Boy, was that episode ever a tale of two halves. The A-part was very much a continuation of the mostly slice-of-life mode that the series has been in for the second season, and while I love that side of Gin no Saji I found myself beginning to feel just the first pangs of impatience creeping in. After the eyecatch, though, everything kicked into another gear and the story really began to move on several fronts – including one where I had some suspicions that it might never move until the very end of the manga, if then.
If there’s been a recurring theme this season, it’s been that of Hachiken’s inability to say no. To the extent that this entire series is effectively a deconstruction of Hachiken’s character we’ve seen some exploration of the reasons for that, but there’s a strong practical impact to be considered too. When a major event like the Ezonoo festival comes around, people like Hachiken always suffer the most. As I said earlier, one of the worst things you can be tagged with in life is the reputation that you’re “that guy who can’t say no”. And we’re finally seeing the brutal reality of that hit Hachi-kun square between the eyes. It’s good practice for what his work life is going to be like if he doesn’t learn to be a little more selfish.
Equestrian Club activities? Of course, Hachiken ends up taking the lead there – and naturally launches an enticing but too-elaborate plan (Ban’ei rides) that’s way too ambitious for the practical realities of the situation. Then his class gets him to take responsibility for their festival activity (selling ramen) because “he’s the only one that can do it“. He’s also got Fukubucho to care for, regular club duties, practicum duties, cleaning duty… This martyr thing is a real problem. Yes, his friends are taking advantage of him, but the hard truth is, if you show yourself as willing to be “that guy”, people will always take advantage. It’s their nature. The responsibility is really on Hachiken to man up and put a stop to all of this, but he doesn’t really have anyone to teach him that lesson (one of his teachers could, but they seem intent on letting him figure it out for himself).
For a while it seems as if all of this is going to play out in semi-comedic normalcy as the festival prep continues, but the B-part really kicks the plot into high gear. It starts when Hachiken is explaining how easy Japanese Literature is, because the writer is always giving hints that tip off what the answer the teacher is looking for is. Mikage moans that this sort of thing is hard for her, and one of their sempai (Toyonishi I think) makes a pointed remark about how unsurprising that is and wishes Hachi-kun good luck. A very funny moment, but also seemingly a transitional one for the series, which proceeds to finally kick the tires on Hachiken-Mikage in a big way. It starts with Hachiken asking Mikage on a “date” after the festival – though he doesn’t call it that – and escalates from there.
It’s not unheard of for the girl to be the clueless one in a high school romcom, but definitely unusual – and it makes for an entertaining dynamic here. There’s a great scene where the girls are back at the dorm discussing Hachiken’s offer, and finally clue Mikage in to what’s been obvious to everyone else for months. Mikage seems genuinely baffled, though how much of that is self-deception is hard to say. She can’t imagine anyone would want her with all her “baggage” – which is a dubious assertion in the first place, but hardly something a first-year high schooler should worry about. The girls then proceed to appraise Hachiken like a prize hog – a good catch, generally, though Yoshino (who I’ve always thought was a great match for Hachiken, as much as I like Mikage) opines that he’s too high-maintenance because he overthinks everything. I can’t say that I disagree with her, to be honest.
The school life stuff was good – I liked the NPK48 “otaku sled”, and Mikage training to drive the Ban’ei was interesting – but I was definitely ready for things to get real when they did. I don’t place too much stock in Hachiken’s passing out as a true cliffhanger – he’s obviously exhausted from overworking himself – though it may cost him his first date with Mikage. Between Hachiken’s now quite serious issues with martyrdom and now quite realistic relationship possibilities with Mikage, Gin no Saji has a couple of excellent bones to gnaw on in upcoming episodes. Hachiken is a great main character and a great kid, but it really is possible for someone to be too nice – and it makes a very interesting topic for exploration.