Amidst all the vomiting and the awkward attempts to feign business to avoid attention, this episode probably had the most social incarnation of Tomoko thus far. Which led to some rather nice moments with her astoundingly not tripping over her own feet. But it also clarified some points that are preventing me from enjoying the show as much as I would otherwise.
It’s one thing to have a character who’s deliberately cast as alone due to her own shortcomings act accordingly. But the show takes Tomoko’s personality, especially the solo-monologue moments, a bit too far. I think the show shines best when it either has some double-misunderstanding laced interaction between her and some bystander, or just goes no-dialogue like that one scene where she locked her brother out of the bathroom. Hearing her call the more outgoing members of her class bitches or whatever over and over is markedly less funny material, and it’s a bit that’s gotten no less abundant over time. That and the subpar stretch in the middle are the biggest minuses I’m weighing on the scale as I decide how to score the show.
I give the general dialogue credit; it’s much less predictable than one would expect. Take the scene with the haunted house where Tomoko was trying to get Yuu scared. It’s a very common, tired cliche that the one who employs the haunted-house-fear-hug gambit is the one who ends up getting scared. Predictable, right? Except nobody did; the joke was that the haunted house just wasn’t scary. If I had to grossly oversimplify things, I think the show is a lot better at setting broad-strokes situations than it is pulling small-scale execution with its dialogue.
The background arc with the festival committee chairman who noticed Tomoko’s isolation was a neat feature, and a good example of what I’m talking about. She was introduced in a short scene, but was just a little more attentive to what Tomoko did after they bumped into each other than usual. As time went by, we saw her noticing Tomoko while on her rounds in just enough instances to get a good picture of what was going on. That was something that didn’t take a lot of time or internal monologues, but it still had a pretty smooth payoff at the end of the episode with the scene where she offered Tomoko an undercover hug.
I couldn’t decide whether to feel bad or happy for Tomoko at the end of this episode. I mean, the girl got a (totally platonic) hug, which clearly made her feel a lot better about the world – and I could really empathise with that, because sometimes all you really want is a bit of friendly physical contact to let you know you aren’t alone. On the other hand, it’s sad that the only person to actually hug Tomoko in that way is an essentially random school acquaintance who just happened to notice that Tomoko was on her own and probably emotionally down. Left to her own devices, Tomoko would of course never be able to ask for such a simple thing as a hug – that’s assuming she’s even able to consciously recognise that she wants such a thing. I’m guessing that the reason she apparently wanted to grope!hug her friend to begin with is because while all Tomoko wanted may have been a simple hug, she was unable to admit this to herself without rationalising it as something else – in this case, the chance to feel up Yuu-chan’s boobs. Which does strike me as a fairly terrible thing.
I avoided using the word “heartwarming” for just that reason. The hug was a nice gesture, but it’s not like it changes Tomoko’s fundamental situation. She still has to overcome a lot of frankly rotten personality defects to actually put her social life on steady ground. It’s like scoring a run when down 15-zip in the 4th inning of a baseball game; there’s still time to turn things around, but the wall will take some work to scale. If the series ends with her acknowledging that she’ll have to put in some work in to find the friends she wants, I think that’s about as much as could be hoped for.