Himōto! Umaru-chan R
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Himōto! Umaru-chan R ?
We're three weeks into the season, and I remain absolutely baffled as to how Himouto! Umaru-chan managed to get so gosh-darned cute. Once again, Umaru-chan the show manages to take all the original promise of Umaru-chan the character and amplify it tenfold, while replacing everything that didn't work about the show with even more cute shenanigans. Episode 3 in particular uses its vignettes to highlight some of the supporting cast we haven't seen much of so far this fall, namely Kirie and Takeshi.
Our first bite-sized story has Kirie back in her natural comfort zone, which is to say she's cuddling with Umaru (as Komaru) on a stretchy cat pillow. She remains blissfully ignorant to the fact that the cute child she spends time with after school is the same beautiful girl she idolizes at school, though her latent feelings for Regular Sized Umaru do come into play later on, when Alex stops by with the surprise gift of a brand-new dating-sim to play. Kirie's rivalry with Alex for Umaru's attention is a bit predictable, but the storyline pays off when Kirie uses her empathy for the dating-sim's main heroine to pick the correct dialogue options in spite of Alex's haughty opposition. While I doubt the show will really explore the possibility of Kirie's romantic feelings for Umaru, it's good to see that relationship having an impact even when Kirie is spending time with “Komaru”, especially since this season is placing so much emphasis on Umaru's growing friendships. A later segment also offers a few good chuckles with Kirie getting a surprisingly lewd figurine from Alex as a present and learning to see the value in even the most questionable of gifts.
Next up is another tale of bonding-and-parenting with Umaru's big-brother, when Taihei finds himself worried about Umaru's addiction to her new video game, a mega-popular Yokai Watch-esque handheld title. Again, this season avoids the easy jokes of having Umaru act like a spoiled brat and making Taihei the killjoy who lectures her about laziness. Instead we get something much more valuable: a learning opportunity for both Umaru and Taihei. The younger sister learns how to more responsibly enjoy her gaming, and Taihei actually takes the time to get a system of his own and engage with his sister's hobbies. This version of their sibling dynamic is almost unbearably sweet, reinforcing how Taihei is just as much of a parent as a sibling in a way that doesn't leave him a haggard wreck.
The third vignette was probably my favorite of the week, partially because we got to know Takeshi more, but mostly because it was just so darned silly. Takeshi and Taihei's friendship is maybe the least developed relationship in the series, so it's good just to see more of them hanging out, but the story really shines when Takeshi and Umaru manage to truly ruffle Taihei's feathers. The image of Taihei lifting Umaru to slowly approach Taihei's boiling pot was a laugh-out-loud moment, and their reaction to Taihei's surprisingly legitimate anger was pretty priceless. This skit also highlighted one of the most mystifying aspects of Umaru's existence, which is the nature of her “transformation” into Komaru. Multiple scenes have demonstrated that Umaru remains a normal-sized teenager when she dons her orange hood, but gags like the ones in this scene imply that she literally transforms into a pint-sized child version of herself. I know that questioning the physics of Umaru's chibi-fication is a fool's errand, but I can't help but view this scene in a very different context when I think of Takeshi lifting a fully grown high schooler in his arms to grab at a hot pot.
We end the episode with what's becoming my favorite new tradition of Himouto! Umaru-chan R: a regular-sized Umaru hangout session with her friends. As much as I've come to enjoy Komaru's antics this season, the key to the show's new balance undoubtedly lies in making Umaru feel more three-dimensional and relatable in every aspect of her life, instead of just the one that involves cola and potato chips. Umaru's day-long craving for hamburgers is about as relatable as it gets by my estimation, and the girls' trip to the legally-different-enough NcDonald's is another low-key outing that gives the audience more opportunity to just spend time with these characters in their element. The best part of the segment is how the show explicitly calls attention to Umaru's growth. In her Komaru form, she used to think that lazily munching on convenience store burgers at home was the best-case scenario, but she's beginning to see just how much better things can be. As nearly every anime ever made might attest, hamburgers taste better when you eat them with friends. Thankfully, this season seems determined to give us a set of friends and family that will be an absolute pleasure to spend more time with.
Himōto! Umaru-chan R is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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