Episode 4 – When Will Ayumu Make His Move?

I know I gave When Will Ayumu Make His Move? credit last week for speeding right along through the typical rom-com checkpoints, but there is actually such a thing as being a bit too casual about things, and I think “I want to Spend Time Together, Senpai” is a perfect example of what I mean by that. Here is the prerequisite “Christmas episode” where the whole joke is that we basically skip over the holiday entirely on account of our protagonists’ shenanigans. That’s a perfectly fine joke, and I’m hardly the type to get sentimental about upholding Yuletide traditions, but here’s the thing: If you’re going to forgo the cliché of the big holiday romance story, then you have to replace that missing material with something. I think the show missed the memo on that half of objective.

And yes, I get it, the whole vibe of this anime is decidedly laid-back compared to other shows of its ilk, but When Will Ayumu Make His Move? desperately needed some kind of direction to fill out this week’s almost completely aimless half-hour, and barring that, I would have been happy with some decent jokes. Instead, we get three-quarters of an episode that is mostly dedicated to wasting our time, and a final scene that offers a perfectly okay payoff to the whole “skipping Christmas” joke. Usually, when an episode feels like it completely whizzes by, that’s a good thing, because it means the story and pacing must be absolutely riveting. In the case of “I Want to Spend Time Together, Senpai”, though, it’s the exact opposite case: so little had happened by the time the time that ended at first I couldn’t believe that it was finished.

The main problem with the first third of the episode, before the shogi game that is the closest thing to a climax that this story has, is that literally nothing of importance or interest occurs. There are a few vignettes that consist of Ayumu and Urushi just killing time in the club room. There’s one joke that’s way too long that revolves entirely around Urushi being too short to replace the room’s flickering fluorescent light, and then there is a doubly long scene that is somehow even less interesting, where the show plays out one of the hackiest rom-com setups of all time: due to the characters being preposterously terrible at explaining even the most basic of facts to each other, Urushi thinks that Ayumu brought a porno DVD to school for some reason, but it turns out to have been a zombie movie.

Let’s take a moment to dissect why this scene doesn’t work, since there’s nothing people love more than someone explaining the mechanics of a joke in excruciating detail. The whole “wacky misunderstanding between two awkward protagonists” bit is so played out at this point that it almost fails to register most of the time. Hell, author Sōichirō Yamamoto has made that cliché one of the foundational pillars of Teasing Master Takagi-san. The difference between that masterpiece and this, um, Not-Masterpiece lies entirely in how the cliché is used. For instance, in Takagi-santhere is an entire story about Nishikata thinking that Takagi is knitting a scarf for a rival “cute boy”, but it turns out that said cutie pie is actually a neighbor’s old dog (and it actually turns out that the cute boy is Nishikata, because of course). It’s clear from minute one what the deal is, but the joy of the scene comes from Nishikata’s wild overreactions and Takagi’s masterful mind games. Plus, it’s cute as all heck.

Here, though? Urushi gets slightly worked up over the ridiculous notion that the most straight-laced boy to ever live would bring porn to school, and then Ayumu casually reveals that it is a zombie movie. The interaction reveals nothing remotely interesting about either character, it doesn’t play up any unique trait or personality quirk, and the DVD is literally never mentioned again after the scene. Why does this exchange even exist? What purpose does it serve other than to fill out time?

That’s about how I feel concerning the handicapped match between Urushi and Ayumu, too. When I first came into the show, I was worried that my lack of shogi knowledge would make the story less approachable, but I’d honestly welcome some more shogi-specific elements at this point. The game is itself so unimportant to the experience of the series that this episode barely addresses any of the strategy that occurs in the game, and it’s animated in such a way that you don’t even see the pieces on the board. What that means is that we spend an inordinate amount of time this week just watching the two play the game from the waist up, which is about as exciting as it sounds. It also cheapens Ayumu’s already silly constraints on his confession episode when he does indeed get a fair win, and almost does confess, only to change his mind at the end of the anyways.

At the end of the day, none of these criticisms would necessarily be deal-breakers if the main couple at the heart of this anime was loveable or amusing enough that we didn’t mind wasting time with them. Sadly, while Urushi is a cute enough heroine, the only thing that differentiates her from the thousand other also-ran rom-com leads is her big forehead, and Ayumu is terminally lacking in personality or charm. This isn’t a bad show, but this was a pretty boring episode of television, and if that is the bar we’re setting for the rest of the series, I’m worried about what getting through the next nine weeks is going to be like.

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When Will Ayumu Make His Move? is currently streaming on HIDIVE.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitterhis blog, and his podcast.

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