Ho-hum – another week, another sterling example of Minami-ke Tadaima. I wasn’t sure anything could make me laugh as hard as the whiteboard scene in Zetsuen to Tempest, but this ep came pretty darn close. And it was much needed too, after this week’s Psycho-Pass, Robotics;Notes and Shin Sekai Yori.
You could have told me that episode featured the following and I would have been pretty convinced it was going to be great:
- Moe-kyun Kana-chan
- Takusan Mako-chan
I’ve said it before, but I really think many of Minami-ke’s best moments come when Mako-chan is involved. He’s a singular creation of comic genius, and among anime traps I think Makoto/-chan is the most interesting take on the psychology of the trope – and he brings out the best in Kana’s baka genius, too. One of the most interesting elements of the character is that Makoto/-chan’s best and worst days tend to be the same days – we saw it in earlier seasons (Haruka tuning in Tokyo in the changing room comes to mind) and we saw it here again this week.
Before that, though, we had some another thoroughly delightful spectacle – Kana-san the bishoujo. The premise: Uchida and Yoshino are over and the subject of Maki and Atsuko having part-time jobs – an exotic and fascinating topic to grade-schoolers – comes up. Kana decides it’s time for interview practice, but Chiaki intervenes and says she needs to interview Kana to see if she’s fit to be an interviewer. Kana’s only answer when I’m about herself: “I’m a bishoujo!”. She then proceeds to change into a dress, let her hair down and become a sort of mini-Haruka with dark hair and extra sugar. Maybe it’s just me, but Kana seems cuter than ever this year – she’s always been hilarious, but I don’t ever recall her being this kawaii and frankly, this pretty. While this act confuses the heck out of the visiting Fujioka, he reacts by finally confessing (again) that he loves the “real” Kana. Sadly, though, even in bishoujo mode Kana is still clueless, and Fujioka’s effort is a swing and miss.
That skit plays directly off one featuring Kana’s circle, and the topic of horoscopes. Riko’s warns her to steer clear of water, which is a problem as the gang are going to the pool – and this is another opportunity to note that Kana definitely doesn’t share Haruka’s fear of the two-piece (which we’ll discover later she seems to have overcome at last). Especially as there’s no one in blue around, and someone in blue is supposed to protect Libras that day. Fortunately Fujioka shows up here too, though this time it’s a coincidence, and shows remarkable composure as Kana and Keiko spend the better part of 30 seconds staring at the crotch of his blue swimsuit from close range. It’s Riko’s lucky day after all – thought it’s also another example of everyone in this series being in love with the person who isn’t in love with them.
The main event, certainly, is the beach trip featuring all three sisters and all of Chiaki’s close circle (apart from Touma, who may have been getting a little overexposed anyway). This is a shining example of all the pleasures and perils of being this particular shougakusei cross-dresser. Kana has told Makoto to wear a swimsuit but not that a beach trip is planned, so he’s quite peeved at not having a chance to “prepare for these things”. Things begin to take on the air of a spoof of 70’s porn flicks (which I’ve only heard about) as Mako-chan wistfully (perhaps the funniest facial expression in anime this season) watches Kana and Chiaki splashing in the water, before Haruka calls her over and offers in a husky voice to “Rub suntan oil on you, if you like.” There are times I wonder if Haruka is in banchou-mode and knows Makoto’s secret, and tortures him on purpose. I suppose not, but there are certain things boys that age simply aren’t qualified to endure – as the results prove clear. The best days are the worst indeed, and vice-versa.
There’s a very interesting dynamic between Makoto, Mako-chan, Haruka and Chiaki. Yeah, Makoto has a huge crush on Haruka – who wouldn’t – but he also says “I’ll never take this off as long as I live!” when Chiaki puts a band-aid on Makoto’s boo-boo at school. For all her hostility towards Makoto, I see it more as the kind of grade-school distraction that boys and girls resort to with kids they like, to cover up the fact that they like them. There can be no question whatsoever that she adores Mako-chan – she positively dotes on her and follows her like a puppy, the slightly “older” girl who’s so feminine and capable. Somewhat more seriously than with Haruka I wonder if Chiaki knows the truth, except on a subconscious level – perhaps her affection for Makoto finds a much safer outlet in Mako-chan. In any event in scenes like the one where Mako-chan teaches Chiaki to swim (incidentally, it’s fascinating how Makoto’s personality really changes when he’s Mako-chan – he goes from the hyper-genki grade-school boy to the responsible and sober middle-school girl) it’s hard not to see a real connection between them, even if he is in disguise – and when he has to give her a massive “Pose of Denial!” later on to hide the fact that Mako-chan is wearing Makoto’s band-aid in the exact same spot, she’s absolutely crushed.
In any event, that’s the sort of discussion that goes deeper than Minami-ke itself is ever likely to go – the manga is even less relationship-focused than the mangaka’s other series, “Kyou no Go no Ni”. Instead we get a reminder of just what a mixed blessing being Mako-chan is – Makoto now has a tan-line with shoulder straps. I hope getting to second-base with Haruka – for the second time – was worth it…