by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Real Girl ?
A spare movie ticket can be a dangerous thing, especially in a romance anime. Tsutsui can't make it to a screening of the latest fantasy epic, so he suggests that Ito go see it with Ayado instead. The kinda-sorta-almost date goes well enough, but it's clear to Ito that Ayado is still too hung up on Tsutsui to see him in a romantic light. Tsutsui isn't quite as observant, and he arranges a picnic double date in the hopes of helping Ito get closer to Ayado. That doesn't work out particularly well for anyone, but it's a walk in the park compared to what happens when Iroha's brother Chika returns from studying abroad and mistakes Tsutsui for a stalker. Add one more name to the list of characters who've punched poor Tsutsui in the face this season.
As far as the movie date goes, “fine but unremarkable” sums it up pretty well. Things play out as expected between Ito and Ayado, with Ito freaking out on the inside while Ayado enjoys a pleasant day out without a care in the world. There are no big surprises or insights to be found here, just a necessary plot point being checked off the list with minimal fanfare. This is accompanied by a side story about Ishino getting stood up by her ex-boyfriend, only to end up eating ramen with her current crush, Takahashi. This sequence is largely disposable; it's long enough to take time away from the rest of the episode, but it doesn't accomplish anything of significance. Nothing changes between Ishino and Takahashi, and we don't learn anything new about either of them. Real Girl does at least do a decent job of following up on Ito and Ayado the day after the movie, with Ayado visiting Ito and Tsutsui's classroom to talk about the film. Her dialogue makes it clear that she didn't see the outing as a date at all, and that she's still carrying a torch for Tsutsui to some extent. This is accomplished without having her come right out and say either of these things, making it a nicely understated way of emphasizing Ito's dilemma.
That brings us to the picnic scene, which is billed as a major blunder on Tsutsui's part but ultimately seems inconsequential. Iroha yells at him for sticking his nose into other people's relationships, but there's no real tension there since she does it when Ito and Ayado aren't around to overhear the lecture. The big hook is that Ito clearly feels uncomfortable during the picnic and gets teary-eyed on the train ride home with Tsutsui, but this too lacks any real dramatic impact. Even with a flashback thrown in for good measure, the train ride fails to give us any fresh insight into any of the characters' mindsets, and the conflict is resolved so quickly that there's no real threat to Ito and Tsutsui's friendship. The issue here may be that Ayado remains blissfully ignorant of Ito's feelings for her; if she had spent the picnic feeling as awkward and uncomfortable as Ito, then there might have been enough mixed feelings floating around to conjure up some compelling drama. As it stands, however, Ayado's lack of awareness leaves the scene devoid of any major consequences.
Real Girl closes the episode out with Chika's introduction, and it looks like he's being set up as the show's new antagonist, or at least as a replacement for Takanashi in the role of Tsutsui's rival. The new guy does have at least one thing in common with Takanashi: he makes a terrible first impression. His decision to punch Tsutsui seconds after meeting him would probably come across as dumb under any circumstances, but it's especially moronic in the context of the scene as a whole. Chika apparently comes to the instant conclusion that Tsutsui is some kind of stalker, but there's nothing going on that would lend his assumption any credibility. Tsutsui isn't creeping around behind Iroha, nor are the two of them arguing about anything; they're happily walking down the street together without a care in the world. If Real Girl had set up a plausible explanation for Chika getting the wrong idea about Tsutsui, then perhaps he might have come across an overprotective but vaguely tolerable brother. Instead, he just seems like a violent, possessive jerk who may or may not have a sister complex. Much like Takanashi, Chika is so thoroughly unlikable in his first appearance that it's impossible to imagine him as anything but a one-and-done bad guy. If he's the final obstacle that Tsutsui and Iroha will have to overcome this season, then color me unimpressed.
This episode represents a worrying backslide for Real Girl. It starts off decently enough, but by the end the series appears to be repeating past mistakes. If this is the last gasp for Ito's crush on Ayado, then it's a pretty underwhelming way to wrap up that storyline. If not, then it looks like that innocent crush will have to share the stage with yet another story about some obnoxious doofus trying to push Tsutsui away from Iroha. Neither of those possibilities seem overly promising, and with the animation quality dipping into genuinely bad territory, I can't say I'm all that excited for the season finale. Here's hoping Real Girl can prove me wrong next week.
Real Girl is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
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