「私を知らぬ間に変えたもの」 (Watashi o Shirazu Aida ni Kaeta Mono)
“Things That Changed Before We Knew It”
For the sake of judging the anime objectively, I haven’t been as in-depth about the works of Okada Mari. In fact, it’d take the entire day to be able to pick apart such a large oeuvre from such an accomplished writer. But if I’m to describe what many of her works emblemize, for the most part, it’s chaotic passion. You might be tempted to think “melodrama”, but with Okada Mari, her version of melodrama would involve over-the-top, passionate combinations of rage, madness, infatuation, and desperation. You’ll have the arguments you’d find in a live-action drama, but involving a middle-aged lolicon with a bondage fetish and a psychotic high school girl who would go as far as kill to achieve happiness. There are times of beauty, but times of madness. Moments where you think Okada Mari might just be one of the best AND worst writers you’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. In this episode, you see these shades of Okada Mari scattered about with scenes that will leave you befuddled, puzzled, and perhaps, even a little teary-eyed.
Let’s begin with the subject of old creepy men. One of Okada’s old works, Hanasaku Iroha was one show I got invested in back when it aired. It began relatively tame, but then you get to a guest at the inn, Jiroumaru, who abducts our main heroine, has her tied up in bondage, gives up, and is eventually redeemed so that he may eventually be a regular on the show and continue to creep us out with scenes like writing erotic novels about the inn’s staff and fake stage plays where one of the main girls is impregnated. This might be an inkling, but I’m just saying that it’s not a huge surprise to see at least two older men that would share this distinction with Jiroumaru of being a complete creep. Niina’s old acting coach Saegusa is written with the full intention of giving Okada Mari carte blanche to go absolutely off-the-rails, giving him a pedophilic obsession with young girls. The anime tries to excuse his creepiness by claiming that he never sexually approached Niina because then she would not be a little girl anymore, that he will eventually have to let her go off and “become an adult”, and then seek out another young girl muse to become spiritually connected with until he gives her up too. Niina’s definition of sexuality is stunted as a result of knowing full well that her older pedophilic teacher doesn’t want to actually have sex with her, but that’s a whole testament to the ickiness that this show expresses with Niina’s character. Where her whole idea of “dying” and giving up her youth all stems from the fact that she was rejected by a pedophile. The fact that she related all of this with Kazusa feeling awful because her childhood friend didn’t show much sexual interest in her is baffling and takes the plot in a completely different direction. A direction that would further be solidified by Milo-sensei giving Hongou tasks to privately expose herself to him so that she would be able to release her sexual frustrations on him without having him get in trouble with authorities or the school board.
For all of the times where you want to question Okada Mari’s sanity, however, there are moments where she does a great job at giving us some good fun and genuine emotion along the way. Momoko’s side of the story in this episode was amusing to watch as she is slowly disenchanted by Sugimoto and how he enjoys humblebragging about how chivalrous he is for covering such a small tab. It is a little biased on my part, but the most enjoyable and relatable part that really hones in on what it’s like to be young and in love is the Rika and Shun sub-plot. I honestly couldn’t help, but get a little emotional when Shun was so earnestly happy when he read the end of the paper where Rika accepted his proposal to ask her out. It’s so heartfelt and joyous that it makes it difficult to be hard on the anime when it reaches its most ludicrous heights.