Seen from the outside, Nagomu is a disaster. Or at least, that’s how he appears to Hiiro, the new apprentice. She’s very much caught up in her own idea of what it means to be “perfect,” and we seasoned anime viewers know that that’s more a recipe for disaster than for anything else. Just why she’s so obsessed with perfection hasn’t been fully revealed yet, but we already know that she’s got a very set idea of what’s “right,” and she doesn’t necessarily do well with changes to that. The clearest example we see this week is when she’s told to man the counter at the confectionery. Clearly, customer interaction isn’t a facet of working in a small local business that she never considered; to Hiiro’s mind, confectioners simply create the confections. It’s this lack of understanding that initially makes Nagomu go down in her estimation, because even though he’s the son of the owners, he’s not very good at crafting the sweets, plus he spent time doing (gasp) something else in Tokyo. This quickly makes Hiiro write him off as a loser, and from that moment on, she looks at everything he does through the lens of her assumption. She doesn’t say it, but we can practically hear her thinking that he doesn’t belong.
But that’s largely because of her own narrow view of right and wrong in the confectionery business. She doesn’t see that Nagomu smiling and talking to neighbors when they go out to make a delivery is excellent PR, and even when a woman comes in to buy something, Hiiro is shocked (and stung) that the woman wants to buy from Nagomu rather than her. That Hiiro quickly learns the error of her assumptions leads to a brisk comeuppance; Hiiro’s so caught up in the idea of memorizing the specials and selling what she’s “supposed” to that she doesn’t listen to her first customer and angers her. The humiliation of having to be saved by Itsuka leads her to snap.
The main takeaway from this episode, however, isn’t that Hiiro’s a pill. (And she does seem to learn to be a bit more flexible in her thinking.) Rather, it’s that Nagomu absolutely has his strengths, and that one of them is relating to other people. It’s Nagomu’s open personality that makes him popular in the neighborhood, and it’s his quick thinking that gets the shop a teaching gig at Itsuka’s school for a special class. And almost more importantly, his kindness and empathy helps a little girl whose mother is busy dismantling her self-confidence by “teasing” her, pointing out that laughter is often cruel to the person being laughed at. That he learned this from his teacher back when he was Itsuka’s age is nicely symbolic of how Hiiro learns to relax a little – Masa, one of the older gentlemen at the shop and her confectionery idol, talks her down after her moment behind the counter. A good teacher, the implication seems to be, can help you adjust your view of the world, and that’s a lesson you can pass on in turn.
Although this show is about making traditional sweets and found or created family, I think that the idea of learning from others is still a major theme. Nagomu’s perceived rejection of the family shop created the idea in his father that he didn’t learn to value wagashi, while his return to the fold only appeared to demonstrate that he hadn’t learned anything in his time away. Itsuka’s drive to learn is rooted in her desperate need to belong, while Hiiro’s thoughts about learning the one right way to do things shows that book learning isn’t all there is to life. And really, Nagomu standing up for Miyu, saying in front of the woman who taught him that it’s good to stand up for others in the first place, just brings it all home: learning, and teaching, is part of the process of becoming a fully realized human being, and anyone who looks at Nagomu and thinks that he’s nothing more than a fool still has a lot to learn.
Deaimon: Recipe for Happiness is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.