by Lauren Orsini,
This episode has an end panel depicting fanart of the Denki-gai no Honya-san cast looking extremely uncomfortable together. Doesn't that just sum up this series?
The last seven episodes have been a balancing act, seeing how far we can tease and humiliate each moe female character until we feel bad about watching them suffer. It's the eroticism of helplessness, the sensualization of embarrassment. Red cheeks and an averted gaze are cute, but there's an extent at which I cringe to see it go on. Like watching a toddler sticking various objects into a light socket, I have watched this series with extreme apprehension, waiting for it to shock the proverbial system. This episode certainly veered into the blue, but only small instances were too painful to watch.
The Denki-gai crew visited an onsen this episode, using the show's trademark self-awareness to navigate every hot springs trope. Denki-gai has an entertaining habit of pulling at cliches until the audience sees them in a new light, so I wasn't surprised when the hot springs scene involved gratuitous breast groping. However, unlike the nudity gags involving yukatas and private-part-erasing light flashes, it's hardly fresh to have Tsumorin squeeze the other girls' breasts in the bath, which I've seen a million times in other shows already. Simply making the fanservice even more gratuitous here was not parody, but lazy storytelling.
It's far more entertaining to watch the girls fall victim to their own scrapes, leaving them embarrassed messes of their own design. Better to watch Hio-tan scoff at the Director's opinions about big boobs, only to unexpectedly embarrass herself with a failed retort of her own. Better to watch Sensei internally bemoan her lacking “girl power” than to have Tsumorin baldly inform her of it. I really have not been a fan of Tsumorin lately. She's the instigator of all of the most mean-spirited scenes, from Sensei's extended girl power torture scene last episode to the breast groping this time. Her feelings for Hio-tan's crush, the Director, ought to make her sympathetic, but it's hard when she's often weirdly cruel to the other girls.
We certainly saw a lot of the girls this episode, both physically and regarding screen time. Denki-gai's entire ensemble is strong, with the men just as varied and personable as the women, and the episode does benefit from this better balance. Still, this adventure was firmly set in the male gaze, showcasing the female characters and their assets, and mostly Sensei and Hio-tan at that, not their more flat-chested counterparts.
For the duration of the series, I'm hoping for more of Sommelier's silent antics, Umio's fanboy ranting, and for the Director to act like his stupid self more often than just an avatar for the male viewer while he drowns in eager love interests. As for the girls, we don't need anyone else trying to humiliate them. They can embarrass themselves just fine.
Denki-gai no Honya-san is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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