「孤高のアルケミスト」 (Kokou no Arukemisuto)
“The Lone Alchemist”
The manju and mascot projects remain personal accomplishments for Yoshino and company, even if they weren’t 100% perfect, but this episode shows that the series can still be comfortable with the girls being unable to successfully push an initiative they have. In fact, this episode draws a larger divide between the innovative ideas that the girls and some of the more imaginative villagers harbor, and the deep-seated loathing many of the villagers have to change. In this divide, it does a service to Sanae by shedding light on her motivations, and the conflicting feelings she has about being in Manoyama.
One thing about the episode that drew me in was that it introduced villagers other than Kadota who are excited to work alongside the girls in blending old and new. Doku, a mechanic who is constantly working on his next great invention, is pumped up about building mechanical suits and vending machine jukeboxes in a shed with a box of scrap. It’s refreshing to see him and Tatsuo, an open-minded woodcarver, take to Yoshino’s concepts, and play around with them to see how they could fuse Tatsuo’s wood-crafting and Doku’s machinery to create something to wow the general public.
On the opposite end, Kazushi provides a healthy contrast to their push for innovation that was previously only lead by Ririko’s crabapple grandma, Chitose. While Chitose wants to push back against any attempts at breaking tradition mainly to get on Kadota’s case, Kazushi offers a purist’s point-of-view, and calls out Sanae and Yoshino for having a fleeting interest in wood-working as outsiders who have not been aware of the complexities of carving. It is a pretentious, d-bag move, but at the same time, it’s something the girls can use as a learning lesson on Manoyama’s wood-carving history as they try to come up with a solution that courts tourists and makes the villagers happy at the same time. The vending machine wooden Buddha was awesome, but this would be a good chance to work on a project even they’d give a thumbs up to.
The episode also gave Sanae more to work with as she makes a rocky transition towards moving in with everybody. In the process of dropping a romance flag for Kazushi, Sanae places a bulk of the responsibility on herself to try and win his approval of the tourism agency’s wood-carving projects. Sadly for her, Episode 4 doesn’t give her a positive outlook on her work in Manoyama as Kazushi’s purist rant makes her feel that her desire to move to the rural town as an escape from the city life is not genuine. Even though it took her away from the stress and health scares she’s dealt with in the city to move over to the countryside, she’ll have to figure out what other perks the country has other than serenity if her new friends are going to try to convince her to stay on the team.