Well, Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha (by vote on the series” website “InaKon” has been chosen as the official shorthand, if you’re so inclined) seems to have broken the Star Trek curse, at least, and given us a really good episode with an odd number after it (I actually liked “The Search for Spock” anyway). But it still tends to confound me by defying my expectations over and over, for better or worse. I guess that’s where the “mixed bag” label I stuck on it last week really comes into play, though a show that’s really good and mediocre alternately is certainly more interesting than one that’s just north of mediocre all the time.
There are some obvious flags with this show by now. It’s better when it deals with legitimate emotional crises than manufactured ones. It’s better when it incorporates the fantasy side as a major component. It’s better when it’s not consciously trying to be cute, which is like adding sugar to a jar of honey. And it’s better when it features Uka and Touka in an episode than when it doesn’t, because their relationship is both the funniest and most interesting in the series. Given that this episode did all of those things, it’s no surprise that it’s one of the stronger in the entire run.
All that said, there’s nothing wrong with the romance angle between Inari and Kouji – it’s a perfectly pleasant if unexceptional middle-school first love story, and when Inari Konkon turns the camera there it tends to do pretty well. And it’s used in this episode to develop the issues with Inari and her power, which haven’t gotten much focus of late. The catalyst is the school play, where Inari has drawn the role of the love interest of Kouji’s Prince. She’s initially thrilled, though struggling badly with the actual acting – and pretty freaked out over a kissing scene that’s been written into the play (seriously, Girl – why look a gift horse in the mouth? Just kiss it instead…).
Things take a turn for the worse when Kon spills the beans that Inari subliminally used her divine power to rig the drawing of roles. And later, she does so again to dispose of a confession letter a girl named Momoyama has asked her to give to Kouji. This is an interesting problem – a girl in the throes of puberty probably isn’t the best human to have been given divine powers to begin with, and we’re starting to see why. The Carrie factor aside, there’s also the question of bad judgement – which Inari shows by transforming into Momoyama to confess to Kouji directly. It’s well-intentioned but very unwise, and certainly a betrayal of Momoyama’s trust, even if the confession itself was relatively on the up-and-up. The upshot of all this is that Kouji discovers with a “Phew!” (uttered when he finds out Ootoshi isn’t actually Inari’s boyfriend) that he’s in love with Inari himself. And it’s Inari – as Momoyama – who explains to the naif of a boy what being in love feels like (“An obsession!”). It’s an odd scene, but it sort of works.
The other plotline here is, happily, the continuing non-courtship between Touka and Uka. Uka’s problem is that she has to return to Izumo for the annual meeting of the Gods, and her mother has arranged a series of Omiai (marriage meetings) that she’s unable to beg off of. It’s not like we didn’t know it already but Uka as much as outright states that she’s in love with Touka. He (in addition to scribbling love doodles of Uka praising his big… hands) for his part comes to the Shrine to ask after her when she hasn’t stopped by to play for a while. There are endless and obvious reasons why this romance could never work, but that doesn’t stop it from being the most interesting prospect in the show – and the two of them are a blast to watch when they argue with each other.
With only three episodes left it seems inevitable that the plot is going to kick into high-gear now, even if we’re unlikely to get a definitive ending. There’s trouble as Touka has found out – just as Uka is being transported to the World of the Gods – that she lied to him about not having done anything to Inari. The whole question about what to do about Inari’s power (weren’t the Gods supposed to be looking for a way to remove it?) has been on the back-burner for weeks, but seems likely to be a major focus in the final episodes. And now that Kouji and Inari are on the same page with their feelings, hopefully we’ll get to see them actually find out that the other feels the same way – even if that’s as far as we get, I’d still consider that a satisfying conclusion to that storyline.