If you’re a fan of romantic comedies, then you’ll no doubt have heard of The Quintessential Quintuplets manga, published by Kodansha Comics. Last year the series was adapted into an anime by Tezuka Productions, which I’m here to check out today.
The story follows high school student Futaro Uesugi, who excels at being top of the class but struggles to even afford lunch because of the huge debts his family has incurred. One day, Futaro’s father finds him a well-paying job tutoring a rich family’s daughter, but little does our hero know that this girl is someone he’s already acquainted with and who hates him deeply…
The girl in question is Itsuki Nakano, who Futaro insulted earlier that day for buying and eating one of the most expensive lunches available at the school cafeteria. Now he needs to make amends before his chances of paying off his family’s debt vanish forever, but when Itsuki is forever surrounded by friends, an opportunity is difficult to come by. In the end, Itsuki ends up following her home, where he makes a discovery that changes his life forever.
The reason Futaro’s job is so high-paying is that he’s not only supposed to tutor Itsuki but also her four sisters: Ichika, Nino, Miku and Yotsuba. All five of the girls are in danger of flunking out of high school but none of them has any desire to study, especially with Itsuki in charge. Now not only does Itsuki need to get their grades up, but he must also win them over to take part in his lessons.
I must admit, that while this is my third time experiencing the story of The Quintessential Quintuplets, I can’t escape the feeling that it’s a lesser man’s We Never Learn (a Shonen Jump manga also with an anime adaptation to its name). The set-up of a debt-riddled protagonist taking on the job of tutoring failing students is incredibly similar and that series is just better in every possible way.
It’s not that The Quintessential Quintuplets is outright bad, but I find it bland. The five girls all have very stereotypical personalities and although they are developed throughout these twelve episodes, I’m not sure they ever become likeable.
The biggest problem is that the show doesn’t have any particular hook other than hoping you like one of the girls and that’s fine, but I don’t find them particularly interesting. They’re either shy, headstrong, or ditzy with very little depth to them otherwise. Futaro grows the most as a character throughout the season of anime and even he hasn’t got that much going for him in the grand scheme of things. Without that emotional attachment to the girls, the comedy and storylines fall flat, which is a shame since the show certainly has the elements I usually like in the romcom genre.
The story begins in the far-off future where Futaro is getting married to one of these girls, but as they’re quintuplets it’s not obvious to the viewer which of the female cast it is. That gives us a bit of a mystery to solve and it’s fun trying to guess the eventual couple as Futaro grows closer to the girls, but because the manga was ongoing at the time, we never get the answer within the anime (maybe in Season 2 due to air in 2021?).
If you do get on with the characters, then there is enough here to make the show enjoyable. Each girl has an arc dedicated to them, meaning your favourite almost certainly has some time in the spotlight. There are episodes about a firework show and a school trip, which you’d expect from this kind of genre and they are well written for what they are.
As previously mentioned this anime adaptation has been handled by studio Tezuka Productions (Black Jack, Dagashi Kashi 2) and the animation is all right. It’s colourful and fluid, but it’s not all that memorable.
The same can be said for the music which is handled by Hanae Nakamura (My Next Life as a Villainess All Routes Lead to Doom), Miki Sakurai (Aggretsuko) and Natsumi Tabuchi (Castle Town Dandelion). The compositions are fine and do the job, but aren’t something I’ll be seeking out to listen to after the show. The opening for the series is “Gotobun no Kimochi” performed by the five Japanese voice actors for the quintuplets, while the ending is “Sign” by Aya Uchida. Again, neither song will blow you away, but they fit the tone of the series well enough.
Where voice actors are concerned, The Quintessential Quintuplets has both the Japanese audio and English dub on offer. Both sets of actors do a fine job in their roles, but I must admit I find myself more drawn to the Japanese side. In the role of Futaro, we have Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Kirito in Sword Art Online, Soma in Food Wars!) and I’d go as far as to say he saves the whole show for me. Matsuoka fills Futaro with the enthusiastic and comical personality he requires, while also giving him the ability to play as a straight man to the female cast’s antics. It’s a great performance and one English voice actor Josh Grelle doesn’t capture in the same way.
This release comes to the UK thanks to Manga Entertainment and is available on both Blu-ray and DVD. The set includes all twelve episodes of Season 1 in both English and Japanese and the Blu-ray also includes a digital copy of the release. A second season of the show is due to air in Japan in 2021.
Overall, The Quintessential Quintuplets is a fairly lacklustre offering in the romcom genre. The quintuplet angle is a fairly interesting spin on the tropes, but it’s not enough to sell me on it. With other long-running and popular series that tick the same boxes, it’s hard to recommend this above those other anime.