Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!
by Amy McNulty,
Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! started off as the perfect balance between parody and genuine magical girl/boy entertainment in its own right. In recent episodes, that balance has skewed noticeably in both overly-comedic and overly-serious directions. This week's episode falls into the latter category.
That isn't to say there are no jokes at all. On the contrary, the episode is peppered with moments that will make viewers laugh, but so are many standard magical girl shows. Plus, only a few of the jokes constitute any kind of commentary on the magical girl genre. (I enjoyed hearing that Yumoto blasting a roof off a house hasn't been brushed aside and forgotten. The collateral damage caused by superhero fights is rarely remarked upon in fiction.)
However, the laugh factor is nowhere near what it's been in past episodes. If this was a viewer's first introduction to the series, they might not understand that it's supposed to be a parody at all. (If the magical girls being boys hadn't been a giveaway, of course.) That notion aside, it's a good episode that would sit right alongside episodes of Sailor Moon or Pretty Cure. The two-teammates-fight-because-of-a-monster-of-the-day-curse story has been done in other magical girl series, but as we've grown attached to En and Atsushi, it doesn't matter that the basic beats of the story are unoriginal. The execution is good because we're invested in these two, and the allusions to their friendship being comparable to a romantic relationship are better executed here than in last week's installment, when it was just over-the-top fanservice. They're like a bickering couple, with En taking on the "unreasonable" role, first telling Atsushi that he's not attentive enough, then saying that he comes on too strong, and ultimately getting mad when Atsushi backs off. Even their "I'm sorry," "no, I'm more sorry" routine at the end is adorable.
The episode does expand the world of the show a little, (the monster of the day is a hikikomori who lives above a nearby convenience store), and it's nice to see the changeup during the final attack. However, the episode sticks stubbornly to that monster-of-the-day formula. Io and Ryuu are also obnoxiously relegated to their defining characteristics, and that part of the formula is growing weary. Yumoto is little different with his bubbly optimism and Wombat hugs, but at least he doesn't come across as one-dimensional this time, thanks to his determination to put an end to En and Atsushi's feud.
Episode 8 is good, but it gets points docked for too few parodic elements and an unoriginal plotline. This show is the perfect vehicle for lifting storylines straight out of established magical girl series, but it needs to balance that with enough humor throughout like in earlier episodes.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for two decades.
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