Like your average high school boy, Ryosuke Kaga can’t stop thinking perverted thoughts. Unlike the average high school boy, he won’t shut up about it, and cares little for anything other than breasts, butts, breasts, napes, breasts, panties, breasts, and… Um… Underarms. It makes more sense when he says it. Yes, they may have debunked the theory that men think about sex every seven seconds, but that’s only because nobody studied this kid.
Anyway, on his way home from school, he sees a beautiful red-haired girl standing all alone in the rain outside of his house. Not content to just stare at her wet, transparent shirt, he offers her his umbrella, and invites her in for a change and a shower. No sooner are they indoors and alone then she begins to hold him close… And just when he’s getting ready to ditch his V-card, she winds up penetrating him… through the heart with a giant sword.
As it turns out, her name is Lisara, and she’s a grim reaper… You know, those things that were cool until Soul Eater… And in order to complete her mission on earth, she needed to form a contract with somebody who had inexplicably high amounts of life energy. Which Ryosuke apparently has in spades. Once a contract is made, she draws her power directly from the one thing that makes her new partner love his life so much. Unfortunately for her, she finds out that Ryosuke drives his passion from his perversion, so she can only be at full power when he’s popping a woody… Which works out perfectly, because without that power, she gets her ass kicked faster than Lina Inverse on her period, losing her clothes in the process.
At first glance, you’d think this was the perfect set-up for an ecchi fanservice series… Well, yes and no. We’ll get to the meat of this review in a few paragraphs, but for the moment, I must give credit where credit is due.
So I Can’t Play H… Which I’ll simply be calling H from now on… Was produced by a company called feel, and while I’d love to say some smart-sounding words about their track record and production history, I’ve never actually heard of this company before. They’ve done in-between animation on a few shows I’ve seen, but up until now, the only show they’ve directly produced and animated that I’ve actually seen was Corpse Princess… Which I only remember dropping out of boredom.
I can’t say anything about feel, but whatever their eternally lower-cased history may be, this show is drop dead gorgeous. The occasional CG is breathtaking, whether it’s taking the form of a simple escalator or the teleportation field around a reaper. This is CG rendering that even Sword Art Online would be gasping at, even if the color scheme does kind of become an eyesore in the final few episodes. The backgrounds are exquisitely detailed, expertly framed, and they will absolutely dazzle you with their use of lighting and shading.
The animation for the characters is much simpler, but not bad by any means… Their designs are very standard, a little on the bland side, and nowhere near as realistic as the aesthetic would have you believe, but their movement is still quite a bit more fluid than what you’d find in most shows of a similar ilk. Key frames and speedlines are rare, and they’re used fairly well for what they are.
So, when you’re talking about ecchi titles, the bar is consistently a low one… Titty showcases aren’t typically known for having good writing, original ideas, or any value outside of the perverse. It’s entirely possible for ecchi shows to be enjoyable outside of the skin content that they offer… Strike Witches is a prime example of this… But actual depth and creativity are rare elements indeed. So why am I bringing this up, while talking about a show that’s basically just Bleach meets Girls Bravo, with an older version of Shana in the lead role? Because, believe it or not, So I Can’t Play H came dangerously close to impressing me.
With the plot being set up the way it is, H had a potentially brilliant subversion right in the palm of it’s hand. With Ryosuke being a hopeless pervert who values women solely for their bodies, and who’s depth of character only reaches the level of ‘I like different poses,’ and Lisara drawing her energy from that pervert power, the only thing this show had to do to have me eating out of it’s hand was to not have anybody fall in love with him. If he was simply used as an object, as Lisara proclaimed in episode 1, then it would have been a very clever play on his habit of objectifying women. I can take the plot at face value… Trust me, there’s a lot worse ideas out there… And it makes sense that, under this arrangement she’d eventually get used to being naked around him. From there, she should have grown to see him as a necessary annoyance… A being less than a man, who she doesn’t feel remotely threatened by, like a little kid, or a brainless dog. In fact, the entire harem could have seen him this way, adding a surprising edge of feminism to the heaping helping of boobs that the show throws at us.
And as far as the romantic aspect of H goes, this change would have also helped Ryosuke become a much better character… He could have been emasculated by their treatment of him, faced his immature flaws, and forced himself to develop and grow in order to win more than just Lisara’s time. I can’t even begin to describe how refreshing a dynamic this would be, and I certainly can’t express how much good will I would have had for this title. But alas, this isn’t how things went… Lisara’s promise to use him as a power source was nothing more than the same old cliched Tsundere bullshit that we’ve grown accustomed to.
Every girl in the harem falls madly in love with this skeezwad, and he doesn’t start to show monogamous interest in anybody until the third quarter of the series, and it comes from pretty much out of nowhere, proving to the viewer that male perversion can only be overcome if a woman is willing to accept and tolerate it. Yeah, just love that womanizing douchebag, and he’ll only have eyes for you eventually. I wasn’t really expecting any better than that, but it would have been nice.
Then again, it’s not like that message will ever reach the ears of anybody whom it could damage… I can’t for the life of me imagine anybody enjoying this show without a bottle of lotion sitting beside them, and any negative message it sends will fly right over the heads of THAT market.
Oh, and speaking of all the girls falling in love with him, the funniest thing about H by far is how little it understands human emotion… Yeah, I know, big surprise, no harem characters are realistic. But we’re talking about a whole other level here. It’s not uncommon for harem girls to fall in love with the main character for no reason whatsoever, but this has to be the first anime I’ve ever seen where one of the girls doesn’t start to show an interest in him until another girl suggests it. Yep… No exaggeration there. One of them says “We both like Ryosuke,” and in so many words, the other one says “I do? Oh yeah, I do!” And the laziest love interest in the series was born.
Do I even have to mention that it gets worse than that? There’s a reveal halfway through that’s probably one of the most bewildering anime moments I’ve seen in a long time. Ryosuke skypes his mother for spoiler reasons, and a girl in the room asks her for some information regarding his bloodline. She says, in so many words, “Oh, by the way, I lied about your father being dead.” That’s it. No hesitation, no reluctance, she just drops what should have been a ton of bricks on him out of nowhere and with not nearly enough prodding to suddenly break sixteen years of silence. And his reaction? Mild surprise at best. She gives him a quick explanation, and the subject gets dropped faster than the beat at a Skrillex concert. And no, that’s not a spoiler worthy of a warning… I wanted it to be, as I was pretty damn sure the villain would turn out to be his father in a mask, but it never gets brought up again. It’s even more bafflingly stupid than Ryosuke’s mental dictionary.
Which reminds me… Remember that plot I mentioned earlier? The one I begrudgingly decided to take at face value? Yeah, it’s about as consistent as an everlasting gobstopper. According to the back of the DVD cover, Ryosuke can’t be perverted after Lisara’s used him for power, so he wants to help her so she can leave and his life can return to normal. Yeah, at no point in the show is that ever true. First of all, that’s not the reason he’s helping her… He’s doing it because she says he only has 3 months to live, and he wants her to save him. Second of all, he never stops being perverted… Although even when she’s buck naked right in front of him, he has to (I wish I didn’t remember this) memorize all of the dirty words in a dictionary, so he can call any dirty word to his mind when needed. Because it takes obsessive studying to come up with the word “Bath.”
And third of all, his childhood friend makes a contract with Lisara’s childhood friend, and her passion for life comes from her love of Ryosuke… Spoiler, yes, but you’ll figure that out long before it’s revealed. And get this… The exploitation of her life force NEVER causes her to stop being in love with him. I think that’s a problem, don’t you? That is, aside from the problem of her being in love with a skeezwad.
And oh, I know what you’re thinking… “It doesn’t matter if it’s stupid, and shamelessly puts flesh on parade despite some gaping plot holes, inhuman behavior, and elements that make absolutely no sense. Hell, Strike Witches was a booby show, and the logic revolving around the panties makes for an incomprehensible plot hole, and you love Strike Witches!.” Yeah, you’re right. Strike Witches was a stupid, idiotic mess with copious amounts of bare boobs. But you know what it wasn’t? Pretentious. Strike Witches was a blast from start to finish because it never tried to be anything deeper than action-packed cheesecake. But that wasn’t enough for H.
See, the story gets serious in the second half… Well, at least it tries, but all it ends up doing is making even less sense… And it tries it’s hand at some real drama. I’ll spare you most of it, including Ryosuke’s uncanny transformation into a perfect gentleman the moment he gets a legitimate chance to pork somebody… And talk about the villain’s motive, which is going to be a difficult thing to do without giving away any spoilers.
To put it in ambiguous terms, the villain’s motivation is driven by a disturbingly real threat to the very existence of life on this planet… It’s a threat that nobody is talking about yet, as it’s even more controversial than climate change, and the people who try to take a stand against it are demonized for their efforts. This is quite possibly the first time I’ve seen a fictional story try to tackle this issue, but as I learned before, I wasn’t expecting too much. Ryosuke and his harem are conflicted over this issue, which seems to be far too great a necessary evil to face… And I swear to god, the solution this story comes up with is one of the most contrived fictional solutions I have ever heard for anything. It’s steeped entirely in ignorance of human nature and whimsical sci-fi fantasy, which makes H feel all the more shallow and stupid for it’s efforts. It’s like listening to a ten year old say that Israel and Palestine should just hug it out, or seeing Superman solve the world’s problems by sending all the nukes into space. It’s a cute idea, but for the love of god, please don’t write a freaking story bout it!
If I haven’t already made this clear, H is incompetent down to it’s lowest possible level. The jokes are bad, none of the characters are likeable, the nudity is too constant and over-saturated to remain sexy for longer than the space of a single episode, and the music is made up of cookie-cutter dating sim tunes. It’s childish and stupid down to it’s very core, and while it’s offensive to women in some very creative ways, the only thing that keeps it from becoming completely morally repulsive is the fact that the harem in question doesn’t include any incestuous or lolicon characters. Hell, the one harem girl who’s still in junior high is also the only girl in the entire show who never does any unobscured nudity, because yeah, THAT’s going to save it at this point. The only reason I can see anybody watching this is because of the boobs… And if that’s enough for you, then congratulations, you’re eternally 14.
So I Can’t Play H is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Sentai Filmworks. It’s fairly inexpensive on most sites, with Amazon copies selling from 26 to 35 dollars, but if you were lucky enough, Rightstuf.com had it for 17.99 or 23.99, depending on your preferred format. There’s no dub as of yet, but knowing Sentai, they’re probably just waiting tentatively to see if this title is popular enough to justify spending money on a dub. It’s a shame they have the rights to it, because a show like this really belongs in the hands of Funimation. It’s one of the few titles I’d actually LIKE to see Jamie Marchi write the script for.
The DVD doesn’t include the final thirteenth OVA episode, and while that omission may be a completionist’s nightmare, I really think it’s better to just pretend that episode doesn’t exist. Why? Well, remember all those female characters that you’ve already seen naked in every possible form of undress, and from every possible angle that won’t violate Japan’s decency laws? Well, the final episode is a swimsuit competition! Yeah, that’s exactly what this show needed! No, I don’t want to learn more about the villain, or the whereabouts of Ryosuke’s dad, or the societal results of this show’s idiotic conclusion… I wanna see my fetishes catered to even harder and more gratuitously than before, in an episode that isn’t even a tenth as well animated as the series that preceded it.
So, as worthless as this show is, I can’t really call it the bottom of the barrel. The animation, quite frankly, is too beautiful for that. But it’s close. And keep in mind, the ecchi genre dwells in a barrel that’s every bit as deep as the Mariana trench, and it’s bottom is littered with even more despicable 1/10(or below) titles like Dears, Eiken, Love Love, Popotan, and Master of Martial Hearts. H is floating just a few feet above those titles, and about a dozen feet below School Days. That’s not a place any anime wants to be… Trust me, it’s really cold and dark down there, but it’s where this title belongs, and I can’t wait to post this review and instantly go about the task of forgetting about it. I give So I Can’t Play H a 2/10.