You know, every time Mori-san dares to act haughty in the slightest, it really burns me. And when she’s used in the tired cliche of beating on the male lead, it positively makes me seethe. When she was lecturing Manabe about acting perverted, he really should have said something along the lines of “Don’t worry – I won’t hire some thugs to viciously attack Kotoura while she’s sick.” I really like Mori best the way she was depicted in Kotoura’s Grandpa’s character parade – the old man had the measure of her, for sure. I still think her presence as an accepted member of the group is one of the biggest weaknesses of this series, and we really saw it this week.
Be that as it may, Mori is only one small part of this episode thank goodness – and it’s a pretty solid effort on the whole. It slyly advances the plot on several fronts, and I like the way it does so with so much subtlety that you could almost think you were watching a simple slice-of-life episode. It remains irksome to see anime characters going to great lengths to deny the horrifying possibility that they could be on a date – just why, exactly, can’t they simply be on a date? Manaba and Kotoura have pretty much acknowledged that they’re in love, and it’s a funny sort of hang-up in anime that we have to go through this silly denial every time high-schoolers start dating. But I give Kotoura-san credit for at least having characters on-screen point out just how silly the pretense is – like Makishima acknowledging that Psycho-Pass is ripping off Philip K. Dick.
Indeed, Kotoura-san has made something of a habit of making silk purses from sow’s ears – like turning Moritani into the butt of the series’ jokes – and walking the fine line between comedy and drama at all times. In the case of the former, it’s able to take stock situations like the anime cold and by recalibrating them in seemingly small ways make them not just feel fresh, but really significant in the overall story. Of course we’ve seen the cold thing a million times, but the twist here is that apparently when feverish or or generally under-the-weather (the actual cause could be crucial in determining just how often Kotoura’s blackouts occur) Kotoura-chan loses her ability to read minds. Interesting, that, especially given that Manabe has to deal for the first time with the reality that he can think whatever he likes without Kotoura being privy to it. When he ends up taking care of her at her place this leads to the aforementioned lecture from the loathsome Moritani, but the truth of the matter is Manabe would never take advantage of a helpless Haruka and if she (and the Prez) had any sense they’d know that. The point is that having ecchi thoughts is perfectly normal for anyone, never mind a 16 year-old male – that doesn’t make a person a deviant.
I really liked the scenes in Kotoura’s apartment as Manabe battled his own thoughts and took care of her – and I especially liked Kanemoto Hisako’s voice work in the first half of the ep (though she’s generally great all the time anyway). Kotoura’s powers don’t return immediately, interestingly, and it’s not at all surprising that she actually enjoys this break from the curse she’s lived with for her entire life. When Mifune “punishes” Manabe by making him go on a date with Kotoura, it’s rather touching to see how thrilled she is by being able to do mundane things like going to the movies without learning the ending from the viewers leaving the theatre. There are plenty of solid comic moments here and as always, the chemistry between Kotoura and Manabe is rock-solid. I’m not sure why Kotoura is one of these teenagers who likes to dress in spinster clothing (perhaps to hide her self-perceived physical inadequacies) but their trip to the boutique is interesting in that it shows that even without her psychic abilities, there’s no problem getting the gist of Manabe’s thoughts on the matter (which is rather the point of the scene).
This being Kotoura-san, it was always likely we were going to see reality bite back – and when the ED started so early, I figured there was probably a twist to come. Indeed, what a twist it was – not only did Kotoura’s powers come back, but apparently just at the moment when she was passing someone thinking about committing a murder. This is new territory for Kotoura-san, as serious as it’s already been – and it takes Haruka-chan dangerously close to places Mifune’s mother ventured in her tragic life. This coming episode may be the one where Mifune’s true motives are put to the test – as with Moritani, I’ve always felt her redemption came a little too quickly and easily, and she’s surely going to be more tempted than ever to exploit Haruka for her own ends (as indeed she’s already done, more than once). The almost uniquely stark contrast between the screwball comedy and ruthless angst is what makes this such an unusual series, and it also has the effect of making it very hard to feel comfortable in predicting where the show might and might not be willing to go. That, as much as anything, is what makes Kotoura-san such an especially compelling experience.