The Quintessential Quintuplets
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 4 of
The Quintessential Quintuplets ?
As we see in this episode, there's no such thing as a quiet day off when you're the hero of a harem comedy. Futaro is all set for an afternoon away from the quintuplets, but his plan to study on his own doesn't last long. Itsuki shows up unannounced to deliver his first payment, and while Futaro may not be sure what to do with the money, his sister Raiha has a few ideas. She drags Itsuki and Futaro off to the local arcade, and they just so happen to run into the rest of the quintuplets on the way back. The sisters end up taking Futaro and Raiha to a fireworks festival, but the group inevitably gets separated by the crowd. Futaro promises Nino that he'll bring the rest of the girls back to their meeting place before the fireworks end, though that may prove to be easier said than done.
The arcade sequence keeps thing simple by narrowing the cast down to just Futaro, Itsuki and Raiha, and that smaller selection of characters allows for more focused storytelling. The spotlight falls mainly on the Uesugi siblings, with Itsuki acting as a kind of outside observer on behalf of the audience. While we don't get a whole lot of new information, their interactions reinforce a couple of points that were introduced in the first episode. First, Futaro's motivation for sticking with the tutoring job has more to do with his family than himself; as he admits to Itsuki, he knows that Raiha hasn't always been able to do what she wants because of their financial problems, and he seems to feel some personal guilt over the situation. Second, Raiha is more than capable of pushing the rest of the cast around by giving them the sad puppy eyes, and she's able to throw both Futaro and Itsuki off-balance with amusing results. It's a fun little sequence, and it continues the show's trend of treating Futaro as a fully-fledged protagonist instead of just a viewer stand-in.
From a comedic standpoint, the best moment of the festival storyline happens before the characters even get there. The image of the quintuplets, all of whom except Itsuki are dressed up in full festival garb, scribbling furiously away at their homework is just absurd enough to be funny, and it's improved by a well-delivered rant from Futaro. After that, the episode settles into a more relaxed comedic rhythm, consistently delivering amusing bits of dialogue but never really setting up any big jokes. It feels, appropriately enough, like a day off for the cast, and it leans on the chemistry set up by previous episodes. As all of this plays out, the series starts working in little moments that are geared to make Futaro question where he stands with each of the girls. These start small with one-off lines like Yotsuba's comment about wanting to have Raiha as a sister, then gradually get more obvious until Futaro comes right out and asks Itsuki what their current relationship is. It's not always a subtle process, but it offers some important plot advancement by forcing Futaro to look at the quintuplets outside the context of his tutoring job.
The process of reuniting the group hasn't hit any dramatic heights just yet, probably because this episode is only setting the stage for next week. In that context, it does some respectable work here. Setting up the conflict is easy enough, as no group of anime characters have ever attended a festival without getting separated from one another. The next big step is providing a motivation for getting everyone back together, and The Quintessential Quintuplets achieves this by giving us some backstory on the Nakano family and why watching the fireworks together is important to the girls. To top it all off, we get some obstacles for Futaro to overcome, though some of these are more convincing than others. The ticking clock sets a good baseline, and it adds an extra element of difficulty to otherwise minor problems like Miku getting her foot hurt. The one thing I'm not sold on just yet is Ichika's situation, which hasn't been fully explained but appears to be some kind of compensated dating gig. This one's going to be tough to resolve without resorting to a cheesy “hero protects girl from creep” scene, but don't give up hope just yet; as we saw with Nino last week, this series knows how to flip the script on what looks like a standard-issue plot point.
This episode doesn't offer any standout moments on the same level as last week, but it makes up for it with a more consistent level of entertainment. Even though the laughs aren't as intense, they happen more regularly, and the series seems to be getting more comfortable with stepping back and letting the characters play off of one another. This is also the first time The Quintessential Quintuplets has tried to carry a storyline across more than one episode, and so far it's a solid first attempt. The narrative groundwork has been laid, and Futaro conveniently has one episode's worth of time left to get the band back together. The question now is whether or not the series can deliver enough of a payoff to justify the longer setup.
The Quintessential Quintuplets is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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