Not sure what to make of this episode. As you can probably tell from the screenshot above, trouble is brewing for Makoto.
— Lately, Takeo’s best friend has been acting a little off, which hasn’t gone unnoticed. Our hero isn’t that blind… but I suppose this is the implicit limits of his unbridled manliness. More on that later.
— As usual, Takeo is busy stuffing himself silly with baked goods. That’s a lot of carbs… and doesn’t his mouth ever get dry? Hell, I feel bad for the roof of my mouth just thinking about all that crumby bread he’s going to eat. Now, I do enjoy cake sale, but usually with a glass of wine. Obviously, Takeo’s not old enough for that, but my point still stands: for God’s sake, drink something.
— Rinko not-so-subtly asks Takeo when his birthday is. Naturally, he asks her when her birthday is, and she reveals that it’s just ten days away. Hohoho, clever girl. It’s a little strange, though. Back when I was still flirting with girls — which I don’t do anymore ’cause I’m happy with my 8-year relationship… she’s not behind me, is she? — asking them about their birthdays usually came pretty early on in the conversation.
— The girl says she just wants Takeo to be with her for the entire day. It’s kind of boring, really. She’s too idealized. She’s the sort of perfect anime girlfriend that you see all the time in these series. There isn’t a selfish bone in her body, but everybody’s a little selfish. It’s what makes her individual. What I’m saying is that Rinko feels so fake. She’s pure fantasy… but just like Takeo, I suppose.
— Takeo has flaws, but no real flaws either. Nothing to really learn from. It makes for such an inert show. I know American shows about teenagers can be really dramatic and over-the-top, but I prefer to see people go through real trials and tribulations, and actually growing up a little over the course of a series. As you’ll see by the end of this episode, Ore Monogatari!! doesn’t feel as though it has any sort of progress. It’s mired in this pastel-colored limbo where even the sad moments aren’t so sad… without any of the highs and lows, everything ends up having a numbing effect.
— Oh hey, Takeo’s mom exists. And she’s supposedly pregnant, so his dad presumably exists somewhere out there, too. Somewhere…
— Look at these two react to the idea of Rinko being a mother one day. Not a single sexual desire in either one of them. Teenagers my ass.
— When Makoto quietly excuses himself again, Rinko suggests that they invite Makoto to come hang out with them on her birthday. Hm, yes, let’s assume the guy is just lonely, then make him the third wheel on your date. That’ll solve his loneliness.
— Takeo isn’t completely emotionally blind. He can see that something is bothering his best friend, but he takes what I would say is the stereotypical guy approach to the problem: he’ll come to me if he needs help. We won’t discuss the problem just for the sake of discussing it. We only talk it through if someone actually desires a solution. And since Makoto isn’t asking for a solution, we’ll just let sleeping dogs lie…
— Naturally, Takeo comes to Makoto for help, which is something that he does all the time. This week, he needs his best friend to help plan Rinko’s special day.
— It’s funny how he wants to do all these things at once on her special day. Most couples would just go on dates at least once a week instead of sitting on some park bench every single day like some old geriatric couple — the kind that would go to the park just to sit for hours and feed the birds — then saving all the fun stuff for a birthday. See, they don’t even act like real kids. Kids should be going to all sorts of different places to have fun. Haven’t you ever been young before?
— And although Takeo asks for Makoto’s help, it really feels like Makoto is doing all of the work. Sure, it’s fine if our hero’s just clueless, and he’ll eventually learn to be more thoughtful about this sort of thing. I mean, what is he going to do when they’re married? He can’t ask for Makoto’s help then. But the story doesn’t really use this as a learning moment.
— Takeo suddenly freaks out when he realizes he doesn’t have a gift for Rinko. But I thought she told him she didn’t want anything. Of course, when people say that in real life, they usually don’t mean it. They usually expect you to put some effort into finding a gift even if it’s not an expensive one. But remember, Rinko isn’t really a real girl. I bet if you didn’t give her anything, she wouldn’t be disappointed one bit.
— The next day, things seem to be getting worse for Makoto, but Takeo only asks a single question. Sure, in super logic land, we would say, “This is on Makoto. Takeo can’t read minds! If Makoto needed support, he should ask for it!” But man, that’s cold. And some people may feel as though they don’t want to burden you with their troubles. A good friend would put forth more than a token effort. Maybe Takeo is too busy planning his girlfriend’s perfect birthday to pick up on Makoto’s needs, but eh… we only ever see a brief glimpse of these characters’ days. It’s hard to say what they’re really thinking about the rest of the time.
— To pay for Rinko’s gift, Takeo finds himself an interesting job…
— Finally, the truth comes out when Takeo’s mother spills the beans: Makoto’s father is in the hospital, and even worse, his mother and sister are overseas. So really, Makoto is all by himself.
— So here comes to the usual “I’ll be by your side!” manliness. But of course, the more sensitive friend is quick to cut that down. After all, it would only make him feel worse if he’s the reason that Takeo cancels on his girlfriend’s birthday. So Takeo reflects and realizes that there’s still a lot that he doesn’t know about his best friend…
…but is that it? Has he really learned anything? It’s hard to say. It’s one thing to be overdramatic, but Ore Monogatari!! goes to the other extreme end of the spectrum. Even here, everything is wrapped up with a tiny bow by the end of the episode. Makoto can’t simply be okay with how he can’t even reach his mother and sister, can’t he? And you mean to tell me he isn’t the least bit resentful that Takeo didn’t try harder to console him? Not a teensy tiny bit? Everyone in this show is perfect, man. Takeo is perfect in his manliness. As soon as he realized what Makoto was going through, he immediately volunteered to be by his friend side at the hospital. No hesitation whatsoever. None? Really? It’s your girlfriend’s birthday for Christ’s sakes. Even if you ultimately want to help your best friend, you gotta feel a little selfish, right? A little doubt, no?
Makoto is the perfect sensitive friend who is understanding about everything. He always accepts being the third wheel at the park with nary a complaint. He doesn’t feel the slightest bit annoyed that no one has reached out for him for the past few painful, difficult days. He thoughtfully spends his entire night planning out the perfect date for his friend even though he has much more important things to worry about. And sure, you could argue that having Takeo’s light-hearted problems allows Makoto to take his mind off of the more painful fact that his dad might die, but c’mon, not an ounce of frustration? Not the least bit weary that while he’s dealing with a potential family tragedy, this fucker over here doesn’t even realize he should buy his girlfriend a birthday present? C’mon.
Last but not least, Rinko is this perfect girlfriend who is more than willing to spend hours in a hot kitchen baking her life away, and she wouldn’t dare ask for anything in return… except just Takeo’s company of course. Not even a present. She doesn’t even have any requests for her birthday. Not even like, “Can we ride those dorky swan boats where we both have to pedal?” Not even “Let’s go have some crepe at this crepe place that just opened up.” Nothing. She is fine with anything. Is she even alive? Does she have a pulse? C’moooooooooon. What is there to watch when these characters are this perfect? But they’re not really perfect. Perfection wouldn’t be this exasperating. Instead, they more resemble some sort of twisted anime version of the Platonic ideal.
You might argue that Takeo clearly wasn’t perfect in this episode, because he didn’t try hard enough to see what was wrong with his friend… but he wasn’t even that bad about it. It wasn’t like he never asked his friend what was wrong. Simply put, if he screwed up, it was like spilt milk. Nothing worth crying over. But that’s the story’s biggest shame. There’s nothing here that is remotely worth crying over. Nothing chest-achingly funny either.
I think laughter is a whole lot like crying in one respect: you are so overwhelmed with emotion that you lose control. You lose your composure. As such, you have to either laugh or cry in order to reset your feelings, thereby allowing your inner self to “reboot.” Sometimes we laugh when we are sad. Sometimes we cry when we are happy. A show like Ore Monogatari doesn’t move me enough to do either of those things. It’s like the show is afraid to let loose and really embrace the true vibrancy of life. It’s almost a crime, to be honest, because those teenage years are supposed to be some of the most tumultuous times of our lives. But Ore Monogatari!! is a far cry from that reality. It’s far too in control. It’s like being sedated. Everything is just one fuzzy, contented dream…