When the burdens of ruling grow too onerous to bear, Petralka takes up the hikkikomori lifestyle.
What They Say
“The Melancholy of Her Imperial Majesty”
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I’ve never been particularly fond of the Petralka character in Outbreak Company, textbook tsundere that she is. She’s the one character in Outbreak Company who feels like she exists only to meet the demands of the otaku checklist. So seeing as this episode revolved around her, I wasn’t expecting much of anything this time around. No matter how many times it pulls the same trick, Outbreak Company continues to pleasantly surprise me, although never so much that I don’t expect the next episode to be the one where it all just falls apart. We’re 2/3rds through the show now, so it may just be time for me to face facts that Outbreak Company is really entertaining.
Petralka has really taken a backseat to Myucel in the last few episodes, and the pressures of being such an important political figure at such a young age are clearly wearing on the Empress. One day, she just up and runs away, leaving only a note behind. The guards search the entire palace grounds for her, but it’s only Shinichi who is able to guess at her location. She begs her cousin Galius that Petralka be given the indulgence of a single day off, but he regretfully insists that there is too much work to be done to allow even this.
He tells Shinichi the tragedy of Petralka’s reign at such a young age, that it was his parents that killed hers in a struggle over succession of the throne. The previous Emperor died of grief to see a family torn apart in this way, and thus Petralka’s childhood was essentially sacrificed for political expedience, and she works hard to shoulder this burden. It’s easy to see why she has become such a bratty character, and it does do a good job of humanizing what had previously been a pretty flat archetype.
But Petralka’s melancholy hasn’t lifted just yet – having come across the idea of hikkikomori in the media Shinichi has brought to Eldant, Petralka decides she’ll try becoming one. She magically seals her door, leaving everyone from the Eldant kingdom unable to get into her room. Shinichi can get in, however, and rather than talking her out of her funk, he seems to want to try reverse psychology by indulging her desires. He teaches Petralka the true way of the hikkokomori from his own personal experience.
The turnaround where Shinichi reveals the sad nature of the hikkokomori, and their true face as a burden on society feels a bit too convenient, though it does bring the story to its expected resolution. Petralka is too proud to want to view herself as a burden, or as a coward, and she eventually decides to return from her unexpected vacation to her royal duty. Thus, the episode allows Petralka to get some much-needed development and some knowing laughs at the hikkokomori lifestyle without shaking up the formula too much.
These episodic adventures from Outbreak Company remain entertaining, but it does leave me wondering if the show ever intends to return to a more long-form narrative. We see familiar otaku concepts parodied in this episode-long adventures, but we still don’t get much of a grasp on how otaku culture is changing Eldant society on a broader level. That much seems to have been left behind after the altercation with the terrorists back in episode four. The wolf-girl artist character has also been fairly underused since her introduction. With the show two-thirds complete, it will be interesting if the final four episodes will work to wrap up the plot in any conclusive way, or if this is another otaku property that is denied a satisfying resolution in hopes of extending its moneymaking potential.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Review Equipment: Sony VAIO 17″ HD screen