I was looking forward to this episode from having read the manga- the beginning of Shuusuke and Ana’s relationship was one of the best parts of the manga as well. It really came completely out of left field, which made it all the more surprising how well it turned out. But Shuusuke, dating your sister’s friends is still in bad taste.
The confession scene was particularly excellent, with Ana’s resposne of “so”? A great contrast to the dramatic, teary-eyed confession scenes we’ve come to expect. The creators have been doing a good job at generally making the relationships between the characters believable for how people of their age would actually act – immature, hyperactive, selfish, etc. Probably the one with the least believable personality is Shuusuke. Really, going on a date to the zoo? I thought that was uncool even for ten year olds. Maybe zoos are more popular in Japan.
The fallout from Ana and Shuusuke’s relationship was enjoyable as well. The creators have done a great job portraying the complex interwove relationships between everyone by putting nearly all of the characters in every episode. It’s particularly impressive that they do this without the plot seeming to suffer from any issues with a lack of focus. But we get to see more deeply into Mako, Maho, Chiiba and Takatsuki from this event. The characters all have a lot of depth given how little screentime they get.
The only issue is, I would imagine that this show would be extremely confusing for those who haven’t read the manga. I would probably have trouble remembering all the characters who were introduced in such a short period of time. But it was probably a good decision, since with a larger introduction they wouldn’t have gotten very far within the brief timeline of the TV series.
As if Mako as Juliet and Chiba as Romeo isn’t enough, we get Ana and Maiko in beanies, everyone’s favorite older sister as a maid, male Yuki in a suit, Sasa as a knight, and friar Takatsuki. If there were such a thing as too much cuteness, then this episode would be it. The only one who wasn’t joining in on the fun for a change was, amazingly, Shuuichi.
Aside from the overwhelming cuteness, the haunted house scene was particularly enjoyable. Haunted houses in anime culture festivals are part of the holy trinity along with ( maid/ neko / other) cafes and shows such as plays or bands, but really, why is everyone in anime who goes to a haunted house actually scared? Maybe I’ve just been going to the wrong haunted houses, but all the ones I’ve seen have been more or less exactly as the one from this episode was portrayed. The only people who scream are generally screaming only because they enjoy screaming. I have the same issue with tests of courage, where pairs go to a shrine and back – why are all anime characters afraid of the dark? This haunted house scene was quite refreshing in how it broke this stereotype.
One of the best things about Hourou Musuko is how all of the characters are just so likable. They feel so authentically human. Even the characters which are kind of jerks or kind of annoying, such as Chiba and Momo, are understandable and sympathetic. Chiba’s friend from church has probably been portrayed the most negatively out of everyone so far in his extremely short screen time, but I’m already feeling sorry for him, even though he’s a jerk as well. I loved the brief scene from this episode where he yawned during the beginning of the play that everyone else was so passionate about. Who hasn’t been in those shoes before? The creators did an amazing job building such depth of character in everyone with such a miniscule amount of time.
And we have yet another amazing episode. I really missed this show over the hiatus. The way the characters are developed is just superb – I honestly don’t think there are any shows that have done this so well since Simoun. Case in point: the guy from Chiba’s church (I’m not sure if we even know his name yet). He hardly had maybe a minute of screen time tops, and we already know so much about him- how he’s in love with Chiba, kind of a jerk, and not easily embarrassed. He already feels more like a real person than three quarters of the characters from any other show this season.
We learn even more about the other characters from their reaction to his question if Nittori was a cross-dresser. The way he said it didn’t really seem that offensive to me – he definitely wasn’t intending to offend anyone, and probably didn’t even realize it was a secret. Nittori didn’t even seem to mind too much, except for the fact that he didn’t want his other classmates to know. Takatsuki storms out of the house in a rage – overprotective much? Chiba tells him he’s a jerk, although I imagine this isn’t the only reason she says that, and Chi thinks Nittori’s cross-dressing is the greatest thing ever.
Chiba continues to be a total badass – she has no qualms whatsoever about saying exactly what she thinks, even if it involves killing everyone, including the apothecary, the friar, and even passerby A. The script for that scene was hilarious, especially how she agreed with Mako’s statement that the world doesn’t revolve around her and Nittori but conveniently left out herself. Chiba is a great balance to Nittori’s wishy-washiness.
I just love how this series does its storytelling with showing and not telling. In most other series, after Momo tells Takatsuki that she looks very womanly, Takatsuki would have somehow ended up telling Nittori that she wished she wasn’t as feminine or getting into a fight with Momo. But instead, Takatsuki just sinks to the bottom of the pool and curls up into a ball as Nittorin watches from the distance. It’s little touches like this that really bring out the potential of anime as a visual medium, which are so often neglected by shows which seem to think their viewers are idiots who needed to be pounded in the head with a fifty pound hammer to get a point across. (in defense of the creators of these shows, their assumptions may not be entirely wrong)
And I must sound like a broken record here, but the way the show continues to portray the relationships between the characters continues to be fantastic. I loved it when Ana was worried that she made Shuu cry, and Maho just told her not to worry because he does that all the time. Now this is what an actual sibling relationship is like! The way Maho rudely interrupts Shuu’s daydreaming in the bath was great as well. Same with everyone’s complete misinterpretation of Ana’s gift strap.
So I am shipping for the Chiba x Mako-chan ending. And Shuusuke would do well to remember:
I really love how this show manages to have such a large cast of characters and yet treat all of them with such depth. It’s really the only series I can think of that has managed to do this so well aside from Simoun. But the more remarkable part is we’re only at the third episode so far! The way they manage to interleave all the characters together works really well – in most shows there tend to be certain episodes that focus on certain characters, but Hourou Musuko hasn’t fallen into this trap. This works so well because character development isn’t about the characters themselves, but about the relationships between them.
This is illustrated perfectly by Maho (Nittori’s sister) in this episode. When she is with her brother, she is rude to him and mostly tries to ignore him. When she is with her modelling friends, she gossips and is a typical teenage girl. And with her boyfriend she is a bit shy and embarrassed. The viewer builds a consistent image of Maho through these conflicting actions she takes depending on the situation. And this is true of nearly all the characters. Nittori acts differently around Mako-chan, Chiba or Takatsuki; the afro-girl sucks up to Chii and ignores everyone else; Chiba is rude to most people, friendly with Sasa and obviously putting on moves with Nittori.
I think that so far my favorite character is Chiba – she knows what she wants and does her best to get it, even though she knows it is more or less hopeless. This is part of why I like this show so much – there’s none of this “I love everyone equally” crap that so many shows seem to be into. Middle schoolers are middle schoolers and actually have relationships and fights with each other.