Castle Town Dandelion
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Castle Town Dandelion ?
I expect Castle Town Dandelion to give me my weekly dose of “cute girls being cute,” but I didn't predict this week's life lesson about confidence along with it! This episode takes Castle Town Dandelion's fluffy, tangential style to deliver a feel-good, if somewhat predictable, lesson about inner strength.
During the first half of the episode, we meet Scarlet Bloom (rhymes with Sailor Moon), Akane's fearless alter-ego. We've seen in flashbacks that Akane has loved to dress up like a superhero since childhood, so her big sister Aoi has the genius idea to help Akane come out of her shell by interacting with the citizens in disguise. Kanade procures some adorable glasses to conceal Akane's true identity, so she can rescue whales and accost purse-snatchers with the assurance that nobody will know it's really her.
What follows is an Emperor's New Clothes situation, where Kanade has gotten everyone in town to pretend they don't know it's really Princess Akane under those glasses, and the plot requires that Akane be dense enough not to know they're all just playing along. Sure enough, the initial gag turns out to have real, positive consequences for Akane's life. Maybe before public speaking or presentations, we should all don an anime fetish item—glasses, cat ears, a maid or butler costume, a school swimsuit, etc.—that will transform us into somebody more confident and cute at the same time!
Akane's situation isn't exactly realistic. When you're a little more self-aware than her, confidence is a trickier problem to solve. Take Misaki, who is completely resigned to her normalcy, or Aoi, who is book-smart enough to navel-gaze herself silly. We get both of them in the second half, titled “Big Sister's Birthday.” This half is unexpectedly meta, since the plot mirrors the structure: a storyline that starts out about Misaki gets overshadowed by a conclusion about Aoi, in the same way that the main plot indicates Aoi will unintentionally overshadow Misaki's campaign. Misaki's concerns over being ordinary start the half, and read like a recap of the previous skit “Eight of Misaki,” where her twin brother Haruka once again comforts and revitalizes her.
Aoi upstages Misaki's speech with her neurotic inner crisis about whether she's a burden to her friends. (Meanwhile, they're planning her surprise party.) Ever since we learned Aoi's true power, she's been my favorite character because she seems to be the most self-aware. She's constantly #1 in the polls, but she fears becoming King since her power is essentially mind-control. She is always concerned that she's unwittingly controlling people into liking her. In other words, she feels like a fraud, who could only be liked because of some externality she can't control. It's Imposter Syndrome in action, and it's very relatable. Of course, in Castle Town Dandelion's fluffy style, Aoi gets her happy ending. We all saw it coming from a mile away, but it's nice to see Aoi's Imposter Syndrome dissipate faster than it would in real life.
This was an episode about believing in yourself just like your very best friends or family members do. These stories tell us that you deserve to treat yourself the way that people who love you would. It's not a mind-blowing discovery or even a new concept for the show, but it's exactly the sort of feel-good fluff that I've come to expect from Castle Town Dandelion.
Castle Town Dandelion is currently streaming on Funimation.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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