Happy Sugar Life
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Happy Sugar Life ?
Happy Sugar Life was originally promoted with nods to being a yuri series. That element finally comes into play directly in episode 5, but not in the way you might expect.
Satou's love for Shio still shows every sign of being pure and platonic (or at least a pure as love connected to probable murder can be), so that means someone else has to get involved – in this case, Satou's coworker Sumire. She was sniffing Satou's uniform last episode, but her complex runs much deeper than that. She regards herself as plain, so she sees Satou as everything that she isn't and has decided to emulate her down to the smallest detail; she even confesses to wearing the same brand of underwear. Even without the series' trademark musical cues and visual effects, that's where the line gets crossed between idolizing and being obsessively creepy.
While that kind of creep factor is the bread and butter of this series, Satou's reaction to Sumire's declaration of love is more interesting. In previous incidents she's been unequivocal in her rejections, even when actively using her sex appeal to lure the threat in first. This time, however, she reverses the situation with a sexually aggressive counter-strike; she pins Sumire to the wall with her knee between Sumire's legs and forcefully kisses her, then declares her love while suggestively stroking her. We can see by Satou's expressions that this is all a power play, both to put Sumire under her control and to redirect her from prying into Satou's circumstances. Even though the whole thing is a lie, it's interesting that she decides at this is the sin that she should be punished for, and not whatever bloody mayhem she's committed. She's doing some major mental gymnastics not to be wracked by deeper guilt.
She's not the only character being more proactive. Satou's friend Shoko visits Mitsuboshi to check on him, only to discover his own creepy obsession with Shio. He doesn't hesitate to spill the beans about seeing Satou carry her off either. Shoko seems like the one decent person in Satou's life, so she may be destined to serve the role of the outsider looking in on this whole crazy situation. (Or does she have some secret kink that we don't know about yet?) Despite that, her encounter with Shio's brother in the episode's epilogue only ensures that she's going to get drawn deeper into this morass of insanity, so I will be surprised if she comes out of this mess unscathed.
Technical kudos once again go to both the use of music in the episode and Kana Hanazawa's unsettling performance as Satou, but some praise is also due to the direction. The shot selections and positioning of the characters is remarkable; I hadn't fully appreciated the impact of the color schemes and careful use of facial expressions until now, and the artistry in general is pretty good. Combined with solid pacing, this makes for another episode of Happy Sugar Life that's running on a sturdy track.
Happy Sugar Life is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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