Hamefura – 05 – A Town Where She Lives

Catarina is on great terms with Maria—better even than any of the conquerable guys—and yet the heroine still feels…distant. Cat’s inner council determines the best way to keep the doom flags at bay is to spend even more time with Maria outside of the StuCo offices.

This leads to Cat encountering Maria once again being bullied, by characters who in the game are working under Catarina herself! Cat shifting from chief tormentor to chief defender of Maria has left these bullies leaderless, and they’re easily dealt with.

Little does Catarina know that she just stole another event from a conquerable guy; in this case her own brother Keith, who in the game was the one who saved Maria from Cat and the bullies. The council determines this is no big deal, since only bad things can happen to her if Maria falls for any of the guys.

As things stand, it’s not only Maria who likes Catarina best, but Mary and Sophia feel the same way. In her relentless quest to eliminate any and all death flags, Cat still seems reluctant to rest on her laurels, despite how safe and favorable a situation she’s created for herself.

Cat’s relationship with Maria shifts into overdrive when, after spending the day in the fields learning more about farming (something else Game Cat would never ever do) she pays an impromptu visit to Maria’s hometown and house with Keith in tow. It should be an encouraging sign to her that she can bring one of the main love interests along without worrying about him and Maria falling for each other.

While Catarina makes use of her farming skills to shape up Maria’s family’s little field, Maria starts to bake more sweets to fill her stomach. All the while, Maria’s mother is dumbfounded by the sudden and dramatic positive change in her daughter’s demeanor.

You see, when Maria’s light power awakened (she used it to heal a friend’s leg injury), her fellow commoners in her hometown started to spread rumors that she was the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman. Even if it wasn’t true, it tore through her family until her father left and she became a pariah at school.

Remembering how happy she and her mom and dad were when making sweets, she decides to learn how to bake for herself. But when she presents the product of her hard work, her classmates turn their backs in unison and leave her alone, refusing to even look at her.

With Catarina in her life, Maria seems to have left that pain in the past. Her mother is so surprised because Maria stopped baking after being rejected at school. Cat may have done a lot for Maria to get her to like her, but it was enough for Maria just to be seen, not as a bastard daughter or bad news, but as a normal, kind, and generous girl who deserves all the friends in the world.

Her mother realizes how cruel she was to get lost in her own troubles and stop looking at Maria. So she dusts off the old cookie cutters and bakes with her daughter, and starts to feel better herself. It’s a beautiful moment of catharsis when Cat and Keith depart and Maria and her mom exchange gazes. It’s like they’re looking at one another for the first time, recalling the warmth of better times, and realizing they can get that warmth back.

All thanks to Catarina, who has now gone way past preserving her own life and staving off potential exile. She’s making the lives of everyone around her better day by day. Now all she has to worry about is her sinister dirt-hating mother!

Kakushigoto – 06 – Pride and Privilege

Someone keeps giving Hime expensive backpacks every year, despite the fact her dad already bought her one. Because she’s a kind and gentle soul, Hime tries to wear both at once, inspiring Kakushi. But to him, giving a kid a backpack is a privilege that must be earned and appreciated, not an obligation to be fulfilled.

When this philosophy is applied to the manga industry, Kakushi imagines a kind new world where everything is a privilege to be grateful for, whether it’s the artists being grateful for the privilege of having their art published, or the readers being grateful for the privilege of that art. But when taken too far, Kakushi ends up overextending himself, having accepted the privilege of too much extra work. Rasuna thinks he sounds like a corporate slave, but as he’s self-employed he’s more of a “man-slave”. 

We eventually learn that the mysterious serial backpack provider is Kakushi’s father-in-law, who judging from the Toyota Century is some kind of big shot. Kakushi still seems to hold a grudge for the man’s reluctance to allow his daughter to marry a gag manga. But now that Kakushi has been a father for ten years, he would feel the same way if Hime brought someone like him home. As Kakushi says, he’s “a freakin’ paradox.”

One of the extra tasks Kakushi took on to realize his Kind World was an autograph session, which is booked the same time as his day-date with Hime at the very popular and sought-after Kidzanira, where kids get to try out a bunch of adult jobs in a controlled environment. Fortunately, the bookstore where he’ll be signing autographs and the Kidzanira are in the same mall. But that also means a risk of Hime finding out his job, so his assistants take turns keeping an eye on her.

During the morning session Kakushi is convinced everyone in line is either someone he knows (Ichiko), a friend of someone he knows, or people paid by his editor to stand in line. The way he phrases his questions to the latter group furthers his misinterpretation of events. It’s not until after spotting a poster for a famous painter that he realizes that those in the line are there because they are legitimate fans who love and respect his work. Even a father and young son are united in their love of Balls of Fury.

Just as his confidence returns and he yells “I’m a manga artist, damnit!”, his exuberance accidentally knocks down a partition, revealing Hime in a cloud of smoke. For a moment it looks like the gig’s up, but Ichiko swoops in with a tremendously creative save, telling Hime she and Kakushi are at the “Kidzanira for adults” trying out different jobs. Even so, Hime doesn’t even recognize her dad in his manga uniform, so he didn’t have to worry. What he may have to worry about? Hime wanting to work in a bookstore!

Fast forward to the future, where the older Hime opens the “17” box to reveal envelopes full of manuscripts. At first she seems unmoved by the manga, which is about a father, mother, and daughter. It’s all so boring and ordinary…which is why as she continues to read the tears start welling up. There may not be swords or magic on those pages, but there is a bunch of real life; a life very familiar to Hime.

This closing scene is one more emotional “bomb” that had been intricately constructed in the “past” sequences that preceded it. All those mundane moments of her and Kakushi just living life together given gain deeper resonance in the future where he’s suddenly absent.

Despite Kakushi’s reservations—not to mention his father-in-laws about him—Hime may well fall for someone like him. Not because that person will be a gag mangaka, but because they’ll be kind and loving, and consider loving and caring for her to be an honor and a privilege…because that’s exactly what it is.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 01 (First Impressions) – Five Times the Tutoring Trouble

Uesugi Fuutarou is a studious loner from a poor family trying to have his frugal lunch when an unfamiliar redhead in the uniform of another school tries to take a seat at the same spot with a 1000-yen megafeast. When he starts rudely studying in front of her, she spots the 100-scored exam he blatantly left out in the open, and she gets an idea: this guy could help her study! Instead, he storms off, telling her she’ll gain weight if she keeps over-ordering lunch. Wrong answer, pal!

Fuutarou later realizes the error of his ways, especially when his sister Raiha informs him that a lucrative tutoring job is available, and the redhead is the client. It turns out this girl, one Nakano Itsuki, is one of five quintuplets who have transferred to the school, all of them in need of tutoring. His other initial interactions include the flirty, teasing Ichika and the friendly Yotsuba. The quiet Miku and hostile Nino round out the quintet.

When Fuutarou arrives at the sisters’ opulent penthouse apartment, he’s met with resistance at nearly every turn, with the exception of the kind Yotsuba, who tries to help him wrangle her skeptical sisters in a harrowing room-by-room gauntlet. Even when they’re drawn together at the coffee table, it’s only because of the promise of cookies—no one ends up doing any actual studying during his first tutoring session.

Nino even manages to get Fuutarou out of the house by drugging his water, but Itsuki accompanies him on a taxi ride home. That’s when Fuutarou’s secret weapon imouto Raiha comes into play, using her cuteness to get Itsuki to join them for dinner. That’s when Itsuki learns that Fuutarou’s family is depending on the five-fold tutoring fee he stands to gain to pay off debts.

In light of the fact she’d be hurting more than him if she refused, Itsuki agrees to let him continue his tutoring sessions, with the caveat that she won’t accept “tutelage” from him, but will seek to improve her scores without his help. That’s good enough for Fuutarou, but he has yet to realize the gravity of the task before him: all five of the quintuplets are failing, which is why all five transferred to his less prestigious school.

The Quintessential Quintuplets (lets call it QQ) aired back in Winter 2019, but I neither watched nor reviewed, and it seems I missed out. I figured “5/5” would be the appropriate time to correct that error, but unfortunately I’m a couple days off. No matter: QQ is a ton of fun right off the bat. The premise couldn’t be simpler or more obvious and familiar, but the execution is solid.

Production values are high, the character designs and personalities are distinct, diverse, and well-balanced, and the all-star voice cast is pitch-perfect. Everyone comes off as likable despite their flaws, and the comedy works more often than not.

Sometimes you just need a good high school harem rom-com (this episode is intriguingly book-ended by marriage scenes), and there’s no harm in looking back to the recent past for a shining example, which is what we seem to have here.