「おおかみさんとマッチ売りじゃないけど不幸な少女」 (Ookami-san to Macchi Uri Janai kedo Fukou na Shoujo)
“The Wolf and the Girl Who’s Not a Match Seller but Still Unfortunate”
K-ON‘s Satou Satomi joins the cast of characters as Himura Machiko and puts some pressure on Ryouko to speak up about how she truly feels about Ryoushi. Modeled after The Little Match Girl, Machiko wasn’t enough to force them together, but did draw out a fair bit of dishonest behavior from Ryouko to make this a worthwhile finale. The story is still ongoing and J.C. Staff probably wants to leave things open for a possible sequel, so the decision to conclude things around Ryoushi and Ryouko for now worked for me. Taking a page out of Ringo’s book, I got a lot of enjoyment from seeing how Ryouko would react to the poor girl on the block suddenly confessing to Ryoushi under the mistaken assumption that he’s rich. In reality, it was more of a demand that he go out with her with marriage in mind, which had Ryouko speaking loud and clear with her body language even though it differed from her actual words. The actual date the two of them went on as per an Otogi Bank request was even better, particularly when Machiko purposely made an incident out of getting into a boat with Ryoushi. Ryouko’s speechless reaction to the sight of that was pretty priceless, and I found myself amused to no end when Ringo just took her binoculars back.
As for Machiko’s sub-story about working to pay off her father’s debts and going as far as starving herself to do so, it was pretty hard to see her as a conniving girl when she had a good reason for needing money. In addition, she did come clean about it without any prying on Ryoushi’s part, and even earnestly offered her virginity as thanks for saving her from the loan sharks. Talk about one hell of a reward. It not only shocked everyone, but also pissed off Ryoushi enough to call in the cavalry from Otogi Bank to help free Machiko from her useless father who’s now run away. Admittedly, I found Ryoushi’s serious voice a bit too forced in that scene, but the subsequent one with Ryouko jumping in to lend a hand while the opening theme was playing did give off a fairy tale-like feel. In retrospect, the two of them kicking ass together was one of the more prominent Ryoushi x Ryouko moments, as it also made Machiko realize how cool Ryoushi can be. It also led to her asking Ryouko if she likes Ryoushi, albeit the answer was merely that she doesn’t hate him. Still, it was progress in my eyes when coupled together with the fact that she smiled back at the very end and did NOT hit him for a change. Add in Liszt getting rid of Machiko’s debt and getting her a room in Yukime’s Okashi dorm, and we have all the makings of a happy ending. It may not be a completely fulfilling ending, but a happy one nonetheless.
Back in the Summer 2010 Preview, I had a hunch that this light novel adaptation could potentially be the hit show of the season. Now that I’ve actually seen the whole thing, I have to admit that it fell a bit short of those grand expectations. While I enjoyed it as a romantic comedy that borrows a lot of ideas from fairy tales, it didn’t particularly stand out as the show I was looking forward to every week. Be that as it may, it was always easy to get into and featured some good character development in its short twelve episode run (particularly in Ryoushi’s case), making it a fairly easy recommendation to those interested in this genre. The sarcastic narration on Arai Satomi‘s part is evidently something that some viewers will find a bit annoying, but I really didn’t really mind how she talked over characters as if she were doing cast commentary. Sarcasm just so happens to be a form of humor that clicks with me, so I’d often get a chuckle out of her remarks taking the words right out of my mouth.
As for the story itself, there’s clearly a lot more that hasn’t been covered from the eleven volumes of the light novel out so far, so I wouldn’t even consider knocking a short adaptation such as this for leaving things fairly open-ended. If I were to make one complaint, it would be the lack of time spent on some of the other characters such as Alice. However, for series introduction purposes, it did make sense to spend more time on Ryoushi and Ryouko and work in the Hitsujikai Shirou sub-story for impact. Production-wise, even if AT-X’s lackluster broadcast is to blame to a degree, it’s probably safe to say that isn’t one of J.C. Staff’s higher budget projects. Even in this finale, the animation quality dipped noticeably at times, with the in between shots during quick action scenes being one area that could been better throughout the entire series. For those, it wasn’t so much an issue with image clarity or sharpness as it is with consistency, since the Blu-ray releases address the former two fairly easily. Overall, I definitely felt that this was one of the better shows this season, so I wouldn’t mind seeing a continuation of it at some point in the future.