Himōto! Umaru-chan R Episode 11
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Himōto! Umaru-chan R ?
Of all the wonderful developments brought about by Himōto! Umaru-chan R, the most surprising remains just how natural the drastic change in Umaru's attitude and disposition has felt. Here's a girl who spent almost the entirety of the first season behaving like a lazy, junk-food addicted, self-centered brat, and now even though she's still lazy and addicted to junk food, she's also managed to become a beacon of love, friendship, and general goodness in the lives of her family and friends. If you'd asked me just six months ago, I would have said that such a transformative arc for Umaru sounded highly unlikely. Watching this new season, we've been able to actually see Umaru grow to become the best version of herself, which has been one of the biggest (and most unexpected) pleasures of this entire year in anime for me.
Case in point is the story that Kirie and Bomba share at the beginning of this episode. While both of these siblings have gotten much more development this season, their actual relationship has largely just been played for laughs. This week, they finally discover something they have in common, which is hanging around the Doma household to gawk at the adorable Umaru. Of course, Kirie takes offense at the notion that her brother would dare refer to her Master as a “tanuki”, so the bickering begins anew, but this is where the show breaks the mold. Instead of just letting Kirie blow up at the bewildered Bomba and play it off for laughs, Umaru steps in, using her irresistible cuteness and fondness for cola and videogames to act as a kind of sibling mediator, restoring peace once more. So not only does this scene fill the series' humor-and-cuteness quota, it explicitly takes the aspects of Umaru's personality that have previously shut her off from the world and uses them to show how Umaru has become a positive presence in her friend's lives. It's not just a heartwarming story beat, it's excellent writing all around.
Pretty much any story involving Kirie at this point is bound to be successful, as this episode continues to prove. The best vignette of the week has to be where The Gang Goes Ice Skating, since Kirie acting as Ebina's diabolical love coach is probably the season's most low-key hilarious subplot. Not only is Kirie's devious-yet-well-intentioned scheming sweet and funny, it's also a great means for her to try and propel her own relationship with Umaru. It also sets up the episode's biggest laugh, where Sylphyn just pops up out of nowhere with her signature “SHPAAAAAAN!” to muddle up Kirie's best-laid plans. The rest of the sequence alternates between being adorable and hilarious, with the highlight probably being the flustered Taihei yelling out in panic as Ebina slowly drifts into the professional side of the ice rink. In sharp contrast to the first season's focus on Umaru's antics, this season has evolved into an incredibly effective ensemble comedy, and sequences like this are proof of how far the show has come in that regard.
We end with yet another Hikari story, though I have to acknowledge that the show doesn't just repeat the same character beats between her and Umaru this time (though there still is some of that). Instead, we get a flashback that reveals how Hikari first met Taihei, and why the constellations have become such a fixture in their relationship. The answer turns out to be fairly simple: Kanau brought Taihei home once in high school, and Hikari has been obsessed with the idea that he and her older sister might one day get together, so she can have the affectionate (and culinarily inclined) older brother she's always dreamed of. This plays out pretty much exactly as you might predict, though seeing Hikari's obsession reframed as a more general desire for a more “complete” family unit does justify the character's motivations better. While I still think Hikari's presence in Himouto! Umaru-chan is largely superfluous, I will admit that the googly-eyed little weirdo is starting to grow on me.
In that sense, Hikari really isn't all that different from our titular trash-monster protagonist. She starts out abrasive and off-putting, but gradually she worms her way into your heart. Who knows, if Himōto! Umaru-chan R's success is anything to go by, I wouldn't be surprised if Hikari ends up starring in her own excellent spinoff. Given how much I've come to love this show and its characters over the past few months, anything is possible.
Himōto! Umaru-chan R is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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