Astute regulars to my site, or even just those that haven’t been in a coma for the past four weeks, may have noticed a conspicuous lack of material related to Mysterious Girlfriend X for the past few episodes. While my inbox hasn’t exactly been flooded with demands and desperate pleas to resume regular coverage, I still feel that this episode is worth writing about, if only to put off the boredom of writing about this week’s Tsuritama for another day. So enjoy more breathless gushing disguised as analysis of a girl that produces an excess of empathy-transferring saliva.
The second half of the episode opens with Akira asking Urabe if he could take a picture of her. Urabe consents, but immediately draws the line at being forced to smile, leaving Akira feeling dejected and just a bit hurt, not having snapped a single shot of his raven-haired sweetheart. The reason behind it is as reasonable and touching as I’ve ever heard; it just wouldn’t be a genuine picture of her in the act of smiling, and it wouldn’t have captured any special moment the way that it would have if it had been a picture of her smiling naturally. I didn’t realize it until the episode was actually over, but this is why I like Urabe so much as a character; she’s a 100% genuinely honest person that also shares my disdain for forcing a smile for the camera.
There’s something that’s always bugged me about hearing those words “C’mon, smile for the camera!”, and I’m sure that it’s not just because I look like a raving lunatic whenever I have to force a grin. Photography is a great art that accomplishes great things, but I’ve always found it unnatural to force people to pose or smile just to achieve a certain look. When they’re not photos of people “in the act”, they are little better than decorations for sparse walls, or as filling for empty wallets. Urabe perfectly matches this by outright refusing to let Akira take a picture of her unless it’s of a face that she wants to make.
Urabe finally relents after some time passes and lets Akira take a picture of her. A split second before the camera can forever immortalize her smiling likeness on cheap film, she gives Akira her worst face and leaves the photo with him. That face that she made toward him is one that she made with love, and it doesn’t share the same burden of obligation that any picture taken of her forcing a smile would be forced to carry.
What really had the episode hit home though was the way that she reacted when Akira told her that he met up with his former crush, the one whose picture he tore up in front of her in the very first episode. Rather than being upset or feigning acceptance, she used her saliva to transfer the sadness that she would have felt to him, making him cry. Once again she proves herself an incredibly honest person, her frank response far more affecting than almost anything else in the all-encompassing slice of life genre. Her upfront yet enigmatic nature makes her really stand out against the overpopulation of moeblobs that don’t know how to emote beyond a generic flustered reaction whenever a male takes interest in them.
Urabe’s a strange character without a doubt, one that continues to defy expectations by being more complex than I think she’ll be. By acting out of the norm but still like any sensible human would, she endears herself to me in ways that most characters in any medium simply can’t. Of course she’s far from perfect, since her personality seems to still be dominated by her various abnormalities, but she will probably remain one of the most fascinating characters of the season, and easily one of my favorites of the year.