Well, it was bound to happen. I slipped and didn’t get a recap out for an entire week. I’ll make up for that with back-to-back reviews, tonight and tomorrow… but without screencaps. Don’t worry. In the case of this episode, if you’ve seen one girl in a Guarderobe school uniform, you’ve seen ‘em all.
This episode is, by and large, all about the misplaced uniform from the end of last episode. During an unannounced visit to the school by the still-in-town King Nagi and his right-hand man, Sergei Wong, Shizuru pulls Natsuki away from tour-guide duty with urgent news: A school uniform has been found, torn up and badly repaired, for sale at a shop that specializes in Otome paraphernalia. This is very much against school rules, and guess who’s the only girl missing a uniform? Arika-chan, of course! Could this be the “She’ll soon be destroyed” that Nao spoke of?
Arika, in class, is overwhelmed by the schoolwork. She’s looking forward to PE, and even brought her work-out clothes… hmm, something about clothing… what is it? Even her hair is wondering. (Luckily this is pretty much the only instance of Prehensile Hair for the episode. Whew.) Suddenly Shiho arrives in her capacity as enforcer for the student council and drags Arika away, though not before Arika almost gives away Shiho’s little voodoo fetish. “Aren’t you that turning-turning person?”
The interrogation gives us a chance to set some background in the form of the Otome-fanboy store (complete with holographic Fumi from the first episode) and the reason for its existence. Otome are greatly revered and admired, thus anything associated with them can become a popular collector’s item. Arika, of course, has no idea what these people are talking about, but Shiho’s got a vested interest in seeing Arika booted from the school, so she presses the case. Maybe she doesn’t want any competition for the role of Girl With Prehensile Hair.
Shiho hits a nerve, though, when she points out that Arika has no country to support her and thus no real backing or reason to be in the school. The accusation, then, is that Arika sold her uniform to make money to support herself. Without a viable means of proving otherwise, it looks like a closed case until Natsuki and Maria make an appearance. Shiho begins to protest, but it’s hard to stare Maria down…
There are two reasons Natsuki is calling Arika to her office, however. The uniform situation is one, but there’s also a mysterious letter from an unknown party who wishes to take on the role of Arika’s sponsor. This would solve her financial situation, albeit in an unusual fashion. The question is, does Arika trust someone who chooses not to reveal themselves? All she knows is that this person claims to have been raised by her mother. That surprises Arika, and pretty much telegraphs how she’ll respond. That’s okay, though, ’cause we don’t want her to be kicked out of the school or we’d have no show.
Back in class, speculation runs rampant, with nearly everyone ready to believe the worst. One voice pipes up to insist that as her classmates, the girls should give Arika the benefit of the doubt. It’s the other top competitor in the class, Tomoe of the lopsided green hair. Nina looks askance as this pronouncement.
We get a brief aside with Mashiro, who is (of course) delighted to hear about Arika’s impending downfall. She’s not allowed to run off and gloat before she does her paperwork, however…
Now things get interesting. Arika’s alone in the dorm room, reading the letter and agonizing over Shiho’s words, when Nina arrives. Arika starts to blubber, her self-confidence shaken badly. This sets Nina off on a short, angry rant. “I thought you had all this drive to become an Otome. If this is as good as you’ve got, then you might as well leave this school.” Nina’s genuinely agonizing over this behaviour of Arika’s, as her face contorts through several pained expressions of emotion before she says her last piece and stalks back out of the room.
In a weird sort of way, this is exactly what Arika needed. She realizes what kind of position she’s put Nina in as well as the fact that it’s been her stubborn determination that carried her this far, so she certainly can’t give up now. Her self-confidence renewed, she scampers off to round up help from the friends she’s made so far.
Nina, too, seeks help…. though not from a source we might expect. She stalks along a path, muttering to herself in frustration which she takes out on a poor, defenseless tree that Nao just happens to be perched in for a bit of quiet reading. After a perfect landing (shot from a perfect angle!), Nao queries Nina as to why she’s so worked up. In reply, Nina makes a request…
What we get are two different investigations. One serves mostly to give us more scene-setting, and to show two specific gentlemen and where they stand in relation to certain Otome. Akane’s boyfriend, Kazuya (our first greenspark in the first series), is an amiable, well-off young lad who’s basically duped into helping Arika and her friends. He doesn’t have much in the way of information, but he does drive a brand-new car. Sergei Wong puts in an appearance as well, during which “Antsy”Arika spills the beans about how she’s not without a supporter now. Sergei manages not to spill the beans about his part in that particular change of circumstances (c’mon, it’s the worst-kept secret in the entire series so far) while exhorting Arika to do her best and not to make a fool out of whatever poor sap decided to sponsor her.
Nao’s investigation is more direct, more shady, and more effective, not to mention terribly amusing. The trademark red claws make an appearance! The results of this investigation don’t come into play until a bit later, however.
Arika and her friends gather just outside the school to commiserate the failure of their investigation, and Mashiro runs up to them (presumably she got through that paperwork at record speeds) in her eagerness to point and gloat. She even wants the cat, Mikoto, to see Arika’s failure. Where is Mikoto? In a tree, with a handkerchief… which sets off a convoluted parody of an Agatha Christie mystery-revelation scene, one that has very little to do with what actually happened, but Natsuki’s not in a position to look a gift solution to a vexing situation in the mouth. So, blame the cat and let Arika off the hook, huzzah!
In the cafeteria, everyone’s going on about how things worked out, and what a relief it is that it wasn’t a student selling uniforms, etc. One of the girls gets up, seeming upset about something. Nina also rises, but is stopped briefly at the sound of being included in Arika’s list of people to thank, though in Nina’s case she’s a bit vague about why. Nina gives Arika a big serving of cold shoulder and stalks off.
The girl who left the table, Miya, is in the bathroom looking very upset and almost sick to her stomach. Who should accost her there but Nina? She says some cryptic things about “If you continue seeing him” and “I don’t like these underhanded tactics,” and makes it plain that next time Nina won’t just let it slide like she plans to this time. We can only assume this has to do with the results of Nao’s investigation. The girl runs away but is halted in her flight down the hall by the intervention of… someone, a person she’s afraid of.
Mikoto is still carrying the handkerchief around when she overhears what comes next. It’s Tomoe, who turns out to have masterminded the uniform incident. Why? Only time will tell, but she’s clearly not pleased, and she’s not a kindly person when disappointed. So much for the “oh gosh don’t mind me” goody-two-shoes public image we see in the second episode, eh?
All is basically right with the world, though Nina and Mashiro clearly have a lot on their minds as the episode draws to a close…