Real Girl
Episode 7

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 7 of
Real Girl ?

Tsutsui has grown pretty comfortable in his friendship with Ayado, but not everyone feels the same way about their little chats in the school garden. Iroha turns to Ishino for advice after seeing Tsutsui and Ayado together, but expressing her feelings turns out to be tougher than she'd hoped. The situation does eventually sort itself out, thanks in large part to an encounter between Iroha and Ayado. With that conflict resolved for the moment, Ayado is welcomed into Tsutsui's ever-growing circle of friends. That should make her happy, but her feelings for Tsutsui make things more complicated for Ayado. At the same time, Ito begins to develop a crush on Ayado, creating a potentially messy web of unrequited affection. With Ishino pushing everyone to go camping together, the characters may have to confront their emotions whether they want to or not.

In terms of execution, the jealousy storyline is a bit uneven this week. On the upside, it forces Tsutsui to do some mild soul-searching, which in this case means drawing a connection between his reaction to seeing Iroha with her young doctor early on in the series and Iroha's reaction to seeing him with Ayado. It's another small step in the process of understanding that a relationship is a two-way street for Tsutsui. On Iroha's side of things, however, the writing isn't as sharp. Her half of the resolution relies too much on Ayado being too timid to pose any legitimate threat to the relationship, rather than on Iroha talking through things with Tsutsui directly. They do eventually have a heart-to-heart in which Iroha acknowledges that she needs to show some of the same trust she's been asking for, but that admission comes long after the flame of jealousy has been put out. In relying on Ayado's shyness to clear up Iroha's concerns, Real Girl misses an opportunity to have a more emotionally charged exchange between its main couple.

As for Ayado, she seems to be stuck in more or less the same place she was last week. Her inclusion in Tsutsui's group of friends is a minor step forward, but it doesn't change the basic dilemma that she faces. It still comes down to a question of whether or not being friends with the person she likes is enough for Ayado, and on that front the series has yet to make a final decision. Even so, this remains an interesting storyline, as it will require Ayado to risk her newfound friendships in order to get some kind of closure regarding her feelings for Tsutsui. All signs point to Tsutsui staying with Iroha, but that impending heartbreak for Ayado is compelling of its own accord. Now the show just needs to get on with it.

Then we have Ito, who wanders back into frame after being absent early on this week. As a timid otaku guy, it's perhaps inevitable that he develops a crush on the timid otaku girl, but the series appears undecided on what to do with Ito's sudden interest in Ayado. There are two obvious paths forward from here, one of which is far more interesting than the other. With the show's relationship chart getting increasingly tangled, it's possible that Ito's feelings could pour some extra fuel on the narrative fire. The door is open for some significant conflict as Ito watches the girl he likes pine after his best friend, and I can see Ito lashing out at Tsutsui out of misplaced jealousy before all is said and done. That would make for a compelling test of their friendship, but I worry Real Girl is setting the stage for a less interesting development. Ito also represents an easy option for the series to redirect Ayado away from Tsutsui, as she can run to him once Tsutsui turns her down. It's a potentially convenient solution, but it could also make for an artificially neat and tidy way to wrap up this story arc. If it's too hasty in giving everyone a desirable outcome, Real Girl risks coming up empty in terms of dramatic impact.

On the whole, this episode does a plausible job of keeping the peace amongst the cast, but that low-key approach isn't necessarily what Real Girl needs right now. Sure, there are some mixed emotions here and there, but for the most part these conflicts seem too easy for the characters to manage. Real Girl's best moments have come when it's acknowledged that maintaining a relationship is difficult, especially when the people involved don't fully understand one another. We need more of the hurt feelings and uncomfortable silences that come from Iroha and Tsutsui fumbling their way through this romance. Even with some potential conflicts looming on the horizon, maintaining a stable status quo just isn't going to produce enough of those key moments.

Rating: B-

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