Let the games begin.
Tonegawa and his team have prepared nearly everything for the Restricted Rock, Paper, Scissors Game, but have overlooked one thing: the table sensors. Without table sensors, the players will have no idea how many of each type of card is in play. The boys manage to find a solution by turning the insides of the tables into relaxation pods. This leaves the new hires as Tonegawa’s test players. The first day doesn’t go so well, as the new hires are much too formal. Tonegawa gets an offer for help from Yuji Endo, a loan shark that works for Teiai, who turns his new hires into degenerates. Unfortunately, his scheme works too well, and the new black suits don’t want to play the game anymore. Endo, who saw this as a possible problem, brings in some real-life debtors to liven up the game.
Finally, a worthy foe emerges for Tonegawa. For the most part, this show has thrived on Hyōdō as Tonegawa’s major antagonist, and his presence has been largely felt, not experienced firsthand. Alternatively, Tonegawa has dealt with the incompetence of his subordinates, but the hierarchical nature of both of these conflicts hasn’t properly tested Tonegawa’s mettle. Endo is exactly that test. He doesn’t report to Tonegawa, and Tonegawa doesn’t report to him, so the conflict can’t end with one of them simply firing the other. As such, we can see how Tonegawa got to where he did like the second in command at Teiai.
He’s not off to a great start. He completely falls for Endo’s bravado and hands over complete control of his new hires to the Christian Slater-imitating weirdo. Endo is a breath of fresh air at this point in the series. He’s obviously more comfortable on the streets than in a boardroom, and his introduction of the debtor element to the show has been more than welcome. Seeing these shiftless layabouts in contrast to the sharply-dressed black suits is doing a similar world expanding to last week’s chicken cutlet challenge, but this is finally in service of the larger story. I don’t want to spoil it, but Endo supplies us with a very fun fake out this episode that made me not only smile but remember the stakes of the game that Tonegawa is designing.
I’m not quite ready to wholly endorse this episode, though. While I found the idea of the chill zones in the table to be a fun way to get to know a little bit more about our core team, putting them in there was a pretty obvious contrivance that removes nearly all of the non-Tonegawa characters that we care about from the show altogether for the foreseeable future. And Tonegawa is going to need Simon or Yamazaki’s help if he wants to win his new men back from Endo’s clutches. Additionally, the last few minutes of the episode were a first for the show—trying to set up a cliffhanger for next week—but it failed to grab me in the way I feel like it wanted. The three new teams of debtors are once again crowding the field with characters that I don’t have any reason to care about. Now the show goes from not having these characters at all to literally boxing them up and kicking them out of the show. While the show has only improved from its less-than-stellar start, it seems to retain more than a few of its old, bad instincts.
What I can say for Mr. Tonegawa, though, is that when it decides to focus on something for more than a few minutes, it’s usually to its benefit. The show just seems committed to serving an audience with no attention span. I’ll freely admit that some of this is the dubbing. I can’t imagine that the Japanese voice actor for Endo sounded like the Heathers star, and the distinctly American pop culture jokes that the narrator makes on the regular are surely not from the source material, but it’s more than that. The digressions into exaggerated versions of the episode plots don’t heighten the stakes of something banal as the show hopes it does; it mostly betrays the fact that the show doesn’t have confidence in its source material. It’s strange to say, but it should. Mr. Tonegawa has really grown into itself as a show, and if it could kick a few bad habits, it could be a reliably good one.