Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 06 – Countdown to Farewell

If it hits you you die

The first segment of the episode makes it clear this will be an episode about what kind of future Miyuki and Kaguya want, and how to get there. While Kaguya’s parents do not attend her parent-teacher conference, she has the good fortune of relying on both Miyuki’s dad (who already considers her a daughter) and Ai’s mom (whom Ai clearly worships) as “honorary parents”.

Not only is Ai a mama’s girl, but shares mom’s twisted personality. But things get more serious as the sun drops during the actual conference. Kaguya doesn’t really have anything to say about what she wants for the future; she’s probably just going to do what her parents—her real, absent parents—tell her to do. That means advancing to the university to which Shuchiin High is affiliated.

Miyuki, however has different goals. He’s determined that his future involves moving on from Shuchiin and going to college five thousand miles away at Stanford. He seems resigned to the fact this means No More Kaguya, so he declares to us, the audience, that all Kaguya has to do to “win” their long and harrowing battle is to not confess to him by the cultural festival.

At that point, he vows to confess to her, so they can at least date for the few high school days they have left before parting, possibly forever. But if the gauntlet has been thrown only in his head—where no one but the audience sees it—has it truly been thrown?

Conducive to Confession

Miyuki knows he has his work cut out for him to compel Kaguya into a confession before the culture fest; despite his best efforts he’s been frustrated by failure just as she has for lo these many years. At this desperate time, he decides asking Kaguya out isn’t tantamount to a love confession…so he asks her to join him to scout another school’s festival.

The only problem is, Kaguya doesn’t realize he’s asked her out until she’s already casually declined. Because Ai isn’t Doraemon and cannot manipulate the space-time continuum, she suggests that a distraught Kaguya summon the same courage Miyuki did and ask him out.

And she does! Kaguya employs her calming ritual, then tells Miyuki she’s changed her mind. Unfortunately, she says more words that muddy the waters, causing Miyuki to question whether she means for him to go alone. Having already expended all their courage and arrived at a stalemate, they rely on the other council members to pop in and give them the boost they need to make that one tiny final step towards arranging a date together.

Alas, Yuu, Miko and Chika only make matters worse; Yuu by laughing at the fact he witnessed a guy asking a girl to the culture fest in the hall; Yuu for bringing her disciplinary sensibility to the same event, and finally Chika saying Kaguya definitely shouldn’t go because she’ll get hit on too much. Kaguya seemingly breaks through the fog by suggesting a male accompany her, but that somehow turns into Yuu going with Miyuki. The boys have fun, but Miyuki and Kaguya both definitely lose, and not for want of trying!

Tofu EgO DEATH

While observing Chika transferring a guitar song from one musical scale to another, Miyuki considers every high schooler’s dream of rocking out on stage, something Chika immediately shoots down on account of her considerable experience with Miyuki’s artistic pursuits, and begs him to look at himself more objectively.

Miyuki takes Chika’s advice by starting from a place of wanting to know what women think about him, starting with Miko. Unfortunately, it’s all staged and phrased like a confession to her, which she’s actually flattered by until he pulls an identical act on Chika, who clears things up with Iino.

Thus Miyuki endures an onslaught of shit-talking, as Miko admits that looks-wise he’s not her type, and that she’d prefer the kind of ideal prince of a man that may not even exist. Chika admits that the president actually is more or less her type as someone who is always rising to the challenge in a “single-minded, unbecoming way.”

But since she’s just realizing this and also knows of all of Miyuki’s glaring flaws, she takes said realization as a major blow to her ego, which of course continues to eat away at Miyuki’s. Due to Chika’s penchant for turning discussions into “strange events”, the office is filled with a fog of glumness as Miyuki concludes he’s simply a worthless person no one would consider confessing to.

That is, until his soul mate enters the room, is brought up to speed about the legal insulting session, and asked what she’d change about Miyuki. As we know from her little heart incident at the hospital last season, we know Kaguya already considers the president “an ideal human being”. So her answer—Miyuki is fine the way he is. No notes!—comes as no surprise.

His confidence, recently sloughed away like Mars’ atmosphere by the unintentional roast with Chika and Miko, is instantly, fully restored. Such is the power of the one you love saying exactly what needed to hear, when you needed to hear it. Someone who doesn’t overlook your flaws, but cherishes them along with your merits.

Frankly, if Miyuki was being mature about this, the cultural festival is too late; he should simply confess to her now and get it over with. I’m sure he won’t, but while his Stanford declaration has seemingly placed a ticking clock on their relationship, one can’t rule out that she will confess to him at some point, or may even follow him to Stanford.

The important thing is that at the halfway point of what may well be Love is War’s final season, they’re not out of options yet.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 05 – The Truth Is Revealed

Smells Like Teen Spirit of Expression

Oh, my sweet summer child…you didn’t perchance think Miyuki’s rapping was never going to addressed, did you? It all starts when Kei calls Chika asking her big sis to murder her brother. Turns out he’s been practicing at home. When Miyuki tells her there’s no other way to convey his feelings to a certain someone, she’s eager to help him out, just as she did with his anthem singing.

Alas, not only is Chika not remotely inoculated against the scourge of Miyuki’s sea sluggish rhymes, she’s not that strong a rapper herself in the first place, having never really done it before. Still, she stands by the axiom that it’s not how you express something that’s important, it’s what and to whom. Miyuki sets her straight: rap is both a sport and an art, but most of all, it’s a conversation.

Chika’s first attempt at rapping is like watching a baby deer take its first wobbly tentative steps. But once she locks in on the fact that rapping and piano are not that different, she starts to put out something that does more than just bear a passing resemblance to rap. No sooner does Miyuki tell her he has nothing left to teach her, he proceeds to ask her to teach him how to rap. The teacher hath become the student…

Straight Outta Chiba

It isn’t until their training is nearly complete that Chika bothers to ask whether the person Miyuki needs to rap to is someone she knows. He says she does, and we flash back to that karaoke box, where we learn Ai actually opened up to him (presumably before the rapping) about who she is, what she does, and who she works for.

As a fellow commoner who can empathize with what Ai must be going through, Miyuki embraces her as a friend and gives her his number. He uses it to invite Ai to Chiba Park where he has something he wants to tell her. As Kaguya eavesdrops on her employee-sister’s call, she tags along, while Chika is eager for some BL action, believing Herthaka to be a male butler.

With Chika backing him up, Miyuki spits out his feelings, which challenge Ai’s belief that one needs to put on an act in order to be loved. This rapping Miyuki is being his own best self, and sees no reason why she can’t be hers too.

When Kaguya feels confused, lost, and left out, she eventually cut loose with the illest rhymes of the group, on her first try no less! Then she gets cocky and puts Ai on blast, provoking Ai into delivering her own freestyle rap. As with Miyuki and Chika’s raps, Ai’s is accompanied by music-video style dramatizations.

Ai finally comes out as being jealous of Kaguya enjoying her life as a teenager, with all its highs and lows. She wants a friend in Miyuki…with the option to possibly steal him from Kaguya in the future.

They’re in Nirvana…Never Mind

The final segment somewhat surprisingly does not involve rapping, but is the second of Shijou Maki’s visits that put the council in “student” council. She’s joined the volunteer club at Nagisa’s behest…a club that includes just her, Nagisa, and Nagisa’s boyfriend, whom we finally learn after three seasons is named Tsubasa.

Unaware of Maki’s feelings for Tsubasa, Nagisa is transparently lovey-dovey with him around her. As such, she’s come to think of Nagisa as the devil. Yuu and Miyuki warn her that as the couple is in “nirvana”, breaking them up will be nigh impossible. Maki, as innocent as her cousin, is unaware that the Nirvana they speak of pertains to Nagisa and Tsubasa having knocked boots.

In the end, Maki doesn’t get any useful advice other than the kind that is no longer useful: love is all about speed. Once you know you love someone, it’s imperative to confess to them ASAP, lest they get stolen away, as Tsubasa was. Miyuki, exhibiting the same self-awareness as Kaguya did last week, warns her waiting for the other person to confess is just a passive way to save face.

But Maki’s visit isn’t a waste. She can take some solace in commiserating with and warning these boys not to follow her down the path of inaction. Miyuki envisions Yuu with Kaguya and Yuu envisions Miyuki with Tsubame, and they can feel a glimmer of what Maki feels in reality. So the StuCo office will always be open to her, whenever it gets too hard watching Nirvana from the outside.

P.S. There’s a new ED involving the gang rapping and breakdancing on stage. It’s awesome and features some pretty slick animation (as well as more “serious” character design of the characters) and better rapping than any of the raps in the actual episode. Like the Starship Troopers ED, it also ends with a sweet moment of togetherness with Miyuki and Kaguya.

 

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 04 – The Eyes that Propelled Him

YUU CAN’T DIE

No sooner is Yuu shooting death lasers at Kashiwagi and her bae once they leave the office and talking about how students should be focused on their studies (stated while playing video games) than he’s melting into a puddle of goo when his crush, third-year Koyasu Tsubame stops by to drop off some foreshadowing…er, an application for the upcoming cultural festival.

I’m pleased as punch Tsubame is back, she and Yuu had great chemistry, and it was only near the end of that momentous sports fest arc that we even saw her eyes. But is Yuu simply infatuated with her because she’s nice to him, or does he have an actual chance? Ever the pessimist, he’s certain it’s the latter.

Kaguya won’t suffer Yuu’s moping about what can and can’t be done; she’s been in a slog of a romantic stalemate with her crush for over two damn cours, it’s as much sage advice as a warning that it’s best to come out and confess sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, Yuu’s “innate creepiness” has him imagining a flower-a-day at Tsubame’s desk or an album of himself with a note are good ways to do it.

Kaguya, as inept as she’d been with her own romance, continues to prove her value as an advisor to Yuu, steering him away from certain disaster and putting him on a long but doable path to not only making his feelings known to Tsubame, but realizing his potential to be someone Tsubame likes.

Since Yuu is neither strong, rich, or popular, Kaguya sends him on the path of academic achievement, assisting him in studying for the lofty goal of scoring in the top 50 of his grade in the upcoming exams. The next segment is tied to the first, as each of the other four StuCo members agree with Miyuki’s suggestion that they go on hiatus so that everyone can study from home.

Everyone is hiding ulterior motives (and A-1 faces): Miyuki can’t study in the office because he’s too distracted by Kaguya’s beauty; Kaguya can’t study at home because she’s too distracted by her new smartphone; Iino, like Miyuki, wants to keep her #1 ranking, and Chika…Chika already gets double allowance so she stands to lose the least here.

As for Yuu? No lies and no face; he’s already hard at work studying at home. But when the exams come and go and the rankings are posted, he doesn’t make it to the Top 50. Kaguya suspects he rose about 20 spots from his  previous position near the bottom of his class. A tremendous improvement, but also a crushing defeat too.

Yuu pretends he’s not bitter about it to Kaguya and shuffles off to the boy’s room to stew in abject bitterness. Fortunately, Kaguya didn’t buy his act, and brazenly violates the bathroom rule to confirm that, indeed, Yuu is super pissed-off, and that he’ll take this small step forward as merely the loss of a battle for which expectations were naturally high. If love is war, losing this first battle can, and must, motivate him to keep fighting on.

Super Butler Herthaka-kun

With the show showering so much darma and character love on Yuu, who now has two potential love interests (like Miyuki with Kaguya and Ai), Chika is now, by default, the least developed and most mysterious member of the StuCo. Maybe that’s on purpose due to her simplistic nature, but one wonders if there will be room for her to have a major character-defining arc this season.

For now, she presents an open dinner invitation to Kaguya, Miyuki, and Kei in appreciation for their help and friendship. With exams out of the way, Kaguya is pumped up for a dinner party and sleepover, if for no other reason than the opportunity for Miyuki to nod off on her shoulder. She wants to do it that night, but Chika’s dad is out of town.

Chika suggests an alternate site for the sleepover: Kaguya’s place! There, Chika is met by “Herthaka-kun”, Ai’s…(deep breath) gay-male-crybaby-war orphan-Harvard graduate butler persona. While Kaguya scolds Ai for weaving such rococo lies, Chika simply stands in awe of “Super Butler Herthaka-kun”…yet another potentially awesome Kaguya spin-off.

Kaguya and Chika proceed to have a lovely girls night together, and while Miyuki and Kei can’t make it to the sleepover, they are offered a window into it when Chika calls him up. She’s able to do this not only without Kaguya’s objection but her encouragement because Kaguya rarely stays up past 11, and Chika’s prattle has now kept her up past midnight.

This has the effect of rendering Kaguya into a state not dissimilar from drunkenness, where her usual inhibitions drop and her judgment is compromised. She’s in full Go-with-the-Flow Mode, so Chika FaceTimes Miyuki and asks him straight-up if he’s in love with someone.

Kei happens to be in the room when Miyuki receives the call, and becomes fully engaged in the conversation when she spots Kaguya and Chika-nee on his screen. After adorably picking up the place even though they’re not there, Kei confirms to Chika that her brother is definitely in love, because he’s always LINEing with “someone named “Herthaka.”

When Chika hears this name, and she turns to face Herthaka-kun the butler, who is presently texting, her nose bleeds and she excuses herself from the segment.

That leaves Kaguya and Miyuki on the call together. Kaguya sleepily declares her furiousness at him right now for sending texts to someone else, but says she’ll forgive him if he tells her who he’s in love with. When he hesitates, she says she’ll go first…only to fall asleep before saying the name.

Miyuki is left with female Herthaka on his screen telling him Kaguya is asleep and she’s hanging up, but not before Kei gets a good look at the girl her bro is apparently courting. Kaguya wins the round because despite her fatigue she doesn’t let slip who she loves, but in my book both she and Miyuki lose the round because they’re still stuck in an endless slog.

Maybe the cultural festival will progress things further. I’m not saying I need a confession from either or both of them for this season to be a success—it’s the ride, not the destination that counts, and this is the Rolls-Royce of rides—but it would be nice for these two to join Takagi and Nishikata in the “Official-At-Last” corner.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 10 – A Better Snowman

Dang photo bombers…your ruining the shot!

Knowing it would be hard-pressed to top last week’s full-length Takagi x Nishikata wonder-date, this week’s episode doesn’t bother; instead it returns to the warm, cozy, less dramatic flow of the couple’s interactions. Last week wasn’t an official acknowledgment that they’re dating now, but such a formality isn’t needed with these two. They’re fine just existing beside one another, fitting like, well, gloves!

To whit: the two didn’t plan to meet at the shrine visit; their families just happened to come at the same time. It sure looks like those two married couples were their parents, doesn’t it? I feel like at some point they’ll have to meet each other’s parents, but that they don’t mean we get more time with these two. hen Takagi is called back to her folks, Nishikata says they should do it again next year…which she says happened to be her shrine wish. Who’s to say it wasn’t?

Yes, that’s right…make that ball bigger…

The next segment is classic Master Teaser, with Takagi up to her old tricks in cornering Nishikata into a snowman-building contest knowing full well that he’ll get to ambitious. While he’s sweatily rolling dirty lumpen mounds trying to build a Snow Titan, Takagi puts a lot of time and care and quite effortlessly builds the cutest lil’ snowman in all the land…so cute Nishikata doubts he’d have won. even if he’d finished…which Takagi helps him do.

NGL, from a distance this looks like a confession…

After Nishikata’s friends and the three girls have their little mini-scenes talking about the new year, we come to “Advice”, when Houjou takes Nishikata aside and asks him what he thinks Hamaguchi might like for his birthday. Yuuki Aoi is masterful at sounding both mature and incredibly hot-and-cold. For his part, Nishikata is both thoughtful and helpful. Then Houjou asks him to keep their chat a secret.

Little did Nishikata know that Takagi spotted him talking with Houjou, and asks him what about. When Nishikata demurs, she guesses correctly on the first guess, and pretty much knows, but Nishikata still won’t break his secret. Takagi’s facial expressions are so subtle here, but you can tell she’s a little mad Nishikata is keeping something from her…even if she knows what it is with 99.99% certainty!

Takagi expresses her jealousy by trying to stoke Nishikata’s, saying she wants to know what to get a “15-year-old boy”—not a Chihuahua, but a third-year middle schooler. This does affect Nishikata, who doesn’t want to give advice for some other guy…even though these two spend so much time together he would know of such a guy!

Of course, this time, Takagi is referring to Nishikata on his next birthday. He’s quite relieved, and apologizes for not being able to break his promise. Takagi apologizes too, owning up to the fact she did do something a little mean. When Nishikata asks her why she doesn’t always think that, she says this and her usual gentle teasing are two different things!

When Nishikata flat-out asks Takagi why she teases him, her answer is as expected…“Who knows?” But she knows, and so does Nishikata, and it’s the same reason they’re already making plans for spending next year together.

Shin no Nakama – 03 – Off the Path of Blood, On the Path of…COOKIEEES!!!

This week’s Shin no Nakama takes place entirely in the present day, but it doesn’t get off to a strong start when Red (and the camera) gazes a bit too long on Rit’s bazongas spilling forth from her ‘jammies. I mean for real, I thought my player had frozen! Fortunately, the rest of the episode is a lot less leery.

I have a bit of a problem with how easily Red ended up living with a literal warrior princess who has basically already made it quite clear she loves the guy. Heck, you can love whoever you want for whatever reason, but Red didn’t really do anything to engender such undying love from Rit. The flashback ep help explain their friendship, but not their sudden fauxmance.

Despite this, I can’t help but love watching these too together. Whether Red is helping Tanta’s friend Al after a bullying incident, to simple scenes of Red and Rit having meals or enjoying his new nutritional biscuits, the two just work well together. There’s a difference between their mutual bashfulness around each other and outright pretending they don’t feel something for one another. Shin no Nakama exploits that intermediate space with aplomb.

Other than the morning pop-out, the episode doesn’t go in lame or predictable directions like Rit being awful at tending a shop (or cooking), or Red being pervy. Instead, when he lifts Rit up and spins her around, there’s a genuine innocence to it, along with unbridled joy. And Rit is just as happy to be spun as Red is to spin her. No sudden pull-back shots of the exterior where we hear a scream and a slap!

Also interesting is the brief but increasingly consequential cutaways to the Hero’s Party. As I suspected, the big dude and the knight dudette aren’t happy Ares unilaterally banished Gideon, and when the big dude decides he’s going to go off to find Gideon, he gets Ruti’s blessing. I’m glad the party isn’t just falling into lockstep behind Ares’ conniving, but I also don’t need Red returning to the party. I’m here for the slow life!

Shin no Nakama – 02 – Party of Two

As expected from the spoilery ED, Red doesn’t remain alone in his shop for long, as he’s joined this week by Rizlet of Loggervia, AKA Rit, whom we learn is both a B-rank adventurer and a princess. She took it upon herself to leave her kingdom, lest those who favor her over the crown prince instigate a power struggle.

She’s very happy to have run into Red, an old “comrade” from back when his party crossed paths with her in a pub. A huge chunk of this episode consists of flashbacks to those times, which on the one hand gives the episode a static quality, but on the other, at least shows us who these two people are, through who they once were.

Rit was all gung-ho about fighting on the front lines for her people until she was hoodwinked by a general in the Demon Lord’s Army, who killed her sword shishou and assumed his form. Red (then Gideon) swooped in like a trusty knight to save her, but a lot of people she cared about died, for what she believed to be her mistake.

Rit holes up in her lavish royal bedroom, but Gideon sits beside her and tells her that while he knows she’s afraid of losing more people, he also knows she still wants to fight, and gives her an opportunity to do so. They end up handing the Demon Lord’s Army a satisfying defeat…off-camera. If there’s one thing this somewhat action-packed episode of Shin no Nakama taught me, it’s that it has no business trying to do action—you can actually hear the animation budget creaking and straining.

Fortunately it doesn’t have to lean on that as a strength. Instead, your enjoyment of this episode will depend on how much you buy into Red and Rit’s once-and-future relationship. The two try their damndest not to get too lovey-dovey, but at the end of the day Rit is asking not just to work at Red’s shop but also move in with him, and Red isn’t really putting up much resistance after an initial moment of shock. I enjoyed their chemistry, and the balance of their attraction.

So this episode took a step away from its borderline iyashikei premiere, but in the service of showing us how Red used to be in the party and how Rit used to be before their sudden reunion. I look forward to watching them working and living together. As for the party, the apathetic behavior of two of its members suggets Ares’ move to banish Red was a wholly unilateral one that doesn’t sit well with them.

Kageki Shoujo!! – 13 (Fin) – Stage of Dreams

I heard the music of true forgiveness filling the theater, conferring on all who sat there, perfect absolution. God was singing through this little man to all the world, unstoppable, making my defeat more bitter with every passing bar.—Salieri, Amadeus

When it comes time for Sarasa’s turn at Tybalt, Andou-sensei doesn’t hold back his professional acting background. His Romeo is not just loud and forceful, but loud and forceful in all the right ways, drawing the crowd in, accentuating the most important parts of his soliloquy. It throws Juliet and the Nurse completely off…but not Sarasa.

Sarasa once again remembers when she was waiting for Kouzaburou and heard his master practicing in the next room. Sarasa joined in, as the Living Treasure indulged her desire, just for a few moments, to know what is was to be coached in kabuki projection by a master.

Being taught from such a tender age that acting is “no child’s play”, Sarasa is able to shake off Andou-sensei going full out, Sarasa embraces the Kabuki practice of mie, which basically amounts to focusing the audience on them and only them, and exhibiting how cool they are.

Sarasa’s Tybalt immediately captures the audience with her sudden shock, anger, sadness, and ultimately by letting his revealed true feelings for Juliet soften her performance. It’s the complete package, and it shows that she’s learned how to discern between mimicry and genuine individual performance. She tapped into her natural talent and blossomed before all.

After three agonizing days, the girls finally learn who won which role. Ai loses to Aya, and for a good reason, as her uncle explains: Juliet is simply more in Ayaka’s wheelhouse as an avatar of innocence, while Ai’s performance was a bit too mature. Hearing it logically explained doesn’t make the sting of defeat any easier to endure, however. That said, Ai doesn’t head home, but waits for her friend to learn her fate.

In what seems lke nothing more than another petty fuck you to Sarasa borne out of envy for her talent, Hijiri redirects her to hours of floor cleaning in Risa’s stead. Hijiri seems to be the rep for all of those Kouka students who mutter and whisper to each other in their mutual bitterness and inadequacy.

Ayaka hears that mutering when it’s revealed she’ll be Juliet, including false claims that her family got involved in her being chosen. Kaoru, who lose the role of Romeo to some complete rando (and we never even learned why!), stands up for Aya right there and then, telling the sore losers if they lost to her family they “lost to bread”. She then cries, not for Aya, but for herself, and Aya both thanks her and comforts her with her embrace.

It’s nighttime by the time Sarasa learns she’ll be Tybalt. Ai is struck how differently Sarasa reacts to this compared to how she reacted upon first being admitted to Kouka. No jumping or laughing or yelling, just cool reverent focus at the name on the wall. She stepped out of her comfort zone, embodied a dark villain, and won the day. With so much more to learn, possibilities for her seem endless.

Class Rep Sawa, meanwhile, tries her best to be a gracious loser, legitimately praising Sarasa’s Tybalt, but also going tothe faculty lounge to hear why she didn’t get it. The story of the musical and film Amadeus comes up, and Sawa bitterly admits she always identified with Salieri, who toiled in mediocrity while Mozart ran rings around him out of pure god-given genius.

Andou assures her that most actors are more like Salieri than Mozart, not at the top but always looking upward or outward at those better than them in some way. He also hastens to add that Sarasa did not mop the floor with her; the student vote was a tie, as was the faculty vote, until a single teacherr, Ohgi-sensei, voted for Sarasa out of pure “fangirl appeal.”

Having been so deeply cut by a single piece of paper, Sawa accepts the loss and takes it as a learning experience, as young raw students such as herself must. After all, both she and Sarasa still possess a multitude of shortcomings in their skills that will only be resolved in the terms and years to come, with hard work, practice, and rehearsal.

Sawa’s second-year counterpart Takei tells her in the meantime, the two of them will always be class reps, keeping their peers organized and focused; a crucial role not everyone can play. Sawa finally allows herself to cry, and Takei has a comforting hand for her shoulder.

With the first-year roles for the festival set, rehearsals are scheduled for the four winners before the actual performance. However, first comes an event involving the entire 100th Kouka class: a photo shoot to promote the school and recruit members of the 101st class. With Sarasa at the top and Ai at the heart of their symmetrical formation, they ask those future students to join them on the stage of dreams.

And that’s all we’ve got for Kageki Shoujo!! Sadly, it may end up being all we get, as no second season was announced and by some accounts may be a long shot due to its very specific (and thus not wide-ranging) appeal. The prospect of there being no more Kageki even as we never got to see Sarasa and Ai walk on that Silver Bridge is a bitter and sobering one, but I will hold out stubborn hope this is not the end of their anime journey.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kageki Shoujo!! – 12 – Secret Weapons and the Stingray of Kouka

It’s Yamada Ayako’s turn to audition as Juliet, and especially after Naracchi’s performance she’s bereft of confidence. What can she contribute to her performance to stand out? From where can she draw inspiration? Gradually, as we take a trip down memory lane to her first 3D crush Hirayama, and through a sweet and caring pep talk from Sawa, Aya discovers these things.

There was a girl named Yanou Asuka who seemed to dart from boy to boy, even dating all the members of a band, who then broke up. Despite that rep, Aya wanted to know more about Asuka beneath the surface. So too did Hirayama, becoming the first boy Asuka ever turned down after he friendzoned Aya into oblivion.

Aya later learns that Asuka considers her her only girl friend, and could tell Aya had a crush on Hirayama, hence turning him down for her sake. Asuka doesn’t see anything wrong with Aya swooping in to ask out Hiragama after his heartbreak. But in re=examining their talk on that rooftop before Kouka, Aya comes to realize that at the end of the day, perhaps it was Aya whom Asuka truly loved.

In the present, Sawa’s pep talk about Aya having something special to contribute and being a singularly cute and likable young woman, make her a perefect Juliet; she just needs to stop worrying about failure or coming up short of expectations. Sawa certainly doesn’t do that, as her performance of Tybalt is a masterpiece of bitter rage.

Aya intentionally pauses when it’s Juliet’s turn to react to Tybalt’s death, and Aya breaks out the “secret weapon” her supportive teacher knew she had within her: the ability to sway the audience completely with her warm aura and dynamic voice. It’s jut a powerful and unique performance, Naracchi later walks up and declares her a “worthy rival”…and there’s no higher praise from that one!

That brings us to the last of our main circle of friends’ auditions: Sarasa giving Tybalt another shot, having grown and learned a lot since merely copying a Top Star’s performance previously. Sarasa goes off on her own during lunch, but not to sulk; to drawfrom her life experience, the same way as the other performers.

Sarasa remembers the day after her big Kouka acceptance party being invited to the aquarium by Akiya. She’s so excited she tries to meet up with him early, only for him to text her that he needs another hour. Sarasa ends up eavesdropping on at least part of a conversation between Akiya and Kouzaburou (whom she’s probably not aware is her biological dad).

It’s Kouzaburou who suggests that Akiya make the tranition from childhood friends to dating, in order to better weather the distance between Asakusa and Kobe. Of course, Sarasa’s dad just wants someone to keep in touch with Sarasa and make sure she’s doing okay at Kouka, and he isn’t subtle in warning Akiya that refusing to date Sarasa may affect Kouzaburou’s willingness to influence Kaoh-san’s decision to pick his successor.

When Akiya meets Sarasa at the aquarium, the scene, while beautiful, bathed as it is in blue light, is alos a bit gloomy. Sarasa brightens the scene by describing the sea life before them as reminding her of the Kouka Grand Parade, with the fluttering Stingray as the clear Top Star. That’s who Sarasa is going to strive to be. She declines to go see Akiya perform—her gramps said no mor kabuki—but she’s resolved to make a name for herself in that Grand Parade.

We also learn it’s Sarasa who asks Akiya out, not the other way around, which we should have known considering his tendency to become tentative and get lost in his head, and her forthrightness and ability to break through barriers. Back in the present, she’s where she needs to be emotionally, just in time for Andou-sensei to declare that he will be playing Romeo in her audition as Tybalt. It’s time for the stingray to unfurl its wings.

Kageki Shoujo!! – 11 – Twas Your Face the Light Endow’d

Kouka goes straight from sports festival to cultural festival, and this year the Centennial first-years are once again getting special treatment, as they’ll be taking fifteen minutes of the second-years’ time for the performance of a scene from Romeo & Juliet—the same one Sarasa famously bombed. Andou-sensei says there will be auditions, so the girls will be rivaling one another as they vote for each other.

It’s another one of the unique ways Kouka instructs its young performers-to-be in the theory of their craft as well as encouraging a degree of the toughening needed to survive on the Kouka stage. Everyone up there has to believe they’re the very best. But even though everyone wants to see Sarasa’s Romeo, and Ai points out why she’s perfect for it (while implying she’s “simple”)…Sarasa wants to give Tybalt another try.

Hijiri insists that Ai play the role of Juliet. Even if she rightfully says it’s not a spotlight she’s earned, Hijiri insists that as someone “born pretty” and thus closer to the finish line than others, Ai cannot slack off; she must run as fast as possible to that line, no matter how close it may seem. Her mother also imparted her the wisdom of figuring out how to lose yourself in the role.

One way is by applying some part of your life experience that connects with the role in some way. But Tybalt, whose role comes down to unrequited love of Juliet and jealousy and hatred of Romeo, is proving difficult for Sarasa, who claims (credibly!) to have never hated or held a grudge on anyone, ever. Even so, she starts with the basics of how Tybalt must go through his daily life, and how that life led to his obsession with anger and hatred.

It isn’t working, until that very connection to Sarasa’s life comes into focus and clicks as crisply as a camera shutter. In the common room she and Ai happen to catch a TV interview with Akiya talking about his kabuki and how he was thrust into it by dint of his blood. Seeing Akiya takes Sarasa back to when she was a little kid, and for a moment, she was as jealous of Akiya as Tybalt was jealous of Romeo.

Akiya basically achieved without effort or even passion something she’d always dreamed of achieving. But while Sarasa finally discovers a part of herself she can use to lose herself in the role of Tybalt, it’s Ai’s performance that anchors the final act of the episode.

Everyone thinks she’s being her usual calm, collected, unflappable self when called to be the first Juliet in the auditions (presided upon by the rest of the faculty, not just Andou—a cruel surprise for the girls!) Sarasa, her best friend, knows better, and that Ai’s calm exterior conceals an ever churning storm.

The key is focusing that storm. Fortunately, the Romeo in Ai’s group flubs her lines and has to start from the top, so Ai gets a little extra time in her Space Mind Palace. She’s convinced she’s never known what love is, any more than Sarasa has ever known hatred or jealousy. But we all know one very important exception for Ai, and that’ Sarasa herself.

Romeo was “love at first sight” for Juliet, just as Ai was “friends at first sight” for Sarasa. It took a little longer for AI, but when Sarasa told her about overwriting bad old memories with good new ones, she too knew she had to be friends with this tall girl. Once the joy of becoming friends with her swell up, Ai embodies Juliet herself in the “wherefore” speech, giving her peers, teachers, and me some serious goosebumps.

Bokutachi no Remake – 07 – Noncommittal by Necessity

Rather than being a fifth wheel, Sayuri clings to Tsurayuki during her extended visit while both Shinoaki and Nanako start clinging to Kyouya, no doubt feeding off Sayuri’s romantic vibes. Sayuri doting on Tsurayuki gives them license to dote on Kyouya. But both we and Kyouya soon learn that Tsurayuki just…doesn’t love Sayuri that way.

When not trying to feed Kyouya, Shinoaki is showing him stills of sex scenes then kneeling between his legs to sketch his crotch. When Nanako emerges from her room whining, Kyouya goes in and assures her the digital music she composed will do just fine, and she “recharges” by hugging him tight from behind, not letting him go.

While Kyouya is being an supportive emotional rock to his dormmates, while Sayuri ups her efforts to return home with Tsurayuki in hand by trying to seduce him in a see-through nightie, Kyouya himself finds support and comfort in his café sessions with Eiko.

She must confess she’s impressed not only by the progress he’s made with the game, but in so easily getting Tsurayuki and Shinoaki to change their styles to something more commercial.

But as the game progresses, Kyouya has a very date-like Christmas Eve out in the city with Shinoaki, and the four make a New Years shrine visit where both Aki and Nanako most certainly hope for more progress with Kyouya. Their implicit trust in his producing abilities is turning into a full-on love triangle, with neither girl prepared to lose to the other.

But, again, as Kyouya makes clear to, who else, Eiko: he doesn’t like either of them that way. And that’s okay! Forget about the fact he’s mentally much older than either. Kyouya didn’t get into this to become either Aki or Nanako’s boyfriend; he did it to remake his life.

Even though this past Eiko doesn’t yet have the history and heartbreak they shared in the future, you can just tell by the way she’s his confidant and emotional rock that these two are the superior couple in the long run.

While Eiko would normally call someone being as wishy-washy as Kyouya a scumbag, she sees why he’s doing it, and it’s not just because he’s scared of hurting them. He’s scared of poisoning the group dynamic and ruining the game they’re working so hard to complete by April 29. Eiko’s advice to him is to continue to feign obliviousness…but considering how bold tAki and Nanako are getting, he probably can’t get away with that much longer.

On top of that love triangle, we have Sayuri continuing to disrupt Tsurayuki’s creative flow, her own goal of returning him to the home and life she believes to be good and right for him clashing not only against Kyouya’s goals, but Tsurayuki’s own dreams.

After Tsurayuki finally blows up at Sayuri and she doesn’t come back, she rolls up in her family’s classy Toyota Century (with its towering, intimidating chauffeur), takes him on a ride to the docks, where Kyouya starts getting unhappy mob vibes. Fortunately, Sayuri isn’t there to threaten him.

However, Sayuri has come to suspect that she’s lost her hold on Tsurayuki due to him being in an emotional and physical relationship with Kyouya. Kyouya denies vociferously, but her suspicions aren’t that out of whack. What she’s wrong about is that Kyouya and the others are leading Tsurayuki down a risky path.

Kyouya maks sure Sayuri understands that Tsurayuki is going down his own path, knew the risks from the start, and is doing it anyway. If she sees Kyouya supporting his friend as he walks that path as unwanted encouragement, fine; but Tsurayuki isn’t being manipulated by anyone. He’s doing what he wants to do, and he’s happy.

Thankfully, Sayuri is a grown-up about this and doesn’t force the issue—though she does leave Kyouya stranded at the docks! She bows and asks Kyouya to continue helping Tsu-kun “find happiness”, which is a heartbreaking thing to hear Tsu’s betrothed to say…but again, Tsurayuki never chose Sayuri, she was chosen for him.

By the same token, Kyouya never chose to be caught between Shinoaki and Nanako, while in their own subtle gradual way he and Eiko seem to be choosing one another. The question is, can he stave off the potentially inevitable destruction-by-drama of his group long enough to finish the game? After that, will Kyouya end up losing both Aki and Nanako after making his feelings clear?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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