I’m not sure an anime ever existed that couldn’t be improved by adding Koyama Rikiya as a talking bunny. But that said, nothing in Takatsu Karino’s background prepared me for the possibility that the Section Manager might be a stuffed animal. It doesn’t undermine the premise’s realism in the same way Touko’s presence does because it’s so far removed from reality itself, but it’s undeniably a game changer. I’ve tried to think of any example from Working! that would qualify as so overtly magical in nature and came up blank, so I really think this is a first – but in this world, talking bunnies can be section managers.
When the Kachou, Kenzou Mamoi, first appeared I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop – ventriloquism, string puppetry, something. But no, after the izakaya scene I think it’s safe to say the Kachou really is what he appears to be – sort of. Will we get an explanation for that? Who knows – and absurdity certainly isn’t a new device for Takatsu-sensei, though it’s never been taken to this extreme. Yes, I know he’s supposedly a “high-tech usagi” with camera, stereo and “other things” being controlled from afar by a presumably very shy human man – but let’s be honest, that’s so far-fetched that it might as well be Harry Potter. No, Momoi-san is for all practical purposes a magical beast – that’s how he plays in the story anyway. And fortunately Koyama-san is pretty hilarious in the role. It goes without saying he’s one of the best seiyuu in the game, but his ability to do comedy is often underrated.
I predict Kachou has a very specific role to play in moving the plot, and that’s to connect the youngsters directly to Hasabe’s father, with whom he says he started out as a newbie civil servant. That will have obvious ramifications for Lucy if what so many of us have guessed is true, and therefore also on Lucy and Hasabe-kun’s relationship – which is the true focus of the episode and might quite possibly end up as the central pillar of the entire series. That’s how the episode starts out pre-Kachou in fact – right where it left off last week, with Hasabe teaching Lucy sign language. The fact that he’s doing so in a far more hands-on manner than is probably necessary should surprise no one, and it sets off the jealous rage in Chihaya that also looks like it’s going to be a major theme going forward.
I like Lucy, I like Hasabe, and I like them together. I think what’s really interesting about Hasabe is that he’s so hard to figure out, and seemingly full of internal contradictions. When he flat-out asks Lucy on a date it’s only a momentary surprise – it’s a rare thing in anime for a guy to be so direct but it fits Hasabe’s nature to a “T”. Lucy rejects him, unsurprisingly, and Hasabe grins and strolls off as if nothing had happened. But then later we find out he’d told Miyoshi that he’d never asked a girl out before (presumably plenty have asked him). And we begin to wonder: was he so unbothered by Lucy’s rejection as he seemed? What’s refreshing about Hasabe is that he simply says what he wants to say, so naturally he’s quite open with Lucy when she approaches him the next day to give him the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech. The funny thing is though, that in Lucy’s case – maybe for the first time ever in human history – that excuse is actually true.
This is a very interesting dynamic. Hasabe pulls faces and acts all pretend-hurt to be rejected – but one suspects he really is a bit hurt. Lucy’s pretense for rejecting him is that the very idea of a glasses-wearing, plain, ridiculously-named girl like her dating anyone is ridiculous. That’s silly and a bit sad, but it also implies that there’s nothing in Hasabe himself that she sees as unfit to date – which is a kind of implied admission that she likes him. He skilfully manoeuvres the situation into a kind of “non-date date” scenario where they’re simply co-workers eating together, and it seems that Lucy actually enjoys spending time with him. I’m not painting Hasabe as a saint or anything but I don’t see him as a bad guy here – I think he honestly likes Lucy, he treats her nicely (mostly) and she’s coming out of her shell of low self-esteem as a result. The Chihaya element isn’t so interesting to me – whether her jealousy is of a romantic nature or really does boil down to her coveting Lucy as an ideal cosplay victim I don’t really care so much one way or the other – it’s not as interesting as the relationship between Lucy and Hasebe itself.
The upshot of all this is that Lucy’s nickname is now “Aho Lucy” around the office – even Miyoshi piles on – and the gang (minus Chihaya, interestingly) ends up going drinking with Usagi-Kachou when he pouts about never having been invited along. Pretty standard scene follows apart from the talking bunny, but the dialogue and interaction in Servant X Service is so natural that it’s highly entertaining, and we get to hear Kayano Ai do her drunk voice. What a surprise, it falls on Hasebe to take her home after she’s too buzzed on one cocktail to go alone, and not only that, they’ve missed the last train. The great thing is, we’ve come to know Hasebe well enough to know that there’s no way he’ll do anything he shouldn’t, even if that means needing to have Lucy sleep it off at a love hotel. And when she wakes up, she isn’t alone: there’s someone who looks suspiciously like a female Hasebe next to her. Either he’s a lot more feminine when he’s asleep or he has a sister – stay tuned to find out.