Episode 96: “Spotlight[!] The Bra of Dreams!”
[The title screen punctuates this as “Spotlight–The Bra of Dreams!” but the Japanese title clearly has two exclamation points.]
Original airdate: January 18, 1984
Corresponding manga chapters: “Longing for a Bust!!–Parts 1 & 2”, volume 18, chapters 5-6 (Japanese tankobon release)/overall chapters 184-185
Major character introduced: Soban
Minor characters introduced: Soban’s sidekicks
Summary: A man and a woman. A lost parasol, retrieved. Her longing persists.
Just like Ryuunosuke, who’s finally ready to achieve a lifetime desire:
She throws her jacket off the edge of a tall building for some reason. We don’t see whether this inconveniences her, because there’s an immediate cut to Tomobiki High and its girls’ locker room. The girls let out a collective shriek when they think they see a boy enter, but it’s just Ryuunosuke. A couple of them attempt to assure her that she’s got a girly figure, but she goes into a bra reverie that culminates in her shouting “A bra, that is!” and running out, to general confusion.
As she runs, she flashes back to her childhood, when she first beheld a bra in the window of a store. Confused, she turns to her father, who responds with his usual sensitivity.
He explains that only women are allowed to wear bras, and if a boy like her touches one he’ll doubtless experience an eternity of torment. For some reason this doesn’t quell her fascination with the Forbidden Underwear of Mystery, and her sprint to the bra store gains new speed.
Elsewhere, three disguised figures take photographs of Shinobu from the concealment of the bushes.
[They don’t get names in the episode, so unless I find out that they have names elsewhere I’ll call them Dog, Can and Bush.] Shinobu catches sight of them and spooks, running up to Ryuunosuke and taking her arm as they walk away. Shinobu asks her to drive off the strangers, but Ryuu’s heart isn’t in it. She explains that she went to the lingerie (or, as the sign says, “Ramjery”) store only to discover that bras cost as much as ¥4000 ($17.10). Her life savings consist of ¥400 ($1.71), so she’s a bit short. Shinobu says that she might be able to get on on sale for another ¥100, but since she’s not getting any spending money her dreams of women’s clothes are as distant as ever.
Shinobu feels sorry for her and tears up, while Ryuunosuke consoles her (sort of). The watching boys have had enough, and jump out to tell Shinobu that they’re from Bustumetsu High, and their boss wants to date her. Shinobu tells them she doesn’t like gangs, but the boys focus on trying to convince Ryuunosuke to break up with her, since the boss won’t like it and they’re having couple problems, anyway. Ryuu is confused, and Ataru pops up from behind a wall to helpfully explain that it means a boyfriend and girlfriend having a disagreement. She doesn’t take that well, punching the disguised boys and stomping off.
That night, at the school store, Ryuunosuke watches her father sleep next to her, reflecting that it’s all her fault and that he’s probably saving money to rebuild Hamajaya. She sneaks out of her futon to rummage through his drawers, but as it turns out all her father’s coin purses are booby-trapped.
Her father rises like the roaring surf to demand why she needs the money, but when she says it’s for a bra, he instantly pretends to be asleep. A screen to the head rouses him, and they brawl over whether she has breasts that need a bra, or just some bumps that her chest wrap will cure.
The next day, the trio tell Shinobu that their boss hasn’t given up on her. She feels some tenderness toward him, despite her dislike of gangs, but that changes rapidly when they show her a picture.
Back in the classroom, Mendou is shocked to hear their plan: follow Shinobu and Ryuunosuke around and take photos of them as a couple to show their boss. Ataru volunteers to take the hit himself, but Ryuu’s already agreed, and Shinobu feels safer with her than with Ataru anyway (Lum concurs). When leaving, the trio is confused as to why that boy wanted a bra as his condition to go along with the plan.
At the school store, Mr. Fujinami lights incense at the family shrine to tell Ryuunosuke’s mother that their son is finally dating a girl. This being Mr. Fujinami, there’s a certain multiple choice aspect to the shrine.
Outside, Dog shows her the bra that will be hers upon successful completion of the date. Shinobu appears in a cute dress, and Can takes photos of them together, Ryuu forcing herself by lying back and thinking of the bra. They get closer and closer, until Ryuunosuke goes in for a kiss. Shinobu pushes her away, while Ryuu insists that she’s “normal”. She continues to insist that she’s not a pervert while they uncomfortably share a fruity drink outside a cafe (Bush and Dog are unconvinced).
Matters aren’t helped when Ataru photobombs the couple. He’s heard the scuttlebutt that Ryuunosuke’s not playing her role well because she’s distracted by bra thoughts, and makes his own offer: a bra that he claims is front-hooked even though it clearly isn’t.
He offers it to her if she steps aside so Shinobu can date him instead. Lum dissuades him electrically, and holds him down while the others leave, Dog questioning his career decisions as he goes. They pose in front of a fountain and take a montage of photos of Ryuunosuke holding Shinobu, with Ataru and Lum struggling in the background. The tableau is completed by the appearance of Mr. Fujinami and a random woman’s photo, which he’s brought so she can see Ryuu and her fiancee. Ryuunosuke doesn’t want a wife, Shinobu adds that they’re just friends, Ataru insists that they can’t get married, but Dog and Bush say that there’s nothing wrong with that. Lum points out that Ryuunosuke is still holding Shinobu in her arms, which throws them off further.
However, the last lingering vestiges of Shinobu’s heterosexuality are put to the test by the high-speed arrival of the gang’s boss, Soban.
Dog shows Soban the photos, but he knocks them aside and chases Shinobu, proclaiming his love even as she turns and sends him flying with one punch. The gang is amazed that she was willing to touch the boss, and Mr. Fujinami congratulates Ryuu on her strong bride. The gang tries to get Soban to leave by saying that he can keep “Shinobu’s” bra. His drooling over it appalls Ryuunosuke, and they have a tug-of-war over it that rips it in half. Soban is happy to keep his half, but Ryuunosuke isn’t too pleased with her half, finding it impractical.
Shinobu points out that there’s still Ataru’s bra, which he and Mr. Fujinami are wrestling over. Mr. Fujinami wins through the very simple expedient of pointing out a nonexistent woman, then running. Ryuunosuke confronts him and begs for the bra. Touched, he hands over…a boy’s loincloth. She takes a swing at him, but he stops her by interposing the front-hook bra. While she’s momentarily distracted, he pulls out a lighter and ignites it. It’s consumed almost instantly (must be all the tissue paper). Shinobu comes over to reassure her that she’ll have a bra some day, and Ryuu temporarily loses her mind.
Shinobu stalks off while Ryuunosuke follows, insisting that she’s not a pervert and just wanted to see if Shinobu would give away her bra. Lum points out that it would be too small anyway, and we pull out on a final panel tableau while the narrator intones that the girl’s love will last a lifetime, and she’d normally become a woman someday, but in her case…
Changes from the manga version: The (two-and-a-half minute) opening sequence is original, as you’d probably expect. The beginning of the second chapter has a page with Soban worshipping a photo of Shinobu that didn’t make it to the screen. Apart from that they’re pretty much identical.
Thoughts: Apart from the framing sequence, this is an extremely Takahashi episode, with very little added by the animators; even the linework of the character designs (Mr. Fujinami in particular) is straight off the page. Takahashi’s storytelling is also very much in evidence, with a character quirk-driven plot juxtaposed with a new character.
This is a funny episode, although one does need to remember that some of the comments (such as Mendou asking which one of the couple will be the woman, even, apart from the fact that it’s a silly question, and Ryuunosuke insisting she’s “normal”) are from thirty years ago. However, I get the sense that these represent the attitudes of the characters, not Takahashi, and if at this point one starts to ship Ryuunobu one could hardly be blamed. (It’s not the worst pairing; at this point in the series Shinobu’s given up on Mendou and Ataru is getting closer to Lum, and there aren’t a lot of other dateable guys around. For Ryuunosuke’s part, I get the sense that her sexuality has always been a distant second to her gender issues, and she hasn’t confronted it much: she hasn’t objected to girls fawning over her in the past, and she’s the one who puts the moves on Shinobu.)
Soban is a minorly recurring character. For a short time there was a vague possibility that Shinobu was being shallow and missing an opportunity by judging him by his looks, but no, his personality’s terrible too. (Shinobu will have better people attracted to her eventually.)
Next episode: A girl gang has stolen Benten’s chain!