How many cliffs can one show hang from?
In this week’s A-story, Tonegawa takes over the Teiai group’s Twitter account. He begins the episode unimpressed with the mega-corporation’s lack of online presence and decides that the task should be managed by a senior executive, namely himself. He starts his time as Teiai’s social media manager by expressing his genuine personality. The problem is that his personality is terribly boring. Tonegawa initially posts only about the weather and fails to gain any traction.
At the same time, a Teiai hate account is starting to grow in popularity, more so than Tonegawa and Teiai. He turns to Saemon to help him learn the ways of Twitter, but the young black suit tells Tonegawa that he is beyond hope. Undeterred, Tonegawa soldiers on. He begins to ape the techniques of the hate account and begins to gain more followers. This isn’t enough, however, as the hate account is growing at an even faster rate. Tonegawa plunges deeper into the world of cat gifs and anime screenshots until he has almost lost himself to it, but still to no avail. He laments this to Saemon who has just made a startling discovery. The troll account is actually a mole, coming from inside the company!
After that, we move to a B-Story. It turns out that Foreman Otsuki’s underground, underground gambling is just underground gambling, as the subterranean work camp sanctions foremen to entertain their subordinates in any way they see fit. Otsuki had been gambling with Cee Lo, a dice game, but when he goes to set up his weekly game, attendance is sparse. His second in command walks in and tells him that Group C is up to something, and they go check it out.
The foreman of Group C seems to have his own entertainment idea: a movie theater. The foreman is using an iPad to show movies he downloads on his furloughs to the surface, and the house is packed. Otsuki even recognizes men from his own work group. The film, Roman Holiday, begins, and even Otsuki is taken in by it. After the credits roll, Group C management also have special pork buns to pair with the film. After they sell those out, Group C announces that the next film in the series will be a marathon of Fox’s Prison Break. Otsuki realizes he needs to make a move, and fast. On the Group C foreman’s next outing, Otsuki tags along, with ill intent…
Mr. Tonegawa is a show that seems to have no idea when it has your attention. From its initial bumbling in doing any of the expositional work the show needed to function, to the abandoning of its central plot thread, this is not a show with clear planning on a show-running level. I have long since given up caring about the Death Games, and I pretty much just hope the show holds my interest for the half-hour that I watch it each week. I can’t say that it didn’t do that this week (especially during its first half), but I’m not confident that Tonegawa has done it on purpose.
This episode is again bifurcated in what, after at least four episodes of this pattern, seems to be the new format of the series. This has only served to harm the show and is yet another example of poor planning. I’ve written at length about why Otsuki’s entrance to the show was so awkward, but I have now come to expect his backup stories as a part of Mr. Tonegawa. I’m not sure why, in a show where we know next to nothing about our core group of characters, so much time is spent on a wholly irrelevant B-story. The show is already, by its own admission, a wholly irrelevant B-story about Tonegawa in the first place.
This week, though, they put Yukio in a place I’m actually interested in seeing him: on Twitter. The first half of the episode is very nicely paced. We begin with a great call to adventure. Tonegawa thinks he understands Twitter much more than his social media manager, and he’s quickly humbled for his arrogance. He must turn to a millennial, Saemon (character development for both men) and starts to gain on their enemy, a troll account. Halfway through the episode, we find out a twist, that the troll is a mole. Then the episode ends for the first half of an Otsuki story.
It feels as if both of these episodes were written as thirty-minute affairs, but they were cut in half at the midpoint, and mix-and-matched. It doesn’t create suspense in the way the show wants it to; it just comes across as an obvious way to place more weight on the failing underground prison B-Story. The entire thing speaks to a lack of confidence that Mr. Tonegawa has in its core concept that it had to essentially create a microcosm of itself at midseason.
The Otsuki story itself is fine, and mostly uneventful. It’s a small businessman doing any unethical thing he can to either make a buck or settle his personal grudges. I don’t think it’s interesting as a concept, nor do I find Otsuki compelling as a character. At this point, I’m actually rooting against him. The Group C foreman came up with a better idea than his, and he seems to care about his customers, at least more than Otsuki does.
“Slander” is by no means the worst episode of Tonegawa of the first twenty-one installments, but it might be the most indicative of all of its faults. While the show seems to have ideas that it’s interested in exploring, and a few interesting perspectives on those ideas, it can’t seem to translate them with any consistency. I feel like there might even just be a wild disparity between the writers in the room on Mr. Tonegawa, and when their B-team is hammering out the script, their lack of starting players on the field is noticeable.