Servant X Service – 08

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It doesn’t always get there, but boy, when this show clicks it’s really a blast.

So pretty much everything I said in last week’s post, about Servant X Service having two orbits and the success of the series depending on which mode it’s in?  I’m doubling down on that, because this episode just confirms it as far as I’m concerned.  If last week’s ep was rather flat, this was was all peaks and no valleys – terrifically funny and involving from start to finish, and one of the best romantic comedy episodes of any anime this year.

In a funny way, S x S is both sillier and more serious than Working!.  We have the obvious gap in suspension of disbelief – the whole “Boss Bunny” thing certainly trumps a katana-carrying waitress in that regard – but the relationship side of the show is, for me, more grounded.  Perhaps that’s because we’re dealing with adults here while the main couple in Working! were high-schoolers, but that pairing was also built around some pretty far-out conceits that sometimes felt like a lot to take as a viewer.  There are some comically extreme elements to Hasebe x Lucy too, but they’re more anchored in real-life neuroses and somehow, feel more connected to reality.

I make no bones about the fact that a good chunk of my affection for S x S is based on Hasebe and Lucy, and about the fact that I absolutely love their relationship.  It just gets more and more charming with every episode.  Romantic pairings are funny things, and it’s not always easy to quantify why one works and another doesn’t, but for me this one fires on all cylinders.  I suppose is starts with loving both of them as characters, and I do – Hasebe especially is a fascinating puzzle, a man full of contradictions that he’s more self-aware of than most, but Lucy is extraordinarily likeable and unpretentious as well.  It’s the chemistry between them that really makes things soar, though – every conversation at every family restaurant is incredibly natural and unforced in a way few anime couples can ever achieve.

I’m not especially fond of Tanaka Jyouji as a character, but he was certainly used effectively for a noble cause here – furthering the relationship between Hasebe and Lucy.  Tanaka is both unhinged and quite unlikable – it’s no wonder he needs his Grandma to try and pimp him out for a potential wife.  His obsession with Hasebe turns out to be supposedly based on a confrontation they had in high school, which he’s convinced sent Hasebe down a path to mediocrity (in reality a desperate attempt to inflate his self-worth, as Tanaka is nowhere near that important to Hasebe), but it’s very clear this extends far beyond that.  I don’t know if Tanaka is in love with Hasebe in the conventional sense, but he’s certainly a stalker – I mean, if the waiting outside the office every day thing didn’t convince you, following Hasebe to college certainly should.  He really crossed a line though this week – first, by physically dragging Lucy off to have dinner with him, and then in the way he treated her once they got to the restaurant.

The funny thing here is that as soon as Lucy adopted the strategy of getting Tanaka drunk as her escape plan, I thought to myself “The guy acts drunk when he’s sober, so will there even be any difference?”  And indeed, that’s exactly how things turned out.  What a fucking nerve, insulting sweet, kind (and very pretty) Lucy as a “plain girl” and then asking her out in spite of admitting that he doesn’t fancy her, just to try and jab at Hasebe.  Fortunately Saya has spotted the kidnapping, and called Hasebe in to save the day.  Which he does, riding to the rescue in true white-knight fashion, and delivering a couple of richly-deserved punches to Jyouji in the process of the rescue.  Hasebe’s facade comes crashing down when it comes to Lucy – there can be no doubt that he takes her very, very seriously.

The aftermath of the Jyouji incident contains absolutely one of my favorite exchanges of anime dialogue in a very long time.  Lucy is clearly grateful – genuinely so – to Hasebe for coming to her rescue.  She offers what amounts to a defense of Hasebe’s choices and his lifestyle in the guise of a defense of her own – a rather profound proclamation that if you enjoy your job and do things in your life that make you happy, you’re a success no matter what anyone else says.  And Hasebe so clearly snaps in that moment that you can almost hear the “Crack!”.  He’s been falling for Lucy for a while, but this is the tipping point where he can no longer convince himself that this is all a lark, just another challenge for him – and he walks home ten stations in order to try and clear his head.  It’s a beautiful, heartfelt and convincing romcom moment – one of the best scenes in any anime this season.

We’re left with an interesting sort of cliffhanger, as Hasebe calls in his “points” when Lucy tries to thank him for saving her yet again, and offers her a choice – wear a skirt on a date, or to work.  He even calls her bluff when she says she’s busy for two months – two months later is fine, he says – and skilfully undercuts Chihaya’s jealous meddling by offering her the plum assignment of dressing Lucy for the date.  In truth, of course, Hasebe and Lucy have really been dating for a while – these casual after-work dinners and bookstore trips have slowly been building familiarity and comfort between them, though crucially Lucy has been able to convince herself they were nothing like real dates.  There’s a fun and funny and fascinating dance of self-deception – and plain deception – going on with Lucy and Hasebe, but I think they understand each other better than Lucy would admit.  I don’t know where we’re going with this relationship – we have five eps left, and the hope of another season in the future – but I’ll be very disappointed if we don’t see the two of them become a real couple.  They have great chemistry, and their relationship is the most genuine and charming I’ve seen in anime this year.

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  1. T

    I found the moment when Tanaka got lucy number without even trying the funniest moment in the episode for me. He unconsciously won against hasebe without even trying. Poor baby doesn't even know it. But you are right the guy is unhinged and was very rude to lucy he needed a couple of punches in the head.

    Wow this episode caught me by surprise it is not a joke anymore hasebe has deeply fallen for lucy. Damn he won't even take no for an answer and out maneuvers the great chihaya to get lucy all dressed up for the date. He knows she doesn't view herself in the greatest light so it was nice indirect way to encourage her to dress up a little bit more.

    I found the scene where he admits he was nervous the whole time while asking her out incredibility sweet!!!!

    I have this feeling hasebe father is the one who approved her name when he finds that out boy is he going to try his best to make sure that she doesn't find out.

  2. I don't think there's any question Hasebe's Dad is the Lucy name guy. But I never really thought Hasebe's falling for Lucy was a joke – it always seemed to me that he was serious about her, even if he did a good job of kidding himself.

  3. T

    That is what I meant. I guess I wasn't clear in my post lol I meant he tried convincing otherwise but like you said the cracking point really did it. I do wonder how things are going to work out in the end?

    I can't wait ^_^

  4. R

    I love it when this show focuses on Hasebe and Lucy, and this week's episode makes a "giant" leap of their relationship!

    I agree that Tanaka isn't a likable character, but he's more like a plot device that pushes the storyline of Hasebe and Lucy forward. Instead of being contented with simply spending time with Lucy and letting her oblivion slide, Hasebe can't contain himself anymore and finally takes action. I like that we get to see another side of Hasebe — and Lucy. This is indeed a wonderful episode — like Uchouten this week, it tells us more of its characters and story in an engaging way. Hopefully, we can see some progress of the two before the show ends.

  5. M

    I thought this was supposed to be a comedy about life as a civil servant, not romance…again!

  6. M

    Perhaps this is due to my little understanding of Japanese, but what the hell did the fish on Lucy's head mean?!

  7. Well, she's a saba (mackerel) and she makes a joke about eggs and fertilization, but if there's an actual joke to the name itself, I don't get it.

  8. K

    I read a manga about a man who accidentally ate his potential bride while she was transforming from his dead mackarel. I still felt immensely uncomfortable about it. This anime just remind me about it…


  9. Z

    I was right to drop this. Romcom isn't my thing.

  10. f

    AND DID YOU ALSO SEE THE TAYLOR SWIFT POSTER?? I guess it's a minor thing, but I also love how this show references a bunch of other things – the free! endcard last week, the cosplaying…

  11. Where was the Taylor Swift poster??

  12. f

    It was during the final scene when Hasebe was having that dream – a heavily blurred out poster of Speak Now is mounted on the wall above his bed. Funny that he should have THAT in his room.

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