SPOILER Warning: This page assumes readers have finished the show once already. If they have not, it is recommended to finish the show and come here to see if you missed anything.
The McGimmick that would allow her to do so does not even show up until Episode 44 ... well good! And she even got herself in another Damsel in Distress position so it is a good time to ... but no, no, we had to wait until episode 49.
This has caused some less than kind-hearted Japanese fans to speculate that it is to preserve Agedama's role as a protagonist, which was compromised (according to them) by the flashy Rei.
Actually, there is a simpler explanation and it has to do with the ending. The basic choice here is whether the monsters coming out of the Kukis' goseimashin (synthesis cauldron) require one person to deal with them or two. If Ibuki becomes a sidekick for more than a few episodes, then inevitably the monsters will have to upgrade to requiring two people to beat to keep it interesting. Further, she cannot outshine Agedaman explicitly to avoid a role reversal. When Agedama goes home without even reforming Rei, Ibuki the Lesser Hero will have to face those monsters alone and what is already quite a Bittersweet Ending will become a Downer Ending.
In reducing the number of episodes Ibuki gets to transform, and introducing some bigger and badder villains, the show can (and did) allocate the best possible slots to Ibuki and strongly establish her as capable. The only way to further increase her slot is to throw all of episode 51 to her as well, which is imposssible.
While she's kind of left alone now, at least the viewer is reassured that at least if the Kukis send out more monsters, Ibuki is well equipped to deal with them.
The reasoning goes something like this: The mouse was advertised as a communications device, making it a very low-spec tool that cannot possibly contain a transforming function. Further, she transformed while she was in the cauldron, thus the cauldron was responsible.
Maybe this idea came from official material (which I dont have access to). As far as canon onscreen material is concerned, it would be episode 44, when Ibuki does not transform even after gaining the mouse. However:
- The mouse is nowhere in sight. Probably it's in her pocket. Anyway no one would notice if it glowed.
- We learn in episode 28 that the transformation system is in effect a battery it scoops up the kiai energy that is produced out of battle and allows the user to expend accumulated energy at an accelerated rate (thats why Agedaman can deplete the charge), increasing his power. With Ibuki only holding that mouse for less than an hour, that's not much time for the energy to accumulate.
- Given the circumstances, the Genjis are likely still holding out on the hope that their son would actually do his job so Ibuki would not have to transform. Since the mouse is a Waprō optional component, the chances Waprō can forbid a functionality from activating is high. It will explain why she can transform not only inside the synthesis cauldron, but while Waprō was down.
- Any device capable of real time interstellar communication cannot be described as weak. Breaking the lightspeed barrier is from a physics perspective no less a feat than any magic that had been performed on screen. The assumption that communications device = weak doesn't hold water at all. note
- It does not reflect the onscreen visualization, which suggests that Ibuki was resisting the effects of the machine, and was then able to break free by drawing the power from the mouse.
- It would be very fortunate for such an unintended result to happen by pure luck.
- It would imply Ibuki was actually digested by the cauldron, which will beg the question of how she is able to retain her free will. It is possible to adjust the goseimashin to allow for free will, but given the scenario that would not be the option taken.
- Such a solution will reflect very badly on the Genjis. Remember the situation as of episode 44 - Agedamas time is running up and hes still no closer to getting Omyomiko for good. Either the functionality was sleeping in that mouse or it was not. If it's not, then in effect the Genjiis have no plans for what happens after Agedama is withdrawn without neutralizing Omyomiko and are effectively leaving the town, and perhaps Earth in the arms of evil hardly a very heroic decision, which is made worse that it is done for their sons schooling. In essence, according to this solution they are prioritizing their sons schooling over the fate of the world.
Of course, one can argue that letting a local girl "clean up" after their trained hero son with Starter Equipment is still pretty harsh, but at least it is a significant step up from no plan at all.
A good example is episode 2. Who do you think was its star? You might say it is Agedama, since he runs very fast. Or you can argue it is Rei, who shows her base motivations in this episode. And the story is designed such that you can enjoy it. However, hidden more in the background, and done better (it is shown rather than told) is Ibuki.
Let's review what happened:Ibuki claims that she is not very good in marathon, and keeps things that way for about half the actual run, putting herself way behind the lead in a middle or even rear group. Then she sees Agedama passing her, and the dedication she had to her claim faltered. There were perhaps one hundred students in the year group (at least three classes in the year, and a typical class would have 30-40 students each), and she came in sixth with the 7th and below nowhere in sight.
Or at least thats how the school (blatantly trying to keep Rei's favor) would rule it. A normal school would have cut out Rei (who was clearly filmed carried partway by three of her lackeys) and her three lackeys who by appearances (Agedama never saw them on her way to Rei) took a shortcut through the complex road system (shown on screen) note . In that case, Ibuki would have been second.
Using very little screen time, the show already establishes two things:First, Ibukis physical abilities. Despite the cheating, there is no doubt Rei is a top athlete she ran about 2/3rds of the course honestly and Agedama (who is effectively a specially trained alien) will later be revealed to have abilities roughly on par with an Olympic candidate clearly had to strain to close. He might even have used some kiai to boost his speed note .
Meanwhile, Ibuki lost almost as much time as Agedama, since she was trapped by the earthquakes caused as Agedama fought a monster. Despite this, she ambles up, only one minute after the top two, not out of breath at all and casually asks what had happened. In terms of overall speed she nearly matched Agedamas onscreen dust trail - without putting her full effort. If she had been serious from the start, nothing Rei can do would have been sufficient to win because Ibuki would have been many minutes ahead of her.
This show wastes no time in laying precedent to Ibukis transformation.
The second thing is, Ibuki was definitely deliberately underperforming, something we would not expect to see in the Nice Girl persona. What's left is the why and whether she will "fix" this problem. Of course, having watched the entire series, we know we'll collect her 1st and 2nd reasons in episodes 4 and 5 respectively, and she will start changing by episode 6.
Concluding RemarksIn episode 6, Ibuki will jump the tobibako, and do it better than Rei. What's more interesting though is the audience reaction. With Rei, they clap like it is the normal good performance. With Ibuki, they are shocked, then they recover and clap, making it clear this is not her usual performance.
We can infer from episode 2 that she normally chooses a middle/rear of the pack approach. But in this one scene, that only took a few seconds, Ibuki has already shown change, though some other effects of that change will take a bit more time before it manifests.
In addition, you may choose to ascribe value to Ibuki's studying scene shortly before she meets up with Agedama. Is that an character establishing shot (officially establishing her as studious for the first time), or a character developing one where she chooses to devote a bit note more time to studying and solidifying some loose bits? This one is left to the viewer.
Episode 22: Getting ready to not yield an inch to ReiThere are four major developments in episode 22 which provide bases for the change in attitude.:
Ibuki improved her class stature relative to ReiThe episode starts with the class recognizing that Ibuki has become a all-100 student for some time. This is a continuation of her change started in episode 6, when after the Student Council President election she has decided to stop Deliberate Underperformance. She can just put more force into her tobibako, but it takes time to generate a series of all-100 test grades, and so it is only here where we can finally see the effects.Since Japan (the land of the Hammock Number) is grade-conscious, while she is still second to Rei in a way she's still not yet equal, both in her own eyes and to the class and school.
Here, we can review the changes in the power balance of the class up till now:
- In episode 1-4, Rei was the clear center of the class and school. Her ability to threaten and bribe aside, she had real "soft power" because she held both the mantles of the top student in the class/year and the Student Council President. Thus, the class did not need a lot of convincing to agree to the corruption of Rock Paper Scissors for grades over Ibuki and Agedama's objections - their merits (from the students' perspective aside), their influence is still weak compare to Rei.
- After Ibuki started holding the post of President and got things done, Rei clearly started losing dominance. By episode 18, she had lost so much force even her Chief of the Lackeys is going on without her (something that infuriated her).
Up to this point Ibuki is still arguably the challenger to Rei's incumbent status, but in equalizing the grade difference, Ibuki has fully become Rei's equal or superior. Certainly, Rei will never lead the class in anything after this episode.
Ibuki (and the class) lose their remaining Deference towards ReiYears of Rei in the dominating position has an effect, and we see Ibuki being reluctant to take Rei head-on despite the change started in episode 6. This continues the trend set by episode 7 (when Ibuki declined to compete with Rei in dancing) and episode 16 (where Ibuki openly admired Rei's figure-skating).
While Rei hardly lacks in Kick the Dog moments, Ibuki probably thinks Rei is less petty and all around worthless than the audience.
- Omyomiko to her is a separate entity, so all of Rei's attempts to get at her in this guise are not accounted into her list of sins.
- Ibuki remembers Rei before Agedama, when Rei secure in her leading position. In that state, Rei is much more on the level of a typical Ojou, confident and refined in her superiority, yet almost a convenient existence as long as some lip service to her superiority is made. It is only after things started going south for her does she become the in-show Alpha Bitch. For some in-show examples, shes likely close to her episode 4 and episode 13 selves.
- It is possible to rationalize some of Rei's nastiness:
- Episode 4: By Japanese standards, Ibuki is something of an non-conformist for not going along with the already made decision to play RockPaperScissors remember by that point even Agedama had folded.
- Episode 7 can be seen as Rei's competitiveness, which one can argue is not all a bad thing, and you can hardly say she cant be allowed to even issue challenges, can we...
- Undeniably there are things that Rei can do (like figure-skating) that Ibuki can't. Rei, of course, keeps anything she can't do (like cooking), or the amount of effort she needs to master things well hidden.
However, not only does Agedama encourage her to not give up (a perfectly good line of justification for the changes by itself) but in the same episode Rei has generally been a disgrace. She's abusive (in the first half), incompetent (she flubbed all the questions) and shameless (she brazenly took advantage of the cheats her men prepared for her). By any objective metric, respecting such a slut is impossible.
From episode 17 we learn Ibuki doesn't make it too obvious when her evaluation of someone has dropped. Yet she does drop evaluations and reacts accordingly. note Thus, Rei's "self-destruction" provides a second justification for Ibuki to start treating Rei differently - not impolitely, but also without deference. The class, who also saw some of the proceedings, is likely to quietly feel the same way. At this point, Rei loses whatever influence she had.
Ibuki finally gets hit by ReiIf there is one thing about Ibuki that doesnt change even through 51 episodes, it is a fear of getting hit. Even in episode 12 when the rest of her character inverts, when Agedama looks like he was about to hit her, Ibuki cowers. She wont run away, but she is scared of getting hit.
Much of this is phobia of the unknown. Since shes a good kid, she likely was never hit even by her parents. In show, except for getting grazed in episode 4, up through episode 22 Ibuki has basically managed to avoid getting hit, either physically or figuratively. On the other hand, that means all her knowledge about the pain of being hit is in her imagination.
And, let's be objective here: Rei is a frigging terrorist. Really, if this had been for real, Ibuki would be better off staying her episode 1-4 self. Because even if we assume Raizo will quietly ensure Rei's threats to fire and expel stay empty (indeed, no one was ever fired or expelled this year), she can order her adult butlers to beat people up - remember, if you take away the Monster element of Agedama, in essence Rei sends her butlers to attack Ibuki on a regular basis. It just isn't worth it ... but Acceptable Break from Reality and all that...
Anyway, on episode 22, she gets exposed to Reis venom (not just the threat of it) for most of the episode, and the phobia of the unknown becomes dealing with a known reality. Its bearable, apparently, and forms a third justification for Ibuki to change her tack.
Agedama finally has a chance to fulfill Ibuki's flags and Advance their RelationshipIn the 2nd half of episode 22, Agedama finally manages to tick some checkboxes in Ibuki's wishlist for boyfriends (which she mentions in episode 8). He not only supports her with his mouth, he also protected her physically.
Even without that, their relationship has been fermenting for the past episodes:
- in episode 1 Ibuki was clearly a little intimidated by Agedama's assertive approach, but by episode 2 she is used to having him around
- by episode 8 they had a date. While it didn't go well their relationship did not worsen and Ibuki was very honest with him about the shortcomings rather than just dropping him from the list
- by episode 10 she trusts and relies on him sufficiently to run several blocks to find him and enlist his help
- by episode 17 she objects to a one-side portrayal of Agedama. And while the protagonist's thoughts diverts one from this, it is almost certain Ibuki was waiting for Agedama, and was just chatting to Hikari who popped by.
- by episode 19 Kodama is picking up the hints of her budding Love Interest in Agedama.
Episode 23: Gaining confidence in her appearanceIbuki has a certain inferiority complex about her appearance. Objectively she is cute (though Rei is indeed taller and has bigger breasts) note and the story has been laying the framework for her popularity:
- episode 4, when random boys (who usually play separately from girls) can know about Ibuki's reluctance to play RockPaperScissors.
- episode 5, when we confirm she clearly has support among the boys in school.
- episode 11, where everyone started admiring her cute daily life form
- episode 14, when boys other than Agedama were clearly cheering her on
- episode 19, when according to the girls she's one of the two picks for the boys (along with Rei).
Episode 24: Shedding the pretensesThis episode provides additional grounds to clear up Ibuki's last issue, which Rei actually mentions twice in her rantings - Ibuki's pretentiousness. As an aside, it is interesting to note that complaints about her being a coward and overcautious have disappeared between the rants in episode 4 and 22, presumably since they are clearly not true even in Rei's eyes, which leaves one.
Ibuki cares about her image in front of others. To maintain it, she dresses well (ref her Character section). Less healthily, she deliberately underperforms. That she stopped in episode 6, but we learn in episode 11 she's still shy about people finding out about her less elegant habits (11 also doubles as the episode where we get Foreshadowing of Ibuki's laughing trait). In context, she suppresses her laughing trait such that no one finds out fully about it until now.
In front of the entire class (the relevant scene was of morning homeroom), Ibuki was induced to laugh uncontrollably by Rei's lackeys. note
Given her episode 11 reactions Ibuki likely felt she had embarrassed herself. It is a sign of her strength that it doesn't get her down. It also helped that the balance of power had shifted - if this had happened back when Rei was dominant, her influence and prestige might have made the damage to Ibuki's reputation much greater. But now it seems Rei torpedoed herself more than Ibuki.
In the end, what Ibuki seems to have decided was to drop the pretenses. If you want to know why she's so much looser in later episodes ... well, here's a justification right here. She doesn't change her clothes though.
Episode 25: Becoming the Dude MagnetIbuki wasn't well known to anyone outside the school for most of her existence. But that doesn't mean her popularity with adult men started out of nowhere.
The first indicator is episode 12, when Rei's Men in Black slip out she is a little cute about all they can get away with without incurring Reis wrath. This is the first hint she attracts the adults, too. Ever since, they seem to have taken a liking to attacking her.
Then, thanks to Rei, she gets on TV in episode 19. And if you think about it, she must be very photogenic - she was the only girl that got a close-up. Sure, Rei grabbed the camera, but she doesn't know how to compose so all the audience sees is part of an angry face. And then it was the Monster of the Week, who seems to attack Ibuki first, giving her yet another chance to remain in the viewers' hearts.
Three weeks or so later, she's on TV again being the only female primary school participant. note Anyway they'll be filming Ibuki as she was "bullied" by the questioner (because really, she answered the question about what's inside the floating ring the way it'll normally be answered), then touched as her boyfriend saved her. Finally, she's very photogenic as she's victimized by a stupid Monster of the Week.
Now, if you saw a cute girl on TV, then you saw her at the ramen shop ... and she's nice too, well, that's enough to get a queue to her name. But to Ibuki, who always had a bit of a complex about her appearance, this would have been a very encouraging experience ...
ConclusionIbuki did change a lot between the first and second halves. However, it is not the result of an unplanned or uncoordinated jump, but the logical outcome of events spread out throughout the first half culminating in the last few episodes.
- Rei dual-hats as The Dragon and the Ojou classmate, two character archetypes that typically get a reasonable following if done well, and are allocated to two separate characters. By combining them into one, Rei automatically gets about double the screentime and double the chances to do something to gain popularity. Further, if one views The Dragon as Rei's primary archetype, it helps make her acts as the Ojou seem somewhat better because The Dragon is expected to perform a good amount of villainy as part of her in-story role, so her acts as the Ojou become less significant. note
- Based on the structure and choices, Rei was destined for a Karma Houdini ending from the start, and the writers know even with impressionable kids as the primary demographic it is a much harder ending to write than a stereotypical one where the villain gets her comeuppance. The anime thus carefully manages the viewer's perception:
- The entire series is started by laying the foundations of sympathy for Rei, even before the protagonist is introduced and also before her first villainous act. Thereafter doses are repeated to ensure even the occasional viewer gets it. note
- Regular tactical setbacks to take the edge off the audience's hate
- Occasionally showing a cute side. In the 2nd half, this is compounded by the Ending credit sequence whose rear half composed of cute moments of a young Rei.
- Playing off her one relatively decent trait, being a family girl who cares for her grandfather. note
- Hinting that there might be a nice person hiding inside (such as the amnesia in episode 37) note
- Actually being cooperative at the last episode. note
- The protagonist Agedama is pretty Vanilla - typical hotheaded Kid Hero type who's not very bright. He also doesn't grow very much. If we are positive, we can say he's the kind of Static Character who acts as a catalyst for others to change, but he's still too conventional to be hugely interesting by himself.
- While Ibuki is plenty interesting note , she suffers the disadvantage of being mostly "associated with Agedama" rather than an independent agonist. Thus, though she's in camera a lot, the level of Character Focus she receives is only incrementally better than Harada. To take Reis episode 22 rant in a new direction, viewers generally really dont know what Ibuki is thinking. Or what she's doing outside Agedama or Rei's sight. All is entirely left to their inference or imagination.
Second, Ibuki's most interesting traits and changes are often downplayed so as not to give the plot away - the viewer has to observe carefully, think a little and make connections. A kid or otherwise casual watcher can well miss all of it especially if they did not watch or remember all the episodes ...
Third, even the fact she grows can be a weakness to people who fail to see the serial aspects of Agedama and treat it as an episodic series where characters don't grow. Such people see an inconsistent Ibuki that was "bland" (and thus lost points) in the first half and "suddenly changed" in personality as an Author's Saving Throw (a good idea, but points are lost due to inconsistency). In failing to understand the nature of the show, people deprive themselves of the opportunity to appreciate perhaps the subtleties of a more Dynamic Character.
- Rei, of course, has a strident personality from the get-go. note She also does one thing her opponents don't - Struggle:
Try imagining the story with Rei as the protagonist and Agedama & Ibuki the antagonists - it should be easy because Rei often gets the first turn within any episode (usually a protagonist position) while Agedama and Ibuki often go second (usually antagonist). From that view, things were going so well for Rei before Agedama popped up and while Ibuki was quiet at her desk. Within 5 episodes she's faced with the combination of a space alien and The Ace.
Space alien has superpowers, can learn anything he needs quickly and doesn't care about the rest - he doesn't struggle except in trying to win over The Ace. The ace's idea of "struggle" is deciding to take a move. Eventually she figures that out, starts moving more and wins ground ever more quickly.
Against such powerful opponents Rei is trying every trick in the book, but even the dispatch of monsters (which Space Alien quickly neutralizes) is clearly only slowing down the situation.
This Struggle factor, despite the lack of virtue in the aims it tries to achieve, is likely buying Rei some votes.
- A final specific factor for Doujinshi writers & artists is Rei's flexibility. For a Fan Fiction writer going for fidelity, Ibuki provides many choices. When faced with a monster, for instance, she can panic (36), run away calmly (38), she can argue back (27), fight back (39), and she might even succeed at that (11) - note that all options can be substantiated with episodes and it is even possible to interpolate rules. In comparison, if we are honest with ourselves, while Rei doesn't quite cheat all the time, she does the other things so rarely the only substantiated move is that Rei deals with adversity by cheating.
But with Doujinshi the line is less fidelity or following established rules than bare plausibility. By that standard, Ibukis definition means there are lines the writer can't cross - she can't for example, be a villain. Rei on the other hand can play a reformed character or an unrepentant one who is getting "punished". Neither would be well substantiated but they are just plausible enough theyll pass.
She's a bad girl so it is also "acceptable" to work her more roughly than Ibuki (more flexibility). Further, while the canon Rei is basically a middle-schooler, in Doujinshi she can be upgraded with bigger breasts and buttocks to upgrade her into truly hot material while remaining barely plausible. Artists have tried sticking large breasts on Ibuki, but she remains a primary school student and the breasts just look disproportionate. It is simply much easier to produce for Rei.
Day 1: Building a stage without a budget
- Publicity material has to be made and distributed all over town so people even know there is a fanclub they might join. After all, it's not like the Team Omyomiko who can just put up a double-page newspaper ad.
- Getting land-use permission from the park management for the fanclub opening ceremony. It's a moderate difficulty roll for an adult. It is easier if that adult has money, stature and/or influence to stack the deck in his favor. It's much harder if you are a 10-year old, but what can you do when your team has no adults.
- Sourcing the materials for the stand, the microphone and the speakers. What the Kukis can just spend a little money on, and an adult at least rent, Team Agedaman has to find a way to borrow, scavenge or negotiate a donation.
- Assembling the materials into a stage. Team Omyomiko has 3 men, 4 boys, and money to hire workers. Team Agedaman has none of that.
Yet one way or another, we get a finished stage. Really, try imagining a small girl hauling planks larger than herself, securing all the parts together, and painting all the right places all for her Love Interest and not get a small tear in your eye.
Let's compare the stage against the effort by at least 7 people (lower left in photo):
- Ibuki's stage design is very simple, only red and white stripes for Agedaman's Color Motif, and the sign is ever so slightly misaligned with the floor. Yet it is made of solid wood (notice the imperfections in the paint-job where natural wood indentations prevent easy painting). The sign is thick and combined with the backing set of planks provides solid footing for Agedaman, the protagonist who likes high places. Agedaman can jump anywhere on this stand without fear of something collapsing or being impaled by a protrusion. Truly a stage made for Agedaman that lets him show his best side within the confines of the budget (likely close to zero).
- Omyomiko's stage is made without the same love or understanding for its protagonist. True, it's prettier and nothing looks crooked. But the light pastel colors are fit for something like Creamy Mami, not Omyomiko the "cool female villain". note Further, its construction is much inferior - the side view confirms much of the superstructure is plywood at best (the light construction must make cutting those stars easier...).
Day Two: Ibuki the Master AgentWithout rest, Ibuki cleans up the stage, then romps all over town to gather sufficient requests for 3 months in only one day. That's an impressive and heartwarming effort by itself, but to make it even more so remember that Ibuki has committed herself to being present every minute he is on stage, plus extra because she has to coordinate each show beforehand with its applicant and clean up after each event is done. Extra points for the selflessness of the selections - sure, she'll be with Agedaman but charity gateball with the elderly and playing with nursery kids hardly seems romance oriented.
And again she shows to be the MC without complaint.
Day Three onwards: Cleaning Up the AftermathWhen Ibuki realized all this publicity was a drain on Agedaman's kiai energy reserve, and knowing that he's feeling a little down for not being able to protect them and only being saved from defeat by the enemy being mobbed by girls, she just takes the blame and undertakes to take care of the aftermath, clearing out those already-scheduled events without making Agedaman look bad. Not a single word about how much effort she had spent and how much the aftermath would cost her to fix. She even made sure he continued to receive fanmail (episode 31) and his fangoods are sold (episode 36).
If this selfless dedication isn't heartwarming, I don't know what is.
So here we turn to Ibuki, who admires Rei's figure and feels down on her own. But if one person is getting ahead on her appearance in Agedama, it is Ibuki. She got the protagonist, the eye of the son of the other rich family in town and other students in her school. Even Tsuripan's carnal desire is to see Ibuki strip naked (episode 4) - a desire he never made for Rei, even in his mind. Then there are adults. Her three Men in Black have started off blurting out she's a "little cute" and escalated to greatly enjoying teasing her. Then of course there are the male ramen customers in episode 25 who line up to see her, not the ramen. To finish it off, even Rei admits it, at least while she's Omyomiko.
So what is happening? Do people in Agedama really not care about breasts and butts and legs? Actually they do. It is just done very realistically.
Ibuki is in a sweet spot. She is cute and reasonably endowed, but also clearly a preadolescent primary school child. At such, she is both attractive presently and shows great future promise - it is clear she will get bigger. The dress blouse and jacket also help - it's memorable and creates some ambiguity over the size of her breasts, allowing a man's imaginations to fill the gap. She checks almost all the boxes. (Of course, she's kind of designed to do that - as the Damsel in Distress she must be attractive for the story to work.)
Now for Rei. In a word, she's a middle-school student. Sure, if the story insisted someone with her body form was an adult, it's ... plausible, but without any context she's a middle-school student. A decent middle-school student, but no more. Of course, that's enough to get Ibuki to feel down on herself in comparison, but that's just not how males work, be it a man or a boy.
First, Rei loses the lolicon population, and anybody that likes cute kids.
Next, men sort females into prepubescent and postpubescent, and Rei looks just big and shapely enough to be in the latter. Unfortunately, a "decent middle-school" student just isn't too competitive in that arena. Forget Kirara Hitomi, who has the best figure in the entire story - Rei is inferior to the random middle/high schoolgirls who hugged Waprō in episode 31. She might think her exposed outfit as Omyomiko helps, but clothing taste aside all it does is confirm that her assets are relatively limited. The huge shoulder guards in particular create a sense of perspective that makes the breasts feel smaller. Her regular outfit is mundane and only serves to reinforce her "just another middle-school student" image.
Well if you aren't sexy, you could be cute. Middle-school is still young enough to be cute, and Rei does successfully play the burikko once. Otherwise however, any cuteness she can engender is usually quickly destroyed by her mannerisms.
Ironically, a year or two back, Rei would have been in Ibuki's in-show position and may actually have been well-placed to attract males for exactly the above reasons. That may have been the basis of Rei's confidence in her body. But that's then and now Ibuki is in the sweet spot.