Actually, I Am…
Episode 11

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Actually, I Am… ?

Just once, I want the protagonist of a harem comedy to go for the long shot. Forget about the girl he's clearly supposed to end up with and forget about the main romantic rival, I'd like to see one of these wishy-washy dudes decide that he's in love with one of the minor characters. Honestly, who would expect Asahi to get paired up with Mikan or Shiho? I doubt it'd make for a convincing ending, but I'd certainly have plenty to talk about in the last episode review. Hey, a critic can dream.

Rather than picking up where it left off, Actually, I Am chooses to skip forward a bit in this episode. With the unintentional love confession relegated to the rearview mirror, Asahi and Aizawa find themselves set up on a date at the big summer festival. Shiragami tails the potential couple with the intention of cheering them on, but an accidental embrace proves to be more than she can bear. The only one capable of bringing the deflated vampire back to her senses turns out to be Akane, who pesters Shiragami into admitting that she has feelings for Asahi. With all kinds of supernatural and extraterrestrial love hanging heavily in the air, the pressure's on Asahi to make a decision.

While last week's big confession is referenced in this episode, I find it odd that the series didn't bother to show us its immediate aftermath. We don't get a clear picture of how the characters reacted to Mikan's glasses declaring undying affection for Asahi while perched on Aizawa's face, or how Aizawa managed to deal with the situation. Instead, the show jumps forward to a new sequence of events and does its best to avoid mentioning what should be a major plot point. It's as if someone decided that writing a convincing ending to that scene was impossible and opted for the narrative equivalent of a tactical retreat. As a result, the audience is left scrambling to figure out what's happening at the beginning of this episode. It's not as if the series has abandoned its tangled web of relationships, but this approach still feels like the easy way out. If you're going to end an episode on a cliffhanger, at least have the courtesy to deal with it a week later.

Once everyone is back on the same page, the festival date evolves into a pleasant scene that shows off some decent chemistry between Asahi and Aizawa. Their conversation about similarities between life on Earth and life on Aizawa's home planet reads like the product of an “Introduction to Science Fiction” class, but interstellar cultural exchange isn't the priority here. What the show needs to do is establish Aizawa as a credible romantic rival for Shiragami, and this scene goes a long way toward doing just that. Asahi and Aizawa clearly enjoy one another's company, and it seems like they'd make a halfway decent couple if Shiragami weren't around. With a little luck, this should help put some extra emotional punch behind the finale.

I wouldn't have picked Akane as the character to help Shiragami confront her feelings for Asahi, but I can't argue with the results. The second half of this episode features some very strong comedy and finally takes advantage of Akane's less-than-convincing shapeshifting abilities. By having Akane stage irreverent reenactments of significant moments from past episodes, the show is able to have some fun at its own expense. Self-deprecating humor hasn't been a primary source of comedy for Actually, I Am in the past, so it's impressive that the series handles this new approach as well as it does.

Apart from some questionable storytelling, this is another solid entry in a show that has managed to stage one heck of a comeback from its mid-season slump. The last big challenge will be finding the right balance of comedy and genuine emotion in the final act. Will Actually, I Am go for big laughs or try to pull off a more sentimental ending? It has the ability to go in either direction, but a wide range of options doesn't necessarily guarantee a satisfying outcome. It's time to make a decision and stand by it.

Rating: B

Actually, I Am… is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Paul Jensen is a freelance writer and editor. You can follow more of his anime-related ramblings on Twitter.

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