BokuBen 2 – 06 – (Public) Bath & Beyond (High School)

When Kirisu’s plans for an end-of-day bath are ruined when her building has no hot water, she’s forced to go to a public bath, and not only runs into Asumi, but Nariyuki and his two youngest siblings Kazuki and Nazuki.

The little ones are the source of a number of issues, like when they steal Kirisu’s underwear, or try to get her to agree to marry their big brother. They act like little kids, and when Kirisu is too stern with them, they cry.

The baths provide a rare opportunity for Kirisu and Asumi to talk, but end up not really talking about anything other than Kirisu’s exquisite skin, and Nariyuki’s kindness and penchant for going the extra mile to help others.

Naturally, since this segment involves people not wearing clothes, Nariyuki inevitably sees Kirisu naked, as Hazuki rips off her towel when she berates her big bro for being shameless when all he did was answer a call for help, a rare case of being allowed to cross the gender lines of the bath.

The next segment is all about mock college interviews, which Rizu in particular is very apprehensive about. Those concerns only intensify when the kind teacher who was going to interview her and Fumino calls out sick, and Kirisu is her substitute.

Needless to say, she’s about as hard on the two as an interviewer can be, leaving them steaming and deformed. Kurisu forces Nariyuki to have a surprise interview, and he’s so tired he hallucinates her wearing a school swimsuit and maid outfit, among other costumes.

The turning point is when Nariyuki respectfully gets up and leaves, because he isn’t confident he can give Kirisu the answers she wants, but he’ll strive to find out how to provide them in the future. That, Kirisu tells him, is the stength she asked him to describe: the one that faces his own limitations (and those of others) and works out the best way to overcome them.

That doggedness has rubbed off on his tutees, as Fumino and Rizu are found in the library, determined to be better prepared in their next mock interviews. In this way, Kirisu gave them a tough-love kick in the pants they needed to put their best selves forward when the real ones come around.

Chihayafuru 3 – 05 – Unpredictable, Scary, Fun

This week we learn Inokuma’s parents were karuta players, and she learned at a young age that parents could treasure something as much as their kids, which is why she can still play and compete without reservations. Still, just as she’s bent on taking Chihaya out of her comfort zone, one of her kids gets unruly, and Chihaya notices he’s wearing a Daddy Bear shirt, and gets even more comfortable.

Everyone is impressed by Chihaya’s calm and easy demeanor despite being a mere high schooler in such a high-leverage match. Porky is less surprised: he knows Chihaya likely only assigns that intimidating queen mantle to one and only one person: Wakamiya Shinobu. Until she gets to play her again, everyone else is an obstacle, and she won’t be stopped.

Despite all these close matches, someone has to eventually lose…I just never imagined Arata would be the first one eliminated! His opponent Tsuboguchi had an amazing streak of luck, winning the last five cards. Arata is quietly outraged, but that’s karuta: it never ceases to produce a result no one could have predicted.

Murao ends up defeating an exhausted Dr. Harada, but it takes a lot of energy to do so. Chihaya also manages to knock off Inokuma, (then immediately passes out after thanking the reader), and Taichi shocks the room by eliminating Sudo Akihiro with a huge gamble at the end, going for the card closer to Sudo.

The semifinals are then set: Taichi vs. Murao, and Chihaya vs. Tsuboguchi. Since the latter two are in the same society and Chihaya is asleep, Tsuboguchi yields the match to Chihaya, instantly elevating her to the final. Dr. Harada can’t say he’d do the same; even a beloved student should be considered a fierce adversary to smite; Tsuboguchi agrees, but only where Taichi is concerned. That said, Chihaya’s future opponents in her quest for the queen won’t be so accomodating with her narcolepsy.

Before Inokuma leaves, she meets with Sakurazawa and they exchange contact info to practice together in the near future. Watching Inokuma no doubt made Sakurazawa’s passion for karuta burn again, but the latter tears up due to being fairly certain the game has passed her by. In any case, she knows Inokuma was never the same after losing her “Impassionate” card; turns out her surname was once Chihara, which is why she and Chihaya shared an affinity for that card.

The semifinal goes much quicker than the quarter since it’s just one game, but it’s also not as close: Murao is still feeling the residual weight of his game with Dr. Harada, and Taichi capitalizes on every advantage to take an easy win, adopting a far more defensive game than usual that really compliments his skills. He’s also motivated by the fact that Chihaya isn’t in the room while Arata is watching him for the first time from the sidelines.

Taichi is on a roll, so we’ll see if his momentum will be slowed by a head-on final match with none other than Chihaya. He’s been able to overcome all other psychological hurdles, but this could prove his toughest yet. It’s the biggest match yet in which they’ve faced each other. I forsee it will be unpredictable, scary, and fun in equal measure, and can’t wait to watch it unfold, whether it takes one episode or two.

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 05 – Vendetta Dolce

Even though the center of Megumi’s dorayaki featured a surprise ingredient of ginger-infused apple confiture, a slight bitter aftertaste kept her from overcoming Momo’s superior presentation, and she loses, though notably Anne votes for her, making it a 2-1 decision. Megumi’s friends refuse to let her wallow in despair for long, thanking her for giving her all, and she wipes her tears away and cheers on the remaining rebels, who now must win to avoid a Central victory.

Frankly, the rebels couldn’t ask for better chefs in these two positions, aside from Erina the God Tongue herself. Aldini’s match with Eizan is next, and Aldini prepares pizza with rich, sweet beef shigureni. Eizan delivers one of his trademark face distortions upon revealing that his dish will be finished first, and contains artichokes. They contain cynarine, a compound that threatens to ruin the delicate sweetness of Aldini’s dish by making it taste too sweet.

Eizan’s roast beef with artichoke cream sauce is a hit, and as you can see above, it results in a very BDSM-esque foodgasm, with Eizan being likened to a magician creating delicious illusions from which the judges never want to escape. But when Aldini’s pizza comes out of the oven, he pays Eizan’s gloating no mind; he’s still confident he’ll win, because he took a page out of Mimasaka’s playbook and traced Eizan. He knew he’d use artichokes, and so adjusted the flavors of his pizza to not only counteract his opponent’s “cynarine bomb”, but use it to his advantage.

Eizan ended up being played like a fiddle, with the flavors of his beef dish positioning it as a mere first dish, while the pizza is the second and third due to being split between shigureni on one side and an exquisite blend of four cheeses on t’other. There’s even a symbolism in his dish, as the pie resembles two half-moons or mezzalunas. The judges are blown away and name Aldini the consensus winner, while Eizan makes another scary face and curses Aldini’s growth. Now it’s all up to Souma.

Chuubyou Gekihatsu Boy – 06 – Stick to Sports

Like a theme park, a school Sports Day provides multiple opportunities to showcase many a funny situation involving members of the Hero Club. In this case, the sports-oriented Yamato takes the lead, as he’s on the committee and thus gets to assign chuuni-like names to all of the events, as well as make the very spirited signage. He also makes sure the other members are in top shape…even for an event they’re not participating in, like tug-of-war. His enthusiasm for sitting on nothing is to be commended.

Yamato proves the fastest runner in all events, and even when he gets hung up on the “found item” part of a race, he ends up taking Mizuki by the hand, likely causing her to wonder if she’s strayed into a shoujo anime. Turns out she’s his favorite…name, as Hijiri is rare. Whether it’s Tomoki winning the bread-snatching thanks to Sora-branded bread, Futaba not having his guitar when he needs it most, or Kazuhiro getting really into the cavalry battle, everyone has something to do, and it’s all entertaining.

That brings us to the three four-eyes who have been shadowing the club all along. Turns out they’re not rivals, but the Student Council (I should have realized that), who are concerned that the Hero Club is an out-of-control public disturbance both on and off campus. Sports Day does nothing to alleviate their concerns, so you can bet the Hero Club’s existence to be threatened in due time…just when, despite herself, Mizuki is coming to enjoy being a part of it…

Chihayafuru 3 – 03 – Up to Fate and The Times

Sorry for doing these out of order, but I wasn’t aware Chihayafuru 3 was airing two episodes at a time last week (and this week!). Nevertheless, it’s instructive to see the match that came before Chihaya’s promising quarterfinals match, because it’s when she truly gets her groove back.

Same with Taichi, who has a pre-match brush with Arata that, while cordial and even friendly, still steams his beans just because…Arata just does that. He’s in Taichi’s way on two fronts: karuta and Chihaya (whether he knows it or not), and hearing that he wants to start his own school club is yet another thorn in Taichi’s side.

Few know Chihaya’s game as well as Porky, so even when she seems to be doing well, he can tell, for instance, if she hasn’t quite come back from her injury. He’s also a great analyst of her game, and when she is up against a former Master runner-up (Takemura, who lost badly to Master Suo), he notices that there’s a reason she seems slower and less forceful, and it’s not because she’s still recovering her game.

In fact, Chihaya has absorbed a lot of pointers from Shinobu, Rion, and others that it’s not all about power. Playing left-handed also turned out to be beneficial to her, as it gave her more experience and insight into a side of the cards she was weakest against. Since she could never move as fast with her left hand as her right, she compensated with accuracy and efficiency, which she’s carried into her right-handed game.

Taichi has some trouble with his quirky opponent, Shiroyama from Hokuo, and is particularly irked by his opponent’s ability to take cards despite being, well, slow. He eventually realizes Shiroyama is playing a true team match, focusing on wearing Taichi down rather than winning quickly. Once Taichi realizes what’s going on, it’s like a weight off his shoulders, and he puts Shiroyama away.

Chihaya beats Takemura, who is admittedly out of practice after taking a whole half-year off following his brutal defeat. But he sees how big a mistake that was, as youngins like Chihaya are no longer nipping at his heels, but surpassing him with relative ease. Contrast that with mother of two and former Queen Inokuma Haruka, whose passion is such that even two kids, including a still-nursing newborn, can’t keep her out of the tournament.

While no one questions her prowess in previous years (nor the shape of her eyes, which give Chihaya’s a run for their money), there are questions about whether she can make a comeback; questions that are answered in the positive in this round. But during the match, both she and Chihaya snatch the “Impassionate” card at the exact same time, such that their cards collide. That incident is all too fateful, as they end up facing off in the quarterfinals.

Before the match, Miyauchi asks Sakurazawa if Chihaya has what it takes to be Queen. She’s worried about the future of an academically average-at-best student, but would be less worried if she knew Chihaya could ascend to the top of karuta. All Sakurazawa can tell Miyauchi is that in order to reach that height, Chihaya will have to do what she could not; defeat someone like Inokuma Haruka.

P.S. Yamashita Kousuke’s music continues to be one of the many great things about this show. Earbuds don’t really do it justice; I’d recommend watching on a system with some nice powerful speakers for full effect. I continue to be amazed by how exciting watching kneeling people swiping at cards can get, and the music is a big part of that.

Oresuki – 06 – Effort Is Not Always Rewarded

A week has passed since “the breakup” between Joro and his friends, and the day of the Flower Dance has arrived. During that week Joro has had one and only one companion: Asunaro. That means when they learn of a new problem—the PTA is bristling at the idea of two boys dancing together—she’s all too happy to step in as the substitute. She doesn’t even have to ask; Joro asks her.

Turns out President—or should I say Detective—Cosmos has been On The Case all week, and finally has her conclusions to share with Asunaro, who insists on Joro being present. In the impromptu hearing within the StuCo office, Cosmos lays out the scenario that we had suspected: Asunaro spread false rumors about Joro so she could isolate him, and furthermore worked to get Sun kicked off the dance so she could take his place…and be the girl Joro would eventually marry.

Joro stays silent for the majority of this hearing, and all we hear are his reactions, including what even he deems may be a tonally inappropriate aside about how yet another girl fell in love at that damnable baseball game. In Asunaro’s case, she fell for Joro when he protected her from a foul ball. In reality, he was in the right place at the right time because he was trying to get a better view of the girl he’d learn was Pansy.

But once Cosmos is finished revealing all the underhanded things Asunaro did, and Asunaro’s first impulse is to beg him to be with her more than anyone else, Joro finally speaks up, and it’s in the voice of Dark Joro. He’s cruel and unyielding in his complete and utter rejection of her not just as a romantic interest, but a friend.

Of course, both Cosmos and I see through his act: in truth, he’s rattling her cage. There can’t be any doubt of his rejection of her if she’s to move forward, starting with recanting the libelious story in the next newspaper issue.

Cosmos’ closing lesson to Asunaro before Joro rejects her is that hard work alone isn’t enough to get rewarded with the desired results: in her case, Joro all to herself. As was explored in Fruits Basket more recently and many a romance before, a zero-sum game of love rarely succeeds. Even if Joro did love her, he’s going to hang out with other people and have his own life; that’s only healthy for both parties in a relationship.

With Asunaro’s plot revealed (but only to Cosmos, Joro, and Sun), the Flower Dance continues unabated, and it was worth the wait. Himawari and Cosmos are positively resplendent in their gowns as they twirl across the stage with a tuxedo-ed Joro. His third dance partner is of course Pansy, and even cold-hearted Joro can’t help but be charmed by her ethereal beauty, as well of her reciting the meanings three of the many colors of pansies.

When the dance concludes, Asunaro is hard at work on her retraction, while Pansy is officially welcomed into the circle of friends Joro had been working to get her into all this time, whether intentionally or subconsciously. It’s also become clear that Cosmos has something of a thing for Joro, and isn’t nearly ready to surrender him to Pansy. Still, considering her lecture to Asunaro, she’ll go about it the right way.

Chihayafuru 3 – 04 – One Tough Mama

The quarterfinal matches are set. Chihaya, Taichi, Dr. Harada and Tsuboguchi, all of the Shiranami Society, made it through. They face off against Inokuma, Sudo, Murao and Arata, respectively. It’s a battle between rival societies, youth and experience, fire and water, et cetera.

There’s an elite reader, and the proceedings carry a familiar and intense electricity and tension not seen yet in the show until now. This is the Chihayafuru I know, love, and keep coming back to. There’s just nothing quite like the exquisite energy that fills those silent moments between stanzas.

Everyone on Team Shiranami, with the possible exception of Dr. Harada, has improved their games greatly. Inokuma may be a mother of two who was recently away from the game on maternity leave, but she’s also a former queen, and has a unique style of play in which she never rearranges her cards.

She also already knows about the different pitches of the reader Chihaya is just starting to figure out (thanks to Rion). The difference is, Inokuma also knows all the other ways to listen to a word before it’s fully uttered. Like Inokuma, Chihaya was away from the game in a sense due to her injury, but if she’s going to realize her dream of queenhood, she has to be able to topple a Queen.

Despite playing right next to Chihaya, and subject to mind games from the merciless Sudo, Taichi keeps his cool—even when Sudo correctly diagnoses that Taichi is in love with Chihya—displaying a mental fortitude that was lacking before. It can’t hurt that he got to beat Chihaya a couple of times to build his confidence…and Porky helped him out by exhausting Sudo in the previous round.

The best games in pretty much any sport are ones that are balanced between great offense and defense, but also deliver a lot of action and excitement. Karuta is no different, and the surging passion on display serves as fuel for all eight players, resulting in four very close matches. The episode ends on a high note, with no one in a deep hole or soaring too high. Anything can happen, but whatever happens, everyone is having a shitload of fun.

P.S. It seems I skipped episode 3, while episode 5 is out now! I’ll watch and review both when I can, thus visiting both the past and future of this tournament.

BokuBen 2 – 05 – Magic Fingers

Recycling will help save the Earth…but does that also apply to stories? BokuBen 2 tests the validity of that claim by essentially rehashing not one but two of its first season segments. The result, while familiar, is effective, if a bit…foregone.

The first story repeats the “wrong bag” scenario of Episode 2, only instead of Uruka accidentally giftng Nariyuki her wet swimsuit, Nariyuki gives Fumino his little sister’s bra instead of a left-handed pen. Fumino goes with it, even wearing it the next day.

The misunderstanding continues as the two walk to school, with Nariyuki asking if the gift is “comfortable”; in reality, Fumino has to use a lot of padding to fill the bra out (that it’s meant for his little sister adds insult to injury), but she isn’t about to share that info with him.

When Rizu and Uruka ask what Nariyuki got, he starts to sa “a b-” but is cut off by quick strikes from Fumino. They eventually have a timeout in the hall and get on the same page, and Nariyuki gives her the proper gift later, after which he’s forced to come up with the right response to “all guys love big boobs,” and frankly makes the best choice he can (saying “it depends”…which it does!)

The second half of the episode revisits the first season’s ninth episode, in which various circumstances conspire to put Nariyuki in the position of helping the women in his life pick out lingerie. The same owner of that store opened a massage parlor, and when Nariyuki’s mom can’t fill in, he steps in, thinking he’ll just be handing out pamphlets.

Not soon after taking the job, he’s pressed into service (no pun intended) as a masseur, and his first client is Miss Kirisu, who is very particular about how her lower back is worked on. Turns out Nariyuki is a massage virtuoso, having practiced on his parents for years. Even in the mascot gloves, his magical hands make Kirisu scream in ecstasy.

Nariyuki also works on Rizu’s shoulders (stiff from carrying her large bust), Fumino’s shoulders (because she felt the need to compete with Rizu), and Asumi’s feet (she covers her mouth as he works on them, making him think he’s not rubbing hard enough). Uruka and her swim friends also show up because why not? and pull back the curtain to find him being seemingly sadistic to Asumi, when he was really just getting a bit carried away; he didn’t even realize she’d removed his head!

Uruka is none to happy Nariyuki has had his hands all over the others, and so gets some personal treatment from him at the end. By the time night rolls around and Nariyuki is home, he relies on his sister to massage his back…something she’s all to happy to do for her big brother. I guess massage skills run in the family!

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 04 – Red Riding Hood v. Rocky

Once Souma, Megumi and Takumi finish gathering their ingredients from the massive storeroom, they gather in a huddle, coordinating their flavors and coreographing what they’ll be doing for each other during the third bout. It’s teamwork that impresses the Bookmen, and it gives them a rare edge over the mostly lone-wolf Elite Ten.

Among the crowd are the master chefs who trained these three on the Totsuki train: Souma’s dad, Doujima, and Shinomiya Koujirou, who trained Megumi. Things didn’t start out well, as Megumi is a bundle of nerves, remembering when Shino “fired” her from an earlier training camp. ‘

However, he quite accidentally hits on the perfect training method with Megumi: seemingly hollow slogans! You see, Megumi was a huge fan of a table tennis manga in which a once-timid player was goaded into greatness by a coach who’d never give up on her. She forgets their bad blood and embodies that table tennis heroine.

It’s a good thing “Coach” Shinomiya was able to stumble upon an effective method, because Megumi is in the fight of her life against Momo, who doesn’t hold back. As the sole pastry chef of the Elite Ten, Momo’s own methods and style vary from the other nine, but even moreso due to her edict that everything she says and does be as cute and elegant as possible. Simply boiling the apples isn’t enough…they need to have a nice bath in rose water.

To that end, the process of preparing her dish puts a literal spell on both the Bookmen and the MC Urara, in whose head a switch suddenly flips and she’s back to being cute and elegant rather than a trash-talking delinquent. It probably won’t last, but it’s definitely an indication there’s something not quite right about Urara, and neither of these extremes is who she really is.

Momo’s adorable bread basket of rose-shaped apple tartlets transports the judges to fairy tale land, where they’re probably content to stay and simply award the win to Central once more. But Megumi’s unassuming-looking dorayaki intrigues the more historically-inclined Bookman, Histoire.

Their first bite makes an impact quite different from Momo’s, snapping them out of fairyland with swift, powerful prizefighter punches.  However, she can’t quite surpass the visual flair, aromas and flavor of Momo’s dish. But the first bite is just the beginning, as Histoire munches deeper into the dorayaki and finds something…extraordinary.

The other judges quickly follow his lead and are similarly overwhelmed. What did she do…and is it enough to send Momo’s basket toppling from the victory podium?

Chuubyou Gekihatsu Boy – 05 – Chuunibyou Brilliant Park

It’s summer vacation, and Mizuki is glad to be away from the hero club and free to work on her true love: jigsaw puzzles. I’m glad we finally get to see her be as passionate about something—she even puts her hand on her face in a chuuni-ish manner similar to the others!

She longs for a 10,000-piece puzzle she can really dive into, but they’re expensive. Enter a call from Kei, who summons the Hero Club for a job. A summer cold has created numerous absences at the theme park where Kei’s big sister works. Since she has a hold on Kei, he makes him reach out to his friends to fill in for a day.

As the Hero Club members take their positions around the park, amusing situations ensue, as expected. I don’t ask much of a comedy beyond making me laugh, and CGB did that often this week.

Whether it was watching Yamato go off-script at the “Blasto Rangers” live hero show, Touga and Futaba providing entertainment as well as food service, or Kei slowly going mad at the constant stream of “Meow Meow Trains,” everyone has something to do, and none of them compromise their quirks whilst doing the jobs they’ve been given.

Nowhere is that more evident than Tomoki’s job at the lost child center. With his encyclopedic knowledge of Sora-chan (who is, after all, an idol for kids), he’s able to put sad and crying little ones at ease while their parents are tracked down. He unexpectedly gets a shot at the Big Time when the cool grizzled vet under the Sora-chan mascot mask tweaks his back, and trusts Tomoki to take the stage in his stead.

While he makes a rookie mistake of treading on the wire providing the piped-in voice and music, one of the lost girls he interacted with (and who called him “Sora-chan-san”, which is delightful) starts to sing, and the others join in to help Sora-chan out. Everyone has fun and gets paid, which means Mizuki gets her puzzle money…but little do they know they’re being observed by a rival group of weirdos. To be continued…

Oresuki – 05 – Not Working Out

We saw Asunaro’s smirk last week as she looked over an inflammatory article about Joro’s alleged three-timing, so when she invited him up on the roof, I feared the worst for him, even as he thought Asunaro was poised to confess. It isn’t until he sees that damnable bench that he knows nothing good will come of their imminent conversation.

Sure enough, Asunaro isn’t there to confess, but to warn him about the article she’s about to publish documenting his Don-Juanery, with photos of him very close to Cosmos, Himawari and Pansy to prove it. However, Asunaro believes in publishing the truth, and so agrees to shadow Joro and give him a chance to clear his name.

Sure enough, his next interaction with Cosmos does nothing to assuage Asunaro’s suspicions. He asks the three girls if they can just keep their distance for a bit, and all refuse. On the contrary, he’s doomed to stick close to them until the festival, as he’s been chosen as the boy in the Flower Dance, while Cosmos and Himawari are two of the three girls with whom he’ll dance.

When Cosmos asks if he’ll accompany her to meet the first-year who will be the third to dance with him, he asks if she’ll treat him more strictly around Asunaro, but she ends up pulls out a completely over-the-top full samurai lord act. As for the first year, the nasty rumors about Joro are still floating around her grade, and he’s known as the “Slipper Man” for licking girls’ hallway shoes. So yeah…she’s out of the Flower Dance.

Cosmos picks Sun to replace her (still not sure why Sun is even in the picture anymore after his horrendous threat to Pansy), and gets permission from the adults, which means the whole study group (plus Pansy) end up spending more time together, both practicing and buying outfits for the dance. The more she shadows him during these events, the less Asunaro is convinced of the accuracy of her article—which, it should be said, begs the question of why it ever got from draft to ready-to-print status.

That fact ends up costing Joro a lot when the unedited original article is accidentally published and distributed to the whole school. Joro is confronted by the elites in his class who promise punishment for anyone who hurts girls. They’re not even entirely convinced when President Cosmos arrives to defend him, as they suspect she’s one of the three girls in the article. It takes Asunaro to call them off, and she seems incredibly apologetic and upset to the point she doesn’t even check her dialect.

She offers to personally retrieve every copy, but there’s no letting the genie out of the bottle, and Cosmos seems to realize that when she can’t convince the gals. She decides to call off the rest of the practices between her, and basically tells him it will be best to avoid hanging around each other for the time being. Not just her, but Himawari and Pansy too. Cosmos is worried continuing to interact so closely will only create more misunderstandings, for which Joro will bear the brunt.

This leaves Asunaro as the only girl still in Joro’s orbit at the end of the episode, and considering how many twists this show has already presented, part of me can’t help but wonder if this was her plan all along. The article, the rooftop meeting, the shadowing, the “accidental” publishing, her offer to help fix everything, and finally, her eagerness to practice dancing with him (in which she appears to take great joy); all of that can be construed as a sequence of actions undertaken by someone who wanted to likes Joro and wanted to isolate him from the other girls.

If that was the plan, it’s worked perfectly so far. Chances are it wasn’t the plan, because this is Oresuki, which loves flipping the script. But if it was, she hasn’t achieved total victory quite yet; Cosmos watched them dancing on the roof, and despite being a bit of a goofball most of the time, has the smarts to expose and foil Asunaro’s plot…again, if it is indeed even the plot!

Chihayafuru 3 – 02 – Small Actions Building Up Good Fortune

At his high school in Fukui, Arata stands on stage with accomplished athletes as they are recognized for their achievements, in his case winning at the Nationals. The problem is, he won in individual tournament. If he’s going to do his part to keep Karuta alive and thriving, he’ll have to attract more players.

To that end, he uses his brief time on stage to put a call out for anyone interested in starting up a school team. Alas, everyone who approaches him isn’t personally interested, they just know someone who is. For now, he has to be content with simply spreading interest.

It’s back to school, which means it’s back to the Karuta club for Chihaya and Taichi, joining Hana, Porky, Desktomu, and Sumire. Everyone has improved, and Taichi continues to beat Lefty Chihaya at every turn, leading him to warn her not to get too comfortable playing with the wrong hand.

Chihaya is pitted against Sumire, but even here, she’s somewhat thrown off guard when the Class D player tells her she’s taking karuta seriously now, which we know from having access to her thoughts is because she’s committed to keeping up with Taichi until he looks her way.

When news comes that the school trip will overlap with the dates of the Queen and Master qualifying, Chihaya starts to wonder if the gods of Karuta are cursing her. Kana, sternly scolding her for not straightening her shoes after taking them off, tells Chihaya she has to think of small things she can do to built her good fortune back up.

Sure enough, after two months, the doctor removes the bandages and clears Chihaya for use of her right hand. Suddenly unleashed, she’s back to beating Taichi, but the others can tell she still lacks the same boldness she had before the injury. Chihaya must sense this too, and so in order to get into shape for the qualifiers (which everyone assumes she’ll miss the class trip to attend), she enters the inter-society, A-and-B-only Yoshino Tournament.

Taichi, Porky, and Desktomu also participate…as does Arata, whose presence Chihaya quite suddenly notices. Arata has the good sense to compliment Chihaya for her hakama, and hopes she won’t lose, because this is a mixed-gender tournament. All she has to do is win all her matches and she’ll likely get to face Arata, which is probably why she entered into the tournament in the first place. No better test of whether she’s ready for the Queen qualifiers than if she can have a good match against one of the best.

Desktomu is taken down a peg after being throttled in his first match, but thankfully the ever-caring Kana is there to stop his his compulsive face-slapping. Chi and Taichi win their first matches, and while Porky loses, he wears out his opponent Sudou Akito, hoping to make matches easier for his teammates. It’s in this way all individual matches are team matches and vice versa: everyone is fighting to help each other out, win or lose.

BokuBen 2 – 04 – Lost in Translation

The minute Rizu enters a salon for the first time, the bored owner is suddenly inspired to give her a full makeover for the price of a cut and blow dry (much to her assistant’s dismay). The resulting Rizu almost looks like a different person, aside from the fact she’s the same size and speaks with the same voice.

Still, in the BokuBen universe, the makeover is extreme enough that Nariyuki doesn’t recognize her, but instead believes a very gorgeous girl is hitting on him, something he should be used to by now but in this case isn’t. He even texts Rizu, but doesn’t notice when her phone buzzes.

The misunderstanding could have been cleared up sooner had Rizu done what she often does and refer to Nariyuki by name, but at no point during the study session does she ever do so, which seems a bit convenient to the comedy, but fine.

When this pretty girl starts following Nariyuki home, then comes right out and asks if he wants to go to her place, he decides to take her up on her offer…so he can talk to her father about how fast she is! Only then does he learn that she is actually Rizu…but can still scarcely believe it.

In part two, Rizu and Fumino interrupt what looks like a behind-the-school confession session between Uruka and Nariyuki, as they’re just standing there staring at each other. But in fact, the two have agreed to help her practice casual conversation by speaking in nothing but English for the whole day.

What follows is one of the best uses of the language barrier I’ve seen in an episode of anime in some time; certainly the first I can remember which explores the ways two people for whom English is not quite a true second language can get tripped up. The two make English sound just as challenging as it must be for those who didn’t grow up speaking it.

Obviously, that includes Nariyuki complimenting Uruka’s “language skills” but Uruka thinking he said “lingerie” and becoming suitably mortified. Or how Uruka initially thinks “give up” is Japanese when it’s actually a English loan phrase. Or when two Americans ask Uruka for directions; a true test of her skills!

She manages to steer them in the right direction using her English, but then they ask if she wants to attend a barbecue with them, and she gets all flustered. That’s when Nariyuki emerges from the convenience store and they ask him what his relationship with her is.

He tries to say she’s his “precious study partner” but ends up sounding like “precious steady”, which both the Americans and Uruka construe as a steady girlfriend. Uruka is so beet-red embarrassed/happy that she has to flee from Nariyuki at once (but she stretches first, like the athlete she is!), while he’s left wondering what he said to make her react so strongly.

Then there’s the downright bizarre, self-effacing post-credits sequence where the puppy who was hanging out with Uruka tells its mother about all the errors the humans made in their English—while speaking in much better English. Great stuff!