This episode marks the point in KoiChoco where the most obvious main heroine climbs into the bath with the main character. I’m sure Chisato’s fans are hoping it turns out better for her than it did for the girl who last tried it in a VN adaptation.
For me, this episode of KoiChoco is really all about confirming impressions – and that’s a good thing, as the impressions it’s confirming are good ones. First, that this is a series that can’t neatly be summed up in terms of tropes. And second, that it’s a genuinely interesting series. That’s a very elementary word, but we don’t use it all that often as a descriptor in its own right – and it really applies here. It’s partly the resistance to predictable cliché that makes KoiChoco interesting, and it’s also the fact that it has a very intriguing plot, and that seemingly everyone in the cast has something about them that makes them not what they appear to be. A lot of credit goes to the VN, I’m sure, but it’s clear that this is a shrewdly constructed adaptation – teasing the mysteries just enough to keep them in mind, and treating the characters with respect and refusing to use them as plot drivers or jokes (though with its treatment of Yume, it sometimes gets uncomfortably close). Series writer Takayama Katsuhiko has done some very good adaptation work (though a couple of shockers, too) and seems to have been a wise choice.
Of all those mysteries, the big one we’ve seemingly heard the least about is Chisato’s aversion to chocolate. It’s one-third of the title, after all, but it wasn’t until past the halfway point that we received any real exposition – and I confess it wasn’t what I was expecting. Apparently Chisato had a little brother named Daiki-kun who was struck and killed by a truck, and the sheer horror of this moment is quite impactful precisely because it isn’t overplayed and the series lets it speak for itself. Where the precise connection to chocolate comes in we don’t know – did Daiki love chocolate, or was it somehow directly involved in the tragedy? We also don’t know if Yuuki was somehow involved – I can’t quite get a handle on whether his reactions during the episode are merely grief, or whether there’s an element of guilt there too.
I haven’t been a big fan of Chisato so far – I don’t dislike any of these characters, but she’s certainly interested me less than several of her cast-mates. This revelation ups the ante with her character – but I was even more impressed by the scene in the onsen. Yes, there’s an element of cliché in the scenario of the girl walking in on the boy in the bath, but not the way it was handled here – especially when she asked “What’s the matter with you? Don’t you want to touch me, or look at my body?” Wow – that’s refreshingly direct and straight to the emotional heart of the matter. This moment is loaded with subtext – the matter of Yuuki’s true feelings for Chisato, Mifuyu’s stated interest, the question of whether Yuuki’s reluctance is directly tied into the tragedy with Chisato’s brother (as it seems to be). It’s a fascinating and beautifully-written scene, and certainly makes me far more interested in Chisato as a player in the “Love” part of the story (though there are still others than interest me more).
Not to be forgotten, the Shininome sisters also have an important role to play in the episode. While it’s been played for laughs for six eps, Hazuki’s drunkenness and inappropriate behavior towards Yuuki take on a new and slightly sad tone here. It’s clear her drinking is at a point where her colleagues are concerned for her, and there’s a connection to a family matter than may be contributing – clearly there’s tension between she and Satsuki over her refusal to attend a ceremony commemorating their mother’s death. It’s yet another loose end waiting to be tied up, something KoiChoco is brilliant at teasing us with. She kissed Yuuki during one of her drunken stumblebums, apparently – though he denies any romantic feelings for Hazuki, it’s clear he cares about her.
Naturally all this is a source of tension with Satsuki, and this comes to the boil when Yuuki is forced to hide in her room after helping the unconscious Hazuki home and entering the forbidden city of the women’s quarters in the process. Again (Mashifony was good at doing this, too) KoiChoco takes a very clichéd situation and spins it in a pretty dignified and original way. Satsuki really just wants to know the truth – as much about her sister as about Yuuki. Of course an unscrupulous person could rat Yuuki out and ruin his candidacy in the process, but that’s obviously not Satsuki. Of all the pairings in the cast she and Yuuki seem to have the most natural chemistry, and it’s on evidence in the scenes in her room (which will apparently carry over to next week) – though I’d still rank her as an underdog in the “Love” division, if a favorite in the “Election” one.
Yes, elections – the one phase of the show that’s been a constant in every ep isn’t forgotten here either (damn, a lot happened in this ep). Mouri gives the Food Club a lecture on “iron votes” vs. “swing votes” – telling them that Satsuki has about 1000 locked up as a member of the Finance Committee, and Moheji about 1400 as the mouthpiece of General Affairs. With Satsuki running as a bit of a revolutionary, Mouri concludes that Yuuki’s best chance is to paint her as a phony agent for change, as a member of one of the big parties – and to present himself as the true revolutionary and candidate of change you can believe in. In effect, he says, Oojima and Shinonome are fighting for the spot as the anti-Moheji candidate – and only one can survive. It’s a good strategy, but I can’t see Yuuki pursuing it in the end – not if it means engaging the SuperPACs and attacking her personally.
So there you have it – Love, Election and Chocolate all well-covered in one episode. It’s not easy to do all that without the episode seeming confusing or too busy, but Takayama-san pulled it off. And just for good measure, we get another little tease about Michiru – for the second time, an episode ends with her staring off into the night, alone. Of everyone in the main cast, we really know the least about her – but I would expect that’s going to change soon, maybe as soon as next week.