EPISODE 2 “The Golden Shoes”
The story of Yuichi Taira is an extremely silly one, but also sad and familiar. What makes him so engaging is how much his aspirations align with most viewers, while also being despicable and childish. He wants to be the best, to have friends and to do well in school, desires shared by just about everyone. When the new kid Ushiyama, enters his school and “disrupts his plans”, Yuichi begins to hate him as his friends start ignoring him. This so common when negative things happen to people, they look for someone to blame. It can lead to a lot of imagined hatred, and of course paranoia.
With Yuichi and Ushiyama butting heads–Yuichi being mean, Ushiyama being nice–Ushiyama makes a lot of friends which further angers Yuichi. This cycle continues, as Yuichi is ignored and picked on for having roller skates and a bat like Lil Slugger. The combination of the issue of bullying with Yuichi’s childish and cheesy ambition really makes this episode engrossing.
After being questioned by the police, his friends get scared leave him alone at his birthday party, with only his mother and tutor in attendance. When the episode ends, Yuichi misses his big student council election, staying at home in bed to watch a tape of one of his old baseball games.
Yuichi. Holy shit. Perhaps my favorite episode of this show, and maybe of any anime.
EPISODE 3 “Double Lips”
“Double Lips” focuses on Harumi Chono, the tutor from the previous episode, and her struggles with identity and mental well being. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Chono is someone who lives with multiple personality disorder, and communicates with her other self through an answering machine. The concept is similar to that of Kon’s famous film Perfect Blue, but executed differently. I personally prefer this to the film.
Chono the tutor, who also works at a local university, is more academic and conservative, while at night, the sexually active Maria lives uninhibited, and works for an escort service. At first, the two communicate and butt heads, but generally don’t interfere with the other’s life. However, after Chono’s engagement, she throws out all if Maria’s clothes to try and take control. This angers Maria, thus increasing her influence.
Chono and her fiancé choose a modest wedding ceremony, and she prepares to eventually settle in with her new husband. Maria retaliates getting rid of Chono’s belongings, and she falls into panic. People begin to notice, and she consults her psychiatrist for a new treatment. Frustrated and out of options, she believes that being attacked by Lil Slugger might solve her problems. And so it happens. It becomes clear that Slugger may provide temporary relief from everyday woes. Perhaps.