Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki
by Kim Morrissy,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki ?
The relationship between Tomozaki and Kikuchi is really fascinating stuff. They're both introverts on a similar wavelength, and they honestly do seem like they would make a good couple, but the way Hinami has been trying to bring them together leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I'm rooting for Tomozaki and Kikuchi to get together, but at the same time I can't help but feel uneasy about the direction their relationship is headed.
Their conversation after their first movie date is the most important takeaway from the episode. At first, Tomozaki is just being himself as he gushes about the directing choices in the film, but then he reminds himself to make use of the conversational techniques that Hinami taught him and takes on a more calculated approach. Kikuchi's eyes lose their shine during this part, indicating that she's not eager to engage in such a superficial conversation. She then tells Tomozaki that he flits between being easy and difficult to talk to. Tomozaki and Hinami both perceive this as proof that he hasn't mastered the techniques yet, but it seems to be the opposite that's true: Kikuchi prefers Tomozaki when he's being earnest and bumbling.
Until now, Kikuchi mostly occupies a supplementary role in the narrative rather than being treated as a focus. As a character, she came across as almost angelic and ethereal, perhaps due to how little Tomozaki understood her at that point. In this episode, though, some of her vulnerabilities came to the surface. She's sweet, but that also means she's really self-conscious, to the degree that she ends up talking herself into a circle because she's afraid that what she's saying will hurt the other person. Hinami mentions early in the episode that Kikuchi tends to take her time responding to text messages, indicating that she's the type to carefully consider everything before saying something, but it also implies that she feels somewhat awkward and uncomfortable with Hinami. Kikuchi just isn't good at casual conversation, and she doesn't get along with extroverts.
Kikuchi's role in this episode is contrasted with Mizusawa's, who is the definition of smooth and consummate. He and Tomozaki also have a one-on-one conversation in this episode in which they get closer. Mizusawa even starts calling Tomozaki by his first name "Fumiya"! (Gasp!) Yet despite making significant strides in their friendship, there's still a sense that Tomozaki doesn't quite know how to deal with Mizusawa. He has to consciously force himself to make banter, for one thing. Also, when Mizusawa insists that he's praising Tomozaki for his seriousness, Tomozaki isn't quite so certain that he's being earnest about that.
For what it's worth, I do think Mizusawa is serious in his compliments, because he's noticed that Tomozaki and Hinami have a similar mindset, but I doubt he's going to come right out and say that at this point since that would be revealing his own vulnerabilities. The look on his face when he noticed that Hinami was sizing up the game controllers in Tomozaki's room was very revealing in this sense. He recognized that Hinami belonged to a different world from him, and he just didn't know how to respond to that. I really enjoyed this episode overall, not just because of what was said but because of what was left unsaid between these various characters. Relationships sure are difficult...
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