The Quintessential Quintuplets
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 11 of
The Quintessential Quintuplets ?
Most rom-com protagonists have to face some kind of adversity ahead of the big finale, and in Futaro's case that means getting locked in a shed. As he and Ichika try to find a way out, Ichika reveals that she's thinking about leaving school to focus on her acting career. That would normally be the bombshell of the evening, but it's upstaged by Ichika's conflicted feelings toward Futaro, especially once he tells her about the legend behind the campfire dance. They do eventually get out of the shed thanks to Miku and Itsuki, but the rescue brings its own share of misunderstandings and hurt feelings. The chaos continues as the group goes skiing the next day, with Nino resuming her pursuit of “Kintaro” and Miku changing her tune when it comes to the idea of keeping things equal amongst the quintuplets.
While most of the characters are dealing with some sort of dilemma at this point in the series, Ichika's personal struggle has become one of the most compelling. Her career aspirations may present a challenge at some point down the line, but it's the romantic stuff that's really front and center as we approach the end of the season. What's interesting here is that Ichika is fighting herself more than she's fighting anyone else; the core of the conflict is the fact that her feelings for Futaro have become incompatible with her desire to be a dependable eldest sister to the other quintuplets. No matter how guilty she feels upon learning about the dance's importance to Miku, Ichika can only do so much to put her own emotions on hold, and that's clear to see during the impromptu dance in the shed. The series does some nice work on the visual front here, using some artistic flourishes to elevate the atmosphere of the scene beyond the mundane background of the supply shed.
On the downside, not everyone gets the same level of detailed development this week. Itsuki's position is especially unclear, and the series seems uncertain of whether it wants to play her as a genuine romantic contender or as a kind of outside observer in this storyline. Her monologue about judging Futaro's actions a couple weeks ago seemed to imply the latter, but her conversation with Ichika after the shed rescue leans more toward the former. There's nothing wrong with striking a middle ground between the two extremes, but the series will need to give Itsuki more screen time if it's going to achieve that level of nuance. As it stands, her uncertainty just doesn't carry the same dramatic weight as Ichika's. Nino also suffers from a more limited role this week, as she goes from stealing the show in the previous episode to essentially being a comedic obstacle for Futaro to avoid during the ski chase. Balancing screen time is always a challenge with so many lead characters, but the difference between a starring role and a supporting one feels especially stark this week.
Back on the positive end of things, Miku's deliberations near the end of the episode represent an intriguing development in her character arc. The script draws a clever little connection between the comedy of playing tag with Yotsuba and the tension surrounding the campfire dance, with Miku being in opposite positions in the two situations. That sets the stage for Futaro to unintentionally help Miku sort her feelings out; just as it's “fair” for Yotsuba to make use of the athletic ability she's earned through hard work, Miku shouldn't feel guilty about working to pursue her own romantic interests. That mental shift from prioritizing equality to embracing the sisters' varying strengths opens the door for Miku to compete directly with Ichika instead of worrying about whether or not her desires are selfish. This should be a key development heading into the season finale, as it allows Miku to be honest about her feelings during the dance.
From a comedic standpoint, this episode doesn't reach the same heights as its predecessor, mainly because it doesn't offer anything on par with golden-haired rebel Kintaro. On the dramatic front, it's a little hit-or-miss, taking big steps forward with Ichika and Miku while leaving the other girls on the back burner. Still, those key moments in the supply shed and the igloo are vital to advancing the plot and setting the stage for the big dance, and the series handles both of them well. Crucially, the door is still open for a wide variety of outcomes as we approach the season finale. Ichika could finally drop her big sister act, Miku could finally assert herself, or Nino could finally realize that the object of her affections is just Futaro in a wig. The Quintessential Quintuplets has put itself in a good position, and now all that's left is to make the most of that potential.
The Quintessential Quintuplets is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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