Turns out this show has a few tricks up its sleeves.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
Travis gathers the Seven-O agents in his office. He reveals that the top brass has asked for Kay to deliver a speech on Anthem to the police academy. She agrees, but this means that she will be unable to participate in the undercover mission that she, Pink, Boxer, and Robot had been working on. Krill volunteers to take her place and is very excited until he learns that he will have to dress as a woman. He initially protests, but Travis eventually convinces him to take the assignment.
Kirill stops by Dereck’s bar to speak with his sibling. Pink has asked them to teach Kirill how to act like a woman for the operation that evening. Kirill does his best to imitate a woman, but it’s not nearly enough. His sibling tells him that he needs to let go of his ideas of femininity because it is keeping him from actually embracing being a woman. Kirill isn’t so sure, but he doesn’t have much time to argue, and he sets off for the club where the sting is set to take place.
The mission is the prevention of an Anthem deal. A big-time dealer is going to sell a massive quantity to the scion of a rich Arab family. The gang gets in place and starts surveilling both targets when Kirill (now disguised as Olivia) is harassed by a boorish member of the party. The scion, Yusef, intervenes and saves Kirill by smoothly redirecting the partygoer. Kirill takes Yusef outside to thank him, and the two get to talking about their various ideas of being themselves. It turns out Yusef is very shy and all of this attention is not really his strong suit. Both start to fall for each other and nearly kiss before Yusef leaves to do the deal.
Down in a maintenance hallway, Yusef tries to cancel the deal, but his dealer isn’t keen to let him go. He threatens Yusef, but Seven-O intervenes. They chase the dealer and eventually apprehend him. Yusef goes to jail too, but he thanks Oliva for setting him on a more righteous path. Back at the precinct, everyone makes fun of Kirill for possibly really falling for Yusef. Even Doug gets in on the action. Krill is unsure how to feel, but knows that he must go down to the prison and set things straight
Double Decker definitely works better when it’s not constrained by its mythology. I may not love everything that the show is doing, but I’m much more interested in a character-based story with low-stakes but the high emotional investment to another episode that dives into Kirill’s nonsensical alien heritage. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of last month’s OVA, this seems to be something the show is interested in doing for a while and presents an interesting new way forward for the show. It’s still imperfect, but it feels much more like what the show creators are interested in.
Without the baggage of the show’s extended narrative, there’s a lot more room for theming, which was something that the show sorely needed. Honestly, this episode may have changed my whole perspective on the series. While I still think the moral center of the show is still a little off, I’m starting to see where it comes from. This is a show that really does think that working-class cops are going to be who take down the wealthy, white-collar criminals. There’s no side-eyed cynicism about Doug’s abilities to stop poverty by putting people in jail. Double Decker is wrong about a lot of things, but at least in OVA mode, they don’t seem to be mean-spirited about their opposition.
The pacing on this one was pretty good, as far as these things go. I think Rookie’s B-Plot was vastly underserved and we could have cut down a little on Kirill failing at femininity, but that’s a relatively minor complaint in the grand scheme of things. This was a specific story about specific characters in the show, and they did some clumsy gymnastics to get players they didn’t want off the board. I’m ready to dock them a couple points up top for something like that, then never think about it again.
The really interesting thing here is that they did it, seemingly, to out Kirill. After this episode, I think it’s pretty clear that he’s gay. This is strange for a lot of reasons. First, it’s a weird move to acknowledge your protagonists’ sexuality out of the regular season. Kirill didn’t really have much in the way of sexuality during the show’s run, so it’s possible the creators had this planned all along. Is it possible the broadcasters wouldn’t allow it? I also now have some serious questions about his hero-worship of Doug. Additionally, everyone makes fun of Kirill for liking Yusef. It comes almost immediately after a pair of fairly touching scenes were Yusef and Kirill do seem to have genuine feelings for each other. It’s kind of a cruel undercutting of what this episode seems to want to be about.
It kind of speaks to a feeling I’d had for a long time about queer representation on Double Decker. The show is very interested in it and has a decent amount of it, but most of it is done so strangely. After watching this episode, I really do think that this is a show that wants to help the normalization of queer characters in shonen anime, but they don’t quite know how. The result is usually a queer character onscreen doing something foolish or even harmful to said representation. This episode was no exception, and the whole thing is really a mixed bag.
Double Decker seems popular enough to continue with this OVA business for a while longer, and the next episode is a fanservice-heavy hot springs episode. I think the show has much more potential this way, but it needs to stop looking at trope and stereotype and get a handle on its themes if it wants to find a new life outside of its season structure.