「これもひとつの青い春」 (Kore mo Hitotsu no Aoi Haru)
“This Is Another Springtime of Youth”
When an anime has a shaky but interesting first episode, it may be useful to continue to the second to see if it patches some of the holes. But if an anime had a perfectly fine pilot what does the discerning viewer, still browsing his or her seasonal options, look for in the followup? I’m thinking that most are, consciously or not, checking for consistency. It could well be an excellent pilot could well have been a fluke, or maybe even a bluff. Even if not, anime is no stranger to going all in on the first impression; it’s inevitable that more resources will be invested on the pilot. A good second episode, then is therefore a subtle indicator that the production team has thought things through a bit further and are going to maintain quality for the long haul. It also shows a certain level of competent storytelling, because second episodes are usually used for much needed but relatively mundane development, and being able to do that in an entertaining fashion shows good control of the medium.
With these considerations in mind, I would assign Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu a passing grade. Looking back on the pilot, it is evident that its writers have very carefully balanced both it and this episode so that it wouldn’t have to cram too much exposition into any one spot, keeping entertainment more consistent. In fact, I would say that we actually have more of it this week, thanks to comedy from an entirely shameless heroine. She’s quite the idiosyncratic one in general—who carries around a portfolio of their trivial accomplishments?—and sometimes even leans against the fourth wall (‘it is like the animators have miscoloured your face‘), but she doesn’t quite step over into slapstick goofiness. This is probably a good thing, because I think Shokomeza still intends to maintain a certain level of realism to its setting. Other characters manage to pick up her slack. Buntarou’s Friend A (Toyonaga Toshiyuki) makes a good attempt at hijacking the stage, thwarted only because his mates appropriately don’t bat an eyelash at his comical, breakup-induced misogyny. The one who actually steals the show is, as in the first episode, Yuuka, who injects disproportionate energy into any scene she waltzes into. Also, cheesecake! This is right in the middle of the usually fanservice-centric maid cafe visit. I guess Yuuka’s just going to be upstaging everybody in this show.
The neat thing is that we still got a fair bit of development as well. The last of the team, as foreshadowed in the OP, have been assembled. Andou Teruha (Akesaka Satomi) is likely the big-sister-type, and an otaku to balance against Sayuki. Uguisu ‘Hokekiyu’ Yuuki (Sato Satomi) is the shy junior who nonetheless aspires to drawing porn. So we have our entire major cast now, and we have a rough idea of each of their quirks, which means that the plot can start moving forward in earnest. I can imagine Shokomeza moving heavier into drama once we get through what can perhaps call the ‘common route’. In particular, Sayuki seems to have (had?) a brother who probably inspired her passion for the medium. And, I’m guessing, probably also forged her obssession with ‘winning’. Will other characters reveal a conflicted backstory too? We can only wait and see.
Looking ahead ~ this one’s a keeper
Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya no Mezasu is actually moving along faster than I expected—even though this episode was by no means fast by anime standards. I was actually somewhat fond of the almost lackdaisical pacing of the pilot, and I expected similar here. Instead, the team cast has assembled pretty much overnight, instead of in the at-least-three-episodes I would have personally predicted. To be fair, though, Buntarou’s two mates were already introduced last week, and we had a good look at Teruha as well, so it wasn’t a big deal to just sweep them into the, er, ‘Marketing Research Club’. More surprising is, perhaps, Buntarou’s enthusiasm for the project. We already know he’s, if nothing else, and enabler (for good or ill), but usually heroes, if we can call Buntarou that, are more reluctant to accept the call to adventure. Buntarou is instead, all aboard the hype train. Usually when a protagonist jumps at the call, it foreshadows some kind of disillusionment or some aesop about reckless haste.
None of that is a knock against the show; it’s just interesting to note. Overall, I think this episode was about as solid as the pilot, which is a good thing. I don’t know if I’m going to be covering it weekly, and we’ll sort things out here on RandomC when we start nailing down the schedule. But as far as watching goes, I don’t see Shokomeza going bad, and it’s likely safe bet for the season. And if you weren’t watching already, I can attach my recommendation with little hesitation.
ED: 「世界は今日もあたらしい」 (Sekai wa Kyō mo Atarashii) by 千菅春香, 花澤香菜, 明坂聡美, 佐藤聡美 (Chigusa Haruka, Hanazawa Kana, Akesaka Satomi, Sato Satomi)