Episode 2 definitely feels like it’s slowed way down compared to the rush of introductions and quirkiness in episode 1. Hinako’s flashback dream takes up the first third or so of the episode, and the remaining two-thirds are just the girls basically sitting around chatting all day. But let’s see what there is to see, shall we?
First up is Hinako’s dream. She was definitely pretty adorable as a kid, but if anything her social skills were even more lacking than they are today. I am rather bothered that the adults in her village seem to think nothing about just walking up and basically abducting her right off the street. I realize things are probably not as formal in a village setting where everyone knows everyone else, but still Hinako never agrees to act as their scarecrow. The old woman just keeps talking at her until she becomes so scared that she freezes up, at which point the woman takes her consent as implied and carries her off to the field. More, it’s clear from interactions afterwards that Hinako’s mother hasn’t been told about what’s going on either, which I would think should be one of the first things they should have done. If you’re going to ask a minor to come work for you, make certain that they have permission from their family so that it won’t cause unexpected problems. More, Hinako clearly doesn’t enjoy doing this work, but lacks the courage to speak up and say that she doesn’t want to continue. It all just kind of feels bad all around.
On the other hand, I will admit that my point of view is influenced by my own cultural upbringing. Hinako doesn’t seem to hold the opinion that she’s being abused by this. Indeed, when the old villagers make certain to thank her and give her gifts of vegetables from their fields as payment for her services, she thinks that they’re very kind to her, and goes through a lot of effort to make certain to thank them. That doesn’t make the situation feel any better to me, but it does suggest that different people from different cultures and upbringings can have different perspectives about this kind of thing. Perhaps this sort of thing is more accepted in a small, closely-knit rural community where it’s possible that a whole village might serve as surrogate parents to the children of the community. I don’t really have that perspective, but I can recognize that it exists and that it might influence how these things are viewed.
Anyway, enough about flashbacks. After Hinako wakes up, the scene moves to the four girls having breakfast in the cafe. As might be expected, the conversation revolves around Hinako’s interest in acting and Chiaki’s idea that they should start a theater troupe. We do get a glimpse of what happened when the school’s theater club closed down. Much to my surprise, the sixth “girl” who appears in the background of some of the scenes in the OP is actually the theater club’s advisor: the one who apparently left on a journey to improve herself because she felt inadequate to lead the club. Another loli teacher… she doesn’t look any older than the rest of the cast.
I like how everyone’s individual personalities are subtly displayed throughout this conversation. Chiaki is still soft-spoken, but is very friendly and supportive, constantly maintaining a gentle smile on her face. Mayuki spends almost the entire time acting like the maid she dresses as, never sitting down to eat with the others, always bringing food or tea or something and joining the conversation from the side. Kuina adds a bit of energy and mild snark to the scenes, as well as her particular brand of gluttony: she cleans her plate of food faster than anyone else, during the tea segment she’s reading a book that has the corner of it bitten off, and she gets hungry again pretty much the instant she stops eating. Hinako, of course, remains bashful and cute, the uncertain newcomer who is now facing the reality of something that was just a dream before, and is uncertain about her ability to do it. Also, it may be my imagination, but it seems to me that Hinako may be just a bit taken with the calm, mature, and kind Chiaki who encourages her with a smile.
As luck would have it, Chiaki has been considering adding a stage to the shop as a means to draw in more customers, and also to take advantage of her own interest in theater. This is especially good for Hinako, since the rules are that people living there have to work in the shop in some fashion, and she seems particularly unsuited to handling either the bookstore or the cafe. A place in the theater troupe will allow her to work while simultaneously pursuing her dream: a rare opportunity. Also, it’s pretty adorable seeing Hinako ask for, and receive, everyone’s contacts on her phone. These girls have only known each other for a short time, but it’s really cute how close they feel already.
The final scene in Hinako’s room is probably worth a mention. I don’t find a mention of a stage called the Suzuran, but the image shown in the magazine almost perfectly matches images for the Suzunari theater in Shimokitazawa. It was probably renamed in the anime for legal purposes. Regardless, Shimokitazawa is one of the major places to go in Tokyo for theater, as well as other similar such cultural pursuits. It doesn’t tend to have many large commercial theaters, but it does have a number of fairly famous and well-respected smaller theaters that attract productions from major writers and directors. It’s a lofty goal for our girls, three of whom have never even done any sort of acting before, but sometimes thinking big is good. They haven’t set a time limit on this: they have no reason to rush it. Giving themselves a distant goal can help ensure that they will continue to work towards it, continue to grow, continue to become better until the day when they finally are ready.
This was a simple episode where the girls basically stayed home and talked about the same general topic all day. But still it wasn’t any less enjoyable for that. I am hoping we will soon get to meet the fifth girl who has been shown with the group in the OP and ED. Once the group is complete I expect things to begin moving.
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