Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 12 (Fin)

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Our final episode has our wolf girl going toe-to-toe with Kyoya’s Mom—no, not the giant tanned lady, that’s Big Mama, who runs a nearby bar. The mom turns out to be basically as Kyoya described: your typical normal middle-aged lady. But as nice and cute as she is, there’s a tinge of sadness to her, which has nothing to do with the fact she gets drunk and passes out on the first night Erika is there.

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No, Erika’s mom is not a drunk; but she does blame herself for Kyoya’s cold behavior and suspicion towards romance, a product of his parents separating due to various and ultimately mundane circumstances (bad luck, bad timing, what have you). Kyoya’s sis was old enough to accept it, but Kyoya dealt with the shock by closing his heart, which Erika was able to re-open, which led to his string of empty flings with women.

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Even Erika remembers the Kyoya who was more like Nozomi…but even Nozomi is reformed at this point, thanks to Erika (she’s just been all over the place maturing men, hasn’t she?) Case in point: an exceedingly cute exchange between Nozomi and Ayumi, who is so inoculated against his charms that when he asks her out to the fireworks she assumes he’s up to his old tricks and ignores him. Still, I think they’d make an intriguing couple.

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Back in Kobe, understanding a little more about the situation, Erika wants to help her treasured Kyoya make up with her mother. She devises a plan in which Kyoya ‘upsets’ her into wandering off that even had us going…

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…Until we see her smirk and the wolf ears pop out. I like how she’s no afraid to use her ‘wolf girl abilites’; they may have been used for nefarious purposes in the past (like pretending Kyoya was her boyfriend to impress Marin and Aki in a desperate attempt to make friends with someone, anyone), but now she’s learned how useful they are for other purposes. Of course, when she’s on the phone using lies to get Kyoya’s mom to come to the festival, she pays a price for her ‘treachery’ when her necklace breaks.

Kyoya, who came to ‘protect’ Erika in the first place (knowing full well how cute she was and the fact that guys would hit on her if she was alone), is predictably worried when Erika doesn’t return from the bathroom, and he searches the fairgrounds with increasing worry with Reika until their mom arrives and does something that, while embarrassing, is the most effective way to find their lost girl: yelling really loud.

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Kyoya finally overhears some put-off bystanders watching a filthy girl rustling through the garbage and discovers Erika. Reika tries to tell her it’s just an object; its the memories and emotions she still has that matter; Kyoya gets down on the ground and helps her search.

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Not only that, while mom is watching her not-emotionally-wounded-after-all son help his cute girlfriend, the fireworks start and light up the space between the dumpsters…where she spots the pendant. All’s well that ends well. Kyoya thanks his mom and promises he’ll come to visit more; Reika apologizes to Erika for badmouthing Kyoya, and Erika gets some cute pictures of a young Kyoya having his snowman kicked over by Reika.

Erika wants to make snowmen with Kyoya when it gets cold, and he considers if he should be the one doing the destroying this time. Erika is fine with that, but she’ll just build more snowmen, bigger and stronger!

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Erika tries to distribute those pictures to her friends, but is stopped and taken aside by Kyoya, who leads her to the roof deletes her pictures, and leans in for a kiss, telling her in his suavest voice that why worry about pics when the real things right in front of her?

As Ayumi remarks to Nozomi, Erika and Kyoya sometimes have a funny way of communicating and expressing their love for each other outwardly, but it works for them. Just like this show worked for me!

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 11

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In a high percentage of rom-coms, there are two kinds of second-to-last episodes: the ones where either the guy or girl is on the verge of confession, which won’t come until the finale; or the ones where the couple, already together, faces the biggest threat to their relationship, which will be resolved one way or another in the finale. Ookami Shoujo avoids both tropes in its second-to-last episode.

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Granted, it does so by employing another pretty common trope — the Unapproving Family Member — but employs it well. Kyoya and Erika are already a pretty stable, happy couple, and as much of a force of nature as she is, Kyoya’s sis Reika never seems intent on wrecking the relationship. She mostly wants to know if it’s really true, because it would mean not only that Kyoya had changed a great deal, but the woman who changed him did something that she, his own big sis, couldn’t.

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The progression of Erika and Reika’s interactions is predictable, considering their personalities. Erika, who respects Reika telling off a half-assed flirting guy before they even meet, is incredibly intimidated and thus polite and boilerplate ‘brother’s girlfriend’ to Reika. Reika stuffs her full of sweets and continually mocks Kyoya until Erika is forced to put her wolf ears away and defend her man.

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While Erika’s outburst and harsh words surprise her, Reika is actually pleased with this development, as it proves that Erika isn’t just another one of her bro’s ‘ways to kill time.’ But she still wants to know if things between Erika and her bro are as serious as they’re both letting on. The Tigress Reika challenges Erika the Wolf, vowing to apologize if Erika wins.

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Reika calls Kyoya asking him to pick her up, letting him know Erika is with her, and because she ran her mouth she had to ‘deal with her.’ Much to Reika’s surprise, Kyoya races to the scene and promises consequences depending on how badly Reika treated Erika. This Kyoya is nothing new; he won’t let anyone hurt Erika, not even his sister, just as Erika won’t suffer insults directed at Kyoya, even if they’re from Reika.

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In a way, Reika did ‘bust Erika up’, but only because she made her eat too much. Erika is sick, and more to the point, sick right in front of Kyoya, something Reika slaps him for, as it was insensitive for him to barge in while Erika was having such an embarrassing time. It was just as wrong for Reika to set them up, but while she won the eating contest, Kyoya’s behavior proved that Erika was right: he can love someone, and he does: her.

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But there’s no time to rest even though the hurdle of the big sister has been overcome; it’s Summer break, and Erika has nothing to do, so she can’t refuse Reika’s invitation to join her and Kyoya at their mom’s place in Kobe. It’s actually pretty funny how quickly they end up there.

It’s just…I’m not sure what to make the mother herself: she appears to be an extremely well-built, extremely tanned ‘middle-aged lady’. Or the mom could actually be the blonde-haired face behind her left elbow (unless that’s Kyoya). Either way, this should be interesting!

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 10

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Ookami was in a giving mood this week. We got a break from ominous new characters and fresh internal/external threats to Erika and Kyoya’s relationship. It’s Erika’s birthday, and while Kyoya seems a little put out at first, he puts in the effort and has a good showing. After all, it’s not like he’s getting nothing out of this; he likes to see Erika happy, so he’s not going to screw up this time.

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It may not be much (plus he doesn’t have to lift a finger to plan anything for her date) a sea change from the ‘there’s nothing wrong with me, it’s the world that’s wrong’ attitude. Hanging out with Kakeru and now a newly-reformed Nozomi (who make a great duo) has worn him down; he now knows it’s better to be honest with your feelings and do whatever it takes to make someone happy. It’s part of what love is.

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Which is convenient, because when Kyoya asks Erika what she wants for her birthday, Erika says simply, ‘love’. Eavesdropping on her chatting with Ayumi, he learns that for Erika, that means telling her, straight up, “I love you,” and meaning it. Kyoya doesn’t have an issue with meaning that anymore, he does love her, but it’s the actual physical act of saying it that provides the only measurable conflict in an otherwise blissfully perfect date that follows.

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Likin’ Erika’s new ‘do!

 

Kyoya’s mates clued Kyoya in on something that he adheres to when it comes to interacting with Erika. It’s not about going through motions to placate her, it’s about being natural and wanting to do and say the things he does…which he does, he’s just shy and bashful and has gone so long without acting like a normal emotive human being. Heck, Erika is the one who yanked him out of that abyss to begin with, so while he looks and sounds stiff at times, there’s no doubt he’s enjoying himself too.

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What’s so great about the date is how astonished Erika is that Kyoya is being so nice, fully expecting him to flip out at any moment about one thing or another, as before. It makes her happy just to be with him doing these things, but even happier that he’s mostly past such immaturity.

Still, not overtly showing his love (or stating it) throws off a nosy little girl who asks Kyoya straight up if he loves Erika. Kyoya freezes and his face scares the girl off, requiring an apology to her mother.

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Kyoya’s inability throughout the day to tell Erika “I love you”, despite a few golden (and more silver and bronze) opportunities to do so isn’t even that huge of a conflict here, as we were pretty sure at some point Erika would give him the in he needed: hearing her say she loves him, so naturally and earnestly, while standing in a busy street, was that in, and Kyoya uses it.

The pretense of saving her from traffic, along with the bright headlights and engine noise, provided enough cover for the shy, bashful lad to say what needed to be said. And doggone it, Erika HEARD him say it!

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And that’s what made this episode stand out despite following the well-worn ‘guy/gal has trouble saying I love you’ date episodes: sure, there were the usual false alarms and redirects, but in the end Kyoya said what needed to be said, which he’s smart enough to know was the most important thing he could do for Erika on her birthday. She asked for love, after all.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 09

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At this point, I know what makes Sata and Erika work, and I know it’s a strong bond forged in hellfire that isn’t going anywhere. The show is keen to reinforce that with “challenges” to their relationship that rarely last longer than an episode or two, rather than introduce threats for the sake of stoking drama.

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Not only does Kamiya Nozomi believe he can ‘convert’ Sata into someone like him, but his charisma and persistence make us believe he can, too, at least early on. He’s the kind of ‘final threat’ that could take a show right to the end.

Ookami, meanwhile, proceeds to demonstrate just how doomed Nozomi’s crusade really is, without creating yet another relationship dilemma for Erika and Kyoya. In fact, Erika is glad Nozomi is sticking by Kyoya’s side; she knows how nice it is to have normal friends like Marin, Aki, and Ayumi.

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Nozomi believes Kyoya is resisting his instincts, and so throws gorgeous girl after gorgeous girl at him in hopes of “waking him up.” In the process, Nozomi is callously using his admirers as tools and bait…and Kyoya isn’t biting. I felt bad for Miho, Nozomi chooses, because she’s an innocent bystander in this. Nozomi is presenting Kyoya as an unattached suitor, which isn’t the case.

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Nozomi doesn’t quit while he can, but rather turns to more extreme tactics. It only takes two seconds for the girls to respond in the affirmative to his request they sneak into his room that night, and he sets up a “Who’s the King” game with the specific purpose of getting Kyoya to kiss Miho.

Again, it’s a cruel use of both the girls and guys, and underlines the fact that it isn’t Kyoya who has ‘something wrong’ with him. Even when Nozomi takes things to a point where he thinks Kyoya has no choice but to be kissed by Miho, Kyoya shuts her, and Nozomi, down.

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Foiled yet again, Nozomi is increasingly desperate and seems out of ideas, going back to the fact that he has 500 girls’ emails, all of whom worship him and would do whatever he wants, which he equates with enjoying life 500 times more than Kyoya with his plain girlfriend.

To this, Kyoya offers his interpretation of Nozomi’s situation, with classic Kyoya ruthlessness: “It doesn’t matter how much trash you pick up; You’ve just got a pile of trash.” The wording is way too harsh on the girls, but the point is, quality (of relationships, not merely looks) over quantity. Not only that; Kyoya has already been down the road Nozomi is on. He knows exactly where it leads.

A case in point occurs just after Kyoya bits him goodnight, when one of Nozomi’s 500 shows up and he puts the moves on her, wanting comfort in his time of vulnerability and defeat. She recoils: someone asked her out (Kimura, from episode 2!), and she accepted, so they can’t hang out anymore.

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Now Nozomi has 499 girls…but the loss of that one was his awakening, because deleting her made him feel absolutely nothing. He looks at Kyoya and Erika, so devoted to each other and so embarrassing in their flirtation, and for the first time really sees them.

Now he starts to get excited about finding a girl — one girl — who could be as special to him as Erika is to Kyoya. A girl who would make him feel bad (or at least feel something) if she dumped him. I’m not saying Nozomi’s lifestyle is something to avoided, and I don’t think the show is trying to make that point either.

What it is saying is that it’s far to easy to convince oneself that that’s the life for you. Kyoya once thought so, but he, and now Nozomi, have learned that it isn’t.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 08

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Our fake couple is now a real couple, but the show wastes no time blemishing their perfect cherry blossom date by teasing the next fly in the ointment: Kamiya Nozomi, the Red Prince.

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Oh, and about that date: Kyoya only agreed to go because he lost rock-paper-scissors. And once on this date, he feels he’s under no obligation to do anything with Erika other than look at the trees. His uncooperative, unromantic attitude sparks an argument with Erika after he refuses to go on a boat ride. Trouble in paradise so soon? But of course; this is Kyoya and Erika we’re talking about!

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Erika stubbornly takes a boat out by herself, and surrounded by happy-looking couples, arrives at two conclusions. First, Kyoya is a jerk. Second, she’s a jerk too, for being so pushy. She realizes that simply forcing him to do stuff because he’s her boyfriend isn’t fun.

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But that’s only half the story. While just as stubbornly sitting alone, Kyoya comes to the same conclusions. When he sees how happy another girl is when her date gives her a peck on the head, even though he didn’t want to, Kyoya starts to get it. He’d rather see Erika smiling sincerely. The two make up quite cutely over takoyaki, and all’s well in paradise once more. Compromise and give-and-take – the keys to any healthy relationship!

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After that, it’s back to school, and Erika is delighted to find not only Ayumi, Marin, and Aki in her class, but her beloved Kyoya as well. Marin and Aki call her out on her cockiness, as now it’s their turn to be jealous their friend gets to be so close with her boyfriend all the time.

Their line to Erika is hilarious but also wonderfully meta, as it acknowledges Marin and Aki are actually much more than just the “self-obsessed class bitches” they began the show as. Sure, they’re still shallow, but they do care about her and value Erika’s friendship. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be so annoyed.

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Speaking of annoying (along with tacky and charismatic), as Erika & Co. approach their classroom it’s revealed Kamiya Nozomi is also in their class, and has wasted no time getting the lay of the ladyland, literally blocking the door unless girls give their names. Just as he assumed in the park that Kyoya was with only one of his many girls, when he sees him with Erika, Ayumi, Marin and Aki, it reinforces that assumption, which makes Kyoya something Nozomi was hoping for: a worthy rival for the girls’ love.

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I can’t fault Nozomi’s misinterpretation at this point, because Kyoya really does give off that air of non-monogamy with his intense popularity with the girls. And with that misinterpretation in mind, his constant hitting on Erika also makes sense. She’s one of Kyoya’s girls, but he’ll make her his, and learn what’s so special about her. Erika, perfectly content in her monogamous relationship with Kyoya, is intermittently flattered and put off by Nozomi’s extremely un-subtle advances. She’s not buying the tacky sales pitch…mostly.

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But even deflecting that pitch gets her and Nozomi in trouble for talking in class, and they’re appointed the lead student organizers for the class’s upcoming orienteering trip as punishment. Kyoya goes home without her, in a wonderfully shot little sequence where the colors are so bright and washed out it’s like she’s being isolated in some kind of draconian medical facility!

In there, she must endure even more of Nozomi’s flirting, even inviting her out some ‘adult fun,’ right after getting off the phone with another girl, and Erika has to put her foot down, telling him the behavior she’s witnessed from him just…isn’t right.

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Still wrongly assuming Erika is one of Kyoya’s many girls, he clears something up to her: he has no girlfriend. He doesn’t believe in girlfriends, and deems monogamy a kind of tyranny that has no place in youth. For him, ‘Tis more fun to have all kinds of experiences with all kinds of girls, without getting tied down.

He’s either under the delusion that no girl will ever start feeling serious about him or ever object to him having other girls…or maybe he’s aware of those possibilities and his freedom is more important than that kind of stuff. There’s also the fact that every girl he’s with knows what they’re getting into, and so they’re the ones responsible, from Nozomi’s perspective, if things go sour.

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Erika cannot endorse Nozomi’s philosophy. It’s just not how she was brought up, but she also wants the institution of monogamous romance to succeed, for obvious personal reasons. But when she tells Nozomi she and Kyoya are dating exclusively, he can hardly believe it. Almost every chance he gets, he points out just how…plain and normal Erika is, and how that reduces her value as a person. That’s the reason I really dislike the guy; not his promiscuity.

Kyoya and Erika’s happiness is far less important to Nozomi than having a decent love rival to battle over girls with. To that end, when he gets alone with Kyoya (who decided to be the dutiful boyfriend and wait for Erika, which is sweet),  he probes him to see if he’s serious about just dating plain ol’ Erika by asking what quality made him sink so low. Surely it’s because she’s rich, or has dirt on him, or because she’s good in bed.

That’s the hit nerve that confirms to Nozomi the state Kyoya is in, which he considers ‘sad’ and ‘a waste’. He’s in love with a girl far below his standing, and needs to be shown the error of his ways. This doesn’t bode well for Erika, who Nozomi may continue to pursue, which could get Kyoya jealous. It just doesn’t bode well period...but who said high school romances were all takoyaki and boat rides?

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 07

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Erika and the episode waste no time after Kyoya’s latest apathetic remarks; Erika approaches him cordially with the decision that she’s no longer a Wolf Girl, and he no longer has to pretend to be her boyfriend. Yes: Erika dumps Kyoya. It’s a command performance for both, but as Erika later cries to herself on the way home, it’s clear her love for him isn’t all gone, nor is Kyoya as okay with this development as he seems.

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A bit of residual anguish is to be expected, but the next day Erika is determined to move forward. She basks in Yuu’s kindness and accepts his invitation to hang out at an arcade, under the condition San can come along. The whole time, San notes how hyper and happy she is, almost like she’s forcing things — and she is. But Erika’s attitude is to be expected of someone who has just had a huge weight lifted off her shoulders.

She’s free: free from torture and verbal abuse; free to choose someone anew, who really cares for and will treasure her. Only…she makes clear to San she’s not sure Yuu is that someone. San warns Erika she can’t lead Yuu on too long, otherwise she’s no better than Kyoya. Yuu needs an answer ASAP, even if he’s not forcing her for one.

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At school, Erika and Yuu can’t help but see Kyoya with other girls, but his black prince persona is leaking out of him, as he’s frustrated with his loss of Erika and with those girls so eagerly presenting themselves before him to take it out on. Kyoya seeing Erika with Yuu, whom he dismisses as a ‘wimp’ and a ‘huge step down’, pisses Kyoya off even more.

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Yuu arranges a White Day date with Erika at the aquarium (ZOMG axolotls!), where they proceed have a ton of fun…while Kyoya lays on his couch at home, defeated. Kakeru (who along with his crew looks like a bunch of disguised shinigami from Bleach) spots Erika having fun with another guy and calls Kyoya in a panic, like the good friend that he is, to ask him what his fucking problem is.

Kyoya hangs up on him. It was so easy to mercilessly berate a girl who genuinely cared about him; now that she’s gone, and Kyoya finds that dispite his assertions to the contray, he genuinely cares about her, suddenly he has a far tougher road ahead to fix things. Yet there he lies on the couch. Who is truly the ‘wimp’ here, hmmmm?

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I said last week that Yuu’s syrupy-sweet, unconditional, suffocating niceness would grow old for Erika quick, and not just because she’s used to being mistreated, and it does. Because of that past pain, she desperately wants to fall for Yuu, but it’s just not going to happen as long as Kyoya still draws breath, cad that he is. Not only that, Erika just isn’t the type of person to fall for Yuu. She thrives in the battle, and giving up on Kyoya would mean surrender and retirement.

For that reason, Erika does the right thing and promptly, calmly explains why she can’t return Yuu’s feelings. Yuu may seem a but over-yielding and understanding here, but let’s keep in mind just how delicate and worrying a guy he is. He knew this was a long shot all along, and has no ill will to Erika. If anything, their brief fling was an enlightening experience for him, which will pay dividends in his future dealings with both people and girls.

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It’s worth noting that the popular fountain that’s said to increase a couple’s love doesn’t actually activate or light up until Kyoya happens to show up, with as close a tail between his legs as he can muster, which translates to him possessively grabbing Erika by the arm and dragging her away from Yuu, even though there’s no call for that beyond saving face. Yuu warns him that this time he’d better ‘treasure her properly’, something Kyoya doesn’t respond to, but perhaps understands now.

When Erika demands to explain his actions, he silences her with their first kiss, saying “No more ‘Whys’.” But a kiss isn’t going to cut it for Erika, who’s been through enough with him to deserve a straight answer. Again, it’s only as straight as Kyoya dares, which means it’s still pretty damn roundabout:

I already said you belong to me…it means you aren’t just a way to kill the time…in general society, they’d usually call it love, right?

Yikes. Still, it’s genuine. Satisfied that he was close enough for her to claim victory this time, Erika kisses him back, then agrees to let him be her real boyfriend. He takes exception to who is letting whom do what, but the long and short of it is, these two have worked things out. I couldn’t be happier.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 06

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Because she can be terribly vain sometimes and puts up with a little too much of Kyoya’s devaluing abuse (read: projecting), sometimes one can forget that Erika is a pretty good catch herself. She’s cute, she’s passionate, and she’s kind…to a fault, it would seem this week, as we meet they guy all the way in the back row of the promo art’s group photo: Kusakabe Yuu.

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For one thing, Erika can detect Yuu’s existence, something Aki and Marin aren’t able to do. Yuu apologizes for existing, but Erika’s persistent niceness affects him even stronger: being a details-oriented observant gal, she graciously points out the possible reasons Yuu is treated like a ghost and offers advice that pays off nicely. Then Kyoya notices her talking intently with Yuu and butts in, making Yuu revert to his old self in an instant.

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Because it’s Valentine’s Day, Erika makes chocolate cupcakes for Kyoya, when he says he won’t not accept something if she makes it for him (that’s about as nice as he allows himself to be in that exchange). Again, it’s the Code he uses, which suggests he couldn’t care less. When he sees Erika give Yuu a cupcake meant for him, it becomes abundantly clear he couldn’t care more. Also, I was horrendously premature in my assessment last week that Kyoya’s not a little boy anymore; for that I apologize!

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Rather, he’s a delicate little flower not above ruining everyone’s day if something displeases him, and seeing Erika pay attention to any other guy displeases him rotten. Poor Erika goes over in her head how things went so sour, and comes upon the fact that maybe she was too nice. She did mention to Yuu that if speaking truthfully, the high she gets from doing a good deed supersedes a kind of latent selfishness or moral purity. She got a little too hugh on those Yuu-helping vapors, and got burned.

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But at least her intentions were good (those the road to hell are paved with, right?). Kyoya, meanwhile, is just a petulant little shit for the duration. Another decent lad, Kakeru, despite being a male bimbo who wolfs down all the chocolate he and Kyoya got from girls, has the wisest advice Kyoya could hope to hear: there’s a limit to the abuse Erika can and will take before even she leaves him. They’re words already in Kyoya’s head, no doubt; hearing Takeru echo them probably only upsets him more. He’s dug a big hole and has no idea how to get out.

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Meanwhile, just as Kakeru foretold, Kusakabe becomes Erika’s sounding board for her troubles with Kyoya. When he learns the kind of person he truly is (and nothing Erika says is particularly exaggerated), Yuu finds his in and asks if she’d be willing to accept him. Yuu is all too aware of his surface shortcomings, but unlike Kyoya, he isn’t rotten on the inside, and vows to treasure Erika and never cause her to suffer or cry.

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His confession shakes Erika out of her spell, and she Yuu him for what he is: a kind and very comely guy. Tired from the effort she’s put into Kyoya with so little progress, she sees a path of less resistance with Yuu, and is in the emotionally exhausted position to seriously consider his offer.

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Back at school, Kyoya is surprised that Erika hasn’t spammed his phone and is nowhere in sight. He even almost asks Sanda where she is…have we ever seen him this flustered? 

Then he crosses paths with Yuu, the guy who has no chance against him, no chance, d’you hear? – and Yuu tells him straight up, with eyes un-hidden by bangs, another sentiment already rattling around in Kyoya’s head: “Erika is wasted on you. She deserves better. I’m awaiting her response.”

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Because the last thing he would do is show that this sudden turn of events has cut and distressed him deeply, Kyoya tells Yuu he hopes they make each other very happy in their pure and beautiful (not said: dull and predictable) life, and again asserts that Erika was only ever a way to kill time.

And because this is a small school, Erika overhears all of this, mixes it with all the similar crap he’s said to her recently, takes him at his outward words which she can’t keep form hurting her. Note how she doesn’t break the necklace Kyoya gave her.

She couldn’t explain to Yuu why she loved Kyoya, who made her suffer so. The why didn’t matter to her at first, but maybe now, halfway through Ookami’s run and realizing other options are available, it’s starting to.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 05

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Aki and Marin reminded us so much of futaba’s superficial friends of Ao Haru Ride, I thought Erika would eventually go on a similar “realness” trip and dump them, but to the show’s credit, they’re keeping them around, only their role has changed. Now instead of being slightly annoyed by them talking about their boyfriends, Erika is jealous of their happiness with pliable boyfriends, not hard to crack nut like Kyoya.

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Jeez, has it only been five episodes? Things are moving along so well on Ookami Shoujo. I feel like most shows like it take an entire cour to get to where Kyoya and Erika are romantically even though there’s still much work to be done and fresh obstacles on the horizons. I say “work”, but as the next episode music suggests, Erika’s struggle is a battle, one to wrench open Kyoya’s heart and conquer it.

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Making that happen starts with believing it can be done, because despairing at his imposing gates, believing their impregnable-looking surface, will only lead to defeat. While going over her ideal Christmas (which is pretty standard: cake, fried chicken, gifts, being together), Kyoya complains on more than one occasion that “women are a pain”, and Erika agrees. He’s not wrong; women are a pain…but so are men. Especially Kyoya.

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After touching cheeks during their staged Christmas selfie she promised to send to Aki and Marin (a promise she cares about keeping) and going to a cafe to warm up, Erika gets a stomachache, then asks Kyoya a direct question in an attempt to quell it: “What am I to you?” Is she nothing but a useful servant? A convenient toy? Does he care about her? Erika is essentially scrambling up Kyoya’s ramparts here, blind to all the defenses he has waiting for her at the top; defenses she’s seen before.

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Her own defenses drop completely when Kyoya gives her precisely the perfect response of her dreams: He likes her, always has, but has been to shy to come out and say it, and the nervousness that builds from that pressure led to all of the nasty teasing. When she asks him to have a silly cliche Christmas night with her, he agrees without complaint, saying that whatever will be fun if it’s done with her.

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I’ll admit, my defenses were lowered too, this went on so long. Then evil shadows form on his face and he admits to just messing with her, calling it a “monkey show” and mocking her gullibility.  In other words, he pours hot pitch down upon her, and she falls back down to the base of the wall. Kyoya gets a glass of ice water to the face. He’s a terrible piece of trash, Erika shouts, and she hopes he dies, storming out in a public display.

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Men aren’t just a “pain” to women (and vice versa) because they make you jump through hoops, or interpret things without sufficient information from your perspective: they’re a literal emotional and physical pain. A pain in the gut, A dull burning in the heart. Kyoya cuts deeper there than he ever had before, and I feel Erika’s pain clearly, having been there as we all have.

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Here’s the maddening thing about Kyoya: he cruelly passed his sweet and sincere confession off as false, but it wasn’t the content of the confession that was really false; only the florid presentation. Confessing like that isn’t Kyoya’s style; it’s far outside is comfort zone where he picks on and teases and runs down Erika because, almost like a little boy who likes a girl, he doesn’t know how to process what he’s feeling, and that frustration causes him to lash out. It’s pretty textbook stuff…but Kyoya isn’t a little boy anymore, and he knows he went to far.

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Erika’s parents are really chill. They didn’t even make the couple keep the door open!

But in fixing things, which is what he wants it wouldn’t do him any good to pretend he’s comfortable (yet) saying the kinds of things that made Kyoya so happy she cried. No, he atones in the most Sata Kyoya way possible: announcing himself as her boyfriend to her folks, coming into Erika’s room, demanding an apology for her throwing water and wanting him to die, and slapping a “collar” – or rather, a cute gold necklace, around her neck, so everyone knows she’s his. He resorts to his code.

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BAAAAAAAAAW. So f-ing cute. And hey, we finally learn Aki and Marin’s boyfriends are REAL!

The impregnable defense Kyoya maintains is as false and deceptive as the psych-out that got water thrown in his face. Erika hasn’t busted open the gates to brought her main force in yet, but she did sneak over the walls, and found that she’s always had a place there. He won the battle in the cafe, but she won the battle after that, when Kyoya comes to her and, in his way, apologizes and tries to make things right. Like me, Erika chooses to believe what Kyoya said, because that was him going out on a limb, before retreating and laughing it off as a joke.

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But, yeah, the war isn’t over. Post-credits, we see Kyoya returning home to a ringing phone. After the answering machine prompt, the caller hangs up without a word. Who was this? Kyoya’s parent? A stalker or ex-girlfriend-gone-bad? My two guesses: either a red herring cliffhanger to be quickly resolved next week (less likely) or…trouble (more likely). Trouble for Kyoya, trouble for Erika, trouble for Kyoya+Erika, and trouble for me.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 04

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“Back again so soon?”

It’s one thing to end the third episode with a confession, regardless of result, so much sooner than I expected. It’s another still for Erika to cross paths with the girl who was at Kyoya’s place before him, hears that “he’s done with girls because he has a dog now”, then rushes back for clarification! This is just outstanding initiative from Erika, who won’t let things stand the last time she was this door. But while she gets him to believe she really does like him, she doesn’t get a straight answer about his feelings for her (though the “got a dog, done with girls” comment to that other girl made it pretty clear to me).

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Letting a soccer ball hit Erika head-on, then punching the one who kicked it…that’s Kyoya for you

With the answer still ambiguous to her about whether Kyoya likes her in the same way, she decides to operate under the assumption he doesn’t…quite yet, and that it falls to her to do something about it. Enter Kyoya’s friend from middle school, Hibiya Takeru, who comes in and immediately makes a big impact on the show.

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Likely still too sore over Kamiya’s deception to talk to him, and with Sanda never talking to Kyoya, she needs an ally, and finds one in the muscular, boisterous Takeru, who is very gung-ho about helping her crack the infuriating nut that is Sata Kyoya. But enthusiasm and good intentions don’t necessarily translate into success, and they don’t here.

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Backfired!

In short, Kakeru give Erika terrible, terrible advice and goofy stunts that would never work in a million years. It might even be that not allying herself with Kakeru could have made her better off, because all his advice seems to afford her is the opportunity to make a fool of herself in front of Kyoya again and again.

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The contents of Kakeru’s mind would make great van murals

That said, I’m glad Erika now has another friend (and a guy, at that), who she can talk with about these things earnestly. His ideas for her may be cockamamie, but she carries them out to the letter regardless; after all, love makes fools of us all. She’s so desperate for results, she pretty much ignores the logical side of her brain telling her this is all a waste of time, effort, and dignity.

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Your advice is crap! GIVE ME MORE!!!

Fortunately for us, watching Kakeru and Erika in action also happens to be a hoot and a half. Not only because they have great comedic chemistry, but because they’re both romantics, and feed off each other’s energy where someone like Kyoya either sucks it all up or deflects it entirely. Kakeru may be a a bit of a Mimbo, and more chivalrous and devoted to Erika’s cause than the average joe would be, but he’s a heckuva lot more normal than Kyoya in how he interacts with Erika. He and Erika are on the same level.

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That’s refreshing after seeing Erika play the servile supplicant so frequently, even though I know it’s been her choice to do so. You probably know where I’m going with this: the more I watch Kakeru and Erika together, the more I’m thinking they’d make a better couple, to the point even both of them seem to get that vibe. Kakeru uses this for his last, and perhaps riskiest idea yet: calling both Erika and Kakeru out, saying he’s fallen for Erika, and forcing Kyoya to decide right then and there.

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Oh, man, look at that! It’s a triangle! So on-the-nose. But hey, it’s also covered in little “cracks”, which means it’s a brittle triangle. While the prospect of Kakeru being a legitimate rival for Erika’s heart, the reality is, he hasn’t really fallen for her. The triangle is only rhetorical, and that’s how Kyoya sees it, which is why his seemingly cold, assholish response makes perfect sense: He tells Kakeru to “do what he wants”, even though it breaks Erika’s heart right then and there, because he knows Kakeru isn’t serious. In other words, “Nice try, but this isn’t going to work on me either.”

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Erika’s heartbreak is short-lived, as Kyoya chases after her and gives her a real arm (not a plastic skeleton arm this time), and essentially tells her she’s just going to have to keep working at it if she really feels the way she does. He’s essentially asking for even more emotional commitment from her…but he is asking for it, about as nicely as he can. As he says to Kakeru, “I’ll decide when I’ve fallen for Erika.” Neither Kakeru or Erika can decide. He’s asking Erika to buy into the self-importance he’s placing on himself, like a leap of faith, not knowing where it will lead, but looking forward to seeing what happens.

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And just to put a final cork in the short-lived Kakeru+Erika route, in a post-credits scene Erika meets Kakeru at the riverbank to politely reject him; naturally, he forgot he confessed to her for real. He may not be a love interest, nor a particularly useful ally in Erika’s fight for Kyoya. But he is still a new, real friend she can treasure. And real is always valuable.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 03

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This show has improved in each of its three episodes, which is all the time it takes for Erika to listen to Sanda’s advice and follow her feelings honestly and confess to Kyoya. This is in part accomplished by the tried-and-true and nicely-executed “nursing ill love interest to health” scenario, which reveals to both Erika and Kyoya that their exchanges in this “fake” relationship are growing alarmingly genuine.

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For one thing, Erika doesn’t come to Kyoya’s house to nurse him back to health because it’s part of her duty as his dog, or to keep up appearances with their fake relationship. She does it because she’s worried about him, and because she wants to. And while she’s not thinking about it this way at all, there’s nothing like a bad cold to reveal the true nature of an “adversary”, if you will.

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As ever, Erika is seeing sides of Kyoya he keeps tightly guarded from everyone else, which makes her feel understandably, well…special. But again, that feeling, and falling even further for Kyoya, is a by-product of her helping him, not an intended reward. That utter lack of ulterior motive is as baffling to Erika as it is vexing to Kyoya, considering their history…but to paraphrase Sanda, the heart is not the head; it don’t have to make sense.

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If this episode accomplished nothing else (which isn’t true, it accomplished a lot), it afforded us the resources to compile our most comprehensive analysis of Kyoya to date, confirming many suspicions with facts of his life. His lack of a strong mother figure speaks volumes about how he deals with women, and the loss of a beloved dog in middle school indicates a hesitancy to commit or form strong emotional bonds with anyone else, fearing more pain and anguish.

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Between his mommy/women/abandonment/commitment/self-esteem issues, Kyoya is a far more wounded and fragile individual than he lets on, and Erika has still only seen the slightest glimpses. She’s privy to the same indicating facts we do, but she’s so emotionally compromised herself at the moment, she hasn’t painted as clear a picture of him yet.  She also saw his “non-Prince Smile”, which is to say, a genuine smile bourne from real happiness. Put incredibly simply: he likes dogs, ergo he likes Erika, who is his “dog” at the moment.

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Being with Kyoya makes Erika want to stop lying and be his real girlfriend, along with wanting to take care of him when he’s sick. Being with Erika is like being with no other woman in Kyoya’s life. When Erika suddenly stops by his apartment one night to confess properly, Erika is in a very emotionally malleable state, and Kyoya…well, he’s just had a visit from a pretty lady with whom I’m sure he demanded the least emotional connection possible. And yet the timing feels right.

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I always appreciate a guy or girl with guts who confesses earlier rather than later, regardless of the consequences or the fact neither they nor I usually like the response, but that’s to be expected: an early confession that ends in rejection or ambiguity usually means the show to follow will be about clearing up the ambiguity, and if and how the initial rejection is ultimately overturned, resulting in romantic victory.

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Make no mistake: Kyoya isn’t questioning Erika’s feelings for him because he doesn’t want them, nor because he doesn’t have the same feelings for her. He’s questioning them because he doesn’t think he deserves them, and probably also fears losing her once he has her. While he’s antagonized and insulted Erika plenty, he’s doing it in hopes of keeping her at a safe distance. The one he’s really torturing is himself. We’ll see how right or wrong I am about all of this in the weeks to come. Until then, great progress was made here.

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P.S. The peppy ending theme, “Wolf Heart” by Oresama, is a toe-tappingly fun, well-produced, and addictive piece of pop that’s also a nice salve for the sting of that failed confession.

 

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 02

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Pretending to be dating the school Prince has its benefits, like when Sata comes with an umbrella to take Erika home in front of a jealous Marin and Aki. But its immense costs of the lie are starting to mount, and I’m not just talking about her self-esteem: half of the school is in love with the Prince, and all agreed to a “look but don’t touch” policy to keep the peace.

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Between the resulting abuse from that at the continued humiliations she has to suffer when no one’s looking, from holding his umbrella for him to serving as a shield for car mud, to having to actually fetch a stick, one would imagine Erika is getting tired of this charade, which would mean Sata is winning. Her real friend Sanda tells her to just give it up and find a real boyfriend, or at least look for viable alternatives to the Black Prince, or otherwise quit griping.

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Erika for her part is aware of the shabby treatment she’s enduring, but part of her sees it as a battle of wills: she knows Sata is going the extra mile to torture her, and she’s not going to surrender so easily. Sanda perhaps rightfully sees it as simple masochism on Erika’s part, but she doesn’t actually enjoy being treated like this. She’d like a little romance, like the kind she still sees in Marin and Aki’s relationships. (For all we know, they’re both lying too!)

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She finally experiences some, or at least a very realistic simulation of it, in her interactions with Kimura, after surveying the field of guys and finding them lacking (an amusing mini-montage). Because Erika hasn’t so much as fallen for a guy before, she’s particularly vulnerable to deception, and Kimura fools her hook line and sinker, along with us, right up until she admits to him she’s not really Sata’s girlfriend.

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Since the whole point of Kimura being nice to her was to steal her from Sata for revenge, he drops the act like the flipping of a switch, even rubbing it in what a cheap moron she is for falling for his ploy. That’s when Sata reveals he’s been stalking them the whole time (!) and despite saying he hates violence, clocks Kimura. While he’d never admit it, Kimura did succeed in making Sata jealous.

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This is where the show makes the argument that despite the fact both guys objectify and use Erika by exploiting the weaknesses in her personality, Sata is the lesser of two evils…and in this, it mostly succeeds. Sata, after all, doesn’t seem to be maintaining the boyfriend fiction for any ulterior motive I’m aware of; his behavior towards Erika is a lot more sincere, even if he does code it with unfortunate pet dog references.

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There’s also the notion floating around that while Kimura hurts Erika for no real reason other than spiting Sata, Sata’s dog-and-master act seems to come from a buried desire to reform Erika. He’s not saying it, but his actions scream “Things don’t have to be this ridiculous. If you don’t like the way things are between us, you have the power to change it. His latest heroics have her heart starting to skip for him; will she garner the will to abandon her lies and games?

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It still seems there’s a legitimate risk in doing that, as Marin and Aki would surely not take kindly to learning she lied (again, even if they’re lying too) and she’d still have the scorn of every girl who likes Sata. And even after all that, Sata might reject her, like he rejects all girls. The risk is acceptable, and preferable to continuing to maintain falsehoods that open her up to intentionally shabby, degrading treatment. But that doesn’t make Erika’s choice any easier.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 01

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I went into this show extremely suspicious from what I’d initially gathered about it: a guy treating a girl like a dog just isn’t something that appeals to me as as source of entertainment. After this episode, this is still the case, but at least the show is quite clear about Shinohara Erika’s unfortunate situation being entirely of her making, and it’s up to her to get out of it, not anyone else. It’s your typical pride-vs-appearance tug-of-war, and so far, pride is losing out.

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Sure, getting to school late on the first day is rough, because everyone’s already split up into groups. But building an empty relationship based upon lies to ingratiate oneself with vapid self-involved girls in the back of the classroom just makes things worse. Like Futaba in Ao Haru Ride, she doesn’t really gain anything from pretending to be friends with them, aside from the appearance that she’s not alone when she really is.

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Marin and Aki don’t really give a shit about Erika, regardless of whether she’s banging a model. Even when Erika has Sata Kyouya playing along, the only reaction she gets out of them is relative indifference, followed by mild irritation, since the rest of the school thinks he’s such hot stuff. And the cost of this farce is far too high. At this early stage in her high school life, it would be better to come clean, but she’s not going to do that.

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So as I said, the titular situation, in which she must serve as Kyouya’s dog, is entirely of her making. She got him involved in her web of lies, and he’s perfectly willing to help keep those lies going for her, as long as she’s willing to completely humiliate herself. But a part of him obviously cares about Erika beyond “killing time”, so it seems he’s making things hard on her because he hopes she’ll eventually stop with the lies. She has the power to stop being a dog. Will she get the picture? Ehh…I’m not sure I care.

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