Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki
by Kim Morrissy,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki ?
Here it is: The long-awaited confrontation between Tomozaki and Hinami.
Throughout this entire series so far, the two of them have never fully seen eye-to-eye. The seeds of the conflict in this episode were laid way back in episode 4, when Tomozaki first decided to come clean with Kikuchi about the misunderstanding between them. Tomozaki wants to improve his social skills, but he also wants to remain truthful to himself to the very end, something which Hinami thinks of a sign of weakness. People who aren't committed to changing themselves all the way are just making excuses for themselves when they say they're happy with something "genuine," she argues.
Hinami really stands out this episode as an unusual character among romcom heroines. The genre is filled with seemingly "perfect girls" who put in a lot of hard work to maintain their image behind the scenes, but Hinami stands out in the utterly ruthless and cold-minded way she has approached that. The moment when Mizusawa pours out his heart to her and she replies in what seems like a frank and empathic way was utterly chilling. Tomozaki knows – and the audience knows – that it wasn't the real her. She simply swapped out her normal mask for a different one that made her seem like she was letting her guard down. And when Mizusawa calls her out on it, her façade does not flicker for even a single moment. I wouldn't blame you at all if you watched that and thought, "She's a monster."
Mizusawa ended up playing a pivotal role in galvanizing Tomozaki to action. We've consistently seen hints that he admires Tomozaki for his honesty, but as it turns out there's an underlying reason for that. He envies Tomozaki because he doesn't think that he's capable of taking off the mask that he instinctually wears around other people. In the previous episode, he told Tomozaki about his ambivalence about the girl he's currently seeing, to which Tomozaki replied something along the lines of, "I don't think you should date a girl if you don't truly like her." Looking back, that was a significant moment for Mizusawa, because in this episode he finally decides to just tell Hinami everything he feels. In doing so, he doesn't just reveal his romantic feelings for her, but also his uneasiness with the person he currently is. Tomozaki is impressed with Mizusawa's resolve, and that was probably why Hinami's stone-faced reaction gutted him despite his own budding feelings for her.
The other motivating factor is Kikuchi. Two episodes ago, her actions revealed that Hinami's calculated approach to social interactions doesn't necessarily impress her. She preferred talking to Tomozaki when he's bumbling and honest, even if he didn't realize that at the time. Now that he's aware that other people can see through Hinami's dishonesty, Tomozaki confirms Kikuchi's feelings when he goes out to the fireworks display with her and uses none of the techniques Hinami taught him. It's a heartbreakingly cute moment seeing Kikuchi dress up in a yukata; the atmosphere is so romantic that it seems almost inevitable for Tomozaki to get swept up in it and ask her to be his girlfriend. But instead of asking her that question, he asks instead whether she thinks he's been easy to talk to that day. The answer he receives is what ultimately inspires him to confront Hinami for himself.
As far as the script goes, this episode was firing on all cylinders. Each line is thoughtful and incisive, cutting to the core of what the characters are really thinking. If the anime had opened with the characters talking like this, it would have come across as ponderous, but here it's cathartic because they're finally verbalizing what has been evident in their actions all along. If only the animation and storyboarding was more up to snuff. There were some neat layouts at parts, like when Hinami turns her back to Tomozaki, leaving only him to face the camera. But if only this series had more ambitious visual direction in general – it could have truly elevated this series to stand among the high school anime greats.
Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki is currently streaming on Funimation Entertainment.
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