「バスガス爆発」 (Bus Gas Bakuhatsu)
“Bus, Gas, Explosion”
Araburu Kisetsu‘s third episode confronts the girls’ issue with finding a supervisor for their Literature Club when it seems as if every teacher fears them and every student mocks them. But as they try to get their club’s survival settled, they must also face their own internal struggles they have faced since “ess-ee-ecks” started to swirl around in their heads in a tempestuous rage.
While a majority of the girls only have to think about how or why sexuality would come into the equation based on their interactions with boys in school, Hitoha’s circumstances are affecting her bottom line as an author. She writes erotic stories on the side out of curiosity, but when her editor decides to publish a full book dedicated to the story she made without her consent, it pushes her out into the forefront. Not only does she have to deal with everyone reading her stories, but she also has to handle the fact that her description of how sex is performed comes off like the writings of someone who learned about it through the media they consume. It isn’t at My Immortal levels of bad, but it’s a few mollusk references away from an early Type-Moon sex scene. At this point, we see one of the few scenes in this episode that were evocative and distressing; the moment where Hitoha tearfully types out her proposition to have sex with her erotic penpal. If her penpal happened to be a complete stranger and wasn’t presented as a humorously embarrassing realization that he turned out to be the awkward literature teacher who has absolutely no interest in hooking up with a student and is swiftly blackmailed into supervising a club as they call him by his penpal name Milo, this particular scene would’ve been devastating. Especially considering that you have someone young who is being ridiculed and shamed into giving up her virginity as if she had no say in the matter as an erotic novelist. It’s reminiscent of the final scene of the South Park episode where the girls at school are pressured into Photoshopping themselves into a version of themselves that would be desirable to those around them. That sense of peer-pressure to be goaded into discarding a part of yourself is a painful all-too-real reflection of how people, especially young girls like Hitoha, are trapped in situations where they feel like they have to treat parts of themselves like discardable objects and treat removing your individuality as if they’re removing a bandage.
Whereas Hitoha had framed her effort to get rid of her sexuality as a tearful yet necessary step to being able to describe sex more easily, Rika is still having a difficult time coming to grips with conformity. Although Rika’s straight-edged and hot-headed personality would initially make her out to be the polar opposite of someone defenseless to conforming to what other people say, she is actually the most vulnerable member in the Literature Club so far. Unlike Kazusa’s cynicism over feeling like the world is out to get her, Rika is sincerely bothered by what others think about her. The past two episodes have had her reduced to tears at the instant that someone called her unattractive in the classroom or brought up her hymen in front of her gym class. The humiliation she feels from her peers mocking her looks end up conflicting with her puritanical ideology when she discovers the magazine that features Erika, the model that Shun says she resembles. Throughout the episode, she continues to think about Erika as she sees her reflection, seeing a possibly prettier version of her staring back at her even with her classmates making crude comments about her outside of school.
Much like with the earlier South Park comparison, it harkens back to the idea of Rika having the weight of conformity pressing down on her. Do you give in and present yourself in a dolled-up fashion or stick to the same path you’ve always been taking? Are you doing it for yourself or doing it because other people are telling you to do it? People bring up “You would be prettier if you smiled more or put on makeup,” as an outright insult, but are the voices in your head that tell you to look “prettier” positive or negative? Is making yourself look stunning and gorgeous something you do because you want to celebrate yourself, your style, and your image to the public? Or is it something you’re pressured to do because the constructs of society demand that you change yourself into a more alluring person and base your inherent value off of your looks? These are concepts that can easily be read from Rika’s scenes with how much she vigorously reflects on how she looks, whether she really has the potential to look like a supermodel with enough time, care, and fashion tutorials, and if her class would think differently of her if she came down a staircase looking like the new Sonezaki Rika while Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” plays in the background. Does her life need that late 90’s M. Night Shyamalan rewrite? Or would she just want to have people look at her as a good enough person based on her original looks? There’s some skin-deep, cerebral teen drama happening in the midst of this show, and it’s impressive with how it approaches her side of the story with her wavering feelings about possibly attempting to fit in with the popular crowd by considering reinventing her appearance.
With Kazusa, there is considerably less development. She’s still stuck trying to reframe Izumi’s current personality into the infallible image she created of him from back when they were children. There was a comical moment where she got her parents to reminisce about how special her birth was when they misunderstood her question about wanting “the talk,” but for the most part, her screen presence is centered around taking the My Neighbor Totoro disc case that happened to have a Bluray for the adult film The Wheels on the Cummuter Bus go “Oh Yeah, Harder!”. As a side note, Izumi must be loaded to have a laptop that can play Bluray discs. But instead than Kazusa trying to conceptualize that Izumi’s interest in bus-themed gangbang porn stems from his earlier love for Lots and Lots of Trains as a child and not from his desire to watch the other kind of train, it’s the ending that holds far more value to the plot at hand. When Izumi walks in on Kazusa trying to stealthily return the Bluray, he tries to save face by reassuring Kazusa that he doesn’t have sexual desires that he channels into girls around him, including her. Here’s the kicker though; she’s in the mindset where she’s already figured out that she would want to be sexually desired by him. So in his attempts to assuage her from seeing him as this deviant sexual person who wants to have casual relationships with his classmates, preferably on commuter buses, he ends up confirming that he doesn’t see Kazusa in the kind of light that would make him want to consummate with her. In the process of shutting the door in her face metaphorically, she shuts the door in his face figuratively as she briskly and sorrowfully leaves him behind. What it means for how Kazusa will see Izumi now that she knows he’s not openly pining for her and for how Izumi will see Kazusa now that he knows that she was personally offended for not being seen as desirable by him will be compelling to see develop as time goes on. But for now, I’m curious about how the girls lives will unfold now that they are still able to hold Literature Club meetings with their new supervisor.