I have an awful lot of affection for Kotoura-san so I’d rather not dwell too much on this episode, because it was definitely a slip-up. Not a particularly surprising one, admittedly, as the biggest reasons were pretty much the same trip-wires that have been threatening the series since the beginning. Simply put, this episode just wasn’t very good – it was predictable, relied way too much on coincidence, was generally rather silly and not in a good way, and indulged the highly irritating habit the show has for putting characters on the Shinkansen ticket to redemption no matter what it is they’ve done.
I don’t think too much that happened here was a surprise in terms of plot. Tsukino-san being the attacker was pretty much a given, and I was probably the last person in the audience dim enough not to have picked up on the possibility of multiple personality disorder being the reason Haruka-chan never picked up on it. I’m OK with predictability to that extent, really, but I have some pretty big issues with the way the whole plot was resolved.
Let’s start with Haruka herself. This show has a funny way of approaching her, in that one the one hand it seems to acknowledge that her dogged insistence on blaming herself for all the ills of the universe is very silly. Yet it never seems to outright say so, and it allows her to continue to do so in such a way as to suggest that it’s supposed to be endearing. Well, it isn’t – at least not for me or for Manabe. Does the series get this, or not? I’m not sure. When Kotoura-san was moaning to Mori about everything that happened was her fault, all I could think of was just how silly that sounded, and how much of a stretch it was even to suggest it. Mori did call her out on it, but then everything moved on and that was the end of it. Very strange indeed.
As far as the mechanics of the plot go, I could get very irritated about stuff like just how Manabe arrived at Tsukino’s house at the perfect moment, or Haruka’s phone falling under a chair, or even just how the ESP Club managed to get Tsukino’s address and arrive before the cops did to begin with (or why Haruka chose to flee by going up the stairs – sheesh – though at least Tsukino herself pointed out how dumb that was). But really, that’s all small potatoes and I don’t expect photo-realism from this sort of series. But Tsukino’s storyline was not only anti-climactic, it exemplified the worst of the “forgive and forget” mentality that this series has defaulted to far too often. I’m not saying Tsukino-san couldn’t have had a real disorder and felt real remorse, but you can’t ram through a character arc that quickly and that simplistically and expect my buy-in for a sympathetic ending for the person who’s been sending little girls (and one little danshi koukousei) to the hospital. They’re the victims here, not Tsukino – just as Manabe was the victim in the Mori incident (and I wasn’t too thrilled to see her continue to physically abuse him and have him apologize to her, either).
It strikes me that the problem with Kotoura-san may simply be that the type of series it is – a 4-koma manga adaptation that relies heavily on comedy – makes it ill-suited to try and handle these heavily dramatic storylines in a cogent and believable way. I loved the premiere, and it was as dramatic as it gets – and I certainly enjoy genre-bending series as a general rule. But what we see with this one is short-cuts and cop-outs and coincidences, and those are the signs of a series that’s over-reaching. It could also be a matter of trying to do too much with one cour, which is certainly a problem that has plagued many good shows that have come before. I like this show a lot and I have real respect for its ability to juxtapose the very contrary elements that make it what it is, but this last arc has really exposed its vulnerabilities. I hope we end on an episode that contrasts by giving the series the chance to display its not inconsiderable strengths.