Episodes 9 and 10
by Theron Martin,
Note: Because there was no episode review last week for this series, episodes 9 and 10 are being covered together here. Also note that the rating at the end is an average of the two episodes rather than a consistent value.
Really, though, there isn't a lot to talk about concerning episode 9, as it is entirely typical of franchise episodes featuring two short stories and, indeed, the genre as a whole. Its first part focuses on Raku calling on the help of all of the recurring cast members when he gets roped into cleaning the school's pool. It is mostly just an excuse to see all of the girls having fun in swimsuits (which is handled tastefully rather than luridly), although it does also show Raku and Haru trying to bring Paula into the fold of the group dynamic. Its second part features Raku being conned by Ruri into thinking that Kosaki has asked for him to visit her while sick, and then winding up having to spend most of his time dealing with the distrustful Haru instead, who also becomes sick. It serves to break the ice between Haru and Raku, as by the end she is not won over but at least willing to acknowledge that her sister might not have been wrong after all about proclaiming him to be a decent guy. More importantly to Raku, he gets his pendant back out of it.
So episode 9 isn't entirely fluff but it does not leave much of an impression, either. The same cannot be said for episode 10, which takes the unusual direction of focusing on group goofball Shu. Normally Shu's activities are comedy gold, but here the series takes another serious turn as it looks into exactly who Shu actually is in love with – and, surprisingly, it's not Ruri, despite how much he jokes about them being an ideal couple. When Raku is prompted to figure that out after Ruri put the idea in his head, he eventually deduces that Shu is actually in love with Miss Kiyoko, their homeroom teacher, who has just announced that she is going to be quitting soon because she is getting married. Leaving alone that doing so is more than a century out of date for teachers (there was a time even in U.S. history when female teachers in many areas had to be unmarried), most of the episode becomes a series of discussions between Raku and Shu, and separately between Raku and Seishiro (whom he sought out for advice), over whether or not a person is better off letting someone know their feelings, even if they are unreachable and might be burdened by them, while he still has the chance.
Despite Seishiro being comically evasive on whether or not the scenario being discussed is just hypothetical for her (and we know it's not), the episode looks at the matter with remarkable frankness and seriousness. It is one of the rare places in the franchise where viewers may even be able to directly relate; for instance, although it never involved a teacher, I have otherwise been in Shu's situation on this a couple of different times in my life. The right way to handle those situations is every bit as tricky and discussion-worthy as the episode makes it out to be. Shu brings up a very good – and I think often overlooked – point about how laying a confession on someone who cannot reciprocate, just so one will not have any regrets, could be looked at as selfish and potentially burdensome, and the writing also implies the question about whether one would have more regrets about confessing or not confessing in such a situation. This being an anime about youthful romantic exuberance, it eventually takes the “confess anyway” direction and lets Shu off easy at the end by having the teacher just pass it off as relishing one's youth, but that doesn't lessen (much) the writing's sincerity on exploring the issue.
Was Shu's choice, and Raku's choice to give him a push in that direction, the right one? That's a hard call. I have personally handled the situation both ways and regretted for years afterwards how I handled it in each case, so I'm not convinced that there is a consistently correct answer in such dilemmas. Whether or not I agree with the outcome, though, the episode handles it well. Between the two episodes we also get treated to additional examples of the sharp setting and background design choices that have always been a staple of the franchise.
So, overall, these two episodes are exactly in line with how this season has handled things to date. It's just that one of the episodes is far more interesting at carrying it out than the other.
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