Chio's School Road
Episode 5

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Chio's School Road ?

Sooner or later, most anime comedies will run a bit where a character really, truly, desperately has to use the bathroom. In the case of Chio's School Road, finding a place to go isn't the problem; Chio is able to charge headlong into a public restroom in time, but soon discovers to her horror that she's ended up in the men's room. Faced with certain embarrassment if she's discovered, she must improvise not just a way out, but also a way to keep anyone else from coming in while she makes her escape. Once that crisis is averted, it's time for the friendship between Chio and Manana to go under the microscope as student council member Momo secretly observes them while patrolling for badly-behaved students. After just a few minutes, Momo decides that our two heroines are terrible influences on one another. I can't possibly imagine why she'd ever think that.

It's perhaps inevitable that the beginning of this episode has a “been there, done that” feel to it. The bathroom emergency premise is so common that most viewers will have seen it before, and while the delivery here is decent, it's nothing special. The good news is that things slowly start to pick up as the story rolls along. There are some amusing little details here, like the horror movie sound effects coming from the stall next to Chio's and the goofy guy singing about his hair while he combs it. Then there's Chio's escape plan, which is an inspired web of ideas that are just crazy enough to work. It's not the first time an anime character has made an absurd restroom getaway (I seem to recall a School Rumble heroine using plungers to scale a wall), but this is near the top of the list in terms of outright absurdity. The sheer complexity of distracting a cat in order to distract a pair of schoolgirls, who then in turn unintentionally distract a pair of businessmen, is entertaining enough on its own. Add in the image of Chio scrambling out the window backwards and you've got the highlight of this particular storyline. It's not particularly intellectual humor, but it works.

As the show's newest character, Momo makes a tolerable but unremarkable first impression. It's obvious from the outset that she's being set up to play the straight man to Chio and Manana's antics, so it doesn't come as a surprise when she's shocked by what she sees. In any case, Chio and Manana have already shown us that they don't really need a voice of reason to play off of; they carried the majority of the previous episode on their own, so this new supporting character is somewhat superfluous. Even here, the fun comes more from watching them fight each other with plants or scale a wall just to prove a point. Momo's reactions are a positive addition to the scene, but she certainly doesn't steal the spotlight in her first appearance.

On the other hand, I do have to give Momo credit for setting up the closest thing we've seen to a moment of insight from this series. The deadpan observation that she probably doesn't have many friends easily sums up Chio and Manana's defense, almost to the point where we don't even need the explanation that follows. The enormous amounts of grief that these two give one another are evidence of just how well they get along, rather than being signs of trouble within their friendship. This little sermon on making friends also leads into my favorite moment of the episode: the “Mananacchio” dance. It's just delightfully stupid, and it swiftly pulls the focus away from any kind of intelligent discourse and back into purely comedic territory. Even if the buildup is a tad predictable, that payoff is worth the wait.

In terms of creativity and comedic delivery, Chio's School Road has done better in previous weeks. This episode treads some overly familiar ground, and even a handful of clever twists can't quite raise it up to the usual level of lunacy. Thankfully, the weaker material is still reasonably entertaining, and the handful of high points offer some reassurance that this series remains capable of going all-out when the occasion calls for it. While I'd like to see Chio's School Road go back to swinging for the fences next week, this is a perfectly decent “business as usual” episode.

Rating: B

Chio's School Road is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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