As far as male protagonists go, Nagi Umino may just about be living the best life. He has a loving family, excellent grades, and an adorable classmate, who he’s competing against for a chance to date her. Nothing strange about that, right? Of course, there’s a quirky anime twist at the beginning. And for A Couple of Cuckoos, that twist is actually pretty interesting. Well, until it isn’t.
Nagi, the 2nd ranked student in his grade, has his world flipped upside down once learning he was switched at birth. To his credit, he seems calm about it. The same day, he meets social media influencer Erika Amano, the “princess” who demands Nagi to be her pretend boyfriend so she can avoid an arranged marriage with a stranger setup by her parents.
After an evening of shopping to find boyfriend material clothes, Erika acknowledges that she won’t be allowed to deny her parents the engagement. At this point, both accept their new circumstances and part ways. Unsuspecting Erika and Nagi soon realize their initial meeting was a fated encounter after all. Nagi’s parents are none other than Erika’s family, and Erika’s fiancée is none other than Nagi. Thankfully the lead-up to the end of the first episode is refreshing and seems to have a good sense of direction, but shockingly that momentum doesn’t keep up in the anime.
If it wasn’t already obvious from the images above, A Couple of Cuckoos is one of the newer harem series of 2022. You don’t need me to tell you that the anime market is flooded with harem series. They can do well because there’s a lot to love about them. Tip-toeing the line between silly and cute (or ecchi in some cases), it’s not hard to see the appeal. Plus, the online competition to declare the best girl is entertaining.
Series like Rent-a-Girlfriend, The Quintessential Quintuplets, and More Than a Married Couple, But Not Lovers are good examples of successful harem anime. However, there is also this recurring rinse-and-repeat cycle some series inevitably suffer. Doing too much yet not enough at the same time. A Couple of Cuckoos is not the first to use the smart-guy trope. It started off strong, but after watching the entire season, I’m left feeling confused. I wanted to like it, but the addition of the other love interests made the plot messy. One of them being a middle school-aged sister (though technically not biological).
Not everything was bad. Overall I would say this anime succeeds at animation, character design, and creating some silly, yet touching moments — it’s just lacking. Both Nagi and Erika feel like whole characters with contrasting yet suitable personalities. Plus their forced engagement is interesting enough to make the tension entertaining and the flirting cute when it does happen. The last episode does a good job of furthering Nagi and Erika’s relationship, but everything leading up to it felt forced with Hiro, his first love interest, and Sachi, his un-biological sister also fighting for attention.
Sure this is meant to be a harem anime, but A Couple of Cuckoos would have been better as a traditional rom-com without these over-the-top elements. The other girls lack a solid foundation in the plot of this adaptation. Too much is thrown at the audience by Hiro and Sachi that it feels unnatural in the story progression. Like why exactly do we find out towards the end that Hiro is obsessed with trying to drink while underage? To make harem anime work, there needs to be a fleshed-out story for the secondary love interests, too.
I wanted to like this show. There’s no denying that there was considerable potential to be one of the better harem anime. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that really piques my interest to seek out the manga or watch a second season if that ever happens. Other than pure curiosity to see if it can find its footing.
Can a haphazardly pieced-together show revive itself in later seasons? At this point, it’s unclear if that chance is even in the cards for A Couple of Cuckoos.
You can watch A Couple of Cuckoos now over on Crunchyroll.
Title: A Couple of Cuckoos
Studio: SynergySP, Shin-Ei Animation
Director: Yoshiyuki Shirahata
Creator: Miki Yoshikawa
Aired: Spring 2022