The slice-of-life genre has been my favorite genre in anime and manga for as long as I can remember. There is always something so beautiful about a series that captures a particular moment in a group of characters’ lives. Whether it is a moment of transformation, happiness, sadness, or a standstill, the slice-of-life genre seemingly holds up a mirror and lets us see ourselves. The fall sleeper hit, Play It Cool, Guys was a great reminder to me why I love slice-of-life so much. In a format that could be easily written off, Play It Cool, Guys adds value in short increments. In 24, 15-minute episodes, the anime makes a case for why the little everyday things are to be enjoyed and cherished.
About Play It Cool, Guys
Play It Cool, Guys is based on the Josei manga of the same name by Kokone Nata. Its chapters were originally published as a web manga before being published in book form. In the US, the manga is published by Yen Press. The anime was produced by Studio Pierrot, the studio behind Tokyo Ghoul, Naruto, and Bleach. It streamed in two cours on Crunchyroll for Fall and Winter.
The series centers on 4 boys at the start: Hayate, a 20-year-old college student, Shun, a 17-year-old high school student, Souma, a 19-year-old vocational art college student, and Takayuki, a 27-year-old in the workforce. Initially, these characters start off as strangers but end up connecting through awkward moments. Actually, the entire premise is that they are awkward and have awkward moments.
Everyday Guys Doing Everyday Things
While it may seem plain, the best part of Play It Cool, Guys is the display of everyday activities they do. Oftentimes in media, the plot is whimsical, and eccentric, and are things that would not happen in real life or if they do happen, they are very rare. In this anime, we witness our main characters go to school, go to work, and interact with friends and family. Nothing over the top happens but it is still enjoyable to watch them navigate the average.
Two characters I enjoyed particularly watching were Takayuki and Souma. As a 30-year-old in the workforce, I will almost always relate to the adult who works in an office. Takayuki is more than a bit aloof but he gets along well with his coworkers and ends up being someone the younger guys in the group can look up to. He takes his work seriously, to the point of giving himself nightmares, and is not ashamed to do the things he enjoys.
Souma is the artsy one in the group, who is studying design. He works part-time at Shun’s sister’s cafe alongside Hayate. His brother also works with Takayuki. Souma is always working on something creative and is passionate about his work. It is rare to see him without his camera, even if he will take the first picture with the lens cap on. I appreciated this type of character because as a creative person myself, it is nice to see the emotions that come along with creation. There are ups and downs and Souma handles both with so much grace.
Awkward Moments are what You Make Them
As I mentioned earlier, the premise of the show is that these guys are awkward. And not the typical, social media “omg look at me, I’m so awkward” personality trait we are used to. They just do things that are weird or awkward, without trying to. The best part is how each character handles each awkward moment because it is all so different.
Hayate, which I would argue is the “main” character out of the four, finds himself doing awkward things and gets easily embarrassed by them. Even if no one notices, he does and immediately starts replaying the moment and feeling silly. When he sees how the other characters handle their moments of awkwardness, he wishes he could be the same. Shun decides that anything awkward he does is intentional the minute he notices or is called out by anyone. This makes for funny commentary from background characters on his mistakes, like when he wore the sports jersey backward.
Souma, on the other hand, laughs off every single awkward thing he does. Since he does this quietly, others mistake his initial reaction as sad or angry. But upon closer inspection, it is obvious he is giggling to himself. Takayuki pays his awkward mistakes absolutely no mind, and we’re left to see how his coworkers and friends react to them instead.
I know I’m not alone in saying some of my awkward moments have haunted me 5, 10, or even 15 years later! I lay awake some nights and think “why did I think it was cool do to xyz?” Similar to Hayate, I’ve had moments that only I know about and they still embarrassed me. But that is okay and I love that Play It Cool, Guys shows that any way you handle these moments are fine.
The Guys Are Guying, and We Love to See It
My favorite part of Play It Cool, Guys is the focus on male friendships without the high stakes. In Shounen and Seinen, you typically have male characters become friends or deepen their bond through the challenges they go through. Whether it is fighting against curses together in Jujutsu Kaisen, or getting closer as teammates for a common goal in Run with the Wind, something big brings them together.
In Play It Cool, Guys, everyone is brought together by a series of coincidences. They think everyone is cool and they start hanging out. There are no love interests, no villains or antagonists, just vibes. The series was created by a woman and the target demographic is young women, and I think that speaks to how women enjoy series about men that don’t feature women or romance.
I think a big reason I love this is that usually stories are very gendered. Stories about boys or men are about fights, sports, or the pursuit of women. The emotions they display are based on those things. On the other hand, with stories about girls or women, we are able to see them in embarrassing moments or having anxious thoughts. Anime like Play It Cool, Guys allow men to be just as dimensional as women. They are allowed to feel awkward, sad, happy, or embarrassed. The guys are allowed to admire a classmate or an older senpai, without it having romantic connotations. They can just exist as awkwardly as female characters often do.
Overall, Play It Cool, Guys is a gem from the Fall 2022 anime season. It is the perfect anime that embodies what a slice-of-life story is without too much emotional baggage to handle. All the episodes are funny and so thoughtfully put together. I look forward to reading the manga and I hope more stories like this are animated in the future.