Episode 2: Cursor I

Robots, industrial intrigue, questions of love and humanity, and what does this episode spend its first fifteen minutes on? A job offer from a pornographer. I love this show.

We get to really meet Sakura Kuriyagawa, Key’s friend from home and her only contact in the big, ugly city. She’s alternatively frustrated and compassionate towards Key, and is a girl who has gone off to make her own way in the world, and is failing. She works at pizza delivery, late nights at a video store and during the day directing garbage trucks, all just to make ends meet. She’s living one of those patented lives of quiet desperation (wouldn’t that make her British?), and here’s her friend Key – more screwed up than Sakura could ever fear to be, but without really a care in the world. She wants to become human? That’s a made-up problem, a chimera – Sakura has to deal with the real hell of daily life.

The inclusion of this character into the show demonstrates two of the qualities most lacking in anime production: sensitivity and intelligence. Sato is saying right off the bat that in the real world, some screwed-up little girl’s problems aren’t that cyclopean. It’s a challenge to the audience, and more so to himself – now that we can see the contrast, he has to make us care about Key.

So the scene where Sakura is confronted by the pornographers is affecting – it comes right after some playful flirting with a regular customer, and some ample shots of Sakura’s effrontery1 to demonstrate her appeal. They have a very real enticement for Sakura – the photographers offers her triple her current combined salary. And though she puts up a tough front, Sakura is genuinely disturbed by her attraction to the offer. It also puts a very different spin on Key’s quest to earn 30,000 “friends”.

Key also discovers the avenue she wants to take to earn her various friends in a video of pop sing Miho Utsuse. Of course, the show’s title, “The Metal Idol” kinda gives this one away from the start – but the busty Miho is such a contrast to the diminutive, inward, boyish Key that you wonder at the appeal – where does Key see herself in that writhing, Madonna-esque sexpot?

Ah, what a reflief, in this fourth episode guide, to write about a show that has some actual ambition about it, and the apparent intelligence to accomplish said ambitions. A show like Key, at least in its early stages, really throws into relief the mediocrity that usually confronts us, fans of anime. Would that there were more like it…

1Warning: pun.2

2Actually, let me comment on this – what’s surprising is, in the episode that unfolds, the fairly copious nudity and breast bounce shots of Sakura that seem gratuitous are given real weight by the subsequent pornographer scene. They aren’t just there for titillation – they invest Sakura with sexuality, which humanizes her and makes the pornographers even more repugnant, the scene even creepier because of our own complicity in it – we were ogling3 her as much as these two creeps.

3There a whole lot of issues to address as to the actual sexual attractiveness of cartoons, and its not really something I want to get into in detail, since this is ostensibly a family website, and the discussion could get quite icky. Suffice to say, the very existence and popularity of hentai is enough to justify the supposition that pretty drawrings can be legitimately stimulating (boy that’s a word that needs a gentle synonym) artifacts.

Rating :A-

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com