A couple of my suspicions about Ore Monogatari! got some fuel this week. As far as the whole disaster/rescue thing goes, with three in four weeks now in the books (and it’s four in five if you count the groper) I’m about ready to go with “running gag”. I hope so, because if there’s no way to take a string of coincidences like this seriously. And the classroom scene at the beginning of the episode seems to strongly bolster the sense of misogyny in the way female and male perceptions of Takeo are depicted here – with this being the view of girls that Suna sees, it’s easy to see why he chooses not to mingle. I can definitely see guys having a less judgmental take on Takeo (no pun intended) based on his fearsome appearance, but the series seems to be going out of its way to magnify the difference between the boys’ glowing admiration and the girls’ grotesque derision.
It’s an odd thing, because there’s so much happening everywhere in this week’s episode – boys falling in rivers, trains screeching to stops, new characters, exaggerated reactions – but what I found most interesting was the guy saying or doing almost nothing. I kept looking at Suna with “I wonder what he’s thinking right now?” running through my mind. He continues to be an oddly compelling character, I think because most of the rest of the cast is pretty much in heart-on-sleeve territory – Suna is really the only mystery here (with apologies to Rinko’s secret, which I doubt is anything too shocking).
Adding an intriguing element to this mix is the arrival of Suna’s older sister Ai, not least because she’s played by the living legend Inoue Kikuko. Predictably she’s quite the opposite of Makoto in terms of personalty – brash, outgoing and guileless. Less predictably it turns out she’s got a crush on Takeo, which given their history and age difference (and his present appearance) I can’t quite decide whether is creepy or kind of cute. Her reaction to the news that Takeo has a girlfriend is pretty over the top, but certainly she’s the first female apart from Rinko (Takeo’s ex-wrestler Mom doesn’t count – she’s just being a mom) from whom we’ve seen anything other than a one-dimensional and superficial view about Takeo, and that alone would make her a welcome addition to the cast.
This week’s deus ex Takeo is a little boy falling into the river, which gives our hero a chance not just to dive in and save him (as always, losing credit to Suna), but to prove his GAR by refusing to be late for his meeting with Rinko by going home to change into dry clothes. Silly? Yeah, but there’s some hilarious stuff here, like Takeo and Rinko’s “You’re a genius!” reaction when Suna suggests he could have just called or texted (especially Rinko, who also thought of it but still somehow concludes this makes Suna brilliant). And Takeo blithely disrobing to change into Suna’s normal high-schooler sized – and thus tiny – gym clothes right in front of Rinko.
The MacGuffin of the moment is the secret Rinko is hiding from Takeo, one which she comes close to telling him a few times in the ep but never does. While Ai is on the prowl for some dark shadow underlying Rinko’s feelings and thus seizes on this straw to clutch at, Rinko is such a feckless lump of sugar and purity that I can’t imagine this is anything really off-putting (“I’m actually a boy!”). What’s interesting here is that while Ai is obviously fond of Takeo, even she finds it hard to justify why a cute girl like Rinko would like him. She does seem somewhat mollified by Rinko’s inability to articulate why she loves him apart from “There’s just something about him”, because that clearly resonates with her, but it seems to me that it shouldn’t be that hard – especially for Rinko – to come up with an answer. Because he’s humble, and honest, consistently performs superhuman acts on her behalf and always puts her feelings above his – is that so preposterous a cause?
If there’s a definition of true love, I think eating cookies made with salt instead of sugar and saying with seemingly complete sincerity that it doesn’t matter is probably it. Ai isn’t going to be a real obstacle to this relationship, because like the others in the main cast I just don’t think there’s anything truly malicious in her – just eccentricity. Rather I suspect she’s going to be a facilitator, and indeed she volunteers – after witnessing the creepy spectacle of Takeo reading a teen beat magazine to try and understand girls – to talk to Rinko and find out what’s really going on. I am curious, but I still kind of find myself more interested in what role Suna is going to play in all this going forward. Will he continue to be a Greek chorus, or will the layers of secrecy around him be peeled back in the weeks ahead?