Hamefura – 08 – Pages of Desire

All Mary Hunt wants is to study alone with her one true love Catarina. Unfortunately, the object of her affection is also the object of everyone else’s, so the study group in the library consists of…everyone. Alas, while taking a break Catarina notices a flashing book on the shelf, and when she opens it, she and everyone except Mary and Maria are sucked inside!

It’s a high concept Hamefura this week, as one by one everyone in the book lives out their deepest desire, as interpreted and amplified by the magic of the book itself. Gerald, for one, reveals some of his sadist qualities in his wedding night desire, or Keith revealing his steamier side in his. Before anything can “happen” between Catarina or anyone, Mary slams the book shut in disgust.

The desire I enjoyed most was Catarina in Sophia’s private library, in which Sophia delivers an epic wall slam to Catarina like she’s the guy in a shoujo manga and declares her love. It’s just a shame nothing more comes of our discovery that Sophia may be the reincarnation of Acchan.

Mary and Maria endure all these desires until they finally come to Catarina, which involves finding an entire house made of sweets, only because the sweets are fictional no matter how much she eats she’s never satisfied. This seems to break the logic of the book, which explodes in a cloud of sweets and the trapped people. All’s well that ends well!

We end with a post-credits scene I found a bit puzzling: Catarina, with no inner monologue at all, ends up barefoot and up a tree with Alan during a gorgeous sunset. Mary spots them and moves to intercept. It’s a pretty scene, but Catarina feels out of character here; certainly have an inner council meeting or two before getting so friendly with Alan…

Sing “Yesterday” for Me – 08 – No Second Chances

Goddamn, that hallway was long. It gives Shinako a chance to lose her nerve so that by the time her key is about to go into her door, she can’t invite Rikuo in anymore, and has to send him home. It’s a pretty brutal move on her part, but it’s not as if Rikuo ever does anything to turn things around. The two came right up to the cusp of something potentially life-defining for them both, but came up just a little short; the ultimate harsh needle scratch.

When Rikuo reports back to Fukuda, Fukuda breaks it to him that another heat-in-the-moment chance like that will most likely never come again. Shinako reports back to her friend, who sits there wondering what the problem is. If she likes this guy, they should go out; simple as that. She can’t keep comparing this to her by-now-utterly romanticized late first love. Both feel foolish, but don’t necessarily regret how things turned out.

Rikuo wonders if Fukuda is right, and his hesitation is borne from a lack of professional confidence. But at least he’s decisive on the photography studio front. In a lengthy montage during which he’s not around Shinako or Haru, he works his butt off and eventually secures a full-time position. He quits the convenience store, at which both Haru and Shinako cross paths while stopping by.

Not wanting to never see Rikuo again, Shinako waits outside his place to talk, and while their conversation is bumby and awkward and little more than small talk, it shows the two can still face each other. What ends up troubling Shinako is when she suddenly finds herself being animated like Haru, pointing at him and parroting her words about him “really going for it” when he makes up his mind. Why, she asks herself, is she acting and talking like someone who “declared war” against her?

The next night, Haru waits a long time for Rikuo to come out of his office, and calls him out for not telling her about his recent career changes. He says none of it was meant to be secret, but he hadn’t the chance to tell her. Like his talk with Shinako, it’s awkward, but also a little tense as Rikuo tells her she shouldn’t “go out of her way” to wait for him anymore. It’s so soft a rejection, but it all but confirms to Haru that like the convenience store, Rikuo may have moved beyond her.

It’s become somewhat clear that it might in the best interests of everyone in this show not to end up with anyone else, though one could use the events of this episode to argue for exception in the case of Rikuo and Shinako, who are simply in uncomfortable awkward territory due to recent developents, rather than overtly trying to force things (as Rou did rather ham-fistedly).

As Rikuo tries to move beyond both the convenience store and Haru, Shinako ends up retreating back to Rou’s house, cooking and cooking redundant food late into the night until he comes home and he can welcome him. While she doesn’t want what Rou wants, she still wants Rou in her life.

Shinako wants that familiarity, that warmth and comfort, without the awkwardness or sudden turns into romance. And who can blame her! I just hope that by choosing not to continue to run from Rou by returning to that kitchen, she hasn’t started running from Rikuo, or the choice her girlfriend said should be an easy one to make.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 07 – The Aquarium

LIW’s second season continues to take anime comedy to dizzying new heights and unexpected places. There’s literally no telling what it’s going to throw at you next, and that unpredictability combined with top-notch execution at every level of production means this is a show that keeps getting better and more entertaining.

We begin with Chika and Kaguya learning that Yuu is a briefs man, followed by his passionate assertion that boxer-brief men are nothing but “man whores.” Kaguya is determined to learn what kind of underwear Miyuki wears, she formulates an entire perverted plan in her head before rejecting it, showing just how demented by love she’s become.

Naturally, that same derangement compels her to ask Miyuki the question casually while serving tea, and Miyuki naturally assumes she’s talking about his preference in girl’s underwear. Not wanting to come off like a cad, he proceeds to describe girls’ bloomers (since anything he’d pick for Kaguya would be hot), but the same traits apply to mens’ boxer briefs, Kaguya loudly proclaims Miyuki is a man whore!

Suffice it to say, this is not proper behavior in the StuCo office of a prestigious school, but this is where Kaguya, Miyuki are. So it’s most inauspicious that Iino Miko should come through the office door just as Kaguya is yelling this, and Miko runs off in fear Miyuki will attack her “next”.

In the next segment, Kaguya offers to give Miyuki a hand massage as an apology for disparaging him. Her true motive, however, is to use the pressure points in his hand to secrete “prevent-men-from-cheating” hormones of the type released during “se-“.

Note that Kaguya can never complete the word “sex”, but only utters the first half of the word in a high-pitched voice that Hayasaka can’t help but imitate while explaining sex hormones to her.

The resulting hand massage is a stirring tale of two nervous systems. While Kaguya’s hands are small and soft, they’re causing extreme pain to Miyuki’s hand, releasing stress hormones like beta-endorphins and cortisol. Simultaneously, love hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin are being secreted in Kaguya’s brain. It’s as if the StuCo office has suddenly turned into a biochemistry lab!

With all those love hormones suddenly swimming in Kaguya’s already love-addled head, she gets a little more comfortable and offers to do Miyuki’s back. She ends up on top of Miyuki on the couch, which is again the precise moment Miko decides to enter the StuCo office.

Combined with all of the misleading things she hears from them (“If I feel any better than this I’ll die!”) the mere sight of two students going at it in the sacred StuCo office is enough to cause Miko to flee in terror once more. Miko’s minimal usage in these first two segments is truly inspired.

Not only is it a means of gradually easing her into the office (if she ever manages to set foot in there, of course!), but it shows just how unprepared an outsider like her truly is for the demented antics of that room. One does not simply walk into that room!

The opening moments of Segment #3 would seem to hint at a shift to a Kei-focused story, but she’s only there in order to pass on an accursed shougo manga that is 100% guaranteed to make you weep uncontrollably no matter how much or little you like manga or the shoujo genre.

A skeptical Miyuki is converted that very night, and decides that introducing the manga to Kaguya is the perfect strategy for getting her to ask him to go out with her so they can enjoy a flowey, lovey-dovey shoujo manga-like romance.

But as has been established from her taste in eyes, Kaguya doesn’t really go for common romantic archetypes, and proves a tough nut to crack even as Miyuki has both Yuu and Chika in full agreement that the manga is a must-read tearjerker.

The trio’s enthusiasm for the story causes them to leak too many details and spoilers, and the second-hand synopses still fail to move Kaguya. Heck, she can’t even understand what they’re saying once they’ve all covered each others’ mouths to stop blabbing.

It’s at this point when Miko enters the office a third time to find something strange and horrifying waiting for her. Then as the narrator declares the result (everyone loses but Kaguya), Miko asks if this is really “what happens at the end?” of segments, in a lovely breaking of the fourth wall.

However…this is not the end.

At this point the episode had a solid-“9” in the bag, but there was still a ton of time left after the end credits, so I was curious and excited about where it would go for the finale. It turns out Kaguya did end up reading the shoujo manga the previous night, and joins the ranks of her StuCo comrades (sans Miko) in the Shoujo Manga Brain club.

The next day is presented as an entirely different anime, one that is a straight-up high school shoujo romance with Kaguya as the heroine and Miyuki and Yuu as competing love interests. It’s as ambitious as it is hilarious.

Everyone’s character design has been “beautified” and their voices either more lovey-dovey (in the case of Kaguya) or more “cool-sounding” (the boys). Heck, even the damn narrator has “gone goofy!”

Once Chika arrives at school, we learn that the change in her personality is negligible, but she interrupts what was about to become fisticuffs between Miyuki and Yuu for the right to take Kaguya to the aquarium.

In the end, Miyuki wins out by insisting on valiantly escorting Kaguya to the infirmary hand-in-hand. He then manages to ask Kaguya to go to the aquarium with him, only for her to decline since, so overcome by longing for love, she already feels like she’s at the aquarium!

So Miyuki and Yuu go instead, and end up having more fun than they thought they would! Note that at no point did Miko set foot anywhere close to the StuCo office for this latest bout of nonsense. You know what they say: “Once bitten, twice shy…thrice traumatized.”

Arte – 08 – Finding Her Footing

After assuring Angelo and Darcia that she’ll be back, Arte prepares to step into Yuri’s wagon and the next chapter of her life. Before she does, Leo impresses upon her the importance of using that chapter to think more seriously on how she wants to make her way in the world, and whether that aligns with her continued apprenticeship with him.

Arte is certainly excited by her impending adventure, but can’t hide the worry in her face. Was she only ever holding Leo back from his work? Would he prefer if she didn’t return? Matters aren’t helped when Yuri presents her a portable altarpiece Leo told him to give to her, and she can’t help but see it as a parting gift.

One little check back on Leo sitting alone in his workshop makes it clear he’s become accustomed enough to Arte that’s it’s suddenly “too quiet” for him. Once on a boat to Venice, Arte is impressed by everyone else’s ability to not only stand and walk steadily on the heaving deck, but spar on it as well.

Alas, Arte finds herself on unsteady footing both physically and emotionally, as she can’t stop thinking in circles about Leo. That’s when she forgets she’s on a boat, where everyone must be responsible for their personal safety, gets up too fast, gets woozy, and falls overboard.

She wakes up warm and dry, in new clothes Yuri and his servant put on her (though Yuri assures her he has “no interest” of that kind young girls like her), and Yuri reveals he’s known Arte has been worried about having been a burden to Leo, but finds her so fascinating to watch that he let her be.

While that almost resulted in her accidental drowning, Yuri tells Arte that she worries needlessly. Leo didn’t discourage her from returning beacause she’s in his way, but because he might be in her way. As a noblewoman, she’ll have more opportunities (like this one) that he didn’t as a former beggar, and that she shouldn’t overlook them out of deference to him.

When the boat arrives in Venice, Arte is overwhelmed and delighted by all the new sights and sounds, the diversity of people all over the world—and how good Venetians are at balancing on boats! She’s also wowed by Yuri’s impressive collection of Oriental objets d’arte

While there’s a lot of exciting new things for her to see, Arte shows Venice some new things too, like a noblewoman carrying a heavy chest up four flights, or shaking the hand of a handmaiden while politely declining her service. She projects modernity and confidence even a former tutor warns her that Yuri’s niece is “unmanagable.”

When Arte finally meets Yuri’s sister-in-law Sofia, she can’t help but agree with his belief that she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world. Her daughter Katarina is equally striking, like a delicate shy fine doll hiding behind her mother’s skirt. But she’s only shy when Sofia and Yuri are around.

Once it’s just her and Arte, Katarina reveals her true willful nature, haughtily reproaching Arte for her unrefined activities since arriving and expressing much doubt she’ll be any different from the previous tutors. Having heard all she cares to know about Arte, Katarina curls up for a nap, warning Arte not to wake her.

Looks like her usual method of simply being nice and friendly ain’t gonna cut it for Arte. She may now be on (relatively) dry land, but finding her footing with this young lady may prove far tougher than lugging heavy loads up four flights!