Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 08

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Every time it looks like one guy, say Iga, has the inside track (gradually teaching Kae to be comfortable touching a guy with innocent handshakes), conditions allow for a shake-up. Enter Nana, who is concerned about being the least close to Kae of all the others.

When Kae, dirt broke from the pilgrimage, gets a job at a theme park dancing in a Puri Puri Moon show, it’s Nana’s time to shine, as he’s watched, danced, and sung every song in PPM’s repertoire every weekend with his adorable little sister Kirari.

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As such, Nana is the one and only one who can get closer to Kae this way. The others try, but the hiring staff of Usami Land find other part-time jobs that better fit their particular skills and circumstances. As for Nana, he puts everything he has into training for the role of the Dark Prince, even at the cost of his health, suddenly collapsing with fever.

Kae has him brought home, then takes care of him by cooking him food before he takes his medicine. She manages to bond with Kirari a little, but not to the point Kirari is willing to let Kae have her brother, whom she wants to marry. But their shared knowledge of PPM is a definite ice-breaker.

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Then things get dark, and I mean really dark, as a fever-addled Nana, essentially dreaming while awake, grabs, kisses, and holds down Kae, who isn’t strong enough to break away. If it wasn’t for an improbable Iga to the rescue, who knows what might have happened.

The show does not contend for a second that Nana was just getting the better of his hormones to awful result; he was well and truly not in his right mind. I have no reason to doubt that, and neither does Kae, but that doesn’t change the fact it was an awful and terrifying experience; one that makes her nervous about touching any guy again, including Iga, the guy she was making such nice gradual progress with.

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After apologizing profusely both on the phone and in a very public display of begging outside Kae’s bedroom window (much to the chagrin of her older brother), Nana regains Kae’s trust in the heat of a PPM show gone awry, when three otaku n’er-do-wells must be dealt with, requiring Kae to take Nana’s arm/hand on numerous occasions.

I’ll admit the frozen faces of the character outfits were a little unsettling (not to mention an obvious trick to save money on animation), but that’s often how such theme parks operate; the labor they have at their disposal isn’t always going to remotely resemble specific anime characters.

Indeed, the frozen faces served at least two laudable purposes: they provided a literal “padding” between Kae and Nana to facilitate healing between them, and it also served as a semi-biting commentary on the culture of such shows: play the right tune and bust the right moves, and facial expressions, to say nothing of plot and character, are all irrelevant.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 07

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In the most bizarre and surreal episode of WagaMoDo, the newly-restored duo of Kae and Shina suddenly declare they have to go on a pilgrimage to the resting place of Hyakki Sametora, the feudal lord upon which the Lord in their anime is based. The only truly enthusiastic guy is the history buff Mu, but the other three tag along nonetheless. Reasonably priced-but-not flashy hot spring innage ensues.

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The night they stay at the inn, Iga accidentally falls on Kae during a pillow battle, and her reactions indicate to Iga that she didn’t dislike that accident. When they end up on the same swan boat (to the possibly cursed island where the lord’s head is believed to reside), he takes her hand and tells her if she’s not used to being so close to a guy, to get used to it…and she does not protest.

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Unfortunately for Iga (but fortunately for us), when a sudden storm maroons the group on the island, Kae ends up rescued by Mu (while Iga has to give Nana mouth-to-mouth; an event Shina captures from many angles with her waterproof phone). When Kae collapses from fever, Mu has no choice but to get her to shelter, disrobe her, and use his body heat to get hers up. He does so with the utmost gentlemanliness, while Kae is too out of it to be embarrased.

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After that…things kinda go off the rails, as the show suddenly picks up a lot of supernatural elements. The ghost of the lord makes the others walk around in circles, then attacks Kae and Mu, who use the charms they bought at the gift shop to neutralize him. Eventually Kae “exorcises” Sametora when he realizes his legend is not a negative one (thanks in part to the anime that pretties him up and makes him either a top or bottom).

All the supernatural elements are (mostly) explained at the very end once the group gets to shore by a very unexpected and hilarious twist: the restaurant where they ate lunch accidentally used hallucinogenic mushrooms, so they were tripping balls the whole time, likely including during the storm and “lake whirlpool”. Overall a pretty fun episode.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 06

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This week’s WagaMoDo explores one of the pitfalls of fujoshi friendships: what happens when they develop opposing views on which guy in a new anime is on the left side of the shipping “x” and which guy is on the right. Kae is adamant that it’s Lord x Akane; Shina the opposite.

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Once the guys figure out what the heck the girls are actually on about, they set to work trying to mend fences. Igarashi in particular tries to counsel Shina on the error of her ways, but both girls remain ruthlessly stubborn, finally entering into a fan-fiction writing duel that Shina will likely win with her superior writing experience.

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Shina is so caught up in her “justice” that by the time she’s loudly gloating her (surprisingly narrow) victory, Kae is on her hands and knees on the roof, sobbing her eyes out, still not willing to concede Shina’s right. That’s when Iga brings the hammer down: Shina, who claims to love only what is beautiful, has done something ugly…and she knows it.

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We get a lot of Shina’s backstory, from when her talents were shrugged off as a product of her family’s wealth and status, to her need to “find a place for herself” in the world, to her interactions with Kae, whom she always thought was beautiful.

Reminiscing on the events that led to her friendship to Kae, Shina soon realizes she must make amends. Enter Iga once more, giving up Kae’s whereabouts when she won’t answer Shina’s call. Shina arrives just as Kae is also coming around to realizing that she doesn’t want her friendship with Shina to end just because of a relatively petty squabble.

They both compromise, stating Akane and his Lord to be “versatile.” A great episode that deepens our understanding of Shina and presents a very realistic situation in which something small and seemingly innocuous can turn into something big and destructive, but the two girls’ friends never stopped trying not to force them back together, but get them to see for themselves that together is where they belong.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 05

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This week Kae quickly gains a lot of weight and puts her gang of boys on the spot about why they stay with her. It’s an episode that tries to have its failed Valentine’s chocolate and eat it too, and it almost worked.

First, I like the idea that Shina, whom we don’t know that well, may have actually planned to fatten Kae back up, even if it’s never explicit that’s the case. All we know is, she wan’t entirely joking in drawing a line in the sand between her and the guys for Kae’s heart. She likes Kae, and not simply because she’s thin.

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When Kae shows up at school back to her original self, the guys’ reactions are predictable: Nana and Shi don’t know what to do with themselves and what it to just be a bad dream, as they’re the shallowest and least adaptable of the guys. Kae’s weight has never been much of an issue with Asuma, but he barely makes an impression in the episode.

And while Kae is willing to train to lose weight back, Nana and Shi are overzealous and as a result she ends up overworked and exhausted, without any quick loss to show for it. That gets the protective Shina mad at them for having ulterior motives for her “re-self-improvement”, but she’s no saint herself, as she goes on record as saying she loves round cute things like Kae has become.

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I like then how neither Shina nor Nana are portrayed as right or wrong, only that they both need to think about what’s motivating their actions (their own desires), blinding them from what Kae might actually want herself.

It’s Igarashi who attains a certain level of growth this week, when after a whole day of being doted on by Shina, he takes Kae to the roof and her inner beauty of kindness and honesty is re-revealed to him. Regardless of Kae’s appearance, Igarashi is certain that he likes her.

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Where the episode kinda falls down is when Kae inevitably returns back to her rail-thin, magazine-gorgeous self by the end, returning things to the status quo. I liked how despite some very vigorous attempts by the guys, simply changing Kae back wasn’t as quick or easy as her regression-by-chocolate.

While Fat Kae really yuk-yuks it up with her exaggerated voice and movements, I still would have preferred a more gradual, less black-and-white transition that felt less “magic”. The first time she slimmed down, it was due to an extended fast. At least this time it was coming from a far more positive and healthy place, but it’s still rushed, moving us along without fully exploring the ramifications.

It makes me wonder if the show will bother with another “regression” to her original self, or if this has closed the matter of whether the guys will stick with her no matter what.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 04

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Because they all have the hots for her, the guys let Kae drive the itinerary for Christmas Eve, and because Kae is not your conventional young woman, that itinerary is similarly unconventional.

It also takes place at a convention center, but even that is unconventional because it’s Tokyo Big Sight, which to many looks like a conventional convention center flipped upside-down.

The plan is to attend Comiket, split up to buy everything on Kae’s list, and get out early enough to still have the “Cris-Pa” the guys want to have with Kae.

Only they sorely underestimate the popularity of Winter Comiket, and that the lengths required to get there and back take up most of the day and night. It takes six hours from the time they wake up just to get inside.

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Once there, however, the guys find that it’s not all bad. Even though Kae feels kinda bad she’s being so selfish, no one has a gun to the lads’ heads; they want to help her out, and also to make her stay there shorter so they can spend more time with her.

Not only that, but because all four guys are hot in their own ways, they attract quite a bit of attention from the female authors and artists, many of whom imagine (as Kae does) that they are BL couples, and swooning accordingly.

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Kae also experiences something at Comiket for the first time: a pushy creepy photog, snapping every angle of her against her wishes. She is eventually castigated, shamed and forced to apologize by an exceedingly debonair young man doing butler cosplay. Just as the guys arrive, late because they were lost, they see this butler all close and personal with their Kae, and they don’t like it.

In a nice nod to Kae’s years of “training” by going to these day-consuming things, the four guys are utterly spent by the end of it, and still not quite right the next morning at school. Kae on the other hand looks like she could sing karaoke all night, and seems, if anything, energized by the Comiket visit.

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Then she, and the guys, learn that the young butler who helped her wasn’t a guy, but a girl, and a student at their school: first-year Nishima Shina, voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki. Mind you, I knew she was a girl all along, because she’s in the OP as such, but the shock isn’t meant for us, it was meant for Kae and the guys.

And they are shocked. Kae, because she and Shina hit it off so quickly; the guys, because Shina swiftly and efficiently threatens to edge them out entirely, claiming Kae to herself by inviting her to her place. The guys invite themselves, and Shina doesn’t object…but like Comiket, they don’t know the magnitude of what they’re getting into.

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Shina is perfect. She’s perfect-looking, she does everything just about perfectly, and she’s obscenely wealthy, having not just a room but an entire wing devoted to her many hobbies, many of which are also Kae’s hobbies, only on steroids.

Kae quickly falls under Shina’s “spell”, and at times, all Shina has to offer, and how earnestly complimentary she is, the guys drop their guards one by one.

Shina is also the perfect otaku; someone for Kae to look up to, even though she’s the senpai here. The “small favor” Shina requested of the guys in exchange for letting them come over turns out to be a private BL photo shoot, which is of course heaven for Kae.

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The thing is, the guys are nervous and a little confused about what’s going on, so they’re not that great at posing. So Kae, who knows far more about the subject than they do, demonstrates the proper way to do it, using Shina as her partner. She gets so into it, she doesn’t realize she’s actually turning Shina on.

That’s right: Shina isn’t just competing for Kae’s time as a friend. She’s after her heart, like they are, and she won’t stand for them not taking her seriously. When Kae presents an opportunity by play-acting, Shina can’t help but pull her in for a long kiss.

Like the guys, Kae is initially confused. But it’s quite simple: her gang of four is now five, and while the guys have their various strengths and weaknesses, Shina is poised to outshine all of them with her perfection, wrapped in a feminine package Kae is much more comfortable with.

It will be interesting to see if this competition remains diplomatic, or if another, less perfect side of Shina comes out when provoked. Until then, Shina is an interesting new wrinkle in this milieu, and Sawashiro Miyuki brings her characteristic sultry wryness to the role.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 03

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R to L: Snow White, Eren Yeager, Shion

The Japanese government mandates that at least one episode of romantic comedies must be a cultural festival episode, but Kiss Him Not Me didn’t treat it like legal compliance; it put quite a bit of effort and its own wonderful brand of energy into it, making for twenty minutes of television that felt much longer, but had me wishing by the end it was longer still. All the positive aspects I mentioned in the first two eps apply here, and then some.

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This KHNM took its real life otome game theme to its natural next step: growing mutual resentment among the boys. The four of them are only together because they like Kae. Kae, a fujoshi, its perfectly content to keep things this way, but they aren’t. They want to court Kae properly, which means they need alone time with her (the last thing she wants).

It’s a great dynamic, and I’m glad it comes to a head so quickly in the series, and so organically, as a result of the give-and-take of the otome scenario. Kae formed a coalition so her class would vote for a cosplay cafe, and she gets to dress up all her boys the way she sees fit. But in exchange, she has to tacitly accept it when they set up time slots for alone time with her during the festival.

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To the show’s credit, despite her amazing physical transformation, Kae remains steadfastly Kae, even if she often manages to hide her baser instincts from the lads. She worries she won’t do well alone with guys, and then she goes and doesn’t do well alone with the guys. It’s the English title in a nutshell: She wants them to Kiss (or do other romantic things with) Him, not her.

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It doesn’t help that the guys are a little overeager. Nana backs her into a wall and they come close to a kiss, Mu achieves an indirect kiss through chopsticks; Iga takes her hand in his, then puts it on his knee; and Shi leaps into her arms in the haunted house, resulting in a fall and his face in her bosom.

It’s all just too much for Kae, who is completely un-inoculated against such romantic gestures. She rushes into the arms of her friend Akane, lamenting how impossible it all is. A-chan was initially amused that Kae had four dates with four hotties, but she’s quick to drop the ribbing and offer support when it turns out badly.

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But while A-chan is grabbing Kae a drink, Kae is accosted by three less-than-savory classmates, who make her guys’ aggressiveness seem coy by comparison. These guys aren’t even trying to be subtle: this girl’s hot and they’re going to get as much out of her as they can.

Then she gives one of them an uppercut, which both he and she thought was overreacting…but how the hell else is a girl supposed to act when there are hands all over her and a crotch in her face?

They chase her down the hall, but she’s rescued by Iga and Nana in the nick of time. Soon Mu and Shi are also there and the four locked in combat with the punks. Kae stops gawking and spluttering and yells, at the top of her lungs, “KNOCK IT OFF!” 

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Kae’s four guys hear her, and realize that and how they erred, and apologize, and all agree to take things slower so as not to overwhelm her again. Thus we return to the status quo, as expected, but it was a fun ride. The show didn’t want us to forget not just that these four guys really like Kae, and not just in a buddy-buddy way, but that when it comes down to it, they also don’t hate each other’s company.

When the time comes for the bonfire dance, the four agree to drop the romantic pursuits for the day and give Kae a little something for tolerating their forwardness (and the brawl, for which there was somehow no punishment). That something turns out to be another dream come true not just for fujoshi Kae, but her fujoshi BFF Akane: the four pair off and dance with each other.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 02

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After just two weeks, Kiss Him Not Me is shaping up to be my top Fall comedy (Euphonium is my top drama), as it manages to pack so much fun in its episodes. This week efficiently covers the sports underdog and study group scenarios with vigorous aplomb and a unique, contagiously feisty energy.

The members of Kae’s ‘he-rem’ are already very well-defined: Igarashi (Iga) is the friendly athlete; Mutsumi (Mu) is the kind, mature senpai; Shinomiya (Shi) is the smitten kohai; and Nanashima (Nana) is, well, so I liken him to the tsundere of the gang.

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I say this because of the four, Nana is least amenable to carrying around otaku tokens she gave them on their group date, and when she tries to translate her newfound ease of motion with a soccer gig, he’s the most skeptical. Mind you, he’s not far off base: As self-described “indoor person”, Kae soon finds out lighter isn’t stronger.

I’d also point out that for someone typically uncomfortable with anime, Nana picks up on Kae’s Captain Tsubasa reference about being friends with the ball, even getting combative about her arrogance (Tsubasa practiced 24/7). But when Nana hears the same girls who recruited Kae shitting on her disappointing showing in practice, he can’t help but rebuke them and help coach Kae up, a dedication that surprises the others.

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Everything is resolved with a big come-from-behind draw, (not win, mind you) when Kae decides to use her nigh-impossibly backwards kick to score the equalizer in extra time (managing not to hit herself in the face, showing improvement.)

While not a true victory, it demonstrated Kae’s dedication to trying hard at something totally new, as well as Nana’s willingness to prove Kae’s haters wrong and instill some soccer knowledge in a girl who suddenly makes his heart skip.

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With sports out of the way, the episode effortlessly moves on to exams. If Kae fails her next round, she’ll have to take summer classes, grenading her summer plans, all involving otaku events such as formally saying goodbye to her beloved Shion, who is as far as she’s concerned as real a person as any of the boys.

Studying is not Nana’s strength, and because first-year Shi studies at second-year level, the two are almost constantly at each other’s throats, getting the whole study group kicked out of all public venues. This leads Mu to suggest they all study at Kae’s house, requiring Kae to do a super-quick cleaning session (referring to her room as the “Sea of Rot”, perhaps referencing Nausicaa). 

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The otaku gags fly freely, from Kae’s Shion pillow and sheets and store cut-out, to the pristine shrine she keeps in her room. Kae’s mom embarrasses her by using a makeup gun, and Kae’s brother (who resembles the other main lead in Kae’s anime) tries to scare off the lads, but to no avail.

Even if they’re not to-a-man comfortable with her passion (like Mu), they are willing to keep open minds, and are rewarded by having a good time. Mu confidently mans the rudder of this stormy sea of otakuness, asking if everyone can pray at Shion shrine with her, pointedly asking Kae’s bro to beat it, and insisting everyone help Kae carefully pick up the BL stash that means so much to her. The result is, the study group works, and Kae avoids extra classes.

Her new challenge: Summer Vacation, already packed with otaku events, just got a lot more full, as her gang will surely want to supplement that stuff with their own preferred Summer activities, from going to the pool to exploring castles. Kiss Him Not Me offers an embarrassment of riches, and Kobayashi Yuu continues to do superb work voicing the multifaceted Kae.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: Serinuma Kae, a plus-sized fujoshi second-year high schooler, loves to pair off hot guys in her head. When her favorite anime character dies, she inadvertently loses a bunch of weight, becoming a stunning beauty who garners the persistent attention of four guys at her school. On a group date she tries intently to hide her “flaws”, but in the end they accept her for the otaku she is; as long as she’s happy, they’re happy.

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Why You Should Watch: While the Ugly Duckling trope is as old as time, WgMD (AKA Kiss Him, Not Me) freshens things up by making said duckling a closet otaku, then building a reverse harem around her, so quickly it makes her head spin.

And yet, as her friend Akane points out, Kae has always had a way with hot guys, even before she lose the weight, because while she can be privately creepy, she’s always been kind. She wants only what’s best for the guys, which she thinks is…each other.

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I enjoyed how peripheral the guys were; this is Kae’s show, and they’re in the dark for most of her inner conflicts and conversations with herself. Akane is a solid friend who suddenly finds herself no longer “the hot one” among them (though she already has a boyfriend, so it’s no biggie).

It’s also interesting to see how all four react to Kae compared to how they treated her when she was bigger. In particular, her senpai Mutsumi is the first to immediately recognize her post-transformation. He’d always been more attuned to Kae’s inner beauty and kindness.

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Why You Shouldn’t Watch: Stepping back a bit, Kae’s transformation strains credulity, and there don’t seem to be any consequences to, ya know, starving herself. While pre-weight loss Kae is treated relatively well by her peers there’s still the feeling she’s regarded by most as a lovable mascot-like figure. And while society is more or less works this way, it doesn’t exactly look great that these four guys only pursue Kae when she becomes slim and hot.

Those problems aside, this show could definitely just get repetitive, with Kae going through the romantic motions with guy after guy. We’ll see if she can have her otaku otome cake and eat it too. We’ll also see what will happen if (when?) she gains her weight back; after all, Shion can only die once (unless the show brings him back and kills him off again).

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Zane’s Verdict: WgMD takes what could have been a mess of trite gimmicks and executes a solid rom-com that’s more than the sum of its parts. Kobayashi Yuu excels at giving Kae a wide range of voices to suit her emotional state, and the guys differ enough in personality to provide some interesting dynamics down the road. It’s far from perfect, but it’s more than watchable, and for now I’m interested to see how things play out for Kae & Co.

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Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu – 03

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Both Kuroda and this show’s title make reference to the “wasteland” / “wildlands”, but this show covers precisely zero new ground and blazes no new trails. Its premise and themes have already been thoroughly explored by other shows. There’s no uncharted territory here; only a retracing of steps.

KOYA also continues to paint its six main characters with the broadest of strokes in the dullest and least adventuresome of tones. This week features an interminable “training camp” that is supposedly intentionally aping the Hot Spring Inn cliché for comedic effect, but really only comes off as a Hot Spring Inn cliché, full stop.

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There are two main developments at play here: the constant philosophical clashing of Kuroda and Andou, and feelings for Bunta awakening in Yuuka, depsite her hard friendzone status in his eyes (as far as one can tell). I personally prefer the raw, spunky Yuuka to the more muddled raven-haired maiden that is Kuroda, but portraying Yuuka as suddenly so blushy and weak-kneed around Bunta – who is barely a character at all at this point – does her no favors.

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As for the conflict between Kuroda and Andou, well…Kuroda’s a hard one to figure out. Her character has a couple of distinctive ticks and qualities that don’t mesh into a cohesive whole. She’s more of a promising idea of a character not fully thought out. As for Andou, well…she is a character driven by one thing and one thing only: BL. And using the word “fangirl” as a verb; she really digs doing that.

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She loves BL so much, in fact, she’s willing to see the treatment of Kuroda’s game through BL eyes, labeling it a “Yuri-homo” rather than a straight-laced shoujo story. Her constant reminders to everyone that she’s obsessed with BL even seems to wear on the cipher Bunta.

No, the most impactful moment of this increasingly dreary episode was when Andou got fed up with sparring with Kuroda, said “I’m done”, and peace’d out. Bunta managed to very easily lure her back to the inn from Akiba (he spends a lot on rail travel this week!), but I fear no amount of convincing will bring me back to KOYA. There’s just not enough here to sink my teeth into. To borrow Andou’s phrase: “I’m done.”

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Owarimonogatari – 11

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Araragi’s meeting with the First One is cordial, but becomes increasingly tense when he learns what his predecessor wants: for him to “break up” with Kiss-shot. Now that he’s back in the picture, he wants to go to her, make amends, and take his place by her side, while regaining the sword he “lent” her.

Araragi, believing this a legitimate parlay, almost takes a sip from a poisoned sports drink the First gave him, which is all Araragi needs to know: the First wants him out of the picture, one way or another. The negotiations are only a formality, and Araragi isn’t able to come up with any cinvincing benefits for the First to stand down and let him remain Shinobu’s minion.

Izuko arrives with Gaen Episode to save Araragi, but negotiations are over: it will come down to a duel between Araragi and the First, with the specialists working out the details.

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Araragi got nowhere, but when he returns to the shrine, he sees Shinobu sitting on a supine Kanbaru, telling her if she apologizes for what she said, she’ll be forgiven with no harm done. But Kanbaru is defiant, and she’ll repeat those words over and over until they stick: it’s up to Shinobu herself to face the First and settle things one way or another, not Isuko’s or Araragi’s or anyone else’s.

For much of the argument that ensues, Shinobu’s little hand tightens menacingly across Kanbaru’s head as she reproaches a lowly baby human for daring to say she knows the slightest thing about the situaion. She thinks Kanbaru is being silly; that nothing can be gained, only lost, by personally confronting her former master.

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Furthermore, it’s an insult to her present master. Basically, Shinobu only wants one minion—Araragi—and will accept no arrangements in which she has two. It goes on like this for some time, but Kanbaru remains unblinking and forthright in her belief that Shinobu is wrong. It doesn’t matter how much fancy archaic terminology she uses or excuses she offers, Kanbaru thinks she’s covering for her fear of what facing the First will affect her.

But Kanbaru is able to wear down Shinobu because she can relate to the First as the “second choice”, because she herself wasn’t Araragi’s, Senjougahara was. Shinobu rejects her comparisons with human relationships, but runs out of ammo when Kanbaru tells her every possibility she can think of is preferable to doing and saying nothing, even if she or the first are killed in the process…or even if she ends up choosing the First over the Second. The ball is in her court.

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It isn’t that the duel between the First and Second isn’t still on—it is, and it will take place in the school courtyard—but when Shinobu eventually gets over the fact she soundly lost an argument to a girl nearly five centuries younger than her, she may be able to stop the boys from fighting over her. Note that if you strip away all the vampire stuff, this is about a pushy, needy old ex-boyfriend wanting to get back with his girl, but the girl having moved on with a new man.

Meanwhile, Kanbaru continues to lie on the ground where Shinobu left her, with a slight cut on her head from where she squeezed her, and Araragi delivers her BL novels and bra. Kanbaru, not unreasonably wants to be rewarded by her upperclassman for the service she provided for Araragi—doing what he probably couldn’t have done (again, because he’s not the “un-chosen one” the way she and the First are). Whether it’s by him feeding her as she reads, or him putting her bra on while she reads, it’s all good for her.

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Owarimonogatari – 10

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No show is better at stylishly embellishing otherwise static conversations—that’s really most of Monogatari in the first place—but unlike Sodachi Lost arc, I’m nevertheless starting to feel some exposition fatigue.

Gaen Izuko takes a seemingly very long time to explain how the ashes of Shinobu’s first minion gathered here and formed the raw material to create all the apparitions Araragi has encountered. The first was drawn to the second, and at the shrine where apparitions are most likely to gather, they did.

Shinobu, who initially wanted to visit Fujiyama, was instead redirected to the place where the first and second minions were. This all created a perfect storm for apparitions, which in turn drew specialists like Meme, Kagenui, and Kaiki. Izuko pooled their investigations and sent Yotsugi to “clean up the ashes”, but she failed because of the proximity of Araragi and Shinobu to the shrine.

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With all these naturally attracting things naturally attracting each other, and the first one being drawn to the second, as well as empowered by seeing Shinobu, Izuko wants Araragi to “inheret responsibility.” Dealing with the first is his duty. Yotsugi will be available to help him, along with Shinobu, Kanbaru, and “one more assistant” Izuko needs to pick up, accounting for Yotsugi’s latest report on the swordless samurai.

Izuko then leaves Araragi with some breakfast money and shuffles off to get him, wanting to solve this problem as soon as possible before the first one powers up to a level uncontrollable by all but possibly Kagenui (and Izuko would rather it not come to that, due to the bad blood between them).

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Araragi instead uses the money to buy some BL light novels for Kanbaru (though not a bra). Kanbaru and Araragi’s discussion of the 21-novel series is more than a little meta-, since the Monogatari series is about that size but unlike  Brutal Garcon Huff Huffs a Half-Blood Boy!, they all have pretty vague titles like “Ghostory” or “Endstory.”

The episode then delves into observational comedy, laying out the dilemma a young man faces when purchasing possibly embarrassing content from a bookstore. He tries to both hide the BL and disprove the rumors he’s into lolitas by snatching up some “mature ladies” magazines (both of which feature a woman who looks a lot like Izuko!) but the employees still end up laughing at him.

Then, just when our guards were down, Araragi bumps into a smallish kid with long black hair who looks like he could be around fifteen, and talks with a higher-pitched version of Araragi’s voice. It’s the other one, and Izuko was right: the two minions are extremely drawn to each other. We’ll see how their next encounter goes.

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Oregairu 2 – 02

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Jokes about Hikky’s non-classmates dreaming about him playing Uno…this show has range

If Nagato Yuki-chan is my go-to Feel Good show this Spring, Oregairu 2 is the place where more sophisticated, less comfortable feelings bubble and brew. But that means its the far more realistic and ultimately rewarding of the two shows, because rarely are things in real life as simple as finding your confidence, as they are for Nagato Yuki.

The characters of Oregairu—and I’m not just talking about the core trio, because the show puts great care into everyone—aren’t so lucky; it’s a constant balance of little lies and little fronts to protect the happiness that they have, even if the inevitable compromises erode their self-respect.

There are no easy answers or solutions…only complicated ones that can be given a sheen of simplicity with rationalization. And romance ain’t got nothin’ to do with rationalization!

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Great variety of reactions here

True to its title and its penchant for not taking the easy or well-tread routes of its genre, Oregairu 2’s second episode embraces the complexity of the situation. Tobe’s desire to get closer to Hina is clear cut, yet threatens the delicate high school equilibrium many are invested in, while Hina’s request is revealed as a means of gently heading off Tobe’s designs.

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You’re not REALLY reading that, are you?

It’s clear Hina is not going to go out with Tobe, or anyone else, as Miura says when she confronts Hikky about his meddling. Hina’s turned every confession her way down, and Tobe’s not the kind of guy who’s going to end that streak, period. That means the Service Club’s goal must shift to minimizing the damage to the circle of friends Tobe and Hina inhabit.

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There’s a knowing look in those eyes.

Hikky doesn’t have much that’s “tasty” for Hina in his progress report on the camaraderie of the guys, but the school trip isn’t over and there’s still opportunities to get her what she wants, which is the same thing Miura and Hayama want—for boats not to be rocked. Hina leaves it in Hikky’s capable hands.

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Hikky should probably file this reaction for future encounters

The club scouts out the a bamboo grove similar to the one Tamayo and Kato walked down in Saekano 00, and both Yui and Yukino agree it’s a good place for a confession. They’re talking about Tobe confessing to Hina, sure, but they’re also talking in general terms.

Both in the haunted house and while hanging out sharing food or simply spending time in that gorgeous, romantic grove, Yui and Yukino seem pretty happy and content themselves, because they’re in a place with Hikky where they can still imagine possibilities, despite the underlying problem of liking the same guy.

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Speaking of gorgeous, this episode is certainly that in terms of settings and backgrounds. The episode is replete with ideal spots in an non-ideal world. So it’s appropriate that Hayama and Hikky confer on the Tobe/Hina situation in a place that wouldn’t be a bad spot at all for a confession.

When Hikky calls the entente Hayama and Miura and Hina all seem to want as superficial and dishonest, Hayama asks him what he would do, and in his head Hikky isn’t honest with himself:

How I think or feel means nothing whatsoever, and it’s pointless to think about.

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He denies his own stewing thoughts and feelings and tacitly agrees to do something that will keep everything the same, but that way lies only further frustration and despair, by speaking and acting in ways that don’t respect the feelings of others. Yukino and Yui put their faith in Hikky, and just before a nervous-as-all-get-out Tobe is able to blurt out his confession, Hikky steps in an confesses to Hina in his place.

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Taking a bullet for Tobe gets the job done, but neither Yukino nor Yui can accept the means Hikky used. Yukino storms off rather than allow Hikky to see how much his actions hurt her, but Yui remains and tries to explain it to Hikky, but she’s hurt too and has to walk away in tears. Considering how much both of them saw this as an ideal place for a confession, Hikky’s stunt crassly trampled on their feelings. The mission is complete, but at what cost?

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Hina, who has quickly become one heck of a supporting character. got her happy balance back, and even muses non-jokingly about Hikky being a suitable mate for her, since she sees that they’re both “messed up” people. Hina avoids romantic relationships because she values the friendships she has so much, they’re both a security blanket and a ball-and-chain. It’s pragmatic and understandable, but it’s also profoundly sad.

She hates herself for relying on the equilibrium Hikky preserved, but it’s not just her: the tapestry of little lies and fronts is something everyone in that circle contributes to, and doesn’t want to see torn…so they stay stationary. Tobe’s confession would have torn that tapestry, a tapestry he’s a part of whether he’s aware or not.

Hikky is well aware he has his own tapestry of equilibrium with Yukino and Yui, but cynically tore it to fulfill Hina’s request. The lie neither Yukino nor Yui will accept is the lie that he doesn’t care about their tapestry, and that his feelings are meaningless. Hikky knows he erred, and isn’t sure how to mend it, or even if he can.

This adds greater stakes to the impending addition of a fourth club member. But even if there were no fourth member pending, Oregairu 2 is and would remain a complex, emotional powerhouse that is balancing its comedy, romance, and drama superbly.

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Oregairu 2 – 01 (First Impressions)

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Here’s what I said about Oregairu back in June 2013: “After this season brought the three misfits together and threw challenges at them to strengthen their bonds, we’d like to see a second season in which they, now firmly established as their own little posse, face more challenges, such as the romantic tension between Hikigaya and the girls, while continuing their service work, perhaps with a fourth freshman member? But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.”

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Not the best constructed sentence, but I feel it got the point across in terms of what I was looking for if and when a second season came around. Well, here it is! And what do you know, right off the bat we those challenges start to take shape, some nicely presented romantic tension between Hikky and his two comely club-mates, and a fresh mission involving what else, bringing two people together. The only thing missing is a fourth freshman member, but hey, it’s early!

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I won’t deny I’ve been both spoiled by the crackling good dialogue of Saekano and periodically put off by the overly advanced and pretentious dialogue of Violin Girl. But I never thought I’d be so happy to hear Hikky’s snarky inner monologue again. Hikky’s less wide-eyed than Tomoya and less feckless than Kousei, yet remains unjaded enough to allow himself to be surprised now and again, particularly by the two very different girls in his life right now.

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Oregairu is also playful and efficient when it comes to weaving two service missions into one, with the backdrop of a fun school trip to Kyoto. Tobe likes Hina and wants to get closer to her, which requires them being alone. But Hina wants to strengthen the bonds between her circle of friends, which requires her to not be alone with Tobe.

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Then there’s the fact that Hina is a fujoshi who likes to imagine her male classmates in exciting, complicated relationships, which compliments Hikky’s long-standing, not  necessarily one-sided crush on the very feminine Saika, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say Hikky’s bi; it’s more of an “if only he was a girl” situation.

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As for girls, Hikky’s relationships with both Yui and Yukina remain healthy and stong, if a smidge hamstrung by said romantic tension. Hikky’s discomfort with Yui being so close and friendly and touchy with him underlines the fact he sees her as more than just a friend, and there’s still unresolved things between these two that should provide nice fodder for the season as they work together to tackle missions.

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On the other end of the spectrum, Hikky also can’t deny the appeal of Yukino, nor Yukino Hikky. When talk in the girls’ hotel room turns to her, she escapes and finds refuge in his company. Fortune also favor them this week as their teacher brings them along for some not altogether kosher reason and bribes them with dinner, leaving them to walk home together.

Considering what drew her to Hikky tonight, Yukino is weary of being seen to close with him lest more rumors spiral, but it’s clear at the same time she doesn’t particularly mind Hikky’s company one bit.

My first impression of Oregairu 2 is that I’m glad I asked for and got a second season, and I’m looking forward to watching this intriguing triangle’s dynamics develop further, especially if and when the club is graced with a new member, representing yet another personality type.

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