I’ve really, really come to like Kono Bijutsubu ni wa Monday ga Aru!. It manages to balance all its tonal elements just about perfectly. It’s cute, it’s snarky, it’s a little ecchi, and it can be surprisingly sweet when it wants to be. This is a basic formula many anime comedies aspire to emulate, but it’s very difficult to do – either the ratios are off or the writing simply isn’t authentic enough. None of these seem to be problems with Konobi, which is every bit the comedy tentpole for the season I was hoping it would be.
Both in style and visually, I think this series is a pretty old-fashioned anime comedy – almost pre-cliche in the way it presents its characters. It certainly wouldn’t have seemed anachronous if it’d aired ten or even twenty years ago. The tropes we see in modern school comedies are certainly present, but in Konobi they look and sound much like they did before they became tropes. And the characters both look and act like middle-schoolers, which is rare even in the context of anime comedies featuring middle-schoolers being pretty damn rare to begin with.
We finally meet the mysterious Colette (Uesaka Sumire) in full this week. I’m still not sure why she was hiding in a cupboard in the premiere as she doesn’t seem especially shy, but she’s undeniably weird – she did dive behind the sofa as soon as entered the clubroom this time. Charlotte is a kikokushijo, a Japanese child who’s returned home after living abroad (in a less benign series that might be handled in darker fashion, are such children are notorious targets for bullying). Charlotte lies on the kawaii pretty thick, but thanks to her odd nature and Sumire’s performance, it comes off as endearing rather than annoying (at least for me, and my tolerance for such things is pretty low).
In this ep, we find Charlotte having lost her locket – which Uchimaki promptly enlists himself to help her find, assuming it contains a picture of her precious family (still living abroad). Uchimaki once again proves that at heart he’s basically a nice kid who happens to have a weird fetish, and he leads (literally) Charlotte on a hunt throughout the school t0 find the locket, which incorporates a famous Japanese fairy tale and a lot of face-pulling. Eventually Charlotte discovers the locket in the pocket was the deal that was real, and offers to commit seppuku (though she clearly has the wrong idea of exactly how it works).
Next up Uchimaki is fighting artist’s block, insisting he can’t finish his current waifu because he can’t find any inspiration for her hairstyle. Usami (for obvious reasons) suggests a short bob (shouto bobbu) – she even buys a fashion magazine to help – and this leads to a gloriously horrible pun where Charlotte draws him a picture of “Shou to Bob” (Shou and Bob). This kind of silly irreverence is very reminiscent of Minami-ke – which director Oikawa Kei of course has a great deal of experience with.
Finally we have a truly hilarious chapter featuring the extended introduction of Usami’s three friends, especially Kaori (Tokui Sora). They know the real reason Usami is spending so much time in the clubroom rather than hanging with them, and Kaori self-invites the three of them to be “trial members” for the day (in middle school, boredom can be public enemy number one). Kaori doesn’t hesitate to use this opportunity to literally try and push Usami and Uchimaki together – as in posing to be sketched. But when she draws the worst likeness she has to buy drinks for everybody. She ends up getting Subaru a Coke as they were out of his first choice (banana au lait), but he can’t drink fizzy stuff (which the other girls find cute). This leads to one of the funniest indirect kiss gags I’ve seen in a long time, which culminates in, well- an indirect kiss, of course.
Listen, I know none of this is Hamlet or anything. But the word that springs to mind in watching this episode of Konobi is “charming”, and that’s a powerful base of operations for an anime comedy. The art and characters designs are really terrific, and so is the background music. And I just enjoy the way these characters interact. The writing rarely falls back on tired tsundere antics, and Uchimaki’s denseness comes off as just the natural state for an 8th-grade boy, not as mean-spiritedness or particular idiocy. The elements are in harmony with this series – it has a lot going for it, and the ability to make you laugh in a wide variety of ways. Those are the series that end up as keepers where anime comedy is concerned, and Kono Bijutsubu is definitely looking the part.