Love is in the air.
In another bifurcated episode, Mr. Tonegawa covers two different ways that affection manifests itself at Teiai. After the transfers that occurred in episode seventeen, three new members are added to Team Tonegawa. In our first story, Saeko, a female black suit, captures the attention of the entire team. While Tonegawa tells the rest of the team not to sexually harass Saeko, none of them can seem to leave her alone. None that is, except Saemon.
Saemon, though, turns out to be no match for her charms when she offers him a Band-Aid for blister he’s sustained. This gesture causes Saemon to fall in love with her. He offers to walk her home when he finds that they live at the same train stop, but is refused. A second blow is struck when Saeko leaves the meeting room to take a call. Sameon rushes to the bathroom to cry, dejected at the thought of Saeko having a boyfriend. When he emerges from the bathroom, however, he finds that it was merely her brother, restoring his hopes of getting together with Saeko.
In the backup story, one of the other new recruits, Ataru, becomes obsessed with the president. This begins when he is watching Tonegawa and Hyōdō during their usual monthly dinner. The president has just learned to speak a little bit of Spanish, and Ataru is wildly too impressed with Hyōdō’s basic competence. Before long, this behavior has spread, and Ataru’s standing within the company has grown exponentially. He even becomes a threat to Tonegawa as Hyōdō’s number two at Teiai. The final straw for Tonegawa comes when Ataru interrupts a meeting to fawn over Hyōdō once again.
In a counter-maneuver, Tonegawa uses the monthly dinners as an occasion to show Hyōdō a gorgeous view of the city. Hyōdō finally seems to be returning to Tonegawa’s side, but Ataru physically blocks Hyōdō’s view and refuses to move. When confronted by the two executives, Ataru reveals that his flattery isn’t a fiction to get ahead; he’s actually obsessed with President Hyōdō. As a result, Hyōdō decides to make Ataru his secretary, seemingly solving Tonegawa’s problem—for now.
While this week’s episode didn’t have much going on in the way of plot, there were quite a few interesting character moments, and some questions I’d been holding onto for weeks were finally answered. Starting with the latter, Saeko’s introduction to the series finally elucidated what the show thinks about women in the workforce. As I’ve said in previous reviews, the only women in this show have been hostesses in restaurants, so I was very curious to see what Saeko would do in a business environment.
Unfortunately, she seems to be the white-collar version of these same hostesses. It’s already not great that all of her actions seen through the lens of the men in the office, but none of those actions seemed to have anything to do with her competence as a black suit. Most of the things she actually did in the episode were related to baking, interior decorating, and otherwise taking care of her male coworkers. Tonegawa goes out of his way to say that the black suit identity subsumed gender, but the rest of the episode does everything it can to contradict that.
While I do like that we’ve returned to Saemon, who has been—at best—a minor player in the past few episodes, this was not a path that I am happy to see him (or the show) going down. The big reveal of this story was that Saeko was actually a fairly dependent woman, in this case on her older brother. It didn’t really play as a reveal. Without Saeko demonstrating any sort of competence on her own, and only succeeding in making the conference room smell better, rather than contributing any ideas, the twist of her actually being a feminine woman doesn’t really play as such. This whole story struck me as a mostly wasted opportunity.
At least, though, this plot had the promise to be squandered. This week’s B-Story was nothing. Introducing yet another threat to Tonegawa’s position as Hyōdō’s’ right-hand man isn’t interesting when we’ve done no development of the three other threats we’ve been introduced to this season. This half-episode played out a lot like a mirror image of “Natural Enemy,” where instead of Tonegawa being the larger sycophant, this time Ataru overdoes his deference.
Ataru is, obviously, not supposed to be a likable character, but he’s both overbearing and confusing as a presence onscreen, so I just found myself wishing that the episode would end as soon as possible. He doesn’t feel like a worthy opponent to Tonegawa, not like Kurosaki, or Endo, or even Otsuki.
Are any of these characters going to come back? I see that next week we do have yet another Otsuki adventure. With only five episodes left, I have serious doubts that a lot of these threads are going to pay off, especially as Mr. Tonegawa continues to invest time on this side story that a) has only been around since midseason, and b) doesn’t seem to be going anywhere at all.
I’m once again struck by the lack of pacing control that Mr. Tonegawa seems to employ. Otsuki has been in nearly every episode since his introduction, but he has no clear arc, and we have no better idea what motivates him, or if he even has the motivation to leave the underground labor camp. We rarely focus on it, but Tonegawa is at least supposed to be preparing for the death games. Otsuki would have been much more effective if he had been introduced earlier in the season, and his appearances spaced out, so as to not get tired of him.
As it stands, I am getting pretty tired of Mr. Tonegawa’s mostly bland commentary, only occasionally hitting on something worthwhile. It also isn’t working nearly as well as a wacky comedy as it wants, this week. Next week, we’re doing pachinko, so I’m hoping that has a chance of amusing, at least.