I was interested to see that in a recent Danshi Koukousei character poll in Japan, Tadakuni placed 2nd (Karasawa was first), prompting a discussion of “pity votes” and such things. I’m no expert on manga fan polls but I was certainly surprised to see that result, given that not only is Tadakuni the great disappearing main character, but that the mangaka actually ignores him as part of the joke. I can’t help but feel sort of trolled in a sense by the preview chapters Sunrise released, not just because of Tadakuni but because that was a completely different series from the one we’re watching now. And frankly, I liked that series better, and it was the one we also saw in the first few eps. Since then, the effectiveness of the comedy has become somewhat intermittent for me. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I don’t – and this was another one of those weeks.
When did I laugh? Not all that much during the pre-open, featuring Hidenori’s brother and Yoshitake’s sister. Nor the first scene, featuring Hidenori on a visit to his grandparents in the country. There he met Emi (Mizuhashi Kaori) who mistakes him for her childhood friend Kiyohiko (Iguchi Yuichi) and thus kicked him into the river. The subsequent boy meets boy gag fell flat, and the punchline too. There were a couple decent laughs in the sketch where Hidenori “lost” his glasses, which were on his forehead – mostly courtesy of slow-witted Mitsuo, who finally figured out the others were playing a gag on Hidenori only to be proved that no, they were just being bakas. Probably the best sketch of the episode followed, as the student council invites witless Ringo in for a demonstration of the impact panty sightings have on the adolescent male psyche. Lots of Aoi Yuuki goodness in this sketch.
The rest of the student council material fell pretty flat, including a visit to Central High to install their computer systems, where we meet their VP (Konishi Katsuyuki, Gurren Lagann’s Kamina) and the punchline is a trip gag. Fortunately the omake – while not a “Funky Girls” chapter – provided some of the better comedy of the episode. It’s Habara’s “Archdaemon” origin story, flashing back to that fateful day when the best & brightest of the schoolyard gathered to put an end to her reign of terror – a group that includes Rubber Shooter and (surprisingly) a young Yanagin. This memory is obviously painful for both Habara and her most prominent victim, Karasawa. It’s funny stuff, but oddly dark – as much of this series is proving to be lately.
I can’t shake the feeling that somewhere along the way this series, which is being adapted in basically the same order as the manga, lost its focus – or else I was just incorrect in what its focus was all along. While always rough-edged the comedy seems meaner now somehow, for one. As well, early on there seemed to be a unifying theme of satirizing the gender politics of modern anime otaku trends, and that seems to have largely dropped out of the equation lately – the comedy now is more scattershot and random. Satire has given way to slapstick. Physical comedy was always a big component, but serving what seemed to be a larger purpose. Maybe I was just wrong about what this show is, and maybe my expectations were just too high, but I’m not laughing as much as I used to.