A thoughtful response to current anime.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai – Episode 8

Last episode on Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, the Rinjinbu finally made it into the third millennium and started using cellphones.  Now they can talk conveniently across any distance, rather than relying on communicating by throwing rocks with notes taped to them at each other.  Maria is a nun, right?  Couldn’t she just borrow one of God’s angels to run messages for them?  I guess an angel might not be thrilled to be carrying Rika’s sexts around.  Anyway, let’s see how they put the power of the modern telecommunications infrastructure to use in episode 8 of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai.

…thirty minutes pass…

Damn the mass media depictions of men for forcing Yukimura to try to meet an impossible standard of supposed masculinity! You are beautiful just the way you are, and don't let anyone tell you different.

I didn’t really like this episode.  Mostly my problem with it was that they sexualized Kobato and Maria more than I was okay with.  At least Kodaka, as our wholesome hero, has no romantic interest in children, and if it were left at that I could have let it slide.  But Sena spent half the episode creeping on Kobato for no reason I could see, and then you throw Rika in the mix who’s okay with anything so long as it’s erotic, and it just becomes uncomfortable.  I was relieved when they changed the focus to Yukimura (pictured above), who is at least within spitting distance of the age of consent, and is doing the holy work of smashing society’s rigid gender boundaries.  His bikini was cute.

Once we got to the actual “meat” (ahaha) of the episode, it was really reminiscent of the time the Rinjinbu went out for karaoke.  They started out in high spirits, thinking they were going to have a good time at the karaoke joint/swimming pool, but when they got there, an unexpected problem arose.  The problem was mostly in the minds of the least socially-adept members of the club, but the group is only as strong as it’s weakest link, and so those two socially incapable members brought everybody else down.  It’s hard to have friends if every time you go out to do fun stuff you flip out about some nonsense and ruin the whole thing.  Poor Yozora.  I wonder how she managed an amusement park, those can be pretty bustling.

Last time the problem was the price structure of the karaoke joint.  This time, the problem was a large crowd at the swimming pool caused by a limited time price promotion.  Was Yozora right to be upset in this case? Looks like it’s time for episode two of the Rinjinbu Club Activities Economics Corner!

Yozora claims the following: “I’d rather pay double than have to put up with this kind of crowd! Bargains and time sales can go rot in hell!” Generally speaking, this sort of discount-aversion is probably not justified.  Black Friday happens because people want it to happen. But the math is a little different for a swimming pool.  For most goods, like blenders or anime DVDs, it doesn’t really matter much if lots of other people are trying to buy it at the same time as you.  It may be a little crowded in the store, but you only have to pay that cost once, and then you can take your purchase home and watch Endless Eight alone in a dark room as many times as you want.  For a swimming pool ticket, though, you pay the costs of crowding throughout the whole experience.  It is like the opposite of the karaoke situation earlier.  In the case of karaoke, each group is in a private room having a good time with friends, so up to a point, more people just make the experience better.  In the case of the swimming pool, you have to share the pool with strangers, who get in your way when you are trying to have fun.  So the more people are in the swimming pool, the worse each individual swimmer’s experience will be.

Now, you could argue that this is a self-correcting problem.  Swimmers will see their experience degraded, and will not show up to the swimming pool, and an equilibrium will be reached, like in the Yogi Berra quote “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded”.  Furthermore, the pool operators will realize that people  would rather pay double than have to put up with this kind of crowd, and if more than half of them feel that way, they can improve profits by doubling prices.  And so the invisible hand of the free market finds a welfare-optimizing level of swimming pool congestion, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Except! Swimmers cannot infallibly predict how crowded the pool will be.  Note that the Rinjinbu was taken by surprise; surely Yozora would not have agreed to come if she had known.  All swimmers can do is try to make predictions based on their past experience, as Sena did.  And when the swimming pool operators give limited time discounts, past experience can end up being a poor predictor.  You could see this as the swimming pool operator trying to exploit the swimmers.  They have an expectation of the good swimming experience they got at regular price, and so when they hear that tickets are half price, that sounds like a bargain to them, and they come running, more than twice as many as usual.  Then they show up and are disappointed at how crowded it is, but the operator is laughing all the way to the bank.  I think it’s telling that this discount happened at the end of the summer season, traditionally the busiest season for swimming pools.  If the discount had happened at the beginning of summer, people would have remembered the bad, crowded experience and not shown up for the rest of summer.  By waiting until the end of summer, the pool operator is doing the equivalent of defecting on the last move of the iterated prisoner’s dilemma, when it’s too late to punish him for it.


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