation of Kino’s Journey because people compared it to the 2017 adaptation that they thought was decent way too much. Now, I’ve always been about staying in the present. It’s what I prefer, plus I really hate that elitist mindset regarding how “anime was better in my day” which you’ll never convince me to be true in any conceivable way. I’ve seen idiots complain about how anime fans have accepted mediocrity these days, but they’ve always done that for as long as I can remember. Sure there are titans who fall over time, but new titans come in to replace them too. We just got to adapt and stop trying to convince people that these “current” problems are recent.
However, there’s one big difference between me and a lot of anime fans who stay in the present: I have watched a lot of those old anime. More importantly, I remember them, even when they’re utter trash like the majority of Hidive’s catalog. Yes there are some great anime in the past that did certain trends a lot better than now, but there’s also a lot of bad anime that either did it better too or made these exact same mistakes and we threw it under the bus for a reason. I use the past to shape my present views, acknowledge the faults that come from certain eras, keep my mind open to new directions, watch a ton of anime I don’t like, and always seek relationships with these cartoons that are a little more long-term. Nothing wrong with a casual fling, but I’m not going to spend a ton of time and money on it.
It’s not a perfect approach to anime, especially since I’m still watching a lot of bad ones amongst the one or two good ones that come out every three months, but it helps me from conceding so much ground as a consumer. It prevents me from getting tricked by the same “oh my god, the staff is so talented so surely this anime is worth paying attention to” trick that fans have fallen for at least twenty freaking times and yet they never learn. It prevents me from showering praise on something that was accomplished years ago only with a new coat of paint. It lets me judge things like the new FLCL on its own without referencing my feelings on the original FLCL.
And for the record, I thought FLCL Progressive was alright. Noticeably uneven in terms of visuals and storytelling, but I draw the line at people saying it had no point or story, especially when these are the same people who worship the new Steins;Gate. Fourteen episodes in and Okabe hasn’t grown as a character, guys. And it looks ugly. Why are all of the weekly discussions going “oh my god, this week was so amazing” when literally nothing happened that week, let alone anything amazing? Rather than growing out of cheap stories with cliffhangers, we seem to be encouraging that sort of storytelling more and more with these cartoons.
But let’s forget about 0 until it actually finishes and focus on the anime I’m actually reviewing today, Tada Never Falls in Love, instead. A series that had almost nothing going for it on first glance and definitely didn’t have anything when it aired, yet somehow got a decent rank in the popularity charts for the Spring 2018 season as well as a fair number of MAL users acknowledging its existence. Which is strange because I’m having trouble finding people who have actually seen this show in real life. Despite more people acknowledging its existence than Golden Kamuy, an anime that I’ve actually seen cosplay for at conventions and has a larger overall reputation what with the manga and all (let alone an anime that was actually halfway decent) I’m more likely to find people who watch that than Tada Never Falls in Love.
One of the reasons for why this show got a good amount of initial attention is that people knew who was making the anime beforehand, as it’s an original series made by the same team as the hit shoujo piece, Nozaki-kun, and tuned in with high expectations. And given how the popularity after it ended is only decent by seasonal standards and absolute garbage when compared to every other anime out there, the only ones who stuck around were people who wanted this team to succeed despite everything going against it, or just people who set their standards for romance anime based on how it compares to recent stuff (or worse, just based on what aired that season) and not on the numerous better ones from years ago they could be watching instead. See, this is what I mean when I say that a lot of today’s fandom takes living in the present too far. Because if this show had aired a decade ago, would anyone really care about its existence today? And keep in mind, a lot of people still care about Angel Beats.
Tada Never Falls in Love’s very premise is in of itself an eye-glazer. The story is centered on a boy named Tada who’s never known what it’s like to fall in love and enjoys taking pictures. One day, he meets a beautiful transfer student from not-Luxembourg named Teresa and takes her to his family’s coffee shop, where she gets acquainted with his friends and later reveals that she’s transferring to the same school as him. So far so “every shoujo romance ever”. How are we going to spice things up during the journey when these two eventually bond?
I could go on describing more of the show, but that would require me to not fall asleep on my keyboard whilst typing it out, because even thinking about the series can count as a viable method to cure insomnia. Let’s just go describing all of the shoujo romance cliches Tada Never Falls in Love Has. You got a giant cast of close friends who all exist to given token subplots and make the lead feel good by comparison. You have a lot of “will they or won’t they” moments that are more lazily constructed than the somehow still-functioning website for Space Jam. You have a finale that depends on illogical drama mostly centering around the love interest getting married that the protagonist needs to stop. And if you don’t find the act of these two leads getting together in of itself cute, there’s absolutely nothing to the romance that’s going to appeal to you. No individual character arcs that the two leads have to go through. No using the romance as a springboard for larger points. Just a paint-by-numbers attempt to tug at the heartstrings that’s indistinguishable from air.
To cut right to the chase, Tada Never Falls in Love is a useless waste of space. Literally everything about it is ripped off from other better romance series, and it’s completely unambitious about utilizing any of them. There’s a samurai show that the two leads bond over…and that’s it. Tada has some angst caused by his parents being dead…and that’s it. Teresa is a princess…which is a twist that literally nobody was surprised by and it doesn’t really factor into the plot in a way that’s unique to shoujo romance. You replace her backstory with Tamaki’s from Ouran Host Club, what changes?
Then of course, there’s the club that binds all of the characters together. In this show, it’s a photography circle that generally hangs out in their school’s club room or the cafe that Tada lives in. And while a lot of these sorts of characters come off like TV Tropes caricatures, the characters in Tada Never Falls in Love come off like rough drafts of TV Tropes caricatures. There’s the best friend who supports the lead whilst making token advances at other girls and getting punished for it. There’s the female love interest’s friend who protects her whilst secretly having a crush on the guy she’s engaged to. There’s the nerdy girl who’s secretly a really popular idol. And then there’s the perverted leader of the group, who the nerdy girl is in love with because the plot says so.
Special mention goes to this guy because in addition to being completely useless to the plot due to the episodes spent on his arc going absolutely nowhere, he’s an irritating tosspot who is openly fawning over his best friend’s idol self like it’s his only reason for existing. We’ll ignore the fact that he can’t seem to recognize who the idol he loves really is despite hanging out with her all the time like she’s Hannah Fucking Montana, because that’s overshadowed by the fact that I don’t believe for a second that anyone would actually put up with him to the extent that the characters in this show do. It’s one thing to have an asshole in your series, but I have to accept that people would still want to be around that person, and the good traits that caused his friend to like him when he was a kid do not exist when he’s a teenager. Why exactly do anime writers think unrepentant perverts are funny? Daru has been doing his creepy otaku-schtick a lot in Steins;Gate 0 and it’s ungodly irritating.
And as usual for these sorts of shows, the humor is so tired it’s not even worth mentioning. Just about the only joke that stands out to me was when the cat, who’s named Nyanko-big and can occasionally convey his thoughts in Japanese to the audience, jumped a short distance and then fell to the ground. And the only reason that joke stands out is because I didn’t understand why the creators would think a cat failing a jump in slow-motion is supposed to be the pinnacle of humor in any conceivable way. What’s the punchline to that scene? You could have had the characters instantly line dance for no reason and that would have gotten a better reaction.
Also, if the draw of the show is supposed to be the chemistry between the two leads, then Tada Never Falls In Love sure didn’t seem to get the memo because less than half the series is focused on Tada or Teresa and most of it spent on superfluous side stories. We waste time with Nyanko-Big and his animal love life. We waste time with the idol and the pervert, which never goes anywhere. We waste time with the club just chasing after each other in an effort to get the perfect photo, which is not fun to watch and has no bearing on the plot or characterization at all. We’re introduced to Teresa’s fiancee who’s a generally good guy, only for him to get shipped back so that he can prepare for his scene in the grand finale. And that’s not even getting into how the chemistry between the leads is damp because they don’t really have much in common besides the samurai show and they have nothing to give or take from each other at all.
There is absolutely no way you’re going to convince me that this show would have had any form of success if it wasn’t for the goodwill bought off by Nozaki-kun. Literally nothing about this show has its own identity. In addition to all of the issues I described above, the character designs are completely bog-standard. The settings are mostly lifeless. The animation is also really bad at times, falling under the same Wotakoi issue of background characters that don’t move, unfinished faces, and while Tada-kun’s direction is actually energetic for the most part, there are times that feel like the creators were on morphine during production. It just feels like a cynical made-by-committee project in every element of the product.
But is the Nozaki-kun pedigree really enough to make this series a (admittedly minor) hit? Right now there’s an anime called Bakabon that’s coasting off of the success made through Osomatsu-san, and I can’t think of anyone who’s watching that show right now. Plus, when it comes to paying attention to staff, it’s usually professional anime sites and Anitwitter that get on that fundamentally flawed philosophy. The general anime fandom and the Youtubers tend to go in a little more blind and they still thought the series had promise at first. I can’t really speak for what they think now as the only positive word I see of Tada Never Falls in Love is contained within a few very specific sites that definitely don’t speak for fandom as a whole, but I do want to question this “promise” the series had, because I had pretty much the exact opposite response to its beginning. By the time the second episode aired, I felt like I was done with Tada and only continued for blogging purposes.
Now a lot of anime fans love romance. Shipping itself is a big part of the culture and we all like to experience the feels and whatnot, especially when it comes to cute girls and hot guys, as well as when we get into flame wars regarding which character is the best. This is something that’s gone on for decades now with numerous evolutions in how we express our love for love since the days of Rumiko Takahashi comedies and Kimagure Orange Road. The main reason I watched numerous shitty visual novel adaptations as well as read crappy fanservice manga like To-Love-Ru when I was younger is because I wanted to see the romance that formed in those series to go somewhere, and I would always be disappointed by the end result.
As an older fan, I still like romance anime, but I like them the way I like sports anime: you can’t just coast on the subject matter for your substance. You need to use it as a jumping off point for larger issues or strong characterization. 2016-17 had a lot of those anime and while I’ve learned to rein in expectations so I can enjoy something like My Hero Academia even though there are other superhero anime I like more that I could be watching instead, I still have to set the bar somewhere. And I’m definitely going to have to raise it over time because I don’t want to watch the same thing over and over again.
At the moment, my bar for romance is around Tsuki ga Kirei. I know the people who watch that show will consider it an exception, but I personally don’t because I think the exceptional romance anime go beyond what that series accomplishes. All romance anime should have couples getting together and experiencing the struggles that come with it (or if they don’t, give me a good reason why), characterization that goes beyond the romance, atmospheric storytelling, and an ending that either acknowledges they’re great for each other or should split up in a way that makes sense. The truly great romance anime then use those fundamentals to tell me something interesting like how 5 Centimeters Per Second analyzes how a guy’s obsession with the past is ruining his life or how Natsuyuki Rendezvous delves into how toxic regrets can be combined with how it’s only through confronting ourselves can we truly feel worthy to be with others. Okay, so I lean towards the dark stuff a bit when it comes to romance, but I generally like conflicts in stories, guys. If you could grow in life without experiencing challenges, we wouldn’t have schools in the first place.
Unfortunately, I think most anime fans consider 2016-17’s crop to either be exceptions or found them to be too dark. I’ve seen quite a few comments wishing that romance anime be drama-free comedies, which is completely opposite of where I want the genre to go. Yes, that upcoming Domestic Girlfriend anime looks awful, but that’s mostly because it doesn’t seem to have anything to say about romance besides “shit happens”, which is a very bad philosophy to attach to a premise that’s so ridiculously contrived. Besides, I don’t see why that’s an excuse for our standards for romance anime to be “they’re so cute together”. Especially when all that results from that weak philosophy is a freaking boring camera chasing scene that goes on half an episode.
Watching these sort of anime while they’re airing doesn’t help the problem. One thing I’ve noticed with romance anime is that when they’re finished, it’s very easy to get spoiled on how it ends if you weren’t there along with everyone else. Pretty much everyone knows by now that a very important character dies in Your Lie in April, even if they haven’t seen the series, and some people stay away from it as a result. As such, most people prefer to watch those kinds of shows weekly, which generally means you’re along for a ride. And a “ride” can really affect your opinion of something as “will they or won’t they” as the anime romance, especially when you’re trying to share cute moments on social media as fast as possible.
Wotakoi had the same issues as well. Lots of people ignored the awful production values and the fact that the main couple haven’t made any progress between Episode 1 and Episode 12 because the lead female did “relatable” things like rotate the waifu figurines belonging to her boyfriend so that they wouldn’t face him. I’ve actually learned that there are people who find Nyanko-Big’s antics to be funny and I understand that even less than I understand “lolcats”. Yeah that stuff can be amusing for like a second, but that second passes by real quick and when it’s over, I just think “now what?”. Even with “water cooler” anime, you got to have more than small talk to make things interesting, or else you’re going to come off like one of the most boring people to be around. Do you really want to describe an anime’s positive qualities to your friend by saying “this cat just jumped…and then he fell down”? Or “it has this romance between a guy and an idol who’s secretly his best friend that goes nowhere”?
I’m not really sure why the fandom’s standards for romance is far less than they would ever apply to their actual love lives. Yeah there’s a difference between fiction and reality, but I assume most people want romance anime to have something resembling romance in it. But apparently we have different definitions of romance with a lot of the fandom equating it to “this promises to be sweet” over my preferred stance of “this is sweet”. Yes, building relationships is important to a love story, but in addition to Tada Never Falls in Love barely putting any focus on the actual main couple, I don’t think we learn anything interesting about the characters through the relationships this show portrays. How exactly does Tada’s dead parents numbing him to emotions make him an interesting character? How does Teresa’s friend having a crush on Teresa’s fiancee make her more endearing?
Can’t we at least learn about our cast through all of this boring small talk? More importantly, can’t we start learning at the very first episode? Not three-quarters of the way through the show? Even if you’re not going to be as good as my favorite romance anime, if you can’t even learn the basics of what they did right, then what exactly is the point of their impact if you’re just going to forget about the lessons they imparted a year down the road? Why is that the most forgettable and banal of romance (and other anime trends for that matter) is the norm rather than the misguided exceptions? Like who remembers any of those shows, let alone wants to copy them?
And if I was a gambling man, which I’m not so don’t hold me to this, I’d bet $10K that no one is going to remember Tada Never Falls in Love or bring it up in terms of recommendations for romance anime in a couple of months. Hell, I think people have already forgotten about it. I notice that there aren’t any cosplay photos whenever I search “Tada Never Falls in Love cosplay” on Google Images, plus as of this time of writing, the MAL user number is stuck around the 28,000 mark after an initial 27,000 users when it finished airing. It definitely hasn’t been referenced in any of the discussions I’ve seen, none of my real-life friends have seen it, the discussions boards are all dried up on the major anime sites, and how many people are even reading this review in the first place? I wouldn’t be surprised if my views were lower than the review I did on RWBY and Ladybug.
All in all, this show and the attention it got is a prime example of what happens when you take living in the present too far without thinking about the long-term effects or remembering what history has accomplished. It’s an example of what happens when you pay attention to staff as an indicator of what to watch. It’s an example of what happens when we act on nothing but the basest of desires in terms of what we expect from romance. And most importantly of all, it’s yet another example of a really bad anime that offers nothing we couldn’t get from anything else.
Maybe after the success of Nozaki-kun, the team wanted to try their hand on something more straightforward, which was why we got this. Basically, a sort of “reconstruction” of the shoujo romance genre that their previous work “deconstructed”. They really need to look at the new Lupin if they want to see how to do a “reconstruction” successfully then, because when I think of bringing a genre back, I think of acknowledging the changes that have come since to evolve the cliches. Not bring them back to their basic forms and call it a day.
- Tada Never Falls in Love can be legally streamed on Hidive.
- I’m not saying Domestic Girlfriend can’t be good. I’m just saying it’s highly unlikely.
- I’ve also learned there are people who dropped the show because they thought the characters were college-age, only to be disappointed when it turned out they were in highschool. I fail to see how being college-age would help, but whatever floats your boat.
- It could be argued that forgetting the failures of shows like this are the reason why they’re still abundant, but that’s not something I want to get into right now.