After all the setup and character introduction in the last two episodes, this episode was finally free to play around with it all. I have to say, going in, I expected that this episode would be nothing more than a collection of random jokes and humorous situations (not that that’s a bad thing or anything). What I did not expect was a solid theme tying all the silliness together. You see, this episode is actually a rather meaty exploration of empathy.
Uncle, seeking to help Fujimiya better understand her feelings for Takafumi, turns himself into a woman—Elf, specifically. And as he states, doing so for a prolonged period of time is dangerous, as his mind will literally change to fit its new container. Thus, as the episode goes on, he begins to feel more and more of the kind of things Elf must have been feeling all the time behind her tsundere exterior—though, as expected from someone as dense as Uncle, he isn’t able to make truly that logical connection.
On the other side of things, we have Fujimiya seeing just how vastly her memories of her childhood with Takafumi clash with his own. In her mind, she and Takafumi were inseparable pals. To Takafumi, however, she’s a tomboyish bully, constantly picking on him and making his school life a living hell. It’s so bad that she can’t even recognize herself in those memories. While it’s a shock, it does help her realize why he doesn’t seem romantically interested in her. To her, they have a deep, pre-established connection which makes her feel attracted to him. But for any relationship to occur she needs to overcome his already ingrained view of her as she was in their childhood. She needs to show him she is not the bully she once was.
Finally, the episode explores the idea of empathy on the internet. From the start, Uncle’s YouTube channel has been filled with haters who either mock him or call him a fake—and he treats this just as he would if someone came up to him on the street and said these things in person. He doesn’t yet understand that, when it comes to online comment sections, negative comments are often more common than positive ones. This is simply due to human nature—hate drives people to action faster than joy. And while Takafumi may know this—hence his cynicism towards commenters—what he doesn’t understand is that the vast majority of people don’t comment at all. They watch, enjoy, and move on without another thought. And while typing a comment may not cross their minds, clicking the subscribe button as a sign of support or agreement may not be too big of an ask. (There’s a reason why every YouTuber asks you to like, subscribe, and hit the bell every video: it works.)
So, in the end, Uncle sees the world through Elf’s eyes, Fujimiya learns that her memories of the past aren’t objective truth, and Takafumi is reminded that most people, even those online, are just normal people—and not the endless mass of trolls he fears them to be. Empathy, people! What a concept!
• Elf doesn’t need a lesson in empathy—she’s already a master. She knows that Uncle had no malice in destroying the barrier and so she protects him when the townspeople are about to attack him after he fixes it.
• Poor Elf and her epic last-stand-turned-faceplant, though.
• Look, I’m sure many bullies grow up to be good people—but when you were the bullied one, it’s hard to ever see them as anything different. Good luck Fujimiya, you’re going to need it.
• I’m happy to see that the “Fujimiya doesn’t know about Uncles magic powers” gag is now dead and gone. Two episodes of it was quite enjoyable but any more would have been beating a dead horse.
• Looking at the visuals for the anime, I was expecting Elf to appear in the real world as well, but it’s clear now that it’s just Uncle transformed. Which raises the question: How did he get back to our world and why didn’t Elf try to follow?
Uncle From Another World is currently streaming on Netflix.
Richard is an anime and video game journalist with over a decade of experience living and working in Japan. For more of his writings, check out his Twitter and blog.