The first three episodes of Fairy Ranmaru defied my expectations by exceeding what it said on the tin. I never expected the series to bother with anything resembling real-world commentary, it didn't seem necessary but I appreciated it all the same. Still, I had my expectations low for episode four, mostly in hopes of steeling myself for whatever would happen in a Jūka-focused episode.
Jūka is the Wood-element associated fairy and the slightest built of the bunch. He embodies the stereotypical "kawaii" boy, not unlike Honey in Ouran High School Host Club. It's when the small, cute boys get put in a sexually-charged show like Fairy Ranmaru that we usually have a recipe for shōta, and like its gender-swapped counterpart, I've got zero interest in it. But Fairy Ranmaru likes to surprise me. Jūka actually has some hang-ups about his "cute" appearance and would much rather be considered "cool" like his fellow fairies. His cuteness is likewise an extension of his clan's role in the fairy world. To sum it up shortly: Jūka comes from a "support class" when he'd much rather be in a conflict-facing role.
Let's be real here too, the reason "healers" are cute is because the "support class" is heavily gender-coded in fiction and in real life. Take a cursory skim of any actual career path. Which jobs are associated with women? Which are associated with men? What are considered the female-dominated career spaces? This is something that Ranmaru grapples with and even though he is good at supporting others and those traits have genuine value in society and a group dynamic, they're overlooked and he wants recognition.
This is why he's matched up this week an idol. She's not the center of her group but she has aspirations, in part because the confidence of idols inspired her but also partially for comeuppance. The last part isn't focused on in the episode, it's sort of a throwaway line. I found the end result of the episode pretty cynical to be honest and the overall messaging is about in line with Uruu's from last week. We're starting to see far less "magical happy endings" like we got in episode two. It might be a trend not unlike some episodes of Hell Girl, that those in need's circumstances and end results aren't as clear cut as they would be in typical magical girl show.
That said, I'm not sure I agree with "Degeneracy" in that anyone seeking to maintain success will eventually turn to desperate, underhanded measures. After helping the aspiring center idol defeat the current center who had turned to illicit measures to maintain popularity, it's shown that Jūka's charge takes her place. Both as the center and attitude. I guess that now that she's the center, she too will become fixated on maintaining her position and turn to "degeneracy" to ensure she stays on top?
All the waxing about hard work being rewarded regardless of natural talent did seem a smidge too optimistic, to be honest. There are always going to be people who are better than yourself, be it natural talent or resources to hone those talents. Some of it is commitment, too. It just felt the episode didn't properly support this development outside of the one throwaway comment about proving others wrong.
- Some eagle-eyed viewers brought up the flashback from Uruu's episode last week. I'm in agreement now that Uruu probably walked in on his boinking Ranmaru's dad, leading to his Ranmaru's dad's punishment.
- On top of all the other elements mentioned before, each of the Fairy's also has a particular classical artist associated with them that appears for the showdowns. Jūka's is Vincent Van Gogh.
Fairy Ranmaru is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.