The rotating cast of famous toku actors taking turns at Miss Kuroitsu‘s opening narration has been one of its more endearing referential gags. I haven’t made a point of calling it out, because I don’t want these reviews to primarily consist of noting references, and half the fun of that stuff in a show like this is spotting it yourself. But I simply must make mention of this week’s actor on account of personal appeal: Takashi Haginowho famously gave life to Takeshi Asakura in Kamen Rider Ryuki. Who better to represent a show all about toku villains than one of the Heisei era’s most enduringly memorable bad guys? It extracts exactly the kind of appreciative reaction this show is trying to garner with these kinds of references, making me think back to just how cool a series Kamen Rider Ryuki was and oh hey did you know you can go watch it, legally, for free, right now?
Takashi’s inclusion also makes an ironic tie-in to this episode’s actual story: Where Asakura was pointedly the most irredeemable of villains, this episode centers on Mummy, Kuroitsu’s latest creation who makes an impressive showing fighting Blader, but ends up deciding to leave that all behind to pursue a career as an idol instead! This narrative does have to double-back on Kuroitsu’s previously commented-on profit for building flexibility into her monster designs, clarifying that Mummy’s a unique case who doesn’t have such an advantage (owing to her being so specifically designed as a counter-Blader beastie). But it’s all in service of a genuinely adorable storyline that ends up speaking to the strength of such adaptably anyway, so I think it’s worth it.
A huge part of that effectiveness is Mummy herself. She’s a frankly adorable creation, and I’m definitely here for her regular usage of signs to communicate. She also works as a vehicle for the genuine niceties the Agastia crew generally show towards their monsters. There’s some varying doubt as to whether or not Mummy can succeed in her idol fantasies, but no one we see among the organization demands she abandons them before defeating Blader; Instead, the whole exercise is treated as a way to confirm the potential of these kinds of cute creatures. Part of that works as an expansion of one of the series’ major running jokes: That Agastia is such a supportive work environment for an evil organization that they’ll even happily encourage a Monster Of The Week to chase her dreams. It actually works as a commentary both on the outside-the-box possibilities of these kinds of toku monsters, and the kinds of stories Miss Kuroitsu as a series can tell as it branches out of its parameters. I’ll come back to that in a minute.
This story also effectively loops in Wolf (who by now has clearly emerged as a focal favorite in the series). This fits well too, since the conversations Wolf has with Kuroitsu regarding Mummy’s efforts speak to the point about ‘distance between who she is and what she can do.” Of course Wolf of all people would be able to project his own feelings onto Mummy’s dreams , given his own struggles with seemingly-intrinsic identity, and breaking free of that into what he really wants to ‘be’. Hey, it works for the legendary Yamada Tae), but then he’s overcome with happiness for her at finding her voice (with a little help from modern monster medicine).
It all works because Miss Kuroitsu‘s now-established earnestness feels even more dialed-up for this entry. Even as I was watching things play out in their cute, charming way, I still had a mild worry that the episode might undercut things right at the end with some sort of bittersweet or ironic punch-line at the expense of all of Mummy’s efforts. But that ended up not being the case, as Mummy actually pulls off her ambitions in a show of sincerely sweet, and any digs at the end are at the expense of Blader’s subliminal reaction to her performance, and Megastus’s demonstration that his incredible managerial skills extend even to music production. It wasn’t any kind of layered meta-referential plot, or part of a scheme by the organization to collect data on human manipulation or anything like that. This was the story of a monster turning out to be capable of something simply because she wanted to be. It’s the message the show should have ended on to make this story work, solidifying the feelings of both Wolf and Kuroitsu on adaptable monster potential, while also indicating that their creations might be able to go even further than the multitudes of possibilities they intentionally programmed them with.
That all goes back to that point I alluded to earlier about the characters, and the show they occupy boxes, succeeding outside their prescribed. This episode has the first story so far that’s fully-connected between the commercial break, finding enough breathing room to tell this silly, yet sincere tale. That change-up in tone and pacing marks it as ‘different’ by the standards of the kind of gag show Miss Kuroitsu has been so far, but like a battle-based mummy monster learning to perform, it makes it work anyway. Similarly, bits like the training montages and even the visual component of Mummy’s performance itself continue to demonstrate that the animation production is not one of this show’s strong points. But it succeeds in spite of that because of its truth in telling this story, which is clearly on display. Like Mummy herself, it lends a sense of scrappy underdog energy to the show that makes it that much easier to cheer for.
Miss Kuroitsu From the Monster Development Department is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.