Bossun and Himeko switch personalities. Tsubaki is hypnotized into believing he’s a cat. The only person who can help them has no motivation. Saaya is thinking about confessing to Bossun. Switch, who encouraged Saaya, now has to keep her away from Bossun, who is actually Himeko, who has to keep Himeko, who is actually Bossun, away from her body and other girls. Roman, who is omniscient, knows Bossun’s secret, because it’s how she’d write a high school trip anime. Enough going on for ya?
These situations, on their own, would make for pretty thin episodes (or half-episodes). But all of these things are going on in one episode, making for a dense, multifaceted episode with a manic pace. There’s so much going on here, all of which matches the established lore of the characters thus far. It’s no surprise to us that both Himeko and Bossun would think it would be easy to imitate one another, and not think further ahead to all of the awkward situations they’d get themselves into. Something as mundane as bathing with her fellow female classmates suddenly becomes a big deal. Things are chaotic.
Switch’s clandestine role to ensure Saaya won’t speak to Bossun when Himeko’s in his body – despite having prodded her to do just that last week – works well. Saaya’s own constant insistence that Bossun’s a “kind creep” hits fever pitch, and Bossun (with Himeko’s personality within) only fuels the fire. We also like how the generic student extras check off many of the things the Sket-dan has done (mentioning the events of previous episodes) and it’s true, to the mis- or under-informed, it might look like the club screws around more than it helps. But those extras respresent how dull the school would be without the Sket-dan, or their legion of eccentric friends and the student council, for that matter. Such a school would carry no interest for us.
In the first part, Bossun tries out Chuu-san’s new invisibility draught, and it works. Chuu tells him it will last “two hours, easy”, so Bossun goes to town to put a scare into Himeko. When the potion starts wearing off prematurely, the nude Bossun starts to become visible from the top down, and Himeko and Switch must improvise to keep him covered up.
In the second part, Bossun tries out a new robotic power/fat suit designed by Switch called “Jubanni”, which responds to commands and learns to anticipate. However, when the suit starts to think for itself, it gains emotions, and almost gets Bossun killed.
In the world of Sket Dance, homeroom teachers can invent revolutionary potions and students can build sophistocated heuristic robosuits. And for good or ill, Bossun plays the guinea pig both times, while Himeko and Switch (and a chibi Roman) observe, snicker, and help out when they can, and care to. But no matter how far-fetched and ridiculous the situations of this show gets, as long as they’re humorous and entertaining, we don’t care.
Both verbal jokes and sight gags come fast and furious. The scenes of Bossun slowly becoming naked in public in particular are full of tension and gut-busting hilarity. Our only beef is that Himeko could have bought him some clothes at the department store, but maybe she was out of cash. We also like Himeko’s reaction when Bossun tells her she’s light as a feather. Compliments…will get you everywhere, m’boy!
In part one, the Sket-dan hangs out with Momoka, who is worried about her impending role in a stage play. The script contains extremely simple dialogue, leaving the actors to interpret it how they choose. Practicing with Bossun, they play the proposal scene straight, then Switch makes the character her hulk-like father in a postapocalyptic setting; then Bossun and Momoka pretend to be Americans, saying whatever English phrases sound vaguely like the Japanese dialog. At her rehersal, Momoka sings her lines, impressing her director.
This part was all about taking a simple idea – like the sparse script – and coming up with several very different interpretations. It succeeds giving Bossun and Switch different personas for Momoka to bounce off of. We like the idea that Bossun is a good actor in his own right, and here he even throws off his coyness and embraces Momoka. He ceases to be Bossun and becomes the dull character. Bossun is the kind of guy who could well be good at everything – as long as he puts in the effort. Both the opening scene at the karaoke and the rehersal with the director prove that Momoka can do no wrong; she’ll always find success no matter what she does.
In part two, Himeko is contemplating what she wants to do in the future when Roman busts in with news: her manga has won a prize and has been published in Margerine magazine. It’s a poorly-drawn, rambling affair, but the Sket-dan agrees it is at least fun. Momoka’s protege Fumi shows her her own manga. Momoka is very impressed, and suggests they work together to get more of their work published.
Roman is an interesting character in that she more than any other non-core character manipulates and changes the rules of the episodes in which she appears. She is a master of time, space, and matter, able to create scenery and transitions like some kind of sorcery. The sket-dan can even inexplicably hear her inner voice. Like Momoka, Roman has managed to find success despite not having the best technical skills – her drawing is shaky and the story is a random mess, but the editors chose it for its sheer audacity. As usual, the sket-dan’s commentary during her manga presentation provided ample laughs.
In the first half, Roman presents her guide to manga for newcomers to the Sket-dan for inspection. As per usual, her artistic skills are dubious, but all of the instructional knowledge is there. However, once Roman’s protege Fumi intensely studies the guide, her drawing becomes crappier.
In the second half, Remi puts on a klutz’s clinic, making countless mistakes in her lesson, then abusing and throwing out her beloved “Specter” doll by mistake. The Sket-dan helps her search for it, and in the process they bump into a group of preschoolers in trouble. Remi shows her strength in leading young children, suggesting she’s more cut out for teaching preschool than high school.
A somewhat pedestrian dual effort this week, as Sket Dance gives Roman and Remi more airtime. Unfortunately, we’ve seen funnier and generally better Roman episodes and Remi episodes in the past. The bombastic commentary of Bossun and Himeko as Roman gives her manga spiel is entertaining enough, but we’ve already been here. In the second half, Remi does her best to prove she’s too ditzy to live. It would’ve made more sense for her to quit as a high school teacher, but that never panned out here.
I predicted that the Sket-dan would win the Bibage Tournament, it was just a matter of whether Roman or Bossun lost their challenge. It turns out, both of them lost. Roman was infinitely more charming than Uryuu, who wooed her target with a fat check. But it was just bad luck that the guy, while totally smitten with Roman, nonetheless chose the girl who was more “his type”. Roman did nothing wrong, it just wasn’t to be.
The final challenge seemingly becomes must-win when the council prez, Agata, raises the stakes: Whoever loses quits their respective club. Their challenge, Pixie Garden, is a game of wits, and the 200 (or 160) I.Q. Agata changes gears from laid back and affable to manipulative and ruthless. He disrupts Bossun’s concentration by bringing up something we’ve yet to learn: why Switch and Himeko are so trusting of and loyal to him. Why he wants to help people. Is he atoning for something?
In any case, Agata keeps Bossun tense the whole way, and is always a step or two ahead in the game. Even when Bossun remembers the order of the cards, he makes one mistake at the end, because Agata correctly predicted everything he’d do. He didn’t just lose, he lost at the worst possible time. His opponent did what he wanted to do: snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It doesn’t matter, since the prez wasn’t serious…though it’s pretty funny how Sket-dan proceeds with a “Farewell Bossun” party anyway.
So yeah, this first half of Sket Dance was good school comedy with a lot of ridiculous side characters and a strong core trio of likable leads. The show never aims to be serious, and for the most part sticks to its strengths. It and its cast are eccentric, yet down to earth. I look forward to what they throw at us in the second half. Rating: 3.5
P.S.: For some reason, the two Bibage mascots reminded me of Panty & Stocking…
This is the episode where I totally stopped caring about what’s at stake in this ridiculously high-budget competition between Sket-dan and the Student Council, because the show doesn’t really care about it either at the moment, it’s all about the here and now. And it delivered not one but two superb duels – one between Tsubaki and Shinzo, and another between Switch and Daisy. The two matches couldn’t have been more different, but they both worked, and rocked.
Tsubaki probably had Shinzo hook-line-and-sinker had he not called into question his samurainess. The words stung Shinzo deep, and made him remember his master’s teachings. The fact he burst his own second-to-last blood ball was particularly badass, and it made sense why he did it – Samurai only have one life to give; and his only two options are to win or die. So with the teams tied at one victory apiece (complete with victory rock that reminded me of Queen), Switch volunteers for the shoot out with Daisy in a dark warehouse.
Daisy may well be a crack shot who carries out orders without hesitation, Switch arguably scores the first unofficial point by loosing a barrage of information about her character, along with his analysis that she may be into S&M. She returns fire with perhaps the best and most elegant-sounding insults of the whole season – “Dobu De Oborete Shinde Ikikaete Mata Shine”, or “Drown in a gutter and die, come back to life, then die again.” Itai! Another nice touch – the two are kitted out in classy noir costumes.
As I said, Daisy has the better eye (though they both wear glasses; who knows), but Switch has a laptop, which he uses to misdirect and fool her into thinking he’s out of ammo. It’s more chess than pistols, as Switch uses his heretofore ambidexterity to get the winning shot just one-hundreth of a second before Daisy shoots him. Margin for error was zero, but he had confidence. Sket-dan up 2-1. Now, will the ringer, Roman, lose the “love challenge” against Uryuu, or will Bossun lose the last match to the council Prez? We’ll have to find out next week. Rating: 3.5