Episode 12 – Engage Kiss

How would you rate episode 12 of
Engage Kiss ?

Community score: 3.9

The episode title may be “Believe in Him,” but this is the least I’ve been inclined to accept Shu as a protagonist worth the merest modicum of my faith. If you’ve been following my reviews, you know I’ve been back and forth on Engage Kiss‘s quality—principally the degree to which it’s been able to capture the edgelord spirit of a bygone anime era. And in between flashes of true inspiration, it’s been too dull to accrue any real merit. This week, however, was different. I could feel hatred welling up in me while watching Shu take the narrative’s reins, and in a weird way, I think this is a good development for Engage Kiss. It’s a very stupid development, mind you, but if it can make me feel something about the series, I consider that a net positive.

You know how last week I argued that Kisara was too good for Shu? Well let me triple down on that sentiment now that I’m armed with the knowledge that she wasn’t even eating his memories this whole time. She was just keeping them warm for him! This is a monumentally dumb plot twist for a lot of reasons, including basic logistical ones. But I don’t care about logic as much as I care about the way this snaps off one of the major thematic branches supporting the story. The only interesting thing about Kisara and Shu’s relationship was their mutual complicity in his self-destructive spiral, and how their relationship only worked in the context of this toxic give-and-take. That was spicy! However, Kisara flipping the script like this removes that sense of shared tragic acceptance. If she bore the burden all on her own, and Shu’s back at square one having lost nothing, then that foundation never existed in the first place.

Shu hasn’t even lost Kisara! You would think he’d have to pay some price for his hubris and selfishness, but nope, this total amnesiac accepts his sadsack monologuing and rushes to his aid in the end. Engage Kiss tries to draw a cute parallel to Shu’s handwritten Memento-esque notes to himself, but unless Kisara also has a history of waking up with a memory hangover, her instant acceptance of the situation doesn’t hold water. But, again, I don’t care about plot holes. I care about characters, and Shu uses Kisara’s sacrifice to turn into an even bigger douchebag. I instantly recoiled at the naked chauvinism of him saying Kisara wasn’t “friend or foe” but instead “an ignorant girl we need to protect.” And it’s framed like a heroic moment! But considering the show sucked everything complicated out of Kisara in order to compress her into a demure footstool for Shu’s advancement as protagonist, I suppose I can’t act surprised.

To reiterate, I hate this development. However, edgelord anime are full of shitty boys riding the coattails of their actually interesting female characters, so I can respect Engage Kiss staying true to its roots. And honestly, the episode instantly reeled me back in as soon as it explained Kanna’s motivations. While her body was pupating underground, her consciousness had a front row Clockwork Orange-style seat to her big brother banging every woman in Bayron City. Now she’s sated with NTR energy and thirsty for murderous revenge. This is the most insane villain origin story Engage Kiss could have whipped up, and I’m in the stands cheering for her. I also couldn’t be happier that the show seems to have completely forgotten about Asmodeus. A one-winged imouto, possessing the emotional intelligence of a toddler, lashing out because she saw her gigolo oniichan lay pipe in every other female lead in the series? She’s the most sympathetic villain of all time. I hope she rips all their spines out.

Before I wrap up, here’s the part where I complain about how I haven’t been given a reason to care about anything else in this series. This week, the characters make a big deal out of preserving Bayron City’s independence as a haven free from international meddling. I’m not even going to touch any real-world political parallels, because even if Engage Kiss is trying to say something about Japanese nationalism, it’s too half-cooked to actually make a coherent statement. In-universe, I’d be down with their wry affection for Bayron as a sanctuary for greedy scumbags and misfits, but we’ve hardly been shown any of the city’s personality. Bayron as a setting exists only to be attacked by demons. If Engage Kiss wanted me to identify with the city in ways beyond that, it needed to spend more time on its streets following different characters and reveling in the seediness.

I don’t like to dwell on ratings. I assign them as an afterthought, purely out of obligation. Here, however, I want to close by explaining myself a bit. I’m giving this episode one star, because basically everything in Engage Kiss‘ narrative is falling apart at this point. The final hoverboard-assisted action scene is fun, but that’s the only truly good part of this episode (well, that and seeing Sharon on her motorcycle in full holy regalia). That said, I also enjoyed myself here more than most of my weeks with Engage Kiss. While it’s well off the rails by now, it’s embracing its trashiness more theatrically than ever. So I’m awarding it five stars out of respect for Kanna, the true heroine. With just one episode to go, somebody is going to be wiping this slate clean, and I hope it’s her.

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Engage Kiss is currently streaming on
Crunchyroll.

Steve’s Twitter DMs are open to vampires and vampires only. Otherwise, catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.

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