Actually, I Am…
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Actually, I Am… ?
The swimsuit episode is often a sign of desperation, an attempt to breathe life back into a failing series through easy comedy and abundant fanservice. If no one cares about the story, then maybe they'll at least keep watching to see some animated cleavage. The problem usually surfaces when there's nothing to hold the audience's interest once the characters go home and change back into their normal clothes. By some miracle, however, Actually, I Am found a way to use a swimsuit episode to get itself back on track before the end of the season.
Asahi gets the ball rolling by inviting Shiragami to the local water park, but he immediately discovers a flaw in his plan: neither of them know how to swim. The attempted date morphs into a group outing as Shiho, Aizawa, and many of the supporting characters come along for the ride. Asahi and Shiragami get some amusing but ultimately useless swimming lessons from Shiho before Aizawa takes over and jumps into full drill sergeant mode. While everyone else packs up to go home at the end of the day, Shiragami asks Asahi to meet her at school that night. The two of them sneak into the pool, practice some more, and get a tiny step closer to admitting that they like one another.
The trip to the water park follows the usual formula for a swimsuit episode, but it still manages to entertain reasonably well. Shiho's dirty-minded techniques for learning to swim are just raunchy enough to be funny, and Asahi's trio of guy friends provide plenty of amusing reactions to the main cast's antics. Aizawa's swimming lessons aren't quite as strong on the comedic front, but they have the same goofy appeal as her attempts to help Shiragami avoid the sun earlier in the season. The scene as a whole manages to keep the fanservice factor neatly in check, letting the characters show off without getting too sleazy or ridiculous. Apart from the stubbornly average animation quality, it's a solid execution of a familiar premise.
The episode's second half is easily the stronger of the two, and it goes a long way toward recapturing the old-fashioned charm that Actually, I Am displayed early on. With the rest of the cast out of the picture, the chemistry between Asahi and Shiragami comes back out of hiding and carries the scene single-handedly. There's no running joke or silly gimmick, just a dorky guy and a thickheaded vampire girl bonding over a shared secret. It's a sweet little moment in a series that often gets caught up in its efforts to make the audience laugh. Left to their own devices, these two characters could easily provide everything that the story needs to keep rolling along.
As good as the second half is, it still features one of the show's bad habits. For one reason or another, Actually, I Am is simply incapable of shutting up and letting the significance of a moment hit the audience naturally. The script jumps away from Asahi and Shiragami so Akane and Akari can hang out in the principal's office and reiterate how similar this is to the way Shiragami's parents fell in love. Does this series really think its viewers are so dense that it needs to have two separate sets of characters explain the same thing within five minutes of each other? When it comes to emphasizing major plot points, less would definitely be more.
Despite my complaints, this episode is still just what the doctor ordered. It cuts out all the extra noise and goes back to what makes Actually, I Am work. By getting the basics right, it gives the show an opportunity to refocus itself around the lead couple, while keeping the audience entertained. If the series can seize this opportunity and deliver a strong follow-up next week, a satisfying conclusion might not be too much to ask for after all.
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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