Ekoda-chan becomes contemplative about her romantic life, and I become contemplative about why this project exists.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
We open on Ekoda-chan plucking her eyebrows. She considers the thought that children are able to survive crashes better than adults because they are much less tense and are able to relax more easily. She tries to apply this Zen by way of ignorance to her current friends with benefits situation.
Ekoda-chan is currently in bed next to a terrible guy. He is cheating on his long-term girlfriend Chioko, but to make matters worse, is talking to her on the phone in front of Ekoda-chan. He tells Chioko that he loves her and that he would never cheat on her. He also polices the way that she grows her hair. Ekoda is initially upset with Chioko for getting in the way of her plans to couple with this repugnant man, but she resolves to take a more stoic approach. Through continued contact with this guy, she will eventually win him over to her side. This does not seem to be going well so far.
She asks him if he’d like to have sex again, and he rebuffs her, claiming that he has to get up early in the morning, and is tired besides. The rest of the episode concerns Ekoda’s quest to find the perfect way to lay in bed. She doesn’t want to face her lover, who is facing away from her, as she thinks it would look too desperate. Neither, though, does she want to face away from him for fears that she will be seen as pouting. Laying on her stomach and back are out too, as they are obvious attempts at a compromise. After much thought, Ekoda resolves to do what she actually wants to do, and in the final shot, we see her facing her bedfellow, having won a small mental victory.
Much like the Rinshi directors, I’m going to continue to experiment with form. I’m going to write about the animation in the Overview portion, and I’m going to try to talk about the interview, and my thoughts, in the Our Take section. Once again, I’ve grown to like the animation portions of the episode. These seem to be really fun, self-contained stories that draw on a classic character and her world in order to say interesting things about Japanese modern life. It’s truly a pity, then, that they’re saddled with these interviews.
It’s become abundantly clear that this is going to be the structure of the show, and it’s a testament to just how content-starved streaming services can be at times, but I’m not going to focus on that again this week. This time around, my interest is on the interviews themselves. Having a better understanding of what they’re like has raised more questions than it’s answered, and there’s definitely something weird going on in these segments.
This week’s interview was with director Sugii Gisaburo & a new voice of Ekoda, Park Romi. I’ve discovered an interesting Catch-22 the American distributors have found themselves in with Rinshi. Funimation, who also dubbed the episodes, have to use a different voice actor for each of these segments because each of the interviews profiles a different actress. So, Funimation is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Either, they pay a different voice actor to voice every episode, surely costing them a pretty penny, or they use a single voice actor, but the interviews become complete nonsense, necessitating their scrapping entirely. This would probably have resulted in the compilation of two or three episodes like I theorized last week. It’s obvious what they’ve chosen. But, as I touched on last week, in addition to costing them for voice actors, the interviews still don’t make any sense because the Japanese voice actor is describing a performance that we’ve never heard!
The most charitable reading of this is that it gives the American voice actors some notes to go off of when deciding how to play their adapted performances, but this is still uninteresting for an audience. Even if we had the American voice actors chime in or comment on these interviews, it still wouldn’t be terribly interesting, except maybe in a postmodern meta-commentary sort of way.
This brings me to the biggest problem with the massive interview sections (besides their very existence, of course); they’re bad. These are not interesting interviews to have to sit through, let alone as most of the runtime for the episode. This seems like a pretty disposable project where the writers and directors were given a ton of creative freedom, and the studio didn’t really care too much about controlling what came out of any one recording session. The result is that most of the filmmakers don’t seem to care about the project. In fact, both directors have begun their interviews by saying that they had no idea why they were chosen for this project.
I’m also getting a lesson in Japanese men of a certain age. Sugii Gisaburo is no Daichi Akitaro in his bluntness. He didn’t say he didn’t want to take the project and basically had to be begged to do it. No, what Sugii lacks in ego, he makes up in sheer cluelessness. Twice he nearly gets to the point of introspection about the fact that, maybe, he was not the best director to tackle the story of a twenty-something woman in Tokyo, but twice he changes track before actually confronting his privilege. It looks as if Park Romi wants to say something about it, but her politeness (or more likely her fear of reprisal) prevents her from doing so. Thus, these threads hang in the air, unexamined.
This is a show that I really want to give an 8 or a 9 to. It really has something during the parts where it’s telling a story, but unfortunately for anyone watching the show, that’s not the constitutive nature of the thing. Thus, I am obliged to continue giving it bad (albeit generous if we’re dividing evenly) scores.