「迷い猫、抜いた」 (Mayoi Neko, Nuita)
“Stray Cat, Pulled Out”
Leave it up to Chise to use her Umenomori wealth to rip off the game of Jenga, add in a bunch of semi-erotic stipulations on the blocks (e.g. cosplay), and rename it Power Blocks for her personal enjoyment. Remember when this show was about the hardships of being an orphan and the love square that develops? Because I sure don’t. Actually, that’s a big fat lie since I blog about this series and can just flip back into the Mayoi Neko Overrun category and be reminded of episode three and how I’ve missed it so. Back then, I was pretty surprised at the direction things took and second-guessed my original presumption that this would just be a stereotypical harem anime with slapstick humor throughout. Fast-forward to the present five weeks later and I think it’s safe to say that my original hunch was more or less spot on, as things deteriorated to the wacky randomness seen in Yabuki Kentarou‘s To LOVE-Ru.
Quite honestly, I don’t mind the level this series has dropped to since it was more or less what I was expecting back when I wrote the Spring 2010 Preview, but I can’t help but wonder if this anime is based on Kentarou’s manga adaptation of Matsu Tomohiro’s light novel more so than the original source material itself (which would explain the To LOVE-Ru similarities). Early on, there was indication that this anime adaptation could go almost any which direction, so naturally there was some underlying feeling of disappointment when I learned that this is the path they’ve chosen to go. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of viewers probably feel the same way, whereas those who never fathomed the possibility of slapstick harem levels have already jumped ship. The latter group probably never would’ve sat through 26 episodes of To LOVE-Ru and blogged to tell about it either, so I don’t really blame them. In my case, I realize there’s little to no depth in the episodic showings for the past several weeks, but I still take enjoyment in the cheap fan-service shots and ludicrous depiction of some of the Stray Cats Association’s activities.
It always helps when you have a rich girl with crap loads of money to throw around like one Sanzenin Nagi in Hayate no Gotoku, but I actually got a great deal of enjoyment from watching Ieyasu secretly working with Chise to rig the game so that she’d have her way with Takumi. With the promise of having an otaku’s dream come true with one of his favorite seiyuus, Ieyasu’s unrelenting efforts to see that through made him the one to watch this episode. It was even better when Nozomi sort of caught on to what they were up to and pitted them against one another by leaving only two safe blocks left to remove and Kaho’s turning coming up after Ieyasu’s. Caught in the moment of that, I found it absolutely hilarious how Ieyasu went for it and sold out Chise, only to have Kaho voluntarily retire from the game right after.
Needless to say, Chise wasn’t going to have any of that disobedience crap any longer and dealt with Ieyasu swiftly the following game. Kaho slipping into the control room later on to sabotage Chise and her cheating ways eventually led to a square off where one of Fumino’s options would require her to kiss Takumi. It may have been late in the episode, but I felt that was a good comedic take on the harem aspect. Of course, nothing ever comes from that, but at least Takumi did score some brownie points with Fumino, Nozomi, and Chise by giving them new uniforms that he got as his prize for winning the Power Blocks tournament. All in all, this entire episode might have been completely random and have nothing to do with the main story (if there even is one), but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t entertained.
Seeing as a different director, writer, and key animator are basically brought in every episode, it almost feels like Mayoi Neko is technical demonstration of sorts by AIC. While the writing may be completely over-the-top, it’s undeniable how well they showcase their abilities as a studio in a different manner every week. This one gave us a taste of their 3D abilities with the Power Block animations, which were reminiscent of GONZO‘s work in Saki and pretty cool to watch for that very reason. In any case, I find the less time I spend worrying about why things are getting ridiculously off track week after week and just realize that’s the direction they’re going for in this series, it’s a lot easier to get into each episode and enjoy it. However, it’s not so much shutting off your brain so much as simply going with the flow and enjoying the ride. Try it.