「乙女は森のなか」 (Otome wa Mori no Naka)
“Maidens in the Woods”
In this week’s episode, an outdoor festival is in the works for the school’s events committee, and the Literature Club is tasked with creating a mythos behind the evening dance as a magical and romantic experience. However, at this point in the story, the girls find themselves unable to come up with a scenario given that they are currently in the process of actively sabotaging their happiness whether it be out of pride, spite, or lust.
Unfortunately for Rika, her tendency to look a gift horse in the mouth have come to bite her as she openly acts ashamed of her relationship with Shun. He tries to excuse it as just Rika still finding it hard to avoid her old ways, but he is genuinely hurt by how quick she is to shoot him down. When he asks if she wants to be with him, her confirmation seems like it’s enough for the time being, but her insistence on having them keep their relationship a secret because of the implication that he would make her look bad is demoralizing and insulting. On top of this, she took it into her own hands in creating obstacles for the Literature Club when she kept telling administrators that dancing and the bonfire had to be banned for sexual content.
You would think Rika would be the most insensitive character of the episode, but that award goes to Niina for trying to spur Kazusa and Izumi to confess by pretending to steal her crush. While it is with the intent on getting Kazusa to take a stand on something for a change, Niina is also doing it because of her grudge against everyone in the past whoever accused her of trying to steal someone else’s boyfriend, so she plans on taking it out on Kazusa by…indulging in the stereotype? It’s difficult to applaud the tenacity of Niina’s powerplay to create misunderstandings with the full intention of causing disarray when it’s not only incredibly petty but is unhelpful when your target-of-choice is a dopey bookworm with an inferiority complex. Kazusa might stick up for herself eventually, but being in the crossfire of a vindictive friend who she has no chance of competing with on an equal playing field is currently doing little to spur her to do anything other than wallow in self-loathing and self-pity.
Another confusing story is Hongou’s considering how scrambled her mindset is after being jerked around by both her editors and Milo-sensei. Earlier in the episode, her editors did a complete 180 and told her that erotic literature novels written by highschoolers are outdated in favor of self-fulfillment young teen fantasy novels. Hongou mentioned that she was never initially interested in erotic literature and had always intended on breaking through with a more normal story, yet she continues to tread dangerous and ridiculous territory just because she’s too far gone to think about anything other than honing in on her erotic work and having sex with her teacher as the piece de resistance that will push her writing into new territory. It might feel like a tragic tale of a young writer broken by the misdirection that they’ve had to contend with ever since they joined up with a larger publisher, but it feels like ludicrous padding that exists to make sure that Hongou is still willing to try to go all the way with Milo-sensei. It doesn’t feel good to examine the anime in such a cynical light considering that the animation still looks outstanding and it is fascinating to see how much of a mess has been created since. But at the same time, it runs the dangerous trend within the show’s writing in that a story that could have been told in a compelling and relatable light would devolve into the evening drama tropes that soapier anime have come to embrace. The initial presentation of the anime was far better than that and hopefully, future episodes will start to come together again rather than come to embrace the hokey drama that sank other erotic late-night TV anime that have come out recently.