In an exciting turn of events, that mysterious blue-haired girl who stands alongside the main cast in the opening and ending animations has finally appeared… and has brought with her a true miracle of nature, since she’s one of the only people we’ve seen who can say and endless amount of nasty shit and not get even a tiny reaction out of the normally explosive Taiga.
As reward for getting a stain out of her dress, Taiga goes with Ryuji to the restaurant where Minorin works (it’d be weird if he went on his own, you see). Disappointingly, Minorin isn’t rostered on that day, but they do have the good luck to run into Kitamura and, of all people, a famous model who just happens to star in the magazine spread Taiga was just looking at. Her name is Kawashima Ami, and Taiga thinks she’s the cutest thing and is really quite excited to see her in the flesh… until it’s revealed that she’s a) a childhood friend of Kitamura’s, and b) an absolutely awful human being.
It’s worth mentioning as admin that Kitamura’s first name is actually Yusaku, but everyone except Ami calls him by his surname so for clarity and continuity I’m going to continue to refer to him as Kitamura. Also as a less relevant but equally important note, there was some absolutely beautiful and delicious looking food in this episode and I want to eat it all.
More to the point, Ami and Kitamura sit down with Taiga and Ryuji, and Ami proceeds to giggle and fawn, tip sugar into Ryuji’s coffee without asking, then apologise for it by gushing that she’s such an airhead, really, and she just assumed that he’d like his coffee sweetened. With enough hand-touching and hair-tossing on Ami’s part, a blushing Ryuji realises he’s never cared less about sugar in coffee in his life and tells her it’s okay. Ami continues to be the cutest, most endearingly ditzy button on the face of the earth until Kitamura leaves for a bathroom break and Ryuji, unable to handle the awkwardness of being left alone with the adorable Ami, the silent Taiga, and his mini-boner, flees to join his friend.
It turns out Kitamura didn’t go to the bathroom at all, but set his exit up as a cunning ruse to get Ryuji to follow him and thus observe Ami from afar. He’s known her since childhood, and so he knows her true nature: something that’s put brilliantly on display once the boys are gone from the table. Ami drops her glitzy ditzy persona like a hot potato and starts looking for a way to get a reaction out of Taiga, smirking and asking if Taiga minds if Ami steals her boyfriend, asking if they even make clothes for someone as tiny as Taiga or if she has to shop in the kids’ department, and generally peacocking around being an inflammatory little crap. Taiga, amazingly, doesn’t even look up from her magazine, until the very end of the conversation where she smacks Ami in the face to swat a fly (and there really was a fly!). Ami, of course, starts bawling like a soap opera star and whining for Yusaku to rescue her from the big bully.
The two-facedness is maddening, but Taiga resolves to swallow her anger (and a lot of Ryuji’s cooking) since she’s never going to see the “wench” again. Too bad so sad, because Ami shows up at their school the next day, ready to dazzle all her new classmates with that cutie-pie persona and continue to flirt with Ryuji. And try, with delicate precision, to drive a wedge between him and Taiga while she’s at it, which makes me wonder if she’s really attracted to the whole killer eyes thing or is just making sport out of ruining relationships.
In any case, what’s her deal? Kitamura sighs that she’s a typical princess, but there’s a degree of manipulative evil here that doesn’t just spring out of nowhere even if you were a spoilt child. She’s a nasty piece of work, gleefully insulting and manipulating Taiga’s feelings, finally getting her to react by saying that Kitamura hates her for what she did in the diner. Because for Taiga, what notion could be worse?
Ryuji comes to her rescue, consoling Taiga that Kitamura knows, better than anyone, that Ami is inherently an asshole and will take anything she says about Taiga—or anyone—with a grain of salt. In fact, Kitamura hates that Ami pretends to be cute and nice, and wants her not to be afraid to show her true colours, because then she’ll make true friends and not fake ones. Again, we establish that Kitamura is a wholesome good guy at heart, and also that he just kind of likes hanging out with scary people. Though Ami is a very different brand of awful to Taiga, and honestly, they make a beautiful contrast—fire and ice, for want of a better expression. A berserk warrior and an assassin with a thin dagger hidden in a silk fan. A girl who’s not very good with her emotions, and one who has concealing and portraying them down to a fine and deadly art.
Ryuji’s cleavage-heaving mother derails he and Taiga’s nearly-heartfelt conversation by wailing that they’re out of tonkatsu sauce, and so the dream team heads out to buy some more. Taiga, in a bout of masochism, hunts through the magazine rack for articles about Ami, and is surprised to find a note that says she’s taking some time off from work to focus on school. This shouldn’t be weird in and of itself, but when they see Ami walking home in a decidedly ugly yellow tracksuit, bucket hat, and sunglasses, they begin to wonder if something’s going on. A model drops her career, transfers to a new school, and starts walking around very much hiding her identity and her beauty? What could it mean?
It adds a sudden new dimension to the dilemma of Ami just being The Bitch, and, as all the main characters have so far, adds a little mystery as to what they’re concealing beneath their regular persona. Or, multiple personas, in Ami’s case—from her conversation with Taiga we can glean that beneath the cute one there’s the mean one, but beneath the mean one there’s something of a fretful teenaged girl. The episode ends on a legitimate cliffhanger for the first time in the show, implying that Taiga and Ryuji are going to tail Ami through the night to try and Scooby Doo their way through the mystery of her strange disguise. I’m interested to see what they find, but I really hope they don’t leave poor Ya-chan without dinner for too long…