Invaders must die

A review of the Rokujouma no Shinryakusha?! anime series

Wark, wark! That’s the harem alarm, clear and true. If there was ever a set up in anime so overused as the harem, I haven’t seen it yet. That doesn’t stop Rokujouma no Shinryakusha?! (Invaders of the Six Tatami Mat Room?!) though which, after a deceptively promising first episode, pulls out all the tropes you’ve come to expect from packing that much oestrogen into a single location.

they don’t spend the entirety of their waking life fawning over the central male

It’s the first episode that convinced me to continue with the series though. Highschool boy moves into a cheap dorm room, finds out it’s haunted. Haven’t heard this one before… But then a princess from outer space claims the room for herself, followed by a magical girl claiming it’s a mystical convergence, followed by an “Earth person” from underground who wants to use it as a bulwark for an invasion. It certainly goes for the “throw everything and see what sticks” premise, but the potential for a series that sees the different invaders squaring off against one another in order to occupy the apartment (spiritual convergence, magical nexus etc.) seemed like a pleasant twist on what usually passes for a story hook.

What ends up happening though is that the squabbling and battles (card games) the five different sides partake in are quickly forgotten in favour of a clockwork structure two episodes of story per girl, click, your allotted time is up, next! It’s primitive but in Rokujouma’s favour, it gets the basics right before attempting to bolt on the romance.

First, it doesn’t make the XY chromosome a lecherous cretin; he’s affable enough to be entertaining but not clueless enough to be infuriating. Second, the rest of the cast isn’t just a collection of personality traits turned up to eleven, they’re only slightly more developed sure, but they don’t spend the entirety of their waking life fawning over the central male. Third, it gets the humour right: just wacky enough and never mean spirited. Apart from with Yurika, the magical girl whom everyone believes is just a supremely dedicated cosplayer.

She is somewhat of a shining light in the series, thanks in no small part to voice actress Nichika Omori who gifts her with an exasperated world weariness, channeling Satomi Arai’s Kuroko with croaky voiced charm. Moreso than that though, Yurika’s storyline succeeds in playing off of standard magical girl fare while mixing in the spectre of chuunibyou syndrome, following the zeitgeist laid by other anime series. If it wasn’t for her blatantly obvious plot arc - oh your enemy has the power to make people forget and suddenly people believe you’re a magical girl? - it would be easy to peg Yurika as the series’ apex.

This is after all a Silver Link x Shin Oonuma production with their fingerprints all over it, the former’s clean and bright animation with latter’s eye for style in the game scoring (while it lasts) and little details such as Kiriha’s floating dolls or the slick OP and EDs. Fundamentally there is nothing overtly wrong with the series: it’s pleasant to look at, easy to watch and generally well produced. That in itself is its principal flaw though, by just hitting all the correct notes it doesn’t stand out or have any identity of its own.

The director has proven in the past to leave both a visual and storytelling stamp on his works, unfortunately this series feels a little like it was phoned in. Forgetting about the games the cast play and skipping straight to the furtive blushing (via an obligatory beach episode and bath scene, natch) robs the series of the variety its opening promised. Similarly the expected clash of cultures - you have royalty from a space faring nation, an ethereal spirit, a magical girl and a lady who has spent her entire life underground - is nowhere to be found with everyone normalising to daily Japanese highschool life.

In some cases it’s for the better. Space princess Theia dials back the obnoxiousness (though her maid Ruth for some reason has as big a part as her, despite not partaking in the harem), while secondary characters like dorm manager Shizuka or mandatory Other Male Friend Kenji feel underused in the scrum for romantic affections. Story elements meanwhile such as the multicoloured coin-statue-goddess… thing featured in the opening episode is entirely forgotten about until the closing montage.

With sixteen light novel volumes published so far, Rokujouma no Shinryakusha?! has all the hallmarks of a bread-and-butter money spinner: a story that could just keep running and running until reader apathy sets in or the heat death of the universe happens, whichever comes first. The anime series then follows suit by being fun but not funny, cute without being saccharine and entertaining but unremarkable. There are individually great moments - Sanae’s “possession”, the strange fascination with beetles, defeating the bad guy du jour by just punching him in the face (the type of justice I can get behind) - but as a whole there is nothing to recommend or deride the series on, despite the talent behind it.