In my review of Episode 8, I mentioned that I’d really like to find out more about Shikimori. The last few weeks have been a highlight for the show, but they largely focused on the side cast rather than the main couple. Episode 9 didn’t even feature Izumi at all!
This week’s episode is all about the backstories. Izumi got a cold open where he laments his curse her, but the bulk of it is about Shikimori attempting to become the sort of person she wants to be—the titular“cutie”. Honestly, it’s been hard to take the fundamentals of their relationship seriously. Izumi’s curse from god and Shikimori’s absurd level of coolness make for some fun gags, but that’s also meant that the characters can feel quite shallow.
Episode 11 is here to address that, with the show now focusing on how these gag concepts have affected them as individuals and how the two first met. This has actually been a strength of Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie: it’s much more adept at character drama than it is at comedy writing, and that’s something that’s been constantly uplifted by the visual presentation.
Izumi isn’t blamed for his unluckiness, but he still regards himself as a burden. That ‘s been made clear across the show, but it ‘s driven home with him visiting a shrine to ask God if his entire life his would be this way. It’s a bit like watching Eeyore go to therapy. You don’t really expect characters in a comedy to take their comedic afflictions seriously—yet that was exactly what happened in Episode 10 with Hachimitsu. It’s an unexpected appeal of the show that’s only come in recently.
The episode bounces around in time a lot, but the central idea is that Shikimori’s looking for a new outfit to go on a theme park date with Izumi. We also get a surprising amount of screentime for Shikimori’s brother, who’d only made brief appearances in the past. The two have a fun dynamic that’s further elaborated on through multiple flashbacks to their karate days together.
It’s largely the visuals that tell us that Shikimori isn’t all too happy doing karate. She’s good at it, but the only reason she can give for staying is that she’s found friends there. But when her brother her quits and she ‘s introduced to shoujo manga, she starts to discover what she wants for herself. It’s not a totally original story. In fact, Tomo-chan Is a Girl!which was recently confirmed to be getting an anime, has a similar concept of a tomboy who wants to be more feminine.
But in the end, it’s still sweet. When Izumi accepts Shikimori for her strength, she realizes that it ‘s still a part of her. This ties into her preparations for the date when she realizes that it doesn’t really matter what she wears as long as the people around her accept that. And, of course, they do. It’s a wholesome feel-good rom-com anime, after all.
It’s the most time jumping we’ve seen from a Shikimori episode so far, but it all works and feels relevant. More importantly, it shows how important her relationship her with Izumi really is. Next week is the finale, so I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of message it ends on.
Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Callum is the host and creator of the YouTube channel The Canipa Effect where he explores topics within the anime industry. You can also find him talking nonsense on Twitter.