I’ve been rather critical towards the supporting cast in Tonikaku Cawaii, and not entirely without cause IMO. But while there’s no question the main charm of this series is the main couple, not all of the supporting cast can be painted with the same brush. Kyoto gave us the worst of it, and Nara gives us the best – Nasa’s mother and father. I wish we saw more of them, frankly – and they’re certainly the only major supporting players in this cast I’d say that about.
It’s certainly no surprise that Nasa’s parents would be oddballs, given what their son is like (and called). We meet Mom first – Kanoka (Asano Masumi), peeking out nervously from behind the front door. We don’t learn too much about her just yet, but father Enishi (Ebara Masahi) makes a stronger impression. He’s an archaeologist, which is what drew him to Nara, and like his wife is clearly most anxious about this encounter. Which you can’t blame them for, under the circumstances.
When the cab drops Nasa and Tsukasa off at the house, she notes that it’s very close to Kasuga Taisha. When he expresses surprise that she knows this, Tsukasa remarks that “mountains don’t move much even in a thousand years”. Indeed this episode is full of teasing asides from Tsukasa – like “I have a good memory” at Horyuu-ji and her wistful musings on the lives of those who lived at Nara’s now-vanished imperial palace. She also sounds quite authoritative when declaring that Prince Shotoku wouldn’t be offended by the couple flirting at his temple. There’s also an interesting bit about Shotoku being phased out of the history books, the context of which is apparently a movement to strike the name and replace it with his posthumous title, Umayado no Oh.
The sleeping arrangements are a matter of much comedy here, as Kanoka pointedly tells Nasa that their room is right next to his. It really is rather silly that this little dance continues, because these two are married. Why aren’t they doing what comes naturally? That said I certainly get that the physical proximity to his parents would be a major buzzkill (not that it matters, probably). And Nasa learns one of the cruel lessons of couplehood – that arm thing sounds great in the imagination, but the reality is searing agony.
The next morning Nasa pretends to be asleep (again – this is getting a bit silly, you’re married), then really does go back to sleep as Tsukasa and fellow early-riser Enishi awkwardly meet on the porch. She’s the one who successfully breaks the ice, showing an interest in his work, and Nasa’s father shows her his book-filled office (he correctly surmises that Nasa would scold him to just upload all of that stuff to the cloud). Her ability to read a letter in early Japanese is rather striking, but the key takeaway from this meeting we don’t learn til later – Enishi tearfully thanked her for saving his son’s life (and marrying him). It’s one of the better expressions of heartfelt parental love I’ve seen in anime for a long time.
When Nasa wakes, Tsukasa suggests they have the date in Nara that Chitose wrecked in Kyoto. For someone who seemingly spurned history in favor of cafes and manga, Tsukasa seems curiously knowledgeable. I also thought it was kind of interesting that Nasa was seeing all these places for the first time – even considering that his parents only moved to Nara after he moved out, it’s odd that someone with his intellectual curiosity would never have visited the cradle of Japanese civilization.
All in all, this was probably the most comprehensively effective episode of ToniCawa. The interaction between Nasa, Tsukasa and his parents was totally authentic without losing the sense of uniqueness that clings to her and their relationship. It was also largely free of the tropes which Hata-sensei can be overfond of, which is very helpful in the sense that this series is at its best when showing us a very normal newlywed relationship with some highly unusual aspects two it. It’s the dichotomy that makes things especially interesting, and with no discordant tropisms to break the spell ToniCawa is especially engaging.