by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Healer Girl ?
Community score: 4.2
I like to think I'm a pretty observant and savvy anime watcher, but every once in a while something incredibly obvious will land in my blind spot, and I won't notice until it's 10 seconds from smacking me in the face. Such is the case with this whole culture festival mini-arc that started last week. Somehow I missed the big, flashing, neon billboard telling me exactly what was going to happen with a school festival where four of our main girls are singers. Of course they were going to wind up performing on the gymnasium stage. Why wouldn't they? The laws of anime would never allow it to not happen!
It takes a bit to get there first, since there's a whole host of other culture festival beats to hit first, but those are a lot more pedestrian. I've joked amongst friends that Healer Girl feels more like a season of Love Live! than the currently airing season of Love Live!, and they are oddly in sync this week as both episodes center around their crew of singing girls hitting up the stalls of a school festival, complete with montages of carnival games and eating terribly unhealthy fried foods. There's some nice little character moments, like both Hibiki and Reimi offering to help a clearly struggling Kana at her food stall. Or the detail that Kana's class spent so long on the maid half of their Maid Cafe that they had to pull a Steamed Hams and pass off convenience store tea and cream puffs as “hand made”. It's always struck me as strange how organized and competent anime teens are at essentially running a restaurant in these setups, so it's nice to know this one is mostly kayfabe. And while I find it a little weird a show about healing is so casual about Kana literally falling asleep on her feet from taking on too much, it's nice to see that her friends all believe in her and have her back all the same.
But much like the sports festival bit in episode three, the real impact of this week's entry comes from the lively energy of its presentation. There's no sing-talking gimmick this time, but the entire festival is brought to life through the show's buoyant expressions and art style. This episode in particular features a lot of purposefully simple and doodle-like faces, along with whatever you call this mouth shape. I don't know quite how to articulate the how or why, but looking at those goofy little faces gave me the feeling of watching a 2000s-era original Studio Gainax production, but with all the explosions replaced with magical songstresses. I wish I could say why more coherently but it's just super charming. It made me happy. Sue me.
Of course, the literal showstopper of the whole thing is the girls' performance, and it's pretty great. I've been mostly neutral on the music Healer Girl so far – it's been sparsely accompanied ballads meant to tug at the sentimental parts of the brain, and that style has never done much for me. But the cast has undeniable vocal talent that each song is written to complement, and it turns out adding some solid guitar and percussion behind it all makes for a damn good slice of anisong. It's not quite up there with my all-time favorite anime concerts (there's very little that can outdo the power of garage rock and shamisen) but I've still had it on repeat since watching the episode. It's also a pretty clever way to mix together a staple of school-life anime with the hook of Healing, as their performance partially bleeds into a collective Image that takes even Ria by surprise.
Like some past episodes, this one does feel a little aimless without a central theme – the whole performance just kind of happens through coincidence rather than anything deriving from our main girls' motivations. The closest thing to an arc we get across this is Sonia warming up to the Reimi and Hibiki through proximity, which is sweet but also not enough to drive a whole episode. But it's also hard to hold that against the show when it's this much fun, and it's willing to dedicate so much time to a full-length musical number. Healer Girl is a project pretty much designed to work more on the level of presentation over narrative nuts & bolts, and here it delivered its best version of that so far.
Healer Girl is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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