by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 9 of
I'm going to have to side with Hime on this one: disco balls should become a Christmas decoration staple. They're much more efficient at filling a room with bright twinkling lights, and I have to imagine they're less of a fire hazard than a tree. I don't even know how this adorable little gremlin managed to find one, let alone hang it from the ceiling, but I think we should commend her moxie and creativity.
While I'd agree it's a little early to be thinking about Christmas, Kakushigoto is all about celebrations this week. In the previous episode, Kakushi's musings struck a compromise between cynicism over the frivolity of arbitrary celebrations, and sincerity towards our need to spend time with each other as much as we can, while we can. This time, his stance is more firmly planted in the cynic zone as Kōji Kumeta's focus shifts away from familial warmth and towards the manga industry he loves to criticize. This is the irreverent, no-holds-barred Kumeta we know and love (provided you're a fan of his), but consequently, the episode ends up lacking some of the warmth and complexity that has so far been Kakushigoto's most pleasant surprise.
Kumeta spends a great deal of this episode ripping into his fellow mangaka, but as with a lot of his humor, it's layered with enough self-deprecation to be palatable. The dog-eat-dog world of the modern manga scene is rendered sharply, teeming with predatory editors, unkempt mangaka, and money-grubbing executives. Or at least, that's how Kakushi sees things. The bulk of the episode's humor actually stems from proving his cynicism wrong, or twisting it around into a karmic self-fulfilling prophecy. While that's a satisfying vein of subversive comedy, some of the bluer jokes don't jive with the overall tone of the show. For instance, Kakushi's loud assertion that all mangaka are lolicons is intended to emphasize how little he thinks of his profession, but it's not particularly funny nor does it feel appropriate. I definitely wouldn't call Kakushigoto “family friendly,” but it can be cute and touching when it wants to be, and I don't think throwaway jokes are worth the cost of interrupting those vibes.
One thing I really like about this episode is the increased screen presence of Kakushi's assistants. For the most part, they're interchangeable characters that Kumeta uses so Kakushi has someone to bounce his jokes and commentary off of. Their personalities are pretty thin as a result, but they're still a fun presence, and typically a necessarily more optimistic one. Therefore, it's pretty funny when Kakushi's half-assed attempt to protect them from the party cancellation news blows up in his face and turns them all into mopey, crying zombies. I also like their para-social relationship with Hime—they can't really get to know her in order to protect their boss' secret, but they still clearly care about her.
Hime is just as adorable as ever, and her childlike leaps of logic craft this week's best jokes. Her confusion of a disco ball with a chandelier pays off wonderfully when a beautifully dumb series of misunderstandings accidentally reinforces her belief that they're the same. The setup for that joke is long and overwrought, and that's the kind of Kōji Kumeta humor I'm here for. Likewise, her dad's reasonable explanation of “shiwasu” gets twisted around in her head to mean that not only do senseis run, but only senseis can run. This is just the way that children's brains work, and it dovetails perfectly with how Kumeta likes to structure his joke crafting. And finally, her mispronunciation of “chandelier” as “Cinderella” is just plain cute as heck. She's wrong, but she still manages to be wrong in a way that kind of makes sense (comparing the appearance of the sparkly chandelier with Cinderella's dress). What a good daughter.
The subject of our weekly Japanese lesson is an obvious one this time: shiwasu. As Kakushi explains, it's an archaic word for December. Modern Japanese names the months numerically (so January is just called ichigatsu or “first month”), but traditionally they each had a different name based on the “mood” of the month or some other association. In this case, December's traditional name is comprised of the kanji for a monk/priest (師), and another kanji that means running (走), which put together give us 師走, or “running monks.” Traditionally, this meant that the final month of the year was so busy that even the normally quiet and composed monks were forced to hurry up in order to get everything prepared for the new year. In modern times, this hustle and bustle remains a constant fixture of the holiday season, so shiwasu is still widely used to refer to December. It is, as they say, a big mood. One final point I'll make is that the first character (師) can also more generally mean teacher or mentor, so Hime ends up fixating on teachers running, which then spirals into all of the different things sensei can mean. I don't think I can cover the history of THAT word in one paragraph, so we'll stop here.
Overall Kakushigoto had another fine episode, but it felt lacking compared to the heartwarming and melancholic touchstones it was able to achieve last week. Still, I can't be too upset about a storyline that lets Kakushi mercilessly bully a drunk Tomaruin. The epilogue also confirms that Kakushi hasn't been publishing manga for a while in the timeskip, although his assistant cryptically (I feel like I'm using that word a lot to describe this frame story) calls the headline a lie. These closing statements work best when they focus on Hime and link thematically to the rest of the episode, so this one kinda fails on both fronts (in addition to not furthering the mystery of Kakushi's fate so much as restating it). Hopefully we can rebound back into top form next week. At the very least, I know there will be cute Hime content.
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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