「年の計は元旦にあるらしい」 (Toshi no Kei wa Gantan ni Arurashii)
“Start Planning Your Year From New Year’s Day”
Well, that was surely one of the more random episodes of Minami-ke ever.
I haven’t said it in a while, but it really fits here: needs more Mako-chan. I mean really, how could you deprive us of a chance to see Mako-chan in full kimono for New Year’s? Not to mention another opportunity for swimsuit misunderstanding (though no Haruka-neesama on this trip, at least, and no suntan oil in the indoor pool).
This episode was full of the Minami sisters – as if to make up for their minimal participation last week they were involved in every scene this time. It was also full of some of the most esoteric and culture-specific humor in any episode – and this is a show that spends a lot of its time having fun with Japanese traditions anyway. It was also some of the most low-key comedy I’ve ever seen from M-K, relying on wordplay and random weirdness for most of its punch.
For starters, the entire first sketch was pretty much the three sisters spinning each other around in their kimonos – seemingly all a set-up for Kana to say "Now I can never be a bride", which in itself sets up a running gag for the episode. The rest of the chapter consists of a run-through of Japanese New Year traditions like Hatsumode (first shrine visit), eating red bean soup with grilled mochi, and New Year’s money. Again, very culture-specific. Out of this we have Kana noting that Uchida has a strong tendency to come to the Minami estate, eat and go to sleep – but her plan to expose Uchida’s newfound belly flab goes a-wanting when a trip to the indoor pool reveals that Uchida’s belly is as flat as it was on the beach visit. It’s only her belly that’s flat though… I have to ask – and there’s no way to do so without being crude, so apologies in advance – what the heck is up with Uchida’s chest? I sure didn’t notice it being that big before – I actually thought she’d slipped in Mako-chan’s falsies in the beach photo, but the same anatomy was on display at the pool.
A trip to the middle school soon brings is yet more inside Japanese humor, as Riko has mysteriously lapsed into Kansai-ben after a Winter break trip to her Grandmother’s house in Kyoto. Worse, it’s catching, as soon Miyuki and Reiko start following suit – and they’re already talking in pounds and miles after being overseas. This is surely one of the oddest and silliest Minami-ke sketches ever, but it builds to an even more silly game of wordplay as Touma, Uchida and Yoshino visit Casa Minami after a snowfall and everyone starts saying "I might not look like it, but…" before every sentence. It’s funny, I suppose because it’s so utterly random. There’s also a lesson for Kana – don’t mess with the Banchou, when it comes to snowball fights or anything else.
Finally, we do get a brief visit from Mako-chan, and a dissertation on an even more insider topic – Mamemaki. It’s part of the Setsubun festival that comes near the beginning of February, marking the start of Spring in the lunisolar calendar. I did a blog post about it this year, but just why anyone who isn’t in Japan or a complete geek for the culture would know any of that I can’t say – again this is pretty much aimed right at the home audience – but having experienced Mamemaki this year I got some pretty good laughs out of it (especially Mako-chan’s "Wai!" reaction after he got the extra piece of roll cake while wearing the oni mask). Wearing the oni mask also got Makoto to second base with Kana, so now he’s officially been there with all three of the Minami sisters. And let the record show – even oni have to eat their carrots.