A Sister's All You Need
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Sister's All You Need ?
'A Sister's All You Need' has proven to a somewhat misleading title for this anime. Itsuki's little sister fixation is one component of his character, a humorous driving quirk that has only popped up irregularly in the last few episodes. But for the most part, the show has simply settled into a comical look at the business of light novel authorship. That's not a bad place to be, especially if you enjoyed Eromanga Sensei's industry insights and commentary but were put off by the sexualization of the younger sibling.
This episode really delves into its novel-writing aspect and with good reason. After mostly being used as a background issue for humor purposes up until now, the deadline for Itsuki's novel is truly bearing down on him, and his editor Toki is through with his excuses. The first few sketches in the episode depict Itsuki trying to escape his duties and Toki going to absurd (and possibly illegal) lengths to track him down, playing out like some bizarre anime Road Runner/Coyote sketch. This includes an attempted mixed-bathing sojourn featuring the return of Setsuna, which gives the illustrator a bit more characterization.
At first, it's questionable what his ploy to 'look at asses' in the bath is all about, though it's easy to guess the old artistic reference motivation. The real fun twist is the way this sequence of events turns our expectations around with an anti-fanservice scene full of wrinkled old ladies. Okay perhaps it's a bit predictable, but the way it's presented, from Setsuna's good-natured reaction to Itsuki's horror that recalls images from Attack on Titan, makes the whole sequence work. Itsuki being caught by Toki again and dragged off to a writing dungeon caps the whole trip off well.
Between Setsuna and Toki, this episode does an effective job of showing how good Itsuki's supporting cast can be, even if he himself continues to be mostly reprehensible. Setsuna's vibrant and genuine, while Toki has a serious work ethic and wants Itsuki to succeed, despite how easy it might be to just easier fire the guy at this point. Meanwhile, Itsuki is as frustrating for us to watch grow as he must be for his various acquaintances. Granted, we understand the inferiority complex that has spawned Itsuki's writer's block, and I'm sure many of us can sympathize with wanting to just run away from an issue like that instead of wanting to solve it. However, the sheer depths he's reached, where he now has to be literally imprisoned for a few days to actually finish his work, shines a light on how toxic such a self-defeating philosophy can be if you allow yourself to wallow in it for too long.
It might seem weird to give this dumb raunchy comedy credit for introspective views on the creative process, but that seems to be its genuine goal for now, and literally isolating Itsuki from the goofy conversational shenanigans and frequent fanservice isolates the show's ideas as well. We've seen a couple times already how Itsuki manages to convert his real-life experiences into fuel for his writing, and the actual motivations of his friends and co-workers become both internal and external elements of his story as he's forced to write. This element of showing where writers get the ideas for their stories makes this episode (and the show overall) work better as a story about writing than a fanservicey romp. Itsuki finally finding his motivation and finishing his novel (complete with some cool-looking fast-typing animation) is rewarding not because we like him or even because we specifically want him to succeed, but because a completed creative process is rewarding in itself.
ASAYN actually opts to insert its opening animation at the completion of the novel, pretty close to the end of the episode (fitting since the motif of that OP is Itsuki physically struggling through his writing), with just a few wind-down scenes before the end credits. It also shows the sense of relief and reward that comes along with the worry that what you created might not actually be well-received. Itsuki and Haruto watching their novels be bought (or not) is amusing, communicating the feeling of satisfaction in some measure for all your troubles. Itsuki also gets rewarded further with a rare non-angry call from Toki to find out that his novel will be receiving a manga adaptation. Granted, this does mean that Itsuki's reward for his work could just lead to more work, but the progressive nature of success is apparent to anyone who keeps on creating.
All this results in the most successful outing for ASAYN so far. The characterization itself is still pretty shallow to some unlikable degrees, and I honestly don't know enough about the light novel industry or the specific issues faced by those writers to speak to how accurate this depiction may be. But the ideas that it communicates are effective and well-articulated regardless. The writing in this show is shooting a bit higher than you might expect from a series making jokes about naked grandmas in the first half of the episode. Maybe now that Itsuki has overcome his writer's block and taken steps to overcome his lack of confidence (including some amusing faux-overconfidence), he can work on his actual personality.
A Sister's All You Need is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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