Kanojo ga Flag wo Oreratara, or ‘If Her Flag Breaks’, is a very, very strange show. The running theme of the show is that people have little flags that appear atop their head indicating something significant is about to happen in their lives. Whether that be something simple like an upcoming friendship or romance, or more serious like their death… every significant event has a flag. Most people aren’t able to see these flags, but somehow our main character, Hatate Souta, has the ability to not only see them but understand instinctively how to break them, changing that person’s future.
Due to a tragic past, he uses this ability to scare off anyone who tries to become close to him. As I’m sure you can imagine… this unique ability of his could easily be used to create a harem for himself. Surely that’s not the direction an anime would take it though, right?
The strangest part of this show is how dramatic a shift it has as we near the end of the series. The show is very much a harem anime… it’s about as pure of a harem anime as you could imagine for most of the show. There’s even an episode where the characters have a ‘declare your love for the main character’ contest. Most shows would be perfectly content to leave it at that and just continue to cater to the audience they’d built for most of the series… but not ‘If Her Flag Breaks’. They decide to shift gears and appeal to an audience that most likely would never be able to get past the first episodes… you see, the end few episodes shift to being an insane fantasy… thing. It’s hard to describe, and it’s not just weird, but kind of stupid. It’s not completely unexpected – there are a few scenes foreshadowing something, but it never even gives the slightest inkling of how weird it is actually going to get.
Speaking of strange… the use of Souta’s power is, at first, fairly normal. Over time, however, his gradually becomes more absurd. At the start, flags are things like ‘friendship’, ‘death’, ‘sisterly love’, ‘romance’… but as the story progresses the flags get more and more absurd. Some examples are a ‘yandere flag’ and a ‘story flag’, the former is a warning while the latter indicates that, and I quote, ‘she’ll move the story to the next stage’. Yep, you heard me… Souta gets a flag to let him know when his story is going to move forward.
The characters in If Her Flag Breaks are all pretty close to what you might expect from the genre. You have the trap, the lonely rich kid, the cool big sis, the class rep, princesses, even a character who ventures into yandere territory. It’s a walking trope festival. If I’m being fair, I will have to confess that most of the characters aren’t pure stereotype. A few of them are simply altered variants, some of them are combinations of more than one, and a few of them even switch roles at a few parts. But from the characters, to the fact that every single character’s name defines them, to the existence of so many little story archetypes, and – okay, we could be here for days so I’ll just cut it here – many other little touches… the show will certainly check off every box on your ‘generic anime’ checklist, assuming such a thing existed. Even both the obligatory hot springs and beach scenes…
But that doesn’t mean the show itself is generic. The combination of Souta’s unique power and the varied layers of the harem he unwittingly builds for himself with the utter absurdity the show commits itself to builds into an experience that is never boring. It can be awkward, disturbing, frustrating, strange, and mind-boggling… but it is never boring. The show maintains a fairly high pace with a good variety of humour, and I genuinely think this is all possible simply because of how full of relatively predictable elements the show is. Afterall, if you’re going to really surprise someone… the best way to do it is to make them think they know what they’re getting right up until they get it.
The show is entertaining, it’s funny, and if you can tolerate a harem anime it’s certainly one of the better ones I’ve seen, at least in the early episodes. It’s just that utterly insane switch from harem to fantasy that really sours it… and it simply makes no sense, when you have a good start – why abandon everything you’d built to go off on some strange tangent?