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.