More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 09 – Not like that other summer

Summer Break has arrived, and Kamo has lined up a 3-day live-in beach resort job, both for himself and for Jirou. Jirou is not enthusiastic until he learns that Shiori will also be working there with Mei, and then he’s on board 100%. When Jirou comes home, Akari shows him her new skimpy, strappy bikini and revel in his embarrassment.

Talk of summer break feels kind of lonely to Akari (as she wears his sweatshirt), but when Akari hesitates to say he’ll be lonely without her, she starts to feel lonely herself, and pulls herself into an embrace to “recharge her batteries.” It’s yet another “couch event” that pits her longstanding desire to date Minami and her growing feelings for Jirou.

But as it turns out, they won’t be apart at all: she, along with Sachi and Natsumi, will also be working at the beach resort. So we end up with Jirou, Kamo, Minami, Shuu, Akari, Shiori, Mei, Natsumi, and Sachi all under the same roof for three days (albeit separated by gender).

Shiori is determined to make some progress this summer, and while Mei blushes at Shiori’s complements of her uncharacteristically cute waitstaff outfit, she also encourages Shiori to be more aggressive in pursuing Jirou. This results in her approaching Jirou, asking him where he’ll be working, and deciding on the spot she’ll be working there too.

That turns out to be the kitchen, where Mei sets up a situation for Jirou to grab something from a high shelf for Shiori, and then Shiori guides Jirou in the proper way to apply whipped cream to a parfait. This results in Shiori saying a lot of sexy-sounding double-entendres, and then Jirou squirting whipped cream all over his and Shiori’s faces.

When Shiori feels the warmth of Jirou’s hands on her face as he cleans her up, the two draw closer and closer into an imminent kiss—which is then rudely interrupted by Sachi and Natsumi. They get what they came to the kitchen for and then depart, telling the two they’re free to go back to their fun.

They don’t, which might be a mistake. Both of them think “there’s plenty of time”, but there really isn’t! They get three days, and then they’ll be with their parents the rest of the summer, unless they’re proactive about hanging out over that time (fat chance).

Despite the fact Akari and Shiori continue to be extremely cute together, and are making a little progress just enjoying each other’s company, it remains unlikely Jirou will end up with his childhood friend; that’s just not how these shows work!

I just hope that even if Shiori may never return Mei’s romantic feelings, Mei will still be there for her when Shiori’s heart is broken. It’s also unclear if, in a situation where Akari and Jirou are a couple, Shiori even wants anything to do with him anymore, or if they can make it work as friends.

We only have three episodes left, so this episode, in which the summer job everyone was hired for and the live-in scenario is established, is mere setup for (hopefully) bigger things to transpire. When Jirou spots Akari on the beach in her other swimsuit, he realizes she wasn’t joking when she said she was saving the racy one just for him. Could Akari be using this trip to confirm that her feelings for Minami have cooled and that Jirou is the one for her?

I’m almost certain Shiori wasn’t pointing at the love hotel perched above the beach like Jirou and Kamo excitedly believe. But we’ll have to wait until next week to see how that misunderstanding is corrected, and if this summer live-in job scenario will pay any dividends for its participants.

Bocchi the Rock! – 09 – TROPICALLOVE FOREVER

Kessoku Band’s first concert is behind them, but it’s only August 15—there’s plenty of Summer Break left. Bocchi ends up spending it like she usually did before joining a band: staying inside and either playing guitar or doing nothing. She wants to hang out with her bandmates, but is too scared to call, even saying it’s too late and turning in even though it’s only dinner time.

This carries on until there’s only one day of Summer Break left, and Bocchi is acting weird, even for her, making cicada graves outside STARRY. Kita* thinks it’s because school is coming up so soon, but then Seika tells the three about a series of scathing crayon drawings with captions Futari made that simply cut Bocchi to the bone:

August 30th
Sis
another day
nowhere
lying around
really
funny

I feel bad that Bocchi legit lost sleep over the drawings, but goddamn that’s good shit, especially since it’s coming from a kid with nothing but love for her big sister.

*I’ve been calling her Ikuyo but now I realize everyone calls her Kita.

Eventually Kita, Nijika, and Ryou all realize at once that none of them actually hung out with Bocchi once, all summer! It’s not that they didn’t want to, but they were all in their own little worlds and all made enough assumptions that it just…didn’t happen. I know I’d feel awful if something like that happened, even it if wasn’t intentional.

They decide there’s no time like the present to make some summer memories, so they approach Bocchi and propose an impromptu trip to the beach. This sets off a fantasy in which Bocchi is on a beach painted in Van Gogh-like colors and strokes, and watches Mr. Guitar and his girlfriend/wife(?) running on the beach. The little vignette causes her to pass right out, but her friends see that as a perfect opportunity to move her, “while she’s docile.”

While Bocchi in her fugue state mutters about black holes, Kita learns through idle chitchat that despite going to a fancy prep school, her beloved crush Ryou-senpai is something of a dummy who only crams for tests at the last minute and forgets everything she learned afterward, because too much studying makes her forget how to play bass.

Upon alighting from the train Ryou almost goes off on her own immediately—a clear indicator of her aloof loner personality—but Nijika keeps the band together. Bocchi comes too, but when a group of beach bros show up and start asking about them, she inflates and pops like a balloon. The girls flee the boys and partake in takosen, which Bocchi eats with gratitude, gradually returning to her senses.

Kita, who is documenting the whole trip on Insta, breaks out the selfie stick, and after she snaps it, Bocchi takes a moment, feels the sun on her face and the sea breeze in her lungs, and starts to cry while thanking the others for doing this for her. She assumes their summer memories end here, but Kita’s just getting started!

She wants everyone to climb the many steps of the Enoshima Shrine. In this, she is alone, but ups the level of her “Kit-aura” to basically compel them to climb with her. The three soon fall behind, just as they knew they would.

Kita relents and they all take the escalator instead. Once at the top, Ryou and Bocchi are instantly invigorated, just as Kita thought they’d be. There are clashes of opinion and preference in friendships sometimes, but it’s how we experience new things. They take some selfies with Nijika, but when they spot a lovey-dovey couple behind them they am-scray to the observation tower, where Ryou imperiously monologues about Babel.

The four park themselves at a bench to enjoy some soft serve (the best serve, IMO), and Bocchi notices the sound of the kites gliding overhead. That’s when the raptors, sensing her weakness and being annoyed by it, gang up and attack her. As Ryou points out, it’s another summer memory achieved.

The others indulge Kita one more time by attending the shrine to the goddess of music and performing arts, Myo-on Benzaiten, where she’d wanted them to go together for some time to thank her for the successful concert and pray for continued good fortune. Nijika smiles when she sees Bocchi praying extra hard, but Bocchi is too embarassed to say she was praying for summer break to reset. This isn’t Haruhi, Bocchi!

On the cozy train ride home, Nijika and Ryou are all tuckered out and soon drift off. Kita tells Bocchi she can too, but Bocchi is wide awake after being unconscious on the train ride there. We get a rare look at Bocchi’s face when she’s content and not worried about anything. Kita sees that face too, and no doubt wants to protect it with the others so they can see it more.

Bocchi thanks Kita for all the summer memories they made, which make her feel like she can face school after all. Ironically, despite not having any mental trouble, in the morning she’s face with unexpected physical trouble: whole-body muscle soreness from all the uncharacteristic running around yesterday! Bocchi: epsom salt is your friend!

As the follow up to the best BtR! to date and one of the best anime episodes of the year, I appreciated the lighter, more laid back approach, and the opportunity to see the four bandmates hanging out in a non-band, non-work scenario, as friends—warts, microaggressions, differences and all.

Maybe it will inspire Bocchi to reach out to the others next time, without getting bogged down in all the responsibilities and consequences that come with taking the initiative. It it can mean more days like this, it will be worth it!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Lycoris Recoil – 13 (Fin) – Deciding for Themselves

Chisato ends up alone with Majima at the top of the Enkuboku for a final round. Majima makes things even more interesting by activating a 60-minute timer on a bomb that will presumably bring the tower down. Why Chisato doesn’t just repeatedly shoot Majima right next to his ears is unclear, but the duel that ensues is pretty evenly matched.

Meanwhile, the power goes out on the whole tower to ensure no hackers, friend or foe, will be able to interfere with Majima and Chiato’s fight. The elevator still has aux power, so Fuki heads down with a seriously injured Sakura while Takina asks her to let her climb back up to help Chisato. Fuki decides that she and Takina should get to decide what they want to do for once.

After pulling off a particularly tricky acrobatic move on Majima, Chisato suddenly finds her artificial heart starting to give out. Majima, who may be a jerk, has no interest in fighting her in this state, so he shoots open a vending machine, offers her a juice and the two have a short break. Chisato want him to stop the clock, but he won’t.

Whither Mr. Yoshi? Helped along by Himegama, he continues his retreat, but is confronted by Mika, who actually doesn’t have a bum leg. Himagama charges him, but he wallops her with his cane, then riddles her with non-lethal bullets. Left unprotected, Mika has come for Yoshi’s briefcase, to tell him it’s time to let the kids make their own choices, then kills the man he clearly never really stopped loving.

After engaging it some philosophical sparring regarding who is the hero, who is the villain, and what constitutes a properly-lived life (Majima is resolved to restore “balance”, Chisato is fine with the status quo) their fight resumes. Chisato is feeling better but still far from 100%, and the clock is still ticking.

Eventually one of Majima’s many bullets grazes Chisato, and she goes down. Majima steps on her and prepares to shoot her, but just then Takina appears, and Chisato uses the moment of distraction to pull Majima head-over-heels.

The two hit the glass, which cracks and then shatters (in reality, glass in a tower like this would be several inches thick, like that in the CN Tower, but whatever); the two begin to fall. We don’t see what becomes of Majima, which means he’s clearly not dead, while Takina ensnares Chisato with her restraining wire.

The phone countdown hits zero, and the “punishment explosion” turns out to be a massive fireworks display, which was likely meant to cap off the Enkuboku opening anyway. Majima, while likely not dead, is at least out of their hair for the time being, and both Takina and Chisato are alive.

In the first of two epilogues, Sakura has made a full recovery and is back to her exuberant, poop parfait-lovin’ self, Fuki is still meekly deferent to Mika, and life at LycoReco has returned to normal,  except that Chisato has not been around, while Takina is out on a job.

That job turns out to be traveling to Miyako to find Chisato, but the mission is first portrayed as her tracking down and eliminating a target. The two end up trading gunfire in the forest and then shooting each other with restraining wire, and when they realize they’re…each other, they hop into each other with joy (while also scolding each other for coming at each other so hot).

Takina explains to Chisato how a regular café patron happened to capture Chisato in the background of a photo of her and her boyfriend, and so even with no internet or cameras, they were able to find her. Takina also notes that she’s glad Chisato is alive and well.

Chisato actually slipped out of the hospital and traveled to Miyako not sure about the nature of the operation she underwent. Turns out Mr. Yoshi was lying; the heart wasn’t in his chest, but in the briefcase. Now that it’s in Chisato’s chest, she’s going to live a long, healthy life.

The scenes at the seaside café and then on the beach are some of the most richly-colored and beautiful of the series, and really lend a lovely gravitas to what these two have been through…and what they mean to each other. When asked what she should do with the extra life she’s been given, Takina proposes she do something she’s always wanted to.

That brings us to the bonus epilogue: LycoReco Hawaii! No doubt thanks to Kurumi’s skills, the whole gang is able to travel to the states and set up a café truck by the ocean. Everyone seems to be doing their part and having fun, and we also learn their side hustle of helping people out is still going on as well, only now in adorable Hawaiian garb.

It’s a cute and satisfying all’s-well-that-ends-well ending. Sure, there are still a lot of guns still in Tokyo, and a heavily-bandaged Majima out there egging people. The moral quandary that is Lycoris and the DA is still hanging out there too.

But Chisato and Takina are where they want to be, doing what they want to do. They who were tools for the adults are now free to live their lives how they see fit. For that reason alone, I can walk away from this show with a smile.

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E07 – A Boom, a Whoosh, and a Hug

The first day’s haul at the beach shack is beyond Ms. Amane’s expectations. Emi meets with Maou, Ashiya, Urushihara, and Camio at the lighthouse to discuss Amane, who is clearly no ordinary human.  Camio explains that the Demon Realm split into hardliners and pacifists after Maou’s fall.

A group of the latter, all ginned up by Olba Meyer, are on there way to Choshi now for the Sacred Sword, AKA Alas Ramus. Both Emi and Maou want to take responsibility for the war they started without leaving it all to Amane, powerful though she may be.

It’s actually a relief that Amane isn’t specifically after Maou or Emi or the sword, and even delivers Maou’s sword that Camio brought along when he arrived in Japan. When a Gate opens and the demon soldiers start pouring through, Emi flies over to meet them first and starts cutting them down, though notably not killing them.

When their leader steps in to have a duel, Emi is game, and has Alas scale down so it’s a more even fight. The fight never happens, though, because Emi bought all the time Maou, Ashiya, and Urushihara needed to transform into their demon forms of King Satan, Sariel, and Lucifer. The troops and their leader are immediately cowed by the presence of their masters.

With a final flourish, Maou puts his arm around Emi and tells his underlings to return home with the message that the king lives and is gathering his power on Earth to bring peace to the demon realm once more. The demons and Camio return peacefully through the light of the lighthouse, and then Maou, Emi, Ashiya and Urushihara close the Gate.

Chiho, Suzuno, and Amane greet the four when they wash up on the shore, most of their power expended. Amane is glad the mess these folks brought to her little seaside town has been cleaned up, but also tells them that they have to leave as the magic they used has upset the balance of one of the few places where souls can be cleansed during Obon.

The bad news is, Maou & Co. are fired and in a flash of wind Amane and the beach shack have vanished, but the good news is that Amane paid them handsomely for their work, and Maou’s apartment has been repaired, so after a tour of Choshi, the crew is poised to return to the “Castle”.

Maou explains that the sword Camio brought him was made of his magic-packed horn that Emi had cut off, and then perhaps chooses his words poorly when he boasts to Emi that once his power is fully back he’ll “dominate” her and everyone else. That gets both Emi and Chiho upset and demanding either an apology or clarification.

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E06 – Chicken Curry

When a fog rolls in so thick they can’t see their own outstretched arms, Maou, Ashiya, and Urushihara seek shelter in their comfy five-tatami room. But when they look out the window, a large form is approaching them: a cyclops. Then a demon centaur.

Finally, a anthropomorphic black chicken Maou actually knows arrives. The other two demons are swept away by some kind of powerful wind magic; only the bird, Maou’s old chancellor Camio, survives, and he soon reverts to a chibi chicken mode.

The first day the beach shack opens things get super busy super fast, and Maou, Ashiya, Urushihara and Amane can’t keep up with the sheer volume of customers or the food and drink orders. Chiho, Emi, and Suzuno come to the rescue, each in character-appropriate swimsuits, and with double the labor (I’m not counting Urushihara) the day is a success.

While Emi cleans one of the ice shavers, Urushihara starts asking her about Olba, a dude from first season who I honestly don’t remember, but who promised him he’d not only spare his life but put in a good word for him in Heaven, where he thought was the only place he could return to after the Demon Army fell.

Later that afternoon, Maou introduces his leal servant Camio to Emi, Alas Ramus, and Chiho, emphasizing that unlike most demons who were more about fighting and killing, Camio’s whole deal was being a thinking man’s demon, and Maou says the creation of the Demon Army was thanks in no small part to Camio’s hard work.

After the episode spends much of its time either being coy about the human that wounded Camio and defeated his two demon escorts or having Urushihara suggest it might be Olba, Amane pops in to ask Maou for help, and Camio immediately fingers her as the culprit. So now Maou knows he’s working for a human powerful enough to waste demons. But to what end?

Also, it’s official: this second season is distractingly awful-looking at almost every turn. This is especially evident with most characters in swimsuits. Those suits and the bodies they’re attached to take different distorted forms in almost every shot. Everyone looks stiff and awkward. If I wasn’t so intrigued about what will become of this revelation about Amane, I’d probably have already dropped this.

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E05 – Change of Scenery

After last week’s huge battle, you’d think a laid back rest episode would be in order…right? WRONG! On the very same day, Maou learns he’ll be without a job as their MgRonald is closing for two weeks to be remodeled (though apparently not with those horrid self-service kiosks that sap vital jobs!) and that he’ll be without the Devil’s Castle for the same period of time due to the need for repairs.

Even worse, Maou would have known about this much earlier, but he was too distracted by the potential of having lost Alas Ramus forever that he paid no attention to the warnings about these changes. That said, his globetrotting landlady sent him a mysterious package wrapped like a mummy, which only Emi has the balls to open, revealing…a VHS tape??

Chiho’s family still has a functioning VCR, so she invites Emi and Maou to her place to watch the video. In so doing, she can’t avoid having her mother finally meet Maou, on whom she’s well aware her daughter has a crush. The video is of the Landlady telling Maou about an opportunity to work for room and board at her relative’s beach shack in Choshi City, Chiba.

Maou calls the number on the video, and by the end of the call he’s got himself a job, as well as Ashiya and Urushihara. Maou returns home with the good news, while Chiho’s mom can tell that Chiho is worried about Maou leaving her behind. She tells Chiho that she can do as she pleases as long as she does things “the proper way”.

Chiho, who knows all about the ongoing feud between Maou and Emi, would prefer that all her friends got along. That said, she also wants to be useful to Maou, even if she can’t fight like Emi or Suzuno. She calls her mom and is granted permission to go to Choshi…with Emi and Suzuno, on a girls’ trip.

Emi and Suzuno are all too happy to go along with the pretense, as they were as uneasy as Chiho about the status quo changing. After a ride on a charmingly retro train, they arrive at Choshi and are picked up by the Landlady’s relatve, Ohguro Amane.

When they arrive at the beach shack, it is in horrendous condition after an off-season, which suddenly turns right the ef back on tomorrow. Needless to say, she’s in a bit of a pickle, and Maou, Ashiya, and whatever manual labor they can get out of Urushihara may not be enough.

Demonstrating that at the end of the day they’re both angels, Emi and Chi-chan pitch in to bring the shack back into presentable professional condition. Maou impresses Amane with his ability to organize and delegate tasks, a product of both his past as an overlord and his experiene at MgRonald.

Emi purchases supplies needed at cut-rate prices, Chiho polishes the beer taps, and Urushihara removes the foam from the stools so they’re more inviting. Even Suzuno, who serves ostensibly as Alas Ramus’ babysitter during the cleaning, reveals a heretofore unknown-to-Maou talent of building perfect elaborate Japanese sand castles, which he knows will be a draw for customers.

Working together as a unit, the denizens of both Heaven and Hell manage to restore Ohguro’s to peak beach season condition, while Maou secured a bonus from Amane if he could fill the shack to full capacity. That night the group kicks back with fireworks on the beach, but are suddenly unnerved by the foghorn of the nearby lighthoue, along with strange lights on the ocean horizon.

Amane tells them the story of dead sailors creating those lights in hope of making “new ghost friends”, but considering the presence of Maou, Emi, and Alas Ramus, the fog that suddenly rolls in could also spell additional trouble for our pals.

That said, this was a fun outing that shook up the status quo. Unfortunately, it loses a half-star for being distractingly janky-looking throughout its runtime. I honestly don’t remember the first season’s animation being so rough…fortunately, I love these characters enough to mostly overlook it.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 02 – He Can’t Win…He’s Won

The Blue Marble

For its opening salvo, Takagi-san goes part-Charlie Chaplin, part-Looney Tunes, ditching all dialogue for a full orchestra. Takagi’s instrumentation is predominantly flutes and strings, while Nishikata’s is very horn-forward. It’s PERFECT. But what warrants this sudden change in style? Nothing more than a different take on the pair’s routine walk to school, which is more than worthy!

Takagi is feeling playful and decides to tail Nishikata without being spotted. That said, his “Takagi-Meter” goes off multiple times, turning this into a kind of Sly Cooper sneaking game. The music and silent body language kept me utterly enthralled, while the silent version of Nishikata imagining Takagi losing his “guess what I found on the ground” game contrasts perfectly with the reality that she knows it’s a blue marble, leaving him to ponder whether Takagi has ESP.

“You Didn’t Scare Me, Ma’am”

After the three girls have a little silent segment of their own, we return to Takagi and Nishikata on classroom cleaning duty. Takagi mentions that a  desk check is coming up, and suggests they do a dry run together. This means the two playing the roles of teacher and student.

Naturally, Nishikata is nervous despite having no contraband, while Takagi is cool as a cucumber when they switch roles…only revealing after the check that she did have a manga hidden under her gym clothes…the one he lent her. There wasn’t even going to be a desk check; Takagi just wanted to roleplay and return his book in the most adorable way possible!

“Dinosaurs!!”

Fortune continues to smile on these two, giving them multiple chances to be alone together even during school hours. To whit: library duty. Takagi suggests they pass the time by reading books they choose for each other. She saw how excited Nishikata got about a dinosaur picture book, so picks that out for him. No doubt she genuinely likes that cute childish side of his.

Nishikata accepts it despite his embarrassment, because he really does love dinosaurs. He just picked a random novel for Takagi, but it’s precisely because of that she can blurt out “I love you” and immediately pass it off as a line from the book, when it’s actually another confession. It’s the latest in a series of tentative lines Takagi has cast. Fishing is all about patience, and Takagi seems to have plenty…for now.

Takagi Sweat

The concluding segment begins with Takagi and Nishikata again running into each other by chance; the former is on an afternoon jog, the latter running errands. They chat about his informal jogging regimen, and he can’t help but boast that he once made it all the way to the beach one time.

The problem is, he reads Takagi’s reactions as skeptical rather than impressed—precisely how she intends—and the two part. Nishikata was near the end of his jog, but he’s determined to “defeat” Takagi by impressing her for real. So he fights his fatigue and groaning muscles and jogs all the way to the beach, fueled by the future sight of Takagi in genuine awe of his accomplishment.

I fully expected him to make it to the beach only to realize he hadn’t taken his phone with him to snap the all-important evidence. But that would have been too obvious, and the show knew that. Instead, he takes a photo of the sunset on the water, sends it to Takagi, and gets a sweet response back: “The sunset looks so pretty. Thank you.”

Then, in a beautiful piece of both romantic timing and camera framing, Takagi appears behind Nishikata. She raced to the beach on her bike after finishing her errands, because she knew with certainty Nishikata would go there to prove it to her. She hands him a bottle of Pokari Sweat—a reward for his hard work for her sake—and sits beside him on the sand.

Takagi says it was “so worth it” chasing after him so the two of them could watch the sunset together. Hearing this, and seeing Takagi’s face in the dramatic light and her hair gently flowing in the wind, Nishikata’s face turns red as said sunset, unable to accept that Takagi is being dead serious about all of this.

Then they sit in silence, calling back to earlier silent sessions in the episode. It’s established that once Nishikata calms down and quiets his mind, he can relax and simply exist together with Takagi, without any talking or teasing. Nishikata keeps trying to win in stupid ways, but he’s already long since won what truly matters: Takagi’s heart.

I maintain hope that one day—maybe this season—he’ll accept that win for what it is, and dismiss his lingering doubts for what they are: weak and pathetic excuses.

The aquatope on white sand – 23 – Big sisterhood

This episode began with Kukuru at a crossroads: does she fill the attendant spot being left by Kai, or does she stick with marketing, where she could inarguably play a larger role in helping far more animals for longer. But thanks to Tingarla’s director announcing the “Aquatope Project”, which will focus on environmental research and conservation, Fuuka is also at a crossroads.

The difference is, one of Fuuka’s two directions leads all the way to Hawaii for two years of training. No matter which job Kukuru picks, she’ll remain where she is. Both are hesitant for being tempted—not without good reason—to go in opposite directions: Fuuka going forth  to expand her horizons; Kukuru back to where she feels safe…but unchallenged.

The Aquatope Project seems perfectly timed to match with Fuuka’s recent come-to-Fish-Jesus moment regarding the harsh reality of mankind’s effect on sea life. Similarly, the return of Choko seems perfectly timed to match with Kukuru’s return to attending. Choko and the other penguins remember her! More to the point, they just know instinctively she’s a good human! Oh, hey Kai! Bye Kai.

Their big decisions are given further context by the state of Kukuru and Fuuka’s present day-to-day lives. When their schedules match up, Fuuka cooks for Kukuru, and they walk to or from the aquarium. But more often than not their schedules aren’t in synch, which means Kukuru and Fuuka are alone, but doing just fine. Kukuru overhears Fuuka telling Chiyu she can’t go to Hawaii because she “doesn’t want to leave Kukuru”, which makes Kukuru feel like she’s holding her friend back.

Just as Kukuru withholds her decision about what she’ll do as long as possible for dramatic effect, Fuuka goes through the candidate process (there are five vying for just two slots) while contemplating whether she can or should actually go if chosen. And while I predicted she would go, and Kukuru would stay in marketing, knowing so before it was official did not lesson my enjoyment of watching things play out.

What really made me very confident in my prediction was Fuuka’s final  presentation to the Aquarium’s brass and her fellow candidates. While everyone else gave perfectly nice and well-researched lectures at Tingarla, Fuuka takes everyone to Ban’s cove, dresses in a dolphin costume, and introduces the audience—which includes a bunch of kids and their parents on the beach—to Ban, and in doing so revealed her passion both for sea life and desire to learn more about them…which means making sure they don’t disappear.

While the panel deliberates over which two candidates will go to Hawaii, the grouchiest of them says Fuuka put on a “kid’s show”, while another points out that appealing to children early on will get them to care about the ocean. After all, they’re inhereting the future. Director Akira follows that up with an impassioned speech about the possibilities of the future that would make his shisho Gramps proud.

Later that night, Kukuru meets up with Fuuka at Ban’s beach to congratulate her for getting one of the spots. Kukuru also announces she’ll be staying in marketing, to gain the skills needed to protect the animals on a macro scale. She also admits that she turned Fuuka into her big sister, but has to learn to stand on her own two feet, which is why it’s okay for Fuuka to go.

But for Fuuka, it isn’t about big sister obligation, or Kukuru needing her. It’s about her needing Kukuru. Kukuru pats Fuuka on the head and says she’ll just have to be her big sister, seeing Fuuka off on an exciting adventure. While it’s sad to see these two parting, it’s also gratifying to to see them choosing paths that will help them grow as both people and professionals.

Not to mention, if these two take their jobs seriously, they’ll be too busy to miss each other; those two years should fly by! The question is, will we get to see any of those two years in the final episode, or will jump forward to beyond them? Either way, it’s sure to be a joyful tearjerker.

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 13 – Punching the Shark

The first half is a Jahy beach episode. Jahy is vibeing on her newly-found mana crystal and eager to find some more, but the manager and landlady insists she work at their uncle’s seaside restaurant. Every time Jahy tries to rush out into the sea to look for crystals, she’s lured back by yakisoba, ice cream, and the threat of being docked pay.

But the fact that the normally packed restaurant is almost empty, and it starts pouring when there was no rain in the forecast, and couples get in fights and lots of people end up in danger in the ocean, means that there must be mana crystals nearby, casuing all that misfortune. In the process of narrowing down exactly where they are, Jahy ends up rescuing dozens of people.

When it starts getting dark, the manager and landlady insist she give it up and come inside, but Jahy doesn’t give up, and she is rewarded in the eleventh hour with a bonanza of mana crystals. They’re small, but she harvests two big buckets worth of them, meaning she’s never been in a better position to take on the magical girl.

If she’d simply accept what must by not be several warehouses full of crystals from her underling Druj, Jahy might’ve already defeated the magical girl and restored the Dark Realm. But she’s never even considered taking Druj’s haul. Druj, who is having a bad stretch, is immediately cheered up when she spots Jahy (who is waiting for Kokoro), but is worried that living with humans has changed Jahy.

Praising her hard work, letting her sit next to her, telling her not to work too hard…this is not the Jahy Druj knows and loves, and because she’s an incurable masochist, she simply isn’t satisfied until Jahy berates or abuses her. Jahy goes just far enough to placate Druj, who goes on her merry way very much convinced Jahy-sama is the same second-in-commander who made her fill the holes she dug and threw wine in her face.

But we know better: Jahy’s insistence she’s the same is just another piece of the throne of lies she’s built around herself to save face with Druj. And I highly doubt she’ll go back to being an evil villainess after thirteen episodes of hanging with humans.

The aquatope on white sand – 07 – Going halfsies

In the first week of August Gama Gama Aquarium is on pace for a goal of 2,000 visitors thanks to the touch pools and shaved ice. But that first week took everything the staff had, plus Udon-chan working for free (and the shaved ice stall still lost money). Kukuru’s gramps orders the youngins to take a day off and spend some time neither working nor thinking about work.

This would, at first glance, seem like the perfect time to show everyone off in their swimsuits, but Aquatope is regionally accurate in the locals of Okinawa not being all that big on swimsuits. Indeed, only Fuuka wears one —the same one in which she had a photo shoot in Tokyo. This makes her very self-conscious, but Kukuru tells her not to worry about it. After all, she does look ridiculously cute.

The ladies meet up with Kai and Kuuya, who have set up a barbecue by the beach, though a little too close to the aquarium than they’d like, considering the goal is to forget about work. We meet Kai’s little sister Maho, who is super polite and formal and takes an instant liking to Fuuka, while hating Kukuru’s (fish) guts.

While I enjoyed Maho’s precocious rivalry with Kukuru, her voice sounded a little bit too much like the other, older women. This was definitely a case where an Ogura Yui or Kuno Misaki would have been a better choice. In any case, only children Kukuru and Udon-chan lament having not had siblings to liven things up.

Ultimately, the pull of Gama Gama proves too strong for Kukuru, who decides to peek in and see how things are going in her absence. She finds Yuuya had the same idea, and overhears him talking with her Gramps about what happens after Gama; namely the very capable and knowledgeable Yuuya taking a job at another aquarium.

The article in the paper is one thing, but hearing her own grandfather talk about the end of Gama Gama like it’s a foregone conclusion when she’s doing everything she possibly can to stave off closure, is understandably (fish) gutting.

In the episode’s finest scene, Kukuru is off on her own on the breakwater when Fuuka finds her. Kukuru breaks down in Fuuka’s lap, saying she’s not sure if she’s “going to be okay.” But without a moment’s hesitation, Fuuka embraces Kukuru and assures her that no matter what happens, she’ll be there with her.

Just when Kukuru was lamenting not having a sibling (and it being heavily implied in flashbacks that she could have had one), Fuuka plays the role of reliable big sister to a T. It’s really great to see how Fuuka has grown since moving to Okinawa, to the point she can be an emotional rock to Kukuru in her more vulnerable moments.

After some nonsense involving Maho’s would-be grade-school boyfriend Rui and Kuuya having a race on the beach, the little kids go home, the older kids break out the booze, and the kids in between wish they could have a beer or lemon highball or three to close out a day of leisure.

We also learn a lot more about Kuuya’s past as a popular and athletic high schooler (and Karin’s classmate) who was sabotaged by the queen bee after he rejected her and was taken in by Kukuru’s gramps. His story is somewhat inelegantly exposited in one go, but it’s still good to learn more about him, why he distrusts women, and how he’s a much looser, more laid back guy when he’s drunk…which tends to be the case with most people.

Speaking of loose and laid back, this is definitely the kind of episode a show can indulge in when it has two cours to work with instead of just one. Even so, this episode wasn’t completely devoid of the burdens Kukuru bears as she must go against virtually everyone’s expectations that Gama Gama is doomed. In fact, this episode hinted that it may just be doomed, and Kukuru is tilting at underwater windmills. But even if that’s so, it’ll be okay…because she’s not alone.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sonny Boy – 03 – The Detective Is Already Snarky

Nozomi, Nagara, and Asakaze have turned out to be a pretty good survey team, with Nozomi locating new worlds with her Compass, Nagara being able to access them, and Asakaze bailing them out with his powers of flight.

When we check in they’ve already found thirteen new worlds, and Rajdhani is soaking up the data like a sponge at his beachfront laboratory. Their survey work is interrupted by an unsettling trend of students starting to freeze in place and turn pitch black, like voids in human form.

Since she’s the one with the most time on her hands owing to the immense wealth her power provides, Mizuho is put on the case, and she chooses Nagara as her Watson, partly to share what sounds like a hassle of a case, but also because Nagara…was nice to her previously, and she enjoys his company.

That said, she still initially treats him as a rank servant, making it clear that this isn’t a collaboration of equals. That said, she still orders a gaudy couch big enough for both of them, and even gets Nagara the same fast food order she got. When it comes to sharing the wealth, she’s fine sharing it with Nagara.

The uniting quality of the two students (who later become three, then four) who fell victim to the freezing phenomenon is that they kept to themselves, hardly anyone noticed them when they were around, and no one noticed when they suddenly vanished.

While Nagara is busy with Mizuho, Nozomi and Asakaze fail to find any new worlds. Despite this, Asakaze drops in specifically to tell Nagara that he’s not needed and that Nozomi doesn’t care if he doesn’t come back. Nagara brushes this off, and that ineffectual passivity irks Mizuko.

Eventually, Mizuho and Nagara break the case wide open when, no doubt due to Nagara’s unspoken power even he may not even be aware he has, they discover a portal to the space where the four students ended up.

They walk through a honeycomb of blackout curtain walls separating the four spaces of the students, all of whom are content to stay right where they are and keep doing what they’re doing indefinitely. It becomes evident that while they may be content, this wasn’t originally their doing, but another rule of the world, separating those no one else wants around or cares about.

After Nagara and Mizuho’s nightly debriefing with Cap and Pony, a minor disagreement causes simmering underlying resentment to boil over for both of them. Mizuho points how how watching Nozomi follow him around like a puppy grosses her out; Nagara accuses Mizuho of lying to show off and being “ill-natured” because she’s just another recluse; Mizuho tells Nagara to die and storms off.

It’s a testament to how much these two have come to know each other that they each know the precise buttons to press to sting hardest.

But because the two really do care what the other thinks of them despite words to the contrary, both of them feel bad about the spat. Fortunately, back at Rajdhani’s lab, Nozomi offers a clue Nagara hadn’t considered, and he texts an apology to Mizuho, along with a promise to be waiting by the blackout curtains tomorrow.

Armed with Rajdhani’s bizarre, whimsical instruments, the two get down to business lifting the blackout curtains and freeing the students. This is Sonny Boy at its most Eizouken, particularly with the fantastical machinery and Yuuki Aoi lending Mizuho such a wonderfully husky, distinctive voice.

With the case solved and the afflicted students retrieved, Nagara and Mizuho make up with a handshake; what was said when heads were less cool and frustration was mounting is water under the bridge.

As much if not more than their surreal surroundings, what I enjoyed most about this episode was just reveling in this nascent friendship between two people who don’t normally do so well around others doing just fine around one another. I daresay I wouldn’t even mind a whole cour of these two solving cases together.

On the periphery were some interesting inroads into the larget questions about this place, with Hoshi admitting a voice told him this would all happen, and Nozomi being the first to suggest that while she can spot new worlds, Nagara alone has the power to create portals between them.

Sonny Boy – 02 – Kindle Blue Fire

While technically a beach episode, there’s not a ball or a bikini to be found. There are crabs—you gotta love crab—as well as a makeshift open-air classroom with rows of desks and a chalkboard, but otherwise the sand is just another flat surface for Nagara to lie on and wile away the hours.

When Nozomi catches a crab, it cuts her hand up pretty badly with its claw, but she soon heals; just another one of the rules of this “This World”, as the egghead Rajdhani calls it while explaining the situation.

While most of the class is in tents on the beach, Mizuho has, presumably through the three cat Amazon power called Nyamazaon, built a Disney princess castle full of stuff, but otherwise isn’t that different from Nagara in her fondness for straight chillin’.

Another girl steals makeup from Mizuho’s vast collection of things with impunity, but that and other items acquired from Nyamazon start to burst into blue flames, rumors spread that Mizuho is doing it intentionally.

Mizuho doesn’t help matters by stirring the shit on social media that the recent election was rigged in Michi’s (AKA Pony’s) favor—which is the truth; the extremely Kyuubey-like Hoshi helped rig it. Pony and Hoshi learn Mizuho is behind it and try to exact an apology, but Mizuho is stubbornly refuses.

When they confront her at the front gate, Hoshi uses his power of showing everyone potential futures to depict the entire island covered in blue flame; everything destroyed. On top of it all, Mizuho is exhausted and filthy from looking for one of her cats, who has gone missing.

While the rumor may have well gotten started since Mizuho is a natural target for envy and resentment among the other students due to her extremely cool power, Nagara still blames himself for blabbing about Mizuho knowing something about the flames, which got twisted into “Mizuho is responsible for the flames.”

But thanks to Rajdhani’s research and a retro Game Boy, it is determined that the blue flames appear every time someone receives something without a fair exchange. Among the things that burned-up, only Raj’s Game Boy was exchanged for some toys he made with his power, and only it escaped those flames. Therefore, it isn’t Mizuho’s doing, but the Rules of the World.

Among the students, most of whom end up in the “Punish Mizuho” camp/mob, only Nagara and Nozomi want to help her. They both know she’s not doing this, but also know that she hasn’t explicitly defended herself, which isn’t doing her any favors. Nagara also finds the missing cat, and unlike two previous instances of letting birds die, this time he takes care of the animal like the non-heartless person he is.

The two decides to go to her—nay, run to her, just as she’s literally making it rain fat stacks of cash, which soon burn up and set fire to the whole island. Mizuho, overcome with relief her kitty is safe, admits that she should have simply stated her innocence from the beginning. It’s an all-around wonderful performance by Mizuho’s seiyu Yuuki Aoi—which comes as no surprise as she’s one of the best in the business.

Nagara, Nozomi, and Mizuho oversee the ruined island—the realization of Hoshi’s vision—and concede the fact that they can’t live there any more. But then something happens: as the sun rises over the ocean, the island essentially resets itself to before everything burned up.

It’s as if the island, which set the rule of fair exchange, is forgiving all of the students for their stumblings as they learn of those rules and correct their misunderstandings. Mizuho comes down from her castle and apologizes, but only for making it rain flammable money…not the stuff she was accused of doing but didn’t really do.

Mizuho also stops by the beach where Nagara is lying to give him a token of her appreciation for finding her cat: a hat to keep his face out of the sun. When he asks if he needs to give her anything in return for it, she says with a gentle smile that it’s “her treat” before walking away.

This episode was significantly less weird and frightening than the first, but that tends to happen when you take the inscrutable black void out of the equation. What it was was another relatively straightforward exploration of how the court of public opinion can be wrong—in school or life—and it’s up to those who know it’s wrong to speak up. Nagara grew as a person in this episode, as did Mizuho, and they each gained a friend in the process.

Credit also goes to Rajdhani for not giving up on trying to make sense of the place, thus confirming the injustice being done to Mizuho, as well as Nozomi, for lending Nagara the encouragement to correct the injustice. Just as she’s the “Compass” who can see the ways out of these other worlds, she’s also a moral compass; a check against both rampant authority and rampant apathy.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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