Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ?
I wasn't a huge fan of the series' first two episodes, but even in the shows I dread covering the most, I try to approach each new episode as a fresh start. Even Hand Shakers and Big Order, two of the most unholy abominations to ever afflict themselves upon unsuspecting anime fans, had some episodes that were better than others. Uzaki-chan is a bona fide masterpiece compared to that dreck, so surely it has to have some relatively mountainous peaks to accompany its low valleys? And no, I am certainly not referring to Uzaki's peaks and valleys. I would never sully my hard-earned reputation as a Very Serious and Respectable Critic™ with such bawdy humor. If my monocle weren't at the dry cleaners right now, it would be positively aquiver with my indignant harrumphing.
In any case, I am pleased to report that this third episode is Uzaki-chan's best so far, if only because the addition of the bar manager's daughter, Ami, means that we now have two entire characters that are our leads! Their whole bit is actually kind of funny, too, because it's specific enough that the two don't feel like completely generic background characters pulled from whatever the two-dimensional equivalent of Central Casting is. Ami is a thirsty college student herself, though the flimsy pretense of a love triangle between Ami, Uzaki, and Shinichi is less fun than the simple pleasure of Ami and her father being pathological busybodies. These two take a borderline fetishistic pleasure in watching Shinichi and Uzaki screw around and make loud noises. As with the real-life fans of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!, I am genuinely happy to know that the misadventures of our dubious deuteragonists can provide so much joy, even if I don't get it. This is especially important because Uzaki and Shinichi's chemistry is developing at what could generously be called a glacial pace.
It doesn't help that the both of them just don't work well as the leads of their own show, albeit for very different reasons from one another. Shinichi's problem is a simple one, and all too common: He's a nothing character, a mishmash of stale tropes and vague gestures towards a personality that amount to very little. He's the typical, contradictory self-insert character who doesn't have friends because it's his choice, and he's just not interested in being friends with all of those normie popular kid… er, adult college students. At the same time, he's secretly super jacked, and all these girls have crushes on him too, because even though he apparently has such a “scary face” and doesn't even care about what other people think of him, he could totally get laid if he wanted to. Even his reluctance to hang out with Uzaki is just him being a nice guy, you know, because he doesn't want people to get “the wrong idea” with her hanging out with him all the time. So really, he's a nice guy. But also a loner. And buff as all hell.
I get enough of that nonsense having to teach “The Catcher in the Rye” to angsty 9th-graders every year, so Shinichi gets a hard pass from me. As for Uzaki, where do I even begin? She's the type of socially oblivious, “adorkable” character that is incredibly hard to write well, because her shtick is just “annoying the one other person in the story we're supposed to relate to." The jokes about her honkin' jugs are still painfully unfunny (though thankfully toned down in this episode). On a more superficial level: Her obscenely huge eyes and ridiculously drawn proportions make her seem completely ridiculous and genuinely a little creepy, and she doesn't match the rest of the character design styles at all; she has one of those weird flesh-colored fangs that just looks wrong to me; and just this week I realized that her endless cackling has begun to sound identical to that of a Tickle-Me Elmo doll, and it will haunt my nightmares for years to come.
Phew. So, the bad news is that the two main protagonists of this “romantic” “comedy” are Boring McLonerPants and the eldritch abomination that will literally ruin his life in order to befriend/date him. Is there any other good news to share? Well, there were some actual jokes this week, and a couple of them were funny! The hypnotism bit where Uzaki tries to mind-control Shinichi into saying her first name was cute in a theoretical sort of way. I don't know, I'm reaching here, okay? Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! may be improving, but at this rate, I'll be set to collect my retirement benefits by the time it finally gets good.
Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! is currently streaming on Funimation.
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