The just-completed The Kawai Complex…” (Crunchyroll) is lightweight but fun–especially if you have fond memories of the 1980s anime classic Maison Ikkoku. Like that genre-defining classic it is a slice-of-life/romantic comedy about the misadventures of a student who shares a run-down apartment building with a collection of disreputable characters. The tone of the series is quite similar even if the characters are somewhat different.
The hero is Kazunari Usa who has just been admitted to a high school far from home, and who prevailed on his parents to let him live on his own. (Unlike the hero of Maison Ikkoku he is not an infuriating loser, just young and naive.) His parents have booked him into an inexpensive boarding house called Kawai Manor (Kawaisou). Due to various complications he will only be able to check out his new accommodations after attending his first day of high school.
While walking through the library he notices a girl reading quietly by herself in the corner. There’s something about her…he’s always dreamed of having a refined intellectual girlfriend and she seems just the type.
Then their eyes meet for a moment and he’s hopelessly smitten. (OK, he’s very, very young.)
After school he finally gets to go to his boarding house and is greeted by Sumiko the building manager. She is an elderly lady who wears traditional clothes and is given to dry understated witticisms. (Obviously this story is not going to go the route of Maison Ikkoku.)
Kazunari (whom everyone calls “Usa-kun”) is disturbed to find that his “room” is actually half of a large room divided by a curtain, and he is expected to share this with a roommate.
Shirosaki, his new roommate, is a disgusting pervert. He really isn’t an evil person. He just wants to find a nice girl who will tie him up and abuse him. However he is extremely annoying.
Usa-kun is about to walk out and look for alternate accommodations when he discovers that the fascinating girl from the library also lives in the building. He instantly changes his mind about leaving.
The girl, Ritsu Kawai, is the granddaughter of the building’s owner. She is obsessed with books and not easily approachable. (She also likes cosplay though she won’t admit it.)
An older office worker named Mayumi Nishikino also lives in the building. A perpetual loser in the game of love, she rarely says anything that isn’t sarcastic and she is given to drunken binges.
The sixth resident is a college student named Sayaka Watanabe. She is extremely cute and extremely evil, a classic Mean Girl.
Usa-kun’s attempts to get closer to Ritsu are frustrated by the fact that she is super-super-introverted. It’s not so much that she isn’t interested in boys, it’s just that she finds social interactions overwhelming, to the point where she often lashes out to end them. She walks around with her nose in a book, partly because she really likes books, but also because it helps her avoid having to interact with people.
But Usa-kun eventually learns that she likes to talk about books, so he starts reading the books she likes so that he can discuss them with her. This is not easy since her tastes are far more advanced than his. (But even if things don’t work out with Ritsu he is at least being exposed to a better class of literature.)
The series ended after 12 episodes without really resolving anything. You have to watch it for the jokes, not the romance.
Of course Maison Ikkoku ended with two weddings, but only after 96 episodes and 5½ years of story time. Even if it is renewed I would not expect Kawai Complex to get 96 episodes. This is a different era and it’s highly unlikely that a seinen anime could get that sort of run. (But it would probably take even longer in story years since Usa and Ritsu are not likely to get married until after they have graduated from college.)
The Japanese title is Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou and if you know a little Japanese you will probably think that means “We’re all pitiful.” Actually it’s written as “We’re all at Kawai Manor.” Just another of those puns based on kanji that are pronounced the same but mean different things.
The full English title is pretty bad: The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior. That actually contains two puns, so I’m sure whoever came up with it feels pretty proud of himself. However it could hardly be worse from a marketing standpoint. I don’t know of any English-speaking fan who thinks the recent trend for anime to have long inane titles is a good thing. It is not a good idea for English translators to imitate it.