Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ?
From the very beginning, I suspected that if there was anything that could get me on board with Uzaki-chan's mostly generic take on traditional slice-of-life romantic comedy, it would be the fact that it's principal characters are all twenty-somethings trying to make their way through college life. Anime is way too overdependent on stories about high schoolers, in my opinion, especially since those stories rarely bother to write their characters like real teenagers, outside of everyone's general inability to process their own emotions in a healthy way. Now that I myself am going to be living it up in my thirties before too long, I find that I appreciate anime about honest-to-god adults more than ever before.Outside of how often Uzaki-chan fails to be particularly funny or inventive, my biggest gripes about the writing for this show have basically revolved around how its reliance on clichés makes the age and lifestyles of its characters feel mostly pointless. A lot of anime high schoolers live alone, go on beach trips by themselves, and get into wacky shenanigans at school and whilst trolling the city, looking for random ways to kill time. Since I feel like a vast majority of anime teens talk and live like independent adults anyways, I've had a hard time connecting to Uzaki and Shinichi as believable characters, much less likable characters. It's like the inverse of when you go back and watch those mid-2000s American sex comedies, like American Pie, and have to watch a bunch of people in their mid-to-late-twenties pretend to be seventeen year-olds that don't know how sex works.
It doesn't help that Uzaki herself literally looks, sounds, and behaves like a preteen that has stuffed a pair of watermelons in their shirt, like the vaguely pervy anime equivalent of a bunch of kids stacked up on top of each other in a trench-coat. Wait a minute, does that mean that the watermelons I just mentioned are just…actual children that have been hiding in Uzaki's bra this whole time? Nevermind, that legitimately terrifying scenario is beside the point; what I'm really trying to get at is that, in a remarkable twist of fate, I liked this week's episode of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! And not just one segment or anything, either; the whole thing was pretty good, and it ended up being so good because it is finally starting to treat its characters like specifically-detailed adult humans, instead of walking stereotypes to throw Uzaki's boobs and/or hellish Elmo laugh at.
Take the opening bit, for instance, where Uzaki mistakes Shinichi's desire to “be with her” as a love confession, when he really just needs some emotional support so he can live his true life as a raging pussy fiend who devolves into a cooing mess inside of a cat café. The “I thought he was confessing his love bit” is the oldest one in the book, but it works better when paired with something character-specific, like Shinichi's desire to be around as many felines as possible at all times. I'm not saying that this makes Shinichi an especially great protagonist, but it helps him feel like more than just a placeholder for audience self-insert fantasies.
The same idea goes for Shinichi being so baffled at what to get Uzaki for her birthday. Something I will absolutely give the show credit for is how it has actually followed through on the “romantic” parts of its rom-com trappings and allowed Shinichi to slowly but very clearly make Uzaki a part of his life. I may not have a lot of fondness for the character, but I can at least start to understand why Shinichi would, and that makes all the difference. The punchline of this scene is that Shinichi's co-workers understand the painfully obvious fact that Shinichi does not: It doesn't matter what gift he gets her; she'll like literally anything gifted by him, no matter what routine of bickering they get into because of it. This is humor that is just an inch or two removed from the “when will they recognize that they love each other!?” shtick that the show has been beating into the ground, but that is still an inch or two of progress, goddammit, and I'm taking whatever I can get here.
Which brings us to the final part of the episode, where Shinichi discovers that what she really wanted for her 20th birthday was to go out drinking for the first time on Shinichi's tab. Again, even though there isn't a lot of laugh-out-loud humor here, this is a kind of social ritual that you wouldn't normally find in any other high-school anime, and that little dash of variety is just the kind of spice Uzaki-chan needs. The show even does that thing where, when it zooms in on Uzaki's first sip of a cocktail, we see the lipstick that normally doesn't show up on her character model. Granted, this might have been an attempt at eroticism on the show's part (I feel like this kind of shot usually is), but the side-effect is that it emphasizes Uzaki's maturity over her usual state of over-infantilized goofiness.
That's why I can get behind some clichés – like Uzaki and Shinichi sharing an awkwardly intimate night together after getting wasted – over others, like that boob-grabbing nonsense from last week. The more we can get to see Uzaki and Shinichi as adults with lives and responsibilities outside of the same cliché routines we've endured over hundreds of past series, the better Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! will be in the long run. Now, if only we could convince the creators to get rid of Uzaki's ridiculous flesh-fang…
Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! is currently streaming on Funimation.
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