「小さいルルの大きな夢」 (Chīsai Ruru no Ōkina yume)
“Little Ruru’s Big Dream”
Another character episode this week, and most likely our last one, since we’re out of major cast to feature. I actually thought we had already passed through the major cast, and had nothing worthwhile left to cover there. What they did have, though, was Ruru, which was an unexpected angle for me. Now, I generally use ‘character episode’ as a shorthand for a character focused episode, with a character expected to drive most of the narrative for that portion, and in return receiving depth and development. The thing about Ruru, though, is that she’s entirely a gag character—or, even more, she’s a gag mascot character. On what strength can she drive the story, and what need does she have for depth and development? Now, it’s possible to elevate a purely comedic character into a dramatic role, either to—
—Wait, what am I doing? I was actually going to get into a serious discussion. I promised we weren’t going to have to do that anymore, didn’t I? This is Musaigen no Phantom World. Why are we trying to be serious about it? This has got to stop. Tell you what, I have an idea.
I have to get my brain into Phantom World mode.
I have a Taser.
Don’t try this at home, kids; Passerby is a trained anime professional. Here goes.
Wooooooo. What are we doing? Right, Phantom World. Let’s just talk about something stupid, by which I mean something genius. I just came up with it; I call it Passerby’s Greater Theory of Anime Dialogue. It goes like this:
Any anime is great up until somebody opens their mouth.
It’s a revolutionary new idea that came to me while I was watching Phantom World. My huge sample size of one show is irrevocable evidence for a fundamental law anime, that the most compelling quality of any given anime character is silence. Take Koito for example; she’s cool right? She’s the stoic type, very sharp, has superpowers. But when she opens her mouth? It’s ‘aaahhhhhhhhh’. Yeah, that’s not a flattering addition to your brand. Same deal for Reina; when she opens her mouth, she literally sucks (*badum tish*). But hey, at least it somehow amuses me every single time, so I forgive her.
So take this week’s temporary new character: the Phantom witch person. When is she at her most compelling? When she first appears, just silently walking along. At that point, she’s just weird hair and a cool hat. It can only go downhill from there. Surely, she didn’t have to talk to confirm that she’s the fairy godmother of a magical girl story. In fact, when she talked about how her wish granting had no strings attached and then immediately started to list the strings, I thought this was going to be a Madoka Magica sort of magical girl story (actually, I first thought of Princess Tutu, but mentioning that show would make me look old, so I won’t), and mind you, that may actually have been more interesting. And without the dialogue, would you be able to tell either way? No! And that’s for the better!
That’s the magic of Passerby’s Greater Theory of Anime Dialogue: if nobody ever said anything, never tried to explain the plot, never revealed their motivations, then the story is as good as you can interpret it to be. You think this episode would work better as a heartwrenching drama? Done! Or do you think it’s all one massive parody? Also done! As nobody ever says anything that can contradict you, it’s good. In fact, try watching this episode again with the sound turned off, and no subtitles. You won’t really be missing out on that much at all. A testament to Kyoto Animation’s continual visual fidelity, at the very least? Nah, I rather chalk it up to my scientific brilliance. Go on, test Passerby’s Greater Theory of Anime Dialogue. It’ll make for a much better watch.
Or, just fry a part of your brain. I think it makes for a similar experience.