This week's episode of Uzaki-chan is titled “Does Sakurai Want to Hang Out, Too?”, but it's a question that hardly needs asking at this point. As this very opening scene proves, it has come to the point where Uzaki's presence in Shinichi's life is a given; when her junk start piling up at his place, it is no longer a matter of whether or not she's going to remain his de facto roommate. He just wants to know which of the junkpiles are going to be permanent, and which can be tossed in a bin. I feel like it is common knowledge that, once someone starts leaving stuff at your place as a matter of course, you've officially entered the next stage of the relationship.
The real question of the week is whether we are still up to hanging out with this goofy couple after a whole season's worth of their shenanigans, and my answer is “Yeah, mostly, but it's probably a good thing that the series is going to be wrapping up soon.” This is by no means a bad episode — it is, at the very least, better than the awkward Tottori tourism advertisement we got last time — but we've hit a point where, now that Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! has gotten comfortable with the groove it has established, the show also feels like it is stretching to find enough material to occupy a full half-hour. Even for a slice-of-life show, this episode feels particularly formless: Uzaki and Shinichi clean up the apartment, then they go teach Shinichi some cooking skills with Uzaki's mom, which is followed by a random trip to the rock-climbing gym and a round of karaoke afterwards. That's really all there is to “Sakurai Wants to Hang Out, Too?”
All of these vignettes are perfectly fine, but there's just something off in the episode's pacing that is hard to pin down, because these twenty-three minutes last forever. The noodle-making venture at Uzaki's house, especially, feels like it could easily have been cut out of the episode, since all it does is repeat the only joke the show has for Tsuki, which is that every time she thinks she's starting to come around on ol' “Creepy Eyes” Shinichi, she overhears a conversation that, for some God-forsaken reason, is taken as proof that Uzaki is trying to pimp out her own mother to a buff college kid. It isn't a terribly funny of a gag to begin with, and the show clearly doesn't have anything else to do with Tsuki, so I hope we don't waste any more time with her in the final stretch of the season.
The other two vignettes are better by comparison, since it is admittedly cute to see the two basically functioning as a fully-fledged couple without really knowing it, but the jokes are scarce, and there's not a whole lot of cozy feel-good gold to be mined from spending an afternoon rock climbing. Even the karaoke scene feels undercooked, despite squeezing a bit more humor out of Shinichi's awkwardness when Uzaki and Ami tease him with sexy cosplay outfits, only for Shinichi to unwittingly admit that he does think Uzaki looks hot in a bunny outfit. Again, though, a couple of decent lines here and there don't quite justify how much time the episode spends on such middling material.
Then there's the ending, which attempts to rustle up some very last-minute drama by having Uzaki arrive at Shinichi's apartment, rain soaked and with tears streaming down her face, to announce that she can't hang out with Shinichi anymore. Given that I can't make out any foreshadowing or build-up for this sudden shift to melodrama, I have no earthly clue what could cause such a schism, so quickly. Then again, I don't think there's a single human on this planet that would, for even a second, think Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! is going to transform into a bittersweet melodrama in the very final minutes of its run. So not only is the cliffhanger a real awkward way to end an otherwise forgettable episode, I would bet dollars to donuts that it won't amount to anything but a fake out by the time the show wraps things up next week. That is, unless the Tottori Prefectural Government Tourism and Exchange Bureau International Tourism Attraction Division has discovered her plans to free herself from their captivity, because then we really would need to be fearing for her safety…
Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! is currently streaming on Funimation.