Well, that was pretty much a whipsaw turnaround from the last two-part episode. Pretty much no Suna, and from the most serious story of the series to probably the silliest. But considering its best character was sidelined it’s remarkable how successfully Ore Monogatari pulled this off – indeed, something of a wonder that it can continue to dance through this minefield without blowing up. But so far, definitely so good.
It’s hard to overstate how charming this episode was, and once again, a good chunk of that comes from cutting through the sweetness with a bit of acidity. It’s clear that while Yamato and Takeo are meant to be taken at face value, their relationship is not remotely taken too seriously. Takeo’s superhero act is effectively a running gag at this point, and even if the events transpiring weren’t silly, the way they’re being portrayed is unquestionably so. Thank goodness.
The premise this time around is a picnic for Rinko and Takeo – a make-up game for their deferred birthday date. Except Takeo didn’t consult with Suna this time, and what he ends up taking Rinko on is much more a hike than a picnic. She bears up well on their mountain climb, though she’s packed so much food and supplies that Takeo eventually has to commandeer her cute pink backpack. But a run-in with a jewel-obsessed crow leads to one of the most preposterous of Takeo’s superhuman feats – running down a sheer mountain face, than overpowering gravity itself.
In the face of something like that happening, it’s impossible to take anything that follows seriously. And that’s good, because we’re free to see the remainder of the episode as the borderline parody of teen romance (and shoujo romance manga) that it is. Lots of laughs are provided by Rinko’s reactions, with her inner “squee” manifesting themselves hilariously in the form of ghost-bubbles. The fun thing here is that Rinko is the one in this relationship that’s not totally innocent – she’s fully aware of the implications of being forced to spend a night with Takeo in the woods, even if he isn’t. And don’t kid yourself, she likes it – a lot. She may restrict herself to a stolen peck on the cheek as Takeo sleeps, but this girl wants more.
Also great are the reactions of the happy couple’s friends and family. Rinko’s pals are a preposterously giddy gaggle of girls, jealous that she’s actually got a boyfriend – though they’ve actually warmed to Takeo to the point where they acknowledge him as “manly”. When Rinko’s mom calls wondering if she’s with them, they naturally leap to the wrong conclusion and cover for her – then soar away on flights of schoolgirl fantasy. Meanwhile Takeo’s buddies are thrilled at merely being the recipient of a call from them, even if it’s just one wondering where Takeo is. Suna is blissfuly lost in books, and Takeo’s parents totally unconcerned about his whereabouts . Yes, we finally meet Takeo’s Dad, Yutaka (Genda Tessyo) – and it’s almost a letdown that he looks and acts exactly what you’d expect Takeo’s Dad to look and act like.
As for the bride and groom, they spend a blissfully silly night together in the woods, Rinko practically peeing herself at every moment in her exuberance and embarrassment. Takeo stands over her to protect her from mosquitoes (one gets through), climbs a tree to find an escape route, and wrestles a boar to the ground – all in a night’s work. He’s the real innocent in this relationship, no doubt about it, and he sleeps the sleep of the innocent unaware of Rinko’s frantic mental grinding next to him – and when he wakes up, he’s covered by the adoring creatures of the forest. Like she says – who wouldn’t feel safer that way?
The cherry on top of the sundae comes when Rinko arrives back at her friend Nanako‘s house the next morning (as the girl with the most screentime and dialogue, I’m wondering if she’s being set up as a possible pair for Suna), and they and she are on completely different wavelengths about what happened the night before. When she threw in “And then a boar showed up!”, I just about lost it. I’ve rarely seen shoujo romance handled with this irreverent a touch before, and it really works – though I still find Suna more interesting, there’s no denying that watching this hapless pair blunder through their first romantic dance has charms all its own.