Revenge. It’s a great motivator. The thirst for revenge is the driving force behind many of the dramatic stories we enjoy. But as anyone who has let revenge take control of their life can attest, such a thing is not healthy. Certainly not for a long as the protagonist of Masamune-kun’s Revenge has.

Masamune-kun’s Revenge is the story of Masamune Makabe, a boy who has spent eight years of his life remaking himself so that he can enact revenge on a girl who wronged him. As a child, Masamune was a weak, pudgy boy who often found himself the target of bullying. After he was rescued by the girl, Aki Adagaki, he fell in love and confessed his feelings to her only to be turned down and dubbed, “Tonsoku” (pig’s feet). His heart broken, Masamune changed his name and his behavior so that one day he could trick Aki into falling in love with him so that he could turn her down the same way she did him.

The first episode of the series, which was shown at a recent premiere event, lays out the basic setup for the series. We are introduced to Masamune and given a brief overview of his character traits. Shortly after, we’re introduced to Aki and other secondary characters in Masamune’s social circle. It is at this time that Masamune encounters Aki and realizes that she’s the girl he was intending to enact his revenge upon. And from there, lighthearted comedy unfolds.

Masamune-kun’s Revenge is a romantic sitcom. You have the rather quirky setup and the character agendas and the mix-ups that lead to weekly entertainment. And yet, there’s an underlying darkness to the series that feels all too real. Right from the first episode, you have elements of public humiliation, psychological trauma, blackmail, and emotional manipulation. And then there’s the protagonist himself.

Masamune is an individual driven by revenge. He is so driven by it that he has spent half his life changing who he is. This is no easy feat. I mentioned earlier that revenge is a great motivator, but it’s also a double-edged sword. Single-minded obsession can blind one and make them miss out on more constructive opportunities.

Not only has Masamune let his desire to get his pound of flesh control his life, but he is also using his transformation to game the system. It is established early on that Masamune recognizes that being handsome gives him a free pass at much of life. Masamune exploits his aesthetic features to his advantage, and even though he remembers that he was once pudgy and undesirable, he doesn’t express empathy to others who are viewed as unattractive. If anything, he looks down on them as poor sods who haven’t had the foresight to play things smart like he did. Masamune’s persistent pursuit of his own vendetta have turned him into the very thing he seeks revenge against.

As a series, Masamune-kun’s Revenge seems to reflect its protagonist in that, externally, it appears to be a funny romantic comedy, but peel away the outer layers and a dark ugliness hides underneath. Here is an individual who has let his obsession dictate his life for the past eight years. So what happens once that obsession is fulfilled? Part of Masamune’s own identity lies in his plan for revenge, but once that part is gone, what will remain? An aimless youth whose one crowning achievement is that he managed to hurt someone… It’s not exactly a pleasant thought.

If Masamune-kun’s Revenge was a suspense or drama series, a Shakespearean sort of result may come as no surprise. But, despite the rather unsavory implications, the series is a romantic comedy. This means that it is very unlikely that we’ll be seeing a tragic ending. Rather, from its setup, the series feels like it has a different agenda in store for its protagonist. Perhaps, through his interactions with Aki and the other characters, Masamune will regain the humanity he lost the day he swore revenge. Perhaps, Masamune-kun’s Revenge isn’t a story about Masamune’s vengeance at all, but a story about saving his soul.

Masamune-kun’s Revenge is scheduled to premiere on January 5, 2017 on the Tokyo MX channel in Japan.

Images: ⒸHazuki Takeoka, Tiv, Ichijinsha/Masamune-kun no Revenge Production Committee

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