It’s not as though this is a series that’s been able to shock the audience with its serious tone once the premiere was in the books. That was a one-time deal – once the cat was out of the bag the show wasn’t getting any more freebies out of not being the silly comedy many of us expected, but had to earn whatever it got through actual development. But while the subsequent episodes may not have had the sheer impact the premiere did for that reason, it’s never stopped being surprising, and I respect it a great deal for that.
I can’t speak for the manga, but as for the anime it’s quite clear – Kotoura-san is a serious show with comic moments, rather than the other way around. It’s really Manabe-kun that’s the dynamic character we’re following, and thank goodness for that, as he’s one of the better male leads of the last year. Harukaa-san’s role is basically to provide the MacGuffin and to look and act cute – and don’t get me wrong, she does both those things with admirable dexterity. But once we “get” Haruka, there’s not a whole lot of dynamic there – she’s adorable, unfailingly kind and forgiving, and cursed with an ability many would love to have but she would gladly be rid of permanently.
Manabe, by contrast, is always providing surprising depth. Superficially he’s as predictable as Haruka-chan – the kind-hearted ecchi boy whose thoughts betray nothing he’s trying to hide because he’s totally transparent. But while Manabe is as much a straight shooter as he seems to be, he’s also rather more clever. We saw several examples of it this week, as Haruka dealt with the trauma of having seen what she did (traumatic enough to make her lose consciousness, in fact). As we have before, we see Manabe use his so-called perverted thoughts as a distraction to get Kotoura-chan’s mind off being afraid. Even more interestingly, we see him use them as a device to try and get Kumiko to feel something protective towards her daughter in the hotel (and successfully). Manabe may not have ESP but he’s still quite able to read Kotoura, and to know what she’s feeling – and what she needs to feel better.
I think this series and its main character have more in common than simply a name. Kotoura-san – italicized or otherwise – seems bound and determined to forgive pretty much everyone, no matter what they do. I continue to struggle with Moritani’s characterization, because she’s the last person in the world who should be acting as Haruka’s “protection” against Manabe. It should be the other way around, because Manabe quite literally always has Kotoura’s back and Mori is always getting Kotoura or herself (or Manabe, obviously) in trouble with her piss-poor judgment and impulsiveness. Feeling remorse after the fact doesn’t exempt Mori from blame for constantly screwing up, and to be honest it seems clear to me that the main reason she’s so determined to keep anything from happening between Manabe and Haruka is because if she can’t have him, she doesn’t want anyone else to. Haruka seems quite content with the possibility that she and Manabe will become intimate at some point in the near future – and there’s no reason she shouldn’t – and Mori needs to keep her nose out of it.
That intent to forgive extends to Mifune and to Kumiko as well, of course – though Mifune’s true nature is still the most difficult to discern of anyone in the cast. We see through Muroto’s reactions that the current state of affairs is taking Mifune into dangerous waters, as if that weren’t obvious enough when she suggests they try and solve the case of the schoolgirl assaults themselves. It’s clear that the detective in charge of the case is familiar with her – no doubt because of dealings with her mother. We’re given quite a few teasing clues about who might be behind the attacks. I’m 100% confident that the preview scene of Mori with blood on her hands (though symbolically she certainly does) is a head-fake, but less certain is Haruka’s reaction when she meets her mother’s boyfriend Tsuyama (Shiga Madoka). It seems more likely she’s simply reading the fact that he’s a gold-digger after her grandfather’s money, but it’s out there – and so is the fact that the young female detective working on the case is behaving rather oddly as well.