Shows like Joukamachi no Dandelion come along every once in a while – forever hovering on the precipice between being subsumed by cliche and satirizing it. Sometimes it’s quite intentional (Outbreak Company is one example), but in the case of this series I think it’s more a kind of split personality at work. The writing itself can never quite transcend the reliance on tropes, but there’s an essence of something better at the heart of the story.
Given all that, it’s hardly surprising that this is a show that swings wildly between its good and bad episodes, probably more so than any this season. The format plays into it too – each episode is already bifurcated as is, and then this week we get a double episode to boot. It’s rare for me to have a series where I can find one ep literally almost unwatchable (like the first half of #10) and be quite enthralled by another (most of #11). But with Castle Town Dandelion it’s a fairly regular occurrence.
I’m not even going to talk about the idol crap in the A-Part of Episode 10 – it’s Dandelion at its worst. That and the unnecessary incest pandering are the low ebb for this series. But things pick up markedly after that, starting with the B-Part and even more so in the next episode. We get a fairly compelling chapter concerning Kanade’s unrelenting guilt over what happened to Shuu when they were kids (Akane was injured in the same incident, though less seriously), where Shuu confronts her at last over her reasons for wanting so badly to be king.
This is a good sibling story, with affection between twins that doesn’t descend to the romantic. But I find the best chapters in Joukamachi are usually the ones which focus on the entire family, and that’s what we mostly get in Episode 11. The first part does center on Akane, giving us the background story on how she became so shy. It’s a bit of a letdown to the honest – I was expecting something more traumatic that that – but the B-Part is one of the best chapters in the series so far.
Things start out interestingly, as Shuu finally breaks up the otaku cliche of having the girls placed 1-6 in the polls by climbing to 5th. Hana as campaign manager has certainly helped, as has Shuu finally having a reason why he might actually want to win. But for me, it’s the characters who don’t want to be king who would probably be the best fits for the job. That would be Aoi and Haruka of course, and while Aoi at least has a valid reason to want to lose (her power) Haruka seems deferential for no good reason. But paradoxically it’s that deference that makes him so unlikely to abuse his power, and it’s the insight that makes his siblings rely on him for advice that would make him such a good ruler.
With Souichirou felled by a back injury (I feel you, Dude) at a critical juncture, everyone in the family has an opportunity to step up and shine – and that’s Joukamachi no Dandelion at its best. Poor Teru gets to exert his power to help clear a mudslide on camera and finally gets a much-needed (if modest) boost in the polls. Shuu and Scarlet Bloom (sans glasses) bring relief to the victims, and Aoi schmoozes with visiting foreign dignitaries. In the wake of all this Shuu leaps to 4th in the polls, too, and it’s now a real race with he and the three eldest girls.
It’s the last shot of the episode that really stands out, though, because it captures the characters who are not just best-suited to be king, but have the most powerful abilities. And Haruka’s reaction pretty much clues us in to what’s likely to happen – Aoi winning the election – though as he says, probabilities are just probabilities. When push comes to shove, it’s probably better to have a candidate who’d rather not be king as the king – and essentially, I think the series has gone out of its way to show us that neither Akane or Kanade’s reasons for wanting to win the election are really valid. Since this is still a series constrained by cliche Haruka really isn’t a factor, so I think that leaves Aoi and Shuu as the two realistic possibilities – and I suppose if I were a resident of this kingdom I’d be fine with either, especially if I didn’t know Aoi’s true ability. But knowing her true ability makes the prospect of her winning that much more interesting from a narrative standpoint.