A Centaur's Life Episode 3
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Centaur's Life ?
It's time for our weekly dose of monster girl slice-of-life antics, along with the looming threat of totalitarianism! Fun fun fun! So yeah, I've heard a little bit about the manga's alleged tonal whiplash by now, and I'm interested in seeing how it carries over into this anime. This week, things only remain at the level of the odd comment here or there. (This world's Sailor Moon equivalent recites government propaganda during her transformation sequence? Okay.) I'm sure that will only intensify, but for now we can just wallow in the somewhat normal worries of these profoundly abnormal (if surprisingly down-to-earth) young women.
I don't think I've mentioned class representative Manami yet, but she's building up to being an important character. The ending sequence is all about her, and she's gotten a few dedicated scenes in every episode so far. She's an angel-kin girl who seems to be responsible and somewhat lonely. This week gives us a glimpse of her home life, which explains how she may have ended up like that. It turns out that she has to take care of her four young sisters during her parents' frequent absences. In terms of (potential) social commentary, I think that the show is trying to point out another unaddressed inequality of this world. Manami's parents seem to be hard up for money, indicating that people can still suffer from poverty in this society. This places an undue burden on Manami that the other students can't understand. She doesn't have time to indulge social opportunities like most of her peers, so she's ended up somewhat alienated as a result.
This once again illustrates how superficially enforced equal treatment doesn't solve everything if people are still living in unequal circumstances. There's no encouragement for people to take the differences caused by Manami's home life into account. This is the key difference between equality (equal treatment of individuals in every instance) and equity (accommodating individual needs so that everyone has equal access to something). The show doesn't say so explicitly, but if Manami's parents didn't have to work so hard, or if there were subsidized public childcare services, she wouldn't have to spend her adolescence basically acting as her sisters' substitute mother. Instead, it looks like this society's totalitarian suppression of critical speech has resulted in these issues being ignored for superficial peace rather than addressed for public well-being. Also, her mom might even be dead? Poor Manami. Life has dumped a lot onto her shoulders.
I'm couching all this social commentary stuff in maybes because this show is having odd framing problems. I can tell it's trying to say something pointed – why include all of these ominous propagandistic overtures otherwise – but I'm not entirely sure what that thing is supposed to be. The reading I offered is just my best guess. For now, I think that the show is satirizing institutional policies that promote the illusion of equality without addressing the underlying structural issues that actually lead to inequality. This is probably more clear in the manga – based on the direction and tonal problems of this episode, I get the feeling that this adaptation might be confused. For next week's review, I think I'll read a few chapters of the manga in order to try and verify my hunch. But for now, I'm still mildly baffled.
Otherwise, this episode was all little kids doing cute stuff. Himeno's little cousin(?) is adorable, and it was nice to see an anime little girl acting somewhat bratty. This show has a good sense of how kids actually act, making them pleasant to watch without ending up too saccharine. The kissing sequence was this episode's other moment of probable commentary, this time on LGBT stuff. It's not entirely clear whether Manami was objecting to lesbian couple Mitsuyo and Inukai kissing in front of her sisters because they're a gay couple, or just because she's opposed to PDA in general. (Her personality suggests the latter possibility, but her comments that girls must stop kissing other girls once they grow up suggests the former.) It certainly does evoke the double standard faced by same-sex couples, where otherwise accepted displays of affection (like holding hands or kissing) are suddenly considered “inappropriate” and “sexual” when done in public as straight couples would. Fortunately, Mitsuyo seems to succeed at shutting down Manami and showing the little girls that it's totally normal to kiss the person you love, regardless of gender. While it doesn't seem outright taboo, I get the impression that the acceptance of same-sex love, like racial equality, seems to have been a recent development in this country, so lingering discomforts remain. These girls will have to get over that soon – I saw you blushing over there, Manami.
I'm not sure what A Centaur's Life is building to, but on the basis of its characters alone, I still find it to be a relaxing and even refreshingly queer slice-of-life anime. It's firmly piqued my interest, which is more than what anime can accomplish by this point in their runs. I'm still excited to see where this goes.
A Centaur's Life is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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