This was certainly the weakest episode of R-15 for me so far – it felt as if the exploitation jumped front and center this week. And that’s an issue as this show is always walking a tightrope in the sense that the story revolves around lust and the linguistic representation of the sexual fantasy, yet that theme is in support of a larger story that strives to actually illuminate the human condition. So when the titillation becomes it’s own justification, well, just like with Taketo, R-15 goes out of whack.
That said, this was certainly not an episode without its moments of charm. Having made a sort of peace with one arch-nemesis (the photographer, Raika) last week, Taketo now must confront his other Moriarty – Musen Ran (Tsumita Kayoko), she of the “Only Girls” panties. Turns out there are apparently two top bosses when it comes to yuri at Inspiration Academy – genius programmer Ran and genius avant-garde artist Beni Botan (Nomizu Iori). Each has a harem of acolytes and the seeming ability to control them through a sort of yuri ninja – a simple touch on the neck, a tickle from a paintbrush – and the spoken word. Though a first-year Ran calls all her slaves little sisters, while senior Botan whisks them to her secret studio and uses their nubile bodies as a canvas.
That’s all pretty ludicrous of course – as is the (literal, almost) steel cage death match that results when Botan sets her sights on Fukune, whom Ran has already claimed as a future little sister (though there’s no indication that Fukune is remotely interested). Things improve in the second half when Ran and Takuto form an unlikely coalition to oppose the common enemy when Botan kidnaps Fukune for her own nefarious aesthetic experimentation. Ran is really no match for Botan in the ring – the sheer power of her sempai’s yuri attacks quite literally knocking her off her feet. But not even a yuri Goddess is totally immune from Taketo’s literary assaults, and he softens her up with his usual incisive soft-core character analysis (consistent with the overall theme that artists need to look inwards for honest inspiration) long enough for Ran to get in a sneak attack and steal the bout.
One thing I’ll say is that R-15 has a good ability to finish up on a strong note, and it redeems itself here with Ran’s quiet acquiescence to the facts. When Fukune wakes in her bedroom, rather than claiming credit for the rescue she tells Fukune the truth – that it was really Taketo that saved her from first-degree artistic assault. Another enemy won over, and Ran even implies in her note to Taketo that he’s probably the right match for Fukune and “three of four others”. I do enjoy the fact that this show tends to subvert cliché, and the characters actually have the ability to change their opinion of each other and admit when they’re wrong (it’s amazing how rare those things are in anime, if you stop and consider it). We finish the episode with a sort of confession from Taketo to Fukune – “I like to hear your clarinet every day” – and the fact that the only word Fukune seems to pick up in “like” seems to indicate that she’s not as slow on the uptake as her languid speaking style would indicate. Another obstacle out of the way, and the first overt exchange of affection – things are seriously looking up for this couple.