Well, if nothing else it’s now official that Ruka is the cutest trap this side of Hideyoshi. The difference, of course, is that Ruka actually wants to become a girl (and may have succeeded) and Hideyoshi wants nothing more than to be seen as a guy.
I’ll give credit where it’s due – that was one of the most exciting eps of any series this season. I was on the edge of my seat through the whole thing, right up to the cliffhanger ending. It was a pretty simple episode – Okarin conducting numerous tests of the D-mail/phone microwave to find out if his “Reading Steiner” – the ability to carry his memories through timelines – really works. But it was taut with suspense – and as the experiments continued, one really got the sense that Okarin and the team were playing with fire.
There are lots of things that aren’t explained yet. Why did Moeka’s simple act of changing cell phones cause her to be out of communication with the lab for four days? More importantly, was the experiment in changing Ruka’s gender a success? First of all, I’m highly skeptical that eating vegetables will cause a mother to have a girl – but setting that aside, given the timekeeping mechanism outlined in the previous episode – 1 second of “cooking” time = 1 hour into the past – wouldn’t they have had to run the microwave for 148,920 seconds to send a message 17 years into the past? It sure didn’t seem like that happened.
For all that, trying to change someone’s gender seems like a really bad idea. Okarin implied that he let Ruka try because the whole notion wasn’t going to work anyway, but there are hints at the end that it did – namely the way he/she covered his/her chest was Okarin stared, and the fact that Mayushi called him/her “Ruka-CHAN” instead of the normal Ruka-kun. I guess we’ll know for sure next week, but for my money I think Ruka is much more interesting as a delectable trap than just another girl in Okarin’s harem. The way everyone reacted to seeing him in Mayushi’s Rai-net cosplay (shortest skirt ever) was hilarious, especially Okarin’s “My soul is being devoured!”. I also enjoyed the inclusion of pagers. I had one of the things – how Goddamn old does that make me feel?
There wasn’t a whole lot of humor in the episode besides that, really – the stakes are being ratcheted up and even Okarin is taking things much more seriously. But this series has a great ability to pivot between absurd humor and unsettling suspense, so I’m not bothered by that. The dialogue remains as sharp as ever and the plot is getting more and more interesting every week. I get the sense that Okarin has no notion of just what madness he may be unleashing with all these seemingly trivial changes – and changing someone’s gender is hardly close to trivial, for that matter. I suspect the trend towards a darker tone is a permanent one, and that was probably inevitable.