We reviewed the beginning of A Girl And Her Guard Dog, and now we’re back with our season review, as we do for many, if not all, our episodic coverage series. That said, it was hard to come back to this series to finish it because of how steeply it just becomes the worst. Look, I’m a sucker for Yakuza Princess tropes and shoujo romances for that matter. For the uninitiated, A Girl and Her Guard Dog (Ojou to Banken-kun), an anime based on the manga originally created by Hatsuharu, is a weird shoujo romance that bounces between a teenager handling a one-sided crush and trying to become healthy about her relationships and weird constant affection between her and her 26-year-old guardian who is also pretending to a high school student to go to school with her.
Isaku is A Girl And Her Guard Dog’s Yakuza princess. The daughter of a yakuza boss, her grandfather takes her in when her parents die in a car accident. Taken into his home, Isaku grows up surrounded by gangsters and as part of the clan. But one member in particular, Keiya, offers to be her father, mother, brother, and friend all in one. And if you know how weird shoujo romances go, yes, Keiya is the romantic interest. Now in her first year of high school, and after years of being avoided by her schoolmates because of her family ties, Isaku is fixated on changing around her social life. She’s entering high school looking to live a normal life, find a “happy romance,” and get over her one-sided crush that formed when she was a child with Keiya. But when he bribes a school official and becomes a 26-year-old in a first-year classroom, Isaku can’t really escape.
If the very bad age gap was the only issue, there could be merit to let the series be. I mean, as any shojo reader knows, age gaps can be done well and at times can be rectified. But A Girl and Her Guard Dog goes out of its way every single episode to remind the viewer that there isn’t just a 10-year age gap between Keiya and Isaku, but rather that Keiya is constantly reminded of Isaku’s childhood and how it cuts against the romantic scenes they’re in when he says something completely out of line.
Remember the “I’m just thinking about how you’ve grown” while they were sitting in a pool together? Yeah, the bride-raising element of the series is a flaw because it neither acknowledges it for what it is or attempts to play with the trope in any intelligent way. Instead, you’re just constantly reminded that Keiya is pretty much Isaku’s dad, and it gets even stranger. Add in the fact that Isaku’s life is continually put in danger in egregious ways and it’s not a fun watch.
A Girl And Her Guard Dog did have some good moments under its belt. When Isaku was the focus of the story as an individual learning how to have friends and a life beyond Keiya it worked. In fact, having this awkward romance but investing in who Isaku is away from her 26-year-old love interest could have done worlds of development for a story that found itself always returning to the same jokes focused on age. As a character Isaku is headstrong and focused on achieving or doing what she wants. This personality is great for a shojo heroine and we could have had so much more. Instead, by the end of the season, the switch flips and its almost like she’s living for Keiya instead of what we saw at the start of the series where she was adamant that she would find or create a normal life.
But if there is any sin too great to overcome, it’s the animation. Project No.9 starts off the season strong by bringing to life mangaka Hatsuharu’s illustrations from the manga extremely well, even with the notorious shoujo body proportions coming into play. That said, as the season continues, each subsequent episode of A Girl And Her Guard Dog declines in quality. Body parts appear disconnected from the body, and the proportions of characters to their surroundings are terrible, but more egregiously, the facial animations become unrecognizable. Then you have the tongue animation from a scene in Episode 11, and everything just keeps falling apart.
It’s rare for a series to just get worse and worse over time, but A Girl And Her Guard Dog does that on every level. In terms of narrative, Isaku’s independence diminishes as Keiya increasingly takes up space in her decision-making. When it comes to the constant references to Isaku as Keiya’s daughter, well that keeps on too. “I’m her whole world, and she’s mine too,” may sound romantic, but the added context of being her “father, mother, and friend” just turns it all to ash.
There are ways to adapt material with their share of creepy elements. Animation studios can tone things down and change the lines said, but Project No.9 chose not to do that at every turn. In the end, you can’t even forgive A Girl And Her Guard Dog because it’s beautiful to look at; it’s just there taking up space in the anime season, and it’s the worst. I wish it had been something more.
A Girl and Her Guard Dog Season 1 is streaming now on Crunchyroll.
A Girl And Her Guard Dog Season 1
In the end, you can’t even forgive A Girl And Her Guard Dog because it’s beautiful to look at; it’s just there taking up space in the anime season, and it’s the worst. I wish it had been something more.