Anime Review: The Cafe Terrace and Its Goddesses

As per usual, a couple times a year I like to watch a fanservice series or so to just sort of gauge the state of the genre. For the Spring 2023 season, I went with the Cafe Terrace and Its Goddesses, to see if it fares a little better than the last fanservice series I watched with Goddess in the title. The answer is very much “Yes”.

Key art for The Cafe Terrace and Its Goddesses, showing from top and clockwise, Ami, Riho, Shiragiku, Ouka, and Akane.

First off, I’ve come to the conclusion that “Goddess” has become fanservice manga shorthand for “This is a fanservice series about college-age women who are kind of a mess.” All things considered, given a nice quick shorthand to find a fanservice series where I can be reasonably confident that the majority of the cast who are going to be fanservice figures are of age, I appreciate having something I can rely on.

Cafe Terrace and Its Goddesses follows Hayato Kasukabe, a young man who is going to be starting at Tokyo University, but has to return home after his last surviving relative – his grandmother – has passed away, in order to get her affairs in order. His grandmother managed a cafe on the Japanese coast (the coast in question is not specified) named “Cafe Terrace Familia”. As he’s starting college, his initial plan is to shut down the restaurant, sell the property, and return to school.

However, he discovers that in his absence, his grandmother had taken on 5 lodgers to help around the (rather large) house and help run the restaurant – all of them attractive young women who are also attending college (well, one, Ami, is still in high school, but she’s in her senior year). After using varying tactics to persuade Hayato, he ultimately changes his mind and agrees to run the restaurant for one year to see if it can make ends meet. If it can’t, it will be closed, but if it can it will be kept running.

So, consequently, harem romantic comedy anime ensues. Thankfully, Hayato is nowhere near the milquetoast that other major harem protagonists (Keitarō from Love Hina, Tenchi from Tenchi Muyo, etc) are. He has deliberate goals, and while he doesn’t pick someone by the end of this season, there’s also a very real sense that he has a deliberate reason for doing so beyond not hurting anyone’s feelings – he made an agreement to keep the restaurant running for the next year, and he makes it clear that picking someone could inadvertently cause that promise to be broken by rocking the boat too much.

Instead, Hayato serves as something of a comic foil for the rest of the cast, particularly considering some of their more eccentric elements. For example, Ami is a meathead jock, Shiragiku gets drunk from alcohol fumes – and is a nekked drunk (something that sets off an “oh crap” moment whenever it happens from the cast – even if it’s played for comedy), Riho is a caustic smartass, Ouka will generally join in any prank that is currently in progress, and while Akane’s quiet reserved nature hides a very dry wit and an equally pranky streak.

I mean, this is a fanservice series, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. However, because the male lead is a more active participant in the comedy, it means that he has a much better character dynamic with the rest of the cast, than the obvious counter-example of Keitarō. It creates a scenario where the audience’s response isn’t just “($FemaleCharacter) is Best Girl” but expands to “And makes a great couple with Hayato”. That, I think, makes for a significantly better rom-com fanservice series.

Cafe Terrace and Its Goddesses is available for streaming on Crunchyroll, and a second season has already been announced.

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