「迷い猫、泣いた」 (Mayoi Neko, Naita)
“Stray Cat, Cried”
One of the things that have impressed me with AIC‘s work in comedies as of late is their tendency to try and tie in every episode with those before it, which isn’t something that one would normally expect from this genre. Most recently, they did this in Sora no Otoshimono and Nyan Koi, where there was an abundant amount of manga material to work with for both series and they managed to piece together one cour adaptations that came off like single cohesive units. What’s particularly unique in Mayoi Neko’s case though is that the studio has opted to switch in a different director and key animator every episode, yet the continuity still feels like we have one well-planned series. Had someone not been told this was the case or bothered to check themselves, they probably wouldn’t have known any better (myself included).
The previous hot spring episode was unquestionably the most distinguished showing thus far and may have raised some suspicion, but even it didn’t fall too far from the tree as this week builds on the Chise character foundation set then. Because of that, I suspect that the directors have gotten together during pre-production to outline what part of the overall story each person will be in charge of. Though given the relatively short production deadlines of anime, I still can’t help but wonder how much discussion actually took place, if any. This is why I have to give credit to AIC, since they really seem to have their act together as of late. This is also the reason I’m always on the lookout for their shows nowadays, as I mentioned back in the Spring 2010 Preview.
Building on the desire Chise expressed last time in establishing her club and getting everyone involved, things went way south when she took Kaho’s advice and opened a competing pâtisserie with award-winning pastry chefs and rock bottom prices across the street to drive Stray Cats out of business. Naturally, that comes off to everyone as a spoiled rich girl throwing her money around to show off, but it’s not something I could hold against Chise since she clearly had her reasons for acting as such. For the most part, it was to offer them much higher paying jobs at her store so that they’d have more free time to hang out with her. With a quick flashback revealing the loneliness she felt when no one dared approach her at school due to her wealthy status, we learn just why that is as Takumi et al were the first people to reach out to her. In addition to showing how Chise’s current actions are simply misguided, it was at that moment that I realized why she asks for Takumi’s hand when she’s upset about something. So with that, it was two birds with one stone in improving the image of her character.
The rest of the episode drove home the point of how Chise is simply misunderstood, using a shopping district swimsuit contest to spice things up a bit. On paper, it was Takumi and the others’ attempt to get Stray Cats some publicitiy, but in my eyes it was more so that we could get some of Fumino’s lovely tsundere side coming through. I for one loved how she reluctantly offered to participate after Takumi decided to ask Nozomi to help, figuring Fumino would decline outright. The bonus of course is that we have both of them participating while things got back on track with Chise. After everyone learned of her reasons for trying to drive them out of business, the blame all seemed to be pinned on Kaho. Oddly enough, I didn’t really see her as one with any real malicious intent, even though they sort of played her up that way. I did find it somewhat sudden for Takumi to start kicking himself for not realizing Chise’s feelings earlier and pleading to Kaho to stop misguiding her any further, but at least it made for a pretty touching scene when Chise overheard it all.
So with that, we have Chise in a completely new light at the end of things this week and the establishment of the “Stray Cats Association”, whose second club room is conveniently located at Stray Cats itself. Overall, I have to say this was a really good character development episode for Chise and it was actually so jam-packed that it ran straight through the credits to fit everything in.