Servant x Service – 02

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About to be put to the test: can one character ruin an otherwise extremely promising show?

There’s so much I like about Servant X Service – the premise, the accuracy with which is portrays the life of an office worker, almost all the characters.  Heck, even Kayano Ai saying “Chihaya-san” is a pleasure to listen to.  But boy, I do not like Ichiomaya Touko (Ookubo Rumi).  I do not like her in a box, I do not liker her with a fox, I do not like her in a house, I do not like her with a mouse, I do not like her here or there, I do not like her anywhere.

You get the point.

Things were going along swimmingly until Touko “sama” (blech) arrived on the scene like a cloud of toxic smog.  Perhaps not quite as swimmingly as last week – I didn’t find the humor in the first half of the episode quite as funny as I did in the premiere, but it still mostly worked.  The revelation that Chihaya-san was an otaku and cosplayer was an interesting one – now wholly original, but nicely portrayed.  Also not too original is her obsession with Lucy’s bust size (nor the show’s obsession with it) but again, executed well enough to earn some laughs.  I especially enjoyed the exchange where she said “F cup!” and Lucy was relieved to hear her breasts looked that small.

I think my biggest laugh of the episode, though, came when Hasabe (who seems to be the funniest character in the cast for certain) tricked Lucy into playing the dumb, clumsy girl supposedly for the benefit of Miyoshi-san, who was suffering her perennial crisis of confidence – then used the opportunity to take video of her in the act.  Hasebe is an edgy character, no doubt, and in some ways he feels most like a Working! character of anyone in the cast.  But the fact that he’s able to succeed at anything he sets his mind to without breaking a sweat is what makes him work as a character.  Everyone who’s had a few jobs has known people like him – they piss you off, but in a certain way you can’t help but be taken in by their effortless charm.

But then, Touko.  My question, of course, is “Why?”  Why does this of all series need a character who’s not just a walking billboard of any nasty cliche that’s been the flavor-of-the-week in anime these last few years, but an incredibly annoying one at that?  I despise this trope and I don’t especially like this version of it – Touko is like Kirino without the charm (scary thought, that).  Officious, arrogant, rude, incredibly entitled and a brocon to boot – she’s pretty much a slam dunk of every annoying aspect of the imouto trope.

The worst thing about this stock character, I think, is that it always seems as if we’re supposed to love them in spite of all their faults.  Because they’re so cute, and because they love their brother deep down in their hearts, and just… because.  Well, I call BS on that – I don’t feel sorry for Touko and I don’t think it’s especially charming to go into your brother’s workplace, embarrass him in front of his staff and superiors, make everyone’s job a lot harder, and hit him repeatedly with a bag full of books.  It’s not charming, it’s not cute, and the most unforgivable sin of all in a series like Servant x Service – it’s not funny.  Touko took what had been a gloriously smart and amusing series for 1.5 episodes and turned it into a grating, tiresome mess that seemed to last an hour in its final 10 minutes (at least Nakahara Mai’s sketch was cute).  The only parts I enjoyed were when Hasabe trolled her and got her phone number, and Miyoshi’s obaa-san admirer ripped her a new one.

We’re in the character-introduction stage so far, and Touko has been introduced – so hopefully that means she’s not going to be a true regular but more of an occasional annoyance.  She completely shattered the aura of realism that the series managed to build around the ward office environment because she’s a completely preposterous and contrived outlier that stands out like a sore thumb.  She’s a problem when she’s on-screen, but her very existence is a problem because it undercuts the series’ attempts to be a credible workplace satire.  I won’t lie – she’s a big, big problem for me.  If she rarely appears, maybe it won’t be an insurmountable one – but the genie is never going to be put back in the bottle.  All in all I can only say I’m seriously deflated, and my expectation that S x S was going to be one of the better series of the Summer is now more of an uncertain hope.

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12 comments

  1. l

    I dislike these "tropes" as much as you do, Enzo, but didn't really find that skit quite as grating, mainly because she got pwned by all of em in the end. Her appearance in the office itself was more absurd than her behavior.

    I think getting burned by that Ore no Emo Imouto Whatever show (which you should never have picked up in the first place) has just put too much of a bad taste in your mouth.

    I will admit that this ep was very, very otaku-centric – cosplay, imouto, boob-size – and lost some of its tastefulness as a result of that. Probably the editor's fault, that. "Hey mangaka-san! We should add an imouto character and some cosplay to make this sell more copies and rise up the charts. If that doesn't work, we'll add a enjo-kosai-tanuki next month."

    Btw, I've grown fond of that granny who visits Saya-chan. She's beyond awesome!!

  2. S

    Japanese grandmothers are awesome. Especially if they have a family business, their charm always lures you in and personally, I usually got free food for returning! It is awkward when they try to set you up with their grandchildren though.

  3. I think you hit the nail on the head, though – this ep (chapter) feels as if it were written by an editor, and that's never a good thing. I think if it had come a little later in the series, when the world and characters were better-established, the damage would have been less.

  4. R

    "I especially enjoyed the exchange where she said "F cup!" and Lucy was relieved to hear her breasts looked that small." Yes, I laughed at that as well.

    I am starting to like Hasebe — I love his light-hearted attitude — and the chemistry between him and Lucy. As for Touko, I honestly don't see the point of introducing a character like her to the show. I would rather see it focusing on the mundane lives of the civil servants and the chemistry amongst the characters.

  5. i

    "I do not like her in a box, I do not liker her with a fox, I do not like her in a house, I do not like her with a mouse, I do not like her here or there, I do not like her anywhere."

    Is this from that story about a girl breaking and entering the home of three bears?

    "Kirino without the charm" – I heartily disagree with that. Firstly because Kirino and charm are like Yankees and Red Sox. Also because I didn't find her grating, actually I found her rather cute when getting dissed by everyone else at some point. I also happen to know that relatives, maybe not brocon imoutos, always visit relations working for the government for this and that reason. And they get quite heated when told that there isn't a shortcut for their papers to get processed. At least Toko got as much as she gave which cannot ever be said for Kirino and Ichiyama isn't a siscon.

    Hasebe has to be related somehow to Souma, they even have their eyes closed most of the time. The lack of a Sato to keep him in line though is sad. All in all I still find it as funny as the premier.

    As for character introductions I think we still have one important one left – the damn pink teddy bear.

  6. a

    Once Hasebe's character was laid out my first reaction was that if he and Souma met they might bring about the end of the world. I'm actually quite liking the lack of a watchdog just to see how crazy Hasebe's antics will be.

  7. a

    I actually saw a contrast from Kirino for Touko because her facade got exposed right away and smacked back down to reality. By the end it seemed like the adults feeling bad for a clearly lonely kid and Miyoshi being her overly nice self and throwing Touko a bone to visit the office. So I think the point was exposing Touko as just being annoying but also still just a kid. Though, yes, that doesn't change the fact that she was an annoying imouto archetype.

    Also I'm not sure that expecting realism is the best way to set your expectations for this show. Working! had a realistic setting, but it was very much about the characters doing absurd things in that setting. Realism about the work wasn't the central focus even if nuggets about that kind of work were scattered around quite a bit. Even Touko coming in isn't too different from when Takanashi's sisters would invade Wagnaria all the time (equally unrealistic/absurd). It's possible that the author went in a different direction with this series, but I wouldn't bet too heavily on it. I'm still mostly just expecting a Working! like show just in a more adult setting.

  8. Problem is, the degree to which the mangaka captures the nuance of the workplace is my favorite part of her work. Take that away, and it loses a lot of its charm for me. I think Touko is quite a bit different both in tone and in the degree to which she destroys the framework of the premise.

    Really, I think anime fans have become somewhat inured to the imouto trope, to the point where they're like American voters – they've lost the capacity for outrage.

  9. S

    Death to the annoying imouto. When I watched this episode I already knew there was going to be "someone" worthy of my hate from the headline of your post – and boy, did my spider-sense do some tingling when Touko appeared. I really hated this: especially the way the thing was played straight following anime tropes, instead of going for either realism (Touko gets kicked out of the office without too many formalisms) or just keeping on with the bashing. I don't know why it's supposed to be "politically correct" for these guys to just pity the poor child and let her waste their precious (and tax-payed) time. Look at your "Silver Spoon" peers, Touko: they swim in cow dung all day and even the ickiest of them all complains much less than you'd do in the same situation. You know, they actually have WORK to do. Instead of skipping school in order to annoy their relatives.

  10. H

    I don't mind Kirino as much as a lot of people, but I found Touko to be pretty awful. She really did suck all the air out of the room, and much like my least favorite character in Minami-ke, Hosaka, makes the entire show be about her for the entire duration of her appearance, plus lead-in and lead-out. On top of that, she's far more unrealistic than either of those other characters mentioned, because I can't see an office putting up with that to the degree that she becomes such a feared force. I mean, heck, Yamagami and Hasabe got a lecture for running around the office, are you telling me that Taishi wouldn't get the same, and eventually fired, for letting his tyrannical imouto terrorize the workplace repeatedly?

  11. S

    Even Touko's voice was pretty painful to listen to. I'll still watch it, because I don't think there's much else worth watching this season in the comedy area, but still…that was pretty bad.

  12. T

    IMHO I liked this episode more than last week, but before you jab me with a pitch fork let me make this clear: No, I don't really like Touko either. I could at least take it if she was just an annoying HS girl obsessed with the work place, but she had to turn into Kirino, who I didn't really like much at all.

    That said however why did I like this ep more than last week's? Well because the energy was up alot higher I suppose. Its a personal preference but I like for there to be alot of energy in my comidies, not so much where there isn't SOME sliver of cleverness placed some where but enough to really get me to like the characters, and while touko can go jump in a fire along with Kirino and Kuroko, I do like the rest of the cast for the most part.

    P.S. I find it somewhat irritating though that RIGHT WHEN Oremio was about to end for good, this episode pops up.

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