To Be A Heroine box art

  • Genre: Isekai, coming of age, thriller, drama, comedy, adventure, heart squeezes, friendship, potty humour, wow
  • Episodes: 7
  • Studio: Haoliners Animation League

Have you ever fallen in love with a dream? Not in that way you perv! True love. The type that sneaks up on you. The type that can be difficult and frustrating. When that other person is your best friend and your hero but also the one you absolutely need to protect at all costs! What would you do to see them again? And you know how dreams are. Tricky and fleeting. Before you know it, they flicker out of your mind without a trace. What if you missed someone from the very bottom of your heart, who you couldn’t remember at all? How far would you go to find them again? All the way to another world?

Do you know why I chose to watch this series? Because I liked the title. I liked the idea of an ensemble cast that had a heroine. That’s all. I knew nothing about it. I can say without hesitation that To Be A Heroine is the most surprising anime series I’ve seen in years. It caught me completely off guard and made quite the impression. Even now, it hovers on the edges of my brain. I decided to write this review because I just couldn’t concentrate on anything else. 

To be a Heroine 1 (8)
I always suspected this would happen someday

 Two little factoids to give you a bit of production background here. To Be A Heroine is a spiritual successor to the short program To Be A Hero (which I have not seen). It’s also a Chinese Japanese co-production and it’s not subtle about it.

What does that mean? For one, the art has a certain quality to it. It’s still very much an anime aesthetic but there seem to be some other influences in the mix. Something in the proportions and angles that makes it look like, well, a manhwa. Which is Korean so I’m not quite sure why this is.  The animation is fine, but you can tell the budget wasn’t illimited. Not that this matters at all for the story. Some of the battle scenes could have been a touch more fluid or dynamic but again, I’m not sure that really would have been a plus. I’ll get back to it.

Where the mixed roots are most apparent though, is in the voice acting. That’s because half the series is in Japanese while the other half is in Chinese. And that is AWESOME! I strongly recommend you see this subtitled. They even throw in some French in there, and it’s the best French I’ve heard outside of an actual French movie. The constant back and forth between languages is such an interesting experience, especially since it brings with it a change in intonation and delivery style. It’s something that I had never seen done in any anime before. I loved it.

To be a Heroine 1 (22)
looks like my commute

However, this one is all about the story. It’s an isekai with a penchant for super childish blue humour, with some nice battle action, a surprisingly tender coming of age story and a tense criminal thriller set in the world of Big Pharmaceuticals. I’m not joking. I’ve tried to describe this over and over again without just simply telling the whole story (which would be a huge mistake as the reveals are amazing) and all I could come up with is imagine The Neverending Story (or the Wizard of Oz if you prefer), mashed with Kill la Kill and The Constant Gardener with just a hint of KHR. I’m not kidding. Oh, there are also some tongue in cheek BL jokes….

To not give anything away, I would say this is a story of tender youthful friendships, the hardship of growing older and growing apart, the beautiful bloom of love, the tragedy of jealousy and betrayal and the agony of loss. This cycle repeated across generations and realities. It’s about how greed can destroy entire worlds even if those worlds never quite existed.

This is a very weird show that starts off in a world where you can turn your clothing into warriors to fight for you and super powerful babies roam a land of perpetual darkness. And it made me cry. It hurt me in a pretty way. It still does.

To be a Heroine 1 (38)
of course

I would say this is the type of series that is likely to divide audiences. I adored it. It went directly to my list of favourites and I will now watch To Be A Hero just because of how amazing this show was. And if you watch it and tell me there’s something wrong with my head because this was a complete piece of trash – I will not be surprised either. It swings wildly form a poignant and visceral moment to a silly dad joke to innocently suggestive then tense and suspenseful. Sometimes in a single scene.  

Moreover, I see that a lot of anime sites have this as a comedy/superpower show. Let me be clear. There are funny moments and silly moments, but this is a sad story. A very sad story. It deals with loss and pain in a direct way and when all is said and done, I would call it bittersweet at best. It’s also much stronger in its drama and thriller elements than its action or even comedy (which again, have some great moments). My point is that going by genre description I might have expected something like KonoSuba or the Disastrous Life of Saiki K and if that’s what I really wanted to see, then this would not have done the trick at all. I can imagine some of the audience may have felt rather cheated.

When looking at the MAL score you really can’t get much of an idea either. The total score is 7.2 (lowish but o.k.). There are only four written reviews though and the average of those scores is a slightly higher 7.5 still pretty average. What’s interesting though is that the actual scores are a 9, two 10s and a 1. This should give you a much better idea. It’s a love it or hate it sort of show. I loved it.

To be a Heroine 2 (37)
for friends like these – I would reshape reality as well

Aside from the originality of the production. Aspect ratios and colours are constantly being played with which is unusual, to say the least, and the genuinely visceral writing that had a completely unexpected emotional impact on me, it was also the sweetest example of friendship. It’s an almost indescribable show and I mean that as a compliment. I really think you should watch To Be A Heroine. You might hate it.

Favourite character: Moemoe – who am I kidding, everyone

What this anime taught me: Do not go gentle into that good night; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. (Dylan Thomas)

Every empty bottle is filled with stories

Suggested drink: Old Friend

  • Every time there’s a change in aspect ratio – take a sip
  • Every time anyone says “spicloth” – take a sip
  • Every time anyone ends up naked – take a sip
  • Every time there’s a flashback – get some tissues
  • Every time it’s raining – get some water
  • Every time anyone says “hero” – take a sip
  • Every time Hikaru hugs Super Oldguy – take a sip
  • Every time there’s a double entendre – just me?
  • Every time anyone pets Futaba – take a sip
  • Every time they mention “light” – sigh

I have pages and pages of notes on this show but I didn’t want to spoil it. If you want to chat about it with me, I would love to hear your thoughts…

To Be A Heroine 3-7 (286)
nice glasses

The images of this series are very interesting and I would love it if you took a look at the gallery I put together but only AFTER you’ve seen the series. Here’s a little taste in the meantime:

8 thoughts

  1. I’m neither in the love it nor hate it camp. I quite liked it, but that’s it. My biggest problem was the sparse CGI look, but that was balanced out by excellent scene composition. And it went on like this, in pretty much all aspects – some good, none bad, some meh, for an overall positive impression. Characters from To Be Hero showed up, but it’s mostly stand-alone; I don’t remember whether knowing the first had any influence on understanding this story, but I’m leaning no.

    I thought it was interesting that they used Chinese for the real world parts, while they used Japanese for the Isekai parts. I actually preferred the real world parts, but the Isekai parts had an appealing absurdity to it.

    One thing I noticed about pretty much all Japanese/Chinese co-productions is that the humour is very hit and miss for me: some of it is a turn off, but some of it hits home in unexpected ways (probably because I’m not yet used it?).

    One thing I can say about To Be Heroine: if there’s a chance that you’d like it, watch it, because you’re not going to find anything quite like it elsewhere. It’s definitely its own thing, and the makers definitely cared. The characters are what I remember most.

    1. You may have been in the hate it camp… That’s ok too. It does go in some really unexpected directions later on though.

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