The main heroines of Episode are Saginomiya Isumi and Aizawa Sakuya, best friends of Nagi but (to some) better known as the Ghost Sweeping Duo. The pair also serve as manzai partners, with Isumi as the boke and Sakuya the tsukkomi. On very, very rare occasions, the roles could be reversed…
After three episodes of Cuties I guess we have all figured out how this Season works: basically a few manga chapters which highlight the characteristics of the girls – or whatever the studio wants to tell us about the girls anyway – would be picked for animation. Little details could be altered, added or removed to give the episode more slick, but when it turns out to be not working… Well, deal with it.
Manga chapters picked for Episode 4 are Ch. 341 (Isumi chapter), Ch. 175 (Sakuya chapter) and Ch. 309 (Isumi and Sakuya chapter). We could see that the studio is trying to balance screentime between Isumi and Sakuya, and I would say that it has done a pretty good job. The pacing of the episode is good as well, so it doesn’t feel like too slow or hallow despite only three manga chapters are animated.
Ch. 341 and Ch. 175 are interesting picks because they both have the main theme of a personal maid. The thing is that Isumi and Sakuya never had personal maids (e.g. Maria or Saki) at the beginning of the series. Over time Sakuya got her maid, but Isumi did not. This is not because they aren’t wealthy enough – far from it – but because it had never been necessary.
Isumi comes from a family full of women. She also has a stay-at-home mother. As far as Hatsuho is concerned, she is capable enough to look after her own daughter, so it doesn’t occur to her that it is necessary to hire a personal maid for Isumi. In other words, a maid is more “want” than “need” for Isumi. When Isumi mentions to her mother that she wants a maid, I guess Hatsuho would interpret it as “wanting” a fancy new toy (justified as Isumi decides to bring up Nagi and Sakuya for comparison) instead of “needing” someone to take care of her.
Maybe it explains why Hatsuho decides, as she finally gives in to Isumi’s request, that a maid is only needed to address Isumi’s lack of “iAbility” – funny enough, while Hatsuho mentions “iAbility”, she shows off a Google Nexus (or is it?) instead. After all, this is the only problem Hatsuho thinks Isumi – actually, the entire family – has. For all her airheadedness, she has a point here.
Once again Fumi has been given a fair share of screentime despite not being the main heroine of the episode, but I wonder just how long can this last. After all, she does not appear too often in the manga, and it only happens that manga chapters chosen in recent episodes involve her. I do not see Fumi making much appearance in the coming episodes. Still, she is funny as ever, and she is as adorable as she is annoying.
By the time of Cuties, Sakuya has already got her personal maid in Chiharu, but the story of their meeting has never been animated. This episode cleverly makes Ch. 175 into a flashback by Sakuya, who recalls the events which led to Chiharu being hired as her personal maid, so it saves a lot of troubles with time-jumping.
For a wealthy girl like her, Sakuya is quite capable of taking care of herself. The only concern would be her personal safety, but the likes of Makita and Kunieda have always been more than enough for the task. However, as Sakuya reached puberty, Makita and Kunieda realized that it had become too embarrassing for them to take care of some “personal aspects” of Sakuya’s life. There are things which men can never do for their mistress.
So we may understand why Chiharu is not a 24-7 maid like Maria: Sakuya only needs a maid to help with the “personal aspects” of her life, which only take a few hours a day, so a 24-7 maid is not needed. A part-time maid service thus makes everybody happy: Sakuya would not think her independence has been taken away, and Chiharu could still go to school and work at other places.
Sakuya has a soft spot for senior friends – she asked Hayate if she could call him “Onii-chan”, remember. However, as one of the cleverest girls in her age group, it is quite difficult for Sakuya to find a “Cool Big Sis”. Luckily, Chiharu fits in extremely well for the role. I think what Sakuya saw in the video game arcade was not an awesome gamer, but a cool senior friend who had promised to take care of her (Chiharu’s Ayanami quote could well be accidental) and then delivered. I think this, above all, was why Sakuya hired Chiharu as her personal maid.
Now with Chiharu as her senior friend, Sakuya seems to have spent considerably less time around Hayate. Of course we could talk about “ship teases” between Hayate and Sakuya, but I think Sakuya never seriously thought about “shipping” with Hayate – that was not what she was asking of him.
Speaking of “Cool Big Sis”, Sakuya herself has always been one for Nagi, her younger cousin. Obviously Sakuya is proud of it, so the moment Nagi chooses Chiharu over her for an opinion on manga, Sakuya feels offended. Oddly enough, it explains why fathers often hate their daughters’ boyfriends: nobody is allowed to take my baby girl away from under my protective wings.
Of course, Sakuya could not get mad at Chiharu, so in order to win Nagi’s trust back, Sakuya decides to study the dark arts of understanding Nagi’s manga (as Ch. 309 is a pre-Comisun chapter, let us forget about any progress Nagi has made, and her apparent success at Comiket…), but without success. If it has taken Hayate all those months to understand Nagi’s manga, Sakuya should not expect herself to be any good any time soon.
As I have explained before, Isumi’s approach to “help” Sakuya is wrong, because making someone do funny things wouldn’t turn her into a funny person. Once the act is dropped, the person would return to her own self. Anyway, it takes much more than a funny person to understand Nagi’s manga: it takes Saginomiya Isumi to do just that.
The anime does give Sakuya a chance to redeem herself, but unfortunately she fails yet again. The episode ends abruptly here, which I would take as a sign of running out of time. For an episode this well-paced, it is a pity that the grip is lost at the last second.
The ED is “Perfectly Round Hide-and-Seek” by Isumi.