「男は学習の庭に来ます」 (Otoko wa gakushuu no niwa ni kimasu)
“The Man Who Came to the Garden of Learning”
This week, Kuromukuro takes it back to anime’s favorite setting.
That’s right, school’s in session bitches.
Up until now, Kuromukuro has primarily concerned itself with fantastic battles, as well as developing the central dynamic between its protagonists. The show’s most recent episode aims to establish the status quo—familiarizing us with the setting we’re gonna be seeing for the coming weeks. This makes the sudden shift to a high school setting all the more jarring. The show’s tone has been cheery and friendly, but often grand and dramatic for some really intense scenes these past few weeks. Episode four brought it down to earth with this change of scenery, introducing a bevy of lighter, high school-pertinent—from the obnoxious horny dudes, to the school counsellor, and so on—into the mix.
At first glance, I can’t say I’m especially pleased with it. In these scenes, the show seems to completely transform into something unrecognizable. Suddenly characters are concerning themselves with petty, every-day high school shenanigans. Not to say this is a bad thing, but up until now these guys were preoccupied with combating alien demon robots. Scenes usually took place in a freakin’ UN facility. There was a great sense of pertinence and power to the show, even in the quieter moments. Their motivations and goals were marked by some larger, ongoing story.
To see them now deal with typical teenage antics is a little off-putting. Again, a break away from the action is never a bad thing, but this new setting sports a radically different cast of characters than what we’ve been accustomed to. The show is now committing time to subplots involving unrequited high school crushes—something I previously wouldn’t imagine the series to take on. My biggest fear is that the show continues to oscillate between these drastically different settings, with little to no crossover. Will these new high school characters bear any relevance to the already established character goals and motivations, or will they get screen time to merely provide the requisite high school antics? I don’t know, but I’m hoping the show will find some medium in the coming weeks.
Furthermore, I don’t think the show even made an entirely convincing case to enjoy these new characters to begin with. The ragtag group of guys already strikes me as a mix between unlikable and forgettable—and not even in the fun way. The smug dude with the phone is obnoxious and pervy, and we’re given no reason to root for this beanie-wearing love-struck teen. Also, the health counsellor is an entirely perplexing character. I’m guessing she’ll bear more relevance later on, but right now she’s nothing but an awkward, bumbling weirdo. Her comedic bits (if you could call them that) weren’t funny, just really uncomfortable. Why is she so inclined to help our samurai friend out other than the description of her job? Why is so awkward about it? Does she behave this awkwardly in general or just this situation in particular? There was just no takeaway from her introduction.
Small funny moments from our main characters still abounded, though. In particular, watching Ken—er—Kennosuke, hastily tap away at his portable dictionary during almost any conversation is a hilarious way to convey the guy’s honest efforts to adapt. I also audibly chuckled when the crowd of student onlookers cheered and awed at Kennosuke and Yukina depart, though that was perhaps out of surprise more than anything else.
Despite all that however, things got demonstrably familiar and exciting when the episode finally decided to kick things into gear. I’m excited for next week’s battle, and what our characters will find out about our antagonists.