Rent-a-Girlfriend – 03 – The Lies Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Mami goes back on her offer to take Kazuya to her place, as she claims her brother is home (her text relays no such thing), but that offer leads Kazuya to ask if she wants to go to his place instead. Mami blames that offer on the alcohol, then continues to rag on Mizuhara as someone prone to flying off the handle.

Despite his intense desire for Mami’s continued approval, Kazuya finally challenges Mami’s barbs and defends Chizuru, throwing her off balance, then runs off. He eventually encounters Chizuru on the balcony, and the two mostly make up, but a blubbering Kazuya once again blows past the client-rental girlfriend boundaries.

Kazuya ends up going on a beach trip to Shimoda, Izu with his friends, including Mami, who said it was okay for Kazuya to come with his girlfriend. Of course, it’s not okay at all, but since as far as she knows they’re a legit couple, Mami has made it her mission to break the two up.

Judging from what we’ve seen of her and her “dark side” when she pounds toxic vitriol into her private Twitter identity “Numa”, Mami is only still interested in Kazuya because he’s acquired a hot girlfriend. If he were still single, she probably wouldn’t acknowledge his existence. It’s not about her getting him back, it’s about taking him from an opponent.

And darn it all if Mami is not an absolute master at using the tools at her disposal, what she knows of Kazuya, and how she knows he felt about her to keep him in a constant state of imbalance. He can’t take his eyes of her adorable stars-and-stripes bikini, and she even brings up the good times they had together, going so far as to lament the unborn “Maya”, the name they said they’d give their firstborn child.

Just then, Mizuhara appears in the form of the braided, glasses-wearing Ichinose, and since this is that kind of show it seems even Mami knows she and Mizuhara are one and the same. Still, the fact one of their friends knows one of her friends makes the rental girlfriend and college classmate identities way too close for comfort.

The universe would seem to be having fun continually bringing Kazuya and Chizuru together, because they not only end up in the same supermarket, but the same bathroom within that supermarket. Kazuya informs her he and Mami are getting along, but tells her he feels bad even though she’s not his real girlfriend; after all, there were moments when Chizuru has stuck her neck out not out of her professional obligation, but because she’s a good person.

Of course, there’s nothing more humiliating or cringe-inducing to Chizuru than hearing Kazuya doing something resembling having pity on her for pursuing his ex, so they end up in a shouting match…which gains the unwanted attention of Mami, who came to help Kazuya with shopping.

When Chizuru is trapped and Mami isn’t buying Kazuya’s half-baked lies, Chizuru comes out in her bikini so as to at least take Ichinose off the board. Of course, the result of this surprises everyone, as they thought she couldn’t make it to the trip with Kazuya.

After “stealthily” zipping up her jacket after catching a sight of Chizuru’s swimsuit, Mami switches to conciliatory mode, apologizing for her words the other day. But then she’s off alone by herself, unleashing another twitter-storm of pure disgust, and the expression on her face scares away a random guy who tries to hit on her. It seems the account is a release valve for her true emotions, so Kazuya isn’t the only one hiding things.

Chizuru tells Kazuya she’s leaving and tells him to make an excuse for her, and they bring up the fact that this could all have been avoided if Kazuya told everyone they broke up. Of course, it’s too late for that. Mami is close by, but seemingly doesn’t hear the specifics of their chat.

After some awkward conversation on the beach, Kazuya goes off on his own, leaving Chizuru with his friends, but Mami lures him to a rock outcropping where she apparently lost her expensive bracelet. While he looks with her, she slips on a stone, falls into his arms, and Mami makes her move, pulling close and kissing him. He doesn’t recoil. This, just as Chizuru is being asked how she can let her boyfriend go on a trip with other girls, and her responding that she “trusts” Kazuya.

Of course the only thing he can be trusted to do is maintain this increasingly complicated, ultimately untenable limbo! He knows Mami would laugh him into the stone age if she learned Chizuru was a rental girlfriend. And yet, he just can’t resist Mami’s flirting and advances, despite her thinking Chizuru is his legit GF, thus making anything he does with Mami cheating.

It remains to be seen if Chizuru simply doesn’t want to hurt Kazuya’s gran, or if she actually developing feelings for the guy. I’m pretty confident that if Kazuya “dumps” Chizuru for Mami one afternoon, Mami will dump him later that evening, her objective achieved. Then again, I’m starting to think Kazuya and Mami deserve each other. It’s all kinds of wonderfully, horribly messy, and I am freaking here for it.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 16 – Swapped Dreams and Foretold Trouble

Railgun is back…again…AGAIN again…and it’s lost none of its charm. With the Level 6 unpleasantness behind her for now, Mikoto is approached by Misaki’s lieutenant Hokaze Junko, who might just have the best hair of any Raildex character. Junko, who wrongly assumes her Queen and Mikoto are friends, just wants to be friends with Mikoto as well. It’s very sweet.

Like Mikoto, Junko is on the swim club, so has a chance to approach Mikoto about something else they have in common: they’re both Gekoers. While a bicker-session between Mikoto and Misaki erupts, Junko eventually gets a word in and offers Mikoto an “Indian Poker” card. Saten informs Mikoto of a new underground trend of recording dreams and sharing them like baseball cards.

The color of the card Junko gave Mikoto suggests a happy, pleasant dream, and that is indeed the case when Mikoto is approached by all of her favorite Gekota characters. However, the dream takes a turn when Mikoto is led to the castle to meet the queen…Misaki.

While I’ve no doubt Junko finds the prospect of a dream in which she gets to serve and pamper her queen extremely appealing, it amounts to a goosebump-inducing nightmare for Mikoto, who wakes up more exhausted than when she went to bed.

Junko invites Mikoto and Misaki to tea in an ill-advised effort to help the two become closer friends (something they’d never admit they were, even if they actually were). She hopes to use the poker cards to facilitate this, but Misaki shuts Junko down, telling her to stop playing with the cards and to tell her other followers to stop too.

Junko obeys without argument, irking Mikoto. Despite her own feelings about the cards, she doesn’t think it’s fair for Misaki to lord over people like Junko. But Misaki’s claims about the game being childish are put in stark relief when the three women overhear three fanboys worshiping the S-ranked “Dream Ranker” BLAU for his dreams involving real-life women they’d never normally be able to…er…interact.

When BLAU mentions how he has dreams available involving the two Level 5s from Tokiwadai, Mikoto and Misaki are suddenly allied in a way Junko couldn’t have forseen, though it does dawn on her how powerful the two would be if they combined their forces of destruction, coersion, and memory alteration. Maybe one day we’ll get a spin-off to this Index spin-off about the two doing perfect crimes!

They do just that when Mikoto zaps BLAU’s dream cards and Misaki alters the boys’ memories. She doesn’t mind a boy dreaming about a girl he fancies, but passing those dreams around for others is where she draws the line. Mikoto, meanwhile, is simply against all of it. When the wonderfully oblivious Junko asks what the two are on about, they both make excuses to take their leave.

Juding from the OP, the poker cards and Dream Rankers will play a far larger role, but this is a useful introduction to how the process works and how it can be used for nefarious purposes. From there the episode transitions to Uiharu and Kuroko’s Judgment duties, and Uiharu informs Kuroko of a new “treasure hunt” style app that uses augmented reality to show not just where accidents have occurred, but where they will occur.

Six out of six such “foretold” accidents ended up happening, leading Kuroko to suspect an esper with precognitive abilites is behind the app. The pair decide to stake out the site of a seventh future accident. A boy is nearly run over by a truck, but the boy is missed. A different car has to avoid the truck and almost hits a girl, and she’s the one Kuroko saves. Had she not been anticipating something to happen, she might’ve made the wrong move and things could have gone far worse.

Kuroko suspects someone was watching things from a high vantage point, and sure enough, she encounters a 10-year-old fourth-grader named Li Syaoran Miyama Shaei, and takes him back to the Judgment office. Miyama tells them the app was developed to analyze psychic photography espers like him, as he’s able to use a camera to take pictures that eventually develop into future events…but only accidents, in his case.

The app is a means of him concealing his identity, since like the poker cards his ability can be hazardous in the wrong hands—and we know there are a whole mess of underground groups in Academy City eager to be those hands. Miyama was actually hoping to gain the attention of an esper capable of altering the fates his abilities predict. Judging on how she handled the latest incident, he believes Kuroko is that esper.

This first episode back since Spring may have been absolutely stuffed with new plot points, they were all handled carefully and in the context of the characters we know and love. I think it was kinda the point to overwhelm us a bit with new information, but it was still all clearly laid out. There isn’t yet a concrete threat for this new arc, but all the elements and players are present for some mischief. I’m mostly just glad Mikoto is back on the board, stamping out dirty boys’ dreams.

Extra Stuff in No Particular Order:

  • I love how Mikoto doesn’t recognize Junko, who I don’t believe had been formally named yet, until she removes her swim cap to reveal those luxurious lilac locks. Junko is the undisputed Hair Queen.
  • Kuroko gives the first long-winded bedroom monologue in a long time as Mikoto sleeps, offering her body to her as she has so many times before. Unfortunately, when Mikoto yells “NEVER” in response to her Misaki-infected dream, Kuroko misinterprets it as a rejection, and is down in the dumps until the precog stuff surfaces.
  • Saten is the useful voice of explaining the “Indian Poker” cards, which I’ll be referring to as “poker cards” or “dream cards” going forward.
  • Saten also does a patented Uiharu skirt flip, but it happens entirely off-camera.
  • BLAU’s *bleep* laden description of his dreams involving Mikoto and Misaki make what he’s talking about sound much dirtier than if nothing had been bleeped…which works in the scene’s favor!
  • Preston is deep into OG Cardcaptor Sakura, hence me likening Miyama to fellow precocious fourth grader Li Syaoran.
  • I love how much Uiharu is looking forward to finally having someone in the office who will call her senpai. Kuroko is just worried she’ll dote on the rookie too much.

Appare-Ranman! – 04 – Win With Something Else

While working diligently at the diner, Kosame learns how expensive automobiles are, and gets the idea to simply sell the car they won from Al Lyon. Even with just his half share he’s sure he can book passage back home. Alas, Appare has already dissected the BNW down to the last bolt, and is already preparing to integrate its components into his custom racer.

Meanwhile, Xialian’s boss turns her down simply because “women don’t race.” She just wants a chance to prove she’s capable, and thanks to getting into a fight with lead driver David, the team owner decides to allow an informal race before practice Wednesday. If Xialian loses, she’s fired.

The owner also lends Xialian the team’s infamous Number 0 car, which has engine gremlins so bad it doesn’t even make it to Appare’s garage. The odds are certainly stacked against her, but all the elements are present for an vital upset against the sexist good-old-boy club of racing.

When Xialian arrives pushing Number 0, laughing in the face of those odds, Appare recommends giving it acceleration mods so she can easily win the race, but she just wants it serviced normally. Appare, an engineer first and driver second, doesn’t see the point, but he has Al Lyon’s team work on the car.

Then he shows that while he’s not a driver first, he knows what it means to drive, and win, despite not having the best or fastest car. In the previous episode he used his technical know-how and the terrain. With no time for prototypes, he must visualize test driving his racer in his head, and Xialian follows along until the two are steering and shifting in unison.

Xialian takes the creatively-delivered advice to heart on the day of the race. David has his usual sexist comments ready, but she’s the one who gets of to a better start, which the men chalk up to her lighter weight. That may be the case, but no matter the gender a driver must exploit every advantage.

As Kosame, Hototo, Al and Sofia watch and cheer for Xialian, she lets David maintain a slim lead without letting him pull away. Since she started ahead of him, he wore his tires out aggressively driving to take that nominal lead. That puts her in his draft, so his car is displacing air hers doesn’t have to, lessening her fuel consumption and tire wear.

Xialian re-takes the lead and David can’t get it back, so on the last corner he makes contact with her car in order to take the lead. Her car spins, but she never loses control, keeping her foot on the gas and keeping the car out of the wall.

At the end, David is ready to celebrate his win while Xialian is ready to slug him. But to her shock, it’s the owner whose fist reaches David’s face first. He saw exactly what he did, and it nearly got two of his cars wrecked in an exhibition race.

Meanwhile, he also saw how Xialian handled herself, both during the race and when David hit her, and he’s impressed. His “hate the culture, not the owner” stance regarding a woman pro racer is still a cop-out, but he won’t deny she’s a true racer. He also decides to lend her Number 0 for the Trans American Race, while the similarly impressed mechanics offer to help outfit the car for cross-country racing.

The scenes in which Dylan and his ambitious business friend discuss the players in the upcoming race, and in which the press only has time for one hasty photo of Kosame shielding his eyes from the camera flash, feel out of place at the end of this episode, and more like a prologue of the next.

Nevertheless, Appare-Ranman! emerges from its three-month hiatus having not skipped a beat. It was cool to see two conventional race cars go at it on a track, and I’m glad Xialian’s hard work paid off. Appare was mostly his usual passive self, but his “mind-driving” session with Xialian was beautiful. It looks like we’ll be out of L.A. and on the road soon!

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 03 – Slow-Roasted for Rich, Deep Flavor

This week we’re introduced to a new voice in this show’s “chorus”, the cafe owner’s daughter Asai Ami, who is also a senior and thus Sakurai’s senpai at college. Like her dad, Ami is an enthusiastic observer of people, but in her case that observation sometimes descends into ogling.

Sakurai’s tall frame and swimmer’s physique highly attractive, and can tell other women who frequent the cafe feel the same. When she meets Uzaki-chan and gets a taste of her dynamic with Sakurai, her desire to observe more of their hijinx quickly outweighs her carnal interest in his muscles.

After a frankly ridiculous instance of Sakurai spilling an entire pitcher of ice water on himself and Uzaki, he catches a bad cold and can barely move. Thankfully the cafe owner gives Uzaki his address, and she comes by to assess the situation. With no medicine or food in the house, Uzaki is eager to roll up her sleeves and show she can nurse as well as she can tease.

Between straightening out his kitchen and preparing some tasty rice porridge, wiping down his sweat, and sticking around after giving him medicine until he falls asleep, Uzaki proves quite capable of taking care of him in a pinch. As such, Sakurai’s opinion of her improves greatly…even if her frustration with a video game keeps him awake a bit.

To celebrate his quick recovery (not to mention the passing of an important step in their relationship), the cafe owner and Ami take Sakurai and Uzaki out for Korean BBQ, where Uzaki again makes sure he as many cuts of grilled meat as he can handle. While Uzaki is washing up, Sakurai assures his boss and Ami that “it’s not like that” between him and Uzaki; he values his solo lifestyle and doesn’t want to cause trouble for Uzaki vis-a-vis rumors.

The owner and Ami can communicate telepathically, so they agree that rather than meddling they should be patient and let things play out. It’s like Ami’s pops says, it’s like coffee: letting the beans slowly roast than painstakingly brewing them for the best flavor.

The next day at college, Uzaki tries to hypnotize Sakurai with a 5-yen coin to call her by her first name, like he calls his co-worker Ami by hers. She feels that considering how long they’ve known each other (regardless of how much contact they had earlier on) the least he could do is not address her with “heys” and “look heres”.

It’s one of the first times Uzaki mellows from her usual bubbly hyperactive manner, and Sakurai responds seriously, by getting down on a knee and apologizing sincerely. That said, he’s not usually comfortable calling girls by their first name.

As for not gathering a crowd hypnosis antics, he is unsuccessful, as the consensus of observers is that they’re a couple of “love dummies”. The fact he can so easily hypnotize her means she trusts him a great deal, and he no doubt trusts her more after she took care of him when he was sick. With that mutual trust established, the careful slow-roasting of their relationship can proceed.

Great Pretender – 14 – Fake is in the Eye of the Beholder

Laurent goes all out renting out a damn castle for his intentionally over-the-top art auction for the ages that James Coleman has no choice but to attend. Despite his wounded sensibilities in the face of such crassness, Snow in London is on the block, and he’s prepared to bid as much money as his partner Farrah has.

Abby, who has nicely inserted herself in Coleman’s affairs and earned his trust, proceeds to warn Farrah’s butler Tim of Coleman’s intentions to squeeze her dry.

This gaudy charade is not at all the stodgy auction atmospheres Coleman is used to, but he chalks it up not to authenticity of the auctioneers, but the crassness of its clients, namely members of the seedy underworld (aided by Fudou and Kim posing as mob kingpins from their respective nations).

Just as the surroundings and people disgust Coleman, so too do the ridiculously overblown sums of money being spent on paintings that in a respectable auctioneer would get less than half what they end up get here. Even that prepares him to bid way too much for the Montoya, a painting he’s personally invested in.

When the big moment comes, Farrah is nowhere to be found, having been confronted by Abby during intermission. Coleman is all alone, and Cynthia takes Farrah’s seat and proceeds to bait him into not only spending all £70 million Farrah has (after liquidating her land holdings), but an additional £30 million since Cynthia doesn’t stop until £99, leaving Coleman with the painting and a very, very large bill.

Not one pence of that £100 million ends up coming from Farrah. Abby gave her a recording of Coleman gleefully playing her for the fool, but she gets the last laugh, locking him out of her estate and donating her entire art collection to the museum so everyone can enjoy and be inspired by their greatness. Farrah owes a lot to her loyal butler and friend Tim, who assures her that while she may feel alone, he’ll always be by her side (and she’s better off without James Coleman).

The final twist? Makoto switched the real and fake paintings before the auction, meaning Laurent, Cynthia & Co. weren’t actually con artists on this job, but legit art dealers (tax issues aside, of course).  That said, Makoto actually wanted the dad and daughter in Nice to have Thomas’ version of the painting, which he doesn’t consider a mere copy due to the hard work, talent, and passion that went into it.

Copying Snow of London was Thomas’ first new painting in years, but it rekindled his love of art. Marie agrees with Makoto, and comes to see Thomas’ version as more warm and kind. As for Cynthia, she and Thomas get to have one more late afternoon coffee at the cafe where they met, and have closure.

Back in Nice, Cynthia wonders out loud, somewhat bitterly, whether Laurent arranged for Makoto and Coleman to cross paths, knowing both Makoto’s moral compass would come into play and her sad past would be dredged up “for [Laurent’s] entertainment.” As always, Laurent is coy and noncommittal in his response.

Stripping away the Breaking Bad-style drug hijinx and the high-flying, high-rolling Singapore racing set to tell a rich, bittersweet story of love and art made this my favorite of the three Great Pretender arcs so far. Makoto has vowed to get out of the game for good yet again, but I’m sure he’ll get tangled up in something soon. Whether it will surpass Snow of London remains to be seen.