「スフィンクスの戯れ」 (Sufinkusu no Tawamure)
“The Sphinx’s Antics”
So this is what the elderly population will look like in 60 years? What a scary thought! But the episode tackles what exactly a transition to high-tech gadgets in society could mean for a small town like Manoyama. What shocked me is how easy it was for the elderly people that live near the mountains of Warayiba to pick up on the technology they’re given after they’re shown how to use the internet. More often than not, I’ve had many encounters with older people who were bitter about having to sit down and learn about how to use modern-day conveniences like e-mail or social media. In this anime, they were still open for using the tablets the city gave them, albeit for the wrong reasons like covering their ramen or using it as a flashlight that goes out when it’s creepy owner wants to grope butts. Once the girls show them the wonders of the internet, however, they are very quick to learn about the nuances of using computers and devices. Whether it’s finding shogi apps, uploading their woodcrafting videos, or asking Siri to find butts on the internet, these old people are the most open-minded to modern technology I’ve seen.
That doesn’t mean introducing tech has been all sugar and rainbows, as it does show how too much internet access can create the anti-social network. Skepticism takes hold when the girls find that they accidentally created elderly neckbeards that troll each other, and get up in each other’s faces, not online, to see what happens. On a deeper note, it contemplates what effects technological advancement would have on the livelihood of those in the town. Our bus driver, Takamizawa, spends a majority of the episode fearing for his job as he is told about the advent of self-driving cars. While it’s far from perfect, the tech’s existence gives him a sense of insecurity over his job being easily replaceable, and causes him to get in a verbal sparring match with Erika over his vulnerability.
To emphasize how technology could potentially push people out of their livelihood, the grumpy professor who is secretly hoarding the treasure they need acts as a thorn in the tourism agency’s side over their push for development. As he shoots down every suggestion to improve the bus route between Manoyama and Warayiba before it’s erased, Sanae is hit the hardest by her suggestion to have the Warayiba villagers move to Manoyama. Despite the professor and Sanae being in the same position as city folk who came to settle in the countryside, he picks at her for how it would cause the elderly to abandon the homes and livelihood that they’ve already paid off and settled in only to have to pay off another home and find a new occupation. Although it inspired Sanae to help spear-head the initiative to connect Manoyama and Warayiba through social media, it is still a sore spot for Sanae to handle as she struggles alongside Yoshino and Maki to feel like they can really contribute to the town if they are from cities with better infrastructure and had an easier transition to new technology.
Additionally, it creates further conflict when the professor has his own ideas in mind for how to use social media as a weapon against Yoshino and the tourism agency. While the episode’s focus on Manoyama expanding it’s internet presence is the most fascinating thing about the episode (save for Chitose being tsundere about Kadota’s health or Ririko keeping in contact with Lucia through Facetime), it’s also about the current fetch-quest the girls are on. It might be an unusual RPG-style approach to an anime that’s been a relatively cozy slice-of-life about the quarter-life crisises of working women, but it does justice to the themes the show has been toying around with for some time. Trying to find the treasures allows the show to delve into topics like technological innovation and new media in rural towns, but also forms an end-goal that’s more realistic for the show to approach than something far off in the distance. This particular treasure is the biggest obstacle they’ve faced yet since they’re at the mercy of an incredibly stuffy professor who is waiting for the fruits of his game to emerge before he’ll be open to giving away the treasure he’s hiding. Nonetheless, the end of the episode has created enough of a conflict to have me thinking how on earth Yoshino’s hostage situation will be solved.