Or, how to disturb your friends and ensure your further social pariah-hood.
Well, this week’s episode of Beyond the Boundary was largely a hunk of excrement. A few moments were alright, such as at the end with the lanterns, but the vast majority of the episode ranged between outright disgusting and simply badly-executed. After last week’s next-episode preview, I was expecting a bit more substance to Mitsuki’s particular backstory than “So my onee-sama told me I should be lonely or I’ll be a crappy Spirit Warrior, so I’m lonely.” Bit of a disappointment when this could’ve been a solid episode about Mitsuki and Mirai becoming closer despite Mitsuki’s determination to hew to what her sister says is the way to fulfill her duty.
But, hey, I’m here to talk about how good this episode was at being a great example of how to be a bad friend, so let’s move onward and downward.
So the first bit of terrible comes in the scene where Mirai decides to join the Literature Club due to their possession of a particular gardening book. What follows is honestly one of the creepiest damn things I’ve seen in an anime lately, made all the creepier because its obvious that we, the audience, are supposed to view it as mildly amusing. Despite allegedly caring a good bit about Mirai and being her friend, Akihito does that charming thing where he extols the physical charms of Mirai to fellow creep Hiromi in skin-crawling detail (he describes her thighs as ‘untainted’ in what is probably the grossest comment he makes), all while Mirai sits there protesting and expressing that she finds it unpleasant. It reminded me pretty strongly of the time I was at a con sharing a room with several others and they felt it was totally okay for them to debate my bust size while I was minding my own business in the room.
So, Akihito renders Mirai an object for consumption. Ah, what a good friend! Mind you, Hiromi certainly doesn’t help matters himself by playing along fully, but he also hasn’t been positioned by the show as a person who has concern of any sort for Mirai anyway. Of course, Akihito’s behavior could be seen as just a logical extension of previous behaviors of his – the whole repeated focus on the fact that he’s into Mirai having glasses, that he seems to think he deserves thanks for not looking up her skirt when the chance presents itself – but its much creepier and unsettling than that, quite frankly, and it demonstrates much more clearly a true shallowness to the notion that Akihito considers Mirai a person worth caring about.
And then there’s Mitsuki coming into the room to basically deliver the “boys will be boys!” line. They’re perverts! What else would you expect from them? While Mitsuki is certainly free to react to gross behavior from her brother however she feels is necessary, encouraging Mirai to just brush it off as no big deal despite the fact that the other girl is obviously bothered by it is unhelpful at best, and at worst just further enables Akihito and Hiromi to treat Mirai appallingly.
But, hey, Beyond the Boundary isn’t content to just let it end there. Mirai ends up deprived of her license to hunt youmu because she defied the decree to leave Hollow Shadow alone. But, uh oh, remember how destitute the girl is? (Is it even worth bothering to wonder how Mirai got along between getting cast out by that family and when she started to hunt youmu for money without getting a part-time job?) Not to worry, Mitsuki can assist!
I was pretty much expecting this to go the waitress/hostess-in-skeevy-venue route here, so I’ll admit I was not expecting the gravure photography thing. Anyway, the moral here is friends take advantage of impoverished friends by offering them exploitative work. Then there’s the tidbit that Akihito is apparently the one paying for these photos. Objectifying your friends is definitely a good way of helping them out when they’re having financial difficulty!
Just about the only one who does Mirai a good turn in this episode is Shizuku, and she barely even knows the girl. (Akihito, for his part, acts like he doesn’t understand why Mirai is so damn excited about having meat for dinner despite having spent a hell of a lot of time around the girl and knowing what a threadbare existence she has.) (I found it really bizarre, by the way, that Mitsuki didn’t order something for Mirai during their lunch, too – even if she doesn’t know her too well and is sort of into that whole “Loneliness is the only option!” thing it just seems really odd, particularly after she notices Mirai staring longingly at her pancakes.)
Not sure I’m even going to bother with next week’s episode. The intriguing to irritating ratio is definitely falling more heavily on the side of irritating as the show has gone on, and I honestly find a show that does some things well while doing some things horridly much more frustrating that a show that does everything wrong. I can only conclude this got made because KyoAni wanted to reassure people that Free! didn’t mean they’d forgotten their fans who prefer to watch horrible people harass and/or exploit girls in what is meant to be “humorous” fashion (Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, K-ON!, Kanon, etc., etc… if we expand to ‘characters’, include Tamako Market as well). I am not one of those folks, so this is likely a drop waiting to happen.