There is a new episode of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai out, which we will watch, but first I want to link you to this blog post about the show. I sometimes engage in pseudointellectual pretension in this blog, so I thought I would talk briefly about what an actual anime intellectual has to say. I haven’t read the Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai manga, but I can see where he’s coming from about how the show’s visual style fails to effectively communicate information in favor of communicating tits. But apparently he’s upset because he thinks the characters are less likable in the anime than they were in the manga? It’s great how unlikable the characters are! That’s like the best aspect of the show, that it doesn’t take some romantic point of view on how all friendless people would be nice once you got to know them, and has the guts to actually make its friendless characters unfriendly. If that dynamic wasn’t in the manga, then all the artistically skillful shot composition in the world couldn’t make it better than the anime. Ok, that’s all I wanted to say, let’s watch episode 6 of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai.
…thirty minutes pass…
At least when she's making that gesture you can't see her heterochromia.
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai may have some issues with its presentation, but it’s still capable of getting across emotions when it tries. This episode nearly brought a tear to my eye. It’s a simple, silly thing, but watching Sena and Yozora go to the karaoke rooms alone, despite being there with their friends, because they couldn’t accept the karaoke place’s billing practices, was a crushingly lonely thing to watch. Things like this hit me harder when there is a way out, when the wounds are self-inflicted, when their friends are right there but they can’t go and sing songs with them and be happy, because they aren’t happy friendly song-singing people. They are the sort of people who wind up not having enough friends. They are the sort of people who want their $6.50’s worth, dammit, and they can’t back down even as it ruins their afternoon. That’s lonelier, to me, than Yozora visiting the amusement park with her friend made out of air. At least at the end the power of networked computers saved the day. If you find yourself alone in a room instead of hanging out with friends, hey, at least you can troll people over the internet!
So let’s examine the economics of the karaoke joint, for a second. We can probably ignore the juice bar, like Yozora said, it makes sense to charge per person on that. But you basically have a fixed amount of capacity that the karaoke joint owner has to pay large fixed costs to build, and then he wants to get as much money from that capacity as possible. So it makes sense to run specials at ordinarily slow times of day (like the afternoon, when the Rinjinbu went), because if you have a room sitting empty it doesn’t make you any money at all. So it probably wasn’t such an issue that the girls split off from the main group – they were just filling empty rooms anyway. But that won’t always be the case, and that runs into the issue of why there is no group discount. The karaoke joint’s fixed costs are basically the same whether there are six people in the room or one. This is true. But their fixed costs are the same whether there is one person or none, this doesn’t mean they ought to give their rooms away free. They made an investment, and they are trying to maximize return. On the other hand, groups of friends are trying to maximize their entertainment for as little money as possible. So it is the age-old battle between producer and consumer for economic surplus. The key point, though, is that economic surplus isn’t constant. As the Rinjinbu discovered, it actually goes up, per person, the more people you put in a room! Karaoke is fun times with friends and crushingly lonely alone. There is more value per person, and yet the karaoke joint is only taking a constant amount per person. That means that there is extra surplus going to the consumer. There’s extra surplus going to the owner, too, since he is able to spread his fixed costs over more customers. You can argue over who is getting more, or who should be getting more, of the surplus, but in any case it is clear that Yozora and Sena were hurting everyone with their stunt. It maybe would have made sense as a bargaining tactic: “give us a bigger piece of the shared surplus or we’ll blow the whole thing up”, except that surely the desk clerk isn’t authorized to haggle over karaoke prices.