English Dub Review: Mr. Tonegawa: Middle Management Blues “Self-Destruction”

Easy Come, Easy Go

Overview

Now that the Restricted Rock, Paper, Scissors Game has been approved, a venue must be selected. Tonegawa, still mad at his team for their double failure of both coming in late and shaving their heads, decides to pit them against each other. He tasks each of the black suits with putting together a proposal for a suitable location. While Simon once again uses his technological prowess to secure the win, his contemporary Ebitani completely blows his presentation. Tonegawa tries to give Ebitani a pep talk to help him shape up, but Ebitani misses the whole point. Tonegawa tells him to come up with something big for the Restricted Rock, Paper, Scissors card designs, but Ebitani goes too far and gets himself fired by President Hyōdō.

Our Take

The interesting thing about most workplace comedies is that very few of them actually care about job performance. It really doesn’t matter if sitcom characters are any good at their job—in fact, it’s usually funnier if they’re not—but Mr. Tonegawa has decided to make that the cornerstone of both the comedy and the drama of the show. In this episode, we spend a decent amount of the second half learning exactly why Ebitani is so bad at his job and why his attempts to improve end with him losing it altogether. There’s a part of me that applauds Mr. Tonegawa for even wanting to mine this particular cluster of feelings and behaviors for storytelling beats at all, but for my money, it did come up short this week.

The worst part about this particular failure is that it didn’t have to be this way. The reason the Ebitani bits don’t work is that we just met the guy. I feel like this portrait of an incompetent salaryman is not well-drawn, and this is because we don’t know him well enough to understand him or care about him. Ebitani was essentially introduced and axed all in the same episode; He was barely even mentioned in any of the previous five episodes. I think the show does a pretty decent job of characterizing him within this one incident, but I can’t help but feel that things could have gone smoother if the show had dedicated any of its misallocated first two episodes working on these characters at all.

I think this show has the ability to make me care about these disposable flunkeys. I like both Yamazaki and Simon. I’m even starting to warm up to Tonegawa himself after we learn more about him. I grew to like him a little more this episode when he did try to mentor Ebitani. I lost that respect the moment he tried to hide from him at the airport, but still. The slow release of learning the names of the black suits one at a time is clever. We a) both get to learn them at around the same pace that Tonegawa does, and b) it does make for a good reveal at times, as in the case of Simon. But Ebitani was not a reveal. There’s no good story reason that he should have been kept from the audience’s notice up until now, and doing so seems to have only hurt the stakes of the episode.

It wasn’t just stakes this week. I wasn’t the biggest fan of our return to the world of random visual metaphors. None of them were particularly inspired and they felt like a return to the beginning of the series. I feel similarly about the voice over. I was starting to warm up to him, but as he continues to do impressions and bits, he shows the limits of his range. He was certainly working outside of them this week.

I still can’t be too harsh on this show, though. I find the character stuff, when they actually decide to do it, fun and worthwhile. I am even capable of liking both the voice and the visual metaphors. I just feel like they rarely use any of the interesting tools they’ve made so integral to the show in a way that justifies their existence. Mr. Tonegawa is a bold, weird show that as of yet has not lived up to its potential.

Next week is about flu shots, and it looks as close to a filler episode as you can get in a show that is mostly filler episodes. Hopefully, trapping smaller groups within our larger team will allow for some compelling drama, but trapping these guys in rooms is kind of the whole show. So, we’ll see. Speaking of guys, this show doesn’t have a single named female character. I don’t think I’ve brought that up before this episode, but I’m really starting to feel it. That is something I do genuinely pray for changes as the show goes on. As of now, I’m less into this boring sausage-fest than I have been the past couple weeks.

Score
4/10

Zach

Cartoon Philosopher

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