My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 06 – Arbitrary with the Friend Bar

Yume was always at the top of her class until one day her position was usurped by Mizuto. She was devastated, and studied without sleep to beat him at the next round of exams—only for it to look like he couldn’t care less when she did. But when they met in the library, she learned that the rivalry wasn’t in her head; that he was only pretending not to care, and he really was watching her. That was when she fell in love with him.

It’s a desperately sweet story, just the latest in a string of them that make one wonder what was really so bad about these two dating (though to be fair we haven’t seen much of the “dark times” that ultimately led to their breakup). In any case, Yume is reminiscing about class rankings because she and Mizuto find themselves locked in a new battle as high schoolers for the top spot. When she sees him taking it easy in the living room, she assumes he’s taking her lightly.

Then the first day of exams passes. With her self-grading she determines she probably got a 96, which is good but still leaves the window open for Mizuto. She sneaks into his room to try to find out how he did, and is so outraged that he left the last few questions blank that she abandons all pretense and angrily confronts him in front of their mom, who has to stop her from striking Mizuto.

Mizuto tells her that yes, he did skip those questions, because as she’s so fond of saying, he doesn’t care what anyone says or thinks, so it’s fine if she has the top spot. Of course, Yume doesn’t want it that way, and storms out of the room in tears. The next two days of exams pass with her trying to focus on her studies and not her jerk of a “little” brother.

When the scores are revealed, Yume finds she’s ranked second below Mizuto, and momentarily has an existential crisis. After all, she’s believed up until now that a key facet of her high school “rebirth” is maintaining that top spot, and anything less would be failure.

But when her friends treat her no differently, and in fact congratulate her for almost beating Mizuto, she realizes that the top spot wasn’t a defining characteristic upon which her entire high school life relied. In short: she’s going to be fine.

Yume assumes that Mizuto beat her to send her that message, and she’s grateful for it, and for his ability to understand her when no one else does. That said, when she races to the library to talk to him, he’s already in a conversation with another girl, one very much like the kind they’d engage in in middle school.

This girl is Higashira Isana, voiced by Tomita Miyu, and she and Mizuto get along like lobster and garlic butter. Even Mizuto is somewhat astounded by just how beautifully the two of them click, completely comfortable being themselves around one another. Isana, who prefers to read barefoot, even asks Mizuto to put her socks on her, and he does it, because what are friends for?!

Foot play aside, Isana is as uncomfortable around others as she is comfortable around Mizuto, as evidenced when the two of them encounter Yume and Akatsuki after school. Isana reverts to a six-year-old hiding behind her dad, but Mizuto, irked by this whole enterprise, heads home without comment.

Yume figures she must be jealous, but considers that wrong now that they’re no longer dating and stepsiblings. So she pretends everything’s fine, and then over-compensates by being friendly, kind, and thoughtful to him at every turn. This, of course, vexes Mizuto to no end.

He brings it up to his new bestie Isana, who suggests that everyone a set of criteria for how they think their life should go, and when that’s threatened, some, like her, get up in arms. When she admits she’s never been one to go with the flow, that triggers in Mizuto the problem: he’s been going with the flow too much around Yume. He needs to be more active and sincere in their interactions.

That said, he doesn’t miss an opportunity to tease Yume by arriving in her room in a fetching vest, drawing near, feeling her pulse, and noting how it’s double the normal heart rate. Yume was just talking about how forgetting about Mizuto made her life easier, only for that house of cards to come crashing down.

Instead of continuing to go along with her “unreasonably calm, sincere, and understanding” attitude, Mizuto asks her what’s up. To her credit, Yume tells the truth: she thinks she feels a little jealous of Isana. When she in turn asks why he was bothered by her not acting snide and sarcastic, he tells her it felt as if what they went through in the past didn’t happen.

Being honest with each other helps Yume and Mizuto make up, and the next time Yume meets Isana, she greets her as if she was Mizuto’s big sister. Isana comes out of her shell a little and shakes her hand, and the air is cleared vis-a-vis Mizuto and Isana, namely that they’re just friends. That said, the more Yume and Akatsuki see them interact, the closer they seem.

At the halfway point of the series, I’m happy about the introduction of Isana. I like her; she’s weird and cool, Tomita gives her a husky lilt that’s a nice contrast to the squeakier girls, and her chemistry with Mizuto is sublime. I’m looking forward to their future interactions.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Made in Abyss – S2 06 – Gooey Tokusatsu

When Riko starts seriously considering giving up her eyes or legs (she reckons she needs more than half of her organs), Majikaja and Maaa stop her from striking any kind of deal with Belaf. Both Maji and a briefly lucid Nanachi warn her “it’s all over” if she does, and Maji and Maaa drag her out screaming.

Once back outside, Vueko turns their attention to the start of a “Luring”, when the Hollows, who cannot leave the village, lure creatures in so they can hunt them. Only in this case the Hollows bit off more than they could chew with this creature in question, and it starts methodically slaughtering them.

When the creature nears the shop where Prushka is being worked on, Riko races there, but to her surprise the shopkeeper freely offers the whistle back to its original owner, as that’s the whistle’s desire. (The shopkeep also mentions having come while polishing the whistle, but that’s neither here nor there…)

The big goopy purple menace is soon confronted by Juroimoh, one of the biggest Hollows in the village and also one of the Three Sages (presumably the one who replaced Vueko). While Juro is as big as his opponent and he fights boldly, his attacks don’t have much effect on the creature.

When the creature threatens to destroy the market district, Riko, armed with more knowledge from Moogie (the restaurant lady), prepares a gambt to save the district and neutralize the threat. It all starts by souping up Majikaja by offering her trademark twin tails.

She rides hot rod Maji as they lure their purple foe away from the market and into an open space, where Riko prepared for Hollows with fire affinity to ignite the creature, then called upon another group to create a restraining web around the stunned creature, and then yet another group to poke and stab it until it’s dead.

The entire village rises in celebration and applause for Riko, who proves she’d make a good strategist in DanMachi. When she describes why she decided upon the course of action she chose, it only further demonstrates just how bright, resourceful, and quick-thinking this girl can be when the shit hits the fan.

When the party is suddenly interrupted by the purple goo monster reviving and then reaching out with tendrils to grab a number of Hollows, Maaa is one of the victims. But before Maaa is destroyed, Riko cries out, and Prushka hears her, and tells her to use her.

The whistle reverberates throughout the village and the Abyss, and in the blink of an eye, Reg is there, his helmet and necklace white instead of their usual black. He tells Riko that the moment he heard the whistle, he knew where he had to go and what to do. He asks her to keep directing him.

The creature is either dead or gone before Reg can attack it again. Wazukyan arrives, and explains that the creature wasn’t a single entity but rather a massive collective organism, a floating nest composed of millions of individual males around a central queen. When Riko asks him how she can trade for Nanachi and Mitty, he says a part of Faputa would do the trick.

Back at their accommodations, Riko tells Reg how Belaf would only trade Nanachi and Mitty for something equal or greater than the value of a human child. Vueko, in her most loquacious state in literal ages, proceeds to tell Riko who she really is, and how due to the time distortion of this layer, she couldn’t tell her how long ago she and Ganja first set out on the journey that brought them here.

While telling her tale and also talking of Faputa, Vueko’s inner voice asks Irumyuui if she brought these children here. She also noted her surprise Wazukyan could still “get that scared”, clearly seeing beyond his static outward appearance.

She tells Irumyuui that the time has come for her to dredge up her “existence, memories, and desires”, as Reg sets out to meet with Faputa again. Whatever the strange item is that the episode closes on, it must be the “embodiment of value” that trumps all else; and it’s most likely somewhere inside Faputa. Is she a time capsule? A time machine? A nuclear bomb? Or all three, or neither? The mind races…

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