What Made Masamune-kun’s Revenge Such a Divisive Anime

Some anime suck. It might be because of a bad story, bad animation or a painful dub -- whatever the reason, some are critically panned on release as critics and fans alike warn others to avoid the show. Some, however, get a new lease of life years later as audiences give it another look. With a fresh perspective, an awful anime can become a guilty pleasure that is perfect to riff with friends, Mystery Science Theater 3000 style. Masamune-kun’s Revenge, however, was terrible at the time and even worse now.

Masamune-kun’s Revenge started in Monthly Comic Rex in 2012 and ran until 2018. In 2017, Silver Link produced an OVA and one-season anime of the series, which Funimation dubbed into English and Crunchyroll aired in America. Masamune-kun’s Revenge follows Masamune Makabe, who is considered to be an unattractive boy. While in Elementary school, Masamune falls in love with beautiful fellow student Aki Adagaki, leading to the start of all the trouble.

Masamune-kun’s Revenge

Aki cruelly rejects Masamune and gives him the horrible nickname "Pig's Foot." Haunted by the rejection, Masamune starts to work out and grows into the hottest man in the area, becoming totally unrecognizable to those who knew him before. When he arrives at high school, Masamune has one goal: to seduce Aki and then reject her, so she can feel the pain he felt. However, at this high school, Aki has the nickname "Cruel Princess" thanks to her wealth and horrible personality.

What follows is some of the most confusing high school romance hijinks ever put to paper. The main problem with the show is that every character is an irredeemably horrible person. Aki insults and belittles anyone she encounters, even her servant. Masamune is an unlikable stalker who, while improving his looks, has a rotten personality that is nearly impossible to root for. Unlike shows like It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, where the writers treat the characters like the horrible people they are, the writers of Masamune-kun’s Revenge approach the show like a regular romance comedy. The show acts like you should be cheering for Masamune's psychologically manipulative stalking.

Beyond that, the characters are nowhere near nuanced enough to make their actions understandable or pitiable. Rather than this being a tale of hurt people lashing out, it is a show about petty jerks being awful to one another for no reason other than sadism. While Masamune's tale of transformation could have been a touching story of self-love and self-discovery, it becomes a bitter tale of a toxic man trapped in a self-sustaining prison of loathing.

Masamune-kun’s Revenge

This was something that many reviewers commented on at the time, with Theron Martin of Anime News Network saying that the first episode had a "fairly generic romcom premiere starring a very repugnant cast." Lauren Orsini, an Anime News Network editor, declared Masamune-kun’s Revenge her worst anime of 2017. Saying that "Masamune-kun's Revenge stands out in a bad way for its excessive cruelty," and "this anime should only be viewed as an example of how not to win friends and influence people. The best revenge is a life well-lived, as in, not Masamune's approach."

That said, Masamune-kun’s Revenge is not totally terrible. The animation is smooth, and the school setting, while nothing new, looks good even if the series does nothing original with the location. The voice acting is okay in both the English dub and the Japanese version, but it isn't anything to write home about. The highlight of Masamune-kun’s Revenge has to be the ending theme. Performed by ChouCho and called "Elemental World," it is a funky track with a great drum beat. However, it doesn't make the show worth watching.

Unfortunately, Masamune-kun’s Revenge is not worth rediscovering. It is simply not an enjoyable watch, even if you go into it wanting a "so bad its good" experience. Unlike something like Garzey's Wing, which has janky animation, terrible voice acting, and a ludicrous plot to laugh at, Masamune-kun’s Revenge is a technically competent anime that just feels misguided. In fact, it often feels like you're watching a writer's therapy notes play out on screen, making the whole experience uniquely uncomfortable to watch.

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