URAHARA – Episode 4 Review (Flash Anime-tion)
Yeah… think I’m done.
Where to begin? Where. To. Begin. Well, I can say this about the episode. It’s certainly following the previous one’s example. As much of a mess as it is, it does at least have a consistent arc throughout. It’s just unfortunate that its handling of that arc was… frankly abysmal at best.
A fair amount of that issue comes from what they tried to use as character development. Unfortunately, simply trying to have a character arc isn’t going to score you any points with me. Because it should be expected. Simply having a character arc is the absolute bare minimum requirement of a story. In order to actually gain any points, that character arc must be executed well. And this… really could have been. But alas, it’s a mess.
The focus was on Kotoko, this episode, and that would’ve been completely fine. And the setup for the episode actually had potential. In the previous episode, she noticed something strange about the other two. Marks were appearing on their bodies and very suddenly disappearing. So now she’s taking it upon herself to investigate. The issue is that for whatever reason, she’s reluctant to tell them what she’s doing, and why. All they know is that she’s asking for hair and blood samples. And she actually has a line regarding her need to figure this out, lest she winds up “alone again.” And therein lies the problem.
We, as an audience, know next to nothing about Kotoko. So this was a fair chance to introduce a little intrigue. It’s not like she’s intentionally enigmatic. She could’ve been guarded about this because perhaps there was a problem in her past that she couldn’t solve. As a result, there was some consequence that placed her in a situation of being alone. But no. Nothing so compelling. Simply that because she’s kind of quirky, people thought she was weird, so she never had any friends. Do you see the problem, yet? I do!
The correlation between this and what she’s actually doing is such a stretch, it could wrap around the world a few times over. This isn’t some scientific musing of hers. She’s genuinely worried about the lives of her friends, due to a noticeable health abnormality that she could easily show them by just recording it happening with her phone. Or that weird tablet thing she has. As a result, her concern over this matter is asinine. It isn’t some totally reasonable and understandable concern like everyone keeps patting her on the head to tell her. This should be common sense. If a doctor expresses some concern over something they notice, do you think them weird if it turns out to be nothing? Absolutely not. They’re just being careful because it’s someone’s life. This isn’t her making a big deal out of nothing. There is an actual potential big deal in front of her, and instead, we’re forced to focus on something that, by comparison, is extremely trivial. If that was the point, it’d be one thing. But the episode makes it fairly clear that it isn’t.
Another little plothole in this is her even bothering to ask them in the first place. Given all that’s happened, she should have known to analyze herself as well. She’d likely have found the same problem. Then she could have studied her own samples. For a character who they want to build up as being highly intelligent, Kotoko isn’t very bright, is she?
Compound all of that with a number of contrivances used to make her actually feel as if her friends had abandoned her for a bit (seriously, kid? You couldn’t just quickly look around to see that they packed literally nothing, and probably just stepped out?) and you have an episode that honestly just falls apart on far too many levels to warrant the time investment. This is a good example of how not to handle a character arc. Ultimately, it’s a nice message and sentiment but presented in a pitiful manner. And that hurts the overall storytelling of the episode. It isn’t good enough to be “junk food” or bad enough to be a “guilty pleasure.” It’s just… blah.
The action segment of the episode is better, but only marginally. The fact that the series essentially equates to the anime incarnation of visual noise is still not doing it any favors. The character of Sayumin, introduced in the previous episode, shows up yet again. So I was at least right in her being a recurring character. And while I do have a soft spot for “wise big sister” type characters, the problems inherent in the episode itself neutralize whatever positive effect her presence has by forcing her to spout advice accommodating the incredibly weak conflict.
The episode also has a twist ending that could introduce some intrigue to the series. However, provided what the show has presented thus far in terms of character arcs, it’s unlikely this development will yield anything all that revolutionary to the show in terms of plot.
I’ve given Urahara far more chances than it probably deserves. Is it the worst thing ever? No. Far from it. But skating on the mediocre line for too long can be just as dangerous. Could it turn itself around? Possibly. If it winds up doing something to suddenly and shockingly alter things, it could. Of course, that won’t likely make the entire series better. The first few episodes are still going to be a tremendous chore. But pulling an extremely sudden tonal shift (and doing it well) could work in the show’s favor.
As it is, I still can’t really recommend it. There are a handful of other, better shows to spend your time on, this season. And, for the time being, I’m going to be dropping reviews on. If it improves suddenly and drastically, I’ll come back to it. But for now, all I can say is… Pass.
If you are interested, though, Urahara is Simulcast on Crunchyroll, Wednesdays at 7:15am EDT.