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A Couple of Cuckoos
Episode 21

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 21 of
A Couple of Cuckoos ?
Community score: 3.9

That whole Sosuke plot seems to firmly be on the back-burner as of this week, as A Couple of Cuckoos reassesses its core status quo. Nagi's grades are back up, in fact he's made it to first in the class, and most of the antics in this episode are centered on him and the main three girls interacting as expected. There's a shift in the framing of those antics, however, thanks to a particular kind of rom-com upheaval: Segawa making clear to Nagi that she does, in fact, have feelings for him. Nagi's studious success and resultant confession from his crush reinforce the momentum we're feeling as Cuckoos heads towards the end of its run here, heralded by the declaration that it feels "like fate's finally changing". The intertwining destinies of these kids are what they've thematically struggled against for the whole series, and while I don't know if things get so dramatically dense with this episode, there's still some refreshing sense of a load loosened.

I think what's going on here is that Segawa's declaration of desiring Nagi simply gives all the characters something new and interesting to talk about. Nagi's coy reaction of wanting to brag about the confession to Erika and Sachi is a funny enough lead-in for his character, but it kickstarts some branching entertainment value for the other two as they get to react to the news in relevant ways. Erika's amusingly enthusiastic about the situation, not necessarily interested in Nagi herself as she currently is, and seems to resolve to deploy her own offbeat efforts to bring the two closer together. Hey, there's another reason for me to root for the Nagi/Segawa ship, since he and Erika, in my opinion, work much better as friends connected by their…unique family situation. There's just something endearing about the pair's bro-time banter as they shop for supplies for Erika's beach-trip scheme while she resolves to set Nagi up so he can rub sunscreen on his beloved's back.

Regardless of how romantic Nagi and Erika's relationship is obligated to turn out, that connection they share forms half of what functions as the conflict within this episode. Yes, I had basically forgotten that they were still keeping their cohabitating living situation a secret from Segawa, so it's nice to have it reiterated here in an effective way. Erika is attached to the 'value' of that secret she sees as connecting them, an idea that's come up before in this series, contrasting with the concept of the harm those same secrets can do to people when kept from them. That is, of course, the cue for the duo to walk back into their home to find Segawa there, having been nonchalantly invited over and inadvertently spoiled on the surprise by Sachi. This whole bit is an example of Cuckoos's anticlimactic stylings deployed in their best way, from Nagi and Erika's trailing off "Aloha…" to the side-discussion about Nagi using Erika's shampoo that gets inadvertently instigated. This is the sort of thing I'm talking about regarding the livelier conversations between these characters.

Instead of the riled-up rom-com reaction Nagi expects her to have at this news, Segawa initially seems to take the surprise in as much stride as Erika did to the whole love-confession situation. Segawa is a smart one, after all; she could perceive that there was something going on between the two (apart from, you know, being engaged). But as the episode and the accompanying beach trip continue on, it becomes clear from her ongoing interactions and Nagi's noticing of them that she is harboring some issues. Her request to Nagi that they have no more secrets between them wasn't just for show – it's a strong point to round back to, providing a sense of continuity to their relationship just as they reach a point where they could take it to the next level.

I really enjoy Segawa's directness in calling Nagi out on this whole situation here. The boy has never had the most effective interiority, so her driving him to realize that, despite the family meddling that landed him there, he probably could have left the house he shared with Erika had he really wanted to is something he could probably use. And now that we have confirmation that she cares for Nagi, we can understand the hurt she feels from how he acted in this situation. Sure, she qualifies that she's mostly messing with him, but she's still doing so out of frustration with him not being forthcoming. For Nagi's part, it's nice that he fully owns up to being in the wrong on this one, not making excuses or acting like he can't see why Segawa is upset. The low-key conflict resolution that has defined so much of A Couple of Cuckoos is put to good use here, making the cast involved feel like reasonable people who make believable mistakes, and interact and grow in realistic ways as a result. It makes the whole thing engaging on the show's own terms, and they didn't even need to bring Shion along on the trip this time to keep me attentive to it!

The remaining point plotted on this love graph is, of course, Sachi. She is…enigmatic this episode. There's the question of whether she deliberately invited Segawa over to give away the secret and potentially sabotage Nagi's relationship with her, as irritated as she upon hearing about the confession. She flip-flops in her own words, indicating that she might actually be trying to bring Segawa and Nagi closer together, or that she might really have simply wanted help studying. Given Sachi's character, it's possible even she isn't sure herself, since Segawa seems to have picked up on her brother-lovin' leanings, passing her thoughts on them onto Nagi, who gets soundly deflected by a frustrated Sachi by the end. So even if there's meddling in the relationship by Sachi, it's a very low-key, surface-level meddling, appropriate to the tone of this show. But she keeps up with the same level of engagedly entertaining rapport that everyone else has this episode, and I can hardly complain about that. It's an episode of Cuckoos that makes its particular approach work well in this instance, possibly because of the simple escalation of Segawa's confession, or maybe just because the story found smart ways to have the whole cast interact with each other.

Rating:

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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