The Quintessential Quintuplets
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 5 of
The Quintessential Quintuplets ?
The stage is set and the clock is ticking, which means it's time for The Quintessential Quintuplets to wrap up this fireworks festival. There's plenty of work to be done in order to reunite the quintuplets, but Futaro's biggest problem at the moment is Ichika. It takes a while to get everything out in the open, but he eventually learns that she's an aspiring actress, and that she's planning to skip the fireworks in order to go to a big audition. Despite Futaro's best attempts at persuasion, Ichika ends up choosing the audition over the festival, but all is not lost. When she gets back, he takes her to a park where the rest of the group is waiting with some fireworks of their own.
I had a feeling The Quintessential Quintuplets might pull a fast one on us with Ichika's secret job, and it does indeed turn out to be more than meets the eye. In a slight departure from genre tradition, the sleazy-looking guy who's following her around is actually her manager instead of a shady hostess club owner or fake “talent scout.” This has a couple of interesting effects on the story, even if the script does spin is wheels early on with Ichika's short-lived attempt at convincing Futaro she's a camera assistant instead of an actress. Once everyone's finally on the same page, we end up with a story that tells us more about Ichika as a character without relying on the tired old plot point of Futaro rescuing her from a shady situation. There's even room for some light humor, with the most amusing moment being Futaro's emotional response to the lines of dialogue he helps Ichika rehearse. The poor guy really wants someone to acknowledge the effort he's putting in as a tutor, even if they're just reading off a script.
In giving Ichika a legitimate reason to bail on the festival, this episode also veers away from the easy route of bringing the whole cast together for the final minutes of the fireworks display. Instead, the series takes on the more difficult task of finding catharsis in what would appear to be a less desirable outcome. Thankfully, the writing is able to rise to the occasion, and it uses Ichika's dilemma to acknowledge that there's more to the Nakano sisters' bond than just doing things together. There's space for each of them to be her own person, even if means splitting off from the group, because the others will be ready to welcome her back when she returns. That's a deeper and more nuanced take on the idea of family than the stock “we'll always be together” message we would've gotten if Ichika had chosen the fireworks over the audition. It takes more work to stitch it all together, but this episode delivers a more satisfying outcome by having Futaro fail his original mission to bring everyone to the roof.
Part of the reason Futaro's “failure” still works is that the script finds a loophole for the cast to slip through. The end of this episode is a slightly cheesy but effective take on an old sitcom standby: the little party the characters throw after their big event falls apart turns out to be more meaningful than whatever they initially had planned. Without the lights and sounds of the big fireworks to steal the show, the afterparty in the park leaves more room for everyone to speak their minds. It reinforces the relationships between the sisters and serves as a useful endpoint to Futaro's internal debate over how to define the dynamic between himself and the quintuplets. There's also a clever little detail mixed in with all the genre-standard moments of reconciliation, and it comes as each girl makes her choice from amongst the five remaining fireworks. If we read Miku and Ichika both reaching for the same sparkler as a visual metaphor for their mutual romantic interest in Futaro, this becomes the first moment of competition between the sisters. There's not much tension at the moment, but if the wedding scene from the first episode is to be believed, this is a quick reminder that the five will eventually have to be narrowed down to one.
If you're looking for rapid-fire comedy, you may find this episode to be a little thin on jokes. It certainly has its moments, but the focus here is on character development and a bit of light drama. The good news is that The Quintessential Quintuplets handles that shift well by delivering a neatly-crafted storyline that tells us more about Ichika while forcing Futaro to make an honest assessment of his relationship with the quintuplets. We get a couple of surprises along the way, and the ending is satisfying despite avoiding the more obvious “good” outcome. That's more than enough for me to call this plotline a success, and it shows that the series can handle a slightly more ambitious story when necessary.
The Quintessential Quintuplets is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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