Once again we see that the success of Servant X Service, perhaps more than any ensemble series of recent vintage, is totally based on which characters it focuses on. It’s clear that the author’s heart is most in the Hasebe x Lucy scenes, but there are others strengths here too. And this episode was a nice mix of core focus on the two leads (first among equals, I’d call them) and on some of the more effective office humor we’ve seen, along with the best episode yet for the best character not named Hasebe or Lucy.
I wasn’t talking about Momoi there, but I did think his chapter this week was his strongest so far. Especially funny was the moment where he locked eyes with the little girl whose mother had bought him, while stirring male chorale music swelled, only to hear her proclaim that the tartan bunny was “way cuter”. It’s mostly Koyama Rikiya eating up the absurdity of the situation for lunch that makes it work, but who cares as long as it works? I’m pretty much past the point of trying to make any sense of Momoi – why the hell is he still pretending to be a bunny even when he’s out in public with his daughter? The whole thing is so stupid that it almost manages to be meta, though I’m not sure it quite gets there most of the time.
We did get more than a sliver of Lucy and Hasebe this week, and I’m assuming the season is building to their big date in the finale. The show just lights up whenever the two of them are together – they’re pure magic when it comes to chemistry, both romantically and comically. They’re a curious combination of “opposites attract” – Hasebe is incredibly self-aware and Lucy… isn’t – and peas in a pod, because both of them are self-loathing and incredibly insecure in different ways. I can’t choose which is the more engaging character arc, because I like both of them too much. Hasebe is a classic poser, expert at being a “gaudy guy” and putting on a performance for the world. Lucy is the one who exposed him, both to himself and to others – she was the lockpick that opened up his heart and let all his vulnerabilities spill out. I love the way his facade is completely unmade whenever he’s around her, and it’s gotten to the point that after his confession he’s been avoiding being alone with her because he doesn’t like the way that makes him feel.
As for Lucy, well – she may be amazingly naive and socially inept after having avoided boys all her life, but there’s a good deal of self-deception going on there too. Chihaya plays into this by telling her lies about Hasebe that she wants to believe. He can’t possibly be this nice to just her (“Equality for all!”) because that means she’s someone worth being that nice to. She’s so utterly guileless and hapless that she’s moe in a good sense of the word – I mean, eating a bag of bread crusts for lunch, for goodness sake? The two of them are inching forward in their mutual understanding – awkwardly and haltingly, yes, but forward nonetheless. That date is indeed going to be an interesting one to watch.
The real strength of the episode, though, was probably the focus on Saya, who’s always been engaging but generally underused. It certainly doesn’t hurt that we have the brilliant Nakahara Mai at work here, and she’s perfectly capturing Saya’s combination of keen observational skills and social awkwardness. Saya is a self-contained bundle of contradictions – she gets people instinctively, but her interactions are somewhat askew. She’s kind, but brutally honest – I love the way she’s developed as a sort of unwitting assassin who assesses everyone around her with unerring accuracy and lays waste to their confidence with a casual sentence or two. Saya seems perpetually puzzled that the rest of the world doesn’t get things the way she does, and she seems to be operating slightly out of synch with the rest of the world most of the time.
Saya’s day out was one of the better non-Hasebe/Lucy montages of the series. They were involved of course – she at the bookstore debating whether it was worth another week of bread crusts for lunch to buy the book she wants (hint: no), and he playing “Taiko Drum Master” to the series OP theme – but it was mostly Saya being puzzled by how little sense everyone else makes. I’m certainly no fan of Jyouji, but the scenes between he and Miyoshi were certainly the most effective of any he’s been involved in. I found it especially funny that Miyoshi silently stared at Jyouji downing bottle after bottle of wine, then in a moment where the tension finally broke she took one sip and immediately passed out. Jyouji did heed Hasebe’s warning (more proof that Hasebe really is a good guy, even when Lucy isn’t involved) not to do anything “weird” to her, but there are definitely signals that S x S is opening the door to her actually developing feelings for him, and maybe he for her. I hope not – I still think the guy is a freak and she can and should do a whole lot better.