When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace Episode 6
by Paul Jensen,
One of the many unofficial rules of anime is that any character who stays home from school must be in the midst of an emotional crisis. Minor illnesses are simply an excuse to avoid the person you're feuding with until you come to a personal epiphany. In this context, When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace is somewhat brave in its suggestion that sometimes a cold is just a cold.
The audience gets a chance to learn more about Sayumi this week as the episode bounces back and forth between two separate stories. In the first, Jurai visits Sayumi while she's at home with a cold. The second is a flashback to when the group first discovered their powers. By the time the two plotlines come to a close, we have a much more detailed picture of Sayumi as a character.
The first story is the less conventional of the two and spends a lot of time playing with the viewer's uncertainty over whether Sayumi is sick or upset with Jurai. The series has previously done well with its unique takes on familiar situations, but it falls short of its usual standard here. Sayumi is a little too calm and composed for the story's own good, and it's tough to buy into the idea of her doing this as a passive-aggressive avoidance of the Literature Club. The revelations about her backstory are also more a matter of curiosity than any source of dramatic tension. The story doesn't come into its own until after everything is out in the open, when Sayumi gets a chance to articulate her personality in her own words.
The flashback, while somewhat predictable, is a dramatically stronger effort. One of this show's best qualities is its willingness to make us question our assumptions about having supernatural powers, and the argument between Jurai and Sayumi offers a chance to do just that. Sayumi's proposal to erase everyone's abilities forces the viewer to wonder if the benefits of having a superpower really outweigh the risks. The fight also goes a long way towards humanizing Sayumi; she's more than just levelheadedness incarnate. Jurai continues to put other male comedy leads to shame, as more than just a stand-in for the viewer. His self-indulgent monologues and goofy theatrics strike a compelling balance with his moments of unexpected insight.
This is a perfectly decent half hour of animation, but it suffers from having to measure up to the rest of the series. Too many of the show's subtler strengths end up on the sidelines in this episode. The opening comedy sequence isn't as funny as we've come to expect, and the giddy joy of messing around with superpowers is mostly absent. Most of the characters don't get a chance to let their personalities run wild, which lessens the show's quirky charm. At times, it feels like we're watching a good episode of a less original series.
It's tough to hit it out of the park every single week, and When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace has earned a little slack here. Even at its weakest, it's still a strong show. Most of this episode's faults are due to not being as clever as we've come to expect rather than actually missing the mark. Come next week, I expect this series to continue swinging for the fences.
When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Paul Jensen also covers anime and manga at SharkPuppet.com.
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