Classroom of the Elite – S2 07 – Casanova

There’s a changing of the guard at the top of the school pyramid, as Manabu resigns to make way for Nagumo Miyabi of Class 2-A, who intends to turn the school into a true meritocracy.

Meanwhile, Kiyotaka is suddenly Mr. Popular, earning praise (and a warning about Ryuuen) from 1-A’s Katsuragi to being asked out by Satou Maya, who was smitten with his athletic performance. Kiyotaka agrees to an exchange of numbers and a platonic start.

Of course, hot on the heels of the sports fest is the next special test, which is called “Paper Shuffle” and involves everyone being paired off and taking tests with questions prepared from the other classes.

As is typical of CoE the rules are stubbornly labyrinthine, but the Kiyotaka and Suzune agree that the most important aspect of the test is how people will be paired off, which will be chosen by how everyone scores on a mini-test.

Suzune, Kiyotaka, Ken, Kei, and Yousuke meet to talk strategy, and are joined by Kikyou, whose presence Suzune doesn’t protest. Hanging back with Kiyotaka, Suzune tells him that she went to the same middle school as Kikyou, and there were rumors she was singlehandedly responsible for the utter destruction of an entire class.

While Kiyotaka suggests she try to get Kikyou expelled, Suzune still believes there’s a way to make Kikyou their ally. She also makes a point to earnestly thank Kiyotaka, since she knows he was the one who saved her from Ryuuen.

With true villains like Ryuuen stalking about, that’s not an unrealistic hope. He wastes no time outing the Class C traitor, who turns out to be Manabe, a nice connection to a previous special test and the person who more or less brought him and Kei together. Manabe tells Ryuuen that the Class D “mastermind” is either Kiyotaka or Yukimura, the only witnesses to her bullying Kei.

At the cafe, Suzune leads the group in the strategy meeting, proposing that their class be split into four groups based on their academic performance, and for the lower two quarters of the class intentionally get zeros and ones on their mini-tests, so that they’ll be paired with the strongest scores and thus result in a balanced group and minimizing the possibility of any expulsions.

It’s a nifty little plan, and not only does Kiyotaka not involve himself in the meeting, but leaves it all up to Suzune to convince the class, which she does admirably due to her growth in the sports festival softening her edges.

That night, Kei calls Kiyotaka, worried about how things went with him and Satou Maya. He posits that she’s worried he may shirk his responsibility to protect her if he gets close to Maya, but he tells her that they only agreed to exchange numbers for now, and even if it amounted to more, he promises he’ll have her back come what may.

Even though I feel bad for Kei being caught up in Kiyotaka’s web of awfulness, and like Maya I’d strongly suggests not harboring a crush on him, I’m also just glad that she feels happy and safe, and equally certain Kiyotaka is a man of his word when it comes to protecting her. He doesn’t even add “so long as you keep doing as I say”.

Unfortunately for Kei, Kiyotaka ends up being paired up with Maya for the Paper Shuffle, while Suzune ends up with Ken (no surprise there). Everything’s going according to plan so far, but the threat of Ryuuen looms, as does Kikyou’s assertion that expelling Suzune and Kiyotaka is a higher priority than rising to Class A. I certainly hope Suzune makes strides in her peace talks.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 07 – Kamiya-san Is Curious

The studio had an Izumi-style run of luck, enduring a Covid outbreak that delayed the episode, but Shikimori picks up without missing a beat, as the school culture fest commences. Last year Izumi and Shikimori had the same duties, but this time they’re separated as their class runs an animal-themed café.

Still, it doesn’t take long for them to come together as Izumi inevitably slips on a napkin and the Shikimori the bunny has to save Izumi the lion. While walking home after a busy first day, the two commit to spending the afternoon of the second day together.

It has to be the afternoon because both of them are busy in the morning: Shikimori with the café, and Izumi on library duty. He’s relieved to learn that his partner isn’t a stranger, but Kamiya, who has always been friendly and kind to him in their past library duty interactions.

As we enter the cultural festival stage of many anime series this season, Kamiya seems aware of the “magic” that leads to a surge of new couples. She’s uncharacteristically restless, and even delivers a wall slam to Izumi as she brings up his girlfriend Shikimori and wants to know how they met.

Izumi, who quite incorrectly assumes Kamiya likes Shikimori, obliges, telling her they got together thanks to that same culture fest magic. Last year, the numbers they got at the entrance matched, which was a rare fortunate moment for Izumi, as he had planned to ask her out during the festival.

After walking around and enjoying the festival in the clouds, when the time comes to take their photo (which legend has it bonds the matched couples together forever) Izumi loses his number. But Shikimori won’t let him give up, so they look for it. They come up empty, but put up a passionate united front in insisting the president let them have their picture taken anyway. The Prez can tell these two are keepers, and gives an exception.

The rest is history: Izumi asks Shikimori out behind the gym, and Shikimori’s response is a gorgeous, passionate embrace. Back in the library, Izumi apologizes for rambling on, but Kamiya is well and truly moved, striking an elegant pose that conceals what must be pained eyes.

While we’ve seen very little Kamiya so far, it’s been clear through her subtle glances at Izumi that she likes the guy, always has, and rues the fact she missed her chance. As amazing as Kamiya acknowledges Shikimori to be, she’s clearly frustrated Shikimori beat her to the punch.

It helps that Kamiya is an instantly likeable character, statuesque and noble and popular with both guys and girls, but not afraid to show another side to Izumi. Fukuhara Ayaka also lends her a wonderfully husky voice that’s lower than Izumi’s. We’ll see where this triangle goes as the festival continues.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 06 – There’s Always This Year

Izumi is still recovering from the sunburn he incurred at the river, but he’s still not missing the fireworks festival for the world. Shikimori says yes before he can even ask her to join him, and to his credit he doesn’t invite their other friends; this is a Capital-D date. Turns out Shikimori gets a little tangled up with her obi, but her brother helps her out. It’s a side of her we don’t often see.

Izumi comes fully prepared for a number of potential mishaps (including three separate wallets!) but nothing goes wrong as he gets to behold Shikimori in all her majestic pink glory. They take in the sights, and Izumi gets some cotton candy. It’s a bit too sweet for Shikimori, but she’s come around on sweet things since she and Izumi started dating.

When Izumi tries and fails to win a wolf plushie for Shikimori, she takes the rifle and vows to give it a try, engendering a chuckle from the attendant. She quickly avails him of his sexist belief by flashing the eyes of a huntress and shooting not only the wolf but everything else on the shelves. Her serious look is followed up by one of her biggest, sweetest smiles.

After spending a bit (but not too much) time with Neko, Inu, and Yui, misfortune strikes, but it’s Shikimori, not Izumi, on the receiving end: the strap of her sandal breaks. Izumi is able to fix it, but her feet end up covered in blisters. Izumi admits he wanted to take her somewhere special to view the fireworks, but it’s a bit of a walk and he doesn’t want her walking anymore. So he stoops down and tells her to hop on his back.

That’s right: Izumi may not look it but he’s pretty strong; certainly strong enough to carry his squeeze the required distance to the secluded spot. Shikimori is initially worried she’ll “snap him in two”, but she’s not as heavy as she thinks, nor is Izumi as weak as she thought. It’s a wonderful reversal for a show that so far has Shikimori providing most of the muscle. Izumi is unlucky, but not inept, and quite capable when it counts.

Sure enough, they’re all alone up at the top of the shrine grounds, and have a seat at a bench perfectly positioned for viewing the remainder of the fireworks. Shikimori has never seen them live, and Izumi admits that last year he was to scared to ask her to see them.

They were just friends at the time, and he was worried it would ruin what they had. Turns out Shikimori was waiting that whole night for him to call and invite her! But it doesn’t matter whether they didn’t go together last year. They’re there now, together, and they’ll be back next year.

As for the long walk back down those steps, Izumi doesn’t get far without slipping and falling with Shikimori on his back. Fortunately, his very stealthy dad swoops in Shikimori-style to save them both. Turns out Izumi’s folks came to the same spot to view the fireworks, and were sitting on a blanket just behind the lovebirds. Izumi’s dad was once strong enough to carry four people according to his mom, so he and Shikimori are no problem.

All in all, it’s another solid, sweet outing for our purple-and-pink-haired power duo. I feel an opportunity was missed for a kiss, or transition to a first-name-basis, but it was otherwise such a lovely time I really didn’t mind.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 08 – 415 Steps

“Side Trip, Pts. 1-4” involves three different couples and the three girls climbing the 415 Steps to a shrine and a commanding view of the ocean. Nishikata climbs the steps with Takagi, chatting the whole time, hoping he’ll win the contest of guessing the number of steps. But Takagi already knows the exact number, because these steps are famous.

Specifically, they’re famous for having romantic powers, as the characters for “415” can be read as “sweet love”. Nishikata may not have known that, but after the school roof segment he’s shown a knack for accidentally picking super-romantic spots. Next up are Houjou and Hamaguchi, an example of a couple that aren’t quite there yet.

Contrast that with the most lovable couple after the main one, Mano and Nakai, who are so damn cute precisely because they have long been extremely upfront and honest about their feelings for each other. When Nakai refuses to write her name in the book (which means you’ll be with that person forever) it’s only because he’s already written it there!

Naturally the girls join in, and since Yukari knows the meaning of the steps, she assumes Mina and Sanae have both found lovers. In reality, Sanae wanted to run up a long stair, and Mina wanted some sunset selfies. Yukari may not yet be able to gossip with her girlfriends about guys, but she definitely wants to go back there with her future guy.

The episode shifts to something completely different: Nishikata joining Takagi at a book and video store…remember those? Takagi notices a magazine touting the upcoming 100% Unrequited Love movie, as well as a “special gift for couples,” only available Christmas Eve an Christmas. When the two agree to rent DVDs for each other to watch, Takagi initially looks at scary horror movies, but one look at Takagi and he picks a movie he’d actually want her to see (a sci-fi western).

Since he owes her a reward for winning their last contest, Takagi almost asks Nishikata for something. I’m pretty sure she means to ask him out to the Christmas movie for couples. But she can’t do it, instead suggesting they each rent a second DVD for each other. After they part ways for the day, we get a rare moment with Takagi’s thoughts, as she curses herself for not having the courage to make use of all the opportunities.

Considering Nishikata’s density, Takagi has nothing to be ashamed about, especially since she manages to get her message to Nishikata anywhay through the power of LINE. As he’s sobbing over the credits of the action drama she picked for him (being good at picking movies is yet another Takagi skill), she sends him a pic of the 100% UL movie, and asks, simply, “How about it?”

Nishikata doesn’t hesitate in his reply: “I would appreciate if you’d go with me.” And just like that, their next date is set—and it should be a damned good one!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Senpai is Annoying – 02 – Largesse Oblige

It’s interesting to think there’s a symbolism to her tininess beyond simple novelty. At her point in her life, just starting out on those bottom rungs of the Ladder of Adulthood, it’s easy to feel as insignificant as a water flea sometimes. Fortunately Futaba’s work environment isn’t a toxic one, and she’s got a big ally in her senpai.

When their chief sees that Futaba wants to go to lunch with Takeda, he cancels his plans with him, and they can finally clear the air. Takeda tells Futaba not to worry about what she said about wanting to be his wife; it was the liquor talking, and it’s a senpai’s job to look after his drunk kouhai.

But while Futaba is glad her comment didn’t give him their wrong idea, the underlying frustration is that it’s not entirely the wrong idea! Futaba doesn’t like the idea of Takeda not seeing her as a real woman, and even uses the “kouhai” label to avoid confronting that inherent tension.

Futaba’s self-consciousness the kind of attention she wants from Takeda versus finding the guy hella annoying is contrasted with the fact her co-worker Sakurai Touko (Hayami Saori), who gets too much of the wrong attention for her physique and turns down any guy who tries to ask her out…except for Kazama, who has never asked her out.

Futaba’s bust envy is compounded when she meets her sporty friend Natsumi in the park for a shopping trip. Futaba can feel all of the eyes on Natsumi in the park while she’s utterly ignored, or otherwise considered a child. That said, Futaba doesn’t take it out on her friend, and the two end up having a great time.

Then Futaba gets her hands on a pair of free bear buns, then slips into the changing room to try them on for size. She immediately likes how “ladylike” she looks, only for Natsumi to peek in and take a photo or two for her own enjoyment.

The incident throws Futaba off to the extent that she forgets to remove her chest padding before boarding the train home, and ends up running into Takeda and Kazama. Futaba is again disappointed that even when Takeda sees her, he doesn’t seem to even notice her bigger bust. We learn later when Kazama asks him about it that Futaba truly didn’t see anything different about her.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about her; just that different people have different priorities. Futaba’s heart was in the right place all along as he managed to catch a creep taking upskirt shots of her. He gives the guy a judo throw when he tries to put up a fight, then leaves him to the cops. Futaba is buoyed by the knowledge her senpai truly does care about her, whether or not he sees her as a real woman, which…the jury’s honestly still out!

Something for which the jury’s verdict is already in is the budding relationship between Sakurai and Kazama, which started with him giving her a “wrong number call” to get her away from another co-worker asking her out. He’s super shy and coy about it, but she knows what he did, and has possibly been turning all the other guys down because she likes Kazama.

In any case, Sakurai is the one to ask Kazama out to dinner, and he’s not stupid enough decline. While bust comparison is one of the oldest and most played-out bits in all animedom, this show managed to make a go of it with its thoroughly charming characters…not to mention above-average animation with a great face game and subtle, lovingly rendered gestures.

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.

Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun – 07 – Fall Today, Rise Tomorrow

It’s time for the campaign speeches, and Hinami controls the crowd as expected. Mimimi and Tomozaki are all ready to hit their key demographics when Hinami suddenly steals all their thunder by promising not only an electric ball pump, but A/C for every classroom.

Tomozaki knows they’ve been outmaneuvered by NO NAME, but Yumi and Mimimi still head out there and do their best, with Tomozaki rigging a Siri-like digital assistant that Mimimi can riff off of in order to amuse the crowd. Mimimi steps away from the podium and leaps into her “Brain’s” arms, feeling really good about her chances.

And then, Hinami proceeds to absolutely obliterate her at the polls, 416-131. That’s like a “U.S. House vote declaring puppies are cute” kind of landslide! It again underscores the yawning chasm between first and second place. Tomozaki joins Mimimi for a commiseratory rooftop visit, but Mimimi maintains an “I’ll get her next time” attitude.

Tomozaki isn’t sure whether Mimimi’s putting on a brave face, but at their next debriefing, Hinami expresses her surprise and pride in Tomozaki’s tactics, even if they were ultimately unsuccessful. Here I was ready for Hinami to be cut down to size, but instead her arrogance is rewarded with an easy and convincing win.

She immediately shifts back into helping-Tomozaki mode, presenting him with the task of asking Fuuka (remember her?) out to a movie. It’s a brief scene, and Fuuka already knows the theater where the movie is playing, but to Tomozaki’s credit he fights through the blushing, maintains eye contact, and asks Fuuka out, and she immediately accepts.

That could be one hell of a lovely date to watch, especially as Tomozaki has found he legitimately likes the Andi novels Fuuka loves, and thus will have plenty to talk about. That is…if he doesn’t stand Fuuka up due to an issue arising with Mimimi; namely that she isn’t able to give up trying to beat Hinami.

Aside from her real talk at the playground last week, Mimimi hasn’t really expressed what she really thinks, but it’s obvious she wasn’t prepared to be beaten as soundly as she was in the election, so acting like nothing’s wrong and working herself to the bone is concerning, not just to Tomozaki, but to her friend Tama.

While they watch Hinami and Mimimi practice around the track, Tama tells Tomozaki how Mimimi went to Hinami for advice on how to best approach Tama, back in first year when Tama had no friends. Hinami’s advice was for Mimimi to approach Tama a little bit at a time, even if it was just playfully poking her face.

After school and practice Tomozaki joins the three girls for a trip to the konbini, where they enjoy their usual dynamic. But then episode ends with the foreboding words “But the next day, Mimimi wasn’t quite herself.” I’m curious to see if Tomozaki can apply what he’s learned to “rescue” Mimimi the way she rescued Tama. I’m also preemptively preparing myself emotionally for the possibility that he’ll stand up Fuuka!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Horimiya – 01 (First Impressions) – Not Just Being Nice

What if there was a rom-com airing concurrently with Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki that dispenses with game metaphors and excessively stylized conceits, and was instead just the simple story of two seemingly different but fundamentally decent classmates meeting outside of school and organically becoming fond of each other’s company?

That, friends, is Horimiya, AKA Hori-san to Miyamura-kun, and I won’t mince words: I found it excellent. It also reminded me of the very first rom-com anime I ever watched, Gainax’s 1997 Kare Kano…not a bad thing at all. It is simply, earnestly written, beautifully animated, and just all around a sweet ol’ time. It’s shows like this that are why I watch anime.

The main couple consists of the popular Hori Kyouko and the class gloomlord Miyamura Izumi. Hori (Tomatsu Haruka) is too busy taking care of her little brother Souta and doing housework in her busy parent/s’ absence to hang out much with her friends, many of whom would be surprised by her utilitarian “domestic mode”.

However, they’d be even more surprised to learn that outside of school, Miyamura (Uchiyama Kouki) the lowly caterpillar becomes a beautiful pierced moth with frontman hair. Hori learns this when he helps Souta up after chasing a dog and falling. She also notices Miyamura’s other attractive features he hid so well at school.

The two have an almost immediate, wonderful, easy chemistry, and it’s so refreshing not to have to deal with either of them being in denial about this. Miyamura is great with Souta (who calls him “that cool dude”), and while Hori is initially a little freaked out to learn he’s her classmate, she can’t exactly complain about his “alter-ego” since she has one too.

Her initial impressions were way off the mark, and she quickly adjusts to who he really is: someone either so bold or so stupid he’ll lift his shirt up and show her his tats while she’s cooking dinner! They go with it, both happy they and only they get to see the other, realer side of one another—warts and all.

What’s also nice about Horimiya is how they don’t avoid each other at school, but just naturally start spending more time off to the side chatting with each other, without any thought to how it might look to their classmates. One of them, the purple-haired Yuki, has a crush on Hori, and is threatened by Miyamura’s sudden closeness with her.

How is that resolved? By Yuki approaching Miyamura, asking him about it, and being given the okay to ask Hori out at his leisure. Miyamura tells Yuki not to worry about him since he and Hori aren’t a “good match” and Hori is “just being nice” to him. The day Yuki decides to ask her out, Hori is out of the loop and not sure why Miyamura tries to separate from his usual spot at her side.

Miyamura picks Souta up from school so Hori can stay behind, and when she comes home, she wants to speak to Miyamura at once. Those things Miyamura said to Yuki about being a bad match and her only being nice? Yeah, those were really hurtful to her, and she tearfully demands to know if he really meant them.

Miyamura tells her he didn’t, but assumed he was dragging down her school rep with his gloomy boring aura, and so said what he thought Yuki wanted to hear. And that’s where he erred: making assumptions, just as she had about him before getting to know him. She tells him never to say such crap again, adding as she asks him who would wake her up when she fell asleep during a movie or eat his portion of dinner if he didn’t come around anymore?

Her flaring temper turns to actual pyrotechnics, but the sentiments behind them are clear and lovely: she’s become accustomed to their relationship and doesn’t want it to change anytime soon. Also, Yuki gets turned down, but turns to Miyamura for a shoulder to cry on. Just like that, he’s made another friend, but it will be hard to match the beautiful thing he and Hori have, which we’ll have the honor and pleasure of watching.

Adachi & Shimamura – 07 – Friendship Chocolate

Just before midnight, Adachi texts Shimamura and they exchange New Years greetings. Shimamura is lying in her kotatsu and is reminded of Adachi’s thighs, the mention of which make Adachi blush. Adachi continues her push-and-pull between contentment and longing.

Part of her is happy with what she has with Shimamura, and part of her desires…er, more. Shimamura can sense Adachi wants to take their friendship to “higher place”, but is worried she may not have the “wings” with which to follow.

Before long, it’s already February, and Shimamura has observed that Adachi is being shyer and more distant than usual, until one day when she works up the courage to ask Shimamura to hang out after school to buy some sweet snacks. With Valentines Day approaching fast, Adachi wants to make sure she and Shimamura can hang out on that day.

While Nagafuji gets the urge to “lift up” a Hawaii-tanned Hino as they relax together, Shimamura asks Adachi for advice on how she should proceed with her darkening hair. Dye it again? Let it grow out? Adachi is not sure, bu is happy to be asked. Her responses, sometimes interrupted by hiccups, continue to perplex Shimamura: what exactly does this girl want from this? From “us”?

For now, baby steps suffice, as Adachi gets Shimamura to agree to spend Valentines Day together. She also wants them to exchange chocolate like Nagafuji and Hino do, but it’s clear she wants it to be more than obligatory “friendship” chocolate. Shimamura comes to admire Adachi’s resolve to get her words out and express her wants, no matter how much she stumbles along the way.

Little by little, she’s adding color to Shimamura’s grey, empty world. I think that’s a good thing! But then there’s suddenly a new source of color and light in the form of Shimamura’s childhood friend Tarumi, as they encounter one another at Nagafuji’s family shop. Tarumi is quick to note Shimamura has grown into a beauty, and quick ask for number so they can catch up later.

Any way you slice it, this is probably bad news for Adachi. Even if Tarumi doesn’t turn out to be a romantic rival, she’s still competition for “best friend” status, with built-in history helping her case. I can just imagine how Adachi will feel after learning about Tarumi—jealous, lonely, defeated…IN DESPAIR! Hopefully she can shake those things off and fight the good fight.

Adachi & Shimamura – 06 – Throwing a Boomerang in a Chinese Dress

What is Christmas? What’s a date? What is it, exactly, Adachi really wants from Shimamura? Adachi doesn’t know, aside from the basics, and this is an episode in which that basic understanding is reinforced. Also, Adachi and Shimamura go on a Christmas date!

After getting the day off work, Adachi asks Hino what Shimamura likes, and she vaguely remembers something about fragrant tea, so they go shopping together. It’s the first time she hangs out one-on-one with Hino, and to their surprise, they spot Shimamura hanging out with Nagafuji.

Both Hino and Adachi feel lonely and a little jealous that their respective Number Ones would be alone with someone else, but as Adachi tells herself that night, it’s nothing to get so upset about. Nevertheless, she can’t help but pump herself up for a Christmas to Remember, even if she suspects unforgettable memories won’t be made just because it’s Christmas.

Adachi makes the adorable choice of wearing her work dress to the date, since Shimamura thought she looked cute in it. She wants to hurry up and hold her hand, but surprises Shimamura and jams her thumb. Shimamura touches Adachi’s lips and tells her if she wants to hold hands, just ask! So they do.

Off to the arcade they go, trying out air hockey instead of their usual ping pong, and immediately Shimamura’s competitive streak and distaste for losing rears its head, almost going so far as to accuse Adachi of hustling her. They follow that up with some fast food, while talking about what the future holds.

They may end up in different classes next year, but Adachi declares they should just go to class and meet up to hang out after school, like they’re doing now. Shimamura agrees, impressed by what an “honor student” Adachi has become.

Then Adachi gives Shimamura her gift—which was the very tea she wanted to try; good call, Hino!—and Adachi is surprised to learn that not only has Shimamura gotten her a gift in return, but the reason she was with Nagafuji is that they were picking out a gift for her (under the guise of it being for Shimamura’s little sis).

Adachi doesn’t care that the gift is silly—a boomerang and googles—the fact Shimamura gave her a gift is the best gift of all. She tries it out a few times in the park, but can’t quite get the hang of it. It gets colder, and Shimamura suggests they head inside…but Adachi realizes This Is Her Chance—and she may not get a better one—to tell Shimamura How She Feels.

She gets close—oh so close—to saying she likes her, a lot, but instead settles for something more cowardl-err, more pragmatic: she doesn’t just want to be friends, she wants to be Best Friends. Shimamura doesn’t quite get it, but salutes Adachi’s “ambition”.

So nothing truly dramatic happens just because it’s Chrismas…but I highly doubt Adachi will soon forget her memories of her date with Shimamura. It just comes down to whether best-friendship is all she wants. It seems to be for now; we’ll see if that remains true further down the road.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Adachi & Shimamura – 05 – Running Towards Sparkly Things

Throughout the episode Adachi is on edge until she achieves her objective: ask Shimamura to hang out with her for Christmas. Because she knows it will sound like asking her out on a date (’cause, well, that’s what she’d be doing) and thus change the complexion relationship forever, she struggles to find both the right time to ask and the words to use.

Her first opportunity comes when she asks if she can study at Shimamura’s place. This means Shimamura turns down an invite from Hino and Nagafuji, whom we learn have grown pretty darn close themselves, as Nagafuji for all the world looks like she’s about to kiss Hino on the lips before moving to her forehead.

Up in Shimamura’s dusty study room, she and Adachi get under the kotatsu, and Shimamura calls for a break while the room heats up. Rather than ask what she needs to ask, Adachi instead asks what kind of kid Shimamura was. Her answer is that she was pretty normal; her hair was shorter and undyed, and she wasn’t as inhibited.

She then nods off, and Adachi leans in to almost kiss her before withdrawing, only to have her lap commandeered by Shimamura once she wakes back up. Shimamura doesn’t explain why she’s so comfortable placing her head in Adachi’s lap, and Adachi is far too happy about it to ask why—or about Christmas. She just enjoys the moment for what it is: pure bliss.

The second half of the episode is from Shimamura’s perspective, and she lists all the weird things about Adachi lately. She’s constantly staring at her, always seems like she’s keeping herself from saying or asking something, and even got a higher grade on her English test. That last one is neither here nor there, but it’s proof that Shimamura has had a positive influence on Adachi’s academics.

Shimamura determines if Adachi can’t get the words out, she’ll have to help her do so, taking her by the hand to the roof for some deep breaths and to ask straight up what she wants to talk about. Adachi blushes and says she’ll tell her “after giving it some thought” even though she’s thought of nothing else for days.

Adachi somewhat reminds Shimamura of another friend she had in primary school, who always hid behind her like a trusty shield unless they came across “something sparkly”, then ran to that. That was, perhaps, the first time Shimamura started to question the value of getting close to anyone.

Adachi ends up appearing at Shimamura’s door early in the morning before school. She feels Adachi’s face and brings her in to warm up and, hopefully, finally ask her what she wanted to ask. And at long last, Adachi powers through her crippling hesitation to ask, in almost too roundabout a way, if Shimamura will hang out with her on the 25th of the month. That’s right—she can’t even say “Christmas”!

When Shimamura considers the question, its phrasing, the manner in which Adachi struggled to say it and the redness in her face, she almost asks “why”, but stops herself, knowing it could well irreparably harm their present relationship. She’s apparently so jaded about meaningful bonds that even if she did wreck them, she can’t see herself putting in the necessary effort to repair it.

It’s only when Adachi senses Shimamura pondering her question that she rephrases it in a way that simultaneously fails to get her true feelings across and makes it possible for Shimamura to accept. Adachi says she wants to hang out with “someone” for Christmas, which Shimamura takes to mean “not me specifically, but I’ll do since I’m really her only friend”. Of course, we know Adachi doesn’t want to hang out with anyone else, just like she doesn’t want to kiss or hold hands with or lie in the lap of anyone else.

That said, once Shimamura accepts, she can’t help but see how goshdarn giddy it makes Adachi, as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Is that really the reaction of someone for whom “anyone will do”? In her haste to start preparing their day, Adachi marches out of Shimamura’s house and bikes off without her, leaving Shimamura on the floor with her hand out yelling “Wait for li’l ol’ me!” in an uncharacteristic, old-timey way.

So yeah, these two aren’t quite on the same page, and at the moment Shimamura simply isn’t strongly considering the possibility of a romantic entanglement with Adachi in the near future. That said, if anyone can change Shimamura’s way of thinking about the matter, it’s Adachi. While her words continue to fail her, perhaps she can get the job done with her actions.

Sing “Yesterday” for Me – 05 – Miss Never Number One

Rikuo ends up at a new part-time job at a photography gallery, only to encounter co-worker Minato Kouichi, who was in the same third-year class as Haru before she dropped out. He joins them for lunch and exhibits how pretentious he is about photography. Rikuo takes an instant dislike to him.

That leads to yet another coincidence in which Minato is walking Haru home at the same time Rikuo is walking a slightly tipsy Shinako home. Both Haru and Rikuo are irritated by what they see. Shinako tells Rikuo that she’s done walking in circles, while Minato not to subtly hints that he had a crush in Haru in high school, only for her to be completely oblivious.

Minato visits Haru as often at the bar at least as often as Haru visits Rikuo, and eventually asks if she’ll spend a day with him. He formally asks her out, and while she replies with a rant about how much of an asshole Rikuo is, she’s not ready to give up on him, even if she’s “just the backup”, or she’d be lying to herself. Minato expected a rejection, and reveals he dropped out of college to pursue a life of freelance photojournalism.

When Haru says of her pet crow “I kept feeding him, and he got attached to me,” I couldn’t help but notice how similar that is to her approach with Rikuo, intentional or not. Rikuo so often comes off as irritated or annoyed with her (or is so often spotted with Shinako after dark), Haru’s adopted the misconception that he doesn’t care how she feels.

In reality, her reliable and persistent “feeding” of her charming personality to him has made him attached to her, to the extent he’s jealous when he sees her with Minato and even gets into an artistic competition with him. It’s fitting that while Rikuo loses, it’s because Minato’s photo was simply more compelling.

The photo depicts Haru in high school, which stands in contrast to Minato’s earlier screed against portraiture as the photographer forcing his feelings on the viewer. Sure enough, Minato’s affection for the subject suffuses the image, and even Rikuo can’t resist the portrait’s candid beauty and longing. It’s a Haru Rikuo had never seen before, and can never unsee.

One could also look at this photo as a portent for Haru’s eventual dropping out. She looks restless, and her gaze is pointed elsewhere—somewhere more painful yet more rewarding, scarier yet inevitable: adulthood and independence.

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