by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 7 of
The best kind of secret headquarters is the kind with a big sign on the front door announcing its existence to anyone who happens to pass by. At least, that seems to be the opinion of the Handa Force, as they set up shop in Tsutsui's apartment for an emergency study session. Half of the group's members need to take a make-up exam after flunking on their first attempts, but things begin to look up once Aizawa creates a study guide that relates every question to Handa. The guys manage to pass, if only just barely, thanks to the inspiring and unexpected presence of Handa himself at the exam. Full of confidence after their resounding victory, the members of the Handa Force turn their attention to “helping” shy librarian Hirayama update the school's dreary and desolated library.
Handa-kun relies less on new characters this week, with Hirayama being the only major addition. This gives the existing cast members a chance to do their thing, and the episode flows better as a result. Instead of scrambling to keep up with an endless line of newcomers, the audience is able to sit back and enjoy the antics of the Handa Force. The apartment study session benefits from the established chemistry between the four guys: Nikaido and Tsutsui say amusingly dumb things, Aizawa gets really worked up over nothing, and Kondo does his best to remind the others that they're supposed to be studying. It's the kind of character-focused, conversational humor that the series can deliver consistently.
The exam itself involves some amusing arguments between the Handa Force guys and their not-quite-rivals, Hanada and Dash. This gives way to the inevitable speculation over why Handa is in the room, and it's here that the show's typically solid delivery falters for a moment. It tries too hard to make the audience laugh at Handa's reason for retaking the test, and the joke wears out its welcome long before it wraps up. Thankfully, the guys' triumph over the test is entertaining enough to salvage the segment. The routine of having the characters completely misinterpret Handa's intentions continues to work well, and Handa's private fury at forgetting to write his name a second time is a nice touch.
The episode's second half pulls off a solid balancing act as it finds a way to introduce a new character without putting the comedy on hold. Part of this is simply down to Hirayama's characterization; her monologues find a nice middle ground between charming and terrifying. Bringing in the Handa Force also helps, as the guys are able to move the plot along simply by being their usual misguided selves. Most importantly, the storyline ends on a strong note. The “lost in translation” moment when Handa mistakes Hirayama's gratitude for permanent banishment from the library is easily the funniest part of this episode. That trick of having two characters get completely different messages from one conversation requires a lot of setup, but it's one of the best weapons in Handa-kun's comedic arsenal.
Even though it's only laugh-out-loud funny in a few places, this episode offers some encouraging signs for Handa-kun in the long term. The series feels like it's starting to move in the right direction, as it lets the core cast spend some time in the spotlight instead of constantly adding new characters. The announcement of a school trip at the end of the episode is also good news, as it gives the show a chance to strand Handa in an unfamiliar place and surround him with his idiotic followers. This should be the kind of premise that lets the series stand back and let the characters bounce off one another, which is exactly what it needs.
Handa-kun is currently streaming on Funimation.
Paul Jensen is a freelance writer and editor. You can follow more of his anime-related ramblings on Twitter.
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