A Couple of Cuckoos – 05 – Shrine Stamp Maiden

Nagi is loathing returning to school, not sure he can face Segawa Hiro after she rejected him because she was already engaged. However, once he actually goes, he finds he’s the only one making this weird. Hiro has been “researching” him, and learned that he studies alone in the library an hour before school starts, and so decided to join him for a morning study session.

While Nagi is again initially hopeless, preoccupied with whether Hiro wants to steal her from her fiancé or is simply friendzoning him, eventually the two find common ground in their shared love of collecting shrine stamps. Sure, she has over four times more stamps, but he has a couple of rare ones she doesn’t. Oh, and she arrived at school earlier than him. Looks like Nagi’s in for a high school life of cozy study sessions and competing with the girl he likes in all things…

Then things go all Cuckoo and Erika not only transfers to Nagi’s school, but end sup in his and Hiro’s class. No doubt that was not an accident on the part of Erika’s parents. Turns out she was expelled from her fancy girls school when she accidentally posted the picture of them looking like a natural couple. Since such relationships are forbidden, she got the heave-ho. Nagi can’t fathom why her friends would be such “sticklers for the rules”, and Erika quietly muttered that they weren’t friends.

Erika doesn’t let that linger, and Nagi doesn’t press, but he remembers those words when he sees hordes of people surrounding Erika (though keeping a semi-respectful distance), and Erika looking thoroughly uncomfortable and lonely. Erika told him that their engagement has to remain a secret from everyone at school, so Nagi hesitates to approach her. That’s when Class Rep Segawa Hiro approaches her and breaks the ice.

Nagi isn’t surprised by Hiro’s kindness—it’s a big part why he likes her so much—while the other classmates go absolutely apeshit over sharing the air of two higher forms of life. Honestly, you’d think especially a prestigious school like this would have rules and such in place against this kind of behavior which too often feels like harassment rather than the harmless admiration the episode makes it out to be. And Nagi takes part in it!…though not for the same reasons as everyone else.

As soon as Erika and Hiro started hitting it off, Nagi imagined a metaphorical guillotine blade hanging over his head should Erika find out he confessed to Hiro and Hiro find out he’s engaged to Erika. While he’s trying to find the right time to approach Erika, it ends up being a day of stalking instead. This is the first episode of Cuckoos where I just wasn’t a fan of Nagi whatsoever…he was too cartoonish with a side of creepy (the less said about the shot of Nagi and Erika unbuttoning their shirts the better).

Nagi finally breaks the stalemate when he witnesses Hiro suddenly crouch to the ground and start sobbing. He rushes out of his hiding spot to tell Hiro that whatever Erika said or did, she didn’t mean it, she’s just nervous and is actually a good person. But Erika didn’t say anything; Hiro’s tears are of joy, because she just might be Erika’s biggest fangirl.

She just couldn’t hold it in anymore, ya know? And while I’m sure Erika is flattered, my heart sunk a little now knowing Hiro isn’t above the drooling masses wigging out over their new classmate being a big deal online. I laughed at Hiro’s threatening face after Erika tells her that Nagi is “another one of her fans”, but the flimsiness of that lie will certainly present a problem down the road.

What I did like was Erika being genuinely touched by Nagi came to her defense and called her a good person (which she is), even if he misunderstood what was happening. She blushes and tells him she’s “not half bad”, definitely a compliment coming from his reluctant fiancée. I also liked learning that Erika takes after her biological mom’s athleticism. Neither she nor Hiro are just pretty faces.

The idea of the three having morning study sessions should prove a font of comedy and drama. But between Nagi’s aggressive stalking the school losing their mind over a minor celebrity, and how Erika often comes off as traumatized because of it, this outing had its share of blemishes. Fortunately, that’s far more forgivable for a two-cour show—we’ve got a long way to go.

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 08 – Better the Watermelon You Know

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Giving up on killing Akari in Libelle for now, Menou instead takes her target to the bustling marketplace, which is not only a festival of new sights, smells, and tastes for Akari, but establishes both ancient etheric tools as vessels for ether and the penchant of this new arc’s villain for using food as a means of control.

That villain, Lady Manon, is standing not ten feet from Menou when some members of Fourth attack and take Akari hostage, but Menou can only sense their boorish intent on attacking her. She dispatches them easily, but they soon transform into vicious monsters the knights have to then put down.

Libelle’s chief Faust Pastor Sicilia isn’t happy with Menou’s expense reports talking of delivering the still un-executed Lost One to the “Sanctuary”, and isn’t willing to spend further church funds on such vague and dubious promises. Instead, she’ll fund Menou’s pilgramage if she investigates a new drug called “Monstrine”, which the Fourth members took and turned them into monsters.

After delegating part of this investigation to Momo (who is all too happy to make life easier for her beloved Menou) and Menou defensively leaping out of bed when Akari tries to curl up with her, Lady Manon tightens her grip on the city’s elite by informing them she laced their food with Monstrine, then has one of them transform and strangle heself to death. The child she put in the iron maiden provides the Sin Magecraft source of the drug.

I’ll admit I was disappointed by the dearth of Princess Ashuna last week, but while her scenes with Momo are very choppily edited and suggest possible animation issues or shortfalls, it’s still great to see our swole queen, who can’t help but compete with Momo (whom she clearly likes) on the Monstrine investigation. Just seeing them having drinks at the bar…they just look right together, even if Momo’s heart belongs to another.

Speaking of, when Ashuna brings up an evening ball Lady Manon is holding tomorrow night, Momo learns in her next meeting with Menou that her mistress also got a ticket. Momo won’t let her pose as a simple priestess, but instead uses the opportunity to dress Menou up to the nines. To Momo’s later envy, Akari also tags along in an elegant priestess clothes.

As soon as Menou spots the hostess Lady Manon, I would hope she’d be extra-careful about what she eats or drinks. That said, Menou has no idea the lengths and depths to which Manon has gone specifically to take her revenge against Flare for killing her mother.

I imagine Akari’s presence at the ball may portend the use of time magic should Manon succeed in killing Menou. In any case, these two episodes did an adequate job setting the table. Knowing this series’ ability to ramp up at the drop of a hat, the resulting meal should be a good one.

P.S. Manon is voiced by Iwami Manaka, whom I will always remember as the voice of Honda Tooru, one of the kindest, gentlest characters in all of anime-dom. Lending her voice to an evil villainess must have been fun.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 07 – The Dark Legend of Shuchiin

Let’s Have a Campfire

When Miko and Yuu are assigned by Miyuki to aid the understaffed Cultural Festival Committee, they are thrown into a maelstrom of enthusiasm. Miko is thrown off by the intense vibes, Yuu is, as we well know, used to this, and joins in with gusto. It certainly helps that the head of the committee is his crush—the ever sweet and ebullient Tsubame.

Yuu knows he’s far from Tsubame’s only admirer, and so takes strides to one-up all of the other guys’ attempts to sound informed, important, and valuable to her. When Miko’s ideals don’t mesh with the other committee members, Tsubame is there to step in and keep things calm.

When Miko’s own enthusiasm for a campfire is met with skepticism over the many difficulties involved, Miko refuses Yuu’s help and powers through the doubters with her fesity iron will.

As a member of the Disciplinary Committee, Miko deems it her duty to seize trust from the grown-ups. To that end, she uses her solid reputation as a good girl with the neighborhood association, gets the cooperation of the fire department, and knocks on every door in order to notify everyone of the school’s intentions and assure them it will be done right.

Onodera Rei, who was initially one of Miko’s doubters, ends up helping Miko out and the two find a rapport because, after all, she wants a campfire too!

First-Pressed Perplexity

The middle portion of the episode is given over to the Mass Media Club duo of Erika and Karen as they interview various clubs on the impending festival. They start with Kaguya and the Archery Club, and we learn that the two are absolutely hopeless Kaguya worshippers.

Not that I can blame them; she’s spectacular. When they ask a tough question about why she’s not participating in an upcoming tournament, Kaguya keeps her reply vague, since she’d never reveal the true reason: the possibility of going on a Christmas date with Miyuki!

After speaking to the ever-graceful Tsubame at the Rhythmic Gymnastics Club, the media girls head to the roof where the Astronomy Club’s mobbed-up Ryuujuu Momo is loath to speak to them, and directs them to Miyuki, who is working on a giant papier-mâché dragon coiled around a golden ball.

As with Kaguya, Erika and Karen are in awe of Miyuki’s quite nobility, especially when he cryptically declares he’s going to “get it done like a man” at the culture festival.

Finally, the girls check in on the thoroughly oddball Board Game Club, who may not necessarily let the fact their grand plan for “a game involving the whole school” was rejected stop them from implementing it. To be continued…

No Effort Is Wasted

The final segment feels like the weakest, at least at first, with Chika once again being exasperated by Miyuki being extremely bad at something—in this case inflating balloons. No matter how many he pops, Chika refuses to teach “the child” as she has in the past.

Nagisa tries to smooth things over by telling Miyuki to give up and try an easier task, but Chika rightly scolds her for encouraging him to aim lower.

Miyuki ends up going to the StuCo office to attempt to inflate his balloons, and finds Kaguya quietly sewing an apron for her class’s maid café. She says it’s fine for him to carry on, but the repeated balloon bursts soon become torturous.

He proceeds to lament the fact he’s so bad at ordinary things ordinary people do easily, and vents about his frantic desire to hide his weaknesses and struggle to deny his incompetence.

Kaguya sidles up to the frustrated Miyuki with a big warm smile, happy to have “unraveled another mystery” about her boy. She assures him that no effort is wasted. As always, her words are able to soothe his soul.

When it comes to admitting their feelings for each other and agreeing to go out, this is a task neither seems quite ready to pull off, which is a tremendous shame, since they both clearly want nothing else.

That said, Miyuki instituted a deadline for asking Kaguya out, and no matter how many new or old balloons pop, I’m looking forward to him ultimately getting the job done.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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