Grand Blue Dreaming
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Grand Blue ?
Grand Blue Dreaming's fourth episode is a perfect testament to how difficult it can be to try and quantify something as subjective as "being funny". This is a busy story all around, and the gags this week come in the same quantity and quirkiness as always, but for some reason, I found this to be the least funny episode of the show yet. That isn't to say it wasn't entertaining or worth watching, but I just didn't laugh very much.
Even if this episode was filled with more misses than hits, there's more depth to it than I was expecting. For all the hemming and hawing that Iori and Kohei went through over the Men's Fashion Show last time, this week has a much more holistic focus than I expected. Both the shenanigans at the okonomiyaki stand and Chisa's experience in the Women's Fashion Show get as much (if not more) time devoted to them, and the joke entry that Iori ends up pushing for his own contest ends up having more to do with the introduction of a brand new character, Aina, and the end result is surprisingly sweet, considering how crass Grand Blue Dreaming is 90% of the time.
Aina is an interesting character, and the way she gets introduced this week lies at the heart of both the failures and the successes of this episode. She shows up as a literal joke, competing in the fashion show with an eccentric sense of fashion and makeup that's layered on so thick that Iori and Kohei take to calling her “Cakey”. This is a pretty lame and mean-spirited gag in general, and I was worried for where her story was going when she asked Kohei out on a date and then didn't show up again until she was drunk and raving outside of a Peek-a-Boo Club party. Since it's a frat boy comedy, I wasn't putting it past Grand Blue Dreaming to just keep treating Aina as a sad buffoon, and that's the kind of humor that suits this show least.
So the show surprised me when Iori and Kohei began to empathize with Aina's struggles to be fashionable and fit in at college, and I was even more pleased when Iori used his entry in the fashion show to dress up like Azusa and trick a member of Aina's tennis club into confessing her love for him, since he was one of the guys responsible for making Aina the butt of everyone's jokes. The “Surprise, you just confessed your love to a man!” bit is another joke that just isn't very funny, but in the context of Iori standing up for a girl that he isn't even trying to impress or romance, I was unexpectedly on board with the scene as a bit of character development. The men of the Peek-a-Boo Club may be skeezy idiots most of the time, but they also have good hearts, and if Grand Blue Dreaming isn't going to go all out with its humor, I can settle for some more sincere and friendly character interactions.
The paradoxical way this show treats its female characters is also on display with Chisa's story, as she ends up being too blunt and stone-faced to appeal to the traditional criteria of a women's beauty pageant. The boys enact their typically stupid plans-of-action to get her to show her softer side, and their first couple of attempts are genuinely amusing; first they try to use their nightmarish smiles on her, and then they decide to strip down and let their freak flag fly to see if they can get her to at least blush. To absolutely nobody's surprise, the boys end up taking things too far when they decide that the only way to loosen Chisa up and get the crowd excited is to toss a bunch of bouncy balls at her and expose her underwear. This is the exact kind of “boys will be boys” behavior that isn't humorous or endearing, since the whole crux of the gag relies on embarrassing and exposing Chisa, who's doing the guys a favor in the first place.
However, the series also shows real empathy for Chisa, not only when Iori gets his just desserts later in the episode, but when Azusa and the seniors note how Chisa has every right to be mad at the boys when the festival is all wrapped up. Iori and Kohei were perfectly willing to put themselves out there to lend Aina a hand and stand up for her, right after they humiliated Chisa in front of dozens of people. Though I don't appreciate the show's willingness to handwave its character's uglier moments as silly shenanigans, I appreciate that the series at least tries to treat its female characters with respect.
That weird combination of heartwarming and just a little too stupid sums up my feelings on this week's Grand Blue Dreaming perfectly. It will ogle at Azusa's boobs for way too long in one scene, and then treat her bisexuality as no big deal in the next. It'll laugh along with Aina's bullies at first, but Iori and Kohei end up doing the right thing at the end of the day. Chisa gets the short end of the stick every week, but GBD seems to at least recognize that, which I suppose is better than nothing? “The Male Beauty Pageant” certainly wasn't the funniest episode of Grand Blue Dreaming, but it's given me more food for thought than usual, and that's worth something at least.
Grand Blue Dreaming is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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