Love Tyrant
Episode 11

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Love Tyrant ?

The breather that Love Tyrant took last week carried with it the portents of another ambitious storyline starting up, presumably to cap off the season. With Guri being led away by Shikimi at the end of the last episode, this one wastes no time in using her disappearance to kick off the next story arc. In fact, this is probably Love Tyrant at its most ambitious, but ambition doesn't always equal execution.

At least the first half is pretty on-point. It uses the inherent off-ness of the Guri-less situation to play odd comic beats and explore the other characters acting in ways they wouldn't normally within the status quo. Most notable is Akane, who's all too overjoyed to have Guri out of the picture and Seiji all to herself. Her joy at her rival deposing herself does seem genuine, but given the wealth of directions the series has set up, I still have to question how long her elation will last in this situation.

Yuzu, who came across as a genuine friend of Guri and her partner in crime through a lot of their escapades, is actually saddened by her disappearance and becomes fed up with the other members of the harem not trying hard enough to find her. Seiji's feelings on the matter seem the most ambiguous of the group. He's always been a pointedly flat straight man who it's often hard to get a read on, and there are some quick bits acknowledging how his feelings towards Akane and their oddly-mandated relationship have evolved, but it doesn't shine any light on how he actually feels about Guri and her disappearance. He seems mildly interested in finding her, though not overly concerned, and he only really pushes the matter when reminded by Coraly of the penalties for neglecting her angelic duties (which I was surprised the show had remembered after all this time). It makes for some decently intriguing character work as we watch this harem protagonist stand-in struggle to find his agency, and the way the episode turns that on its head makes for its most compelling segment.

Lured into contact with Shikimi once again, Seiji finds himself at her mercy as she puts on her strongest show yet of trying to ‘seduce’ him so she can manipulate Guri. What makes this segment so unusual is that the scene makes no bones about what it seems to portray: Shikimi is assaulting Seiji. The setting and blocking of the scene go to great lengths to show how Seiji has been forced into this outside his consent. More importantly (and impressively?) the scene is played for neither laughs nor titillation; we're instead gripped by a rather raw impression of the discomfort Seiji feels and how it translates onto the viewers. Despite its tone being at odds with anything Love Tyrant has tried so far, it actually works within the context of the story.

No matter how much plot and character development Love Tyrant makes efforts to undertake, it will always be at its heart a spoof of the harem genre. A scene like this, with bluntly portrayed sexual assault on a male character by a female one goes against everything in the playbook for the fanservice shows Love Tyrant usually sends up. It subverts the portrayals of ‘no really means yes’ assault seen in other "edgy" romance series by committing to a turn that just isn't done that often. Honestly, the scene isn't graphic or anything (Shikimi pins Seiji down and forces kisses on him), but it's the portrayal that's so outside the ordinary for a series like this, which makes it so compelling as a genre satire, comedic or otherwise.

That unexpected escapade turns out to be the highlight of the episode, since it can't stay in serious mode for too long, and of course Akane shows up in full unstoppable force-of-nature style to rescue Seiji from Shikimi's clutches. It does also say something about the series' tone and comedic timing that it can change gears from that harrowing scene to its now-standard outrageous beats so efficiently, but Akane's appearance and battle with Shikimi work like they always have in this show.

What doesn't work quite so well is the revelation of Shikimi's machinations for Guri in the second half, which turn out to be at the behest of old totally-not-Satan himself, Maoh. Forcing a doubt of her already-confused love for Seiji proves to be enough to force the angel to ‘fall’, becoming a demon in a fabulously over-the-top transformation (and vague Berserk reference?) that creates the biggest problem the characters have faced yet. At its core, there's nothing wrong with this idea, and it's a direction the show has been hinting toward since Maoh appeared. However, the way it's actually carried out, especially after several episodes of Love Tyrant showing how clever it could get with more complex concepts, just comes off as shallow; it takes too easy a route to get there.

After turning Seiji's role as a harem protagonist upside-down only a few minutes earlier, he's reduced to simple stock issues for this portion, just to get the ball rolling on Guri's heartbreak and subsequent transformation. With a show like this, I'd have thought they could come up with a more interesting (or at least funnier) way for him to push her to the dark side than a simple misunderstood confession of feelings, and his impossibly dense denial of the situation even as Guri's demonic escapades quickly escalate only drives home how uninterested the series seems in subverting the whole setup. There are some good new jokes mined from Guri's change of heart: her renewed work ethic being the most shocking turn in her personality to everyone is a funny gag, and it was amusing to see all her boys-love couples revisited in a clever nod to continuity that demonstrated her transformation's effects.

But with Seiji cluelessly stumbling through this situation the whole way through and the series playing his insensitive contribution totally straight the whole time, Love Tyrant mostly does a disservice to what should be a big moment for the show. Any real drama to be gleaned from this shake-up is ignored, but it doesn't push too hard for simple entertainment value in the escalated absurdity of the situation either. After Guri's transformation, the show shifts to a much flatter and straightforward take on events, like it's killing time until the real big confrontation next week. In that respect, it still works. I'm actually quite interested in where the show goes with this for its season finale. I only wish it wasn't at the expense of what was actually happening in the episode I was watching now.

The halves of this episode are so distinct in their ambitions and tones that it's hard to reconcile them into a single assessment of the whole half-hour. Mostly though, whatever goodwill the excellent and clever first half builds up is let down by coasting in the second half. In fact, it might actually hurt more since right before that let-down, Love Tyrant really showed what it could do when it tried something different.

Rating: B-

Love Tyrant is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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