Seiren Episode 11
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Seiren's third arc moved into its third act this week - or at least its third episode, given that Seiren narratives are a bit too shapeless to possess actual acts. Gifts were exchanged, loves were lamented, and everything slowly built to the arc's climactic Christmas Eve. Shoichi may not be the most rugged or romantic of teenage boys, but he's gonna do his best!
If I could describe this arc of Seiren in a phrase, it'd have to be “friend zone.” In real life, the friend zone is pretty much a sexist construction based on the assumption that being nice to a person should result in some sort of romantic “payment.” For people who are frightened of rejection, it can feel safer to establish a relationship based on platonic friendship and then try to segue that into romance - but from the other side, establishing a relationship with secondary intentions is an inherently deceitful and emotionally unfair action. Friendships can evolve into romance, but if your intentions toward someone are fundamentally romantic, it's generally best to tell them you're interested in them, not try to tiptoe across some romantic line at some undetermined point down the road.
Seiren avoids the nastier implications of the friend zone by centering this romance on two people who've been friends since long before romance was in the cards, and they're only now grappling with the possibilities of post-pubescent partnerships. As far as romance goes, Shoichi is clearly interested in Kyoko and has made his intentions clear. Kyoko, on the other hand, is unsure of what she wants and seems understandably nervous about changing the nature of their relationship. Both of them are tired of being treated as a harmless child by the other, whether in terms of Kyoko calling Shoichi a “girl next door” or Shoichi treating Kyoko like she's totally dependent.
That central dramatic parallel actually gives this arc of Seiren far more of a thematic core than the other two, even if it's not a particularly strong core. It also means that scenes like Shoichi running into Ikuo dancing around in a sentai mask at the park make some dramatic sense, even while being absurd on their face. By centering on a clear, understandable conflict that impacts both leads, making sure the secondary narrative threads reflect on that conflict, this episode was able to indulge in Seiren's usual silliness without feeling like it was losing track of its own central story.
Seiren's generally goofy, possibly tongue-in-cheek tone also helped this arc's friend zone focus feel more silly than frustrating, while some of its plot points were legitimately clever. Kyoko's attempts to cheer Shoichi up, including knitting him underwear and actually taking him underwear shopping with her, simultaneously reflected her clear childishness and her urge to overcome that childish persona. At the same time, those actions came off as deeply insensitive to Shoichi, since it felt like she was just doubling down on his asexual status from his perspective. All of this arc's smaller choices are adding up to create a reasonably charming comedy of errors, a substantial improvement over the half comedy/half errors mix of the first two.
Seiren is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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