All for money, and money for all!
|So here I go with a very late Medaka Box post, just a day before the next episode airs. I hope you’ll forgive me, because I have a good reason for that, which I’ll explain in the bottom.|
This is challenging even for Medaka. Hitoyoshi and Akune have no chance.
Despite the addition of Akune last episode the student council is still lacking in manpower. Specifically, the lack of an accountant is making the choice of dispersal of funds a challenge. So to simplify things, Medaka decides to hold a contest for the various clubs, with the winner taking all the extra budget allocated for that year. And thanks to a request pointing out the underused Olympic sized pool the school has, they have the perfect venue for the competition.
Every single character to get a character card has had the exact same blood type. I hope if anyone loses a lot of blood near these guys, they’re type AB, because otherwise they’re screwed.
When Zenkichi mentions to Shiranui this plan, she warns him of that there are 3 students in the swim team who are very likely to take advantage of this to make money. And behind the scenes, these 3 – Yakushima, Tanegashima, and Kikaijima – are indeed scheming something. On the day of the contest all the clubs show up, and Medaka announces the first round of the competition, to get 20 balls from the bottom of the pool into baskets hanging above the pool. The boys will be forced to wear floaties, to give them a disadvantage. Oh, and as an extra incentive, the student council will be participating as well, and regardless of who wins, any club that beats the council will get a bonus.
With Shiranui and Tanzaku Aso (acting president of the broadcasting club) doing the play by play, the contest starts. Medaka appears to win easily by herself – with Zenkichi and Akune lazing in the sidelines – using the unconventional tactic of collecting all 20 balls first, scrunching them together into one big ball, then shooting it into the basket. Other students initially have difficulty, though they follow her lead with scrunching up the balls, leading to many clubs getting all 20 and the ranking being primarily based on timing. And once time runs out, only one club got all 20 in before Medaka, the aforementioned trio from the swim team. Their tactic was similar to Medaka’s, except they were even faster by evacuating their lungs of air before submerging, a very dangerous tactic that could be fatal. When Medaka calls them out on that, they proudly proclaim that they’re willing to go to any lengths, including death, for money.
Naturally, Medaka has perfect form that would make Michael Jordan jealous.
For some reason, this episode had 2 eye catch illustrations. Not that I’m complaining.
Well, wasn’t this just a fanservice filled episode? Too bad the production quality was still crappy. Shiranui continued to be the highlight of the show; I just about lost it when I saw the refrigerator packed with food in the commentators’ box. Yeah, she’s definitely the type of girl I want to take out to dinner.
Unquestionably the best part of the show.
Once again, Medaka was heads and shoulders better than anyone else. I do appreciate that she showed a bit of competitive spirit, joining in and dominating everyone else with her clever technique. Everyone except that trio in the swim team, of course, who would do anything for money. Gee, haven’t we seen something like that in another Nisio work?
Though characters like the trio here and Kaiki Deishuu show how destructive a love for money can be when taken to an extreme, the other extreme is also quite harmful. That is to say, money matters, even if a lot of media tends to romanticize the idea of not caring about it. Money is just a tool, a tool without which we couldn’t have many supremely important goods and services that can give us things like memories, new experience, education, or comfort. Indeed, the whole point of the contest in this episode was to determine how money would be disbursed to various clubs. Clubs that need money to enrich the lives of their members. As little miss perfect said at the beginning of the episode, money makes the world go round. Study after study has shown that one’s income is positively correlated with his general happiness, even if it flattens out pretty quickly (in the United States, it’s around a $50,000/year income; any incremental income above that has minimal effect on happiness). So I think posts like this one on the same episode are somewhat naive, even if they have the right idea. The reason these extremists are vilified is that they’ve lost perspective and taken it as something good in itself instead of something that can enable good. And they’re willing to sacrifice the things that really matter, like their own lives.
Anyway, when push comes to shove, I’ll bet Medaka will be able to defeat them next episode. I’m starting to see what the manga readers were saying about her being too perfect. She’s a special kind of talent that no amount of scheming or hard work can defeat.
Her eyes look tired.
But I still like Medaka because of the troubles her perfection puts her in. I wonder if it was a conscious choice when designing the characters, but her very thick eyelashes give the image of bags under her eyes. Even though she accomplishes incredible things effortlessly and with a casual smile, she looks weary all the time due to her design. Indeed, there is a burden to be carried with her perfection, and her position is unenviable in some ways. If she acknowledges that she’s better than others, she’s conceited. But if she claims that she’s no different from everyone else, she trivializes all the hard work and effort that others put in just to achieve a fraction of what she does. There’s no winning move here, and she has chosen to do the latter, much to the annoyance to characters such as Zenkichi and Nekomi who would rather see an honest acknowledgement of her talents.
But it seems to me that just as Medaka (or Akune) give too little credit to their natural talents, the other characters might give them too much. All the talent in the world means nothing unless it’s cultivated through practice and effort. “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” (Thomas Edison). I’ve (unfortunately) yet to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, but one of the points made in it was that, to become a success like Medaka has, one still needs to put in at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice in his field. Pedro Martinez may have freakishly long fingers that allowed him to throw an incredible circle changeup and pitch the greatest single season in Major League Baseball history, but he also put in just as much work as any other pitcher to get to where he did. Talent gives you a boost, and to deny that is foolish, but neither does it give you a free pass to stardom.
Of course, Medaka Box is fiction, and the titular character is talented in ways that surpass any real human. She really is a freak or, as other characters call her, a monster, capable of accomplishing things no mere mortal should. What I admire about her is that she has chosen to use her talents to help those around her. She’s somewhat inconsistent though, because her proactive approach in becoming the student council president and using the position to help those less able indicates that she is quite aware of her own superiority, no matter how much she denies it. The student council is just a front, a convenient excuse to justify her constant helping out others without having to acknowledge her superiority. It’s noble, perhaps too noble, and also deceitful in a way. But, again, how can she help while avoiding being conceited without this deceit? Is honesty more important than humility in such a case? That’s a question I’ve thought about, and I have no answer. What I can tell you is that Medaka Box would be a heck of a lot more interesting if it actually discussed these issues more deeply instead of shoving the titular character’s breasts in our face all the time.
Medaka’s choice of attire also displays just how aware she is of her own good looks and positive assets.
Which is why this is, for now, the last post on Medaka Box you’ll see here. It’s just not a good show. The interesting character designs can’t make up for its very poor animation quality, and it’s a one trick pony when it comes to humor, fatal to a show that can’t weave a convincing overarching narrative. I would have dropped this show a few episodes back were I not blogging it, and actually this post wasn’t even supposed to happen. That’s also why it is so late. But the good news is, this frees me up to work on a new project, one also associated with Nisio Isin, the first post of which should be ready soon. Hope you will enjoy those!