「ドラム缶でぶっ飛ばせ！」 (Doramukan de Buttobase!)
“Bash That Drum Can!”
This is my favorite episode of the season, and that’s saying something.
Last week I said that episode 10 was, thematically, my favorite episode. I don’t have to equivocate on this one. Episode 11 is my favorite episode of Yorimoi so far, and that takes some doing. Using my favorite theme with my favorite character, and then hitting a home run in the big climactic moment will do that. It was so satisfying I can’t adequately describe the feeling. It’s like getting a big ol’ hug, but on my heart.
As I said last week, friendship is my favorite theme, which is why it features so prominently into my own books. It’s why so many of my favorite stories feature great friendships, and why a good friendship plotline is like weaponized catnip for my soul. But where Yuzuki was approaching it from a position of ignorance, Hinata is coming at it from a direction I’m much more familiar with: anger. As much as I’d like it to to be otherwise, I’m the kind of male who has trouble openly expressing many emotions (stories are the only avenue I’ve found to let myself openly cry—and even then, only for a moment), but anger I can do. It takes a good amount of aggravation to get me there, but if I get there, I—just like Hinata—can boil to the point of spitting, shaking, and yelling. It doesn’t go past stomping about cursing or punching a pillow, but then again, I’m older than Hinata. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was some of this in my past.
So when I say that the depiction of frustrated anger is done well, trust me. It was. I may be an American man and she may be a (fictional) Japanese girl, but anger is anger. What makes it work all the better is how well the writers managed to convey that Hinata’s usual antics were in fact covering for how she was NOT OK. Other than a few clear hints early on, mostly she actually was being normal, which is an even better trick; it makes Kimari and Yuzuki not seem dense for not picking up on it. But since the inciting incident happened in the episode’s first minutes, the early hints bled over into everything else. The foreshadowing earlier in the series helped too. It was well done.
Shirase reading the email addressed to Hinata was another stellar moment, because it was drama not for the sake of drama, but arising from character. I talk about this a lot, but Shirase didn’t peek at Hinata’s email because a writer said, “Let’s insert some drama here!” She did it because she cared about her friend enough to, in a moment of weakness, violate her privacy. When Hinata then stormed over to her, it could have been time for a proper fight, but it was averted—because again, that’s not what the characters would do. Hinata would snap, but she’s too clearheaded a girl to think the worst of Shirase, and not enough of an anger monster to snap anyway. Which goes to prove my point: the characters are driving these interactions, not the writers. They set everyone and everything up well enough early on that they don’t have to manipulate events by this point.
That there were two heartfelt moments this episode shows how well the writers understand their characters. Hinata is a tough nut to crack; she’s a tough character to work with, because she defies easy solutions. Kimari is straightforward, Shirase is bull-headed, and Yuzuki is selectively naive enough to put them on a collusion course with character building and drama, but Hinata is not. She defuses conflict. She wiggles out of uncomfortable situations. She hides her true feelings behind a faker’s smile, and she’s good enough at it to get away with it 99 times out of 100. Emiya Shirou could learn a thing or two from her.
Which is why it takes someone as stubborn as Shirase to crack her, but even then, that first moment was a gimme. Hinata knew what she was doing, because once again, she’s like me. Oh, it’s not that she didn’t mean what she said to Shirase; she did. But she was letting her in because she knew if she didn’t deal with this, it was never going to pass. Shirase is too pig-headed for that. It’s not that she wasn’t showing a moment of vulnerability, it’s that she was choosing to show it, and that still counts. It just means that the nut hasn’t been totally cracked yet.
I bet you all saw Shirase’s actions at the broadcast coming. I know I did. I also bet it didn’t matter. While there was some question as to whether Hinata would be encouraged to reconcile with the girls, when you remember that it was Shirase she was talking to? Yeah, no. If Hinata is petty, then Shirase is petty and a jerk, but she’s a good jerk to have on your side. Her giving those girls what for, and running them off for her friend, was predictable, but it was also right. It was satisfying. It’s wish fulfillment, but in the good way, because don’t we all want to have friends like Shirase and the others? Friends who will defend us, even when we claim we’re fine? I know I do. There’s not often call in our everyday lives for someone to stand up on our behalf so dramatically—or at least, I hope there isn’t—so it’s wonderful to see it in our stories. Predictable doesn’t mean a damn thing when it’s so damn right. Right?
I said this was my favorite episode of the series so far, and it was. One caveat, though: that doesn’t mean it’s the one that struck me the most emotionally. The devil’s truth is that expectations are a huge factor in the visceral response to a story, so it was the early episodes that really got to me, because that’s when I was still amazed that my cute-girls-go-to-Antarctica dark horse pick was actually turning out to be this good. By now I expect every episode to be amazing, and the fact that I still haven’t been disappointed is remarkable. I have a feeling this will be one of the episodes that I most think back on later, though.
- Apparently a bunch of the “spoiler” scenes in the OP are actually canonical events that happened but weren’t shown in the episodes proper. Slick trick, amirite? That was pretty clear after they lost the jump rope competition off-screen, but I like that (for example) they didn’t waste time on Kimari’s suntan, but also figured out a way to make it not a surprise. Very good job.
- HanaKana is apparently reprising her Saki Achiga-hen lines. Also, Shirase really is the daughter of Gin and Takako :3
- Speaking of Shirase and Takako, it was really smooth how the subplot that had to do with Takako was woven into the background of the episode (with Shirase) without distracting from the main event. Plus it made it an even better ending with Shirase’s big moment led to Gin’s decision. We’re in the home stretch now.
My SECOND novel, Freelance Heroics, is available now! (Now in print!) (Also available: Firesign #1 Wage Slave Rebellion.) Sign up for my email list for updates. At stephenwgee.com, the latest post: Book 3 Progress Report.