by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 7 of
As if Hime's antics weren't cute enough on her own, this week Kakushigoto follows through on her desire for a puppy and adds an adorable little canine to its cast. Compared to its predecessors, this episode leans slightly more heavily on the heartwarming familial aspects of the show, so if that's your favorite part, you're in for a treat. And considering the sincere family-based comedy is what distinguishes this series from Kōji Kumeta's prior works, you could also argue that this installment is Kakushigoto at its most Kakushigoto.
That said, I want to begin by talking about death. Kumeta's ambition does not rest with feel-good father-daughter moments and inside jokes about the manga industry; he's also set on exploring the pathos of a single father trying his best to raise his daughter on his own, and the further pathos of that daughter dealing with the absence of her mother (and, possibly in the timeskip, her father). The spectre of death often looms over the show's quieter moments, so it's not surprising that the opening scene has Kakushi instantaneously turn on his eye faucets as Hime begins reciting the ten dog commandments. Life is transient, so we have to make the most of it. That's true whether we're dealing with the trauma of a lost loved one, or taking care of an animal we expect to outlive several times over, but it's not easy. Even the normally light-hearted and airheaded Hime is susceptible to overheard reminders about her mother's death. It's a sadness she's clearly learned to live with, but it's one that never completely goes away.
Our greatest weapon in the fight against death is each other. Individually we eventually fade, but together we form familial and societal units that can theoretically persist in perpetuity. Kakushigoto addresses this both literally and metaphorically. Hime, for instance, gets a puppy descended from the same dog her mother once had. Hime herself is proof that her mother's presence is not completely erased, and we find out that she's even a spitting image of her mother at her age. Kakushi broaches this subject a lot more humorously with mediations on the relationship between manga artists and their apprentices. We expect students to follow in the footsteps of their teachers, but the ever self-deprecating Kumeta can't resist twisting this expectation around with anecdotes about teachers reduced to copying their more-successful students. In a sense, though, that lack of a perfectly defined and predictable lineage is the beauty of the art world.
Fellow Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei fans should also recognize another unsubtle Kumeta drag on himself, where he acknowledges that Shaft's “cooler” treatment of his character designs in turn influenced how he himself drew them. Similarly, he uses the example of certain artists getting worse over time while their protégés become better and more highly lauded. Despite the sincere ruminations on the nature of legacy, Kumeta still can't help himself from extrapolating this concept into dark humor about the inevitable obsolescence of an older generation as the new one takes over. I wouldn't have it any other way, however. Kumeta has definitely grown smarter about how to wield his acidity, but he certainly hasn't let himself become completely basic. After all, otherwise we wouldn't have been blessed with Hime's first learned piano tune being a death metal song.
Unfortunately, I don't really have an obtuse wordplay pun to explain this week, so instead I'll do a simple one. Our favorite prone-to-misunderstandings sensei Rokujo Ichiko wears a track jacket with the number “61” embroidered on it. This is in reference to her name, which is spelled with the Japanese words for 6 (roku) and 1 (ichi). This kind of number-name wordplay is not uncommon, so if you need motivation to learn how to count in Japanese, think of all the useless puns you'd be able to understand!
Finally, I just want to take a quick moment to talk about my favorite part of this episode: Kakushi's long ribbed adidas jacket (please see Diagram 1 below). Where did he get this? How did he manage to upgrade his drip this much, this quickly? I don't know, but at least now I'll be a little less surprised when people keep crushing on this grungy manga artist.
Meanwhile, the frame story continues undaunted as a constant melancholic presence in these episodes' final minutes. There's a bit more intrigue than usual this week, with Hime's friends running into casual-wear Rokujo, who cryptically hints at both good news and bad news. I should emphasize that we really have no idea what, if anything, happened to Kakushi in this timeskip, but the implication has been undeniably grim. Still, maybe everything's okay! Of course I don't want Hime to lose another parent, but I also genuinely want to see Kakushi squirm and try to reconcile with keeping his occupation a secret from his daughter for the first 18 years of her life. He deserves to live through that.
With another heartwarming 20 minutes in the books, Kakushigoto remains a consistently nice experience to have in these trying times. I was even ready to call this episode surprisingly family-friendly before we got a last-minute joke centered on unintentional innuendo, but I like that it doesn't rely on crassness as a crutch for all of its material. Kakushigoto might rarely have me laughing out loud, but it always manages to make me smile.
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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