The junkyard presents two articles about the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan episode Over the Obento.
The view from 5930 miles away:
The title of this episode is Over the Obento, and for anyone who doesn’t realise what that means an obento is one of those cute little lunch boxes they have in Japan with the individual compartments for different food. It is “over the obento” that Kyon and Yuki share their rom com moment, with Kyon feeding Yuki before they are interrupted and Asakura jumps to the wrong conclusions, thinking Yuki is deliberately flirting with Kyon.
This was one of many set pieces that added up to make this the worst episode for me so far. It’s just a load of rom com cliché situations and silly misunderstandings strung together, and there are a lot of them. We had Mikuru’s boobs shoved into Kyon’s face when she was bowled at him by Tsuruya, the second time in two weeks that Kyon has been suffocated by a girl’s chest. We had a flashback to Kyon accidentally holding hands with Mikuru. We had Yuki misinterpreting Kyon and Asakura conspiring together, thinking they are cosying up to each other. We had a bikini shot of Mikuru in case we were under any doubt as to what “bouncy” and “tight” mean, but for no other good reason than that. We had Yuki falling accidentally into the arms of Kyon, and then Asakura misinterpreting the situation, only to return when Yuki is getting fed by Kyon and jump to the wrong conclusion again. All this kind of stuff is regurgitated standard comedy moments that you will find in hundreds of other anime series.
And yet this seems to have been a very popular episode at the time it was broadcast, perhaps the most popular so far, in complete contrast to my impressions. There has to be a reason for that, and I think it’s probably the way the episode has something for everyone. Let’s face it, both Haruhi and the new version of Yuki divide opinions. In the first episode Yuki was the focus and she takes some getting used to, replacing as she does our Yuki from the original series. Every episode after that revolved around Haruhi for at least half of each episode, and always the interesting half, and she’s Marmite in anime form (does Marmite exist elsewhere? You love it or hate it, or so the slogan goes). But this episode gives every character a turn in the spotlight, which is no mean feat when juggling no fewer than seven main characters now. Although nothing significant happens to advance the ongoing storyline (well, apart from Haruhi getting permission to be an interloper into the school), you certainly couldn’t call it a boring episode. It’s the most slice-of-life so far, but the animators clearly did everything they could to make every second of it fun to watch. It’s just that if you want something to make the brain work, you’ll struggle to find much, and I guess I need more than skilfully-executed anime clichés.
There are at least a couple of interesting character moments. Mikuru was a major focus of the parent series, and one of the most interesting characters, but so far here she has been nothing more than what some fans uncharitably term a “moeblob”. This week she actually gets some character development, with Tsuruya remarking that she is coming out of her shell when she is with Kyon. This pushes things a bit further along the path to harem anime. Also pushing things down that route is Asakura getting dressed up as a teacher to help Kyon. The look on his face at that moment is priceless. Then we have Haruhi, who “seems to be having fun, a lot more than last year, anyway”. Even when Asakura is “always mad at me about something”, Haruhi is enjoying herself, away from the boredom of her posh school and with the friends she was destined to meet at last. The moment where she puts her head between Kyon and his book like a pet wanting attention is adorable. For all her faults, I don’t see how anyone can fail to love the character in that moment. The episode gives a slice of the action to all seven characters, but once again it is Haruhi who brings things to life. RP
The view from 6,868 miles away:
As far as I recalled, the last episode took place around Valentine’s Day with an after credit scene taking place just a day or two later. Suddenly, we’re in the beginning of Sophomore year. This has the slightly deleterious effect of reminding me just how young these kids are, since my own son is in Sophomore year right now. The jump forward is a weird thing to do. When Tsuruya starts a flashback sequence, I thought it would all make sense, but for some reason, the flashback takes place in December, 2 months before Valentine’s Day. So that was a bit of an unexpected surprise. Not that any of that matters. The only thing the sudden time jump does allow is for an explanation around the clothing Koizumi was wearing last episode and this one, which I had commented on last week. He and Haruhi had the permission to be in the school and could therefore wear their normal clothes. The explanation is funny… and a little disturbing because of how on-point it is. There’s a subtle commentary here on the way students are so engrossed in their little hand-held devices, that they fail to observe the world around them which manages to work to Haruhi’s advantage. (Funny thing about Yuki and her devices… one might call them data entities…)
All of that aside, the episode once again brings these quirky people to life and has me hysterical throughout the episode. This wouldn’t be the first time that a “camera angle” has gone out of its way to focus close enough on Kyon that we fail to see an incoming thing… or person. In this case, the sociopathic Tsuruya has thrown Ms. Asahina at him, causing her to land with her chest in his face. To make it even funnier, as Yuki tries to remove Kyon from beneath Ms. Asahina, Kyon’s neck appears to snap. Her reaction is completely the opposite from mine; I am rolling with laughter while she is mortified. Another hilarious moment is Tsuruya’s comment to Yuki, “lookin’ good there, Naga!”
This is another time the artwork has created a memorable moment that is based on the absolutely absurd. And I couldn’t be happier. I’m not sure what it is or why she sees herself like a mix of Cousin Itt and Gleep or Gloop, but I do think it’s one of those priceless artistic moments.
The comedy often relies on visuals such as the above or when Yuki’s speed talking to explain a math problem. This was another outstanding moment and while I’m usually quick to put down “fan service” when dealing with underage kids, I did laugh deeply with the descriptors of “boingy but tightish” appeared with the image of a bikini-clad Ms. Asahina. (“That’s not a math term!”) And sometimes the comedy doesn’t need images, such as when Kyon says “It’s an English question!” We don’t need to see the book to laugh at the reply, “It says math right on the cover!”
Once again Asakura is a very different character here than what we had come to know in the parent series. I had noticed repeatedly that she has anger issues, but she handles them in a far more witty way than outright anger, usually smiling and laughing while trying to conceal a “secret” rage. So when a good line is delivered, I can’t help but applaud the writers. “There were so many better ways for that to have been handled. If only I had a few hours to explain them all.” This interaction between the methodical Asakura and the spontaneous Haruhi is a study in opposites. These two could not be more different.
“I have no clue what you’re talking about but I suspect you have the wrong idea.” At the end of the episode I realized this was the first one that I felt just focused on a non-event. I didn’t feel there was a point to it. What’s more interesting though, is that it didn’t need one. It was just a day in the life and I found it genuinely funny. Even Tsuruya’s aforementioned flashback is just a story that is there seemingly to make Yuki feel awkward. (I did love the artwork for the negative lighting whenever the story had to pause! Come to think of it, Tsuruya’s “Grudge” moment, with her long flowing hair seemingly coming to life was another great instance with cultural relevance as well.)
“He played her like a fiddle!” I think I too was played like a fiddle. I couldn’t say what happened in this episode short of a few flashbacks and then a final few minutes of Yuki actually getting some close time with (the seemingly clueless) Kyon. This also gave us two really funny instances of Asakura slowly walking backwards out of the room. Not sure where the story is going, or for that matter, where it can go, but I’m enjoying the time with these lunatics. If nothing more, it’s 20 minutes of comedy with a bunch of people that I feel like I know quite well. Of the series so far, I can take Tsuruya’s words to heart: “lookin’ good there, Naga!” ML