Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ?
It's not unusual for a slice-of-life comedy to have its characters take a trip to some gorgeous vacation destination in Japan; after all, it's always nice to see characters you like having a good time in a unique setting, and one of the main attractions of anime in general (especially for foreign viewers) is the glimpse into Japanese life and culture that it provides. That said, "I Want to Hang Out in Tottori!" is one of the only examples I can think of where a show goes so far out of its way to basically function as a travel advertisement and tourism guide for a whole prefecture. Have you at any point in your life had the specific desire to take a weekend trip to Tottori, like Uzaki and Shinichi do this week? I sure hope so, because if not, much of this Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! episode is going to feel like a ridiculously drawn out version of the kind of advertisements that play in an endless loop on the default stations of hotel televisions. You know, the kind you usually mute after thirty seconds.
This wouldn't even be so bad if the whole episode didn't feel so forced, but every single time the show starts to settle into its established groove, the tour guide that dogs our characters' every single move whisks them away to some new spot on the tourists' handbook. We begin at the local sand-dunes, move on to an anime and manga museum that's been built out of an old school, check out a bunch of local shrines and hot springs, etc. And all the while, that guide lady is spewing an endless stream of factoids. It's…fine, I guess? I don't know, maybe this is just a lot of my own pent up bitterness over my country's handling of the COVID pandemic, which has been such a fustercluck circus that I don't see myself going on any vacations anytime soon. All I know is that I'm having a knee-jerk aversion to how the whole episode's script feels like it got cribbed from Tottori's government-funded tourism website.
Except, Uzaki-chan fails in one key respect, and that failure stands out even more by spending just a couple of minutes looking at all of the pretty pictures provided by that Tottori website. Chiefly, Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! has never been a show that could coast on style, since its limited animation and bog-standard direction have never allowed the show to stand out, keeping its visuals functional at best from week to week. "I Want to Hang Out in Tottori!" mixes the usual bland CG sets with those muddy looking Tottori backgrounds I mentioned last week, which I'm convinced are real photographs that have been buried under layers of crappy filters in order to look more “hand-drawn”. The end result is an episode that is honestly pretty ugly to look at, and when it isn't ugly, its boring, and I'm sure that's only going to incur the wrath of the Tottori Prefectural Government Tourism and Exchange Bureau International Tourism Attraction Division.
This isn't an irredeemable episode, don't get me wrong. It just plays to all of Uzaki-chan's weaknesses, rather than its strengths. I thought the eventual “twist” of Tottori being a famous vacation spot for starry-eyed young couples was pretty good, but the show runs the bit into the ground. It would have been funnier and sweeter, I think, for Uzaki and Shinichi to realize themselves that the whole prefecture is treating them like the weird, flirty couple they totally are, but instead Ami and Sakaki had to tag along to explain the joke to us, over and over. Sakaki barely does anything the whole episode, and Ami keeps on doing that thing where she pantomimes eating food whenever Uzaki and Shinichi get into romantic shenanigans. Watching Ami just munch on an invisible bowl of rice for literal days is the kind of joke that is almost a little embarrassing to watch, because the bit seems convinced that it's in demand as an audience favorite. Somebody needs to tell the Studio ENGI crew that that gag is nowhere near as funny as they think it is.
Though really, I'm a little concerned for the folks at Studio ENGI after watching "I Want to Hang Out in Tottori!" While its perfectly possible that they simply got bribed into making this episode with promises of free “research” trips to the vacation spots or what have you, I wouldn't be surprised at all if they were being coerced by blackmail or some other nefarious means. Is the Tottori Prefectural Government Tourism and Exchange Bureau International Tourism Attraction Division the innocent organization its fancy website would have you believe? Or is it secretly a cabal of shady-ass thugs that is more-than-willing to kidnap and extort innocent animators to get their hands on that sweet, sweet tourism cash? I'm being told by my editors and lawyers that I am legally required to answer my own questions with: “Of course not, these are completely ridiculous and libelous claims that should in no way be taken seriously. Only a bored and paranoid idiot would even think of making up such a stupid explanation. Studio ENGI is totally fine, and Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! can do a lame vacation episode whenever it damn well pleases.”
On the other hand, maybe we ought to be on the lookout for secret SOS messages hidden in future episodes. If any ENGI animators are reading this, and you're still being forced to shill local ice-cream shops and dating spots for Tottori, just have Uzaki blink out a message in Morse code or something. We won't rest until every one of you comes home, so you can continue making dumb jokes about Uzaki's boobs and Shinichi's love of cats in peace.
Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! is currently streaming on Funimation.
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