Mitsuba continued to be at the center of things for a second episode in a row this week, but with what I would judge to be mixed results. Not through any fault of her own – I continue to warm to her character, though she’s still my third favorite sister. But for the first time in quite a while I thought the results were inconsistent.
After raving last week about how this show’s magic was centered around knowing just how far to take the joke without crossing over the line – it crossed over the line. Just a little bit, for me anyway. I found Sugisaki’s mother to be pretty funny, but I kind of felt dirty laughing at the dominatrix sketch. Her dialogue with Mitsuba was arguably the creepiest moment of this series, but I can’t deny it was funny. Not spectacularly funny like the barrel sketch or the original Gachi Belt depatto sketch, but still funny. It definitely crossed into questionable territory though, by this one viewer’s opinion.
On the other hand, we continued to see evidence that Mitsudomoe, like Minami-ke, has a genius for side characters and doesn’t discard them after one use. Sugisaki’s little brother Ryuuta was back, complete with a brand-new 2nd generation Gachi belt which ends up being gifted to Hitoha – does he have a little crush on her? We also got a little glimmer of Hitoha’s feelings for Yabe-chi, or at least his Gachi side. Unfortunately there was another Gachi-pantsu misunderstanding, leading to further angst between them.
But the main theme this week was Mitsuba’s fat. Fat, which Futaba and Chiba-kun find irresistibly erotic in an I-cup sort of way. Fat, which she longs to shed using a 20,000 yen exercise belt. Fat, which prevents her from fitting into the outfit she longs to buy. In the best sketch of the episode, though, it’s her red sweater and not her cellulite that get her in trouble, and the myopic school nurse makes her re-appearance. Without her glasses she thinks Mitsuba is covered in blood, and proceeds to mummify her in bandages and knock her unconscious. In a scene that once again shows the inventiveness and creative genius of the director and mangaka, she comes to on a bed in the infirmary – but believes she’s in an abandoned warehouse, a victim (along with Sugisaki, Miyawhatever-san and Eyebrows – er, Yuki) of a kidnapping. The perspective shifts brilliantly between her imagination and the reality, which once again lands her utterly humiliated before Sugisaki.
Poor Mitsuba – she has an amazing talent for calling down scorn and humiliation upon herself while trying to do the right thing. Once again her heart is in the right place – worrying for Sugisaki and the others even while (in her mind) fighting for her life. But all it gets her is abject humiliation. She exemplifies pathos as much as any character this season. As always, the material is deeper with this show than it appears on the surface, and that’s what makes it work.