|"...invaded my heart instead."|
Of all the things I thought this show might turn out to be, the one thing I did not expect was for it to be genuinely good.
If you read my initial rundown of this season's shows, you might have been able to tell that I did not have very high hopes for Invaders of the Rokujyoma!?. After all, it was just another entry in a long line of light novel-adapted harem comedies, which have generally been very inconsistent in quality. I figured that the show would be something light and easy, but probably at best a bit better than average quality-wise. Instead, the show turned out to be one of my favorite parts of any anime season: the surprise show that manages to defy initial impressions to become a very enjoyable show. There's just a certain joy in finding out that a show that you put in even just a mustard seed's worth of faith in turns out to be close to a mountain-mover.
Why did Rokujyoma turn out so well? What made it one of the (many) shows I looked forward to every week, instead of just something I could pull up Friday night during dinner to pass the time? The answer to that was probably more important than the final score of the show itself, as it represents what can ultimately make other shows like it successful, in a genre where failure is all too expected. And the answer is quite simple: it was an incredibly heartfelt show.
More than trying to do anything new or original, more than trying to be funny (though the show could be quite funny, it was up against some major competition in the comedy genre), and more than trying to have some grand plot, the show sought to create endearing, likable characters, and have them grow in their own development and also develop natural, close relationships with each other. From Koutarou showing (not just telling) that he considered the ghost Sanae as family, and how his relationship grows with the other girls, to how the entire group becomes a close-knit group that comes to each other's rescue when one of them ends up in a pinch, the show is really about the warmth of human relationship in various forms. It's especially nice considering how everyone considered each other enemies at first, to see how with some time and understanding, even enemies can become like family.
Of course, it's easy to just go through the motions of being a heartfelt show, but thankfully, Rokujyoma not only had the right idea in going the heartfelt route, but also had the writing and execution to pull it off well. It's nothing especially deep, and still follows many of the genre's usual conventions, but it knows which tropes work and which ones need to be avoided or modified to move forward the characters' development. (The end of Yurika's arc, in particular, is a perfect example of what could have been a frustrating end averted by changing it just enough to allow significant progress.)
It also helps that the show is a lot of fun, as the girls' various backgrounds allow the show to explore everything from sci-fi action to magical girl fantasy and other little adventure sub-genres. That said, it's still not a particularly special show, and while I did consider giving it a raw score of B+, I think it is perhaps a bit too conventional in ways that ultimately keep it at a (still respectable) B. My personal score of 8.6/10.0 is also not among the highest of the season, but it is a very good score in and of itself and far higher than I had predicted it might be going in.
Again, though, more important than the scores are some simple but powerful things I gathered from this show. First, it is that, in my opinion, the most important thing that a show can be is heartfelt. There are various ways a show can achieve that, but the bottom line is, if I cannot care about the characters and their relationships, I don't care how original or action-packed or deep a show is, I'll find it hard to be motivated to continue on with the show. One might notice that I don't watch a whole lot of action shows any given season; that's because, by and large, I've found action shows to be devoid of heart, preferring to emphasize flashy battles over characterization or relationships. (There are exceptions, of course.) And if there's one thing that cute girls doing cute things shows consistently excel at, it is in being heartwarming in its relational portrayals, hence why I'm a fan of such shows.
And the second thing I got from Rokujyoma is, there is no reason to give up hope on the light novel harem romcom yet. While the genuinely good ones like Rokujyoma are not as common as I would like, as long as there are authors and directors out there who are dedicated to telling good, heartfelt stories even while under the pressure of following along with popular conventions of the medium, there is no reason to believe that the genre (or anime as a whole) is dying anytime soon. I know there are plenty who would disagree with me, who believe that what anime needs is more convention defying originality or whatnot, and that's fine; anime's sheer variety is definitely its biggest strength, and expanding that variety is a good thing as long as the execution is there to back it up. But "variety" also means continuing to produce good works in established genres, and for those of us who continue to put even just a little hope in light novel adaptations, it's shows like this that keep us going.