Anime|otaku goes into a lot of detail with the symbolism in episode 6; as the race goes to the swift, I’ll not re-iterate here and instead urge you to check out his post instead, as well as the commentary. His thoughts on what Watashi sees in each of the three women, as well as the character of “Johnny”, introduced here, are very insightful.

Instead I’d like to look at this episode in a more structural sense – the English club itself, and to some extent, the character of Hanuki, who is very central to this episode.

Episode 5 gives us another twist; one exactly the opposite of Episode 4 – rather than join a single club, Watashi picks up on multiple clubs.

Each of the previous episodes has slowly built up a consistent picture of our protagonist, who is at times a mess of contradictions, but ultimately a very human mess. Watashi is at once stubbornly individualistic and hopelessly indecisive; an absolute fool yet with complete integrity; wanting to be loved yet afraid to trust. Note how his glowing review of the English Conversation Circle appeals to all these aspects:

“I bet I could take trips abroad as easily as going to Awaji Island. Able to read English newspapers, I would no longer be force to dance only to Japanese language news. Among the large number of native languages, it’s the one spoken by most people. English! Able to converse with anyone… Able to make acquaintances with foreigners… And most of all, not encumbered by Japanese’s arrogant sense of shame or enlarged self-pride, with English coversation I can have a buoyant talk session with a raven-haired maiden.”

Indecisiveness seems very much a strong theme in this episode. Watashi’s difficulty in socializing in the English club stems not from a lack of ability, but rather a lack of decisiveness – an ability to at some point stop polishing the statement and just say it. (Hanuki is of course, the exact opposite – she sends out a signal and hopes the emotion comes across – but more on that later.)

Wonder if the same could be said about blogging...

I think Hellomotto over at Sea Slugs must be a prophet – he’s behind an episode, yet ahead of all of us; I quote from his post on episode 5

Deep down, of course, Watashi knows: he has given up on both Kohinata and Akashi. He realizes that he will never get his ideal girlfriend, yet he is unable to let go of the past. By choosing Akashi, he must acknowledge that he will never have a relationship with a Raven-haired maiden–and he’s simply not ready to accept that.

Watashi simply cannot choose one possibility – both in the previous episode and this one – and thus close himself off to all other possibilities. Perhaps 2DT’s comments have a ring of truth – we have, in essence, Schrodinger’s dilemma realized in literal form: perhaps, despite his protestations to the contrary, Watashi deep down wants to remain in the unchanging past, and the endless repetitions are actually a blessing to him rather than a curse – at least, in his present state of mind. It throws perhaps a little light on the end of the previous episode, where Watashi asserts that he must “face reality” head on – that he cannot wallow in this indecisive repetition forever.

Jougasaki was previously employed as a sort of foil in Movie Circle Misogi and is once again used here as a catalyst for a drinking contest. Hanuki, too, is employed as another foil – unlike our reserved protagonist, she is open and relies more on emotion than on structure, and losing control of her rational impulses while drunk – much to Watashi’s dismay, of course. In this sense too, she continues to act as Akashi’s opposite – passionate and worldly, compared to Akashi’s detached and icy demeanour.

It’s curious, too, that English provides the vehicle for expression. To quote Hanuki:

English is all about feeling, so with that much passion grammar is secondary.

I’ll admit one thing to this – there are far less formalities to follow in English than in Japanese. A perfect example is the widespread use of honorifics and various verb and pronoun forms based on the relationship of the two speakers – in older forms of English these were more pronounced, but modern vernacular eschews most of it entirely. Japanese, on the other hand, remains a far more socially stratified language – these being considered “proper grammar”. Comparatively speaking, English is “freer” than Japanese – because it is an “outside” language, with a different culture, it enables the voicing of opinions and insecurities that one cannot give voice to in Japanese, without fear of public censure. Hence, Hanuki is able to complain about the sexual harassment she suffers at her workplace, and Watashi is able to reveal his bitterness about his relationship with Ozu. It’s not the English per se that matters – grammar is out the window here – rather, the language is valuable because it gives the ability to express the unexpressable.

In contrast, it is precisely when Hanuki is unable to express and articulate her problems that her grammar improves and becomes quite clear – grammar is a shield that obfuscates her real problems and keeps her emotions out of her statements. Consider how one communicates in the absence of grammar (the common rules of a language) – one can only really communicate via the emotions and inflection of the voice. On the other hand, speaking in grammatically correct sentences allows us to understand a person even if their voice is tinged with differing emotional cues.

With this in mind, we can contrast Hanuki here – flesh-and-blood, all raw emotion, with a disdain for grammar – with the other two women that Watashi finds himself entangled with. Consider Kaori, who cannot speak or communicate – there is, as Watashi states, a sophisticated sort of love here, because there is no communication happening: no grammar, no emotion. Conversely, Watashi’s pen pal Keiko (or should I say Kohinata?) has no voice, but rather communicates through the medium of text – she speaks completely through gramma, but has no emotion. Perhaps the trail might lead us then towards Akashi – grammar and emotion combined? Her absence is very tangible in this episode – but the Mochiguman is still present.

It’s notable that the inter-episode references are getting more frequent, and at times, positively prophetic. With this many episodes now aired, we can find examples of allusions both to previous episodes, and to episodes in the future. I can’t help but feel that “OZ Talk” is in some way fulfilling Higuchi’s prediction at the end of Softball Circle Honkawa that Ozu is due for an accounting of his crimes.

On a closing note, most of my dental experiences have bordered more on the horrific than the erotic, but I wouldn’t mind a gum massage administered by those fingers…