Kitamura’s inner character still remains a cryptid, but this episode sheds a tiny bit more light on Minorin. The first thing we establish, having been around her for a prolonged amount of time for the first time in the series, is that yes, she does always act like she’s just downed three cans of Red Bull.
While walking to school and trying to teach Taiga about laundry (flashbacks to Ben Wyatt’s sincere struggle to turn Andy and April into adults in Parks and Recreation), Ryuji hears the voice of his beloved Manic Minorin and his attention is drawn to the softball diamond. Where, I kid you not, this girl is loudly, off-key singing every movement of herself and her team like she’s audio describing for a stage musical, and running around the field with an unbreaking smile on her face. Ryuji is awed to sparkly-blushing by her bright sunshiney everything, and Taiga tells him he looks creepy as shit and pokes him in the eyes.
She really ought to get her story straight, because while Taiga still seems intent on helping him get closer to Minorin, she also seems repulsed by the idea he actually likes her. Or at least, significantly annoyed by it, enough to induce her cartoonish violence. For example, she kicks him in the gut (with springy sound effects, so you know it’s not too bad, really) when he’s waxing poetical about Minorin, but also takes him to the restaurant where she works right after, grumbling “you’ll thank me later”. I mean, Taiga also gets a free custom-made parfait from Minorin once she’s there, so you could say the positive incentives outweighed the negatives for her, but still. She’s somehow even more flip-floppy than usual, though of course Minorin’s never-ending sparkly exuberance balances it out.
Minorin, it turns out, works about four different jobs as well as captaining the girls’ softball team—she’s a waitress in an improbably maid-like uniform at a family diner, convenience store clerk, karaoke bar employee, and decorates mobile phones (oh, the archaic elegance of the flip phone, how I miss it) for her classmates. She also works at a liquor store (is that legal if she’s underage? Or does it not matter if she’s not drinking any of it?), which is a surprise to both Ryuji and Taiga when they run into her while out and about on the weekend. Which implies that while Ryuji cannot, as Taiga points out, presume to know anything about Minorin just because he has a big crush on her, there are also some things in Minorin’s life that even her best friend Taiga doesn’t know about. What’s going on with this endless spiral of energy? Does Minorin really just love keeping herself occupied in her spare time, as she says, or is Ryuji’s guess correct and there might be some monetary motivations that are more dire than even Taiga knows?
We don’t find this out just yet, but Ryuji does get a chance to bond with the girl of his dreams when the weird old dude who runs the liquor store recognises him as his mother’s son. Specifically noting Ryuji’s mother by her stage name, because she has one of those—I’m missing some cultural context (also not helped by me being unable to read the literal words on the sign, which I’m sure tell you a lot), but I would hazard a guess that she works at some sort of hostess bar or businessman-aimed nightclub. She’s not an exotic dancer or anything, but the use of beauty and youth and sultry welcoming voice is clearly part of the trade from the snippet we see. It’s worth noting that, so far, all the tits-and-ass fan service has actually fallen to the small snaps of Mama Takasu we’ve seen. Which, I mean, the whole Hot Single Mom thing is still skeevy, but at least the bodily titillation is all drawn on the singular adult character and the teenaged girls have been relatively un-oogled by the camera thus far.
Though the old guy grabs Ryuji’s ass to “cop a feel of Ya-Chan’s DNA”, because street groping is hilarious when it’s two men the same way Taiga being boob-height on Minorin is hilarious, so the ethical leaps this series has taken with its lack of fan service maybe isn’t worth discussing. Anime was a mistake. I’m sorry. Moving on.
In an unusual turn of events, it’s Taiga who finds herself shoved into a situation out of her comfort zone by Ryuji when he volunteers them both to help out at the store. Taiga is livid at being made to do manual labour just so he can spend some time with Minorin, which quite frankly is fair enough, but it’s honestly nice to see her doing some of the slapstick suffering for a change. We also find out that she can’t ride a bike when she’s asked to go on a delivery, a fact that she, in true tsun style, gets embarrassed and then defiant and then enraged about, running off steering the bike on foot rather than accepting help or condolences from anyone. This leaves Ryuji and his golden girl stuck together at the store… literally, since they get locked in a storage shed.
Despite how Minorin says it’s like being stranded on a desert island, there are no cocktails or palm trees in sight. Ryuuji doesn’t even get to cosy up to his bae, since she insists on yelling the school anthem at the top of her already constantly-high-volume voice to see if anyone hears and rescues them. When she gets cold, she talks over his offer of his jacket (classic move!) in favour of playing impromptu softball with an empty wine bottle and what I assume, perhaps incorrectly, is a potato. That’s just the kind of whacky sparkly girl she is!
Though her shaking hand betrays perhaps fear, apprehension, or a tiredness she won’t speak of, and when Ryuji asks about it she just laughs (of course she does) and says something about batting her fears out of the park. My God, is this series going to slowly take apart the Cute Energetic Always Happy Girl trope as well as Taiga’s tsundere? Is that too much to hope for?
Meanwhile, Kitamura continues to be a figure of mystery when he finds Taiga collapsed, exhausted and annoyed, on the riverbank after her delivery. He comments that it’s great she’s learnt to ride a bike, and Taiga goes “wait, how do you know I couldn’t ride a bike?” which was exactly the question on my mind, which is not helpfully answered at all by Kitamura replying nonchalantly that he spent a lot of the previous year watching her. Um. So he disappears into the sunset leaving that hanging there, and Taiga, in a fit of red-faced turmoil, tries to ride the bike and expand her horizons.
The long and short of this episode is, all three of our heroes end up trapped together in the storage shed and more questions are raised than resolved. What happened between Kitamura and Taiga the year before? To equal that, did anything specifically happen between Ryuji and Minorin to spark his big dumb crush, or does he genuinely just adore her glittering, Happy Girl exterior? And indeed, is it an exterior, or is it how she really is down to the core? Can you fake that kind of dedication and joy of life?
And will the Takasu household’s ugly pet parrot ever manage to say her name?? Oh, the drama!