Chio's School Road
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Chio's School Road ?
Hell is other people for Chio in this episode, regardless of whether they're awkward acquaintances or total strangers. Chio stops by the local convenience store to pick up her favorite gaming magazine, but she gets sidetracked by the temptations of a different publication. When she realizes that the checkout clerk is none other than Andou, she uses every trick she can think of in the hopes of buying the magazine without making things awkward. Needless to say, things get supremely awkward. Later, Chio and Manana are ambushed by a younger girl from an exclusive private school. While their mysterious assailant may look refined and innocent, her method of attack is anything but. Finally, Chio and Manana try to do something nice for once by striking up a conversation with an old woman, but their efforts yield nothing except bitter disappointment.
Whether a character is buying a dirty magazine or any other suspicious item, the uncomfortable register interaction is a tried and true comedy routine. Chio even calls out the familiarity of this premise when she tries to use the classic strategy of using something more respectable to camouflage her BL game magazine. Even though this scenario is as old as dirt, it's livened up a bit by Chio's trademark overreactions, especially her desperate dive back into the aisle upon discovering that Andou is working the register. Her last-ditch effort at hiding the cover under a neatly arranged pile of chocolates is a particularly amusing touch. For his part, Andou does a decent job of making the whole interaction excruciating for Chio simply by existing. He doesn't go out of his way to be obnoxious, but the mere fact that he knows Chio and recognizes what she's buying elevates the experience from “awkward” to “personal hell.” On the whole, this segment is a competent delivery of an old standard, though it doesn't really make use of the show's ability to escalate a situation beyond what we'd normally expect. It lacks the sense of deliberate shark-jumping that tends to characterize the best parts of Chio's School Road.
Then we have the “duel,” which is reminiscent of the kabaddi storyline from last week. Once again, your enjoyment here will hinge at least partly on whether or not you're on board with the dirtier side of the show's sense of humor. Even if you're not overly amused by the premise of the characters trying to shove their fingers into one another's rear ends, some elements of the presentation are still entertaining. The script commits pretty thoroughly to treating the “ass-off” as a life or death situation, with the characters making deadly serious observations about one another's techniques. Still, this segment doesn't make quite as much of an impact as it should, and it fizzles out near the end; having the girl flip Chio and Kushitori off before running away is a lackluster way to wrap things up. I'm also reasonably certain I spotted a continuity error where the thumb zip-tie disappears in one shot and returns in the next, and if the audience can pick something like that up during a first viewing, it means we're not laughing as much as we should be.
Perhaps the second part of this episode could have taken a lesson from the third: keep it short and sweet, and move on as soon as the big joke lands. We get the necessary setup of the old lady sitting hunched over by herself and Manana's story about the field full of flowers, and that's just enough to get the audience excited to see what the twist will be. Chio's School Road then goes all in on the big reveal: the old lady is so shamelessly obnoxious, and the café owner is so clearly fed up with her, that the situation effectively shoves this rare moment of kindness back in Chio and Manana's faces. Where the previous storyline went on long enough to wear out the shock value of its premise, this one ends quickly enough to leave the audience wanting more. The old lady's defiant promise to hack into the café's network if they block her phone is also a great parting shot, since it neatly encapsulates both her horrible attitude and her unexpected tech savvy. Even if this scene is just a disposable, one-and-done joke, it's easily my favorite part of the episode.
Chio's School Road is still struggling to recapture the hilarity of its early episodes, but at least the series appears to be trying some new things. Andou offers some entertainment in this latest step on his evolution from terrifying biker to total doofus, and the enema assassin could be a decent recurring character if the script can throw some more variety into her routine. Adding an extra segment near the end also cuts down on the amount of screen time that the longer parts need to fill, which should theoretically force the series to trim each scene down to its funniest material. The potential is there, but the execution just isn't quite sharp enough to make the most of it.
Chio's School Road is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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