Senpai Is An Otokonko Episode 1: Bright and Bubbly



Despite seeing the chibi content in previews, I really didn’t think that Senpai Is An Otokonoko episode 1 would feature it so heavily. That said, in the grand scheme of things, I think it’s a solid decision. Before getting there though, Senpai Is An Otokonoko has come into this season in a fashion that I’m happy to see. Bringing the discussion of cross dressing, gender identity, and sexual orientation to the front of its story, it certainly has quite the challenge in front of it. Despite that, though, there’s a lot in this first volume that puts me at ease with this work. The positive nature, the nice humor, the double-sided romance- and of course, some very squishy faces. So why not see how this first episode’s gone, and what we might get in the future?

Right off the bat, despite the intense humor and positive nature of Senpai Is An Otokonoko episode 1, it doesn’t shy away from the more stigmatized aspects of it. Hanaoka doesn’t face a perfectly normal life at school- but they don’t let that wear them thin, either. There’s whispers, there’s personal struggles, isolation, etc etc. There is plenty of evidence that speaks to the more dramatic nature of this type of story, but creator Pom and studio Project No. 9 have done a good job of leaving sleeping dogs lie. Of course it’s a part of the story, but we’re currently set to focus on the romantic complexities of a Kouhai and a childhood friend.

And I think that’s perfectly fine. You don’t have to dive headfirst into negative content like that, but they have my respect for not removing it from the narrative entirely. It’s an important piece to Hanaoka’s life, so its inclusion gives their character more depth- which the brighter moments reflect off of wonderfully. Within that, I really love the reflection of how Hanaoka comes off in comparison to kouhai Saki Aoi and childhood friend Ryuuji Taiga. The lovers-in-law bring a really strong dynamic that offsets Hanaoka’s more reserved personality really well- something that I think is really nicely expressed in the early moments of the episode where rain turns to sunshine. The duo make for a very strong counterbalance in Senpai Is An Otokonoko episode 1.

Of course, a lot of that energetic and upbeat dynamic comes from the chibi art style that’s peppered throughout this debut episode. At first, I wasn’t entirely sure how it might integrate with the series, but after spending more time with it I think it’s a worthwhile addition. Much like the characters that make use of it (though most Saki), the art shift is great at diffusing tension and resetting interactions. If something gets too heavy or emotional for the moment, just have Saki or Ryuuji rear their heads and melt it away. My only concern is how the frequent use of it might cheapen the more earnest aspects of the story- but that’s yet to be seen, so I’m happy with saying its a good decision.

Taking another step back to capture the entirety of the visuals for Senpai Is An Otokonoko episode 1, and you’ll find that they’re fine. I don’t mean that in a way that alludes to a caveat, either- they are genuinely in the territory of serviceable. There’s certainly moments that exceed that definition, but more importantly there’s not really any that drag the episode down as a whole. Series director Shinsuke Yanagi does a great job of expressing the range of the series, and with the chibi sequences in particular, color designer Youko Suzuki shows off a surprising degree of range for this work. Of course, the other high level staff such as character design and photographic direction do some fine work as well- it’s just that Yanagi and Suzuki stand out as the real trendsetters in Senpai Is An Otokonoko episode 1.

With everything considered, for a first episode, Senpai Is An Otokonoko accomplishes a lot. Aside from trying to hook the viewer and get them on the Otokonoko train for this series, it does a great job balancing everything. Visually it’s sound, its characters present strong archetypes that seem easy to iterate on, it exposes viewers to both sides of Hanaoka’s experiences, and the list keeps going. That might make it a lot for some viewers to digest, but at the same time it’s a good thing it’s been so upfront with displaying so much of itself in this first episode. Without that, I would most likely still be seeing the series in a different, more somber light.

In the end it all makes for a series that’s easy to parse within the first episode. If you like this content, you’ll likely be interested in the rest of the series. If you like the quality of this episode, I’m sure that Project No. 9 will be keeping close to it with the rest of the season. It’s very much a debut episode that embodies “what you see is what you get”, which makes it very easy for would-be viewers to check out. You like the first episode? You’ll likely enjoy the rest. Don’t like it though? You can rest assured that it won’t suddenly swerve into different territory with any future episodes.

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