OK, let me just say up front that I have no idea WTF is going on here. One time is a twist, maybe an asspull, maybe parody – but two weeks out of three we have a convenient disaster allowing Takeo to strut his stuff at exactly the right moment? It’s very odd if nothing else, and totally at odds with the mood of the rest of the series. If it happens every episode I’ll be ready to call it a running gag, but right now I don’t know what the hell to call it – I just know it’s not exactly my favourite part of the show.
Up until things got weird, this was another very strong episode – in fact, I found it to be altogether subtler and darker than the first three, and a real broadening of Ore Monogatari’s emotional palette as a result. Say what you will about the generally sweet and positive nature of this show, but it is built around some fairly painful themes, and I thought this storyline really brought them home.
In the beginning it’s largely more of the same – Takeo and Rinko still in the full flush of new love (in springtime, no less), Suna wryly observing from the peanut gallery that they’ll probably “be like that till they’re old and wrinkly”. Because Rinko has done such a good job of selling Takeo and because she goes to an all-girls school, her friends see this as a perfect opportunity for a mixer – to take the measure of the new boyfriend, and maybe even poach one for themselves.
The girls’ reaction when they see Takeo isn’t at all surprising – it’s effectively the same as the woman whose stroller he carried up a steep staircase, much to her horror until Suna dispelled her fears (and it was he she thanked). I think it would be fair to point out here that while Takeo has a ton of guy friends who see him for the legit bro he is, it’s girls (apart from Rinko) who constantly misjudge him. Is there a touch of misogyny here, I wonder? It’s not as thought high school girls aren’t incredibly shallow about things like looks (and height, and voices) but listen, high school guys are too. And most adults of both genders – it’s tough for someone like Takeo not to be categorised and boxed in as something he’s not.
Suna once again dispenses the words of wisdom that frame the story – “Just because someone is friends with a nice person, that doesn’t mean they’re nice too. Sometimes the person is just too nice not to keep them around.” I wonder if Suna doesn’t speak from experience here – he certainly has the air about him of someone who’s been hurt emotionally. It would be easy to assume that if anything traumatic like that had been a landmark enough experience for Suna to have been changed by it Takeo would remember – but we know he’s certainly not an especially observant person.
It really is a shame Kawahara-sensei had to throw that fire in there, because I thought the moments leading up to it were emotionally spot-on. The mixer was suitably awkward, with neither Rinko’s friends or Takeo’s showing much polish in dealing with each other (Suna, as promised, doesn’t participate at all). Naturally two of Rinko’s pals say some incredibly cruel things about Takeo (and by extension, Rinko) once they think they’re in-private, and naturally Rinko and Takeo overhear them. Once again this is a moment when Takeo really breaks my heart, because he’s so used to being treated this way that he’s barely fazed – it’s Rinko that’s upset. It really is the sad truth of the world that most people judge others on that which is shallow rather than that which matters – but most of the time, there isn’t a convenient disaster standing by to offer a proving ground.
I like the straightforward and unapologetic way Ore highlights this problem, and the way Takeo deals with it. In truth it seems like kind of a duex ex machina for him to get the chance to make everything right when the restaurant in which the kids have been mixing catches fire. We know how strong and brave Takeo is, and we certainly don’t need any reminders – and is it really necessary that Rinko’s friends be brought around so quickly that the only way to do so is via the route we saw? If the series is playing it straight with all these coincidences to me it amounts to a flaw in the writing, short-cuts – but if there’s a point or reason behind it (like a vampire curse) I stand willing to be won over. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker, but it is the one off-key note in what’s otherwise been a nearly pitch-perfect series so far.