Konohana Kitan Episode 7
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Konohana Kitan ?
After a few weeks of setting the focus on side characters and self-contained stories, it's nice to see Konohana Kitan letting its audience simply hang out with the core cast. A festival episode is the perfect easygoing setup to do that, as a simple and sweet staple of hangout shows, and the results can really shine when the characters doing the celebrating have chemistry like the Konohanatei foxes have in spades. It's a good thing the writing and character interactions work so well, because visually speaking, this is Konohana Kitan's most uneven episode yet.
To be fair, the episode never devolves into outright ugliness. The characters are consistently on model, and the background and general color palette are as pleasing as ever. Rather, the animation is more limited this week than anything else; many scenes involve simplistic, easily looped key frames and shots that obscure the girls' faces as they talk. What's more, many of the montages are little more than slideshows, which is a common enough practice but the technique is abused so much this week that it becomes distracting. Konohana Kitan has always placed more emphasis on its aesthetic style over its technical merits, so the underwhelming visuals don't completely derail this episode, but they do hamper some moments that could have been more powerful otherwise. The scene where Ren pines over Natsume as she takes over the festival's taiko drums is a good example; the slideshow effect technically gets the job done, but the emotion and romance of the moment would have been much more impactful if the audience could see the entrancing drumming that has Ren so hot and bothered.
Other than visual limitations though, Ren and Natsume's vignette is easily the strongest aspect of this episode. The show has gone long past subtext by this point, and now that it's very clear that Ren wants to be with Natsume in an intimate sense, their time out at the local festival goes more in depth with Ren's feelings. The past few episodes have played her timid pining for laughs, but here the one-sidedness of the relationship is framed in sharper contrast, with poor Ren going out of her way to dress up and look pretty for a date who might not even know she's a date, and it's genuinely sad to see. Throughout this segment, Ren insists to herself that she has matured past being angry at her paramour's obliviousness, but it's clear that she still desperately wants Natsume to acknowledge how much effort Ren is putting in to impress her. It speaks to Konohana Kitan's strengths that the writing, performances, and music are able squeeze out so much romantic pathos in spite of the lacking visuals.
In the end, the show makes sure to reassure both Ren and the audience that Natsume does reciprocate her little pink companion's love, just in a different way. They share a home together now after all, and the way Natsume carries Ren piggyback to spare her delicate feet explicitly calls back to anime's many more heteronormative examples of that old trope. Natsume may not be as good with the mushy and romantic aspects of being Ren's partner, and the show still hasn't explicitly confirmed that they're in a lesbian relationship, but after last week's ghostly shenanigans and this festival's romantic overtones, it's impossible to read the pair's relationship as anything but romantic. While I wouldn't mind if we couldn't just let Ren have her damn kiss already, I'm glad that the series isn't trying to bury its protagonists complicated feelings for one another.
Speaking of complicated feelings, I was hoping that Yuzu and Satsuki might have some intimate moments of their own this week, but their story instead dovetails into something of an epilogue for last week's episode, with Yuzu almost getting literally spirited away at the festival, only to once again be rescued by the ghost she bonded with in last week's episode. This was admittedly a sweet scene, but it couldn't help but feel redundant coming so hot on the heels of “Konohanatei Horror Stories”. If anything, having Yuzu saved from being lost to the spirit world twice in a row just makes Yuzu look bad, and it's a bit tiring to have her only ever react to the weird happenings around her, instead of being able to grow and develop on her own.
Even though Yuzu's story is a bit disappointing, Konohana Kitan is still carrying on with a solid streak of quality storytelling. Even though this is probably the weakest entry in the series so far, with its inconsistent animation and slightly redundant writing, the show still musters up more charm and sweetness in a single episode than many shows can manage in three times that amount. The show does frequently feature an adorable haunted tsundere doll riding around on a nightmare-eating spirit pig, so even the most middling of episodes will have something to offer.
Konohana Kitan is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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