by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Blend S ?
Blend-S finally completes the Café Stile crew this week with the introduction of Hideri. A cross-dressing young man with dreams of idol stardom. Hideri joins the café's staff in the hopes of attracting new fans. His “idol waitress” character is a hit with the customers, and most of his fellow employees are just happy to have someone else to share the workload. Hideri tries to help Dino get closer to Maika by offering him some basic advice, but Dino's uncontrollable enthusiasm quickly derails that plan. Miu gets a chance to spend some time with Hideri outside of work, though the two of them don't quite see eye to eye on the subject of fashion.
This is presumably the last character introduction Blend-S has up its sleeve, and Hideri's arrival offers the usual set of tradeoffs. On the positive end of things, he provides some new comedic material for the series to work with. Based on this episode, Hideri seems to have some decent potential as an agent of chaos; his advice to Dino leads to some amusing blunders, and he and Miu seem well-matched when it comes to pushing one another's buttons. The natural downside to bringing in a new face is that it takes some time to set up that chemistry; compared to last week, this episode has to work harder for fewer laughs. Instead of just dropping familiar characters into a situation and letting them run amok, each scene has to start from scratch. It's not so much an issue with Hideri as an inherent problem with expanding the cast late in the season.
In fact, Hideri himself appears to be a worthwhile addition to the series. Blend-S could have easily screwed this introduction up by leaning too much on the cross-dressing premise, so it's encouraging to see him portrayed as an actual character instead of a one-trick pony. We get an explanation for why Hideri enjoys dressing like a girl, and the other characters' reactions are cleverly understated. Instead of the tired old “OMG he's a dude” routine, the core joke is that Stile is already so full of unusual characters that nobody (with the possible exception of Dino) gives Hideri's appearance a second thought. By skipping most of the usual guy-or-girl panic, the episode is able to quickly move on to more interesting material.
Once the introduction is complete, we get two scenes of Hideri interacting with the rest of the cast. Of these, his quest to give Dino relationship advice is the weakest effort. It's not that the jokes aren't funny; some of Dino's antics are quite entertaining. The problem is that we've seen this kind of routine from Blend-S already, and it doesn't do much to show us why Hideri is a necessary addition to the cast. Mafuyu or Kaho could have filled his role in this sequence easily enough, and their chemistry with Dino and Akizuki is stronger at the moment. The second scene, with Miu helping Hideri shop for a new outfit, does a better job of finding a niche for the new guy. Miu has generally had the run of the place since she first arrived on the scene, so it's fun to finally have a character who gets on her nerves a little. Hideri's mix of vanity and self-awareness allows him to rile Miu up while giving her a chance to mess with him in return. There's some good chemistry here, and this friendly hostility between Miu and Hideri could be a welcome addition to the show's comedic playbook.
While not as openly funny as last week's episode, this late-season introduction to Hideri works pretty well. While it throws a few overused jokes into the mix here and there, it does a decent job of actually integrating him into the cast instead of relying on the “surprise” of his core gimmick. It helps that Hideri is open and unapologetic about who he is; this could have been a much more awkward experience if Blend-S had tried to draw humor out of the cast's discomfort. It's not the world's most nuanced take on this type of character, but at least it doesn't go overboard. For a dumb, goofy, and occasionally naughty comedy, that'll do fine.
BLEND-S is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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