7 Hero Show Association Circle
Following the protagonist’s decision to participate in multiple clubs, this episode one focuses on his time in the Hero Show Association where he dresses up and teaches kids virtuous lessons on heroics. Faced with the prospect of three different women, this time he makes a choice and decides to run off with Kaori, the sex doll of another man he’s been charged to protect.
All in all, this episode is maybe the weakest of the lot. The circle feels the least interesting out of all of them so far and it repeats the most elements we’ve seen from a previous episode. However, the conceit of running off with the sex doll is still pretty hilarious and it’s probably one of the funnier episodes in the show.
8 Reading Circle SEA
The final club of the protagonist’s three-pronged membership is the Reading Circle. The protagonist finds the name and address of a woman in a book Ozu gives him and begins a correspondence with Keiko. Once again faced with the same prospect, the protagonist choses Keiko, who he believes embodies his ideal woman. He has anxieties about the lies he’s presented in his letters, but he believes he can overcome that. Sadly, he finds that he too has been deceived and that the correspondence was started as a prank by Ozu with the aid of Akashi.
While the trifecta of girls helped evolve the story, it’s good to see the show show finally circles back to Akashi as the love interest. This episode also gets into how building relationships through proxies (in this case letters) can lead to harmful and upsetting lies that end up hurting both people involved. This can easily be extrapolated to the modern day troubles of online dating with trolls abounding in Tinder and similar services.
9 Secret Society Lucky Cat Chinese Restaurant
For once in the show, the protagonist finds himself able to achieve a masterful amount of influence and power in his chosen circle. It is not without some hardship. He joins a secret society involved in all sorts of shady activities and initially finds himself failing even the simplest tasks. Ozu helps him out and eventually gives him leadership over the bicycle thieves gang. The protagonist ends up stealing Akashi’s plane and when she berates him, he suddenly feels something is lacking in his life in spite of how much he enjoys his powerful role in his life.
In probably the most blatant theme of the entire show, this episode rails against how even with power, affluence, and respect, the protagonist fails to find the true joy and happiness he seeks from campus life. In fact, this might be the loneliest of the stories so far. In spite of his power, his only real friendship with Ozu is more business than anything else.
10 The 4 ½ Tatami Ideologue
Seeking to not encounter the disillusionment of campus life, the protagonist decides to live as much as possible in his 4 ½ tatami room. He extols on the virtue of the space, how its simplicity, symmetry, and elegance provides him with all he needs to truly be happy and fulfilled as a person. He does his best to avoid all contact with others, solitude his highest virtue.
From this setup, this episode breaks into something truly strange. The protagonist finds himself trapped in a building filled with nearly identical versions of 4 ½ tatami rooms that seem to represent different versions of his campus life. The rooms are depicted live action rooms as the protagonist remains animated. It’s a strange, almost Kafkaesque setup as he explores the spaces of his alternate life, trapped and alone. It’s perhaps the saddest of all of his lives.
11 The End of the 4 ½ Tatami Age
Carrying over from the last episode, the protagonist is still trapped in the building of nearly identical 4 ½ tatami rooms. He eventually returns to his initial room and realizes the pattern of each room: Akashi’s mochiguman dangling from the light cord. In every life he let the opportunity dangling in front of him pass by. He seizes the opportunity this time and breaks from his trap. From there, the episode flies off into some truly crazy fun stuff that I’ll leave to be seen by interested readers.
Finally coming to a close, the series suggests that life opportunities present themselves are often missed and not taken in order to live lives of complacency. The protagonist throughout the show often leaves the world to act on him instead of initiating action. He must seize opportunity and take risks in order to gain something out of life. If life is to be lived, you must be the one to live it.
© 2014 James Blake Ewing