「俺の弟子」 (Ore no Deshi)
This is one series where the title is kind of deceptive.
It’s happening again. I can’t help but find the supporting cast in Ore Monogatari more interesting than the main couple. It’s not their fault, either – I like Takeo and Rinko just fine. But there’s just not much drama there. No surprises. We know how they feel (because let’s face it, they say it out loud in un-Japanese fashion more than any couple in anime), and no matter what obstacles are tossed in their path, there’s just not much sense that any of them might actually take.
As a warm-hearted, fuzzy study of first love, then, this is a perfectly good show, and even refreshing in that it focuses on the relationship itself rather than the build-up, and on the bonding rather than the drama. But while that’s true, let’s face it – without some drama, things can get pretty same-y sometimes. And that’s where first Suna, then Ai, then Oda, and now Saijou come in. What I’m wondering is whether the series itself understands that they’re where the real compelling stuff is, of whether it thinks they’re just supporting characters.
Saijou is the latest in this line of succession, and another successful entry. She’s cast in what would normally be a villain role in a shoujo romance – she’s obviously lying when she says she only likes Takeo “as a person”. In effect, she’s knowingly making a play for a guy she knows has a girlfriend he’s in love with. But she’s hard to dislike even so, thanks in no small part to Maeda Rena’s stellar performance. Part of it is her situation – we can see the heartbreak coming, which makes it inherently more tense and dramatic than the main pairing. But it’s also because Saijou is very relatable – cute but a little plain-looking, not exceptionally brilliant or talented, a bit socially awkward. She’s just a regular girl doing something she knows she shouldn’t, because she’s in love.
Suna being Suna, he sees all and knows all – and being the ultimate bro he is, he can’t just step aside and watch others suffer. Of course it’s nice that he’d try and prevent a potential crisis between his two friends, but it soon becomes clear that he’s also stepping in because he sees how badly Saijou is being hurt by all this. Despite Saijou lashing out at him with idle threats if he spills her secret, Suna is the sort of a guy who’ll stand by with not one but two boxes of tissues for a girl who not only isn’t his girlfriend, but truthfully isn’t even really his friend.
Ah, Suna… Why are you such a fascinating enigma? It’s tempting now to try and pair him off with Saijou now, of course, and there is a bit of a vibe at the end when Takeo talks about how he wants to help her find someone. But while I like them both, that would just be too easy. I know the manga is ongoing, and my great fear is that we’re going to see the anime come to an end without Suna ever emerging beyond his role as the wingman and facilitator, and revealing just what makes him tick. That would be brutally unfair to the viewers, but so far there’s no firm reason to suspect we’ll get a look at the man behind the curtain – and wondering just who he is makes the most interesting element of Ore Monogatari.