Romantic Killer is proof that Shojo Anime can have great character growth

Romantic Killer is proof that Shojo Anime can have great character growth

Recently, a widely held belief about anime was undermined when Kaguya-sama: Love is War – Ultra Romantic surpassed Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood as the most popular anime ever on MyAnimeList. The idea that shojo titles can never become as popular as shonen titles — no doubt supported by the popularity of Naruto, Dragon Ball and more recently, My Hero Academia and Demon Slaughter – was surprisingly proven wrong. The 2022 century Romantic killerwith its focus on an anti-heroine protagonist and an action-driven narrative, has come to confirm that shojo can be just as good as shonen, if not better.

Romantic killer is not as popular as Kaguya-sama, whose final season currently holds third place overall on MyAnimeList, but its rebellion against shojo tropes makes it a refreshing show that could potentially revolutionize the genre. Utilizing the reverse harem concept, Romantic killer undermines the audience’s expectations by giving them more than what they are used to getting. Instead of a trite romance, the show turns out to be a careful exploration of friendship, teenage life and even trauma. It manages this through the careful creation and development of interesting characters that are far from typical shojo anime protagonists.

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Anzu’s transformation into romantic killer

Romantic Killer junta

The first step that the series takes to distance itself from other reverse harem shows is to make the main character an anti-heroine. Romantic killer gives Anzu an unconventional personality — she is totally uninterested in love, her only concerns are her cat Momohiki, chocolate and video games. The goal of the show is therefore to make her finally fall in love. Riri, a magical creature from another world, is tasked with transforming her into the protagonist of one of her otome games, surrounded by handsome boys whom she must eventually date.

However, the show doesn’t stop here. Anzu’s character would be pretty flat – even too familiar – if that was all there was to her. While the first episode wants to trick the audience into thinking just that, as the series continues, Anzu is revealed to be a generous friend, as well as a kind and caring person who never backs down in the face of injustice. It was her support when she was in middle school that gave her friend Saki the courage to speak up after being sexually harassed by another student.

As a consequence, Anzu’s metamorphosis, which still occurs, is more complex than usual. While meeting and growing friendships with Tsukasa, Junta, and Hijiri allows her to grow out of her childish attachment to an antisocial lifestyle, she also proves that she has always been a great person. Naturally, the new Anzu likes to go out more and take care of her appearance, but her change is a revelation and enhancement of the beautiful features she already had.

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The characters that populate Anzu’s harem are more than just the bishon

romantic killer tsukasa

Perhaps by example Ouran High School Host Club, which holds up even now after 16 years, Anzu’s ‘reverse harem’ is completely transformed by their friendship with her. Even Junta, her childhood friend who needs very little change to flourish, is forced to grow. Once an overweight boy with little social status, Junta is now an accomplished athlete and handsome teenager, but his insecurities still hold him back. It’s his newfound bond with Anzu, as well as the competition he finds in Tsukasa, that pushes him to take risks and give his chances with Anzu a real shot.

Hijiri, the spoiled rich kid whose first encounter with Anzu involves running her over with a car and then forcing her to go on a date with him, is perhaps the least interesting character, but still worth mentioning. Despite his dissimilarity, Hijiri proves to be more than just a “tsundere”, as Anzu immediately defines him. His willingness to recognize and work with his arrogance and entitlement shows Hijiri’s hardworking spirit and open mind. Although initially spurred on by his desire to go out with Anzu, he eventually accepts that he needs to change and asks for nothing in return.

Nevertheless, it is Tsukasa’s character development that leaves the strongest impression on the audience. Cold and aloof, he comes across from the outset as the typical brooding type that shojo heroines fall in love with – a sort of evolution of Kodocha’s Akito Hayama. However, his aversion to social interactions is revealed to stem from unresolved trauma. Terrified by an older woman who became his stalker, his every action is an attempt to prevent something like this from happening again. In his case, Anzu’s disinterest in him becomes his chance to actually open up and bond with a person for the first time since the incident. Little by little, he overcomes his fear and learns to trust people again.

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Riri’s ultimate sacrifice shows true growth

romantic killer anzu, riri, tsukasa and junta hook up

In a remarkable twist, another character goes through a profound change thanks to his relationship with Anzu: Riri, the magical creature in charge of Anzu’s love life. As they struggle to overcome Anzu’s resistance to romance, Riri learns that they know nothing about the human experience or love. At the end of the series, when Anzu is in real danger, Riri realizes that they care more about Anzu’s well-being than their mission. It is their sacrifice – saving Anzu in exchange for their freedom – that shows their growth. Riri has finally become human. In the end, they get to live with Anzu and become part of her “reverse harem”, in a surprising twist that makes Romantic killer even more original.

It has been noticed that Romantic killer almost resembles a shonen anime more than a shojo. However, one could argue that the show exploits the genre’s tropes and elevates them by giving them new meaning. The Bishon are still the Bishon, but they have personalities and struggles to overcome, and the heroine still falls in love, but on her own terms and at her own pace. Romantic killer proves that there is no fixed way to write romance; in fact, it challenges future anime to rewrite their stories and characters to make them more extraordinary than ever.

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