So, in some ways, this episode made this a bit clearer. In others, this is still one of the weirdest shows I’ve ever seen. While it did address one of my biggest issues with the first episode (what does any of this mean?), it still found it’s compulsive need to be strange elsewhere (hi, Aikurō Mikisugi!).
Having to flee after the battle in episode 1, Ryuko collapses and is now staying with Mako, whose family lives in the slums (since the town is run by Satsuki). Upon returning, Mako is attacked by the tennis club for missing practice yesterday (in the process, giving the episode its best line) as Ryuko cannot activate her sailor fuku. When she’s told how to activate it (in the weirdest scene all episode), she faces the tennis captain to save Mako and attempt to call out Satsuki yet again.
The largest addition in this episode is the information given regarding the uniforms (the explanation given by Satsuki for them borders on troll logic, but that’s to be expected) and some of the characterization issues from last time. Satsuki now has a bit more of a character to her, Ryuko seems like she’s approaching a stable characterization soon, and then there’s Aikurō Mikisugi, the homeroom teacher. I dare you to watch the scene with him and not either laugh uncontrollably or feel uncomfortable (this whole series seems like it should feel uncomfortable, in that regard).
The potential uncomfortableness, however, does still seem to be the show’s biggest weakness (the weirdness is now more like a charm than a flaw). A good deal of the episode, especially regarding Ryuko (although at least she’s an action girl heroine rather than a moe bloob like Mako), is very fanservice-y, with some of those moments being kind of awful given the context we’re given. Her sailor uniform did practically rape her and that’s why she’s wearing it, scenes where she’s at a disadvantage are shot to act as “get a good look at her”, and then there’s Aikurō Mikisugi’s scene. While the show’s tone is too weird and silly to be taken as seriously as, say, Penguindrum (a series featuring at least two rape attempts, all of them played dead seriously), it can be a detractor for some.
For me, however, it seems like it’s moving in a good direction and, if it continues moving in this way, it could become the best new series of the year.