Not to be a broken record, but you can pretty much guess what happened on Majimoji Rurumo this week. We had an oft-used trope that would normally be anywhere in a brought range from routine to unwatchable driving the episode, and Majimoji Rurumo made it incredibly sweet and funny. This was neither one of the laugh-out-loud funniest or one of the most serious episodes, but it was spot-on in tone from start to finish.
We certainly didn’t need another K-On! ripoff, but did we need another beach episode or onsen episode? With this series you just have to suspend cynicism and prepare to be won over, because it’s not going to take the well-traveled road to get where it’s going. I think the key to the success of these riffs on well-known melodies is that they don’t play like satire in any way – with tropes this overplayed, even satire feels tired. Instead, it’s simply Majimoji Rurumo doing them its own way, which just happens to be far more honest. unpretentious and free of the self-congratulatory tone of most other versions.
The premise is once again driven by the Occult Research Society – which is of course the FHK (Fushigi Hakken Kurabu) in Japanese – so you know it’s going to be silly. This time around it’s Sempai trying to figure out ways to attract new members so the club won’t get disbanded, and Tanako coming up with the idea for entering the “High School Band Heaven” competition. Kouta runs with this, but his first two visions come off rather disastrously – first a shockingly inept all-boys version, then recruiting female members from the Light Music Club to live out his “Man’s romance” fantasies with him as the vocalist.
Fortunately Tanako-chan is resourceful when she’s trying to impress the President, and she manages to land a full band – Inoue on bass, Sawashita on guitar, herself on keyboard and (because who else could it have been, really?) Rurumo on vocals. Not only that but Masako shyly volunteers to do the costumes – a riff on Rurumo’s witch cosplay to tie in with the FHK theme (yeah, that’s why). Rurumo is predictably bashful when it comes to singing, but surprisingly good – though she does complain to Kouta afterwards that “That was more embarrassing than I thought.”
I don’t think there’s any question that Majimoji Rurumo is the best love story of the season. It manages to express itself through very odd situations, but the bond between Ruruomo and Kouta is so genuine that it’s hard not to be won over by it. In the first place, he’s ecstatic to see her in the band and doing well in auditions, simply because it means she’s doing something well on her own and growing closer to lots of people. And when the big night comes and she – not surprisingly – finds herself so terrified as to be unable to go on stage in front of an actual audience, Kouta steps in for her. He’s utterly horrible, of course, but that’s not really the point.
I love the denouement of this episode because it’s just so simple and direct. There’s no haranguing Kouta for his terrible performance, just some good-natured ribbing from the group, and everyone seems happy just to have had the experience. Then Rurumo – who’s coming off a lot more assured and competent these last two episodes as long as she’s not in front of a crowd – gives Kouta a special one-on-one performance of her song in gratitude for his concern about her welfare and stepping up in her place. It’s not as though Rurumo is that fantastic as a singer and it’s not as though the song is exceptional, but it’s such a heartfelt and romantic moment that it doesn’t even matter. I suppose we’ll be headed for some sort of anime-original ending next week as there’s not a chance in Hell of a second season, but given the job the anime staff has done with Majimoji Rurumo I expect something that will do justice to probably the biggest sleeper of the summer.
ED: “FHK Strange Discovery” written by Watanabe Wataru and Yamaguchi Suguru; performed by Mimori Suzuko