「最後の試験)」 (Saigo no Shiken)
“The Last Exam”
As the final exam rears its ugly head, Go-Toubun no Hanayome’s sixth episode kicks into hyper-speed as the sisters pull out every stop to find the motivation to persevere. As the girls prepare themselves for the exam, however, there is far more soul-searching they’ll have to do in order to clear their minds, both with their past actions and their current emotional turmoil.
Past episodes have elaborated on Itsuki’s unhealthy internalization of the role that her mother played in her and her sisters’ upbringing, but this episode further contextualizes the extent of her suffering. At this point, most of her life decisions, from visiting her mother’s grave every month on the same day she died to doting on her sisters to wanting to pursue her mother’s career as a school teacher are all directly influenced by her.
I’m not sure if there is a stigma on mental health that prevents/discourages Itsuki from getting more professional help or if it’s only gotten harder to manage her feelings with exams coming around as a stressor, but it is unnerving to take a step back and examine all of this. When her mother’s former student talks about how she was as a teacher, it can be seen as more fuel for Itsuki to see the rewarding aspects of being a teacher, but it also feels like it gave her more fuel to place her mom on a high enough pedestal that not meeting the set expectations she has of her will cause her world to collapse.
It was a great episode for Yotsuba though, who also has internalized guilt over singling herself out as the reason why her other sisters dropped out to join her at a lower-tiered school after flunking out of the first one. Much of this ties their underperformance in school as a result of the trauma from their mother dying recently, so it makes sense that they would have to soul-search if they want to pass the mental blocks that made focusing on school nigh impossible. It felt both satisfying and heart-warming to see Yotsuba finally pull through and pass an exam as a result of her efforts bearing fruit and Fuutarou’s motivational push for her to have faith in her abilities.
But what Fuutarou was able to understand this time around is seeing how much she’s grown and what she excels at. By propping up her skills in Japanese, it takes the heat off of the mental block she had of everyone lacking faith in her as the most underperforming quint, but also reminds her of how beautiful it is that she is doing as extraordinary as she is with so much trauma saddling her. Where it’s admirable to see how much she has grown and how much Fuutarou values her for how she not only tries her damndest, but how much he sees that she deserves credit for the outstanding work she can’t bring herself to acknowledge that she did amazing at.
On the flipside, we get much more of the trashy guilty pleasure romance in this episode from the new developments going on with Miku and Ichika. On Miku’s end, her obsession with Fuutarou ended up causing her to spend more time learning how to make palatable chocolate than study for her exams. Most of her internal issues come from not having the confidence to express herself and putting up certain boundaries around Fuutarou so that they know not to pursue him.
It’s her uncertainty that ends up giving way to Ichika’s dilemma on whether or not she’d feel like a monster for trying to get with someone she was previously trying to hook her sister up with. But because of the limitations Miku places on herself like vowing not to express her feelings for him unless she gets the highest score of the sisters and allowing competition for Fuutarou’s affections, she sabotages herself and gives Ichika the greenlight to be validated by the guilty feelings she tries to repress.
It’s something fascinating about Ichika’s character to have most of this episode center around her trying to fight off her desires for Fuutarou any way she can while she continues to help Miku behind-the-scenes up until Miku’s declaration.
The animation didn’t reflect it when Miku first told Ichika about her intention to confess only if she got high marks, but it sure did when Ichika blew away the rest of her sisters to kingdom come with her test results. She might end up feeling horrible about it, but in the manga and the anime, her grin and the sole “Yay,” in response to learning she got the highest grades was a chilling, sinister dunk on every fiber of Miku’s being. It might be an exaggeration to say it was a Macbethian turn for Ichika’s character, who had been cordial yet guilt-ridden about her love for Fuutarou up til now, but there was a perverse joy I had seeing Ichika waver between trying to be a supportive sister and trying to give a friendly reminder to the girls on who exactly they’re going against.
At the same time, it is definitely morally conflicting to enjoy Go-Toubun no Hanayome when you’re watching these girls who are already in a vulnerable emotional state as a result of childhood trauma being further agonized by being pitted against each other. Whether it’s as a result of unrequited affections or in-fighting over a guy who they imprinted their idea of the perfect man on because their fathers were never there, it can be difficult to watch this and not feel guilty that you’re reveling in their continued suffering.
Fuutarou can try to enable them to be at their most comfortable as they aim to improve their grades, but he’ll also end up doing damage if he pulls the rug out from under their feet by not returning the affection they have for him. It can be fun and games to see how spicy the drama gets, but it’s a lose-lose situation to have such a large rift in the family happen because suddenly, you have to show up to the bachelorette party, wedding, and reception for the sister that stole your man. There’s no way this will end well, but in a way, it’s what feeds into the morbid curiosity I have while reading/watching this series about the state of this family once the dust is settled and they’ll have to unpack the truly conflicting feelings of having to restrain yourself from making the moves on your brother-in-law.