Masamune-kun’s Revenge and the pleasure of mediocrity

Of all the show’s I’ve stuck with watching this season, Masamune-kun’s Revenge is without a doubt the one I enjoy least. And yet, whilst I’ve ended up dropping shows that are arguably far more artistically robust creations (eg. ACCA or season 2 of Blue Exorcist) I’ve somehow ended up still watching Masamune-kun. Why?

The answer, I think, lies in a very specific kind of anime aesthetic and viewing experience. For me, Masamune-kun epitomises the kind of show that there’s usually always at least one or two of every season. I show that absolutely hits the marker right in the centre when it comes to being the ‘most’ anime – striding the borderline between utter banality and semi-decent plotting; enough to keep you coming back every week but never stepping over into territory that’s commendable. And all this dressed up in a culmination of ‘this is what anime looks like in 2017’ aesthetic.

Every trope is present and correct. Dumb fanservice. An obnoxious male lead. An assortment of girl ‘types’ to lust after. A mix of over-arcing narrative and more individual episodic content. Bright primary colours, and the lustre of digital filter. Disposable, simple pleasure. Never taxing. The junk food of anime, if you will. A veritable McDonald’s cheeseburger or anime tropes that trigger a base principle of pleasurable mediocrity every time.

Asterisk War fulfilled this same itch for me. Taboo Tattoo even more so. Shows that get so close to being dropped, but somehow hang on – precisely because despite all their flaws, they nail that sit-back and binge-out aesthetic so perfectly that you feel compelled to shovel in more each week.

And these shows remain consistently popular. According to MAL – Masamune-kun is the 2nd most popular show of the Winter 2017 season, beaten only by Konosuba’s 2nd season. And it’s sure as hell not because of its ‘quality’. No, it’s far stab to place this popularity firmly in that ballpark of distinct ‘mass-market’ aesthetic. Is Masamune-kun a ‘cool’ show? No. Is it a clever show? No. But what it does manage to be is a) Just good enough, and b) attractively crafted.

Ironic, perhaps then, that in a show so concerned with personal appearance, that appearance comes to define the show’s appeal. But for – in this mediocrity, there’s a dumb, inoffensive, switch-off-your-brain appeal that will keep me coming back.

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