by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Despite this week's episode being one of Kakushigoto's silliest, it begins with what feels like a direct and personal two-pronged attack on me. First off, the ever-so-adorable Hime hangs her head sheepishly after devouring the entire house's supply of chocolate. I too lack whatever psychological or physiological restraint that prevents normal people from wolfing down any and all food in front of them, and I just want to let this precious know she is not alone. Like always, Kakushi tries to be a dad, but he quickly finds himself a victim of dramatic irony, as his own determination to get work done early succumbs to the Procrastinator's Gambit. I can barely function without an impending deadline, so I fully understand both the rush of planning to finish something ahead of schedule, and the crushing denouement of yet again scrambling to finish at the 11th hour.
Parenting isn't easy. Admittedly, I have no frame of reference for it, and I don't even plan on having kids, but I just can't fathom the difficulty of raising an entire human being from scratch. Single parents especially have it tough, and that's been a subdued but consistent theme throughout Kakushigoto. Kakushi has to navigate parenting on his own while also dealing with his own flaws and problems. The opening segment provides a humorous example where his own failure to stave off procrastination prevents him from being too harsh on Hime's failure to control her chocolate intake. Hime, doubling as both Kōji Kumeta's mouthpiece and a very good girl, ends up chastising him for being too easy on her, so she assigns herself an appropriate punishment. This is a punchline, but it's also the foundation that makes their family work—they each pick up each other's slack.
Also, as a former small Catholic child myself, I feel extremely called out by Hime's guilt completely bypassing parental intervention when it comes to the search for atonement. It's cute when a little anime girl does it, but I can guarantee that I was an insufferable goody-two-shoes for way too much of my childhood.
Even though Kakushi is a single dad, he's certainly not alone when it comes to raising Hime. He might not quite have an entire village at his disposal, but he (usually) knows how and when to rely on outside help. This week, he goes as far as paying for his assistants to stay at the inn overnight so that Hime won't have to go into the women's bath on her own. That's so thoughtful and responsible it seems almost uncharacteristic for him, and of course it's immediately undermined by an even more responsible Hime, who manages to bathe quickly and without incident while Kakushi touts his ability to plan ahead for once. Kumeta isn't one to let go of an ironic punchline when it presents itself, but the crux of the scene remains: both Kakushi and Hime are doing their best for each other, and that's what keeps their bond strong.
While it has a tendency for amplifying its antics into absurdity, Kakushigoto usually grounds its skits in down-to-earth observational comedy. This week, however, Kumeta cuts loose and indulges in a deeply silly sequence of jokes while Kakushi and Hime (and Roku) enjoy their grand prize vacation. It almost feels like a release valve, letting some of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei's anarchy flow through and spice things up. It's a nice change of pace, even if it noticeably lacks the sophistication of other episodes' construction. Sometimes, all Kumeta needs to make things work is a bunch of people in a room yelling increasingly ridiculous secrets at each other in order to remind us what the name of the anime is. The setup for the ghost punchline is also extremely labored, not all that rewarding, but nonetheless endearing.
I was honestly expecting Kakushi's brush with illness to be the link to the epilogue this week, but instead it turns out to be the haunted room at the ryokan. The alleged story tells of a renowned author tethered to the earthly realm due to his unfinished work. At some point, Kakushi too leaves his work unfinished and quits the manga business. Obviously this raises more questions than it answers, and even Hime has no idea why her dad would have suddenly stopped drawing for a living. More secrets abound, which isn't surprising when your show is literally called Secrets, but I'm interested to see how Kakushigoto will explore his motivations for doing so. The story is predicated on a deliberate divide between Kakushi's work life and home life, which he does to protect his own reputation. More generally, however, there's always some kind of division between an artist's private and public lives. That's an increasingly tricky and fraught proposition in the age of social media and parasocial relationships. It's a rich topic, and it'll be interesting to see whether Kumeta will draw any connective tissue there.
This far into the season, it's all too easy to take Kakushigoto for granted, but week after week it has persisted in proving that a distinctive style and voice are invaluable to crafting good comedy. Even if you don't find Kakushigoto particularly funny, I don't think you could argue in good faith that it blends in with its peers. Kumeta is a one-of-a-kind mangaka with a unique set of bugbears, and this adaptation has proven adept at carrying all of his alternately bitter and sweet hot takes.
Kakushigoto is currently streaming on Funimation.
The state of the world has left Steve in despair! But never fear, he's still on Twitter too much.
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