WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Gymnastics Samurai Episode 6, "Samurai Father and Daughter," now streaming on Funimation.
What even is The Gymnastics Samurai at this point? A by-the-numbers sports drama? A serious story about single parenting? A wacky comedy cramming in every silly character concept it can think of? The series' attempt to be so many things at once reaches new heights of strangeness in Episode 6, which involves the wacky yet traumatic near-death of Rei's heart-bellied talking pet Bigbird.
As is often the case, Jotaro is too busy with gymnastics training to be around for his daughter. Making matters more difficult than usual is that Leo, the "ninja" who's been there for Rei when her dad is absent, is mysteriously missing (he returns later in the episode, but somehow his "training" excuse doesn't seem fully convincing as an explanation for why he disappeared). Grandma Mari's around at her bar to give advice, but ultimately it's just Rei and Bigbird in the house for now.
For dinner, Rei has an order of fried chicken while Bigbird is eating corn. When Rei leaves the room for a second, however, Bigbird starts nibbling on some chicken. When he sees the fast-food box and realizes he's in fact been digesting bird meat, Bigbird goes into shock and passes out. It's simultaneously the jokiest way the comic relief bird could get sick and something which results in serious fear and guilt on Rei's behalf.
Rei goes off on her own to take Bigbird to the vet, who explains to her that it was anxiety which is the root of Bigbird's sickness. Flashbacks show that Bigbird was a gift for Rei right after her mom died, which emphasizes just why he's so significant to her. When her family realizes she's missing and can't get in contact with her, Mari assembles various Ikebukuro street gangs to locate her in yet another cartoony touch amidst the serious emotions.
When Rei's reunited with Jotaro, they have a serious heart-to-heart. Rei feels like she can't compare to her mother, but realizes that as an actress, her mom was consciously trying to put on her best face in front of her daughter and would often make major mistakes in private. Learning this inspires Rei to admit she's been hiding something herself: though Jotaro gave her a bike as a gift, she never actually learned how to ride a bike.
The final scene of the episode, in which Jotaro and Leo give Rei a bike-riding lesson, demonstrates just how bizarre The Gymnastics Samurai's tonal balance really is. Theoretically, this should be the emotional culmination of the episode's journey. It also involves Rei clearly terrifying a newly-healed Bigbird right after anxiety was specifically cited as the cause of his illness. Kind of a weird note to end on, even if the E.T. reference fits the show's love of Hollywood.
New episodes of The Gymnastics Samurai premiere Saturdays at 1:30 PM ET on Funimation.