As America seems to be readying to tear itself asunder and my business trip continues, anime just keeps rolling along like Old Man River. I’m still not quite sure how to process it, to be honest – on some level I feel guilty giving it my attention, but on the other hand there’s something to be said for a welcome distraction when events are as bleak and scary as they are. I find myself able to slip into the moment for 22 minutes all right (especially for something inherently healing like Natsume Yuujinchou) but the concentration level required for writing about anime is a much tougher ask. I’ll do my best.
What strikes me as especially interesting about Fune wo Amu is that despite it being at a glance a very mature and even staid premise, in many ways this plays a lot like a school series. I mean that in a good way – it’s charming to watch these nerdy adults in those kinds of situations – but it is rather ironic. Maybe the takeaway here is that we don’t change nearly as much as we think we do when we pass from adolescence into adulthood and enter the workforce.
Honestly, the gang in the dictionary editing department are a lot like a geeky school club. They’re dictionary otaku, these folks – when a few sample pages of The Great Passage are scheduled to be delivered, they’re like the manga research club when an especially hyped doujinshi is about to be released. Sasaki-san is the level-headed club secretary who keeps the enthusiastic but impractical boys in line, and Nishioka is the charming rogue of the group, the upwardly mobile guy who the other boys sort of envy for his easy manner with life.
If we’re going down that road, it’s hard not to see a classic school romance in the shy Majime-kun’s interest in Kaguya-san. As any dorky and awkward danshi koukousei would do, he seeks out the advice of the charming rogue – and Nishioka is rather bemused by the fact that Majime seems to have written a 15-page Chinese poem by way of a confession. But you’ll note that he doesn’t make Majime change it – no, Nishioka has both more sense and sensitivity that it initially appears. In this situation it’s best to like Majime make his stand as the man he is, not pretend to be someone else, and Nishioka realizes this.
This whole episode really belongs to Nishioka, in fact. He’s shown over the last two weeks why he’s treated as a main character, and he’s certainly proving integral to the survival of The Great Passage. His machinations have not gone noticed – or unpunished. He’s the be exiled to the P.R. Department (where his covert koibito Miyoshi works) for his schemes to force Genbu to keep the project alive. He spares the others in the department that troubling news, but he can’t shelter them from the fact that they’re also being forced to revise a just-revised grade school Japanese learning dictionary as part of the punishment.
None of this is really surprising – corporate types in Japan don’t tend to respond well to manipulation from those below them in rank. Ultimately, as Araki-san says, this boils down to being forced to pay their own way in order to underwrite The Great Passage. Rumors are spreading about all this, too, and again it’s really only Nishioka who has the skills necessary to keep the wheels greased with the contributing authors. It remains to be seen how the department will fare without him (in it ends up having to) – and of course, how Majime will fare with Kaguya. He does muster the courage to give her his magnum opus confession in the funniest scene of the episode (Sakamoto Maaya’s startled “Tadaima!” is worth the price of admission) and I have a good feeling about how that one is going to turn out.