by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 10 of
This week's episode features Hitomi and Anzu dealing with typical middle school problems like renting a high-rise apartment, juggling multiple jobs, and picking up the pieces after an ill-fated gambling spree. You know, just the usual kid stuff. Hitomi's secret bartending gig lands her in hot water when her mother confronts her about staying out late, but Utako has a “brilliant” suggestion: just move out! Suddenly stuck with a luxurious apartment that she can't afford, Hitomi starts taking whatever part-time or temp jobs she can find. She ends up doing well at all of them, perhaps even too well for her own good. A last-ditch attempt to escape her new life as a working middle schooler backfires, leaving her with lucrative job offers and her mother's blessing to keep living on her own. Meanwhile, Anzu suddenly finds herself in possession of an allowance and struggles to figure out what to do with it. She decides to buy a present for her adoptive parents, but ends up betting on horse races in order to get the extra cash she needs. What could possibly go wrong?
Hitomi owns the vast majority of this episode, thanks in large part to a storyline that's perfectly tailored to her. Even the initial premise is delightfully twisted: when she finally comes clean about working as a bartender, her mother doesn't believe a word of it. After all, who in the world (apart from this show's entire cast) would ever believe that a middle school girl was raking in the cash as a high-class bartender? As is so often the case for poor Hitomi, all of her attempts at resolving the problem just get her deeper (and more hilariously) into trouble, thanks in large part to Utako's terrible guidance. Nitta's supporting role in these opening scenes is also worth noting, both for his reliable performance as the comedic straight man and for the shift in his view of Utako. After lusting after her early in the series, Nitta seems to have changed his opinion in the aftermath of their disastrous date. At the very least, he's begun to notice that she's completely out of her mind. With Utako still conspicuously absent from the opening and closing credit sequences, I'm curious to see how this particular relationship will play out in the remaining episodes.
In terms of comedic impact, this episode really hits its stride once Hitomi starts picking up temp work. Her first job cleaning skyscraper windows is a fitting metaphor for her situation as a whole: Hitomi's working like mad in order to escape her predicament as quickly as possible, but her uncanny ability to excel under pressure proves to be her undoing. The ensuing litany of odd jobs offers plenty of highlights, from the unexpected return of Hina's street musician buddies to an entire office drama storyline distilled down to a few minutes of dead-on parody. This all builds to an excellent final scene, with Hitomi's mother putting the final nail in the coffin by not telling anyone that her daughter is still in middle school. As Hitomi laments later in the episode, there's apparently not a single adult in this universe that she can rely on for help. Faced with that grim reality, it seems all too appropriate for her to grudgingly accept the success and independence that she never wanted in the first place.
Of course, it's not just The Hitomi Show this week; Anzu gets some time in the spotlight as well. Despite being brought in as a rival for Hina, she's somehow developed into an excellent comedic foil for Hitomi, as evidenced by their encounter at the park and the ensuing day out on the town. Anzu's wide-eyed earnestness pairs up well with Hitomi's world-weary disposition; Anzu is able to unintentionally remind Hitomi that money isn't everything, while Hitomi is able to spot Anzu's gambling downfall coming from a mile away. The descent from the highs of victory to the lows of defeat is paced out nicely, though Sabu's presence in this storyline quickly becomes irrelevant after he introduces Anzu to her newfound vice. The storyline's conclusion is appropriately charming, but not quite up to the dramatic standard set by some of Anzu's previous interactions with her new family. Even though it doesn't quite replicate the flood of emotion unleashed by past episodes, it's still a nice note on which to wrap this episode up.
In case anyone had forgotten, this episode serves as another reminder that Hinamatsuri can put together a top-tier episode with almost zero contribution from the lead duo of Hina and Nitta. Both Hitomi and Anzu have carved out comfortable niches for themselves: Hitomi is now fully capable of standing in for Hina as the show's comedic center, and Anzu has become the beating heart of Hinamatsuri's character drama. Individually, their growth and development from their initial supporting roles has been genuinely impressive. As smaller pieces of a bigger picture, they've become key elements of this show's bizarre yet brilliant appeal. With a few weeks left in the season, Hinamatsuri just needs to find the right excuse to get all of its star players on stage at the same time.
Hinamatsuri is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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