by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Comic Girls ?
This week, Comic Girls shines its spotlight on the reticent ero-mangaka Ruki Irokawa. In previous installments, Ruki has primarily acted as a supporting figure and one-note gag, but episode 4 adds a fair amount of depth to the character while injecting just the right amount of light drama. The first story focuses on how Ruki handles her hectic schedule. Unsurprisingly, attending high school while drawing serialized manga doesn't leave her much time for sleep. In an attempt to streamline certain aspects of her craft, she even tries her hand at drawing on a tablet, but as she quickly learns, this is not a skill that can be mastered overnight. The second story finds Ruki coping with nervousness and self-doubt as she prepares for a book signing event arranged by her manager. Although her anxiety is initially through the roof, she's ultimately able to calm her nerves when she realizes she's built up a powerful support network. Once the day of the signing arrives, Ruki is elated to discover that her work has entertained and inspired a large number of fans.
Despite the many comic flourishes, the way this episode tackles Ruki's journey to self-confidence feels entirely realistic and believable—right down to her still feeling some embarrassment by the end. The running gag about her exhaustion upping her sex appeal does go on too long, but it helps emphasize just how hard she works, as well as how thoroughly unmanageable such a schedule would be. Prior to this, the show had largely glossed over the tribulations of high school students penning serialized series without the aid of regular assistants. However, as episode 4 makes clear, this lifestyle has taken a tremendous toll on Ruki, causing her to forgo sleep to a superhuman degree. The montage that cycles through the days leading up to the signing does a great job of illustrating Ruki's progress in overcoming her feelings of doubt.
Ruki's rushed attempt to learn about computers and digital art is arguably the comedic highlight of the episode. Despite being roughly the same age, Kaos instructs her in a manner akin to a young adult teaching a grandparent, as Koyume points out. Given Kaos's proficiency in digital art, it's a wonder the others don't enlist her aid in inking, coloring, and lettering more often. (Why the pen-and-paper artists don't make the jump to tablets becomes clearer after we see Ruki's first attempt at drawing one of her characters digitally.) Once again, Comic Girls gets credit for showcasing digital tools and techniques—things that other manga-focused anime don't often focus on.
In addition to being her most prominent quirks, Ruki's self-doubt and embarrassment over her risqué manga help make her a sympathetic character. Although these traits had previously been utilized specifically for comedy, episode 4 adeptly illustrates that they're good for more than just gags. Considering how well Ruki's time in the spotlight went, hopefully the other girls will be receiving their own respective character studies in future episodes.
Comic Girls is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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