In my world, there are few loftier words of praise for any comedy than “fearless”. It’s pretty damn close to a requirement for a comedy to be considered great in my book, and pretty much all he great ones (anime and otherwise) have the quality of fearlessness. It manifests itself differently in Mitsudomoe and Shirokuma Cafe and Hoozuki no Reitetsu et al, but it’s pretty much always there. It allows no sacred cows, and no pulling of punches.
This was an episode that Osomatsu-san always had in it, so I don’t think it can count as a surprise – we’ve seen surprising darkness (many times over) and warmth (“ESP Kitty”, for example) already. But there’s no denying the B-Part this week really took the level of emotional sophistication to another level – and if there was a surprise, it was that it was Jyushimatsu that took it there. A clown puts his makeup on upside down, so he’s smiling even when he wears a frown…
Things started out innocently enough, first with the usual brief pre-OP vignette, this time a take on old Japanese “Crane” fairy tale (the highlight of which is Hatabou’s “Dajo!” appearance). The A-Part is a Karamatsu-Chibita number, and I like both these characters a lot so it’s not surprising that the sketch works quite well comedically. There’s nothing transformative or hilarious here, though Chibita’s final dive (pixelated, so no confirmation if the nickname still applies) into his oden broth is a great way to cap things off.
There’s little here to prepare you for what’s to come, though. Jyushimatsu has been almost entirely a comic relief character so far, easily the most outrageous of the sextuplets. Ono Daisuke’s performance is great of course – and it must be said, one of the most charming things about this show is how obvious it is that these big-name seiyuu are having a total blast. But we haven’t had anything remotely “interior” with Jyushimatsu – until now, that is. And boy, did that change in a big way.
There’s an awful lot to praise about this chapter – everything, pretty much (including the music). I loved the absurdity of Jyushimatsu using Ichimatsu for swing practice – and Ichimatsu being sad when he stops. And the general interaction between the brothers when they find out Jyushimatsu has fallen in love. They’re still abusive in that way brothers are, but they’re supportive too (although plainly jealous). And the wardrobe scene was hilarious, especially with it ending up with Jyushimatsu wearing the same thing he wears every moment he’s not in a baseball uniform or pajamas (or naked).
But there’s serious trouble in paradise here. First, Osomatsu sees (presumably – it’s implied) Jyushi’s prospective girlfriend featured in the 18+ section of the bookshop (where, disturbingly, he’s choosing his “girlfriend” for the night). He chooses not to tell his brother, which while of dubious wisdom I think can only be seen as an attempt at kindness here. Then when Jyushi tries to confess, the girl rejects him, and in his despair over what happens Jyushi drops the big bomb of the episode – the girl had tried to kill herself. And it was Jyushimatsu’s unwitting intervention (and idiocy) that caused her to laugh, and decide to live, even as she was about to hurl herself from a cliff into the sea.
Just to call out a couple of ways in which this whole thing is brilliant, in the scene where the girl performs CPR on Jyushimatsu at the beach, we can see bandages on her wrist. Later, in the final moments of the scene we see her wearing a “14” wristband. 14, of course, refers to Jyushimatsu’s name – but not only that, it’s the same wristband he was wearing earlier wth his baseball uniform. Fujita-sensei doesn’t beat us over the head with any of this – he trusts us to figure it out on out own, and when the realization hits, it makes everything that’s happened that much more powerful.
There’s just something incredibly sad and wonderful about this unlikely relationship – Jyushimatsu intentionally playing the role of the idiot to make this girl smile. And the finale on the Shinkansen platform might just be one of the best scenes in anime this year. Jyushimatsu’s final sprint alongside the train (these things are fast – they don’t call them bullet trains for nothing), pulling faces in the window as the girl cries, finally managing to break through her sadness so that the last thing he (and we) sees is her laughter. It’s a beautiful moment, and whatever label you put on the series that produced it is irrelevant. Comedy or tragedy, it’s all about revealing the heart, and any series that’s fearless has the ability to do that.