Actually, I Am…
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Actually, I Am… ?
Many of the characters in Actually, I Am have a slightly unrefined quality that I enjoy. The cast's non-human members in particular feel like they were tossed into the story as soon as someone thought of them, with no editorial process to make their abilities less interesting and more sensible. It's fun to see some unhinged creativity, but adding characters on a whim doesn't always produce gems like Aizawa and Shiho/Shirou. Sometimes, as is the case in this episode, it results in characters that simply feel unfinished.
Shiho's arrival at school stirs up a commotion, but Asahi's attention is quickly diverted away from the wolf-man-girl by a strange sight. While everyone else is trying to hide one secret or another, a girl with horns on her head is strolling around campus without a care in the world. After the world's least subtle investigation, Asahi and Shiragami learn that the precocious junk food addict is, in fact, a devil. On top of that, she's the school's principal and their teacher's great-great-grandmother. Shiragami ends up making one joke too many about Akane's childish appearance, and the ensuing argument leads to a contest between the vampire and the devil. In order to determine which of them is more adult-like, they agree to a sex appeal competition. Whoever can give Asahi a bigger nosebleed will win the contest. Well hey, at least they're using an objective scoring system.
Given this show's focus on secret identities, it's kind of fun to see a character who couldn't care less about walking around in public with horns sticking out of her head. That devil-may-care attitude sets Akane up as a convenient foil for the rest of the cast and allows her to have some fun at everyone else's expense. Having the principal know about Shiragami and company's secrets also frees up the narrative by removing the threat of instant exposure if they do anything strange at school. All these things make Akane a useful minor character, but they don't necessarily make her a good one. Compared to many of the other gimmicks in this series, having an old character who looks young feels far less original. The contrast between her childish attitude and her desire to be treated like an adult is also par for the course, and she has yet to show any particularly compelling strengths or weaknesses as a person. Simply put, it's as though someone came up with an idea and forgot to build a complete character around it.
That unfinished impression also applies to the comedy in this episode. Akane's delight at toying with Asahi over the matter of her identity is funny, as is the way the competition scene sabotages the audience's expectations. The problem is that Akane being a devil and the contest going off the rails are the only fresh jokes in the episode. Everything else that happens is either a reaction to those ideas or a repeat of something the show has done before, like Shiho's hobby of toying with Asahi. The comedy is stretched pretty thin here, and the laughs don't come quite as often as they should.
Actually, I Am seems to be having trouble shifting up a gear at this point. It has a bunch of good ideas, but isn't quite sure what to do with them or how they should be related. Some jokes are used too frequently, while others have been introduced and never used again. (When was the last time we heard from Mikan's talking glasses?) The characters continue to carry the series, but they can only do so much in the absence of an actual goal to pursue or a problem to solve. It takes a more coherent theme and much better animation to have an entire season without a plot maintain its entertainment value.
As it stands, Actually, I Am has another week to stop spinning its wheels, perhaps two at the most. If the show waits much longer, any conclusion it comes up with will lack the screen time it needs to play out effectively. There are a number of directions for the script to pursue, including the possibility of Shiragami's father pulling her out of school. Whatever it is, we need some kind of cause for all of these delightfully odd kids to rally around, and we need it soon.
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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