Anime Review: Engage Kiss

Engage Kiss is one of the lighter fanservice series from the Summer 2022 season – there were much (*ahem*) harder shows (like Slave Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World – which was borderline smut – and also leaned into some of the grosser elements of the isekai genre) – but Engage Kiss was more palatable about it. Even more, A-1 Pictures paired some of that fan-service with some gorgeously animated fight scenes, making for a series that, while flawed, was really enjoyable to watch. Some spoilers below the cut

The anime is set in Bayron City – a city-state on an artificial island in the Pacific Ocean that has become home to the extraction of an energy source known as Orgonium. However, related to the extraction of Orgonium is a variety of attacks by humans possessed by demons through the city, leading to private security firms being hired by the city to handle these. One of them is run by Shu Ogata, and the demon-girl living with him, Kisara. However, Shu has a larger goal for his corporation – his father was killed by a demon attack when he was a child, and his sister is missing, so Shu and Kisara are trying to investigate the demon attacks to find out where his sister is.

Kisara of Engage Kiss in powered-up mode.

There are two further catches. First, Kisara is able to power up to fight more dangerous opponents by taking Shu’s memories. Second, one of the top field agents of a competing company (one that Shu frequently partners with), is Shu’s ex, Ayano Yugiri.

As far as the writing goes, the series starts out with Shu seeming like a slacker loser scumbag flake… up until the point where it becomes explicitly clear that Shu’s flaky nature is born much more out of the fact that he’s losing more and more memories as he powers up Kisara, rather than personal failings. He does have some personal failings – as some of his actions are kind of scummy.

For example, in a flashback we see him seducing Militant Exorcist Sharon Holygrail to get information about where Kisara was sealed in the past – and then putting neurotoxin on his junk (presumably on a condom) to knock her out so he can get to Kisara before Sharon can permanently kill her. It provides an interesting degree of depth to Shu’s character – he’s still scummy, but it’s clear in context that his scummyness is part of a different flaw – a single-minded focus on his goal of rescuing his missing sister – the only family he has left. He’s not a Byronic hero – that would imply a degree of stoicism, loneliness, and solitude, and those definitely aren’t the case for Shu. However, he is meant to be tragic – cutting away more and more of his past for the sake of his quest.

However, the larger world-building elements of this stumble somewhat – we see other corporations, but we don’t necessarily see them making any money at anything, nor do they take an active role until the conclusion. We have some revelations late in the series as to how the city government works (and doesn’t work), but the reveals are somewhat nonsensical.

The show’s response to this, outside of the character writing, and some of the fanservice related to that (as pretty much all the women in this series are easy on the eyes), is in the form of very gorgeous fight scenes. I’m tremendously impressed not only with the fluidity of A-1 Pictures work on making fluid fight scenes, and director Tomoya Tanaka’s work at blocking out the choreography for these fights, but also for A-1 Pictures doing this show and Lycoris Recoil (review to come later) – which has equally good fight scenes – at the same time. Yes, plenty of other studios assisted on Engage Kiss, but there’s a definite sense of moxy behind saying “What if we do two shows with kick-ass fight scenes at the same time, one with cute girls, and one with sexy girls,” and managing to pull it off.

In all, I did enjoy Engage Kiss – it has style and flair, even if it lacks substance. If you’re looking for an action-fanservice series that isn’t an isekai, this is worth checking out.

Engage Kiss is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

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