Mayoi Neko Overrun Episode 3 – … And Now For Something Completely Different
I had some pretty harsh things to say about the previous episode of Mayoi Neko Overrun. I took issue with the exploitative way it treated its character; I implied that it was really dull pornography. But I still found it charming. I felt like there was some depth, as yet unexplored, that was waiting to surface.
It turns out my instincts were spot on, because the third episode of the show is easily the best so far. Most anime romantic comedies are starting to slip into repetition by this point, sliding into a dull rhythm until about the midway point, when things start to heat up between the main characters. Maybe that will happen next episode, but right now Mayoi Neko Overrun is still going strong.
Last episode ended with main character Takumi spending the night in the middle of a typhoon with exploited catgirl Nozomi, much the chagrin of tsundere childhood friend Fumino. And that’s where this one begins, except it opens with so much atmosphere it seems like a different series.
If you’ve ever been stuck in the house during a hurricane, tornado or really bad thunderstorm, you’ll notice that animation studio AIC has completely nailed the feeling of oppressive loneliness that hangs over those kinds of situations. There’s a thick wall of rain coming down in every shot of the outside, and the muffled sound of rain beating down on the ceiling and walls is perfectly captured.
There’s something about storms that make them seem exceptional, outside of the everyday and ordinary. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t go about your usual business in such a situation. Maybe it’s the isolation, since no one wants to go anywhere. Or maybe it’s the vague threat of crisis, of some disaster that will bring not just a temporary break from the normal, but a permanent one.
Takumi and Nozomi act like people in storms act. They feel restless, and can’t sleep, so they end up in the family room with the TV muted, alone except for the stray cats that always wander the house. They start to talk, about ordinary things at first, and then slip into the serious matters situations like the one they’re in always seem to call to mind. Takumi explains that Fumino is a pathological liar who can only admit affection by seeming angry and hateful. Nozomi begins to open up to Takumi, telling him this is the first time she’s been able to do that with someone. She explains that she’s an orphan, just like he and Fumino are, although Takumi doesn’t get the chance to share his own story, because Fumino calls to tell him she’s outside and wants to be let in.
My big complaint, if you’ll recall, with the previous episode was how unnatural and alien it made its ostensibly human characters for the sake of titillation. But in putting them in this situation and having their reactions be so spot on, well, it makes this seem like a good show. And it is. It’s a good thing I went a week between watching the previous episode and this one, otherwise I’d have mood whiplash.
Anyway, Fumino claims she came back to pick up something she left behind, but she’s not fooling anybody: she came back because she was afraid of Takumi and Nozomi getting closer. The show loses the laid-back atmosphere up til now, as Fumino’s usual bombastic passive aggressiveness takes over, which is disappointing.
The show starts to slip back into last episode’s fan service habits, too, with Fumino being so surprised when the power goes off while she’s in the bath that she runs out into the family room naked. But her reaction is so horrified and pitiful that it’d be hard to find it arousing, although maybe I’m overestimating anime fans. Anyway, soon enough she’s in pajamas and the show can continue.
Takumi even asks Fumino to spend the night rather than go back home in the dark, and nobody bats an eye at how dirty that could potentially be. He is somewhat put off when the girls insist he sleep in the same room as them, but it doesn’t feel suggestive or exploitative, even when they grab onto him for protection. It’s very clearly familial, not sexual.
In the morning, the storm is gone, and so is Nozomi. Both start to frantically search the town for her. To be honest, this goes on for a bit too long. After this and the first episode, I’m beginning to think the show has a search fetish. Let’s just hope the next time it happens it’s much less dull.
The search does lead to a confrontation between Takumi and Fumino, wondering why Nozomi could have left. Fumino suspects something suspicious went on before she got there, and Takumi wonders if she said anything to her. Eventually, Fumino realizes that Nozomi figured out her feelings for Takumi, and left so she wouldn’t get caught in the middle of it.
This makes sense, if you think about it. Not only would living with a boy in a relationship with another girl be extremely awkward, but Takumi has just told her that the girl in question is extremely unstable and has to resort to violent outbursts to show her affection. Who knows what would happen if she viewed Nozomi as a rival.
Anyway, explaining this to Takumi requires admitting she loves him, making her go into full-on tsundere freak-out mode, saying “I hate you, no, I like you, no I hate you.” It’s kind of creepy, really, and completely bewildering to Takumi, but fortunately someone finds Nozomi so they have a reason to move on.
Nozomi is mournfully thinking of the friendly people she just met when they arrive, so Takumi asks her to come back. He explains to her that he’s an orphan, too, and tells the story of how Otome found him and adopted him (Otome, as usual, is much more interesting when she’s off-screen). He thinks Nozomi is worried about being a nuisance or causing conflict, but tells her that it’s fine, because she’s family, and that’s what families do to each other.
It might seem odd that Takumi thinks of Nozomi as family after knowing her for only a few days, but he and Otome have already been established as the kind of warm, accepting people who would do something like that. It’s a bit corny, but a show could do far worse than to be about family being the community that loves and cares for you, rather than the people you’re related to.
You’ll notice I haven’t once mentioned any of the obnoxious characters from Takumi’s high school. That’s because they’re barely in this episode. It’s all about Takumi, Fumino and Nozomi, and the complicated relationships forming between the three of them. And it’s a much better episode as a result.
In fact, this is the episode that confirmed my feelings from the first episode: Mayoi Neko Overrun has a serious aspect to it. And, unbelievably, it can pull it off. Hopefully from here on out it sticks to its strengths and leaves the awkward, forced nudity behind.