I found it amusing that this episode of a show with “commonplace” or “everyday life” in the title dealt with something not commonplace at all, at least for most in the Western world: the Japanese written language. Heck, even that title means different things depending on how it’s written or read. I’m apparently drawn to shows that playfully explore the complexity plasticity of the language they’re speaking, usually for laughs.
And laughs were indeed in ample supply in the episode’s first half, when Jurai decides that everyone needs to come up with a Chuuni nickname to go with their powers (Why he didn’t suggest this when they first got their powers, I don’t know, but never mind). Each girl has a different approach, with Hatoko simply slapping colors in front of her name, then settling on “Play-Along Straight Man Hatoko.”
Sayumi is next, and has lots of good names, but when Jurai points out that they’re all very cute, like “Powdered-Snow Princess”, she storms out of the room; apparently “cute” is an off-limits subject for her. After her comes Chifuyu, who goes from “Mikan Mikan” to a variety of family-related nicknames, and settling on “Pineapple”, because she likes that part of sweet-and-sour pork.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the girl who seems to know, understand, and care for Jurai the most—Tomoyo—comes up with the most thoughtful and impressive nickname, “Endless Paradox” (Paradox Witch Who Sneers at Twilight). Even I have to admit that’s a pretty good name…and I’m not a Chuuni anymore.
What follows the selection of nicknames in the second half is another application of the theme of language: that of misunderstanding, which is always a deep font of comedy. In this case, Mirei comes in to “respond to Jurai’s love letter”, which she does by reciprocating her feelings and agreeing to go out with him. Naturally, that sets the rest of the girls off, because wait…Jurai wrote Mirei a love letter?
This is when the scene gets a little chaotic, but amusingly so: as Mirei reads and deconstructs the letter in great detail, explaining precisely (and not unreasonably) how she interpreted it as a love letter, Jurai confirms what Tomoyo suspected almost immediately: that he simply wrote a letter acknowledging Mirei’s superpower and giving it the name “Grateful Lover”, or rather, “Robber.”
It doesn’t get through to Mirei, however, and the letter seems to have had the unfortunate effect of at least making her feel like she’s very much in love with Jurai. As a result, she follows him around, flirts and clings to him, and turns into a viscous solid of affection. Jurai is understandably flattered—Mirei is adorable, after all. And yet…
And yet. When he arrives in the clubroom, his four club-mates are all quite pissed, and try to ignore him/take it out on him with varying degrees of success. It’s ultimately Sayumi who is upfront and tells him the understanding between him and Mirei needs to be cleared up. But there’s no superpower to make that easy, so that’s when we get our first taste of actual drama in InoBato, and I have to say, it worked pretty well.
In the hallway at sunset and bowing deeply in apology, Jurai explains what he explained to Tomoyo: that it wasn’t a love letter and he wasn’t trying to go out with her. Mirei is devastated but tries to apologize herself for jumping to conclusions and keep her composure, but simply can’t. It’s a tough and surprisingly moving scene, even if it is meant to restore the status quo. The lighting, the close-ups, and the voicework all contribute to sell it; now we know, InoBato can do serious.
What really validates it is when Tomoyo appears to cheer Jurai up, who is mostly angry at himself for having hurt someone so deeply without intending to. For a good while there, Tomoyo drops the tsundere act and sits with Jurai as a friend while he explains that he chose the potentially confusing “robber” to match the character count of his and everyone else’s powers, as a symbol of unity – again, tapping into the written language and its ability to symbolize many things at once. See, he’s actually a very thoughtful, caring guy! Like his letter, Mirei could have interpreted that as affection, too.
Ultimately, Mirei shoots Jurai an email—they exchanged emails during their short-lived romance—voicing her hope they can still be friends, and her intention to use the name he gave her power. And that’s perhaps the most surprising part of this episode: there was only one use of powers in the whole episode: When Mirei very briefly stole Closed Clock from Tomoyo (and obliged Jurai by giving them right back)…and that’s it.
And yet this was on some levels a stronger episode than the first, because it didn’t just define its cast by their powers, but really tapped into their personalities through their use of language and their reactions to Jurai’s fling with Mirei, as well as Mirei’s interpretation of Jurai’s language. In the end, the “battle” this week was fought not with elements or matter or time, but with “commonplace” words. And it was a damn good one.