The Quintessential Quintuplets
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 12 of
The Quintessential Quintuplets ?
The time has finally come for the fateful campfire dance, but The Quintessential Quintuplets has a few details to iron out before it gets to the big moment. As the group's afternoon on the ski slope continues, it suddenly dawns on everyone that Itsuki is nowhere to be found. Futaro figures out that the “Ichika” they've been skiing with is actually Itsuki in disguise, but he trades that problem for another when the cold he's been trying to ignore for the entire trip finally knocks him on his butt. This means our hero is destined to miss out on the campfire dance, and the quintuplets all do a little soul-searching as their classmates start to pair up. The girls all show up in Futaro's room for their own reasons, but who does he end up holding hands with at the crucial moment at the end of the dance? Well, this is a harem comedy, and this season finale isn't the end of the story, so I imagine y'all are smart enough to figure that one out for yourselves.
This episode stumbles early on, as the search for Itsuki suffers from a poorly-defined level of urgency. It's hard to tell if The Quintessential Quintuplets expects the audience to actually worry about her when it cuts away to the perilous “professional” ski trail, or if it's just trying to force Futaro to solve the problem before everyone else panics. This is also kind of an odd plot point for the series to put front and center in the finale, since it pulls the narrative focus away from more established conflicts like Nino's search for Kintaro and the tension between Miku and Ichika. On the upside, it does at least serve as a final test for how well Futaro knows the girls, as he's tasked with identifying Itsuki in disguise based solely on the fact that she calls him by his last name instead of his first. It also confirms that there's a romantic element to Itsuki's interest in observing Futaro's actions on the trip, so it's not a total waste of time.
In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, the episode starts to pick up steam once Futaro's cold gets the better of him and he ends up confined to his bed. This effectively removes the issue of the dance from the equation for a little while, and that allows the series to focus on the characters instead of building up to a dramatic reveal of Futaro's dance partner. We get a couple of big developments out of the situation, most notably during the fireside chat between Miku and Ichika. It's supremely satisfying to see Miku finally declare that she likes Futaro (even if she only says it to Ichika), and she's able to clear the air with her sister by essentially declaring open season as far as romantic competition goes. Yotsuba also gets a nice little moment this week as her brief guilt session over dragging Futaro from place to place gives way to the realization that he actually enjoyed the trip. Itsuki doesn't go quite as far as Miku in owning up to her feelings, but it's still pretty clear that she's tossed her hat into the ring as a romantic contender. Nino is the only character whose big scene feels a little weak, as the series doesn't quite succeed in using her disappointment over Kintaro's disappearance to push her towards Futaro. Still, four out of five isn't too shabby.
That leaves with the episode's ending, which cuts back and forth between the quintuplets' arrival at Futaro's bedside and a flash-forward to the wedding. The show really messes with us for a moment here, as at first we're led to believe that Itsuki is the only one holding Futaro's hand when the dance ends, and that implies she's the future bride. Of course, that turns out to be nothing but a tease, but the series reveals the truth with enough of a wink and a nudge to convey that it knows exactly what it's doing. It's the kind of twist that lets you laugh and say, “I see what you did there,” instead of coming across as a cheap cop-out. I'll certainly give it points for being clever in the way it dodges the question; by having each quintuplet hold one finger, the series essentially gives all of them an equal shot at winning Futaro's heart. The flash-forward scenes also offers some amusing details, like a glimpse of Raiha as a teenager and a happy outcome for Futaro's goofy classmate Maeda. Given that an “our story continues” ending was all but inevitable here, I'm glad we at least get a reasonably entertaining one.
I can see some viewers being frustrated that The Quintessential Quintuplets dodges both the campfire dance and the wedding in this finale, but it's hardly a surprise in a single-cour adaptation of a longer work. What we do get is a range of meaningful developments for the characters, and an ending that ties up most of the short-term story threads without messing up the big picture. Given the circumstances, I consider that to be a successful last episode, and the door is wide open for a sequel season. If we ever get one, I'll happily jump back on board for another round of hijinks.
This has been an enjoyable series to follow from week to week, and it's a refreshing reminder that a by-the-book genre title can be fun and even memorable as long as it's presented well. The Quintessential Quintuplets never quite rose above its modest ambitions, but defied the stereotype of the mediocre harem comedy by delivering a story that works for a wide audience without ever leaning too heavily on the crutch of fanservice. Let the record show that when you tell good jokes and do a halfway decent job of developing characters, you end up with something worthwhile.
The Quintessential Quintuplets is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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