「戦うガーネット」 (Tatakau gaanetto)
“The Fighting Garnet”
It’s obviously obvious, but Housekishou Richard-shi no Nazo Kantei is a very odd anime. I’m enjoying it quite a bit anyway, and this week’s episode is probably the best so far, but that alone would at least make it worth a longer look than normal. Series which meet expectations are fine (and when expectations are great the show can be too, as with Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun) but ones that defy them are a lot more rare. And ones (like this one) which are so idiosyncratic that you don’t even know what the expectations should be are rarer still.
I think the oddest and probably most important character here is not the titular jeweler, but Seigi. Richard-san is almost a Macguffin it seems – what he represents and the reactions he elicits as important as the man himself – but Seigi is so far the engine block of the show. As to the matter of his sexuality that seems very much an open question (only the first of many with him). He certainly seems interested in Tanimoto-san, to the point where he’s keen to go on his first real “date” (looking at rock outcroppings) with her. But the way he talks about Richard goes well beyond simple admiration.
This is an instance where Housekishou turned what I thought might be a misstep into a strength, something that always deeply endears a series to me. Seigi’s manner of speaking generally has been rather thoughtless, and the way he spoke about Richard in the third person with him right there in the room was frankly demeaning. I wasn’t sure the series felt that way, but that ended up being the central theme of the episode. Seigi’s words about Richard’s beauty ended up impacting a third party, but they were also an insult to Richard – pure objectification, plain and simple. Even if the series itself is guilty of this to an extent, it’s a good sign that Richard ended up pointing this out (more or less).
That third party is Yamamoto-san, a young-ish (maybe 30) woman who comes into the shop to buy a garnet engagement ring. Something is off with her right from the start, and a garnet is an unusual choice for an engagement ring. Seigi makes an ass of himself as usual, but in context his remark about garnets being a perfect representation of Yamamoto-san really took the cake. Talk about insulting – she was royally (no milk tea) pissed, and who can blame her. The fact that Seigi is so oblivious to his own tactlessness doesn’t excuse his behavior – he’s made a habit of this sort of thing but this was the most egregious example yet.
Richard’s manner of dealing with this is to send Seigi a mysterious fawning text designed to do exactly what it did – make Seigi as uncomfortable as possible. It’s a deliciously passive-aggressive approach to the problem and suits Richard’s obsessively discrete nature perfectly. While he ends up scolding Seigi on Yamamoto-san’s behalf one definitely senses that he’s also speaking for himself – and his remark about how his looks have done him more harm than good bolsters that impression. I also like the fact that Richard talked Yamamoto-san out of buying a ring – because when people are confused, he doesn’t think they should make that sort of commitment.
This is quite smart stuff, make no mistake. The odd thing is that as I noted the series is guilty of objectifying Richard in its own right, and its treatment of Yamamoto-san – sympathetic though it ultimately was – is guilty of a degree of condescension. I appreciated the fact that the episode included a lecture from Tanimoto-san about how marketing powers so much of what we assume to be true, including about diamonds – the fact is that all first-world countries are rife with this but Japan (KFC for Xmas, Valentine’s chocolate et al) is especially riddled. Housekishou Richard-shi no Nazo Kantei is grounded in an intelligent perspective and unabashedly offbeat, and those are pretty solid foundations to build a series upon.