I remember I was gushing over episode 2, probably more for personal reasons than for genuine artistic ones (though I do think this is the strongest start to a Key show ever), and so it was just a little disappointing to see it slip back into a more “typical” kind of mode with this episode. Of course, it’s way too early to prejudge anything–dang it, I learned that lesson by now!–but this episode more than the previous ones felt more like a collection of loosely connected vignettes rather than a more cohesive story that was pulling forward in a certain direction.
On the other hand, it was also genuinely funny.
There are some new developments, to be sure. There’s a new character, Yoshino Yuusuke, the ex-rock star who now moonlights as an electrician, as well as a new girl in the library. Is Yuusuke being set up as a bishounen rival for at least some of the girls? There is the rather intriguing pre-credits intro which is told from the perspective of a robot built from scrap parts, who wants nothing more than to be loved but cannot feel warmth anyway. Can you say OBVIOUS METAPHOR ALERT? Still, it was at least slightly original, and out of all the interesting aspects of this show, this blank alternate world of Nagisa’s (I assume that is her) is the most interesting to me. It has potential to work a lot better than the 1000-year-old curse of Air, which was a great idea executed poorly.
Speaking of Nagisa, she didn’t really develop as a character in this episode so much. Something about the semi-confession scene in the middle of the episode felt unearned, felt like it was a bit too much too soon, especially coming from an emotionally damaged guy like the protagonist. (Granted–both of them are probably emotionally damaged and they are responding to each other that way.) We do find out more backstory about her, true, but not much about her alter ego which I think is the key to understanding her character. And please, I hope they don’t play up the physical weakness + extreme guilt whenever she feels like she makes “trouble” bit again too much…yes, I know there are people like that. I’m like the latter sometimes. But it’s an overused character trait and an excuse to give the girl lots of vulnerability and make her so dependent and helpless (which, I’ve suggested before, is the real key to moe). I was starting to warm to the show precisely because it seemed that Tomoya and Nagisa were actually having some kind of genuine back and forth for a change, and while that isn’t absent here, I can easily see it going wrong if the conventions and cliches begin to crop up again.
But, this episode has the best humor–or at least the most parts where I laughed–so far. There were some great one-liners by Tomoya:
Good old fashioned slapstick, mostly with Sunohara being the victim:
(Did he forget, btw, that women do have razors at least to shave their legs?)
And a wonderful sequence where Tomoya tricks Sunohara into thinking he woke up in the future.
(I’m sorry, but this sequence does not count. These are the kind of moe characters I simply can’t and don’t like. I forget who it was that called it a retard fetish or something.)
The funny episodes were relatively disconnected, though there was a slight sense that there are characters beginning to coalesce around each other. (I suspect Tomoyo and Sunohara will somehow become a couple. Kyou will like Tomoya but will be relegated to the suffering “just friends” status. Etc.) I’ve stated before that these romance shows work best when the relationships and main focuses are clear, and so far, it is relatively speaking. Nagisa’s family is the only one depicted in such detail, after all.
My prediction is that what we have are the meeting of two angsts, Tomoya’s and Nagisa’s, and the reason why they will fall for each other is because they are so badly damaged in some way that only they can help each other out…which is, oddly enough, a lot like the anime version of Welcome to the NHK! (which along with Honey and Clover was my favorite show of 2006 on the whole). This is of course not nearly as acute, emotionally realistic, or even as intelligent as that show, but few are. This is at the end of the day a Key game adaptation with many of the conventions of the renai game in place. But given those constraints, it’s still doing quite well.
To put it another way: it’s a heckuva lot less annoying than their previous works. And that’s gotta mean something.