Review: Oniisama e…, “The Gardening Shears” and “The University Fair”

Takashi receives a death glare from Mariko

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Oniisama e…
Episodes 20 and 21: “The Gardening Shears” and “The University Fair”
Original airdates: Dec. 15 and Dec. 22, 1991

Apologies for the lack of a post last week. My modem conspired against me, making Oniisama too much of a challenge to watch from a logistics perspective. But I have a new modem now, and am ready to return to Seiran!

It’s an odd pair of episodes this week, and it’s the first time that I kind of didn’t particularly like either episode. Considering it took 20 episodes to get to that point is, however, rather impressive. The show’s been very consistent from episode to episode, so a pair of less-than-riveting installments is hardly cause for concern. Or is it? You can tell me in the comments.

“The Gardening Shears” is surprisingly lifeless considering it involves Miya-sama locking Nanako in a storage room so as to prevent her from joining Henmi at the university fair. I think much of the problem is ultimately the lack of drama involved in the whole plot. Nanako is, of course, distraught over missing the fair, but she also takes the glass-half-full approach and puts on the record player and has herself a private festival. It’s a sign of her resolve to make the best of any situation, but damn if it’s not the teeniest bit dull. Even her escape from the storage room, courtesy of Kaoru (the episode did do a nice job of making sure she was going to be there for a reasonable reason), just kind of happened.

Oniisama20-03

So we’re left with sorting out Miya-sama’s motivations. I think it’s fair to assume she’s in love with Henmi. Her uncharacteristically demure and silent behavior toward Henmi isn’t a sign of hatred but that she is at a loss for how to interact with him. Given this awkwardness, it’s not surprising she sees Nanako as a threat to her love and has decided to take steps to keep her in check somehow. Clearly Nanako’s very presence in the Sorority is due to this anxiety, and Miya-sama will do her best to keep Nanako away from Henmi.

But the girls are still able to go to the campus festival in “The University Fair.” This episode is by no means bad, and it’s tonally a bit of a departure for the show. While we got a hint of Mariko’s attitude about men earlier, this episode locks in just how pathological her fear/anger/anxiety is (a sign of intelligence is meant to feed the “female complex” or going to the movies is a bad idea because of the “darkness”). The episode plays this not as an emotional burden to be worked through but as a running gag in the course of the episode. As a gag it’s funny enough, and the episode gets a lot of mileage out of it, especially as she and Takashi wander around the fair together, but it’s a surprisingly light approach to what would otherwise be a serious issue for the series.

The episode does offer a nice moment of development for Nanako as she realizes that she knows next to nothing about Henmi, and that this is pretty selfish of her. Henmi plays this off nicely by claiming that Nanako’s letters help him confront and work though his own memories of high school. And I even like that their moment occurs in front of all those pinwheels (this show loves the wind). But it’s a single moment in otherwise off episode.

Random bits

  • Kaoru’s got some lingering college-aged boy feelings. Is it Henmi or Takashi?
  • I liked the brief moment where Nanako’s parents discuss the possibility of filling Nanako in on her relation to Hemi and then her dad decides that he’s not that brave. Oy.
  • “Bear it, until evening.”
  • “Better to cling to a ghost than to cling to a man off-guard.”

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