Man – talk about a whiplash turn, that episode was it.
We’ve reached the penultimate episode of Osomatsu-san, not just the hit of 2015-16 so far but one of the biggest hits of the 21st Century in anime. And while it was the usual double-chapter ep, it’s obviously the second that’s going to spark almost all of the discussion. As well it should – I kind of regret now that my travel schedule forced me to push viewing it back by a couple of days, because it was certainly a monumental chapter – maybe the most monumental so far.
But in getting there, Osomatsu-san definitely throws a feint in, first giving us a pretty arch-typical Osomatsu chapter – absurd, extremely dark – about Totoko. She offers a reminder that she may just be the shallowest and most unpleasant person in this cast (and that’s a high bar). She continually faces frustration in her quest to be perceived as better than everyone and constantly be praised, and takes out her frustrations on defenseless maguro. Eventually the story turns to her hilarious quest for an oil magnate, which ends with her finding one but throwing him off the Burj Khalifa in Dubai on their wedding night after he says she reeks of fish and barfs. It’s funny and deeply disturbed – right in Osomatsu-san’s wheelhouse. But not especially noteworthy.
That all changes in the B-Part, which is the definition of noteworthy as far as this series is concerned. The question of what happens next for Osomatsu-san is of course out there – the show nominally ends next week, but series that make this kind of money don’t go away. It will be back, bank on it, but Fujita and Matsubara do a pretty job of spinning that it might not be with “Letter”. We’ve seen in the past that Osomatsu can do serious and substantial (hello, “14”), so this chapter is by no means unprecedented – but it’s still a bit of a shock to the system when it happens.
Not only can this series do that, it can do it damn well, and “Letter” proves it again. There are just an awful lot of things that go right here – the tone is spot-on, and mood is perfect, and the story is genuinely powerful. It makes perfect sense that Choromatsu would be the first brother to land a real job and leave home – it was always he and Todomatsu (and he’s the second to go) who were most equipped to face the world. And it’s kind of a payoff to Choromatsu’s arc that after being in the shadows for the entire series, he takes the lead here – he earned it by being the most self-aware and conscientious brother even as it was costing him in terms of comedic payoffs.
I loved this chapter, all of it. I loved that Karamatsu stepped up and kicked Osomatsu’s ass after he sucker-kicked Jyuushmatsu (a genuinely scary moment). I loved that Totty, ever the baby brother, snuck back and took a tear-stained peek at his mom after he’d moved out. I loved that Ichimatsu was the last of the sextuplets (apart from Osomatsu) to leave, because Ichimatsu is so obviously a social misfit in every way and doing so probably terrified him more than anyone else. He finally left because he felt like he had no choice – which is obviously very sad, but ultimately maybe not such a bad thing. Sometimes we have to be forced to do what we have to do by having all other options taken away from us.
The crux of all this, of course, is Osomatsu – the eldest and shallowest brother. He’s left behind, resentful of his brothers leaving him and getting ahead of him (I don’t know which hurts him more), sulking and brooding so much he won’t even go on a date with Totoko (whose latest hare-brained scheme – studying abroad – predictably went nowhere). As absurd as this series has been for two cours (very), this chapter works because it plays so true to the characters – Osomatsu has the most staked in the status quo. He’s the biggest fish in this stagnant, brackish pond. It’ll be very interesting to see how he reacts to the letter Choromatsu finally worked up the courage to send – and where that will leave the series at the close of the season finale. I suspect the brothers will end up back together, and maybe even in silly fashion that makes light of what happened this week. But I must say, I kind of hope Osomatsu-san plays it straight here – at least a little. That would definitely be the most daring way to bring this series to a temporary conclusion.