One Room (Season 1) – Review

Title: One Room (Season 1)
Studio: Typhoon Graphics
Episodes: 12 (+1 Special)
Streaming: Crunchyroll

Maybe writing a review for One Room is unnecessary. It kind of just speaks for itself. But for those who don’t know…

One Room is an anthology-based short anime comprised of three arcs, one for each of its female characters. The gimmick is that the whole narrative is presented from your point of view. Yes, it finally occurred to the anime industry that it could just scrap the self-insert harem protagonist by making you the protagonist! Now you can stare at whatever girl is currently onscreen to your heart’s content! Who are the girls you may ask? Comprising the cast are your new neighbor Yui (MAO), your little sister Natsuki (Rie Murakawa), and your childhood friend Moka (Suzuko Mimori).

Each girl’s arc runs for four episodes and to be fair, they’re not inherently bad on paper. Yui’s arc requires some suspension of disbelief at the start. You have to wonder why she’d ask you, a complete stranger to help her study. Still, her arc conveys the pleasant feeling of making a new friend. Natsuki and Moka’s arcs present a sense of familiarity since they would technically already have a rapport with you if they were real. There is something believable with the way they act towards you with Natsuki trying to help you deal with a supposedly stressful job and Moka discussing with you about the paths you and her have been taking as adults.

Where these arcs get held back involves the POV gimmick. Since you are meant to be the protagonist, you can’t be seen or heard in the show itself. Thus, you have one of the three girls talk to you and then stare at you, waiting for your response à la Dora the Explorer style. While you most can certainly play along with One Room, it’s simply too tempting to make fun of the awkward and complicit tone created by the girls playing Dora with you. You could say anything (or nothing at all) and the story will move along assuming you reacted the way it wanted you do. The result is a potentially amusing experience against the anime’s intent.

For even more unintended hilarity, you can even imagine that there is no protagonist in the story at all. Since One Room can’t actually show you in the frame, it’s too easy to consider the possibility that the girls are just talking to a figment of their imagination and they’re slowly losing their sanity in the titular one room…

As silly as this sounds, I actually think One Room could’ve executed its own gimmick better. Plenty of shots are framed as though it is you looking at the character though One Room still follows traditional cutting and sequencing. Sometimes, it appears as though you are making eye contact with the featured girl, only for One Room to then cut to, say for example, a traditional dutch angle or a shot from behind the girl. Maybe I’m giving this too much thought (oh who am I kidding, I am) and chances are, you probably won’t care that the framing makes it look like you’re a teleporting wizard. Still, I would argue that if the show is going to use such a gimmick, it might as well commit to being as diegetic as possible.

In case anyone asks: yes, there is fanservice and with the POV gimmick, things can feel uncomfortable. It’s less of an issue with Moka since she’s the oldest (college age even) but it is especially the case with Natsuki since she’s not only the youngest but also your little sister.

Watching One Room is kind of like watching Dora when you’re an adult. You know what its intent is but it just lends itself to some really amusing impressions. I can see someone getting a kick out of it (I personally did) but it is hardly essential viewing. No one will blame you for wanting to spend the short time it takes to binge through One Room on something else. And if all you really care is the fanservice, then just look up the swimsuit DLC episode.

Score: 5/10

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