There’s something so indescribably touching about Shikimori and Izumi just being so genuinely into each other, especially in a genre where portrayals of courtship can be uncomfortably misogynistic (some, not all, because there’s a heck of a lot of good romcoms, but there’s definitely some stinkers). Izumi doesn’t have to neg Shikimori to get her to like him, and Shikimori doesn’t have to go full Tsundere Mode on Izumi. Instead, this is just the tale of two teens who are in love and who you’d like to see stay in love through the end of this cour and beyond. I like to think that Izumi and Shikimori will be a lifelong couple, high school sweethearts forever tethered together by these halcyon days.
But it’s the climax of this episode that really shines. Izumi decides to carry Shikimori up a lengthy series of steps leading up to a shrine (largely because her feet are killing her due to her sandals) so they can watch the fireworks with a genuinely gorgeous view. It’s romantic, it’s sweet, and it’s really good for conveying just how much these two care about each other. The show could have easily chosen to have Izumi trip and fall for comedic effect, but instead, he makes it to the top, settles Shikimori on a bench next to him, and they just watch the fireworks together with no incident.
There’s lots of good tidbits this week, though I’ll admit that the gag about Shikimori secretly being a bad cook definitely josses my idea that this series is gonna do anything with how it initially poked at gender roles. It feels like a minor loss but… it is what it is, you know?
A lot of episode 4 is just friendship: there are some romantic moments, sure, but the bigger story is that of friendship, and just how wonderful platonic love can be. It’s nice to see the show open up to that message: while I’m fully here for ShikIzumi, I’m also very much starting to get invested in their friends, and the beautiful simplicity of their joyful, everyday lives.
Like I said in the premiere, I have no clue if this will develop towards actual commentary about gender roles; if anything, I expect that it probably won’t, and it doesn’t need to be – just watching the genuine chemistry between these two teens is more than engaging enough.
I think it’s fair to say that Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie is having a conversation with gender norms: how deep that conversation will go remains to be seen, though I’m going to preemptively lower my own expectations to “it’s probably not going to be subversive” which is alright. I don’t think I subverted a single thing at sixteen: I don’t expect these kids, nor the source material it draws on, to be doing heavy lifting on Japan and its entanglement with binary gender expectations.