The Quintessential Quintuplets
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 7 of
The Quintessential Quintuplets ?
At this point, Futaro seems to be spending more time on crisis management than on actual tutoring. He manages to escape his close encounter with Miku before any serious trouble can ensue, but he still has to patch things up with Itsuki before the study group can return to normal. It takes a case of deliberately mistaken identity to get the two of them to open up about their feelings, but they eventually manage to put the friendliness back into their friendly rivalry. Everything finally seems to be going well until the morning of the tests, when a late start forces the entire group to make a mad dash for the school gates. Futaro is prepared for the worst when he learns that the girls only passed one subject apiece, but Nino saves the day by delivering a carefully-worded report to her dad that makes it sound like they aced the exams. Now all he has to do is turn that lie into reality in time for finals.
The Quintessential Quintuplets makes an interesting choice early on in this episode by letting Futaro escape from the Miku situation unscathed. It's another case of the series deliberately going against the usual harem comedy formula, as few titles in this genre would allow the main character to wake up next to a potential love interest without somebody getting punched into the next time zone. The obvious downside to this is that we lose the potential for some extra comedy, and the upside is a little harder to define. If nothing else, this outcome allows the series to make the basic “somebody's in my bed” joke without sidetracking the overall narrative. That's a reasonable trade, especially considering that Futaro's too busy patching things up with Itsuki to deal with a sudden falling-out with Miku. As far as the Itsuki situation goes, the show handles things pretty well by having Futaro deliberately mistake her for Miku. With that excuse of mistaken identity in place, both Futaro and Itsuki are able to own up to their mistakes without having to come right out and admit it. It's a clever approach for two of the most stubborn members of the cast, and it also shows that Futaro is starting to figure out how to deal with each of the quintuplets' quirks.
The last-minute dash to school on exam day is perhaps the most by-the-book part of this episode, as it doesn't go too far out of its way to break the mold. We get a nicely-delivered moment of panic when Futaro discovers what time it is, and this is followed by a sprint through town that leaves room for a joke or two from each character. It's amusing enough, if somewhat predictable, and it does at least allow for some final updates on how the characters are feeling about the upcoming tests. Most importantly, this relatively ordinary sequence sets up a great little scene at the entrance to the school, where we get an elaborate reprise of the “anyone can look like Yotsuba with a hair ribbon” joke from episode two. Having each of the four girls give their best Yotsuba impressions is entertaining enough, but the real punchline is Futaro's sad attempt at using the same trick. His performance stretches the upper limits of believability just far enough to be funny, and the image of him trying to offer some final words of motivation while being dragged away by the teacher is a delightfully silly way wrap it all up.
That brings us to the quintuplets' exam results, which are revealed in a somewhat hit-or-miss scene. The series seems to be going for a bittersweet moment when Futaro offers what he believes to be his final words of advice to each of the girls, but the structure of the scene gives the twist away too early. Common sense would dictate that a real “game over” scene would start off with a bunch of passing grades in order to build up some false hope before dropping the bad news, but the show's themes don't allow it to take advantage of that bluff. Because each girl passes a single subject in a call-back to their combined perfect score on Futaro's practice test, it's obvious from the beginning that the show will find a way to offer Futaro a second chance. That safety net kills most of the tension, but the good news is that this scene is more successful in other regards.
For starters, there's the fact that most of the quintuplets go into the exams without ever learning that Futaro's job is on the line. With the exceptions of Nino and Itsuki, who are the least likely to go out of their way to help Futaro anyway, the girls take their tests with the sole motivation of wanting to do well for their own sakes. That keeps at least some of the focus on them instead of making this storyline all about Futaro, and it also earns him some credit for not trying to guilt-trip them into studying harder. Nino's timely intervention is also a point of interest, since it's a pretty major departure from her initial role as the biggest threat to Futaro's continued employment. It shows that she's not quite diabolical enough to flunk on purpose, and this last-second rescue allows her to indirectly accept him as a tutor while still maintaining an outward appearance of hostility.
On the whole, this is a generally competent end to the exam storyline, even if it doesn't always make the most of its ingredients. Even the moments that could arguably qualify as missteps have plausible reasons for playing out as they do. Futaro's close encounter with Miku could have been put to better comedic use, but to do so would have taken the focus away from the more important parts of the story. By the same token, the limited dramatic tension of the final scene is a result of the series sticking to its central theme of the quintuplets having the potential to succeed as long as they work together. Even with some potential humor and drama left on the table, this still works perfectly well as a mid-season climax, leaving the series in a comfortable position to tell the next part of the story.
The Quintessential Quintuplets is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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