The Quintessential Quintuplets
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 8 of
The Quintessential Quintuplets ?
As you might expect in the aftermath of a big mid-season story arc, this episode has a lot of ground to cover in order to set up the next round of plot twists. We start off with the revelation that Futaro wasn't always a straight-laced student, and that he carries a photo from his rebellious youth in his student handbook. That information eventually becomes relevant, but not until we've worked our way through a couple of side stories. Yotsuba and Futaro spend a moment alone in the apartment where we find out that she either likes him or is much better at lying than she claims to be. Further distractions arise as Futaro gets stuck on the planning committee for the class camping trip, and Yotsuba turns down an offer to join the basketball team. Once that's all out of the way, the incriminating photo finally gets its day in the sun, but Futaro's past appearance turns out to literally be only half of the picture.
As you might have gathered, this episode lacks the consistent pacing and narrative focus of the last few story arcs, and you can practically hear The Quintessential Quintuplets shift gears as it starts building up new conflicts. In some cases, this works out fine; the sequence of Futaro and Yotsuba ending up alone in the apartment is just about the right length for a little side story. At other times, though, it definitely feels like the series is just throwing ideas at the wall until something sticks. Futaro's test of courage assignment in particular is placed on the back burner as soon as it's introduced, leaving us with very little aside from the entertaining visual of Futaro having a normal conversation while wearing a mask straight out of a horror movie. Another downside of this trial-and-error process is that the matter of Futaro's old photo ends up bookending the episode with a lot of unrelated material in between, which prevents it from building up any serious narrative momentum. In terms of structure and storytelling, it's a bit of a mess.
The good news is that this hodgepodge of ideas yields some amusing and potentially compelling results. Yotsuba got the short end of the stick in terms of screen time early in the season, partly because she was the only one who was willing to study with Futaro from day one, so it's nice to see her finally take the lead in a few scenes this week. The sequence in the apartment gets a lot of comedic mileage out of her inability to lie convincingly, and the process of her digging Futaro into an increasingly deeper hole of deceit is handled particularly well. That comedy also sets up an interesting moment once the other girls give up and leave. Yotsuba's assertion that she agreed to study because she likes Futaro seems entirely too sincere and believable for a character who can't lie worth a damn, even if she claims it's all a joke. Combine that with her decision to prioritize the study group over the basketball team and it definitely seems like Yotsuba has a stake in this tutoring setup beyond just wanting to improve her grades.
Then we have Nino, whose role in the latter half of the episode raises even more questions. If you take her response to Futaro's old photo at face value, then it's an open-and-shut case of Nino conveniently believing it's some imaginary relative and not Futaro himself. On the other hand, there are a lot of little details that leave the whole scene open to interpretation. All the peace signs being held up could be meaningless, or they could be a subtle visual reference to Nino's status as the second sister. It's also suspicious that Nino promptly whips out a family photo album and opens it to a picture of the quintuplets looking exactly like the girl next to Futaro, and her offhand reference to a wedding dress is clearly either a hint or a red herring. Does she recognize Futaro's old blonde self, either consciously or unconsciously, or is all of this just smoke and mirrors? More importantly, does the series even need another narrative gimmick on top of the mystery wedding scene?
So yes, this episode is all over the place, and it introduces too many plot threads at once. Nevertheless, it's an entertaining ride thanks to Yotsuba playing up her impossibly earnest personality and Nino taking every opportunity to make Futaro's life difficult. I also like most of the ideas this episode puts forward, particularly the question of whether or not there's any truth behind Yotsuba's confession. The “mystery childhood friend” angle will be harder to sell, since it's hardly a novel concept for a romantic comedy and it frequently relies on characters overlooking painfully obvious clues. Of course, if The Quintessential Quintuplets can put its own twist on that formula and make it work, then I'm all for it. Hopefully the next episode can organize all this new material and point it in the right direction.
The Quintessential Quintuplets is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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