It ends not with a bang, but with a “huh?”
Overview (Spoilers Below)
Ekoda-chan is, as usual, naked in her apartment. She is watching television when she realizes that she is twenty-four years old. This news distresses her, as she remembers being twenty-three only a short time ago. She tries to alleviate this stressing revelation in two ways. First, she makes a pact to regress into her childhood self in order to retain her youth, and second, she decides to watch television to distract her from the ceaseless, indifferent march of time.
At the same time, outside her window, a man is using a BB gun to shoot and kill birds. He stands on a building across the street from Ekoda-chan and looks into her window. Back in her apartment, Ekoda-chan watches all manner of TV while she channel surfs. She sees a news report about a woman who planted a flower garden in her neighborhood and watches the music video of a pair of pop stars dressed as cats. While she watches, she laments her own failure to achieve anything and the people in her life who aren’t talking to her at present. Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she notices the man on the building across the street. Thinking that he’s peeping on her, he decides to give him a show, bearing her nude body for him to see and berating him for his perversion.
Well, here we are. The final episode of Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan. The contract has been fulfilled, the sacrifice has been made, and the terms of the run have finally come to their end. After three months of reviewing this series, I have finally watched thirty-six minutes of animation. In a just world, I would have been done with this one ten weeks ago, but we’ve made it nevertheless, and my complaining aside, I’m sure you want to know how this episode is. In a few words, it’s confusing.
This is another one where either the translation was done in such a way that obscured the entire meaning of the short, or the loose standards for narrative this series has allowed the episode to never quite come together thematically. As best I can tell, the unifying theme is Ekoda-chan’s relationship with adulthood. It’s possible what director Morimoto Koji was going for was Ekoda being forced to accept her adultness through the physicality of her body. While she may retreat into childish fantasies, and even children’s programming, she is unable to escape her grown woman’s body and the male gaze that accompanies it. Maybe I missed the mark completely here, but this episode doesn’t give one all that much to go on.
My reading definitely fits within the pattern this show has created for itself. After our measly one-seventh share of the runtime dedicated to animation, we are—as usual—subjected to an eighteen-minute interview with the director (Koji) and the actress who voiced Ekoda-chan in the preceding short (this time the mononymous pop singer Tamurapan). As is par for the course, the director has a very specific take on Ekoda-chan that seems mostly unwilling to engage with her femaleness, and the voice actress giggles while she says that she found it very difficult to relate to a character like Ekoda-chan who speaks her mind and is not immediately deferent to societal expectations of her.
There is always just enough for this show to disappoint me. Some sort of tidbit of information or line of dialogue makes me want to empathize with Ekoda-chan. Even when the short is able to make me feel something, however, it’s over before it begins and I’m returned to a pair of talking heads who are leagues less relatable than the character they are failing to translate. Ekoda-chan is a millennial with at least three jobs, problems casually dating, and a strained relationship with her family. If there was ever a slam dunk pick for a twenty-first-century legacy product to adapt, this would be it. That’s why it’s especially maddening when they staff the director’s chair with middle-aged men twelve times in a row who seem unable to unlock or even understand what makes this character so appealing in the first place.
Ironically, this show is a great advertisement for the Ekoda-chan comics, or any other Ekoda-chan anime that have been produced, or really any other versions of the character besides the twelve that I have seen over the last few months. This is an interesting character filtered through the lens of people who, at best, want to use her for formalist experiments with audio and puppets. At worst, these are collections of shorts not unified by a central theme or any animating purpose whatsoever, and that feels like a disservice to this franchise more than anything else.
There is an old quote when studying media that Marshall McCluhan said sometime last century, “The medium is the message.” One interpretation of this old adage I’ve taken to heart is that the way something is being presented to you tells you exactly how the creator of the piece of media feels about it. In its original form Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan was a series of three-minute shorts played during commercial breaks of other anime, and as such, they could be judged at a much lower standard. They’re better than commercials, what more could you really be asking for?
Their repackaging, though, is much different. By padding their runtime with interviews and placing them on a streaming service and with equal footing to fully produced anime like My Roommate is A Cat or One Piece, for instance, the message is clear. Judge me as you judge them. And why not? It is presented as an equal offering to any of those shows. What this does is set Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan up to fail. With such a presentation, it never had a chance of being well-liked by anyone. In war, generals sometimes send waves of troops to overwhelm the enemy with sheer numbers. They call this cannon fodder. Those boys aren’t expected to make it home. The fault, then, when they’re killed never lies with them. It lies with someone who sent them out there knowing they would be slaughtered.