English Dub Review: Mr. Tonegawa: Middle Management Blues “Fake”

Yamazaki learns responsibility

Overview

President Hyōdō orders Tonegawa to find him a body double to thwart a few recent suspected assassination attempts. Tonegawa and Yamazaki dispatch the black suits to find a suitable candidate, but no one looks enough like the president to be a workable stand-in. As they are about to give up, Tonegawa and Yamazaki encounter Masayan, a kind-hearted chef who is willing to be the double out of the goodness of his heart. For his generosity, he is tortured by Yamazaki until he is a perfect stand-in for the president in both look and personality. Tonegawa is ready to present Masayan to Hyōdō, but the president decides that he’s no longer interested in having a body double. Endo tries to dispose of Masayan, but he walks his way back to Teiai, where Yamazaki will now take care of him.

Our Take

For the first time in twelve episodes, Mr. Tonegawa has thrown a near perfect game. This is, bar none, the best episode of the first twelve. It not only has me still thinking about it, but also has me eagerly awaiting a plot point’s future development. This show isn’t taking a midseason break, but it would certainly be well deserved after a half-hour like this one.

My analysis last week seems to be coming to pass. Mr. Tonegawa is truly a family sitcom disguised as a workplace one. Tonegawa, as our protagonist, must balance teaching his “children,” the black suits with caring for his “father,” Hyōdō. This episode is the closest to a literal interpretation that we get, as “Fake” is less about Tonegawa, and more of a boy and his dog story, with Yamazaki as the boy and Masayan as the dog. The interesting thing about this family dynamic, as compared to western ones, is that the elder has all of the power. I think about Abe Simpson as an opposite case. In the West, our parodic family sitcom disrespects a grandfather character, shoving him in a home, or worse. Japan’s, though makes him the master of his domain.

In this analogy, I suppose that makes Endo a very weird uncle. This tracks with his last appearance, where he leads a crop of impressionable black suit children astray. I think this is a great avenue for the show to be doubling down on. Mr. Tonegawa’s twisted sense of humor finally lands and lands big in this one, where it has mostly only fallen flat for me before. Endo is a devilish addition to the already strong duo of Yamazaki and Tonegawa. Based on the tableau at the end of this episode, I’m betting we see more of them, and I cannot wait.

It’s not all character work in this episode. Tonegawa was finally able to achieve their balancing of developments in that arena with a plot I could really get behind. While finding Masayan was obviously contrived, the rest of the episode made me forget it pretty quick. The horrible things that they put this poor man through are as funny as they are sad. Teiai truly is an evil company to take a brilliant, magnanimous chef and turn him into a mindless, slavering, mean-spirited carnivore.

Tonegawa has finally realized that in order to have a good plot, you need to have these characters that we care about do interesting things that are true to them. Yamazaki’s turn as a slave-driving brainwasher takes everything we know about his unwavering commitment to Teiai and his backstory as the president’s attendant and transforms it into his best episode by a mile. Endo’s problem-solving also seems perfectly within his idea of ‘helping’ Tonegawa, and President Hyōdō losing interest immediately feels exactly like something he’d do.

Looking forward, I am intrigued by the body double. You don’t introduce a device like that unless you have plans for a switch or two at a key moment. If you’d told me before this episode that the season’s endgame involved something like that, I would have told you that Mr. Tonegawa was in no way capable of handling it, but now I’m not so sure. “Fake” looks like a perfect soft reset for the back half of the season. While we probably won’t ever have anything like a central antagonist, or even a necessarily linear plot structure, this show gets better by acquiring pieces. It was slow to do so in its first few episodes, but by now they have a few pretty solid toys in their play chest. It’s just up to them now if they do anything worthwhile with them.

Score
9/10

 

Zach

Cartoon Philosopher

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