Damn. I’ve said it before, but it’s just amazing how a series with no action, no combat, and no violence to speak of can make me sweat like this one does. The tension throughout the episode was a slow-build, but by the end it was almost unbearable.
I knew from the minute he entered the stage that Doi was going to be a problem. His unhealthy interest in Shu had the scent of danger to it from the beginning, and that certainly turned out to be true. He was just one of several impetuses that sent Shu down a treacherous and harrowing path, but an important one. We’ve all seen his kind before – selfish, blunt, a little weird in a lot of ways. He got the surprise of his life when he found out Yuuki was a transsexual, after having forced Shu to invite him over. But his reaction was the crucial element – he pushed Shu to dress up for him – for one terrifying moment I really thought Doi was going to force himself on Shu – and then told him to dress as a girl and come to school. Oy.
This all proves a major distraction from what could have been the headline story of the episode – that Yoshino seems to have made the decision to pursue Shu. She asks Anna for permission to “hang out” with Shu, which the older girl gives, but when she approaches him she still calls it a date. Equally important – and the other impetus sending Shu into harm’s way – was that she finally decided to come to school in a boy’s uniform. This impresses the hell out of Shu and fills him with a desire – understandable but unwise – to follow her lead. After all, not only is she doing what he secretly longs to but she’s also probably still the one person he’s truly in love with.
The story definitely doesn’t gloss over the double-standard involved here. Yoshino draws a few funny looks and a little lecturing from the teachers – as did Chi before her – but in the end, everyone settles down and that’s that. It wouldn’t be the same if Shu wore a skirt, but at least he knows that much – he asks first Chi, then Yoshino for advice (and in the latter case, a uniform). Chi wisely recommends against it – realizing what will likely happen – but in the end says it’s his choice. Yoshino, fiercely protective as always, is much more forceful. She immediately spots that it was Doi’s idea, and angrily warns Shu not to set himself up for terrible pain. But Shu sees this as a test of courage – his test of courage – and after a long night’s worry, he goes through with the experiment – with predictably painful results. Laughter, pointing, and a trip to the nurse’s office and then home.
This was a complicated moment, and certainly one this series had to address sooner or later. In the end Yoshino couldn’t really refute Shu’s central argument – he wanted to do what she’d done, be true to himself. Logically it was a terrible idea, but how could she deny his intentions? Even if it had come from an idea Doi put forward for reasons either perverted or perverse, it was still something Shu had dreamed about – longed for. But does that make it a good idea? The consequences for his school life seem almost impossibly depressing. That’s the dilemma he faces – he can’t play the game halway, like Yosino can. There’s no way for a middle-school boy to cross-dress in a socially acceptable way. So he’s left with two lousy choices – to deny who he is, or to become a pariah and a punching bad. That’s why Shu’s dilemma is really so much worse than Yoshino’s.
Complicating all this, of course, is the aforementioned fact that Yoshino seems ready to be in a relationship with him. So Shu is a boy who wants to be a girl and thinks he’s in love with two girls, one of whom wants to be a boy herself. How could anyone make sense of it, much less a 13 year-old? It’s a mess – and worse, there are only two episodes left to clean it up. The manga can take it’s sweet time about it of course, but the anime doesn’t have that luxury. What’s clear, though, is that the staff at AIC Classic went into this adaptation with a very specific and clear game plan. They were ready to make a statement in 11 episodes – to capture the grace and beauty of the manga in a very limited timeframe. I’m sure they’ve had the ending planned from day one, and I’m sure they’re going to do a great job with it based on the fact that they’ve put together the best series of the year so far.