Little sister hyperdrive

A Mikakunin de Shinkoukei review

You might notice from the phenomenal opening to Mikakunin de Shinkoukei (Engaged to the Unidentified) that it isn’t until the final few seconds when the floppy-haired, dour looking male shows up. He’s the titular “unidentified” of the series and for the most part, he remains as such. The series may as well have been called “The Increasingly Peculiar Adventures of Mashiro” because the diminutive, screechy voiced child is undoubtedly the star of the show. The storyline could have been easily retooled to remove the stoic male Hakuya completely and otherwise still retain a lot of Mikakunin’s charm.

The second meaning of “unidentified” in the title concerns a mid-season plot twist that comes from so far off the map it’s initially difficult to know what to make of it. It serves its purpose of injecting some dynamism into the story and gifts the series with a much needed quirk because lord knows the premise of a boy (and his little sister) turning up and claiming he’s betrothed to the otherwise oblivious girl wasn’t going to win any awards for originality. Up until the plot twist the rhythm of the show is by-the-numbers; the question being whether the augmentation supplies enough life to keep the series afloat.

For the most part yes; this is a romantic light comedy through and through and on a long enough timeline it’s easy enough to see how the peach-haired Kobeni and previously mentioned dispassionate Hakuya could end up together. It’s not like there’s any competition really with the cast tipped well in favour of the XX chromosome so it seems more a battle of attrition than a genuine flourishing romance. That’s ignoring their history together of course which involves the double-whammy standbys of “I saved your life” and “childhood friend” to smooth over the whole engagement part.

The spine of the show is undoubtedly in the light humour which visits a familiar stable time and again, primarily hinging on Mashiro and her status as not only a young child, a country hick in a modern city but also in the crosshairs of Benio, Kobeni’s sibling with a raging sister fetish. Nothing is new here and anyone who has seen even a handful of anime series will understand how little this advances or otherwise champions the campus love comedy genre. Even the introduction of another developmentally stunted teen (this one blonde to Mashiro’s brunette) does nothing to the formula, instead bogging it down by adding another exasperated and needy voice to the mix.

What the series does having going for it beyond its wonderful toe-tapping opening tune and the lustrous hair of each of its cast is an unrelenting pleasantness. Not usually a compliment for a series but love comedies are tricky to strike the right balance with, often opting for painfully zany, needlessly raucous or otherwise disturbingly lascivious in an attempt to stand out. Like its male protagonist and Kobeni living in the shadow of her sister, Mikakunin shuns attention and seems content to proceed without causing a fuss. It’s pleasing because even though Hakuya is about as interesting as a sack of rocks, his complete lack of male friends means the expected lewd jibes are nowhere to be found, even the very infrequent cracks about Kobeni’s “child bearing hips” are light years away from what could be present.

That homely familiarity does begin to stifle Kobeni as a character though who is too often railroaded onto the “perfect wife” track, a lot like Ai Yori Aoshi’s Aoi is initially painted as but, like Aoi, Kobeni does begin to grow out of this towards the tail end of the series taking more control of events rather than remaining largely passive to the turn her life has taken. Her demeanour does at least mean we get frequent insights into her thought process, making her one of the most developed and the least one note member of the cast. At twelve episodes the series is about as long as its individual elements can support it with Mashiro and Benio’s antics wearing thin shortly before the finale which, for better or worse, sloshes all of the cast’s signature traits into a short space of time.

You could do worse than Mikakunin for spending your time. That’s obviously not a resounding endorsement but if you’re looking for an amusing and inoffensive time filler then Mikakunin could be for you. It does nothing extraordinary or daring but it does it with a congenial competence that is hard to fault but just as hard to praise.

Responses to “Little sister hyperdrive”

Thanks. I'm never quite sure when I read too much into a show, so I'm normally a bit shy about replying. But I quite like your blog; reviews make more sense to me than episodic blogging. The posts are well-written, and the pages are devoid of clutter and easy to take in visually. I think I'm going to hang around in the shadows and reply whenever I find I have something to say.

Mikakunin was one of my favourite shows in its season (along with Zvezda and Hoozuki no Reitetsu).
The storyline could have been easily retooled to remove the stoic male Hakuya completely and otherwise still retain a lot of Mikakunin’s charm.

Not the way I ended up watching the show, although this was my impression, too, for a while.

It's been a while since I've seen the show, so I might not get the details right. But there was one episode where we learn from Benio that Kobeni once put down "wife" on a career survey in school. Things clicked into place for me. This is the story of a girl who has yet to step out of her overbearing sister's shadow. She does not really know what to make of her life yet, and thus she puts down "wife" on a career survey. Now, what does that mean to her?

In her family, Kobeni isn't the one with the bright future; her sister Benio is. Even her name is a hand-me-down (with the Ko- prefix). Since she isn't a rebel by nature, she cheerfully slips into a supportive role, learning to do the housework and be otherwise supportive of the people around her. So how to best continue this familiar and comfortable lifestyle? Marriage. It's obvious. There's the image of the husband as the maker and the wife as the supporter. Easy. But is this really what she wants?

She's presented with a sudden fiancee. I'm sure she wasn't expecting an arranged marriage, but - as might be expected - she slots into the role easily enough. Her objections feel like token objections, and the road ahead seems inevitable and happy enough. Romancewise, this is as staightforward as it gets, and that's where the plot of the series ends. With a romantic moment between Kobeni and Hakuya. Awww.... (and I mean it, actually.)

That's all nice and well, but there is a problem. She wanted a husband (as per her career survey), but she got a dog. Hakuya is boring, monosyllabic, has no interests or ambitions, and is entirely dependant on Kobeni's approval. This is not the maker to support. Does he like her cooking? Anything's fine as long as Kobeni's made it. Mashiro gives Kobeni more wifely fulfillment than Hakuya, with her childish glee at her cooking. The guy's a cypher, utterly devoted to her. And with that, Kobeni is thrown back at herself. If Hakuya had any sort of character, Kobeni could slip into a supportive role easily enough. But since he hasn't, since the centre of his life seems to be Kobeni herself, she's forced to figure out what she wants for herself.

The actual story is slow and quiet and subtle, melancholy in mood, and we don't get a lot of it. The story ends before Kobeni can even articulate her problem. But the show itself offers plenty of distractions; and this is - I think - why Mashiro is so central to the show. She distracts both Benio and the viewer, leaving Kobeni time to work through her confusion, mostly presented through body-language as she reacts to her surroundings, and keeping the viewer from being bored as nothing of substance happens.

The core of the show, to me, was a moodpiece about what it's like to suddenly face the fact that you might have a value of your own, independent of the support role you've always seen yourself in. It's not contemplative or deep, but that core is the perfect counterpoint for a nice, light-hearted romantic comedy.

And I don't really see how any of this would work without Hakuya being there and boring.
I hadn't even considered that aspect of the show but the way you're describing makes a lot of sense. So if Hakuya was more assertive or had a stronger personality it wouldn't allow Kobeni (good catch on the Ko- prefix!) to be anything more than supportive.

I don't have anything to dispute what you say and I really like the thinking behind it. Many thanks for your response, it's ones like these - that make me think of series a different way - that I look forward to!
Respond to “Little sister hyperdrive”

Community rules:

  1. Keep it civil: no personal attacks, slurs, harassment, hate speech, or threats
  2. No spam: includes marketing, pyramid schemes, scams etc.
  3. Notify of any spoilers: even if it's for something the post isn't about
  4. Your response may be edited or removed: if your response was in good faith, you may be contacted via email explaining why

Your address will never be shared

The following HTML tags are allowed: <b> <strong> <i> <em> <a href>