I was introduced to Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out as a result of its controversies. While I try to keep up with what new shows will be appearing or which games I love are getting adaptations, memes and comments on Twitter provide a lot of exposure. When I learned it was a slice-of-life series, which I love, and a romantic comedy of sorts, I decided I had to see why it had people saying both good and bad things about it. Surprisingly, I was shocked to see it’s an enjoyable enough show that gets better the more you invest in it.
At first glance, it might be easy to dismiss Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out as fanservice. Which is what people could say about a lot of games and shows. Hana Uzaki has proportions that cater to a certain mindset, especially in the requisite swimsuit episode. There’s a lot of innuendo-laden jokes as well. But while those are there and there are some over-the-top moments, that isn’t a constant focus. Yes, it comes up. But it felt like the majority of the innuendo was unintentional on Uzaki’s part, as she was innocent in the moment and it was Sakurai who was picking up on it.
I guess that innocence, as a whole, is why I kept watching Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out past its first five episodes. Which is strange to say, since Uzaki herself definitely isn’t always innocent. She’s aware she’s being annoying as hell and selfish sometimes. We can see her revel in getting Sakurai worked up. We see his friend, Sakaki, and his coworkers/boss Ami and Asai, encourage her and these potential situations. People around Sakurai go overboard, essentially poking the bear until he is on their level, which provides amusement for them and hopefully the viewer as well.
But even while that’s going on, there is still that charm and innocence there. Because while Uzaki is being a brat sometimes, she genuinely does enjoy Sakurai’s company and wants what is best for him. And while he would probably prefer to do other things, Sakurai isn’t just a trapped human prop. He also gets something—like companionship and entertainment—out of being around Uzaki as well.
And it’s only after a few hours that it really starts to hit. You begin to see Uzaki and Sakurai really start to connect beyond “he isn’t behaving how I want him to, so I will badger him until he does.” By the fourth episode, we see him begin to not only accept that yes, the two of them will be hanging out, but contentedly suggesting they will. By the sixth, we see Uzaki begin to realize when she pushes things too far. By the seventh, Sakurai is the one initiating hang outs and essentially acknowledging skills she has that he doesn’t. (And also having situations where he is saying things and not realizing how it looks or sounds.)
Since I was watching through Funimation, I decided to to give the dub a try. Ricco Fajardo is fantastic as Sakurai. He’s perfect at the even tones and the more frustrated growls and overreactions. As for Monica Rial as Uzaki, she does a great job of treading the line between annoying and ordinary. She absolutely hams it up and over exaggerates when the occasion calls for it, making Uzaki seem, well, even more annoying than usual. But in her calmer moments, she can make her seem like an ordinary girl. (That said, I did prefer the original Japanese voice actors—Kenji Akabane and Naomi Ozora–for both.)
Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out is a show not everyone will enjoy. I can definitely see why it would be divisive. But even so, I think there’s something to it. I really enjoyed the sense of progression. Once you get past the whole first two episodes, the characters start to come into their own and we see different sides of them. Which, granted, is true of any series. But it can seem a little more noticeable as Uzaki herself becomes more likable, since she begins as someone who could be so abrasive and, frankly, we as the audience feel more posed to side with Sakurai.
Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out is available with the original Japanese voice acting and English subtitles and an English dub on Funimation, and its manga is being localized by Seven Seas.(The fourth volume will be out in English on December 8, 2020.) A second season of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out is in development.