When I think of the most prolific rom-com anime of the 2010s, nothing stands out more than ToraDora! for me. Like, I’m sure there are better high school anime out there, but ToraDora! just hit differently – unlike Engage Kiss. I think it’s because, for me, I related really hard to Taiga Aisaka’s character. This is embarrassing to admit considering she was such a Tsundere stereotype, arguably the poster child for it. But that specific era was filled with -Dere-type characters; you couldn’t escape them even if you tried. However, the most iconic out of all of them? A certain pink-haired Yandere with a penchant for violence.
This is why when I read the synopsis for Engage Kiss, well. I was guessing we were in for a ride, though not a fun one. I already have past trauma with pink-haired yanderes, thanks to Yuno Gasai from Mirai Nikki (Future Diary). Sadly, in that show, Yuno was the only memorable thing. And it looks to be the same for Engage Kiss, which can be best described as an anime having an identity crisis.
Complex plots are not unique or rare in anime. Usually, most anime shows do a good job of balancing two or more plot lines in their overarching narrative. Some of the best examples of this include Baccano!, Monster, and Attack On Titan. Each of these shows has stories about hierarchy balanced with either suspense or fantasy elements and even political rifts. But they carry each separate thread perfectly, weaving the entire story without any plot holes.
However, with Engage Kiss, I’m not sure. It is just one part of a massive release called Project Engage, with a manga serialization and mobile game project being developed and spearheaded by Square Enix (yes, that Square Enix.). It promised to combine several anime genres and tropes seamlessly into one complex package to rival other fantasy hybrids such as Overlord and Mushoku Tensei. But did it deliver? Let’s discuss!
Engage Kiss Premise: Dating Sim + Supernatural Gimmicks + Political Corruption?
Situated in Baylong City, an artificial island established in the Pacific Ocean to exploit local natural resources, Ogata Shuu is our poor (Literally. Man can’t hold down a job.) protagonist. He works odd jobs at a Private Military Company, but the jobs are squandering, leaving barely any money for him to support himself and his friend, Kisara, a beautiful high school student who lives with him. But just as their utilities are about to be cut off, an opportunity presents itself.
Become a Demon Slayer (Not that kind!) and cash in on some serious capital! Due to the mining of the new energy resource known as Orgonium, D disasters are literally everywhere. So, you won’t exactly be scavenging for options. And in the meantime, you get to have steady pay, make some interesting connections, and live an adventurous life.
Also, Kisara? She’s a demon who is uncomfortably in love with him. That shouldn’t cause any issues, right?
Engage Kiss Breakdown: Too Many Subplots Spoil The Anime!
Okay, so this show was being touted as a more lighthearted Demon Slayer, with the fantasy aspects of an Isekai classic. But unlike the more hesitant protagonists stapled to the genre, Ogata is meant to be more proactive and show the conviction of a Shonen lead. All this with a roster of fun female characters, with an added Harem dynamic (sort of). Oh, and there is, like, rebelling against a corrupt government system thrown in too.
Needless to say, it was ambitious. And I think that was its biggest downfall, considering how it mixed too many elements together without a coherent direction of where they were going. Normally, you have multiple subplots that all eventually converge into one, leading to the big reveal and tying everything off with a perfect bow on top. You introduce enough different aspects to make the anime multi-faceted but not overwhelming.
That’s not what seems to be happening with Engage Kiss. We start off with a weird love triangle that involves at least one high schooler, who is also an obsessive yandere. And then it devolves into Ogata being exploited by a system he doesn’t support, and, also, we have demons. And the yandere happens to be a demon. And everything is very edgy and serious, and then they play it off with the worst comedic timing.
It’s like the anime is confused about what genre it actually encapsulates. Sure, the animation is streamlined and visually impressive, but that doesn’t make it a fun watch.
The Verdict: Engage Kiss Is A Mixed Bag. Literally.
Honestly, this one is a major skip. There is far better anime out there in the Summer 2022 season for us to get invested in. And I won’t waste my time trying to comprehend something that, itself, seems confused.
The whole ‘bad dystopian fantasy anime with pink-haired waifus’ idea didn’t work for Guilty Crown, and it doesn’t for Engage Kiss either.