This little corner of the world keeps revealing new depths.
I’m seeing a familiar pattern developing after half of Nana Maru San Batsu’s run, and it’s one that’s definitely working for me. About half of the episode is devoted to exploring the world of the quiz circuit, which is like an onion in that the more layers you peel, the more hidden ones are revealed. And the other half is devoted to Shiki-kun starting to wake up to the world of possibilities that opens as you move from childhood to adolescence – and that’s certainly even more complicated. 7O3X seems to be equally adept at both halves, which so far has been a real recipe for success.
For a shy and uncool kid in Tokyo, I imagine a first trip to Akiba would indeed be a pretty big deal – especially if it was in the company of a friend. And Daisuke-kun certainly can be called a friend now, which is in itself a pretty big deal for Shiki, as it doesn’t seem like he’s ever had any (at least not good enough of one to visit Akiba with). Daisuke, of course, can hardly be called a cool kid either – he’s an otaku after all – but this is his element. In Akiba, he’s the wise master to Shiki’s Padawan learner.
The A-part is definitely the quiz segment this week, and it turns out that the arcade is a good place to learn about the complexities of the quiz world. Like I said, an onion – there are so many different styles and so many different ways to attack this that learning the nature of the game itself is arguably more important than memorizing all those answers. An arcade quiz machine is quite different than a live game, even if you are matched up with a live opponent (in this case Mikuriya, which is quite a coincidence – though no more than Mari-san having taken a job at a maid cafe). Whether it’s relying on clues revealed one at a time or having multiple-answer questions, there are all formats Shiki has not seen before.
What makes Shiki so interesting to Chisato-kun (and to Ashiya, who’s here with him) is that he’s not simply a trivia junkie – he’s observant and has an innate ability to puzzle out the tricks of the trade when it comes to quiz bowl, arcade or otherwise. His figuring out “May” was quite a coup (though I confess I’d figured out how he figured it out as soon as he buzzed in). But before things can get really interesting a couple of bullies hijack the machine, leaving the boys high and dry – as Ashiya notes, the potential for trouble if they engage far outweighs their irritation if they retreat.
What happens next is rather interesting, though, when this person shows up. I can’t escape the feeling that this is a guy, which would certainly be an unexpected development for Nana Maru San Batsu – if it’s a girl, it’s one with a male seiyuu (which is rare though not unheard of). She or he makes enough of an impression here that I’m sure they’re going to be significant at some later point in the story. Shiki’s rather impassioned defense of being a quiz freak (and by extension, really of being an otaku altogether) is nicely portrayed – it says a lot about who he is as a character.
That really is the other half of 7O3X, Shiki’s struggle to adjust to high school life. What the series does so effectively is depict just how meaningful each new eye-opening experience is for him – hitting the town with a friend, exchanging contact info, finding something to be passionate about and good at. The poor little guy and his “how to be a teen” guidebook are rather sadly comic superficially, but ultimately I think Shiki’s story is quite upbeat – this is a positive experience for him. His world is growing wider every day with every new experience and new interaction, and if that isn’t what growing up is all about I don’t know what is.