Nazo no Kanojo X – 11

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MGX manages to surprise me yet again.

I’m pretty sure there’s never been a relationship anime quite like this one.  I confess that while I was totally wrapped up in the this arc’s story after last week, I was looking forward to this ep with a hint of trepidation.  After all, this was really the most conventional arc of the series so far – driven by a fairly standard plot and even relying on the cliffhanger.  It was set up beautifully in episode 10, but it still left room for some of the “M” in MGX to be lost this time. 

So now that it’s over, what’s the verdict?  Well, truth be told, I don’t think this is MGX’s finest hour – that would be the first two eps and the sublime exploration of physical intimacy in episode 8 – but it was still resolutely MGX to the core, and that’s the main thing.  While there were elements of the conclusion that didn’t totally work for me, they were outweighed by the fact that the arc was concluded quickly and decisively, and not pointlessly dragged out for the rest of the season, and the fact that it was done in what for me was a completely unexpected and original manner. 

What didn’t work so well?  Mostly Hayakawa.  I found it quite refreshing to see her as depicted last week because it was a marked contrast to the way teenaged girls are idealized and deified in most anime.  Of course high school girls are every bit as petty, deceitful and hurtful as boys, but rarely do you see a characterization so stark and unapologetic as Hayakawa.  So the way this arc was resolved regarding her was a little bit cliché, and felt like a bit of a cop-out.  I was looking for something more than an all-smiles, “she’s just a sweet girl who’s been hurt too much” resolution.  She did learn a lesson, but she got off pretty easy for her Machiavellian machinations if you ask me.  I also wasn’t that crazy about the double-slap when Tsubaki’s blindfold fell off, which also felt pretty much straight out of the “Tropes 101” textbook.  I mean, it’s not like he was the one who told them to get naked in the classroom in the first place…

Nitpicks aside, where the episode did totally work for me is a much longer list, starting with the classroom scene itself.  Leave it to MGX to come up with an uproariously silly situation that’s also extremely sexy (this may be the sexiest mainstream anime in many a season, and in a totally non-exploitative way) and manages to shed real light on the relationship that matters, Tsubaki and Urabe.  Ueshiba-sensei has a great gift for striking visual imagery, and Watanabe-sensei is doing a perfect job making it come alive (including some of the best eyecatches ever).  I loved the whole bit with Urabe deciding to spy on Tsubaki in her robot suit – starting with the suit itself, which was a hilariously retro pastiche of cardboard boxes and cool patches (even a flap over the mouth).  The whole thing is just so totally Urabe – assertive and bizarre, yet also subtly vulnerable.

I also found Oka’s role in this episode to be quite interesting.  She’s every bit the oddball that Urabe is.  In some ways I think Oka is an expression of pure libido – she acts on whatever she feels, and seems quite untroubled by the consequences (or more accurately, unaware of them until after the fact – and then only mildly bemused).  She sees maids, she wants to be a maid.  Oka doesn’t seem to really think about things – she just does them, and given that she has a very healthy erogenous side, this can lead to interesting results.  I found her spying session especially interesting for that reason.  Effectively it was her doing that Urabe knew about Tsubaki’s “date” with Hayakawa, and her first instinct when she saw him about to taste her drool was to snap a photo – but she actually caught herself and thought “I can’t do that – I have to stop him!”  It might be the first burst of conscience I’ve seen from her in the series, and the first selfless act too.  It wasn’t necessary in the end, but it’s the thought that counts.

As always everything boils down to Urabe and Tsubaki, and they both passed the test when the chips were down.  Tsubaki was partly a victim of Hayakawa’s playing on his sympathy and decency, but he certainly shares the blame for this whole fiasco – yet he did refuse to taste her drool in the end, and restate his commitment to Urabe.  And the most impressive thing about Urabe here is that she’s such a realist.  She’s surely hurt by what’s happened and threatened by it (she wouldn’t have stalked them otherwise) but she pushes events towards a conclusion rather than lashing out at Tsubaki.  She understands the powerful pull of an old crush and doesn’t blame Tsubaki for feelings she accepts as “perfectly natural”, but she does show him how his thoughtlessness made her feel.

If only it were so easy to communicate feelings in RL relationships – but that’s part of the fantasy element of MGX.  I think Ueshiba’s point is, the relationship works 1000X better when we understand how our partner is feeling – and the only thing stopping that from happening is that we usually don’t tell each other how we feel.  Tsubaki and Urabe may have a fantastical way of sharing their feelings but there’s nothing to say the rest of us couldn’t do just as well using traditional methods.  Really, this series is a relationship primer that every teen on the cusp of dating should read or watch – share your feelings.  Don’t pretend sexual tension doesn’t exist – acknowledge it openly and put it in the context of the whole relationship.  There’s nothing magical about it, it’s just common sense – but it may as well be magical, as most of us never get there.  Not before a lot of hard knocks on the way, at least.

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  1. s

    It's funny how Tsubaki didn't realize just how thoughtless his actions were until Urabe said she would also have done the same thing with her past "crush". Just because those feelings are perfectly natural doesn't mean it's OK to let temptation lead you by the nose. The Golden Rule really is worth abiding by in relationships.

    And I suppose part of the reason Urabe is so mysterious is because of how realistic and understanding she is, compared to ordinary teenage girls (teenagers in general). That's a lot of emotional maturity.

  2. t

    Not MGX's finest hour but still one of the episodes I enjoyed the most.The only dent was indeed that double slap though the look on Urabe's face when she's giving it redeems it partially to me because while Hayakawa has the usual embarassed look on her face Urabe has a "what the hell do you think you're doing" look which you don't see much in anime.

    But Urabe,oh man Urabe,she's the title character and she keeps on carrying the show,from her costume to the way she handled the whole situation.Props again to Yoshitani Ayako who pulled off some great voicework here again,especialy at the "kidding" part.

  3. N

    The Urabe Factor here for me was that she didn't spy on Tsubaki and Hayakawa so she could catch them red handed, make a scene and kick ass. What Urabe wanted was to see just how strong and/or unique her droll bond with Tsubaki is. That's why she devised this test, and that's why she had tested herself in a similar fashion back in ep 3. The guiding question on Urabe's mind is 'is this the real thing?'. and it's a hard one to answer, as the data is not all conclusive. The boy from ep 3 clearly didn't bind with her, but Oka certainly did; Hayakawa's drool tasted extremely sweet to Urabe, which probably means something, and whether or not Tsubaki would have responded to Hayakawa remains and open question…

  4. Carrying the torch for yuri, huh? Sorry, I don't see it here – I think Urabe and Tsubaki are a pretty solid pair-bond.

    Yes, Urabe really shone here – it wasn't a "gotcha" thing, and she wasn't being vindictive at all. She took it about as well as anyone could be expected to.

  5. d

    Some humans are naturally drool adverse while others are not. Since Oka and Urabe works, Urabe and boy works, Urabe and haya works… would that not mean that Haya and boy would work? Haya did work out with her X boyfriend so it is possible that there are just some people receptive to drool. The key is not that Urabe is specially sensitive or can produce special drool. Everyone has drool, but only some can give and take.
    For example Oka may give, but her boyfriend has no ability, as evident when they have kissed. But there is still a special bond bewteen them.
    Conclusion: Boy would have worked with Haya's drool

  6. A

    that eyecatch… was totally the best eyecatch in history.

  7. A

    "yet he did refuse to taste her drool in the end, and restate his commitment to Urabe."

    Yet Urabe will freely share saliva with any number of other boys, to "test" them, without ever telling her "boyfriend". What a commitment, eh ?

  8. K

    Oh, I don't have a screenshot from that episode, but she clearly confessed her action ( Also, only happened once, I don't refuse she did something wrong and potentially dangerous, but at least she was very honest with her boyfriend, right?

  9. e

    Urabe rulez. That's my girl, displaying her emotional maturity on top of her scissor skills. And… Enzo is that a butt shot I see among your pic(k)s? Naughty boy :p.
    I do agree about Hayakawa being let off the hook a tad too easily, but well… Oka's moment of selflessness sort of balances it out in my mind.
    Talking about Oka, I pity Ueno. She has shown some hint of caring about him this episodes after he left the café (this hint and her thinking of Urabe before her own enjoyiment are small clues of her maturing, or so I like to think) but I feel she's still too much for him to handle. He might try to step up but if she doesn't step down a bit from her attitude as well somehow they'll never really meet common ground.

  10. She's certainly too much for him, that I agree with. I think that reaction at the meido café was more along the lines of, "Huh – this human disapproves of other humans taking my photo" than really caring about his feelings being hurt.

  11. e

    GE, demolishing Kaji Yuki's charas with insouciant class *swoosh*
    I might be a tad too optimistic on the romantic prospect, but it seemed to me she was not only 'huh' but also a bit hurt underneath her surprise, and even a bit disappointed at his disappointment<— hint of some deeper feelings potential ? Well, it doesn't help my clarity of perception here that she and I share some traits inside and out… I wouldn't commit to a relationship just out of curiosity alone and with random guy X just because he's available and willing, for instance ^^;;. A partner should be much more than that.
    I'd better prepare to see Ueno as sacrificial lamb-not to the altair of her curiosity *sigh, she'll turn him inside out like a glove and then discard the poor dullard aside* and wish them both a more suitable partner in the long run.

    Back to the main couple: I found myself smiling when Urabe smiled due to Tsubaki's giddy drool flavour du jour. With all his raging hormones (ah, youth) his heart is in the right place… sometimes he needs some prodding (or jabbing) along the way to remind himself of that XD.

  12. Hey, Ueno isn't a problem for me, and neither is Kaji Yuki in this case – they're fine for what they are. I haven't really said anything against Ueno himself, I don't think. I just think he's nothing more than a science experiment for Oka. He's like a human that's been beamed up to his spaceship – if she anally probes him, we'll have our proof.

  13. e

    I was teasing in my first sentence, if anything I was referring to some comments you received recently on that subject *patpat*.
    'if she anally probes him, we'll have our proof' how daring a suggestion! uh, well, if they were ever to reach that degree of intimacy she might just wish to give back the pleasure :p.

  14. e

    P.S.: I love this week's eyecatch as well, ahah.

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