Chio's School Road
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Chio's School Road ?
Between the return of kabaddi and a fresh case of game brain, this episode throws a lot of familiar obstacles at Chio. Kabaddi club captain Kushitori has gone missing since her crushing defeat, but it turns out she hasn't gone far. Chio and Manana find her living in a neighborhood park, training under the questionable guidance of a homeless man. Chio shamelessly sends Manana in alone to confront Kushitori, but the plan to avoid an awkward confrontation backfires. After unintentionally awakening Kushitori's deepest desire, Manana points out Chio's hiding spot and steps back to watch the ensuing mayhem. The latter half of the episode features another instance of Chio's game brain taking over, and while she doesn't scale any buildings this time around, she does end up dangling precariously from a bridge. It turns out some of those iconic stealth takedowns require an absurd amount of upper body strength.
The first half of this episode can be summed up in one word: butts. Both the narrative and the majority of the humor revolve around this central theme, and how much you get out of the experience will depend heavily on whether or not you enjoy that repetition. The plot boils down to Kushitori training to rid herself of the desire to grab butts, eventually embracing her existential need to grab butts, and finally tracking down and grabbing a butt (Chio's, to be specific). All of this is framed as a parody of the old sports anime trope of a defeated character venturing off into the mountains to train, but the genre satire is largely just a delivery mechanism for the butt jokes. It's a premise that probably would have worked fine for a five-minute segment, but dragging it out for this long causes the comedy to wear thin. As much as the series tries to keep the humor fresh by constantly cranking up the absurdity of the situation, this strikes me as a case of too much screen time for too little content.
That same issue crops up again in the second half. The initial image of Chio trying to pull off a “death from below” attack on Manana by dangling from a bridge is pretty darn funny, but it just takes too long to play out. Much like the first half, this situation does at least benefit from the dynamic of constant betrayal between Chio and Manana, but even this isn't quite enough to carry the whole scene. Since it's clear from the outset that these two are going to drag one another down at some point, many of the twists and shifts in momentum are a little too predictable. At this point in the series, did anyone not expect Manana to start filming as soon as she discovered Chio dangling from the bridge? Their interactions are still entertaining, but I'm starting to worry that Chio's School Road is running out of ways to truly surprise the audience. As far as this central duo goes, we're getting to know them a little too well.
While the main storylines are a little on the weak side, some of the side jokes in this episode are quite good. The sound of a jail door closing at the end of the kabaddi master's anecdote makes for an amusing audio cue, and its return at the end of the storyline is a nice touch. On the visual side of things, I love the brief use of a first-person perspective as Chio stares down the handle of her school bag like she's aiming a gun. It's a clever nod to the style of game Chio has supposedly been playing, and it ties in nicely with the idea of her being stuck in gaming mode. Details like these are never going to carry an episode on their own, but they certainly help liven up an otherwise so-so segment.
In the short term, this episode might have been better off trimming down its two halves and adding a third storyline, if only to reduce the amount of screen time that these simple setups need to cover. In the long term, Chio's School Road would do well to shift some of its focus away from Chio and Manana and onto the supporting cast. Andou should still be good for a few more appearances, and it feels like Hosokawa has been severely underused in the last couple of weeks. This episode has just enough going for it to keep the ball rolling, but a dedicated comedy like Chio's School Road needs to keep throwing fresh ideas into the mix if it's going to hold up for a full season.
Chio's School Road is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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