After Makoto’s star turn last week, Minami-ke trotted out its other outlandish male supporting character this week, and two characters more different you could hardly find. Yet there are commonalities between the two of them – most obviously, I think, that they’re extremely susceptible to being trolled by mischievous females with their own agenda. In Mako-chan’s case I think there’s a core of affection underneath Kana’s admittedly cruel trolling, and to be honest the whole Mako-chan thing has taken on such a life of its own now that she really doesn’t need to do much of anything.
When it comes to Hosaka, though, I think Hayami is quite different. I like pretty much every character on this show and find all of them funny in their own ways, but she’s really the exception to that rule – I neither like her nor do I find her constant torture of Hosaka funny most of the time. The fact is that Hosaka is actually an innocent, for all his admittedly sometimes-creepy behavior – he’s a hopeless romantic who seems incapable of grasping the notion that anyone might lie to him. And Hayami constantly uses this not just to play with his emotions, but to her own advantage to boot. It’s really the only element of Minami-ke’s humor that I find sometimes crosses the line into genuine mean-spiritedness.
Another notable element of this week’s episode is that I think it probably had less Minami in it than any I can remember. It certainly had less Chiaki – I would guess she was on-screen for two minutes tops – and no Minami sisters at all until the 7-minute mark. Haruka fared better, naturally, as this episode focused on the high-school subset of the cast. But the real stars were the side characters – Maki, Atsuko, and of course Hosaka himself. Atsuko especially stood out, and she seems to have fully slipped into the hopelessly bewildered sensible member of the group. She’s just desperate for people to act in normal and predictable ways, but with a cast like this that’s pretty much always going to lead to disappointment.
Atsuko’s search for answers leads her to conclusion many anime characters have reached – “If there’s no point in thinking, maybe I shouldn’t think at all” – and to Haruka’s house, where Kana and Uchida (why are Kana and Uchida hanging out together without Chiaki? Perhaps baka-ness transcends age differences…) grill her about her success with guys. The irony of course is that she has no success with guys, but the two bakas manage to convince themselves that her advice about wearing a royal milk-tea colored coat will make them irresistible. Possibly the most interesting thing here for me is Kana’s intense interest in having “guys be all over me” – in fact, a few eps back she was intently grilling Haruka for info on her own tastes in boys. I really don’t think we’ve seen much awareness of the romance side of things from Kana’s perspective before this season, so this is an interesting turn, and she’s certainly the right age for it – but sadly it doesn’t seem to be doing Fujioka any good, as she seems completely oblivious to the possibility that he might be a potential dating partner.
Without question the funniest moment of the episode for me came in the aftermath of Natsuki and Hosaka’s conversation about the morning snowfall (I wish it snowed in Tokyo nearly as much as it does in anime Tokyo). Funny things always seem to happen when those two oddballs hook up, and here we have Hitomi running into Natsuki after just having left the nurse’s office without buttoning up her top after taking her temperature (the armpit method seems almost universal in Japan). Classic misunderstanding comedy follows as Natsuki talks about seeing the snow, and Hitomi thinks she’s talking about the cleavage: “It looked so fluffy and soft… If I were a little younger I would have jumped right in and felt it all around me. I only wish there had been a bit more volume.” The funniest part of all this though is the fact that in truth, Natsuki’s reaction to Hitomi’s show is only “You might want to button that up” – yet as soon as Haruka accidentally offers him the same show, he immediately turns into a stammering schoolboy in embarrassment. Poor Hitomi.
The two final acts take us firs to the Minami household again, where Hayami has sent Atsuko and Maki to search for weaknesses in Haruka so that she can puncture Hosaka’s idealized image of her. All they really find of interest is that in 4th-grade Kana once climbed into Haruka’s futon and wet the bed (a story Kana is understandably not keen to share) and that anyone who says bad things about Haruka (Kana had shared the fact that she was lazy and impossible to get out of the kotatsu) will be cursed. It’s too late for Hosaka anyway – he’s fully convinced that she’s a Goddess, and goes on to offer up an entirely irreligious song about Christmas and his own object of worship. Maybe one day he’ll manage to evade Hayami’s machinations and actually communicate his feelings to her – but that seems about as likely as Fujioka really being Santa Claus. As I’ve said many times before, I get the feeling sometimes that Minami-ke is just one of those series that doesn’t want people to get together…
ED3: “Christmas Song” by Daisuke Ono