Mayoi Neko Overrun Episode 5 – Abject Moral Failure
Ashamed as I usually am to admit it, I’ve watched a lot of anime. I’ve picked up a lot on the Japanese culture and mindset, or at least the mindset of people making and watching anime. I know the cliches, character archetypes and other lazy shortcuts that anime writers take. And I’ve seen a lot of truly bad writing. But it’s rare that I see something that’s just bewilderingly offensive.
This week’s episode of Mayoi Neko Overrun is bad. I don’t think it knows it’s bad, though. Watching a show like Kiss x Sis, you get the feeling that the writers were full aware they were writing offensively pandering garbage; they just didn’t care. They were essentially writing pornography; it’s not like anyone watches Kiss x Sis for the story. That doesn’t make it right, of course, but it does make it more understandable.
With this episode, the writers don’t have any excuse. Yes, Mayoi lays the fan service on extra thick, but this time they’re trying to tell a story, so in this episode it’s merely awkwardly shoehorned in wherever possible rather than being front and center the entire time.
Anyway, I should probably explain what’s going on so you’ll have some sense of what I’m talking about. The episode opens up with Chise being upset because the rest of the cast won’t hang out with her. They’re all too busy working to keep a roof over their head, or training for their future jobs to pay attention to an obnoxious, spoiled rich girl. Personally, I even find the implicit assumption the show makes that they would be spending time with her if they weren’t busy fairly presumptuous.
The show has never portrayed Chise as anything more than a spoiled, whiny, self-absorbed, controlling shrew whom everyone else tolerates solely because of her vast fortune. She has no redeeming qualities to speak of, and has so far been the antagonist (or tolerated nuisance) of every episode she has appeared in. She’s such a terrible, hateful person that you’d have to have Takumi’s infinite patience and loving tolerance to spend any amount of time with her voluntarily.
There have been not-at-all subtle indications that she’s been abandoned by her parents and is secretly lonely and desperate to join Takumi’s group of friends, but really the only thing getting in her way is her own stubborn self-absorption. It’s not like Takumi would turn anyone away if they wanted to hang out.
Anyway, Chise is moping when Kaho, the girl who spent last episode naked with Takumi, appears. Together, the two come up with a plan: run Otome’s pastry shop out of business with a superior store of their own, then hire the cast on their staff, giving them a livelihood without having to do any work.
This, of course, is appalling. Forcing your friends out of business and onto the street so you can hire them on as your employees is, well, it’s just mind-blowingly arrogant and abusive. I wouldn’t have a problem if the show kept treating Chise like she’s always been treated: as some sort of comic relief villain. But the thing is, we’re supposed to feel sorry for her.
You see, no one except Fumino gets angry about this, and Fumino gets angry about everything. They’re not happy, but no one asks her to stop. No one confronts Chise and explains that not being entirely dependent on your friends is part of having a relationship of equals, or even that they just like being masters of their own fate. And so the shop sinks close to the verge of closing.
Eventually one of the owners of another store in their shopping district comes over and asks if maybe Otome could enter the swimsuit contest they’re holding at the shopping district’s yearly promotional party. Maybe that could save the store. After all, they mentioned earlier that the only reason anyone bought the awful cakes Otome used to sell was because the neighborhood men were madly in love with her.
Otome has been out of town on some unknown errand for the past three episodes, but she just happens to show up here, wearing some kind of traditional Japanese folk mask, so she can meet the show’s fan service quota. You see, she’s wearing a swimsuit under her clothes, for some reason, which she whips off, only to break the strap on her swimsuit because her breasts are too big!
Oh, no! Which member of the nudity-taboo-less female cast is willing to debase herself in the name of marketing? If you guessed Nozomi, you would be correct, although Fumino also stubbornly volunteers after Takumi assumes, with good reason, that she’d say no.
So, hearing about the swimsuit contest, Chise is reluctantly pushed into entering by Kaho, who seems to be doing all this for the sheer thrill of manipulating people. There, she gets into a heated argument with Fumino, who is rightly pissed off about her best friend being forced out of his home by another girl just so she can be friends with him. As a result, Chise drops the staggering bombshell that she’s just been doing this because she wants to be friends with them, which everyone else treats like some kind of major revelation, even though you’d have to be an idiot to not have figured that out already.
But the cast, of course, are idiots, because they immediately feel sorry for poor Chise for being lonely and want to help her. “She’s actually a good person,” Takumi insists.
No she’s not! Chise has been a spoiled, tyrannical, narcissistic bitch for the entirety of the show’s run. In fact, despite the flashbacks showing Chise being shunned because she’s a rich girl, I would guess her loneliness stems mostly from the fact that she’s very pointedly not a good person.
Look, I think the giving, selfless love that Takumi has shown for everyone in this show, no matter how bizarre or reprehensible, is pretty noble. But it’s severely undercut here by his unbelievable ignorance of other people. I literally cannot believe that someone could be so ignorant of someone else’s character, which breaks down the suspension of disbelief I have that these are supposed to be people, and not some strange alien beings with unnaturally large eyes.
Mayoi Neko Overrun has toed the line between the cartoonish representation of a person and an incomprehensible, inhuman creature before, but it’s always been able to stay as the former. Here it crosses that line and doesn’t look back. It’s almost as if it’s trying to argue against the very notion of selflessness by presenting the most ridiculously perverse situation possible.
Anyway, after figuring out that Kaho has been the real mastermind behind all this, Takumi pays her a visit to beg her to stop this madness. He gets down on his knees and begs, then starts crying and calling himself a failure because he didn’t realize Chise was so desperately lonely that she’d sabotage the lives of other people to force them to become her friend. Kaho questions Takumi’s presumptuousness, that a poor commoner like him could understand rich people like her and Chise, but after enough begging Takumi gets her to relent.
At no point does anyone acknowledge that running orphans out of business is not only a terrible way to befriend them, but it’s completely morally reprehensible. The whole scene is perverse. That’s fine—I like dark comedy more than most people—but this isn’t played for comedy. No, this is supposed to be the emotional and cathartic scene that brings Chise together with the rest of the cast. After this event, they’re all friends, no hard feelings about trying to ruin the lives of you, your best friend and your adoptive sister, right? This goes beyond laughing at suffering; for this scene to have its intended effect, you have to ask the audience to completely ignore the brutal injustice of the whole situation. And not just the audience, but the cast, too. That’s just impossible.
I don’t know whether the casual acceptance of upper class dominance is some kind of Japanese cultural thing, or if it’s just the writers being oblivious to what they’re actually writing. It might be a combination of both, but I’ve already given this show the benefit of the doubt far too much.
After the swimsuit competition plays over the credits, the show tries to further deny Chise and Kaho any moral responsibility by revealing that the whole thing was a plot of the male residents of the shopping district, trying to get Otome to appear in the swimsuit contest. I could go on, but I’m not going to.
I’ve put up with a lot of crap from Mayoi Neko Overrun. It should be clear by now that it’s a bad show, and the only reason I persist in writing about it is because I can always find something strange or disturbing to write about. But I’m not sure I can continue writing about a show that so completely disgusts me.