Hey everybody. Chris here, and I’ll be the latest reviewer to rotate in for coverage on those kooky Cuckoos. A week off between courses isn’t exactly the longest stretch between ‘seasons’ of a show, but A Couple of Cuckoos At least spices up that significant with some new opening and ending sequences, plus, more importantly, acting like it’s been away much longer by deploying several flashbacks to earlier parts of the story throughout this episode. A little recap is nice, sure, especially as the status quo has shifted since all that studious setup. But at some point it starts to feel a little egregious. Are they just taking this opportunity as an excuse to pad out the episode and make up for the show’s consistently-declining visual quality? Does this fill up the time-slot so they don’t have to do that awkward “Two mostly-unrelated chapters per episode” structure the last few episodes dabbled in? Who knows, but it does make time for the key feature of following such a series: The harem lead agonizing indecisively over which girl he most wants to kiss.
Okay, that’s only true. Coming off the previous episode seeing Nagi realize that he might not be as singularly devoted to Segawa as he previously thought, a key point of this one is him stressing out over needing to narrow down his choice and meaningfully quantify it as such. But after a reasonably clever sequence framing Nagi’s anguish against him taking a critical exam, things spin out into even more immediate issues: His declining grades. In a show propelled by a switched-at-birth arranged-marriage scenario and some conveniently compulsory cohabitation, that’s probably the most believable development so far. Anybody’s ability to concentrate on studying would take a hit after having to spend two months stressing out over regular rom-com contrivances, and Nagi’s at least aware enough to recognize that situation as the source of his tumble down to thirteenth place in his grade (though Really, that still ain’t bad!).
The genuinely funny part of this is Nagi’s – and his own narrative’s – awareness of what this says about him as a character: Studying was genuinely all there was to his personality, so without the fruits of those labors, he’s as much of a nothingburger as any of the others in the sea of harem protagonists he looks identical to. Coming to that realization is some clever self-awareness, but unfortunately that’s basically as far as the writing gets with this development. For all Nagi’s stressing over his failure and diminishing value on account of this episode’s events, it still wraps with him resolving to get back on that studious horse, cheering up with reinforcement from both Erika and Segawa in their own particular ways. The episode even ends on the cliffhanger surprise of Nagi needing to use his renewed studying energy to raise Erika’s academic abilities, because A Couple of Cuckoos never met a development it couldn’t contrive with just a few sudden lines of dialogue.
That means that any meaningful shift from Nagi’s studying slump, the most significant driving factor here is that whole thing about him becoming aware of his actual feelings for his multiple would-be wives. There’s nothing really focusing on Sachi this week for my inaugural coverage of the show, so at least I dodged that bullet out of the gate. But the story’s attempts to articulate and quantify the feelings shared between the potential Nagi/Erika and Nagi/Segawa pairings feel disappointingly shallow at this stage, if admittedly believable in the way of inexperienced adolescent love. The best Nagi can come up with for why Erika appeals to him is that she’s ‘conventionally cute’, while Erika sees appeal in her family-swapped fiancee seemingly simply because he’s the only one in the house who can cook for her (Surely Sachi could rustle up some dinner while he was down?
Segawa’s attachment feels a little more substantial. I appreciate them driving up some dramatic tension in what exactly her issue with Nagi post-exams is; we’ve all got enough experience with storytelling setups to that it’s not about her being disappointed in his grades, but the actual reveal – that she simply wanted to be the one to cheer him up before Erika did – is sweet enough as an obligatory turn. The more interesting aspect of Segawa’s basketball-based bonding with Nagi (apart from the return of that gag I like about her leaving him call-out notes) is the irony in the way her voicing her concerns about losing her place as his entire focal point only reinforces for him how deeply she’s still his primary crush (for now).
A couple of clever ideas among a flood of flashbacks and indecisive filler isn’t exactly the worst comeback for Cuckoos, but it isn’t ideal, either. It demonstrates that there are places this show can go with its shifted storytelling priorities in its status quo, and honestly isn’t annoying or anything in getting there. But like its stiff animation, Cuckoos Already comes off like it’s struggling to reach any of that potential in a way that flows, feels natural, or has the effortless appeal a show like these needs.
A Couple of Cuckoos is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Chris is a freewheeling Fresno-based freelancer with a love for anime and a shelf full of too many Transformers. He can be found spending way too much time on his Twitterand irregularly updating his blog.