Wait, a Shining Dragon that grants wishes? Don’t you mean the Eternal Dragon?
The Tourism Board is back on track to get the Mizuchi Festival running. They’re only missing one treasure, the Golden Dragon. They also need to get the approval of all the shops. A little hiccup in the plan? Erika, the surly daughter of the fortune-telling diner’s owner, ran away from home. Headed for Tokyo with nothing but the clothes on her back and a bunch of New Years cash she’s saved up, the girls give her another option. She can stay in the dorm as long as she goes to school. In the meantime, most of them have been in Tokyo, so they can tell her what it’s like. They tell her mother she’s safe, and overhear some of the guys talking about how they found a “shining dragon” statue in the woods. It matches the description of the Golden Dragon! They reburied it, marked its location with a code, and split the code between them. In the meantime, Sanae and Yoshino go and talk to the shop owners. Yoshino talks to the Bookshop dude, and he explains why so many people have shuttered their shops. They saved up enough money, they don’t need the shop. They’re content letting things just go on as they are. This disheartens Yoshi a bit. If all these people just want things to keep on doing the same, who is she, an outsider, to say that they should be relevant again? Shiori tells her off in classic Fluttershy-Gotta-Put-Her-Hoof-Down fashion, letting her know that as a resident of the town, she doesn’t believe that those who gave up should speak for the rest of them. Then, they get a call from the guys before. They were gonna dig up the dragon statue, but now, they can’t decipher the code! Darn it!
They have been teasing Erika pulling this crap since episode one. The angsty little teen has been a jerkish ball of hate and bad behavior for a while, and like the town, we’ve put up with it because… she’s honestly kinda funny. I really want to see her take over her mother’s shop for a day and hand out fortunes like “Today you will die in a fire. Bring marshmallows to maximize your good luck in your next life. Hopefully, it isn’t in this town.” Man, that sort of thing launches franchises. Watching her face off against small-town Shiori is interesting because they are complete opposites. What makes Shiori’s perspective a great foil for Erika is that she isn’t one that wants to see everything stay the same. She wants it to change and grow. This means that while they may be opposites in personality and outlook, both of them have the same issue, and are responding to it differently. Erika decides to run away and leave it all behind. Shiori wants to jump start it and make it grow. Oh, and one is a bucket of rage and the other is a purse-full of harmony and love.
The other great aspect of this adversarial relationship between them is how it affects them. After talking to Erika for a bit, Shiori begins to wonder if something isn’t very wrong with her. Literally, everyone she knows who is her age and younger has, at some point, wanted to leave. She hasn’t. This actually causes a crisis of faith, which partly causes her town pride wharblgarble all over Yoshino. Her rant can be heard all over the dorm, which means Erika can pick up on it. Though the girl doesn’t have anything to say on the matter, it does give her pause. Perhaps hearing Shiori’s impassioned speech has made her remember some sort of good memory about the town? It’s good character development here because the two of them barely even talk to each other. Erika dislikes Shiori so much, she refuses. Therefore, unlike most shows, they don’t have it out in a big shouting match until they come to a compromise. Instead, they hear each other’s points of view as they bounce off the other characters and silently contemplate it.
The writing that we see in this episode is strong, and it follows the same domino-falling method we are used to from the show. Characters mention wanting something at the beginning but have other stuff to do, and (late in the episode) their path opens up to what they originally wanted simply because they paid attention to what other people were doing and they got involved. You know, proper use of Chekhov’s Gun, unlike that time-warping anime I’m doing tomorrow night. Sigh. At the same time, Yoshino’s bit in this episode is more like a relapse into her state from before her vacation. She doubts if she should be doing what she’s doing. Fortunately, Shiori’s “Hail Manoyama” is enough to slap her out of it. She just needs a reminder now and again. She’s good. And that is development. Seeing a character relapse, but recover even faster and with less effort is much better than many writers would do. Either the character is completely cured of their issue, or they relapse again and again as if it were the character’s only trait. So yeah, while today’s episode may not have been gripping, it was real people reacting to real interactions with other real people. That’s what I like seeing. Oh, and that little quip from Ririko after seeing the code at the end made me realize something. She’s the one that’s been naming the episodes. Think about it. She’s always putting the events that happen around her in terms of RPGs and old legends. That is how every episode is named, and their names closely match the events. Good job, writers. Good job.
On the technical side of things, I was not quite as impressed. That isn’t the same thing as saying I hated it. No, no. It was good. Far better than the acting on some live action shows. The characters were fully believable, and Shiori’s rant (performed by Tia Ballard) really did seem like someone meek giving an impassioned speech, but other than that it all seems the same base level of voice acting that we’ve had. Animation? Always good. Just none of this was inspirational. None of it made me sit up and go “Hey, hey nonexistent other person in the room. Didja see that? I liked that.” Before you ask, yes, I have done that before and no, I don’t need medication. So, while this episode has good art, animation, and voice acting, I’m not seeing any extra effort on their parts to push the envelope. Now, if the content of the episode was something that made me glued to my screen, I’d likely overlook this. As it is, the story was a bit slower and sedate.
Really, it's the character development that earns this episode eight of Erika's hypothetical irreverent fortune dishes out of ten. No seriously, I'd go to that cafe.