When Raika the photographer told Taketo, “All humans are ugly – especially women.” I thought it ironic that she could easily be talking about herself (or the female cast of this season’s Baka Test). What I didn’t expect (and R-15 is already proving adept at surprising me) is that the show itself would explore that topic and prove me right.
I haven’t seen this many panties – or at least the small percentage visible through the light beams – since Soro no Otoshimono. The notion of a curse and a divine wind was a rather clever ruse that I didn’t attribute to Raika at first, though I guess it should have been obvious enough. With her partner in crime, Tsuruko, she managed to put Taketo on the receiving end up about a thousand panty shots that were used to pretty good comic effect. My favorites were fortuneteller Yosano Aki (Sakakibara Naoko) with her “666” panties and Ran’s “Only Girls” pair. That’s a new way of expressing sexual preference, but whatever floats your boat. Via the teacher we even (almost) got a look at the elusive kuropan, rarely seen in anime.
All that fluff, though, was leading this ep to a really dark place – shockingly dark, really. Raika seems to operate on about the level of a 10-year old boy, actually, both in general maturity and expressing affection. Clearly she’s interested in Taketo and her way of showing it is to torture him, in the guise of doing her job as a photographer. The concept of her projecting her own self-loathing for “ugliness” onto Taketo wasn’t exactly subtly portrayed, but it still provided some incredibly intense moments – especially for a comedy – in the girls’ locker room. That scene made it clear that there aren’t a lot of boundaries for this show, either in terms of sexual content or psychic trauma. When she practically raped Taketo, with the memorable and disturbing “The only who’ll be hurt is me” it really painted a picture of just how messed up she really is.
Of course, Taketo has the magic when it comes to making girls discover their inner beauty, and Raika is no exception. And none of this excuses her abominable behavior in trying to make his life a living hell. Though this is a comedy, I don’t think it’s trivialized the severity of what Raika has done, posting the “rape” photos outside the classroom and trying to blackmail Taketo into condemning himself as a sexual predator. Again, irony is the driving force with R-15 – Taketo is actually guilty of nothing worse than having normal (if elaborate) adolescent sexual fantasies and the ability to make them sound good on paper. It’s the others around him who are really messed up, and Raika seems the worst of the lot. But now that she’s officially part of his harem that dynamic will certainly change. I sure don’t know if that’s good news for poor Taketo, though.
I’m enjoying the fact that this series isn’t milking these misunderstandings for weeks and weeks, just for the purpose of driving the plot. The girls are slowly coming to understand what Taketo is really about – first Utae (who defended him this week), then Fukune, now Raika. I suppose Ran will probably be next.
As much as I’m enjoying this, I can’t help but be frustrated that the censor bars are being used to such a ridiculous extreme. Maybe it’s Bill 156, I don’t know, but there are certainly other series out there getting away with showing a lot more than this one does, and with R-15 a lot of what’s getting censored is actually relevant to the plot. The uncensored airings (a full 9 days later than the initial) aren’t showing up even in raw form, either, so there’s little we can do but suffer through it until the blu-rays are out.