The Quintessential Quintuplets
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Quintessential Quintuplets ?
The good thing about having identical siblings is that you can pretend to be one another if needed. The bad thing about having identical siblings is that pretending to be one another can land you in all kinds of hot water. Miku subs in for Ichika at what was supposed to be a class meeting, but instead finds herself on the receiving end of a romantic confession. Chaos ensues when Futaro arrives on the scene, and Miku's only idea for resolving the dispute is to declare that she (as Ichika) is in a relationship with Futaro and will be partnered with him for the class trip's infamous dance. That naturally makes things awkward for the school trip, but a late departure leaves Futaro and the girls wondering if they'll even get there at all. Stuck together at an inn overnight, the gang must deal with awkward sleeping arrangements and a bubbling cauldron of romantic tension. That cauldron looks about ready to boil over when Itsuki sees one of her sisters moving in for a kiss with Futaro the next morning.
The Quintessential Quintuplets is back in the habit of relying on convenient coincidences and zany rom-com shenanigans to move the plot along, but the upside is that the majority of those shenanigans are entertaining. It's fun to watch Miku scramble to deal with the sudden confession while disguised as Ichika, and this leads into a clever bit of instant karma as Futaro gets dragged into the mess after planning to leave her hanging. The escalating chaos is handled pretty well from a comedic standpoint, and it's just believable enough to stir things up for both Ichika and Miku. It takes the status quo of Ichika supporting Miku's feelings for Futaro and flips it on its head, setting the stage for what may be this storyline's most significant conflict.
Some further narrative intervention is required to ensure that Futaro and the quintuplets miss the bus, and again the presentation is just good enough to get away with it. We get a glimpse at the dynamics within the Uesugi family thanks to Raiha's conveniently-timed fever, and it's interesting to see how things play out between them. Futaro, Raiha, and dear old dad all seem intent on being the one to support the rest of the family, and they all display some level of discomfort with the idea of the other two making sacrifices for their sake. There's a potent mix of responsibility and guilt hanging in the air in that apartment, and while it may not be the primary focus of the series, it gives Futaro a little extra depth as a protagonist.
Both the ill-fated road trip and the night at the inn leave plenty of time for jokes, some of which are just delightful. This episode's best moment by far happens inside the Nakano family limo, where the series sets up an elaborate guessing game just to give Nino an excuse to flip Futaro off. It's very much in character for Nino, the timing of the reveal is spot-on, and the routine is short enough to feel like a fun diversion instead of a lengthy detour from the story. By comparison, the debate over the sleeping arrangements drags on a little too long, and the payoff of Futaro already being asleep is underwhelming. At least this sequence does a decent job with the inevitable bath excursion, packing in a healthy amount of fanservice without going overboard. Compared to some of the clumsier attempts at sex appeal from the beginning of the season, the show seems to have gotten much better at setting up self-contained moments of fanservice instead of just tossing it into scenes at random.
Somewhere between the comedy and the cleavage, the simmering tension between Miku and Ichika also starts to pay off. Their conversation away from the rest of the group could be a key turning point, as Miku's reluctance to stake an exclusive claim on Futaro opens the door for Ichika to start pursuing her own interests in earnest. It doesn't take long for the consequences of that exchange to become apparent, as Ichika suddenly sees no problem with stealing a kiss from Futaro before he wakes up the next morning. Granted, the visual direction suggests that their lips never actually touch, but the die is cast either way thanks to Itsuki walking in at just the right (or wrong) moment. What's curious about all of this is that it isn't leaning terribly hard on last week's revelations; apart from Nino briefly thinking about Futaro's “rebellious youth” photo, we don't hear much about childhood encounters or fateful reunions here. That may actually be for the best, as things are getting intense enough without the need to rely on any big gimmicks.
This episode is definitely what The Quintessential Quintuplets needed after last week's disorganized search for a new storyline. The series has picked a couple of key conflicts to focus on, and it's maintaining a comfortable balance of comedy, drama, and fanservice. Not every plot point is a masterpiece of smooth or natural storytelling, but things are holding together well enough at the moment. I'm as excited to see how things will play out between Miku and Ichika as I am to watch Nino find new ways of sticking it to Futaro, and those are all good signs as we head into the final stages of the season.
The Quintessential Quintuplets is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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