“Most of these love triangles are wrecktangles.” –Jacob Braude
After Futaro recovers from his cold, he sets about attempting to continue mentoring the Nakano quintuplets as best as he can. However, conflicting feelings among the quintuplets distract them from their studies, and Futaro spends as much time trying to get them to reconcile as he does trying to tutor them. Ultimately, unable to produce results and help the girls in passing their latest exams, he resigns from his post per the quintuplets’ father’s requirements. In protest, the quintuplets move out, intent on proving that they can pass their exams. Meanwhile, Futaro sets about trying to understand the quintuplets better: during a vacation to an onsen the quintuplets’ grandfather owns, Futaro asks their grandfather how to differentiate everyone apart. With everyone whole-heartedly accepting Futaro’s help, the Nakanos make it into their final year of high school. However, new challenges arise when each of the quintuplets begin acting on their feelings for Futaro: from failed kokuhaku to efforts to draw Futaro’s attention, conflicts arise between the sisters, who are now competing with one another in the hopes that Futaro may reciprocate their feelings. This culminates in the class trip to Kyoto, where the girls begin going to extraordinary means to spend time with Futaro while struggling with the knowledge that whoever wins may have a changed relationship with the other four. The climatic confrontation ends with Miku admitting that her family comes first and foremost, and in the aftermath of this school trip, the five sisters end up exhausted. This is The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, the continuation to 2019’s first season. The second season sees many changes compared to its predecessor: for one, Tezuka Productions has been replaced by newcomer Bibury Animation Studios, whose only other work is Azur Lane, and while folks have suggested that the character designs in The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ are more faithful to the original, things felt somewhat flatter, less life-like in the second season. Moreover, after the Nakanos pass their final exams and enter their third year of high school, the core of what made The Quintessential Quintuplets so enjoyable (Futaro’s struggles and ever-shifting ways to force the Nakanos to study) was displaced by drama, which in retrospect, appears inevitable.
The drama and studying are, fortunately, not the highlight of The Quintessential Quintuplets∬: instead, it is the changes that begin to manifest in Futaro that are the most noteworthy. Coming into The Quintessential Quintuplets, Futaro is single-minded and utterly devoted to studying, but being made to work with the Nakano quintuplets wrought a noticeable change in him. Futaro had always seen each of the Nakano sisters as a distinct individual with her own unique beliefs, intents and desires and strives to impress this upon them, whereas until he’d shown up in their lives, each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki viewed themselves as one-fifths of a whole, more alike than unique. While his initial intentions had simply been to learn enough about everyone to ensure he could capitalise on individual traits to best tutor them and earn his keep, he gradually comes to develop a genuine desire to see each and every one of them succeed. To this end, his attempt to learn from the Nakano’s grandfather signifies a turning point for Futaro: there isn’t any algorithm or procedure for identifying the quintuplets, and instead, it’s a matter of love. Specifically, it’s learning nuances about each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki, such as the way they speak, how they carry themselves and the like. The reason for why Futaro is going to such lengths is later explained: when Yusuke Takeda, son of the principal and a popular student, confronts Futaro about the latter’s dropping grades, Futaro remarks that it was precisely through meeting the Nakanos that made him realise how closed-minded he had been previously. While the Nakanos are an endless source of frustration, they also taught Futaro the importance of compassion, persistence and patience, things that Futaro had previously lacked. Indeed, Futaro’s concern for the Nakanos matches his own will to excel, and he has no trouble demonstrating to Yusuke that he can manage both, earning Yusuke’s respect. Through The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, it is shown that for Futaro, he’s living a much more meaningful life as a high school student beyond merely studying, and however much trouble the Nakanos create for him, he’s slowly beginning to take things in stride and becomes a more well-rounded individual as a result.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I originally watched The Quintessential Quintuplets back during the previous summer as a part of the Terrible Anime Challenge and found the series to be quite charming. The first season stands very well on its own, and of note was the fact that while an outcome of sorts is known to viewers, the joys came precisely from seeing the journey it took to reach this outcome. Before I delve any further into The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, I will note that the second season’s identifying mark is a double integral ∬, having taken a look at the ASCII encoding for it (222C).
- Initially, when Rena appears, I was a little uncertain as to whether or not Futaro had been hallucinating, a consequence of being under the weather, but it turns out this actually happens. A bit of reading finds that this was Itsuki trying to convince Futaro to move ahead rather than make his decision based purely on what’d happened years earlier. This post comes a little later in the day – I was busy for much of the day (fixing a fence that’d blown over in the wind storms over the past few days, capitalising on the weather to take a walk, enjoying an Easter dinner of stuffed turkey, ham-and-pineapple, plus herbed cauliflower, and spending time with family). However, with this post, I’d get a seven-streak, and I had no intentions of losing this streak. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine if the quality of my prior six posts have suffered any for my hubris.
- Returning to the matter of the double integral in the second season’s title, my calculus knowledge is elementary: I’ve never taken any more advanced calculus courses in university, and while an appreciation of the principles means I’m able to understand its applications and uses in other fields, in my day-to-day work, I haven’t worked too extensively with things like integrals. Having said this, I am at least aware of the theory behind a double integral: these are typically used to describe the volume under a surface, and have applicability in determining the centre of mass and moment of inertia, which are central engineering concepts.
- I’m not engineer, so this is where the limits of my knowledge lie. Fortunately, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ doesn’t require an extensive knowledge of mathematics, and I’m glad that discussions have chosen not to try and determine if a double integral symbolised anything significant in this second season (spoiler: as far as I can tell, it doesn’t). I’d been watching The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ on a weekly basis, same as I had for Higurashi Gou, but because I’d been focused on Yuru Camp△ 2 and Non Non Biyori Nonstop, I didn’t have plans to write about this The Quintessential Quintuplets∬. Returning now to talk about the whole season means that some details, I’ll inevitably forget, but on the whole, the events are memorable enough for me to recall them.
- For most viewers, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ would mean continuing on with a story that had began two years earlier; the first season had concluded with Futaro recovering from a fever after his school trip saw an unusual series of events that began showing how each of the girls begin seeing him. The romantic aspect in The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ lies at the heart of the series, and it speaks volumes to how each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki feel about Futaro when they’re willing to move out so they can continue learning under him, against their father’s wishes.
- I believe I’ve mentioned this before in my last post, but it’s worth reiterating that The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ has an all-star cast, which made the show particularly fun to watch. Kana Hanazawa is Ichika (Shirase Kobuchisawa from A Place Further Than The Universe and Garden of Words‘ Yukari Yukino), Ayana Taketatsu is Nino (K-On!‘s Azusa “Azu-nyan” Nakano), Miku Itō voices Miku (Nanako Usami from Locodol), Ayane Sakura is Yotsuba (GochiUsa‘s very own Cocoa Hoto), and Inori Minase is Itsuki (GochiUsa‘s very own Chino Kafuu). I admit that a part of the joy in watching Quintessential Quintuplets∬ had been in part because I was suffering from GochiUsa withdrawal once BLOOM had ended, and having Sakura voice Yotsuba meant that I could hear Cocoa’s voice in a different context.
- While Quintessential Quintuplets had initially made it feel like Futaro would never see any success in convincing the quintuplets to pick up a book and properly study, Futaro’s persistence would convince everyone to come around for themselves. In doing so, everyone’s confidence slowly begins returning, and appreciating what Futaro had done, each of the quintuplets begin falling in love with him in their own way. Of everyone, I felt the most empathy for Ichika: in the first season, I’d like Miku’s character the most, but with the second season, Ichika’s become an interesting character in her own right.
- On one hand, Ichika wants to support her sisters, but she also begins feeling a pull towards Futaro. The biggest surprise of The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, however, was Nino: of everyone, she regards Futaro with the most hostility and has gone to lengths to get rid of him, even spiking his drink with a tranquilising agent. However, once Nino learns that Kintaro is actually Futaro (Futaro once bleached his hair blonde and had a prickly attitude, and in the present day, he replicated this for a school event as a part of festivities), her conflicting feelings lead her to conclude that she’s been in love with Futaro this entire time.
- Yotsuba appears to be the exception to the rule: Ichika, Nino and Miku have made it clear they intend to win Futaro’s heart, while Itsuki is busy pursuing a different dream, and this leaves Yotsuba. Like Cocoa, Yotsuba is always cheerful and completely selfless, worrying about her sisters’ happiness above her own. It turns out that long ago, her actions had led to everyone getting expelled from their school, and since then, Yotsuba feels that she has a debt to repay. She never pursues Futaro actively, and is content to support the others despite her own feelings for this very reason.
- The central conflict amongst each of the siblings is that each wants to pursue Futaro, but also wishes to minimise disrupting their status quo. To this end, Ichika, Miku and Nino each resolve to do their best and deal with the consequences after, but for Ichika, her conflict is worsened by the fact that she also believes she has a responsibility to look after everyone. For the time being, however, this competition for Futaro’s heart must wait: final exams are coming up, and everyone must pass in order to advance to the next grade. With motivation to be with Futaro filling their hearts, everyone puts in their best effort.
- The problem of maintaining academic standing ceases to be a problem halfway through The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, and once everyone passes their finals with flying colours, they go out to celebrate. From here on out, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ takes a turning point and drops the studying piece outright. Futaro himself worries less about the Nakano’s academics, and his priority goes towards learning more about everyone: he believes that for better or worse, since he’s now so entrenched in their lives, it’s his responsibility to know them better and give them due respect.
- Nino winds up taking a job at the same bakery that Futaro works at, beating out Miku in the process. Ever since the revelation that Kintaro was basically Futaro, Nino’s been unable to take her mind off Futaro, and plans on using this opportunity to get closer to him. Her initial attempts at a kokuhaku fail in a hilarious, but humiliating manner. However, this doesn’t dissuade Nino in any way; she plans on making it so that Futaro will have eyes for none other than her. While Nino constantly bemoans Futaro’s seeming obliviousness to her feelings, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ suggests that Futaro is somewhat aware of things and does his best to remain neutral for the Nakanos’ sake.
- Miku’s attempts at catching Futaro’s attention are more subtle compared to Ichika and Nino, who are much more brazen in expressing themselves. Midway through the season, Miku suggests that they hit an onsen together, but as circumstance would have it, Futaro ends up accompanying his family, and the quintuplets accompany their father. The quintuplets’ father, Maruo, is the director for a hospital, and while he loves his step-daughters in his own way, he is completely results driven. Ever since Futaro stood up to him, Maruo regards Futaro with hostility, although in spite of himself, is impressed with Futaro’s perseverance in all of his endeavours.
- I imagine that Maruo probably sees a bit of Futaro in himself, hence his reaction and stance on Futaro. During the onsen arc, Futaro’s hands are tied: the quintuplets are proving to be a handful and create quite a bit of confusion after Futaro confronts “Itsuki” about something that had been on her mind. During this visit, Futaro attempts to work out who the phony Itsuki is, and was initially unsuccessful until he implores the quintuplets’ grandfather to share the secret in how to tell everyone apart.
- While viewers have a very easy time telling Itsuki, Yotsuba, Miku, Nino and Ichika apart thanks to obvious visual cues and distinctions in the voice actresses portraying everyone, it is suggested that these differences were done purely for the viewers’ benefit. For Futaro, he encounters a much greater hurdle in telling everyone apart. The quintuplets’ grandfather suggest that love is the answer, specifically, having the heart to take the time and learn nuances about each of the quintuplets.
- I imagine that to properly convey the challenge that Futaro faces to the viewer, everyone would need to look the same, as they do here, and also share the same voice actress; I’ve now been around the block long enough to pick out traits from different voice actresses to the point where I’d recognise Ayane Sakura and Risa Taneda’s voices from anywhere, much as how Aki Toyosaki and Yōko Hikasa have very distinct voices that make them easy to tell apart. The fact that everyone’s masquerading as Itsuki suggests that something is up, and what was originally supposed to be a relaxing vacation turns into a bit of a gong-show for Futaro.
- By evening, Yotsuba encourages Ichika to pursue her desires with her fullest efforts – because their father is so disapproving of Futaro, the two decide to confer on the inn’s rooftops away from prying eyes. Through everything, Yotsuba’s remained the most reserved: she was the first of the Nakano quintuplets to accept Futaro, and this alone suggested to me that she the one who’d encountered Futaro while they were younger. As The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ progresses, it becomes clear that the others also know this to be true. In retrospect, because of what Yotsuba had desired, and given her current situation, being forward with Futaro about this and setting in motion the events that would lead to the chapel would be sufficiently large as to warrant several episodes, so it makes sense that there’d be a third season of The Quintessential Quintuplets.
- Having said this, even when continuations are announced shortly after a series’ finale, it does not guarantee a timely arrival. Magia Record had made it known that it would be getting a second season after its finale aired, but here we are, a full year later, and there’s still no sign of when the second season will wrap up Iroha’s story. Similarly, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ could very well have a bit of a wait, and assuming that the third season follows the second in timelines, it will be 2023 when we see what happens next. This is a long ways off, so I’ll return to the present, where, before they’re set to leave, Futaro confronts one of the fake Itsukis and confirms that it’s Miku – overjoyed that Futaro is able to recognise her, she throws herself at him.
- When third year begins, the Nakano quintuplets are surrounded by curious classmates. However, Futaro is also in the same class, and in his typical manner, treats them as he would any of his other classmates, with a distance about them. However, recalling the girls’ grandfather’s remarks, when some classmates begin misidentifying the quintuplets and mistake one another, Futaro intervenes, correcting his classmates. This sort of action shows the classmates that Futaro does care about the Nakano quintuplets, who make a more honest effort to ensure they get everyone’s names correct.
- When Yusuke challenges Futaro, whom he views as a worthy rival, Futaro replies that he doesn’t even know who Yusuke is. While Yusuke is an excellent student himself, but also charismatic and cordial, Futaro’s never really had time for rivalries. However, Yusuke’s remarks, that the Nakanos are holding him back from his full potential, sparks in Futaro a drive to demonstrate the opposite is true. This one single moment spoke volumes about how far Futaro has come since The Quintessential Quintuplets: he openly declares that his old self was, for all his book smarts, lacking in emotional intelligence, and it was through working with the Nakanos that he came to realise there was more to the world than just pwning exams. He thus accepts Yusuke’s challenge, stating that he’ll continue to help Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki study for their mock exams while at the same time, placing within the top ten.
- This was the magic moment for me in The Quintessential Quintuplets∬: as a high school student, I was quite similar to Futaro in manner and belief. For me, I worked hard solely for the pursuit of high scores in classes, and while I was mostly successful in my endeavours, my instructors did suggest to me that life was more than scoring high. It wasn’t until university that I really began to see what they meant, and in a bit of irony, I actually began doing significantly better after I dispensed with the mindset of getting grades for the sake of getting grades. Like Futaro, it was hanging with friends and seeing more of the world that led me down this path; studying for the MCAT was a life-changing experience, and I soon realised that the process of getting there, plus keeping a cool mind, was the way to handle challenges. I imagine that as The Quintessential Quintuplets continues, it will continue to portray Futaro growing in this exact direction.
- Of course, Futaro’s story is considerably different than mine, being written to handle the author’s scenario of what might happen if quintuplets all fell for the same fellow. The final story in The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ follows yet another class trip, but this class trip is fraught with tension – Ichika, Yotsuba, Nino, Itsuki and Miku each want to be with Futaro, but owing to the way groups work, students can only form teams of five. The Nakano’s classmates immediately suggest the five of them just group up, and Futaro decides he’s going to group up with Yusuke and Maeda. I’ve become quite fond of both characters: while both are initially hostile towards Futaro, once things are ironed out, they get along fine and demonstrate that Futaro has definitely improved since his journey began.
- One of the elements that came into play towards The Quintessential Quintuplets∬‘s final act was that pursuit of one’s dreams can inevitably lead to toes being stepped on, and that if one is to go ahead with this, one must be willing to accept that the status quo will be broken. The question of whether or not one should go ahead, then, is determined by whether or not the new future’s advantages outweigh the drawbacks such a future entails. This is something that Ichika and Miku most struggle with – of the sisters, Nino has the fewest objections about forcing her way to the finish line, whatever it takes, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, Yotusuba seems content to sit things out, feeling unworthy of joining this race.
- Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari-taisha is well-known for its row of torii gates leading to the shrine itself, and as such, is an iconic tourist attraction that features in many anime. I’ve noticed that a great many anime fans see this as a must-visit for anyone going to Japan; various “travel Japan” panels at Otafest have emphasised the worth of travelling here, and Otafest staff and volunteers all have posted to social media images of their visiting this spot. When I was in Japan four years earlier, Fushimi Inari-taisha was not on the list of locations we were set to visit, nor was Lake Hanama’s floating torii. However, my trip was not diminished in any way by this, and while I might visit in the future, the truth is that for me, there are many other spots in Japan that are higher on my list of places to check out first.
- The central conflict of the final act really brought to bear what Futaro meant to everyone, and right out of the gates, I found myself rooting for Miku: while she’s the most reserved and shy of everyone, it takes courage to confront one’s feelings and do something special to make things known. Her cooking is initially terrible, but throughout The Quintessential Quintuplets∬, Miku makes a concerted effort in improving such that she is able to make something for Futaro: her cooking goes from being inedible to passable over a short time, speaking to her commitment. With the most sincere effort, it becomes difficult not to root for Miku, but The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ also suggests that effort alone may not win the day, speaking to the complexities of courtship.
- While Ichika’s methods are underhanded, I understand where she’s coming from – constantly fighting between choosing Futaro or her sisters’ happiness, Ichika’s choices stem from selfishness. She wants Futaro and her sisters, but Futaro eventually confronts her, and she quickly realises that such a relationship, built on lies, would never be sustainable. In this way, Ichika’s decision quickly shifts from selfish to selfless, and for this, I’ve grown very fond of Ichika, respecting the path she subsequently takes. Had she taken a more direct and honest approach, I would’ve wholeheartedly supported her pursuit; her choice here shows that Ichika is responsible and able to own up to the consequences of her actions. Of the Nakano quintuplets, Ichika is the second to warm up to Futaro, having played cards with him and being the second of the sisters to meet him.
- One thing I didn’t mention in my original The Quintessential Quintuplets post was the soundtrack – the first season’s incidental music is unremarkable, and while not bad per se, didn’t really do much for the series. On the other hand, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ had exceptional music, with pieces that really capture the sense of longing, wistfulness, melancholy and excitement associate with falling in love. The second season’s soundtrack is worthy of Downton Abbey, which is saying something, considering that Downton Abbey‘s main theme is something that is immediately recognisable and acts as an aural representation of the energy and emotion in receiving news. Every song in the second season’s soundtrack serves a purpose, and through the music, one can experience what each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki are feeling.
- While everyone is still competing for Futaro’s heart, after Miku withdraws, it takes a pep talk from Nino to get Miku back on her feet – it’s better to fight honourably and lose without regret, knowing one tried their best, versus backing away and leaving lingering feelings of regret (or cheating). Miku eventually understands that since everyone else is going for it, with nothing to lose, she might as well try as well.
- With this in mind, it felt nice to give Miku a chance at the spotlight after she’d suffered so many setbacks. The traditional Japanese village and a chance to wear traditional clothing is right up Miku’s alley: we recall she’s very fond of Japanese history. While the other sisters do their best keep up, they come to understand that happiness must be earned, and Miku eventually overhears the others, coming to state that she loves her family, first and foremost while leaving her kokuhaku ambiguous. This confuses the living daylights out of Futaro, leaving the stage open to a continuation.
- Altogether, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ is a B grade (3.0 of 4.0, or 7.5 on the ten-point scale). I generally had fun watching this second season, which was able to strike a balance between what had made its predecessor enjoyable and continue on with the logical progression of what would happen as the quintuplets came to know Futaro better. With this being said, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ is also a very busy series, and without space to properly flesh out everyone’s motivations, some of the can come across as impulsive, ill-conceived. With due respect, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ would’ve worked better as a two-cour second season rather than a third season, and now, with The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ properly finished, it looks like there’ll be a bit of a wait to see what happens next. Manga readers and those who are attuned to the foreshadowing present already know how things turn out, but even then, those of us who are anime-only, like myself, will definitely find another season to be illuminating as to how things turned out the way they do.
While The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ has a discernible theme that makes it worthwhile to watch, the directions that this second season is taking suggests that what had made the original season so enjoyable will be set aside in favour of drama: after the Nakanos passed their finals and advance into third year, studying goes completely out the door as each of the siblings vie for Futaro’s time. Ichika is willing to do whatever it takes for the upper hand, impersonating her sisters and lying about her feelings. Nino’s had a complete change of heart and is head-over-heels for Futaro, choosing to take a direct route. Miko studies to improve her cooking and get to Futaro’s heart through his stomach. Yotsuba, on the other hand, recalls that she’s the girl Futaro met in Kyoto long ago, but actively chooses not to act on her feelings, believing that she’s the weakest of the quintuplets. Itsuki begins developing feelings for Futaro as well but wants him to pursue a future based on the present rather than their old promise. With this much in the air, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ demonstrates that the sheer amount of ensuing drama cannot fit elegantly into this season: a third season has been announced, continuing on with portraying what happens that will eventually lead Futaro to choose his partner and wed her. On this, I have conflicting feelings: on one hand, it will be nice to see how things are resolved, and what each of the characters learn in the process, but on the other hand, the original premise of getting the Nakanos to study could very well be set aside entirely in favour of interpersonal drama. The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ has shown that while the series can continue to hold interest with the ensuing conflict, compacting so much into such a short time scale means that there’s hardly a moment to breathe, what with everything that’s going on. There is always the possibility that this is deliberate, to convey to viewers what falling in love feels like, of course, and having said this, with The Quintessential Quintuplets receiving a third season at some point in the future (possibly The Quintessential Quintuplets ∭, with a triple integral ∭), I wouldn’t object to continuing on with Futaro and the Nakano quintuplets’ journey.