「ユニオン・フェスタ)」 (Yunion Fesuta)
Remember last episode when I wondered why they didn’t make a bigger deal out of the virginal kiss between Cinque and Eclair? Well, I didn’t think I would be getting an answer here: immediate gratification was eschewed in favor of an entire episode that puts the focus on the aftermath of this particular event, a decision that should no doubt please the many Sinclair shipping commenters I saw last week. Man, Dog Days’ sure does seems to be pushing the Sinclair ship hard, doesn’t it? Between their intimacies in the training episode, last week’s kiss, and now an entire episode dedicated to Eclair, the relationship between these two has seen the most flags raised in the entire season. It’s almost disheartening to know deep down that there won’t be anything coming out of it, even when I’m not a shipper myself. After all, it’s more than likely this is going to end in the same way almost all light fantasy romantic comedies do: Inconclusively.
Well, enough about spoiling your fun. Enjoy the sweet shipping fodder first. This episode marks quite the departure from what we’ve been seeing in Dog Days’, which has largely fulfilled the niche of a light-hearted screwball comedy up until this point. Eclair’s episode is the first time we’re seeing a strong singular focus on a character and on the dramatic angle, something that has largely been missing from the show since its first season.
I feel the need to point out here is that Eclair’s introspection and character development won’t break any new grounds. What we have is the overused setup of a tsundere that is in denial about her own feelings and starts distancing herself due to insecurity, leading to an episode that largely deals with how she comes to terms with these emotions through the help of her friends. Like I said, nothing amazingly ground-breaking; characters developments like this are commonplace in the animeverse. What it ultimately boils down to is the execution, and it’s something I’m feeling pretty conflicted about. A character study like this seems to be up the alley of director Nishimura Junji, who brings along his experience in drama from True Tears, and I suspect that this entire development as well as the introspective talks interspersed throughout the series have been largely his doing. The great thing about having him on board is that, much like his previous works, there’s a certain shine of honesty to the characters here. I liked that the characters could call Eclair out on her feelings for Cinque with such straightforwardness, and their showering of concern over her comes across with good deal of sincerity. Then there are the small touches, such as Yuki giving a knowing smile at Eclair’s deliberately ambiguous declaration about her feelings for her friends and Cinque, which helps to accentuate these points. Props should also be given stellar cast here, who succeed in carrying across the emotions highs of the characters pretty convincingly.
The problem here is that the entire episode is rife with unnecessary exaggerations and clichés that feel out of place in this dramatic context. Take Rico for instance, who after an intense argument with Eclair, promptly break all immersion when, cue dashing out of the tent, pulls the facepalm-worthy glistening tears cliché. More than once, I might add. Ugh. There’s also the whole Dragonball-worthy fight between Eclair and Leo (pulling her best Mentor/Aneki impression, I might add.) that has Eclair completely pummelled at the beginning, and subsequently rising back up to turn the tables on the Leo by channelling the powers of friendship in a shounen-esque display. Ughhhhhh. It served to make what could’ve been an emotionally charged moment about Eclair coming to terms with herself into a crude and contrived attempt at some drama that cheapens this character development arc. Made worse by the fact that the fight here appears to be a couple of steps down in quality from some of the stuff we’ve seen in previous episodes, such as with some very obvious still-frames in the animations.
This wasn’t the most stellar episode to have come out of Dog Days’; much like the first season’s demon storyline, the show still seems to suffer from a crisis of identity in its attempt to meld its light-hearted tone with dramatic elements, and it makes both parts feel worse off for it. Unfortunately, this trend that seemed to have started with last episode’s talk is likely continue on for a while, what with a clash of feelings between Becky and Millhi imminent in the coming episode. Going forward, I really hope that Nishimura can bring together this dichotomy of Dog Days’ under a more cohesive vision and succeed where the first season failed for me.