The return of Ebitani
Ebitani asks Tonegawa to meet him at a restaurant so that he can apologize for his mistake from two episodes ago. Tonegawa doesn’t accept his initial apology because Ebitani sits in front of him, eating an elaborate parfait. Ebitani tries to make it up to him with a business opportunity, but Tonegawa quickly sees the meeting for what it is: multi-level marketing recruitment. After being chastised for his get rich quick schemes, and a brief stint in jail, Ebitani invents a new shrimp-based culinary creation. Tonegawa brings Ebitani back to Teiai to test his dish, but it goes over horribly. Tonegawa and his black suits all bail Ebitani out of his terrible idea, but he yet again fails to learn his lesson.
This is maybe the most American Tonegawa has ever felt to me. This episode followed a pretty traditional sitcom format—our main character (Mr. Tonegawa) only wants one simple thing (for Ebitani to apologize properly) and the situation increasingly spirals out of control with each iteration and attempt. The conflict itself was very Japanese, the proper apology to a former boss something that no American would ever even consider, but more than any other episode, I felt a familiarity in structure and rhythm that I hadn’t before.
I found “Shrimp” to be yet another win in Tonegawa’s current run of good episodes. This comes down, again, to actually utilizing the characters they have, but this seems to be a lesson the show has learned and is trying to recover from. This was a silly, fun time with two mismatched characters whose very natures will always keep them at odds with each other. Mr. Tonegawa is once again starting to feel the age difference between himself and that of his subordinates, but in this particular instance, his old-school ethics are something that maybe should have stuck around into the modern era. They provide an interesting complement to his mahjong idea from a few weeks ago.
In this episode, we also leave the Teiai group for the most significant amount of time, and we get a look at the larger world of Mr. Tonegawa. The show paints a picture of Japan as a particularly corrupt place, rife with hustlers. They might even posit that Teiai is the biggest hustler of them all. There has been a bit of a bubble formed amongst the black suits of meeting room three. While they themselves all seem like normal enough people, (if a little easily-led and overdramatic) a lot of the comedy has come from them creating something extremely cold-hearted and sadistic. This week, we see the kind of world that may be more amenable to the death games than what we see inside the Teiai building would let on.
As for Ebitani himself, he seems to fit right into this madcap world of fortune reversal and capricious cruelty. Even though he doesn’t succeed, he does appear to be at home as one of many ‘weird’ characters for Tonegawa’s straight man to contend with. This is actually the best I’ve seen of Tonegawa, as far as character goes. He plays a fine straight man and works as a stand-in for the previous generation of Japanese salarymen as a whole. It did have the unintended side-effect, however, of making me think about how this stoic persona works less well in the boardroom.
I think an episode like this is important at this juncture, to let the audience know where the show can go, in addition to fleshing out its characters. I was just complaining about the show being confined to meeting room three, so it’s refreshing to see that there are more possibilities for the show. It can leave the boardroom for an extended period of time, and so long as they use some of the black suits they have developed, I don’t feel like I need every character to be in every scene.
It may feel like, to some degree, that I am praising Tonegawa for doing things most shows have nailed by episode three, and to some degree I am. But, Mr. Tonegawa is definitely a quality show when it wants to be, and if they backed off the voiceover, it could even be consistently funny. It’s been a fun ride so far to see Mr. Tonegawa figure out how to care for those beneath him while trying to keep furthering his own career. This episode wasn’t as good as either Ebitani’s initial appearance or last week’s episode, but it was still solid. Next week, it looks like Tonegawa will have to replace Ebitani, and the motif of food-based problems seems to be returning.