From what I can tell, the backstory for Houkago Saikoro Club‘s characters isn’t apt to be novel, or even original. But it is wholesome. That’s got to count for something, right?
As I’ve stated over the last couple episodes, nothing that they’ve sprung at me is something I haven’t seen before. Episode 3 continues to play it straight. There’s the exploration of Miki’s past and how bullying shaped her personality and outlook on life. Then there’s an encounter with a cat where Miki displays her empathy and understanding. There’s another encounter with a gruff, tough girl with a heart of gold in Kyoko. And finally, we have the power of friendship to instill some degree of confidence and character growth.
What’s to Like About Houkago Saikoro Club
These are my complaints, but they’re not the dealbreaking type of complaints. I’m still getting pretty much everything I wanted out of this anime. So let me cut to the two things I liked about this episode:
I like how personalities are shown in the context of games. Or to be more exact, how gaming can provide a peek into someone’s personality.
I also like how they present gaming as a safe avenue for people to explore and experiment not being themselves.
These two elements are somewhat at odds with each other, but that’s what makes gaming so great!
In my experience, gaming allows for various aspects of one’s personality to emerge. That is, you can learn a lot about people from watching them play. For example, I’ve come across people who are risk-takers in most real life situations approach gaming in that same manner. They’ll look at the game’s incentives, chase after the most daring, but risky of strategies, and go big or go home. Then there are those who approach games with trepidation, needing some hand-holding to be able to proceed because they’re lacking in confidence. And sure enough, they are that way in other life situations as well.
Personality Traits Emerge Through Incan Gold
Houkago Saikoro Club captures this dynamic when the group gets together for a game of Incan Gold. Incan Gold is a press-your-luck game where players explore a cave to gather gems. But as they go further into the cave, they’ll come across all sorts of hazards like vipers and mummies. At some point, the threat of hazards is great enough that you’ll want to flee the cave with your filthy lucre. If you choose to stay, you may get more gems because you no longer have to share it with so many other people, but you risk encountering the hazard that will take you down, leaving you with nothing. What you have to do is weigh the options and gamble accordingly.
And that’s what we saw from Miki and Kyoko when the two play Incan Gold with Aya and Midori. Early on, we see Miki’s tentativeness, which made her really cautious about her decision to stay or go further into the cave. Kyoko quickly picks up on this to deliver an on-point observation of Miki’s personality and play off of that caution.
Kyoko, on the other hand, has the looks and the brashness of the delinquent character. And no surprise, she charges headlong into the cave and preys upon other players’ fears by goading them into bailing out so she could hoard the gems all to herself.
Gaming as a Canvas to Experiment
But at some point, you have to realize it’s just a game. And because it’s just a game, there’s no real-world consequences to winning or losing beyond a bruised ego or two. This gives you a canvas, to try new things and be someone other than yourself. It’s not a form of escapism that everyone will engage in, but the opportunity is there to take advantage of that risk-free setting to go beyond one’s comfort zone.
And whether Miki realized it or not, that’s what she did. She stopped worrying about playing to people’s preconceived notions of her and realized that it’s just a game. Sure, she’ll attribute her courage to explore and take on a risk to her friends’ support, but she was the one to make the call. Come hell or high water. And she ought to feel good about that.
Strategically speaking, that was also the right move. Early on, while they played Incan Gold, Kyouko remarked that if Miki were to run away now, she’d wind up taking second place. All fine and good, except my philosophy is that you won the game, or you didn’t. And because of that, you should take the move that gives you the best chance at taking first. So given the choice of being the first loser or to press my luck and have a non-zero chance of winning, I’ll take the latter option any day of the week.
We’ll never have the entirety of Miki’s internal thoughts, but she had to have thought of those two outcomes. Faced with the prospect of being second or risking it juuuuust once more, she chose to go in deeper and was rewarded for doing so. Even if she did fail, it was still the right move to make. Finally, and more importantly, it was a giant step towards exorcising some of her demons.