This past week, longer anime that began airing in the Fall 2022 season and continued into Winter 2023 reached their conclusions, including extremely popular titles such as Blue Lock and the sixth season of My Hero Academia. However, there are also some lesser-known anime that recently finished airing. One such series is the animated adaptation of the manga Play It Cool, Guys by Kokone Nata. I stumbled across this show by chance, but it ended up being one of my favorite anime of the season!
Play It Cool, Guys (also known by its Japanese title, Cool Doji Danshi) is an episodic comedy from Pierrot, which is the studio behind highly rated series such as Naruto, Tokyo Ghoul, Black Clover, Yona of the Dawn, and Bleach, among many others. Unlike these famous action-packed fantasies, however, Play It Cool, Guys is a laidback slice of life that takes place in modern-day Japan. The story follows four primary characters: a 20-year-old Economics major named Hayate Ichikura, a 17-year-old high handball player named Shun Futami, a 19-year-old Graphic Design student named Soma Shiki, and a 27-year-old office worker named Takayuki Mima. Halfway through the season, 27-year-old novelist Motoharu Igarashi also joins the group. Through a series of coincidences, the young men all end up meeting each other and becoming unlikely friends. All of them are connected in random but realistic ways; for instance, Soma is a waiter at the café Shun’s older sister owns, Soma’s older brother is Mima’s coworker, Igarashi is Hayate’s favorite author, and Mima is Igarashi’s childhood friend. It’s a great example of how we live in such a small world, and how the smallest interactions can lead to the greatest friendships.
At first, it seems like the premise of the series is that despite their different personalities and ages, the boys all share the conflicting traits of being particularly good-looking yet clumsy. However, in reality, they all just happen to make common mistakes like pushing a door that says “PULL” or getting ready for work without realizing they have the day off. What this show emphasizes is not that they mess up frequently despite being attractive, but rather how they each react to these slip-ups. Shun, for example, tries to lie his way around his flubs by saying he did them on purpose, while Soma laughs at himself and Mima genuinely doesn’t notice that he did anything unusual.
Nearly every episode of this show had me sounding like the Vine of the person looking at a meme and saying, “Hahaha! I do that.” Everyone in the world, regardless of their circumstances or personality, can relate to at least one thing that these characters do. It’s thanks to that level of relatability that this anime was so enjoyable to watch. A lot of the characters’ actions do give you a dose of secondhand embarrassment, but I always found myself laughing instead of cringing. And I don’t mean just a smile or a chuckle: I’m talking about genuine, hearty laughs that my roommates could probably hear through the walls. All 24 episodes left me feeling good.
As much as I adored this anime, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a masterpiece. On the one hand, the 10-minute episodes made it very palatable: it was easy to squeeze in a new episode even on a busy day while keeping up with it as it aired, and the quickness of each episode makes it perfect for binge-watching now that it’s done airing. On the other hand, though, it can feel like the episodes go by too quickly and leave you wanting more. One could argue that it would have been more effective to divide the show into 12 regular-length episodes instead of 24 mini-episodes, but in my opinion, the bite-size segments fit well into the short time allotted. I do, however, think it could have done with shorter opening and ending sequences, because with them lasting about 1 minute 30 seconds each and the total length of the episode (including the opening and ending) being only 11 minutes and 10 seconds, over 20% of the episode is taken up by the theme songs.
Additionally, the art is rather plain and two-dimensional. Obviously, all animated media is technically 2D, but the art in this anime is particularly flat: there is very little depth and practically no shading. The animation looks older than 2022, and not exactly in a charming or nostalgic way. This is just me being nitpicky, though; there are many anime that I’ve had to drop or force myself to finish because the animation is just so hard to look at, and this was NOT one of those anime. I just wouldn’t call the art one of its strong suits, is all.
My last complaint is that Igarashi joined the group so late in the series. The first four episodes are introductions to the four main characters (in fact, the title for each of those episodes is the character’s name), but then in episode 13, someone new suddenly appears. The opening and ending sequences even change to include him. Igarashi fits in well with the others, and his connections to each of them are just as interesting as their connections to each other, but it throws off the balance of the show a bit.
If I had to choose one word to describe this anime, it would be delightful. It’s such a perfect example of a feel-good show: no angst, no sadness, just lightheartedness and laughter. It’s far more than just attractive anime boys being cute: it’s a reminder that even the people that look the coolest are only human, and everyone makes mistakes. This is the type of anime you can watch for all moods: if you’re sad, it’ll cheer you up; if you’re angry, it’ll calm you down; if you’re happy, it’ll lift your spirits even higher. Watching it is a relaxing, almost therapeutic experience. If you ever need a good laugh or a quick pick-me-up, watch a couple of episodes of Play It Cool, Guys!