Actually, I Am…
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Actually, I Am… ?
I suppose it's only natural for Actually, I Am to have a cooking episode. After all, it's right below beach and hot springs episodes on the list of things that must be included in every single harem comedy. Someone will turn out to be perfectly competent in the kitchen, someone else will be surprisingly inept, and the end results will be food in name only. Break out the extra-strength energy drinks, because this episode practically begs to be slept through.
Asahi has to take a make-up cooking class after missing school, and he just so happens to be joined by Shiho, Aizawa, and Shiragami. Aizawa is confident in the curry recipe that she's procured, but the finished product turns out to be a chocolate cake. The group's second attempt looks set to yield a better result, but things go downhill in a hurry once Shiragami and Aizawa decide to get creative with the ingredients. They end up making something inedible to humans and vampires alike, but the curry/cake hybrid is ultimately the more troublesome dish. Akane demands more of the delicious oddity and is willing to slam an asteroid into the Earth if she doesn't get what she wants. The fate of the world hangs on some very unorthodox versions of normal desserts.
I appreciate this episode's attempts to avoid being truly awful. The joke isn't that the characters can't cook so much as the freedom of not having a recipe causes them to throw common sense out the window. Rather than being overly cutesy and domestic, the episode is a comedy routine with Asahi and Shiho reacting to their friends' temporary insanity. The final scene is also worth a laugh, offering up a deliberately cheesy dramatic montage before allowing the apocalyptic threat to fizzle out completely.
The trouble here is that nothing else in this episode works as well as it should. Rather than being amusingly ridiculous, the asteroid gimmick feels like it was made up on the spot by a bad improv comedy group. It's arbitrary, incoherent, and no one seems to fully understand how the space rock is affected by Akane eating terrible food. At least that gimmick is original; the series of “perpetually single schoolteacher” jokes are as old as this genre. Instead of taking advantage of its characters' unusual physical traits, the show is just throwing unpolished ideas and stock personalities at an overused premise. Shouldn't Aizawa be falling out of her body and into a pot while Shiho accidentally transforms into a bewildered Shirou instead?
This storyline simply doesn't produce enough comedy to merit wasting half an hour on. If you're making a run-of-the-mill high school rom-com, then by all means have your characters make a complete mess of someone's kitchen. When you've got aliens and devils running around, however, they need to be put to better use than this. A deliberately odd comedy should never feel mundane or dull, but that's exactly what this episode is.
Actually, I Am banked plenty of good will with its strong early episodes, but it's been emptying its account in a hurry over the last two weeks. As the series searches desperately for some narrative direction to pursue, it's obvious that the wheels are starting to come off. The uninspired writing is increasingly unworthy of the colorful and amusing cast, which makes the show much more frustrating than a less promising series being formulaic. At least the lack of a coherent story allows the show to start fresh each week, but I'm losing faith in the possibility of a strong comeback.
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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