by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Blend S ?
Leaving erotic manga in a café doesn't typically lead to getting hired as a waitress, but when has Café Stile ever been a normal place? While Maika is initially stunned to see doujinshi artist Miu Amano joining the crew, the new girl doesn't have much trouble getting up to speed. She nails her “big sister” persona when dealing with customers, and her overactive imagination makes her a natural fit for the café's quirky staff. Later in the episode, the rest of the crew puts Maika through special training after a customer survey suggests that she isn't acting sadistic enough. The impromptu boot camp is a success, but Maika's new appearance and personality might be too much for even Café Stile's regulars to handle.
It seems that you can't be a waitress at this café unless there's a humorous contrast between your assigned character and your real personality. Miu's gimmick is that her kindly, doting big sister act is backed up by a very active (and very raunchy) imagination. In some respects, she functions as Maika's opposite; where Maika has to bury her good intentions under an intimidating personality, Miu's character requires her to be the embodiment of customer service despite her ulterior motives. The setup is vaguely amusing, but it seems like Blend-S is still figuring out how to play Miu's gimmick for big laughs. There are moments when it seems to be moving in the right direction, and I especially like how the series ends a confrontation between Miu and Akizuki with him begging her for an autograph. Now that we're past the initial surprise of her quirky personality, Miu needs to start developing more comedic chemistry with the rest of the cast.
The most amusing thing about Miu has almost nothing to do with her fake big sister act. For the time being, I'm more intrigued by the idea that her motivation for working at Stile is to gather story ideas for her manga. The notion that an artist who specializes in erotic fiction would see Stile as a source of inspiration is a clever commentary on just how twisted this café is. Blend-S is already mining this situation for humor on a surface level, but I'd like to see it go deeper and use Miu's fantasies as a way to really satirize itself. While that already seems to be the direction the show is heading, I just want it to go further. Miu's situation also plays into the theme of everyone accepting one another's eccentricities, though this idea still hasn't been explored in depth. It's briefly touched on in a couple lines of dialogue, and then we're off to the next scene.
That leaves us with Maika's temporary transformation into a genuinely sadistic character. In keeping with the rest of the episode, this is a clever idea that never manages to reach beyond the obvious jokes. Sure, it's funny to see everyone recoil in horror at the monster they've created, but nothing about this storyline felt surprising to me. I kept waiting for Blend-S to deliver some clever twist or subvert my expectations, but that moment never arrived. As the audience grows accustomed to a show's particular brand of humor, the setups and punchlines needs to look beyond the low-hanging fruit if they're going to keep us laughing. It's less of a problem at the moment since we're still working our way through character introductions, but Blend-S will eventually need to up its game if it's going to stay fresh throughout the season.
For the time being, this series remains just good enough to be worthwhile. It's funny enough in the moment to work as a source of disposable entertainment, but it starts fading from memory as soon as the end credits roll. As I mentioned at the beginning of the season, there's a place for that kind of series, but even maintaining this status quo might be tough once the stream of new characters dries up. The challenge for Blend-S going forward will be to pair its good ideas with sharper, more creative execution.
BLEND-S is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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