The Quintessential Quintuplets – 17 – Working Five to Five

The New Year is here, and Fuutarou and Raiha spot the Quints at the local shrine positively resplendent in their kimonos. I don’t often comment on the wardrobe of the sisters, but it is never not 100% on point, whether it’s modern or traditional garb. From there, Raiha invites herself to their new place, which means Fuutarou comes too.

The Quints’ new apartment is far more modest and normal than their previous spacious penthouse, and while, say, even Nino is fine with sharing the warmth of the kotatsu, the sisters simply aren’t used to the close quarters (Itsuki excepted, as she lived with the Uesugis for a while).

Newly reunited and empowered, the sisters are on a blessedly united front on the subject of Uesugi continuing to tutor them…they just don’t know how to pay him back! Ichika is the only one working, and is falling asleep during their first study session of the year, which isn’t a good sign! Because they’re watching a romantic TV show, there’s talk of a “peck on the cheek”, which is carried out by Yotsuba when she nonchalantly eats cream off his face.

Realizing having only Ichika pay their way isn’t tenable, the other sisters consider other jobs, which is really an excuse for the show to have sumptuous pans of them in various career outfits: Ichika as a tutor, Yotsuba as a grocery clerk, Miku as a café maid, and Nino as a dominatrix!

Speaking of cafés, Fuutarou is trying to advance at the one he works at, but while the apple pie he bakes looks identical, it is underdone. His boss then tells him they’re closing at noon to allow a film crew to shoot there, and who should Fuu encounter but Ichika—in full horror movie ditzy high school girl costume.

“Tamako-chan” wall-slams Fuu in a very romantically lit back room scene, voicing her embarassment with him watching her perform such a silly role. She feels she has no choice but to take any and all acting work she can, since rent, food, and utilities are proving more expensive than she thought. Nevertheless, the eldest sister will be strong for the other girls, and won’t let Fuu try to convince her otherwise.

To her surprise Fuu doesn’t scold her; in fact, he’s proud of how hard she’s working and grateful she’s making it possible for him to keep tutoring them. Once her scenes are filmed, Fuu catches her studying on her own, only to nod off from fatigue. Fuu provides a shoulder for her to nap upon and he says “good work”. Little does Fuu know she’s only pretending to sleep…she can’t let him see her blushing face!

While on a shopping trip in which she and Fuu are being used as Nino’s pack mules, Nino almost drops a bag of rice Yotsuba gives her to tie her shoe, but Fuu catches her, causing her to blush and her heart to beat faster. Having just gotten over his blonde alter ego, Nino simply isn’t ready to accept that Fuu is her “prince.”

While heading home, Yotsuba spots Ichika at a Starbucks with their dad. Believing her to be the most “amenable” (read: malleable) daughter, he insists that she and the other sisters return home immediately. When Ichika mentions Fuu, her dad says he’ll be welcomed back too…but as an aide to a professional tutor of his choosing.

When Ichika bristles at that, he asks her if she really believes Yotsuba can earn a passing grade with Fuu’s continued tutoring. Fuu, Nino, and Yotsuba are listening in from the bar, and Fuu cannot stand to hear the sisters run down by their own father, but Nino takes his hand and asks him to hold off.

Instead, Yotsuba approaches the table and tells their dad they’ll be continuing with Fuu and Fuu alone. Her Dad’s fine with that, but on the condition that this is collectively their last chance to pass. If they fail again under Fuu’s tutoring, he’ll transfer them to a different school for their third year—one that will accept them regardless of their scores.

Papa Nakano is an odd duck. One can’t overlook his resemblance to Fuutarou, nor his cold manner to match his wan complexion. He loves his daughters in his own way, but like most dads with daughters their age, he’s loath to let any man have them. He comes right out and tells Itsuki he “hates” Fuu. Part of that could be that Fuu chewed him out when he resigned, telling him to be more of an active father and calling him an asshole.

But another part of him could simply be envious that Fuu is able to spend so much time with them. Like Ichika, her dad works alone to pay the bills that come with raising five girls at once. I wonder if he regrets the sacrifice he made so they could live in luxury, seeing as how the result of never being around was that they moved out.

In any case, the Quints have really put themselves and Fuutarou on the spot. If Dad is to be believed, this is their last shot. They’ll have to improve their scores considerably, or they’ll end up at different schools next year. I wish that felt more threatening, but they spend so little time actually in school—it’s more that Fuutarou truly does want to help them. If they fail again, he’s failed again That can’t happen.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Five Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Ichika: Between being surprised by almost bumping into Fuu in the new place (so he can examine her mouth) to the whole Tamako-chan performance and their quality time “backstage”, Ichika takes her first win of the season. It was only a matter of time! Total Points: 13 (3rd)
  2. Yotsuba: The other girls are all talk and blushing, but only she actually puts her mouth on Fuu’s face, so she wins on that front. Combine that with the fact she carries a bag of rice for Fuu and stands up to their dad with conviction, and #4 had her best episode yet. Total Points: 12 (4th)
  3. Nino: For once Nino wasn’t in the spotlight, but her feelings for Fuu continue to simmer at key points this week. Her inviting him to sit under the kotatsu and taking his hand at the café were both nice moments.  Total Points: 22 (1st)
  4. Itsuki: I’m not saying she would have folded without backup, but I’m glad Yotsuba was there to back her up against their manipulative papa. Total Points: 18 (2nd)
  5. Miku: That Miku has yet to even slightly improve her culinary skills stretches credulity at this point—the joke is officially stale. There’s no doubt that she’d be a popular café maid, though. Total Points: 10 (5th)

Ikebukuro West Gate Park – 07 – Mars (Enterprises) Attacks!

“Everyone’s so worried about me…What am I, a little boy?” I doubt the people warning Makoto are doing so because they think he’s a kid, but because there is much he has to lose by diving too deep into this latest mess. Like his mother, his newly adopted sister Shungui, the family produce stand, and his reputation as a neutral troubleshooter.

Unfortunately, we don’t see his mom or Shungui either this week or last, which is a shame, not just because they could put the impudence of Makoto’s words into relief and even offer him perspective, but because I like those characters, and Shungui in particular seemed like someone we would be and should be seeing more of. Alas, Makoto is on an island at the beginning of this episode.

Ikebukuro is on the knife’s edge; war could spill onto the streets at any moment…yet he still finds time to work on Toshiaki’s film at the video store. His police buddy informs him “Shadow” is a lone operator, while his Hidaka PR buddy Saru informs him that Mars Enterprises hired both the Shadow and the masked thugs to create imbalance as a preface for expanding into Ikebukuro.

Unfortunately, Takashi is once again ghosting him, and the minute Makoto is off the phone with Saru, he has the bunny mask thug’s knife to his neck, clarifying that he and his guys have a grudge with him and Takashi personally. Bunny Mask is also helpful enough to perform his scene right in front of the “making of” camera, which is just icing for the cake in terms of how sloppy the masked thugs are.

Makoto determines that the masked thugs are Yamamoto and his men, who worked for OK Holdings and were previously run out of town. He informs Hiroto personally, but the Knight is already on his horse, and his men are itching for a confrontation with Takashi for control of the G-Boys present and future.

He finally gets to meet up with Takashi, who notes that one piece his old friend has left out of the equation are the Red Angels. Whether Makoto simply took Kyouichi at his word or has a blind spot due to his officially neutral status, Makoto isn’t willing to entertain the possibility the Angels could exploit the G-Boys civil war to expand their own influence.

Finally, and apparently quite by chance, “Shadow” presents himself to Makoto in the park. He further clarifies matters, saying the only job he did was on Donglong, while the thugs did the jobs on Hiroto’s men. He adds that they did a crap job while both they and Mars used the “Shadow” brand without his consent. This caused Shadow’s reputation to take a hit, and he paid Mars back by beating up each of their board members.

Shadow seems to consider himself an underworld equivalent of Makoto: an independent troubleshooter who works for justice (Shadow works for money; justice is just gravy), and someone for whom “reputation is paramount”. In the interests of preventing war, Makoto decides to ask Shadow to take care of the “weak link”: the war-mongering Hiroto.

Makoto institutes this gambit as much out of a desire to prove he’s not “just some kid” or a “nice guy”, but someone willing to do whatever it takes to protect the peace and balance of his town. But the gambit backfires, as Hiroto’s men blame King for the beating of their Knight and begin the march to war.

After consulting with Takashi once more, Makoto gets Kyouichi to agree to back Takashi in order to “quell the disturbance”. Kyouichi proves himself an honest and honorable man by doing his part, marching his Red Angels between Hiroto’s men and Takashi and declaring an alliance with the latter, then getting Hiroto’s uneasy No.2 to drop his bat and back down with a mere look.

With war averted—arguably way too neatly, but averted all the same—all that’s left is to take out the trash, i.e. Yamamoto and his ragtag quintet of thugs, who end up coming to them as Takashi and Makoto film a scene in Toshiaki’s film. In the adult video section, Yamamoto & Co. surround the two, but suddenly Shadow appears to even the odds. He takes out two of the thugs, and Takashi takes out the remaining three including delivering a knockout blow to Yamamoto.

The excellent fight scene really underscored how overmatched Yamamoto and his thugs were. Once the masked thugs identities and motives were made clear, they never had a realistic chance to instigate a full-scale turf war, especially since revenge was Yamamoto’s primary goal. Hopefully he won’t need a third demonstration of the futility of seeking revenge.

Toshiaki finally finishes his film, and it’s a hit, so he plans to make more, and Makoto notes the firm dedication inherent in Toshiaki’s efforts. He saw that same dedication in Shadow’s no-nonsense way of operating, and in Kyouichi’s dedication to protecting the town he’s come to like. After dancing on a razor’s edge these last two episodes, Makoto seems content to continue dedicating himself to selling fruit. Gotta pay the bills!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Ikebukuro West Gate Park – 06 – Shadows in the Knight

Ikebukuro is a town of balance, and that balance ensures peace. But one otherwise ordinary night, a group from the G-Boys Hiroto Faction are pulled from their van and viciously beaten by toughs in animal masks. Makoto is busy acting in an indie film being directed by the clerk of a doomed video store.

It’s a fitting setting in which to begin for an episode about the wider downfall of Ikebukuro’s hard-fought peace. Also on the film crew is Crow, an underling of Hiroto, whose boys were hit by the animal maskers, apparently led by a mysterious figure called “Shadow”. Hiroto suspects the attack was a warning from his boss, “King” Takashi, to keep his ambitions in check.

Before Makoto can confer with Takashi, Hiroto’s boys are hit by the Shadow again, and hard. In lieu of any word from King, Makoto meets with another childhood friend, Saru, the Hidaka Group’s PR man. He knows that Shadow is apparently elite muscle-for-hire, and that Hidaka’s position is that balance should be maintained, using his ice cream to illustrate his point.

He also warns his friend Makoto to “know where to draw the line” in his involvement, lest he end up in trouble. That’s when Hiroto reaches out to Makoto through Crow, and Makoto learns Hiroto is now having his men call him “Knight”—a direct challenge to King. With command of a third of the G-Boys, among them some of the toughest fighters, his faction has been waiting for someone to “pull the trigger” at them for some time.

In other words, even if it is King sending Shadow against his men, it doesn’t matter. He wanted an excuse to move anyway, and he got it. The spark has been lit, and the Hiroto faction is a tinderbox. Makoto gets him to agree not to move against Takashi until he’s spoken to him, but Hiroto warns if his boys are attacked one more time, it will be war.

With Takashi still not taking his calls, Makoto has no choice but to meet with the Red Angels instead. Kyouichi says he isn’t attacking Hiroto’s boys, as he has no reason to start a war that will endanger his people. However, he hastens to add, should one drop of Red Angel blood spill from the crossfire of an imminent G-Boys civil war, they’ll show no mercy.

Makoto walks down a dark Ikebukuro alley late at night with Sunshine 60 looming in the background. The mass of the tower behind him makes him look that much smaller and more alone; the town’s chief diplomat who has yet to make contact with the leader of its most powerful gang. Even as he makes no progress, he is followed by a sketchy guy in the shadows whose face he never sees, perhaps as subtle and bloodless warning as he’s going to get to quit while he’s still neutral.

As timing would have it, Takashi calls him immediately after the frightening encounter, and they meet in West Gate to talk for the first time. King hesitated to answer his buddy’s calls because he didn’t want him involved, because he can’t guarantee his safety this time. This enrages Makoto, with good reason.

When you think about it, he is one of the strongest and bravest players in this town precisely because he works alone and has no sworn allegiance, except to Ikebukuro herself. He commits to finding out who the Shadow is and who sent him to attack Hiroto’s men. As if to answer that question for the audience, the camera lingers on Isogai as he and Kyouichi walk on a bridge as cop cars race past.

Makoto and King end up shaking hands, symbolically sealing Makoto’s fate as a declared ally of King and thus a legitimate combatant in the G-Boys war to come. Because it is coming; and Makoto is out of time to stop it. The Shadow attacked Hiroto’s boys a third time, and this time a group from Dongfeng were hit as well.

Hiroto justifiably doesn’t care about the attack on Dongfeng muddying the waters; too much of his boys’ blood has been spilt. Just as Makoto is confident he can keep both King and Knight at bay, Knight draws his sword: he’s quitting the G-Boys, and no longer taking orders from Takashi. Their meeting in the alley was but a mere formality.

Maintaining peace and balance is not Hiroto’s goal. He’s thirsted for power, and is now taking the opportunity to grab it. Once he’s in charge of the G-Boys, he dreams of expanding their influence across all of Tokyo. Obviously, this is folly, and Takashi tells Makoto that it’s a product of his lack of strategic experience (Lao Tzu would also have some criticisms of Knight’s approach).

The episode ends with another suspicious lingering camera shot at Kyouichi, who is apparently pleased with how things are going. Did he and/or Isogai hire Shadow to destabilize the G-Boys? Were they simply biding their time all along? Or are they just looking forward to their largest rival eating away at itself from the inside, poised to fill the vacuum that results?

Whatever the case, IWGP is on a certified roll, following up two strong case-of-the-week episodes with a headfirst dive into the central gang conflict. It may be too late to keep a war from starting, but perhaps Makoto can still find a way to end it before it causes too much damage.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

%d bloggers like this: