The thick plottens!
Better late than never with this week’s Nana Maru San Batsu, a show I find myself enjoying more and more the deeper it dives into its subject matter. It checks the two main boxes it has to – it does a good job portraying the sport at its center, and it has a terrific coming of age story for its protagonist. But what’s emerging over time is that it’s also rather quirky and unpredictable. It’s not impossible for otherwise good shows in this genre to fall into the trap of bring too narrowly focused and straightforward, but that’s a trap 7O3X has thus far avoided.
We pick up immediately where we left off last week – that is, with Shiki racing home, giddy with the news that Mikuriya-kun considers him a rival. Shiki may not be a hardcore otaku like Daisuke, but he’s familiar enough with tropes to know that a fated rival is an integral part of every growing boy’s drama – a drama whose writing Shiki finds himself growing increasingly enthusiastic about. This is probably the single best part of Nana Maru if I had to pick – the way it gets across the feeling of having your world broaden at dizzying speed as you discover something you’re passionate about. It’s an integral part of adolescence that most of us have felt somewhere in that stage of our lives, and a feeling you never forget.
That said, the most personal part of the story is the quiz bowl part, because that’s something I’ve experience myself. Yes, it’s true that the “paper test” is an integral part of most organized quiz competitions – a way to weed out the pretenders from the contenders at an early stage. Both “Win Ben Stein’s Money” and “Jeopardy” use the written test to wade out about 80-90% of potential candidates, with only the survivors going on to elimination rounds more like the final product we see on television (and I speak from experience here). In the case of the Buzou Quiz Circle, they don’t fare especially well in the sample test Sasajima-kaichou administers – Daisuke 16/50 points, Mari 39.5 and Shiki 44. But even Shiki’s score wouldn’t be enough to survive the brutal cut in the upcoming regional meet, where the true contenders will mostly achieve perfect scores.
More encouraging news for the Buzou squad is the arrival of their buzzers – courtesy of Jinko-san. Of course she’s taken considerable liberties with them, creating them out of kawaii bento boxes (that part I get – gotta use what’s cheap and available) and given them cute animal voices instead of a buzz. As amusing as this is, I totally get why it’s a non-starter as a practical solution – that would prove a serious distraction (and probably also quite irritating, eventually).
Brothers are a big theme this week. We have Jinko and Gakuto of course, and then Mari opens up about her oni-san Seiji (Midorikawa Hikaru). He was a quiz whiz through middle school, and the reason she got into the sport in the first place. But he quit in high school, ostensibly to focus on entrance exams – a legit concern for sure (the poor Miyaura kids have to deal with the regional meet falling two days before midterms). But one senses there’s something more visceral to Seiji’s profound dislike of quiz bowl, so intense that he tried to warn his sister never to join a quiz circle herself. Given his past and the fact that Seiji and Gakuto are the same age and moved in the same circles, it seems a pretty safe bet those two have crossed paths before, and have a shared past that will be explored.
The most interesting brother introduced, though, is the brother of Sonohara Chiaki, the president of the Asaogaoka Girls’ quiz club. We have our ID on the cross-dresser we met at the arcade last week – he’s her otouto Akira (Nagatsuka Takuma), and it seems a safe bet he’s been wearing girls’ clothes for a while, because Chiaki doesn’t seem at all surprised by it. Akira has taken quite a shine to Shiki-kun after their encounter at the arcade, and it’s pretty clear he spells trouble (or at last mischief) for the hero. I’m going to be very curious to see where Nana Maru San Batsu goes with this plot thread.