Apologies for the delay with this week’s episode review. I got a little caught up in some simulated football action and I ended up going a wee bit overboard. Nevertheless, I was prepared for Aharen-san to gradually disappoint me yet again.
…Except it did not!
Episode 4 Synopsis
Aharen and Raidou continue to develop their relationship by working on their communication. Other characters begin to enter the fray and take notice of their closeness. Absurdity ensues.
Ironic as it is, right when I was about to give up on thinking this series will ever improve, it does. Episode four is the best episode of the Aharen-san anime thus far.
Finally, the writing seems to take inspiration from the weirder parts of the manga. A majority of episode four is benign nonsense, coated in a nice, thin layer of wholesomeness that makes the situations more endearing. Some of this is aided with the new characters introduced, but most of the strength of this episode lies in how Aharen and Raidou interact with one another. Only difference this time around is its execution.
I could try and make this simple and say that the prior episodes were too “tryhard,” which would make sense to me. But since others reading this have no indication of what I mean by this, let me take this time to reason why this week’s episode was better in one facet: subtlety.
Prior episodes would take the time to have these outstretched, slow jokes followed by Aharen (or Ooshiro, occasionally) going on this huge monologue clearly meant to invoke some “doki doki” energy from the audience. The “Awww, how cute!” moments that are supposed to have you care at all about the growing relationship between Raidou and Aharen. The issue, however, is that it was so early on that it didn’t feel earned.
Like when your mother hears you mention a friend of the opposite gender and immediately jokes(?) about them being your future spouse. They’re jumping the gun hardcore based on some preconceived notion of opposite gendered friends inevitably being romantically invested in one another. That’s annoying in the same way, because they’re insinuating huge advancements before they happen, should they even happen.
…You all have seen those memes, right?
Here, the pacing and introduction of these situations (specifically rapping as communication and the ordeal at the park with the kids) are more natural and don’t rely on heavy-handed communication of cuteness. And the absurdity of it. Finally, finally, the absurdity is starting to really take root in the writing.
One segment in episode four is Aharen randomly becoming invested in rap music. After listening to a CD one night, she begins to communicate with Raidou only through rap. It’s bizarre in and of itself; Raidou takes it one step further by investing himself in it so that he can match her ambition. He didn’t have to do this, but it shows an investment in closing the gap in their relationship that’s cute, without having to have him dwell on it too much (he does make a few expository comments, though).
Another segment involves Raidou trying to train Aharen to be more expressive. He does this by pulling from personal experience—if you recall from the first episode, Raidou is exceptionally expressionless himself, leading to one of the more amusing jokes in the episode. Nevertheless, the effort he takes in preparing things, as well as Aharen’s earnestness in going along with it, is sweet without being overly so. This is even with a rather predictable outcome to the training.
Even the animation here, which I’ve ragged on in pretty much every review thus far, is mildly better in landing jokes better. While the actual manner of animation is still pretty mild and occasionally lazy (LOTS of non-moving characters in backgrounds), jokes land better through bizarre faces and quick, expressive mannerisms. I suppose they better disguise their inadequacies by focusing on the strengths of the material, which works better in their favor.
I know I said last time that it was basically hopeless to think this series would get any better, but it’s pulled a fast one on me! While not a masterclass in comedy or anything, Aharen-san‘s fourth episode shows a little spirit of what made the parent story so compelling to me. Amusing, cute, and not overly in-your-face about shipping the two characters together (for now), it’s the strongest episode to date.
Now watch as the next episode goes back to middling mediocrity.
Thank you for reading. Have a great timezone.