A Couple of Cuckoos
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 16 of
A Couple of Cuckoos ?
Community score: 4.1
Having rather relaxedly resolved the situation that arose out of Segawa finding out about Nagi and Erika's shared-sister-custody of Sachi, A Couple of Cuckoos swings around in this week's episode to specifically focus on Sachi herself. The good news is that while Sachi's brother-lust remains an element of motivation for her character and much of what she gets up to this episode, it's not focused on to a distressing degree. The bad news is that what is here still isn't overly engaging or interesting, settling into that same dully pleasant tone that has carried Cuckoos for so long. It's just interesting enough to convey the little updates we get to Sachi's story here, but as with last week's tangible backing off from more intense dramatic developments, this one also regularly feels like it's trying too hard to not have to try too hard.
One notable point comes right at the beginning of the episode, with a rather quick sketch about Sachi and Erika tailing Segawa. Now that all of Nagi's prospective harem members are finally fully aware of each other, this lends an opportunity for Sachi (and by extension, us) to maybe learn a little more about Segawa apart from what we've gleaned due to her studying-based proximity to Nagi. There's not a lot, mostly a moderately-funny montage demonstrating that Segawa is indeed the nicest and best girl in the world. But what mostly stood out to me here was how, absent Nagi's comparatively bland presence for the girls to orbit around and try to bounce off of, Erika and Sachi made for way more interesting interactions just with each other. There's definitely the hope that having the whole group properly hang out might lend some more energizing dynamics, something that's teased a couple of times throughout this episode.
With respect to that, we lead into the actual plot of this episode, with Sachi resolving to follow Nagi to the same high school he attends with the others, and how that brings her to tour the campus with Segawa and later reflect on her personal and familiar motivations for striving for those kinds of accomplishments. As with other things in Cuckoos, the show loves suggesting the idea that anything major might come of these occurrences, like Sachi telling personal stories about Nagi that could tank his reputation with Segawa, or Sachi and Nagi's parents denying her the opportunity to enroll in the school. But as usual the way things actually play out ends up just sort of deflated: Sachi pleasantly gets along with Segawa as she's shown around the school, with even a direct call-out of her brother's crush on her simply resulting in a reaffirmation of Segawa's mildly sweet resolve to not worry about moving that plot forward for now. The most amusing thing that results from them getting along is both Sachi and Segawa effortlessly shutting Nagi down when he panickedly tries to interfere in all the nothing that's going on between them.
The side of the plot with the parents, for its part, at least makes a couple of meager efforts to rise above its setup. I like seeing Nagi respect Sachi enough to bring her in with him as he goes to try to convince their parents on her behalf. Having Erika along as well is a little weirder, but it's all to play into the subverted setup wherein the Uminos are actually so over-supportive of Sachi's decision that they're willing to sacrifice their shop just to pay for her getting into the school. So I can appreciate how this brings the whole family in on decisions they didn't necessarily expect to be arguing for, including Erika getting to have a fight with her family like she apparently always wanted but never got with her more refined upbringing. But it mostly just rings like a drummed-up conflict to allow Erika to demonstrate a Big Sister moment. It does create an odd inversive take on the overall idea in Cuckoos of changing fate and standing up to your family's whims to do that, in not letting them sacrifice something for you if you don't want it. And it lets us see more of Nagi's mom and dad, which is always going to make me happy.
It does end up resulting in a sidelong question about the whole setup though, regarding Sachi's supposed 'full-throttle' approach to decision-making conflicting with her reluctance to stand up to her parents on her resolution to attend the school. It makes me wonder what the choice actually was (apart from her relenting purely out of contrivance simply so Nagi and Erika could go have the conversation, of course) since the story of Sachi's resolve actually makes for some interesting character theory. Nagi's description of her efforts to follow in the footsteps of his own successes provides some effective context for how Sachi views her brother, even suggesting, to me, that her affection for him might simply be some sort of misplaced motivational impulse. It's just an idea, of course, and given that Cuckoos clearly intends to drag out the romantic element of Sachi's plotline, probably not one that's going to be seriously followed up on any time soon.
It's a low-key, but still uneven ride as Cuckoos tends to be. As well, I couldn't help but notice the production straining a bit more oddly than usual this week, with several camera movements, cuts, and other directorial tricks trying visibly hard to compensate for the lacking animation. Though there's also a weird bit halfway through where those background nerds appear with more interesting effort put into their character animation than the main characters have had recently. And that was all in service of padding out the end of the segment by informing us that Nagi…is the harem protagonist. The dense degrees of storytelling Cuckoos gets up to now. These stretches mostly made my mind wander and realize that Sachi could make for an interesting central main character in this story in her own right, as a girl finding herself newly torn between two older siblings. But that's an exploration for an alternate story, as opposed to Cuckoos this week being happy to have Sachi drift between the other main characters and make decisions about where corners of the plot might go in the future.
A Couple of Cuckoos is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Chris is a freewheeling Fresno-based freelancer with a love for anime and a shelf full of too many Transformers. He can be found spending way too much time on his Twitter, and irregularly updating his blog.
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