If you haven’t read Phillip’s impressions of the first episode of Mysterious Girlfriend X, go ahead and do so now. We’ll wait. Done? Good. I’m kind of impressed you came back for more, actually. The general consensus on this series seems to be one of outright intolerance built of repulsion or disgust, so I’m glad you’re keeping an open mind … it’ll come in handy. I have an odd draw to this series, specifically when it comes to just how unflinchingly distasteful the show’s premise is, with much, shall we say, admiration for how it takes lip contact out of kissing to make literal the American idiom of “swapping spit” and how that eliminated middleman lends to such a grandiose level of viewer discomfort. That unease is what drew me in. Why is this concept so powerfully repugnant? Well, we’ve got four episodes to run ya through, so strap yourself in and make note of the sick bag in the seat in front of you; this show ain’t for the squeamish.
Episode 2: Mysterious Bond
Ink: Even after a month of going out, Tsubaki and Urabe have not done anything physical aside from their daily unidirectional saliva-dosing ritual. This episode is all about Tsubaki attempting to break that rut. Since even holding hands seems irrelevant to Urabe, Tsubaki seeks advice by questioning his friend, Ueno, and consequently ends up asking Urabe about her hobbies. In answer, she produces scissors from on her person and demonstrates a unique skill. This does not lead to any physical intimacy. Urabe does, however, end up inadvertently flashing her underwear in front of Tsubaki and later sanctions the appropriateness of said glimpse. In the following days, a spontaneous hug from Tsubaki draws a furious reaction from Urabe, Tsubaki confronts Urabe about not acting like a couple, and Urabe proves her feelings by putting Tsubaki through an intimate test of trust. Tsubaki’s passing performance is rewarded with confirmation of his bond to Urabe via her specially conjured, emotionally conductive drool. Later, Urabe swipes a finger of drool from Tsubaki’s mouth and steals a dream he was withholding from her, revealing spit as a two-way river that conveys emotion and images — exact images, unfortunately for Tsubaki — between both parties.
Phillip: This episode is interesting for me because of the frustration Tsubaki feels at going so slow with Urabe. It reminds me of The Longest Time in that Tsubaki is prepared to “wait” after he passes the aforementioned trust test. That is an interesting scene to view from an outsider’s perspective. And wherever this relationship goes, we at least know that Urabe places a lot of trust in him and Tsubaki isn’t the type to abuse that trust. The dream Tsubaki “shares” with Urabe also demonstrate the great sorting house that is the mind. Tsubaki can’t articulate his feeling that the relationship seems to be going nowhere, but through the metaphoric connection with the drool Urabe understands Tsubaki better and puts his mind at rest.
Episode 3: Mysterious Test Tube
Phillip: Tsubaki witnesses his friend Ueno kissing Oka, a girl in their class. This triggers a reaction in Tsubaki: he too wants to kiss his girlfriend. I mean, it’s only natural. But Urabe’s reply is to give Tsubaki a test tube with her saliva in it. He goes home, tastes it and then has a dream where he decides after Urabe sneaks a kiss from him that they should wait until they are emotionally connected. Is this Urabe subconsciously trying to show Tsubaki her way of thinking? It would be interesting and would lend credence to the idea that Urabe is the one dictating the pace of the relationship. But while Tsubaki is worrying about kisses and such, Urabe has to decide whether or not she should accept Ogata’s request to go out with him. In this we see what I can only imagine is a reference to periods, with Urabe telling Tsubaki that she wanted to wait a day to answer Ogata since she could have an “abnormal reaction.” If there were no reaction from Ogata, he would not and could not ever connect with Urabe. This goes back to Tsubaki’s dream reference to emotionally connecting. I don’t want to step into an area I know little about, but it seems to state that girls only go out with guys they know are compatible with them (Urabe and Tsubaki), while guys go out with girls they think will be compatible with them (Ogata and Urabe). Weird dreams are nowhere to be seen in this episode, but it’s relatable to see Tsubaki worry about not being “worthy” enough to date Urabe. But in the end, like most blokes who stay true to their girl, he really doesn’t have anything to worry about.
Ink: I’ll wholeheartedly agree about how natural the need to compare one’s own romantic “progress” to that of your close friends. This naturalness is also represented in the bashful way Ueno and Oka keep themselves a secret. Tsubaki and Urabe are keeping the same secret, but there’s a little less of a bashful sense of it than there is one of unknowing tinged with that inescapable sense of shame that comes from outgrowing one’s youth and desiring what one once thought of as disgusting. Isn’t that what this series is all about, trying to make the unfamiliar and disgusting somewhat appealing? With this episode, especially via the titular mysterious test tube and its mixed tidings as first kiss and passive-aggressive admonishment of the same, the series does an excellent job of getting into the bewildered mindset of a newly sexually awakened youth (in this case, one that longs for a simple kiss against time which seems an eternity).
Episode 4: Mysterious Girl Meets Girl
Ink: This episode reminds me of Marie Howe’s, “Practicing.” Oka decides to befriend Urabe via the lure of home cooking (handfed nonetheless) after casually coming upon hers and Tsubaki’s afterschool spit swapping ritual. The pair of females unwittingly (at first) hold an experiment in the privacy of a dark, deserted nurse’s office via a shared bottle of soda. Urabe doesn’t entertain the notion that her own drool can affect another girl, so sharing a drink with Oka doesn’t pose any cause for caution. The consequences, however, reveal a deeper connection between the two girls that manifests in two ways: Urabe develops a taste for Oka’s cooking, mentioning at one point that her “body rhythm changed,” and it is revealed that not only can Urabe’s spit transfer emotions and mental images but physical wounds as well (skinned knee from a track accident and self-inflicted cut on her hand). Though both girls have boyfriends, they’re very interested in the bond itself and experimenting with it. The magic realism, already offered via transfer of emotions, thoughts, and dreams, gets a welcome physical manifestation, but this whole episode seems an excuse to fettishize the drool exchange by exploiting such themes as lesbianism, cutting, and cosplay (gym clothes).
Phillip: There’s an element of voyeurism to Oka observing Tsubaki and Urabe and not saying anything. I’m not saying that it doesn’t contain themes as mentioned above, but for me the most interesting angle is that Oka could blab to the whole school about Urabe and Tsubaki, but she doesn’t. She wants to keep Urabe’s “uniqueness” to herself. Why does she want to talk with Urabe alone? She says it was because she didn’t want to cause trouble for Tsubaki by approaching him but still, she completely focuses on Urabe. And in the nurse’s office, she drinks cider, an alcoholic drink traditionally, which would lower her inhibitions. What the hell is that scene about? Personally, the mix of two girls, booze and secrets makes it more confessional in nature than anything else, in my mind. Urabe needs Oka to be more human as it were, and Oka with her weird voyeur tendencies needs Urabe to be normal. If you can believe that.
Episode 5: Mysterious First Date
Phillip: After seeing Urabe in her swimsuit in school, Tsubaki decides to invite Urabe to the beach because on a unconscious level he wants to see her on his own in a swimsuit. But like most guys in a relationship, he gets more than he bargained for when, after waiting weeks for the chance to see her, they go to the beach with her sporting a tan after spending time with her family (who curiously we don’t meet or see) and him wanting to see what her whole body looks like. Now most other shows would have him wanting a peek at her undressing, but they don’t do that. Instead we see her untying her bikini skirt to reveal her wearing bikini ends and a tan line where her panty scissors should be. Also, I can’t help but feel the shows producers and writers are trying to show Tsubaki is a good kid, because early on in the episode, the guys are practising goals in school with the teacher but deliberately kicking the ball over the hedge so they can peek at the girls practising swimming. Tsubaki is the one to try and check out Urabe but when he sees her through the hedge he slips and doesn’t kick the ball. Is that Tsubaki self-sabotaging his “shot” at Urabe? It stands to reason, in his mind at least, he doesn’t need to do that because his relationship with Urabe is his and his alone. And before you ask, Ueno sneaks a peek at Oka, so it’s not about Tsubaki having a girlfriend that he doesn’t do it.
Ink: The approach used to introduce the poolside peeping at the beginning was impressively subtle for such a brazen show; winks and smiles, no-one in gym being able to properly kick a soccer ball/football, and the earnestly delivered compliments (instead of jeers) for such, all let viewers know something is not what it appears to be. Unlike Phillip, I’d argue that the only thing sabotaging Tsubaki’s shot at Urabe here is his respect for her, which is genuinely nice to see. Tsubaki’s embarrassment at spying Urabe through the trees, when they lock eyes for a moment, throws Tsubaki off, causing him to miss the ball. I’d like to think his botched peep was a combination of that unspoken warning from Urabe and an inner voice that realized the truth behind her glance. Aside from a couple really well-written and timed jokes towards its end, I think the episode falls apart from there. Don’t let Philip mislead you. Although Tsubaki indeed does not try to catch Urabe undressing, he does swim underwater to watch her body very closely … only to be saved by a horribly flimsy excuse and an overly accommodating Urabe. Or is that a very forward hint?
Mysterious Girlfriend X is now streaming on Crunchyroll.