by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Real Girl ?
After weeks of buildup, the time has come to sort out Real Girl's love triangle. Tsutsui finally gives a proper response to Ayado's confession, and in doing so he reaffirms his commitment to his relationship with Iroha. Ito offers Ayado some support after the rejection, but he stops short of openly confessing his feelings for her. With that particular batch of drama wrapped up, Tsutsui and Ito get a brief chance to reconnect and talk about their recent experiences. The episode ends with a shift to Iroha's perspective, as she reflects on some of her past relationships while out on a date with Tsutsui. Things are finally going well again for the two of them, but time is starting to run out; only a few months remain before Iroha is scheduled to transfer schools.
It was inevitable that Tsutsui would turn Ayado down in favor of Iroha, so it's arguably a good thing that Real Girl doesn't waste time pretending that Ayado might have a chance here. Instead, the focus is on how Tsutsui responds to her confession, and the series does a respectable job with this plot point. While it feels kind of gimmicky to have Iroha hiding around the corner during the scene just so Tsutsui can bring her out as a visual aid, his speech is as relevant to her as it is to Ayado. There are a couple of charming moments as both Tsutsui and Ayado admit that they don't quite know what they're doing when it comes to romance, and the encounter as a whole is treated less like a confrontation and more like an opportunity for the characters to clear the air. The emotions at play are sufficiently acknowledged, and there's a sense of closure once all is said and done. It's a solid way to wrap up this particular story arc.
Real Girl also deserves some credit for avoiding a pitfall that it's been dancing around for the last couple of weeks. While Ito does appear on the scene after Tsutsui and Iroha make their exit, the series doesn't immediately shove Ayado into his waiting arms. There are implications that these two may eventually end up together, but for now the script gives Ayado room to process everything she's just been through instead of rushing towards a conveniently happy ending. It's a more believable way for this storyline to play out, and it lends a sense of legitimacy to the characters' emotions. I also like the idea of Ito and Tsutsui meeting up for an otaku guys' night in the wake of all this emotional tumult, if only because it gives the two of them a chance to catch up on one another's trials and tribulations. The problem here is that the episode doesn't give them enough time to go any deeper than a surface-level conversation. They smooth over their previous arguments and Ito finally tells Tsutsui that he has a crush on a girl, but they don't get a chance to reflect on these things or offer one another any fresh advice. While this scene clearly isn't the biggest narrative priority here, it does feel like a wasted opportunity.
One character who does get a chance to do some meaningful reflection is Iroha, and it's about damn time the series gave us a look at her side of the story. Her flashbacks to past relationships and romantic encounters tell us a lot about where she's coming from, and why she's drawn to someone like Tsutsui. Her experiences of being approached by guys solely because of her appearance are interesting, especially in terms of their effect on how she sees herself and the people she ends up dating. The contrast between these flashbacks and her current relationship with Tsutsui is obvious, and even without the aid of her inner monologue we can see that she's come to value this connection. All of this makes it easier to see Iroha as a protagonist in her own right, rather than as the object of Tsutsui's affections, and this shift in perspective is worthwhile despite being seriously overdue.
After all of that introspection, the episode ends by reminding us that the clock is ticking for Tsutsui and Iroha. After being largely irrelevant for most of the season, Iroha's six-month deadline is looking like it may be the core of this season's last big conflict. The flashback to Iroha's hospital visit also suggests that her health may yet play into the story, though this particular angle remains vaguely defined. For now, though, this episode does a nice job of focusing on the kinds of quiet relationship drama and personal introspection that Real Girl specializes in. That return to the show's strengths yields a more enjoyable experience, and this feels like the first time in a while that the series has really gotten things right.
Real Girl is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
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