「エコライフはじめました」 (Eco-Raifu wa Hajimemashita)
“I’ve Started Living Green”
The only thing I don’t love about this superb season of Minami-ke is that it’s already almost over.
You just can’t have too much Makoto/-chan as far as I’m concerned, but I will say this much: the fact that his appearances (like Hosaka’s) are relatively infrequent gives those episodes a little extra spark. I don’t think either of them would lose their appeal if they appeared more often (especially Mako) but this way you do appreciate those appearances a bit more. And as I’ve mentioned in the past, it really points up what a comedy powerhouse Minami-ke is – it’s almost like four or five different anime comedies in one, because it can swap out its various mini-casts and give you completely distinct styles of comedy that never lose their freshness, because the only major element they have in common is that they’re damn funny.
For starter this week, we have a dish of Haruka flashing one of the qualities (extreme cheapness) we haven’t seen much of from her lately. I suppose as a teenager responsible for managing a household budget with two kids (though it’s strongly implied she gets major help from the family) it’s understandable – but her tortured justification that it’s all to save Mother Earth seems to fool no one apart from her sisters (and even there I strongly suspect otherwise). This first chapter also gives us the elusive under-the-kotatsu camera angle, so rarely employed (I don’t think the “x-ray effect” of Mako-chan under the kotatsu in 1.10 counts) and confirms that Kana does indeed have great legs.
The main course begins – as always – with the arrival of Makoto. There’s a twist here, though, as for the first time in a very long time he dares to make an appearance in the Minami household as himself (though it’s getting harder to tell). Mako-chan does stop by in the opening scene, forced to fight off Chiaki’s offer to huddle for warmth under her blanket (she most certainly has a serious crush on Mako-chan, though I have my doubts about her subconscious’ involvement, especially when Mako-chan says stuff like “Ore ga ii, yo!” to her). After the omake is actually used to set up the next chapter (Chiaki catches a cold when Kana pulls away the blankets in the night) the gang at school contrives to stop by and pay a visit, though they can’t stop arguing over what the best food for the sick is. There are some hilarious moments here – watching Touma and Makoto bickering in the background, and the following bits of elementary-school dialogue:
"What’s a snack party?"
"It’s a party with snacks."
"What’s egg sake?"
"It’s sake mixed with eggs."
I have two others thoughts on this chapter, the first is this: Touma, that’s not what you’re supposed to do with leeks when someone has a cold. And there’s absolutely no doubt – Yoshino knows. 100%. Whether she’s keeping her mouth shut out of kindness or cruelty is the only question – I lean towards the latter.
Next up the theme of underaged drinking (Touma ended up bringing just the eggs, don’t worry) continues, as Uncle Takeru takes the girls to an izakaya for dinner to escape the chilly but eco-friendly Minami apartment. Kana’s determination to try "just a bit of foam" off Takeru’s beer and her request for "any wheat or potato-based beverage" notwithstanding, my favorite part of the chapter was Chiaki’s reactions when Haruka explained to her what "namakuchiko" and "hachinoko" were (boiled sea cucumber innards and bee larvae). Takeru looked like he might have been getting off easy without Chiaki’s gaggle of friends, but the Minami sisters can really pack it away. The poor sap is going to be stopping by a lot more rarely at this rate.
The grand finale is classic Mako-chan existential angst, as only he can deliver it. Makoto is either the luckiest or unluckiest 5th-grade boy in anime, I’m not sure which – but it can’t be denied that he gets felt up more and gets more free peep shows than most guys in middle or high school would dream of. This time around it’s a "Pajama day" at the Minami place thanks to Haruka’s eco-friendly laziness, and that means Haruka with her top three buttons undone – not to mention Atsuko and Maki showing up and changing into her spare PJs right in front of Mako-chan for good measure. Being Makoto is certainly complicated, but there’s just no other character in anime who so perfectly explores the comedic possibilities of the trap – this chapter is yet another in a long line of Mako-chan classics. It’s also worth mentioning that Mako-chan has the most fashion sense (and cutest head-bob) among any of the female members of the cast – which is highly disturbing in its own right.