Trapped In A Dating Sim
There once was a guy forced to play an otome date sim to satisfy his sisters curiosity about the game (while being too lazy to play it herself). While not a fan of the genre, the game itself was pretty absurd with nearly every trope jammed in. Not only did he have to play it, he had to play it through ALL routes until he could get the final harem ending. Then he fell down the stairs and died.
In a very bad turn of events he's reincarnated as "Leon Fou Barfort" in the very game he hated. Not even as a main character but as a miscellaneous background character. Leon makes the best of it until he comes of age, then under threat of marrying a random old lady decides to attend Holtfort Academy to find a wife, which is the very backdrop for the main game plot. It's not easy since males in Otome games are treated like cattle.
Leon notices some differences though. The game heroin isn't interacting with the 5 romantic options. Instead some other mysterious girl has taken her place. Things will get more and more complex as Leon gets involved with both the game's heroin and main antagonist, then becoming the most despised person in school. Even so it might be worth it if he could finally take out his frustrations on some of the game characters that once annoyed him.
This title will require explaining, as many faults I criticise other titles for are present here but I give it a pass. It's easy to say "It's on purpose!" but that's a cop out answer. Instead Trapped In a Date sim is very up front about the non sense story coupled with the mismatched randomness fantasy environment. That wouldn't be enough, however this anime does such a great job at utilizing its concept, and I've seen many titles fail in this regard. If you like the concept, you'll probably like the show.
I hate anime with overpowered characters, however it works in this case. With his previous game knowledge, Leon obtains forgotten relic technology which makes him insanely overpowered. He's then able to crush the game's romantic interests with absolutely humiliating defeats, and thoroughly revels in the fact that no one can do anything about it. This leads to nearly the entire school hating him. Later on this becomes a plot point after he solves all the problems for the heroin, only to realize he's never allowed her personal growth as intended in the game.
That leads to another good point of the show. The game heroin, Angelica; has her place taken by another girl (who is also reincarnated). This leaves her a bit aimless since she's now outside the story too. Similarity Leon's actions result in the game's antagonist Olivia, breaking off her engagement to the prince (game romantic interest #1) so she has nothing to do either. Counter to expectations, Angelica and Olivia become good friends; with the challenges of their friendship becoming a strong point of the anime.
Although shallow on the surface (intentionally) the other characters work well too. Leon finds that the games romantic interests have their own side issues outside of what was seen in the game, humanizing them to some extent. Amusingly Leon is content at leaving the whole date-sim relationship thing happen without him. The romantic interests are annoying and somewhat shallow, and the girl incarnated as the game heroin has a terrible personality. They all kind of deserve each other.
I found it hard to stop watching this anime because I was always looking forward to what weird thing would happen in the next episode. In so many shows I'd think it would be cool if "this or that" would happen. Trapped In a Date Sim seems exceptional at delivering entertainment for what it has.
What are the drawbacks? The animation is absolutely terrible. Like REALLY bad and fairly obvious by the incredibly generic intro. The character art is very inconsistent, sometimes looking good and other times looking... "not good". Taken from the character development and relationship evolution perspective, the anime flows okay. However there isn't so much of a story as it is a chain of "game events" which are generally not known to the viewer, and thus you have to accept whatever the anime shovels at you next as being "story progression".
So often I watch anime hoping something interesting would happen and mostly ending up disappointed. Finally this anime gives me something I yearned to see: just go crazy with the concept and actually DO SOMETHING WITH IT. I did like the characters too, and in particular my rule of picking the rich girl with big boobs is an easy choice in this anime, but the heroin is pretty likable too. The poor animation is a big drag on an anime I think deserves better but that's about it. The "story" is incomplete but I'm not sure that matters much in this case. Well worth watching in my opinion.
Leon: The best way to get revenge is to become happy yourself. Trying to make someone unhappy is a waste of time. Spending time on yourself is far more meaningful.
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reviewed by archen in 2023