I’ve reviewed most of the anime adaptations of Hayate: The Combat Butler, and reviewed much of the manga that’s been officially released in English to date (in spite of the official US release being several years behind the Japanese release – which has since ended). When I learned that author Kenjiro Hata’s latest manga, Tonikawa, was getting an anime adaptation, that show quickly ended up on the list of shows on my watchlist for that season, and I was not disappointed.
Tonikawa is something of a refutation of the Moonlighting rule – that romantic comedies will only hook the audience for as long as they are still in the “Will They or Won’t They” phase. According to the rule, once the relationship was firmly established and that question is answered with a “yes”, there’s nowhere to go. This rule is false, and the show basically sets up that it’s going to be refuting this rule from the jump.
The show follows Nasa, a young man whose parents are very loving, very well meaning, and have very poor choice in names. Consequently, Nasa has become something of an overachiever, as he’s trying to, basically, cause people to stop thinking of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration when they hear his name. One winter day, while coming home from school, he sees an utterly beautiful girl walking on the other side from the street from him. So, he crosses the street to talk to her, without looking both ways, and thus doesn’t see the incoming truck.
Thankfully, the girl, Tsukasa, saves Nasa from certain death or life in an isekai anime. Injured, Nasa asks Tsukasa out, and she agrees only under the condition that he marry her. He accepts, gets her name – loses consciousness, and ultimately doesn’t see her again for several years – until his 18th birthday.
As Nasa is coming home from his job at a convenience store to his apartment where he’s living alone, he suddenly encounters Tsukasa again – and she’s got the marriage paperwork. They have a civil ceremony, and move in together, and the show proceeds from there.
Where the show works well is twofold. First, there is no significant relationship drama over whether or not they’ll break up. There’s no heavy romantic tension over the course of this show. This couple is going to stay together. It’s very low drama, and also this means That One Guy from my old anime club who kept complaining during rom-com anime about romantic comedy series making people believe in true love and there being only one person for them and how that lead to his divorce is going to hate this show.
Instead, the focus of episodes of the show are related to normal stuff that a couple moving into together faces – particularly newly-weds. For example, stuff like “going shopping for the extra things you’ll need when two people start living together – like a new bed.” This also relates to media sides of things, like Tsukasa being a big cinephile, while Nasa (who has very few hobbies) is cineclueless.
All of this ties in to Hata’s eye for writing romantic comedy. Nasa fits some of the archetypes of Hayate – he’s very book smart and actually fairly good at adulting, but he’s clueless in lots of other life stuff, particularly on the romantic side of things. A great example is his surprise that marriage includes stuff like “hand holding”. Tsukasa is more outgoing and gregarious, but also has comedic level of over-enthusiasm in various things.
The show also keeps that sort of dry, self-depreciating deadpan humor of Hayate, though without the snarky narration over the top of it, and the 4th wall breaking responses to that narration. Stuff like characters internally realizing something in their internal narration came out wrong, or through a display of eager overconfidence at a particular task.
The show also has a degree of magical realism that slips here and there into the plot – less over-the-top than the more fantastical elements of Hayate, or some of that show’s science-fictional elements. However, there is a recurring plot bit that implies that maybe Tsukasa might actually be Princess Kaguya, but it’s never made explicit. However, a whole bunch of little hints are dropped. The anime ends fairly early into the manga, and the US release isn’t that much further than we got in the show, so I can’t say if things get more into the Hayate realm later in the series.
Still, Tonikawa was pretty much exactly what I needed to round out the year – a light, fluffy, enjoyable romantic comedy that was chill and relaxing to watch, without being too horny on main. I definitely recommend giving it a watch.
Currently, Tonikawa is available for streaming on Crunchyroll. The first volume of the manga is available for purchase on Amazon and RightStuf. Buying anything through those links helps to support the site.
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