Fruits Basket – 09 – Poker on a Cold Day

After seeing a bit of him last week, we’re formally introduced to another new Souma, Haruhatsu, who seems cool to some passing ladies until he gets on his deeply uncool bike with his uncool shades, clearly on some kind of mission.

Winter break is over, and Tooru has settled back into a fun daily life with the Soumas, though Yuki and Kyou remain stubbornly incapable of getting along. As it’s wintertime, Yuki also feels a cold coming on.

Despite this, Yuki doesn’t back down from Kyou’s challenge to beat him in the endurance race on the first day of the third term. Sure enough, the two blast ahead of all the other boys. Meanwhile, Uo skips entirely while Saki dramatically quits after one step and plays cards the rest of the time, to the annoyance of the teacher.

Kyou is literally tripped up by Haruhatsu, who wanted to fight Kyou on New Year’s but wasn’t able because Kyou skipped the family festivities. Now it’s go time…and Kyou isn’t one to back down from a fight.

Their mutual competitive spirit results in the emergence of “Dark Haru”, Haruhatsu’s other, more manic side, like Kagura only worse. Haru reiterates his undying love for Yuki while fighting Kyou like they’re in some kind fo martial arts movie.

Yuki notes that the two trained together when they were younger, and are both equally passionate about it. Tooru suspects Yuki loves martial arts too, but when he recalls a memory of watching the other two sparring and having his eyes suddenly covered by Akito, he faints.

The fight is called, and Haru decides the best way to get Yuki home is to carry him on his back in animal form, which is that of the Ox (though technically a cow).

When it’s just Haru and Tooru, he tells her the story of how he was always angry and losing his temper, and hated Yuki’s guts because of the “rat who rode the ox’s back” legend, and also because everyone always called him stupid and an idiot, for which he also blamed Yuki.

That all changed when he finally met him, and Yuki told him he wasn’t stupid; not really. He fell for him right then and there. With that, Yuki wakes up, not the worse for wear.

Haru suspects Tooru has had a “lightening” effect on the once standoffish Yuki and Kyou, and proves there’s something between Yuki and Tooru when he has the latter call the former by his given name and he immediately transforms into a rat.

Meanwhile, Saki has drawn a crowd to play poker by the school gates, but beats everyone running away (not literally though, as Saki isn’t fond of running). As a result of playing cards outside all afternoon in the cold, Kyou and Shigure also get colds. But Tooru is all too happy to take care of them!

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Grand Blue – 11 – Advanced Adult Activities

Concerned about failing his test on account of being bad at mask clearing, Iori tries to devise a way to practice without Kouhei or Aina knowing. The gang rents a car, but it ends up being two cars since one won’t fit all eight. Turns out Aina can drive a manual truck from helping out at a rice farm.

Many a misunderstanding due to lack of proper context ensues, both at the market when Shinju and Ryuu order strangely-named fish like “Hamazaki’s Wife” or “Chubby High Schooler”, and back at the rental house.

Iori decides honesty is the best policy, so tells a weary Chisa when the two pair up to cook together. He asks her to help him practice, but when both Aina and Kouhei come into the kitchen, from what they overhear they believe Iori is asking Chisa out…and wants to be tied up and stepped on.

Aina wakes up to find Chisa’s bed empty and goes out to find Chisa holding him underwater with her foot. She fears something very strange is going on, and doesn’t believe Iori, but believes Chisa. Turns out she wouldn’t have laughed about Iori’s mask clearing, but would have helped if asked.

In fact, she joins Chisa in pressing him underwater with their feet, prompting a passerby to call the cops. Unfortunately, Chisa and Aina are already back in bed and Iori is alone and naked in the pool when an officer arrives.

Iori isn’t arrested, but he does catch cold, so he can’t participate in training exercises that day. Azusa stays behind to take care of him, using green onions as a home remedy (one ’round the neck, one where the sun don’t shine, which Iori rejects).

When Azusa learns Iori hasn’t been sleeping because he’s nervous lying beside her and Nanaka, Azusa only half-jokingly suggests they have sex so he won’t feel nervous. Iori has a legit shot at sleeping with her here, but sheepishly declines.

However, when Iori learns that Tokita of all people has a girlfriend, he ends up drinking—a lot—so by the time the others return (Kouhei and Aina with certification cards in hand), he’s passed out, naked, with Azusa’s home remedy successfully, er, deployed.

Hanebado! – 03 – For the Sheer Love of Badminton

Overshadowed last week by Nagisa’s slump was the fact that Ayano still didn’t really want to play badminton. The exact reason why was not explicitly laid out until now, and it paints both her reluctance to join the bad club and Elena’s adamant insistence she join anyway. By getting to the roots of the two girls’ motivations, the episode succeeds in strengthening both characters and elevating the show’s drama.

We start with a series of flashbacks from Elena’s perspective, always on the sidelines watching Ayano with a combination of awe and pride, but also loneliness, and even envy. Mostly though, since they were wee girls Elena has always known how much Ayano loves badminton, and so simply couldn’t allow her to reject it. It wasn’t just about wasting talent, but denying herself that which both of them know she loves.

Of course, we’ve known that love is tainted by the huge expectations others put upon her, and the unwanted attention she gets from other badminton lovers for her body and her skills. Elena watches the others fawning over Ayano, gets bored, and goes to the movies with Noriko…where she’s also bored.

Afterwards, Noriko goes off on a date with Saionji, leaving Elena alone. She spots Nagisa on her run, but doesn’t call out. It’s Nagisa, on her run back, who spots Elena, who explains she wanted to see how Ayano would do on her own. Nagisa asks Elena why Ayano quit badminton, because she’s since fallen far from the “perfect” player who crushed her at the junior nationals. Elena promises to get to the bottom of it.

The next day, Ayano’s personal slump is compounded by the sudden arrival of her former self-appointed rival, Serigaya Kaoruko. After nearly falling for the cool Tachibana, Kaoruko challenges a very lethargic Ayano to a set, and totally embarrasses her.

This is another beautifully-animated badminton game, and it’s thrilling to see Kaoruko so easily confound, befuddle, and decimate Ayano, who had been impressing her teammates with her skills thus far. Kaoruko is disappointed, and vows that Ayano will never beat her. Considering Ayano is lying on the floor drenched in sweat, it’s hard to argue with that assessment.

Ayano rushes out, and when Elena catches up to her, she says she’s quitting badminton after all; Elena can stay if she wants, but she won’t. In that moment I couldn’t help but feel bad for Elena, who had stuck with Ayano all this time only for her efforts to be impulsively discarded after just one frustrating set. It felt like Ayano was taking Elena for granted.

The next day, Ayano doesn’t come to school or practice. Tachibana and Nagisa visit her house where her stately, adorable grandparents take care of her; there, they learn that Ayano’s mother was Shindo Uchika, the greatest badminton player of her generation and winner of ten straight national titles.

Both Elena and I considered the pressure of following in the footsteps of an almost impossibly elite parent ample motive for feeling like one’s own badminton career is pointless…but Ayano’s situation turns out to be far more fucked up. Elena may know more about Ayano than anyone, but even she didn’t understand the depths of Ayano’s pain.

She also didn’t know who Kaoruko was. When the two were scheduled to have a match, Kaoruko caught a cold, so she tied Ayano up and gave her her cold so they could play “on even terms.” Kaoruko ended up beating Ayano by a hair, and Ayano passed out on the court.

While still in bed recovering, her mother turned her back on her, ignored the calls of her daughter, walked out the door…and never came back. Ayano kept playing and kept winning, transforming herself into a badminton WMD, hoping that if she won enough, her mom would come back.

Not only did her mother never come back, but Ayano had to learn from an article in Badminton Magazine at the konbini that her mother had taken on another student in a faraway land and trained her to be her successor. Earlier I wondered whether perhaps there was a good reason her mom had to go, but no, she was just a garbage mother and human being.

Elena ponders the shocking new information Ayano has given her on her walk home, but one image over all others continues to be prominent in her mind: that of a tiny her watching a tiny Ayano playing badminton with her mom and loving every minute of it.

Elena considers it her duty as Ayano’s friend to help her get that feeling back—a feeling independent of pressure and  betrayal. To do so, she elicits the help of Nagisa. Elena and Ayano meet at their usual meeting spot atop the red playground octopus. Elena tells Ayano she needs to go back to school, and Nagisa makes her appearance.

Then Elena tells Ayano something she didn’t know before: How then, and now, she felt/feels “left out” when she watches Ayano play. Elena always thought she doesn’t have anything she can devote herself to, but she does. Ayano loves and devotes herself to badminton, and Elena loves and devotes herself to Ayano. Even if she feels lonely, or left out, or envious at times, it’s all worth it to see Ayano have so much fun.

With that, Nagisa draws a makeshift court in the sand, and the two have a match. It’s a bit of a mess of a match, with the wind wreaking havoc on the shuttlecock…but it doesn’t matter. Ayano is able to drop the baggage surrounding the sport she loves and simply enjoy playing it again.

The rest of the club is contacted and they join in the fun. And the next day, Elena and Ayano turn in their forms indicating their intention to join the Badminton Club. Ayano was dealt a terrible hand in moms, but in turn was dealt a great hand in BFsF.

3-gatsu no Lion – 43 – Some are Gone, but Some Remain

Gramps’ doctor is impressed with how far he’s been able to lower his blood pressure, especially when he used to say things like “I don’t need doctors!” and “I’ll die when like!” which are, let’s face it, Big Time Granddad things to say. But when his wife and daughter left him with “three little ones” he resolved to stay alive until they were all married off, which he realizes is a big ask considering Momo is still in preschool.

One of those little ones, Hinata, is making fine progress with studying, and Rei is putting on a tutoring clinice…until he tells Hina that Takahashi is going to school all the way in Shikoku, something she didn’t know until Rei told her; something Rei immediately feels very shitty for doing.

The news totally throws her off her studying game and into a spiral of despair over yet another person suddenly vanishing from her life. She stays out in the cold and catches one, and since Akari has to work late it falls to Rei to take care of her and assure her she’s studied enough, won’t forget what she knows, and will be okay in time for the exams.

That night, Hina can’t hold back the flood of tears from thinking about everyone who is or will soon be gone from her life. But with Rei there by her side, even to walk her to exams, she realizes that things aren’t all bad; for as many people who have left her life, just as many remain, like Rei, to help her up when she slips. She takes comfort in that.

She passes the entrance exams, which means in April she’ll officially be Rei’s kohai at his high school. While her aunt was initially very skeptical of a second-year high schooler spending so much time alone with her young and vulnerable niece, her fears are met with chillingly identical reactions from Akari and Gramps…Kiriyama/”the Kid” isn’t going to do anything weird. I mean, he’s Kiriyama/”the Kid”! 

Indeed, even Hinata tells him he’s “like a mother,” to which he should say “what’s wrong with mothers? Mothers are great!”

While very pure and oblivious to some if not most of what is said about him and Hinata, he knows one thing for sure: when he heard she wanted to come to his high school, he did everything he could to help her achieve that goal, and didn’t worry about whether that was right or wrong.

When she showed up at home with mismatched slippers, and stayed utterly true to her heart even in the face of gross injustice, she lit a light within him he didn’t have before. She made a part of him.

Then Rei gets a surprise of his own: his father shows up, having avoided demotion, which means they’ll both be in B-2 next period, and he wants to pick up where they left off…which is just fine with Rei.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san – 04

This week  the happy little world of Nishikata and Takagi is invaded, as the secondary characters begin to notice the two are together an awful lot beyond class. Take the first segment, in which Nishikata has to clean the science room because he’s so loud.

Takagi joins him, not to help clean, or because she feels guilty, or even to tease him more. Rather, she wants to “enjoy their youth”, the way another couple is clearly doing when they spot Nishikata and Takagi on the way to the rooftop. For Takagi, enjoyng her youth means spending as much time as she can with Nishikata.

Clearly Nishikata doesn’t mind hanging out with Takagi that badly, even if she does tease him a lot. Indeed, he seems to savor the challenge of fighting against such a formidable opponent, and never lets the discouragement of virtually never winning against her get to him for very long.

While on the way home, Nishikata challenges Takagi to a high-bar kickover, something he’s only just recently mastered. Takagi agrees to do it, but only if he looks the other way, as she’s wearing a skirt. The first time they both do one, but he doesn’t know whether she cheated, so the next time, he peeks.

When he does, he learns not only that Takagi is doing proper kickovers, but is wearing gym shorts under her skirt. But even if she made him look away despite that, he’s honorable enough to admit defeat because he peeked, even if she calls him a pervert.

Nishikata often shows he’s a good lad, but his desire to best Takagi sometimes leads to unnecessary deceit. When he comes in with an apparent cold, Takagi immediately presumes it’s because he stayed up all night watching 100% Unrequited Love anime.

Nishikata intends to make Takagi blush by telling her she’s “cute”, but ends up too embarrassed to say something meant to embarrass her. He’s so thrown off he claims to not have a cold after all!

While Takagi still believes he has a cold (which he actually does), she seems frustrated she can’t tease him as usual lest she make him cough, so when he later insists he’s fine (after watching how damn cute she is when sitting quietly), she just starts teasing him even harder to make up for lost time!

Finally, Nishikata and Takagi are spotted by the three girls. Yukari assumes they’re a couple and decides to tail them to confirm it. Takagi being a particularly observant person (and the trio not being that stealthy), she and Nishikata take a quick turn around a corner and then hide, throwing the girls off the trail and causing them to give up.

In the process, Nishikata and Takagi have to squeeze together very close—closer than under the umbrella last week—and Nishikata is understandably flustered, but when asked if he would have preferred a different tactic, he drops the matter.

Takagi then immediately sets off on the race to the shrine they proposed. Nishikata cries ‘false start’, but honestly, the only thing he can and should do in such a situation is chase after Takagi…which he does.

 

My Girlfriend Is ShoBitch – 03

Honestly, one of the worst things about ShoBitch is its title: it should actually be called Watashi no Kanojo wa Totemo Iidesu. (ほんとに私の彼女はとてもいいです。or My Girlfriend is Really Nice). Because Akiho is not a bitch! She just goes way beyond what is decent in normal daily conversation when it comes to analyzing her boyfriend’s sexual preferences.

Now we learn the reason she is the way she is: her mother Fuyumi gave her this “education.” Haruka learns this rather quickly upon meeting Akiho’s mom, while Akiho’s dad is essentially…Haruka, grown up. You can kinda see in his eyes that it’s been a lot of work living with Fuyumi, but the fact that every other aspect of her is perfect (like their daughter), he has no cause to complain.

In fact, Fuymi is almost too dutiful, to the point of making her husband feel like there’s no way he deserves someone so good. Then he remembers: not everyone could put up with all the innuendo…not to mention imbue their daughter with an almost identical attitude towards…that kinda stuff.

The day of Akiho and Haruka’s first date arrives, and Akiho predictably over-analyzes and over-prepares, to the point of deciding that 30 degrees is the ideal amount of head tilt to maximize her attractiveness to her man, which…yeah, Haruka doesn’t care about your head angle, especially when you’ve got such a cute outfit for the date!

Haruka runs into a bit of bad luck when across from him and Akiho is a real-life pervert with what looks like a blow-up doll-kinda thing(?), and Akiho takes comprehensive notes on both that and the movie they go to see, which is far raunchier than Haruka thought it would be.

That being said, Haruka, like Akiho’s father, is built for this kind of relationship, able to take any and all strange comments and requests, and only gently steer her back in the right direction of things veer off too far. Just being with her for the day made him happy, but that only makes Haruka feel bad for letting her research dominate the date.

Haruka says it’s no biggie; they can just go see the cherry blossoms on Sunday. The thought of another date so soon fills Akiho with joy, but she goes right back into her pattern of over-preparation, and she’s so anxious about the day she becomes sleep-deprived and even gets a fever.

After a trip to the (very inappropriate) nurse’s office and her mother picks her up, Akiho vows to get better for Sunday, and Haruka, not getting his hopes up, is shocked to discover on the day of their date her fever has disappeared. Let’s call it an efficient immune system, shall we?

Alas, most of the cherry blossoms already fell before they got there. Akiho is crestfallen, but again, Haruka reiterates that it’s no big deal (not a lot is  big deal to him, unless she’s on her knees before him in the school hall, speaking in a tone of voice that could be easily misinterpreted).

They can always come back next year, he tells her. Insinuating they’ll be together an entire year from now is awfully bold, but I don’t currently see anything getting in their way. I mean, look how happy Akiho is to hear that!

Speaking of ‘getting in the way’, I was glad none of the other girls in Haruka’s circle made an appearance this week; after the last episode I needed a break, and the show shines best when the lead couple is on screen. It was also neat to meet Akiho’s parents—It was essentially like looking into Akiho and Haruka’s future.

Net-juu no Susume – 02

Well, first of all, NJS has a solid OP. Great vocals, orchestration, and visuals. Really gets you pumped for the episode!

While exploring a dungeon deep into the night, Hayashi’s fellow guild member Lilac notices she’s always online, and guesses that she’s 21 and a university student, like her. That leads to the guildmaster Kanbe having to pay out for losing the bet on Hayashi’s real age.

Moriko feels bad for lying about her age, but is also relieved it won’t come up anymore. Meanwhile, Lily is pretty upfront about being older than Hayashi, and calls him “serious and kindhearted.” Moriko wants to tell Lily more, and wants to learn more about her, so they make a promise to do just that.

Fate strikes both Moriko and Lily’s player once again when he elbows Moriko (out to get cold medicine) while rounding a corner on his way to work (ironically, because he stayed up playing a netoge with Moriko!)

While out cold, Moriko meets an angel (perhaps her online friend from the previous MMO she played) and also enters a Brazil-style distopia in which endless columns of identitcal salarymen enter the Tower of Bebel only to jump into an abyss. Grim!

Moriko awakens in hospital, with a handsome young man with blond hair  sitting beside her bed. He’s Sakurai Yuuta, and he wants to make amends for accidentaly elbowing her. He leaves her his contact info and assures her she can text or call anytime, for any reason.

Moriko returns to FdM, where his comrades are ready and willing to hear what’s eating Hayashi. When he tells them, Lilac and Himeralda think it sounds like the intro to a romance manga and, thinking Hayashi’s player is a guy, urge him to ask her out…he may even get lucky!

Guildmaster Kanbe is more down-to-earth; nothing need be done except for what must: she should send a text thanking him at the very least and telling him she’s all good; as it would do no good to make him worry. Moriko agrees, and jumps offline to text Sakurai. She’s shocked to get an immediate reply asking if she’d let him take her out to eat as an apology.

Morioka likes this guy, but thinks he’s too good and too “blinding” for her, and a look in the mirror doesn’t help her confidence (though character design-wise, she’s hardly unattractive). Ironically, then it’s another encounter with Lily (i.e. Sakurai) that convinces her to send him a proper reply—which she sends at two in the morning!—though we’ll have to wait and see the contents of said reply.

Lily makes Morioka’s chest feel warm, reminding her that no matter how perfect someone may seem, everyone has problems and doubts, and she need not fear how someone who has already been so kind to her will regard her. The only way to know for sure is to move forward. Even eyebrow-plucking isn’t mandatory!

Aho Girl – 12 (Fin)

The final episode of Aho Girl falls on the tenth anniversary of A-kun and Yoshiko meeting when she and her mom moved in next door. Yoshiko sought a playmate, and it was derision at first sight for A-kun, a stoic, studious five-year-old. She treats every attempt to avoid or get away from her as a game, and never wants to stop playing. When she gives him a big long kiss, he uppercuts her into the sky for the first time.

Realizing the key to keeping Yoshiko away is physical superiority, A-kun begins rigorous training, Rocky-style. Alas, he ends up training too hard and passes out. He wakes up with Yoshiko on top of him, she stayed by his side for an entire day while he was out with a cold. He almost allows that she’s “not that bad” until his mom tells him she was kissing him the whole time. To add insult to injury, his punches can’t even faze her!

If fighting her doesn’t work, A-kun considers other options; after all, he can’t let this go on, lest he end up marrying Yoshiko and having idiot kids with her. So he turns into a demented pervert and chases her around, flipping her skirt, until she cries and he feels guilty for going to far. But even here Yoshiko manages to get the wrong idea, and apologizes for making A-kun “hold back”, removing her panties and putting them on his face.

Ten years later, she’s wearing those same panties (which don’t fit her anymore at all), still trying to play with A-kun when all he wasnts is peace and quiet; and after all these years he still wants to kill her. But if he’s honest, isn’t he glad there’s someone in his life to make things interesting? No. He hates her guts. But does he? Yes.

Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 08

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That ominous cold close of Mamiko leaving the Oumae household was a taste of what was to come this week, with Kumiko getting so caught up in family unrest it literally makes her sick. That being said, she isn’t all that involved in said unrest, merely a witness, and not a happy one at that. Her sister Mamiko, who inspired her to get into music, now wants to become…a beautician.

Her Dad warns Mamiko that if she quits college, she’ll be cast out and cut off. Mamiko blames her folks for making her quit trombone (which, to Kumiko’s shock, she never wanted to quit), but Pops only accepts partial responsibility; to him, the blame rests on Mamiko for not being more forceful about what she wanted to do.

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Back at school, Asuka returns to practice, but just as quickly stops coming again after inviting Kumiko to her place to help study for exams, which would be a first. Kumiko quickly becomes quite ill, making the band two euphs down, while Taki informs the band that if Asuka can’t show up for practice, Natsuki will take her place at the Nationals. It’s kind of unsettling how quickly Asuka disappears from this episode halfway in.

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Kumiko is sent home by her friends, and after an odd encounter with the third-year Aoi, she ends up in bed, waking up to find Reina quietly sitting by her bed, waiting to spring into action and take care of her. Reina has taken a bit of back seat to others of late (though she hasn’t become as obscure as Shuuichi), so it’s nice to see her here, and to see how far these two have come in their friendship.

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Reina even gets to witness Kumiko getting fed up at her sister when she barges in to turn off a euph CD. Kumiko doesn’t hold her tongue, and lets Mamiko have it regarding her earlier assertion she never wanted to give trombone up. Mamiko retreats, telling her little sister she’ll “never understand how she feels.” Yikes.

But that’s not where things are left. Mamiko runs into Shuuichi in the lobby on her way out (Shuuichi, whose mother heard Mamiko was quitting college). Shuu’s voice proves crucial in getting Mamiko to introspect, and that night, Mamiko comes back in Kumiko’s room – not to complain or fight, but to ask for a recording of her Kumiko’s music.

There’s been a rift between these two sisters for a long time, not helped by their frustratingly implacable father who only seems to know how to sow and escalate rancor in the household. Maybe they can reconnect through music?

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Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 09

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In addition to getting a win and advancing due to Ayase’s forfeiture, Ikki also gets a week off with Stella at a mountain hotel. Thankfully, we’re well past the point that one or the other must use this golden opportunity to confess their love—they’re already lovers. Rather, it’s more an opportunity for the two to see just how much trouble they can get into, and find out what kind of lovers they’re going to be.

Alas, it also turns out the director tricked them; at least part of their “vacation” consists of helping the Student Council clean the hotel. I maintain the Student Council are all a bunch of shallow cliches with silly exaggerated designs, but it’s good to know they’re not really evil, and as a group bouncing off one another, they’re fun enough.

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…Just not as fun as watching Stella and Ikki when no one else is around. Stella wants to go see a gorgeous waterfall an hour’s walk away, but she didn’t eat enough in the morning, gets tired and weak, and eventually shows symptoms of a cold. Then it starts to rain, and Ikki postpones the waterfall trip and seeks out shelter. Almost too conveniently, they find a clean, unoccupied cabin with a hearth.

Soaking wet and coming down with a fever, the best thing for Stella is to get her clothes off so she can get warm and dry. Ikki knows it’s probably embarassing, so he strips first. It’s a kind and very Ikki gesture, and reminds Stella how they met, with him seeing “everything” right from the start. She doesn’t look on that day with scorn, but with a smile.

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In the firelight, with Stella sweating and breathing heavily, there’s no way to make this situation not incredibly sexy for both parties. Ikki attempts to keep things “businesslike”, but after unclasping her stockings and bra, Ikki pitches a tent; one that Stella not only notices, but is happy she excites him so, especially when he’s exciting her so much. After a pause that lasts seemingly forever during which only the fire snaps and pops, Stella finally puts the question to Ikki: “Do you wanna do it with me?”

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But that doesn’t lead to any slow dissolves, tasteful panning, or overdramatic score drowning out sex noises. In fact, Ikki is taken aback, asking if she’s sure what she’s saying. Without skipping a beat, Stella looks seriously and calmly at Ikki and says she does; she wants him, he wants her, and if he wants, they can have each other right here and now. Stella may be the instigator by posing the question, but she understands the choice of whether to proceed belongs to both of them.

Ikki says no, but it’s not because he doesn’t want to. For one thing, she’s exhausted and needs to rest, but beyond that, Ikki is thinking about their future—both their futures, not just his. Even if you don’t quite agree with Ikki’s somewhat conservative views on the matter, you can still understand his decision as part in parcel of the careful life he has to lead, whether it’s not getting into useless fights, or not risking getting the girl he loves pregnant in a fit of passion just because all the circumstances align.

It’s not that Stella isn’t being clear-headed, or Ikki is being a prude. It’s somewhere in between, which makes it a far more interesting situation. Stella isn’t just disappointed Ikki turned her down this time; she’s also happy he’s so serious about their relationship. This isn’t just a fling for him. She also surprises herself again with her “naughtiness”, though I sensed more acceptance of, rather than shame about, that side of her.

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In any case, they got as close as you could physically and emotionally get to going all the way, and you have to tip your hat to RKC for going there and not giving us easy or one-dimensional answers or resolutions. And from a practical perspective, it’s good they didn’t get into it, because they would have been rudely (and probably painfully) interrupted by a giant stone golem smashing the cabin.

Again, RKC and Asterisk echo one another when this attacking monster splits into several smaller versions of itself when Ikki cuts it, meaning a central controlling element must be taken out to stop it from reviving. Ikki isn’t able to find it, and nearly loses Stella while fighting when the Student Council shows up to rescue them. A very discreet Student Council that doesn’t ask too many questions about why Stella is in such as state of undress and whatnot!

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Even the council finds their backs up against the wall, until their long-talked-about but previously unseen president arrives and takes the golem—and his controller, many miles away—down with authority. The glasses-wearing, twin-braid redhead is named Toudou Touka (not to be confused with Asterisk’s Toudou Kirin), and she makes an immediate impression as a capable badass who naturally was one of the final four in the last Seven Star. Heck, her attacks even dissolve the letterboxingin a subtle visual breaking of the fourth wall.

As for the gangster-type guy who arranged the golem attack, I don’t much care for him at all, but wonder if he’s specifically after Ikki on behalf of the Kuroganes, or more interesting working against them (and the Kurogane clan having to put on a front of loathing to protect Ikki all this time)

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Mercifully, Shizuku isn’t quite obsessive enough to have snuck on the bus with Stella and Ikki and stalked them on their trip (though it would have been somewhat interesting if she had been the one to save them from the golem, I don’t think she could have handled peeking through the window as the lovers stripped and sweated). Instead, she goes home to her big, cold sad room in the big, cold, sad Kurogane Manor, where she’s summoned by her big, cold, sad father.

Her dad claims to want to know how Shizuku is doing, so had her mother write a letter to her on his behalf. In addition to being insulted by being tricked into coming, Shizuku is pissed that her father won’t even speak of Ikki, even though like her he’s won twelve matches in a row without a loss.

He’s quick to express his pride in her, but not Ikki, so she rejects his pride, along with whatever excuses he has for treating her brother like garbage for so long. (Of course, if there is a good reason Ikki’s family does that, which Shizuku isn’t aware of, it would be nice to hear about it.)

This is actually Shizuku at her best, “behind enemy lines”, where the enemy is the entire rest of her family who treat Ikki like an inconvenient eyesore, and taking the fight to that enemy. If they’re not going to treat Ikki like they treat her, she’d rather they treat her like Ikki, and go to the devil while they’re at it. Going home made Shizuku mad, which is why its such perfect timing that her next match will be against Toudou Touka, in a battle of water vs. lighting.

9_ses