I feel irrationally pleased by how much I enjoyed the second episode of Joukamachi no Dandelion (especially the B-part) – even vindicated, as silly as that sounds. I think I’m capable of being honest here – I’ve thrown plenty of my sleeper picks under the bus when it was warranted. But still, I always want them to be good even if they’re not – and that’s no less true with this show, which I had an inexplicably good feeling about from the moment the adaptation was announced.
I’m not going to say Castle Town Dandelion is great or anything, but the second episode revealed a lot more of the charm we saw only glimpses of in the premiere. This may be one of those series that creeps on you rather than bowls you over – the things is does best are subtle rather than striking, and the humor sly rather than slapstick (think about what was said just before that cat appeared). But sometimes it’s those kind of shows that can have the more lasting appeal, especially where heartwarming comedies are concerned.
What really appeals to be about this show is the fact that the characters, while broadly representing anime archetypes, and by no means grotesque caricatures. They’re basically nice people, and they react in recognizable ways in recognizable situations. The Sakurada siblings seem to actually love each other, and treat each other like siblings that do. They bicker and they’re competitive (more so in the usual manner than anything to do with their bizarrely unique circumstances), but they look out for each other – especially the older for the younger. And as for those circumstances, the whole election thing is actually sort of interesting as we learn more about it, silly as it is.
I think the format of 2-3 mini-episodes is one that will work well with this premise – it should give all the siblings a chance to shine. This week the focus is mainly on second sister Kanade and eldest brother Shuu (in addition to Akane, who will seemingly always be in focus – ironically). Both of them are slightly irritated at Akane’s phobic shyness, but they do what they can to ease her burden – walking with her to school (Shuu does this more willingly) and trading chores so she doesn’t have to go shopping (Shuu again). Kanade is the most acerbic of the siblings it seems, kind of the tsundere sister – and it’s interesting that the perennial good boy Shuu is aiming to become king specifically to stop her from doing so. But based on what we’ve seen so far Kanade seems like a basically decent person, despite her prickly pretentiousness and blind ambition.
The second part of the episode shines the spotlight on Shuu and a former elementary-school friend, Satou Hana. Kimura Ryouhei is really a terrific seiyuu, and he shines here as usual, and I like the way Hana comes off – she’s so pleased that Shuu actually remembers her and terribly embarrassed about anything connected to her feelings for him, but she actually manages to confess to him. In the very first episode she appears in – unheard of! He asks her to wait till after the election, but it seems clear there are some mutual feelings. There are lots of charming little moments here, but my favorite comes when Shuu calls her that night, and she frantically straightens up her room when she realizes who it is on the phone.
I also really enjoyed the way the sibling relationship between Akane and Shuu was developed, which was realistic and charming. He needles her – for example, making her agree to wear her twintails up in childish fashion as the price for switching chores. But while he gently scolds her for her skittishness, Shuu still shields Akane from the attention he knows she hates, making sure she understands why he thinks she should embrace her family’s role in society. And while Akane shows a little jealousy when she thinks of Shuu and Hana becoming a couple, she still tries to give them a little push together. It’s not played in a puerile way that hints at “wincest” nonsense – it’s just the normal insecurity of a sister afraid of losing her big brother. That’s exactly the right tone for Joukamachi no Dandelion, and if it maintains it, I think this series has a chance to be every bit the sleeper I hoped it would be.