「歌舞伎町フリーマントル」 (Kabukichou Furiimantoru)
In my preview on this show, after describing the staff/studio, I said, “This is a leap of faith on my part, and it would need to be on yours too, because “high school girls visit the South Pole” sounds silly, no doubt.” A key difficulty of this story is in taking a premise that’s in the uncanny value of unbelievable—not nearly as crazy as “Auto-Memories Doll learns about love”, “Kids pilot women-shaped mecha”, or whatever goes down in Fate/EXTRA, but on the continuum of realistic stories, we all damn well know that no high school girls are going to Antarctica—and making us believe. They could have handwaved this away, and said, “High school girls can go to Antarctica because SHUT UP they just can!!”, or they could turned into the issue and addressed it head-on. The former would have required a silly, irreverent tone, and would have made for a completely different show. This was the right decision, and so far, they’re slaying it.
But first, Miyake Hinata (Iguchi Yuka). It feels like she may have joined in on the adventure too quickly, but enough work was done to convey why she was doing it—she doesn’t like to be part of the crowd, she’s not in school, she has two years until college exams, she was jealous of what she saw in Kimari and Shirase—and it all groks with what we’ve seen to make a complete, two-dimensional person, so I’m on board. That’s my reaction personally, if you said it felt too easy, I’d totally see where you’re coming from. I’m well aware of my tendency to gush and forgive stories I’m jiving on, this one definitely included, so you won’t hear any argument from me if you disagree. I do think that forgiveness is the reward great work gives a storyteller, though, so I’m happy to give it. If you are doing great work, I’ll forgive a fumble or two. Seems fair to me.
It also helps that Hinata is instantly likeable, both on her own and how she mixes with the other two. Another avenue of forgiveness: if it’s fun, I’ll come along! I especially liked her in contrast to Braid-chan, who, while not a total downer, was definitely more of a skeptic. I get it, and it’s a good storytelling choice to have a semi-supportive character like that who can say what the audience is thinking, but I always try to be the person who supports others in their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or drink less or whatever, even if I might secretly doubt that they’ll stick with it. Doesn’t matter, I’ll cheerlead you and believe in you until the end. I’d rather live in a world with more Hinatas.
How the show addressed the mundane absurdity of the girls’ quest was savvy. The Civilian Antarctic Expedition is an essential piece, but making them go farther and implement an actual plan to try to get on there—and then having the sensible adults chase their asses down and disabuse them of this fantasy, and to have Shirase’s second, better plan be shot down as well, shows that if these girls are going to get on that boat, they’re going to have to earn it. There won’t be any easy paths, and the writers are practically going down the list of possible audience objections and checking them off one at a time. It was also hilarious watching them argue over who’s going to do the seducing, because they’re all so bad at it! Just a hilarious bit of character comedy. Moar plz!
But undoubtedly the highlight was the run. This is not a show about Antarctica, not really. It’s about the journey, and what making the attempt will change. That’s a wise theme, because as much as I’m on board with their attempt, it’s still friggin’ Antarctica, which is still a terrific place to go if you want to struggle and then die. The run encapsulated this journey as motion, of moving toward something worthwhile, even if they don’t grasp it (something Kimari would still refute the worth of, but I think that’s where this is going). I don’t suspect we’ll spend the entire season watching them try and fail to get on that boat, but I think that for reasons of TV logic, because I’m pretty sure the writers want to play with their characters in Antarctica. If they were real people, though, I do believe the attempt has worth regardless of the results. Which goes for each of us as well.
Bonus points for how many different sides of the girls we got to see, especially Shirase. So many sides to Shirase. Also, that coup d’etat!! This staff/studio is so great at character work. No wonder they keep knocking things out of the park. Hopefully they’ll keep it up for the rest of this season.
- I really like the lack of a next episode preview. I like that a lot. The episode itself should sell the next episode. It’d be like putting a preview at the end of each chapter of a book. Why! Just build the cliffhanger into the chapter. Same thing here. Plus we don’t risk spoiling anything this way, which is how magic is born.
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ED2: 「ここから、ここから」 (Koko kara, Koko kara) by Minase Inori, Hanazawa Kana, Iguchi Yuka, & Hayami Saori