Sukitte is definitively a “capital S” shoujo, with all that implies, and one of the things it implies is that there are going to be episodes such as this one. The sort of episode where the characters just drive you crazy and you keep wanting to punch someone in the face, but this one had the added bonus of actually giving us someone getting punched in the face. And it just happened to be the best possible person, too.
For certain, this is a series that’s played in primary colors. There isn’t all that much subtlety, to be honest, and the characters perform their assigned roles more or less predictably. So as frustrating as it all was, not much that happened in this episode came as much of a surprise – it’s all been telegraphed for a while, especially Megumi’s full-on embrace of the dark side of the force. Her plan, finally executed, was as textbook shoujo as you can get – plant false rumors, use money and influence to try and isolate the enemy from everyone they hold dear. I’m not saying it’s never reflected in real-life, but shoujo really has a thing for showing girls at their worst – the cunning, ruthless Megu, the fawning sycophants who give her gifts, even the heroine of the piece sometimes. I suppose it’s analogous in some ways to the way boys come off badly in almost all anime/manga romances and harem pieces told from the male perspective.
I love the emotional honesty of Sukitte, and its simplicity has something to do with why that works, but this was an episode where everything just felt a little too broad and moved a little too quickly and according to formula. And both main characters just drove me up the wall. Mei, for her part, continues to play the rag doll far too much – she can’t simply pinball from crisis to crisis suffering in silence until some external event (or person, or both) pushes things towards a resolution. Mitty has set a pretty high standard for messed-up heroines this season, but I think dynamic head-cases are inherently more interesting than passive ones.
Most of my bile (I’ve tasted a lot of that these last few days) is reserved for Yamato, though, who burns through any brownie points he earned last week. I’ve never found him especially interesting I admit, and I really do think this role is a very bad fit for Sakurai Takahiro, but I’ve never felt quite a pissed at him as when he immediately trusted Megu over Mei – and in fact, never even gave Mei a chance to explain her side. That’s bad enough given what he knows about the two of them, but the level of hypocrisy is staggering – after he sneaked around behind Mei’s back for weeks with Megu, he has the unmitigated gall to condemn her without a trial based on the evidence of the very girl he was sneaking around with? Bad form, to say the least – and the fact that Kai had expressed an interest in Mei – quite honestly and openly, it should be pointed out – makes no matter. That’s nothing Mei did, and Yamato should know better.
As a viewer it’s something of a fundamental problem that Kai is inherently so much more interesting than Yamato to me, and such a better match for Mei. But anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of shoujo would immediately recognize Kai was strictly the other guy, so it’s not that big a deal – and Kai has at least rectified the fundamental problem of Sukitte having no interesting male characters. Indeed, he was the only one who said or did anything sensible this week – most satisfyingly the much-deserved punch in the face to Yamato (and even that only because Yamato tried to hit him first). Yes, Kai’s speech to Yamato was something out of an “Afterschool Special” – but at least it was on-point. In a better world – and a series that was going to explore the complimentary colors of romance a little more deeply – the fundamental hollowness of Mei’s relationship with Yamato and the potential for a meaningful one with Kai might have a chance to see the light of day. But with Sukitte, it’s a safe bet that things are going to be played straight – and the fact that it can frustrate me in the first place is evidence that it does a very good job doing so.