The 19th episode of Sangatsu season two tried its best to enhance the backstory of two characters, however, it ultimately fell flat due to its constantly shifting tone and unwillingness to commit.
A Snail’s Pace
No one has ever complained that Sangatsu no Lion moves too quickly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: my generation grew up on ten-episode-long fights in Dragonball Z and loved every moment, for instance. However, this molasses-slow pacing leaves a bitter taste in the mouth when the first five minutes of an episode are devoted to a step-by-step recipe for rice flour dumplings.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. It’s a real shame, as Akari and her sisters are very interesting characters, but they’re being deprived of any real character growth. The writers did attempt to shoehorn a moral lesson into the end of the first half (“Enthusiasm isn’t enough: you also need experience”), but it’s hard not to feel as though this was rushed.
The episode’s second half dealt with Chiho’s bully, Takagi. Without any evidence, she cannot be punished, so her homeroom teacher resigns himself to giving her advice instead. The problem with Takagi is that she’s stubborn. We’ve seen her refuse to admit fault, and even continue to harass characters even after it’s made painfully obvious that she’s responsible for Chiho leaving. As such, it’s entirely possible she won’t listen, and may in fact, get worse, just to spite her old teacher.
These dark-palleted and serious scenes are intermixed with shots of Hina designing sweets for her and her sisters to make. It seems the intention was to highlight the differences between a child with a passionate interest in something, and one without, but the end result was that Takagi’s scenes suffered and became much harder to take seriously.
The biggest issue with this episode is that it brought very little to the table. Some sections (such as the recipe) would be better suited to an end-skit or YouTube video, while others, including the scene at the market, would fit better in an OVA or short.
In fact, the only real plot development this episode had was with Hina visiting Chiho. It showed that bullying isn’t a problem to take lightly, and that the effects can persist long after the bullying actually stops. It’s not as though we’re experiencing a slow time in the show: Rei’s tournament is coming up and he has a lot of studying to do. He’s apparently unconcerned, though, as he manages to find the time to hang out at Akari’s house and wash dishes.
All in all, a disappointing week for the show. Hopefully we’ll see some real plot progression and character development in the final episodes of the season, otherwise it’s going to be hard for viewers to justify watching a third.