The Spring 2023 Anime Preview Guide
The Café Terrace and Its Goddesses
How would you rate episode 1 of
The Café Terrace and Its Goddesses ?
Community score: 3.5
What is this?
When Hayato's grandmother passed, he planned to sell her rundown café on the shore—not realizing that it was also home to five young women who call themselves her family?! Their desperation to keep the café open convinces Hayato to give it a shot...but even their best intentions might not be enough to make it work! And can he even work with these five unruly women? No matter what, he's got his work cut out for him! A fun new rom-com by the author of Fuuka and Suzuka!
How was the first episode?
Whether or not you'll get anything out of The Café Terrace and Its Goddesses will depend largely on two factors. First, are you a fan of fanservice-driven harem comedies? Second, if you have seen any of the fanservice-driven harem comedies produced in the last, I dunno, twenty-five years or so, do you desire to see anything new or interesting in the next iteration to drop off of the production line? If you answered “Yes” to Question Number One, and “No” to Question Number Two, then I suppose The Café Terrace and Its Goddesses may do the trick. Otherwise, well, prepare to be some degree of disappointed/bored/annoyed.
Everyone here knows the drill: After some contrived reason for spending years away from some family business or another, Main Character Guy returns home to find a number of strange but superficially attractive women taking up residence in his abode. Usually, there is some kind of contextual reason for Main Character Guy to walk in on each and every one of these unsuspecting women in some state of undress or another — Love Hina was set in a hot springs, for example, so at least you could argue that there would, on some occasions, be reasons for a bunch of girls to get naked together for extended periods of time — but The Café Terrace and Its Goddesses is self-aware enough to know that its target audience has long since abandoned any need for silly pretenses like “narrative justification” and “character behavior that would be even vaguely recognizable as attempting to be believable.” Thus, when Main Character Guy arrives back at the café belonging to his estranged and recently deceased grandmother, he just so happens to stumble into each of its five employees as they are all walking around either half- or buck-naked, then they all shriek and/or physically attack him, then they all sit down and figure out the silly circumstances that allowed all of this to happen, etc, etc.
All of the girls that Main Character Guy meets technically have individual names and personalities, but again, if you're familiar enough with the game this show is playing, none of those identifying details matter much in the grand scheme of things, so you might as well do what I always do in these situations and simply commit their hairstyles to memory. We've got Short-Blonde-Hair-Lady, Pigtails Lady, Unfortunate-Green-Bowl-Cut Lady, Blue-Hair-With-a-Ponytail Lady, and Red-Hair-With-Those-Long Tendril-Thingies-That-Frame-Her-Face-(Who-Is-Basically-Guaranteed-to-Be-Endgame) Lady. Throughout the episode, all of these girls use every trick up their sleeve to try and cajole the miserly Main Character Guy into changing his mind about demolishing the café and selling the lot to build a parking lot, yet none of their wacky attempts to seduce/trick/sexually-assault-and-then-frame MCG work out. It is up to RHwTLTTTFHF(WIBGtBE) Lady to pull a Ratatouille on him with some home-cooked food to remind our guy that forcing five adult women out on the street and destroying the last connection he has to his only family for a few bucks would probably be a shitty thing to do (not to mention the fact that we wouldn't have an anime, then, either).
To be honest, nothing about The Café Terrace and Its Goddesses is actively terrible or migrane-inducing. It's all just so played out and low effort, though, that I cannot help but be bored to tears by it. If its visuals were a little more animated and livelier, to give the comedy some much needed pep, I see this show working as pure, shameless comedy, but alas, it apparently wants us to take it at least a little bit seriously, so my dream of a Studio Trigger styled rom-com from Hell continues to go unfulfilled. I'd recommend that you don't waste your time with this one. There are funnier comedies and sweeter romances abound this season, and if all you're looking for is some skin, well…you're literally on the internet right now, so you can save some time and avoid those pesky light bars with a quick click of the ol' Google button.
My god, it's 2023 and we're still letting Seo Kouji make harem anime, huh? Will wonders never cease?
Flippancy towards the creator's checkered portfolio notwithstanding, I've certainly seen worse harem/fanservice vehicles than this premiere. If you're looking to see at least five women of similar body shape in various states of undress, you'll be well-served here. Café Terrace wastes no time getting right to the T&A, with our hapless hero walking in on all five of his dead grandma's female tenants in either their underwear or their birthday suit. It's contrived and artificial, but if you cared about that you wouldn't be watching a Seo Kouji show, would you?
Seriously though, that half of this premiere that is purely fanservice is fine. Sure, some weirdly proportioned perspective shots make some of the girls look like they don't have nipples, and any full nudity is censored for the Blu-rays. Though the cheesecake looks fine and comes hard and fast, no pun intended. I'm not personally wild about any of the girls' designs, save the soft-spoken guitarist who keeps a pack of chocolate cigarettes on her person at all times. Still, the show respects your time enough to throw in a fanservice scene for each of them rather than pacing it out across multiple focus episodes. It knows what it's here to do and accomplishes that goal with professional efficiency.
The other half of the show – the sentimental found family story about a guy taking up his dead grandma's business – fares far worse, mainly because it's in the same show as all the tig old bitties. It's hard to buy into the extremely hackneyed story of Hayate's troubled relationship with his late grandmother when it's sandwiched between the girls trying to sexually blackmail him. That's always been Kouji's issue – he can draw an attractive pinup, but any attempts at more serious drama turn into awful soap operas that clash with the fanservice parts. None of these characters are well-rounded enough to carry the drama and are far too unlikeable to follow for wacky shenanigans. So suffering through the lousy story becomes the tax you pay for the fanservice.
Worse yet, Café Terrace doesn't even have the promise of a character being tragically killed by a random truck to send the story off the rails, so there's no reason to watch it ironically. That said, there doesn't seem to be much else in the way of ecchi shows this season, so if that's your bag, I guess you can do the opposite of reading Playboy for the articles.
You know, I respect an anime that tells me exactly what it is within the first minute. The Café Terrace and Its Goddesses make it abundantly clear—and do so through show-not-tell, to boot. (We see all five female leads in various states of undress at that time.) This is a good ol' fanservice harem rom-com, and it's not ashamed of it.
Our five titular "goddesses" each follow one of the popular stereotypes: the tsundere, the dander, the kuudere, the meathead, and the troublemaker. Each has an hourglass figure that puts supermodels to shame. The plot is likewise a classic of the genre: A group of girls is forced to live with one guy—who is also their landlord.
The first episode is all about setting up the status quo. Returning home after his grandma's death, Hayato finds five girls living in his house and working at his grandmother's cafe. He and the girls are adversarial from the start—not just because they attack and hogtie him at their first meeting. He wants to tear the place down, turn it into a parking lot, and enjoy a stream of cash with minimal effort.
This episode is basically about the girls trying to trick, seduce, or blackmail him, with each attempt blowing up in their faces. But what's interesting about this otherwise cliché episode is that despite Riho's attempts to play puppet master—and failing spectacularly—another one of the girls is playing the part far more effectively.
Akane largely stays out of the antics of the others but ensures that Hayato reconsiders his plans nonetheless. She leaves the door to the cafe open and pretends to smoke a cigarette to see if he cares about the business. When he shows that he does, she points it out to make him confront his feelings. Later, when she sees his reaction to the demolition company employee ripping the sign off the door, she sends Riho to give him his favorite childhood food—made from his grandma's recipe, for an extra emotional hit. She may have the fewest lines of all the girls, but she is the most interesting character of the bunch.
With solid character designs, and at least one character that genuinely intrigues me, I might give this show another chance next week. I mean, it's definitely a fanservice anime, but part of me wonders if it might be something more.
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