「ちびっ子晴彦くん」 (Chibikko Haruhiko-kun)
I was fully prepared to watch this week’s Musaigen no Phantom World. The police confiscated my Taser, but I had a toaster and a superconductive fork that works almost as well. I had cleared a small spot on my desk all so I can better slam my head against it to restart my brain when it inevitably shuts down. And I also prepared a tall bottle of vodka. I’ve devised a clever drinking game for Phantom World. Every time something defies logic, taste, or causality, take a shot. Ten minutes in, or whenever you feel like it, chug the bottle.
Turns out, my exhaustive preparations went mostly to waste. Which really should be good news, but I don’t know what to do with this much vodka, nor this much toast.
I actually thought this episode was going to be something of a First of the North Star parody, and I was actually pretty excited because this was the point where I can fully pretend I was watching Excel Saga. Instead, it seems the Musaigen no Phantom World is actually turning itself back to its overarching narrative this way, and not with the plot coupon that it really doesn’t want us to forget about. I’m not concerned about that, actually; it being such a blatant device means that Phantom World will cash it when its good and ready. Plot device or not, it’s still a good time for Phantom World to get serious again if it ever was going to, considering how few episodes we have left and, shockingly, it seems that it actually wants to make something more of itself. I suppose it may as well, since it has all this setup just lying around, and even Excel Saga managed something in the end.
Remember back when Phantom World was still dealing with themes of childhood and family and isolation? Back in the days of yore when, in our weakest moments, we would be tempted to take this show remotely seriously? Well, everything old is new again as Phantom World digs up its narrative and reanimates it to dance for us once more. And hey, I liked it. Sure, the scenario is still utterly contrived, but it’s straightforward (hey, we want to show Haruhiko as a child. Let’s just revert him to childhood). And while in the end the best we’ll get in one episode is a poor man’s CLANNAD (keeping in mind who were behind the CLANNAD anime), it still made for a pretty good tale of a neglected child and the plights of a single mother (school, two part time jobs and raising a kid sounds about right). The drama didn’t drown out the gags, and the gags didn’t undercut the drama. Mostly. Your tastes will vary.
I think I’m going to miss this episode. For one, Kid!Haruhiko is a much more interesting character than his regular incarnation. As a child, he’s a relatively (relatively) realistic depiction of a precocious brat (for example, children notice things). As adolescent, Haruhiko is just the buttmonkey of the show (but, well, hello ladies). I usually have no love lost for children, because every generation hates every other generation that comes after them, but I’d rather keep the kid. He also draws out the best of Mai’s character, elevating her from just being the damsel/punches stuff/the damsel who punches stuff.
I would watch Phantom World does Usagi Drop, is what I’m saying. I would watch an entire season of it. Right up until the kid grows up.