I won’t deny that something of the magic has gone out of R-15 for the last couple of episodes, though I’d rank this one as an improvement over the last. It seems there’s a pretty delicate balance the show needs to strike to make the humor work, and despite how easy they made it look early on, it’s clearly an elusive formula.
If last week’s episode was way, way too heavy on the lust side of the equation – along with some highly unlikeable antics from the two female antagonists – this week seemed to err in the direction of niceness. Everybody was trying to do the right thing (with dubious skill) but it wasn’t as hilarious as the first few eps and didn’t capture the drama of the love-lust conflict as well, either. At the center of the episode was a problem I’m quite familiar with, writer’s block. Besieged on all sides – porn editors, newspaper ojou-samas – Taketo can’t seem to get it up, fantasy-wise. No inspiration is coming to him, so the newspaper chief puts him in the hand of the school’s genius manager, Kurabu Katsuyo (Murai Risako).
Katsuyo is actually a refreshing change from the last few females introduced in that she’s not overtly psychotic, and has no grudge against Taketo. She led her middle-school baseball team (shades of Moshidora) to the national title and she’s in demand by every sports club at Inspiration Academy. Her genius solution? Lock herself and Taketo inside a giant can of tinned beef for 48 hours, and let the porn fly. Alas for poor Taketo, with friends like this he was missing the likes of Ran and Raika. Katsuyo is nice enough, but it’s not a coincidence that all of her clients end up looking like a Red Cross ad. She’s a bit nuts, full of bad ideas and the grisliest cook this side of Himeji from Baka Test (tuna eyeball stew? Oh, dear…).
That’s a pretty decent setup, and there are some nice laughs in her repeated attempts to inspire Taketo through cosplay and stranger methods. Ritsu, Raika and Utae stop by to offer their assistance – like I said, no one is intentionally out to torture Taketo this week – but it’s just not as funny without the interior monologues of Taketo going full speed. I missed his inspirational comas, and I missed the sense of his conflicting impulses that’s driven the better episodes of this series. It was sweet and silly and perfectly likeable, but lacking in the edge R-15 needs to be really good. And the ending gag with the “wall of flesh” really didn’t work for me (although it certainly worked for Taketo, in its strange way).
I hope we get some more direct interaction between Taketo and a conscious Fukune next week, as I think that’ll go a long way towards injecting the right elements of romance and potential conflict into the mix. All the right elements are still there – it’s just that after a two-week slump, they need to be put back together in the right proportions.