Wave, Listen to Me! – 06 – A Warm Fluffy Towel Drenched in BLOOD

We’ve now reached the halfway point of WLM!, and while this week’s installment lacks the adrenaline high that accompanies a live broadcast and the moments leading up to it, it further fleshes out its eclectic, sometimes eccentric, but always authentic-feeling cast of characters, while setting up stranger things to befall Minare on her path to becoming a radio star.

We learn more about Minare through those she came from, starting with her dad when she accidentally calls him. He’s outside a pachinko parlor on his fifth or sixth beer (Sapporo, natch) so he’s…got some issues, but you can tell he loves his daughter and just wants her to be happy— just as sure as Minare can smell the alcohol through the phone!

Meanwhile, Casa Nakahara is hardly the sordid lovenest Minare might imagine in her more jealous moments. Yes, Makie is living there, but so is Nakahara’s sister Meiko (Minare, Makie, Meiko…dude knows some M’s!), who walked out on her husband with their baby for going to a hostess club. Far from being treated as a burden, Nakahara is appreciative of Meiko for being to get Makie to talk more in the wee hours of the night as the two women lie in adjacent futons.

Makie confides in her that after her parents died in the mountains, her brother grew obsessively protective and locked her up like Kaspar Hauser…which explains her manner. Meiko tells her she shouldn’t feel ashamed for using the car accident as an opportunity to reclaim her agency freedom, which she has every right to have.

After a thoroughly confusing little sequence involving Minare’s dad talking about a dream of “decades ago” and a “brutal accident”, we suddenly cut to Minare talking to her mom this time. Unlike her dad, her mom is a littler sterner, insisting she seek out “a life people can respect”, not just one in which she’s happy, and not to listen to a “loser” like her dad. And her little “It makes me sad…oh, very sad” line about Minare telling her dad about her radio job first—*Chef’s Kiss*

Still, her dad still managed to buy her daughter a slick Sky Sensor 5900 radio as a cute “good-luck-in-your-radio-pursuits” gift. Makie’s family may have bitten the tragedy bug, but it’s refreshing that our protagonist Minare not only has both parents still living, but on talking terms with her (if not one another). Like Makie, her parents feel like longingly-rendered real human beings.

Her dad was also responsible for delivering four whole Aramaki salmon, which won’t fit in Minare’s little fridge. After Nakahara drops off his ideas for Minare on possible radio story ideas (hilariously, she reads them and immediately apologizes for even asking him!) she decides to hang the fish from the doorknobs of her neighbors, which Nakahara mentions could be construed as some kind of criminal mischief.

By the way, another absolute doozy of an exchange: Minare describes her dad to Nakahara, and all Nakahara can see is Minare. Drunk half the time? Check. Either in dirty joke-telling mode, venting mode, or preaching mode? Check. Goes off on random tangents? Check. Makes no sense at all? Check. Can’t have a proper conversation? Check!

Granted, these are exaggerations of who Minare really is, but sometimes the rougher edges stick out more…especially from the perspective of someone like Nakahara, pursuing her with little to show for it. Another main takeaway from the fish-hanging scene is that Oki Shinji, who accepts one of the fish without hesitation, looks very out of sorts, and Nakahara notices the stench of rotting protein emanating from Shinji’s apartment.

The strangeness continues at the studio, where Mizuho shows Minare a creepily-scrawled fax about a dead girlfriend who hasn’t forgiven the writer…who happens to be Oki Shinji! Minare wants to shift gears to something more fluffy and less occult, but Matou is eager for her to learn the full ropes, which means she and Mizuho are going on a field recording adventure!

After reiterating her commitment to always protect her (something Mizuho doesn’t remember her saying before), Minare drives them to their destination: her former apartment building (note that Mizuho calls Minare’s car a “mini” but it’s not a MINI Cooper, but rather a Daihatsu Mina Giro Minilite. IMO the Giro’s cooler than any Cooper!) They also dress for the occasion, like an onmyouji and a shrine maiden.

Shinji welcomes them in without so much as a flinch from Minare’s stellar long-range joke about the same woman showing up drunk to his door also showing up to appease a spirit since “rituals, sake, and women” have been inexorably intertwined throughout history. Still, Shinji has good reason to be the way he is, because something very very strange and gross is happening inside his apartment.

Reddish-black liquid starts to ooze from the ceilings and drops on what couldn’t have been a cheap costume rental. Then again, it’s likely the station will cover the dry cleaning, just as Matou promises to bail out Minare should things take a turn. After all striking out into the untamed wilds diagonally below her old place means she’s no longer an amateur, but a professional, like Mizuho…risking their very lives for entertainment.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 03 – In Good Faith

When Fuutarou arrives at the sisters’ apartment building for the next tutoring session, he’s determined not to slip up, yet is flummoxed by the auto-lock door and intercom. Fortunately, Miku is not only forgiving, but welcoming.

So far I’m thoroughly  enjoying the variety of the sisters’ greetings, and what those say about them:

Episode 2
Itsuki: “Wh-What? Stop staring. It’s rude.”
Yotsuba: “Good Morning!”
Nino: “You again?”
Ichika: “Hey, Fuutarou-kun.”
Miku: “…”

Episode 3
Miku: [Cheerfully] “You’re going to tutor us, aren’t you?”
Itsuki: “So you had to come.”
Yotsuba: “Welcome, Uesugi-san!”
Nino: [Glares, slams door]
Ichika: [Still in bed]

Fun details like this help up the sense of chaos and the difficulty level of Fuutarou’s task. When he has four of the five gathered for the session, he takes a moment to admire the progress he’s made. But in fairness, Yotsuba’s friendliness was pre-loaded into the equation. The only real progress he made has been with Miku.

While Ichika is sleepy and disinterested and Itsuki passively abstains from his tutoring, Nino is by far the most hostile, and proceeds to actively sabotage Fuutarou’s efforts by clearing out the room one sister at a time. Yotsuba has to sub in for the basketball team. Ichika has to get to work. Itsuki will have more quiet at the library.

That just leaves Miku, who genuinely wants Fuutarou to teach her history. Nino takes a different tack with her, suggesting her interest in Fuutarou is romantic and insulting her taste in men. When Miku stands up for herself, Nino challenges her to a cooking contest to determine who’s more homely.

Under ideal circumstances Nino would win this one running away. But since Fuutarou is poor, frugal, and has an underdeveloped palate, he judges both their dishes to taste good, resulting in a tie. Then again, Miku’s omerice may just look awful but taste great; inner beauty and all that.

A telling sign of Nino’s true beef with Fuutarou comes when Miku blushes with pride when Fuutarou’s praise for a dish she had no confidence in. Nino can see the effect Fuutarou has on her sister, and she hates it. Still, Nino wins the day, because thanks to all her stalling tactics there was never any actual tutoring.

Not only that, Fuutarou’s own confidence has taken a hit, as he no longer believes it’s possible to get along with Nino in this world. Miku disagrees, assuring him if he approaches her in good faith she’ll come around…but it’s up to him to determine how to do that. Fuutarou then takes off, but forgets his flash cards, and Miku buzzes him back in before taking a shower.

He returns to find Miku is already out of the shower and is drying her hair. But wait, that’s not Miku, it’s Nino! I’m not sure if Fuutarou is colorblind, but one thing’s for sure: Nino is almost blind full stop. She mistakes Fuutarou for Miku, apologizes for how she acted, but blames Fuutarou for inciting the enmity between them.

When Nino asks “Miku” to grab her contacts, Fuutarou can’t find the appropriate shelf, so Nino comes to help look and gets very close to him. When he withdraws, she assumes Miku is still mad and has a mini-tantrum, bumping her arm on the cabinet and shifting some books. Fuutarou dives onto her to shield her, and she finally realizes there’s an intruder in the house.

Fuutarou tries to explain but is interrupted by Itsuki, who snaps a compromising photo that, if taken out of context, could ruin Fuutarou’s chances of ever setting foot in their apartment again. This is, of course, what Nino has been lobbying for from the get-go.

An impromptu tribunal of the quintuplets is then enjoined, with Ichika presiding as judge (you better call her “Your Honor”!), Itsuki as the prosecution, and Miku as the defense. When Miku clarifies that she let Fuutarou back in to get (not take) his flash cards, Nino again accuses her of having feelings for the guy.

When Nino and Miku’s bickering intensifies, Itsuki tries to restore calm, but is brusquely dismissed by both of them (she is the youngest after all). Ichika then recalls how well they all used to—past tense—get along as sisters, which is the last straw for Nino, who runs right out of the apartment. Miku tells Fuutarou to let her be, and Raiha informs him dinner is ready, so Fuutarou takes his leave.

On his way out he encounters Nino skulking outside, and takes a seat opposite the door with the excuse that he doesn’t want to go home until he’s “solved a problem” on one of his flash cards. In reality, he wants to once again approach Nino in good faith. He’s realized now that she considers the apartment to be their place (as in her sisters’), and that an outsider like Fuutarou has no place there.

Fuutarou can relate, having a sister himself whom he loves more than anyone else, and would never want her to hate him. But rather than come to a breakthrough in his favor, Nino resolves to not accept him as her tutor, even if it makes all her sisters hate her. Thus Nino cements her role as the toughest nut to crack so far. But if anything is worth doing…

Taketatsu Ayana, veteran sister seiyu, is really the ideal voice for Nino: with a sharp confrontational edge by default balanced by a tender vulnerability under the right conditions. The question is, will Fuutarou ever learn what those conditions are? Based on this weeks events, not anytime soon! Fortunately, he has other fish to fry (i.e. quintuplets to recruit) who may not be quite as obstinate as Nino.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 02 – Matcha Soda

While there are a couple of friendly voices among them (namely Ichika and Yotsuba), as a group the Nakano quints are adamantly opposed to being tutored by Fuutarou. When he challenges them to score at least a 50 in a test he provides, they manage to score 100…combined. They then physically run away from him, but they underestimate how bad he needs the money, not to mention not shirking from this challenge is a matter of personal pride.

Fuutarou knows the sisters hate studying—and him, Yotsuba and Ichika aside—but he’s determined to find a way to get to them, even if it’s one sister at a time. This week his focus is on the third sister Miku, the only one to score a certain question correctly. When he approaches her about it he’s interrupted by Yotsuba and then Ichika, the latter of which thinks they should be more focused on falling in love than studying.

Little does Ichika know that Miku has already fallen in love…with Sengoku period warlords. She slips what looks like a love letter in Fuutarou’s desk and meets him on the rooftop to confess that love, which he thought for a minute was love for him. She dismisses her encyclopedic knowledge of them to be something weird, but he encourages her to have faith in what she likes, finally seeing a path to get her excited about studying.

Miku initially agrees to let him tutor her, but when she offers him a can of her favorite matcha soda and mentions it doesn’t have snot in it, Fuutarou fails to identify the reference, and she recinds her offer to cooperate, labeling him as “all talk.” This irks him, so he checks every Sengoku book in the library, and the next day challenges her to a trivia game. Because it’s a subject near and dear to her heart, he knows she won’t back down.

However, she not only backs down, but runs away, forcing Fuutarou to chase after her as they play a game of warlord shiritori, until they both collapse from exhaustion. Miku removes her stockings and shoes and relaxes on a bench as Fuutarou gets her a matcha soda and tells her he figured out the snot reference—but only after Yotsuba googled it for him. Miku reiterates her lack of confidence in herself, telling him she’s the “biggest loser” of the group, and that her four sisters can do anything she can.

Fuutarou counters by showing her the sisters’ test answers, which show that no sisters got the same answers right. That means it goes both ways: Miku can do anything her sisters can, if she applies herself. Fuutarou can see light at the end of the tunnel; if each quintuplet has a specialty that will help make being tutored acceptable, than he can pool their collective knowledge to help them all succeed.

But while he seeks to be the grand uniter of the quintuplets, for now it’s just Yotsuba and Miku who have stopped running away from studying, and from him. Complicating matters is Yotsuba’s suspicion that Miku is in love with Fuutarou, which Miku neither confirms nor denies but blushes an awful lot when pressed. This proves to be a fascinating journey!