My Senpai is Annoying – 02 – Largesse Oblige

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Senpai is Annoying – 01 (First Impressions) – Climbing the Stairs of Adulthood

I’ve been remiss, fellow anime lovers…for the last five weeks I’ve beeing missing out on one of the best rom-coms of the Fall. Fortunately it’s not too late to go back and rectify that error, bow deeply, and accept responsibility for the mistakes that were made. Like a true salesperson!

For those who like me have not availed themselves of it, this is My Senpai is Annoying, a workplace slice-of-life romantic comedy featuring the pocket-sized Igarashi Futaba and her office senpai, the truck-sized Kazama Souta. Futaba has a bit of a love-hate relationship with Kazama, but as the episode progresses, we see there’s a lot more love than hate.

The love goes both ways, in different ways. Futaba hates having her hair tousled, but after making a mistake on her first big sales pitch, Kazama takes responsibility and won’t brook any dispute about it. He even makes sure that the last can of sweet red bean soup (which I’m still kicking myself for never buying when I was in Akiba) finds its way into his kouhai’s teeny-weeny hands.

We learn through their interactions (and their chemistry is magical) that Kazama isn’t just being a good senpai, but harbors a genuine desire to look after this bitty go-getter, who is loved by everyone at the office for her chipper attitude, but also feel down and off when she’s feeling down and off. I can’t say I blame him, as Futaba is lovable right out of the gate. As Futaba goes, so goes the office, and Kazama helps Futaba out of the doldrums.

That’s because Kazama is such a loud, brash, upbeat guy. He’s a gigantic cuddly bear, and if Futaba is honest, she actually can’t get enough of him, even if he’s “annoying” some times. After some drinks at the pub, Futaba is honest whether she wants to be or not, asking Kazama, when he says if he had a wife and kid he’d want a kid like her, she asks why she can’t be his wife. It’s a sweet to behold as it is mortifying for Futaba.

I’ll have four more episodes of this or something like this please!

 

Shin no Nakama – 06 – The Champions of Here

Red is making a routine delivery to Dr. Newman when the two of them suddenly hear someone freaking out. They discover one of their neighbors has overdosed on that recently approved drug that has become popular as a narcotic. These opening events, and an episode title like “The Rampage Begins”, portend a not-so-quiet slice of Red and Rit’s quiet life.

…Or so you’d think. Instead, these suddenly unpleasant events don’t suddenly take over their lives. They still find time for a leisurely omelette lunch, or a day by the river in their swimsuits. They even share their first kiss. Investigating drug crime is not their job, and they’re fine with that. Their job is to stock the necessary ingredients to counteract the drug, and take it easy.

I’ve been a steady defender of both Red and Rit’s individual freedom to live their lives how they see fit…but neither of them is The Hero. I’ll admit to seeming a bit dismissive of Ruti’s fate, but I wish to dispel that right here and now by declaring her the show’s most tragic figure.

Ruti’s Hero’s Blessing is more of a curse, overriding her life 95% of the time. The rest of the time, she’s just a lonesome young woman who loves and misses her brother, and is crushed by the weight of a duty she never asked for.

I felt bad enough last week when we learned she can’t even sleep at night. This week we learn she’s resistant to nice weather as well as bad, and never gets hungry and so doesn’t eat food. I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t have a sense of taste…being a hero in this world means being anhedonic.

When a bloodied and maimed man suddenly rushes into the apothecary, Red treats him while Rit heads into town to see what’s going on. Turns out it’s nothing good: a number of members of Albert’s party are apparently tweaking out on that drug, which has turned them into rampaging killers.

Rit is content to knock them all out, but Albert kills them with bolts from his crossbow, then nonchalantly apologizes if his party members inconvenienced her from her slow life with her “fiancé”. Rit seems ready to fight, but then suddenly drops her twin blades—something she says is a ritual to “douse” her blessing’s urge to attack.

Possessed of Blessings far less intense than Rutis, Red and Rit are able to maintain their quiet cozy days, but Zoltan seems primed for a major drug and violence epidemic. Red’s ability to produce healing medicines will be key, while Rit may have to use a lot more of her Blessing’s skills than she’d liked in order to maintain peace. The two of them are two talented to sit on the sidelines for long if shit really hits the fan in the village.

As if to herald the figurative storm for which this week seemed like the uneasy calm that always comes before, there’s a literal storm that requires Red and Rit to close up the house shutters and prepare for a long night of rain and thunder. That preparation includes a cup of warm milk and honey Red serves Rit as a calming and sleeping aid.

It’s something Red once made for his sister Ruti when she was little. In a flashback to a similar big storm, we see that even as a young girl Ruti was already exhibiting the qualities of an unfeeling hero, even though it’s clear in her words and actions that she adored her big brother. It’s heartbreaking to watch Red (well, Gideon back then) explain the concept of emotions like happiness and affection and why he thanked her for saying she loved him.

Ruti knows the words, and maybe deep down feels the feelings, but her Blessing is constantly tamping them down. It’s why, in the present, Ruti laments in her own way that she can’t go to where her brother is, even though she once asked him to promise never to leave her. Because she’s the Hero.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shin no Nakama – 05 – For Their Own Sake

Red and Rit are leisurely preparing to open the shop for the day when a brace of bigwigs from different guilds arrive unannounced, demanding to see Rit. Red says “Uh, no, you can see her when we open”. Realizing there’s nothing else they can do, they agree to wait. I love this. After years of carrying the weight of a party and a kingdom, respectively, Red and Rit aren’t here for anyone but each other.

Rit eventually goes out to speak with the bigwigs, who want her to go back to adventuring, but she tells them she’s signed a lifetime employment contract with Red’s apothecary. He overhears this, and figures it’s the perfect time to give her a gift: an amber bracelet.

This is after a Thieves Guild rep offers him a valuable Elven coin in exchange for Rit, which he obviously refuses. When he asks what her favorite gemstone is, she basically says whatever gemstone he gives her. Fool, you wanna be putting a ring on it!

While minding the store, Rit just revels in the fact she had no idea she’d be working there and living with Red, whom she once knew as Gideon. That takes us to another flashback to when she first met his very good friend—his very tall, very pretty good friend—Yalandrala, and is threatened by her flirting with Gideon as they traverse a forbidden forest they can only cross with Yal and the blessing that allows her to speak to the plants.

Yal can tell what’s going on even before Rit starts with the tsundereing, so she takes her aside to a crisp, cool forest spring for some bathing and a heart-to-heart. There, Yal tells Rit that because she’s a high elf who will live a much longer life, she’s decided not to fall for any humans (a mistake she already said she made once). But it’s clear to her that Rit is crazy about Gideon, and Yal cares about him too, so she’s glad such a nice person has fallen for him.

Even then, Yalandrala wanted Gideon to live his life for his own sake, knowing as only she, Rit, and few others know how far his power goes beyond his blessing and skills. And make no mistake, he’s fully in charge of the party, how it’s going to do things and when.

Ruti may have final sway as the Hero, but she also understands her brother’s power and defers to him. And though Gideon has Rit accompany her to fight the goblins, Ruti quickly demonstrates that in such a situation she’s all she’s got, she’s all she needs.

When the party is reunited, Ruti is the first one to hug Gideon, and Rit decides that she doesn’t want to take him away from her, seeing as how she’s the Hero they’re all depending on. But as fortune would have it, Ares kicked him out of the party, which has led to her and now-Red living and working together in pure bliss.

When a sketchy adventurer who thinks he knows her “weakness” threatens to tell Loggervia she’s in this village slacking off, she basically shrugs and says “go ahead.” She doesn’t care about her social standing in Loggervia. She’s where she wants to be, doing what she wants. This guy can’t touch her.

Because she’s happy here, with Red, each living for their own and each other’s sakes. They’ve earned it! I’m happy for them, and even happier they’re able to swat away possible wrenches in their works so easily this week. That said, we get a flashback to when Ruti learned that her brother had left the party. She learns this from Ares, who intends to take Gideon’s place.

When Ruti suspects that Ares did something to Gideon to make him leave, she puts her arm through his chest, killing him in a spray of blood and gore. Of course, since she’s the Hero, she can revive him in a second, but I’d like to think this was the moment Ares realized he was way out of his depth. Not only because he’s not half the adventurer Red is, but because he tried to play fast and loose with the goddamn Hero. 

The greatest threat to Red and Rit’s blissful quiet life isn’t threats or blackmail from random adventurers or thieves, but the possibility his sister can’t be the Hero she needs to be without him in the party.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shin no Nakama – 04 – No Mead to Be Shy

Rit and Red sleep in the same room, and even if Rit isn’t letting her bust pop out on purpose, she certainly doesn’t mind if Red sees it. We’re talking about someone who is probably still a bit disappointed he didn’t go for a double bed! Running an apothecary shop and living with a princess isn’t remotely the life Red thought he’d be living, but he’s pretty satisfied.

One day, Zoltan’s adventuring party stops by, shocked and appalled that Rit is working there. While she goes out to buy mead, which she was simply craving, the toughest of those adventurers shows up, the B-ranked Albert. Al suspects Red killed the owlbear with his bronze sword, and wanted to ask him to join his party. But soon after he draws his sword Rit bursts in, shatters his sword with one strike, and is fully ready to kill him, were it not for Red telling her to stop.

After seeing just how ready, willing, and able Rit is of protecting Red (even though he probably doesn’t need it, as he’d just prefer to hide his true ability) it’s nice to see the two kick back and have a simple supper that goes well with mead. That’s right, before all that Jack Daniels Honey nonsense, people made wine out of honey. Still do…and it’s delicious! In any case, this episode is full of wonderful relaxing cozy slice-of-life-ness.

After talk of installing a bathtub big enough for two, Red invites Rit to his go-to sauna, which we learn is in trouble after a big fancy public bathhouse was built further in town. Red, Gonze, Nao, and Storm, not to mention Rit, love the place, so Red devises a feature that will draw more customers: a potpourri bag that infuses the steam with therapeutic vapors. His reward for his ingenuity? Getting to share the sauna with Rit and Nao, the latter of whom laughs out loud at how bashful Red and Rit are.

After saying goodbye to their elven friends, Red and Rit stroll around in the lovely sunset. Rit tells Red why she wanted mead; because it’s tradition in her homeland for a married couple to take time off and spend it together doing nothing but drinking mead (and presumably consummating the marriage). Red and Rit may not be officially married, but they make a hell of a good match, both feel fulfilled in their lives, and both are crazy about each other. So it’s near as makes no difference!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 05 – Ruby Eyes and Caveman Meat

With Zetsuya left utterly destroyed by Tomoe and Mio’s OP one-upmanship, they, along with Makoto, Toa, Rinon, and a “fellowship” of other adventurers (an elf, a dwarf, and a dude) pile into a wagon and head for the next human town, the less feral Tsige.

While stopping at an guild outpost Makoto manages to convince Tomoe of the merit of becoming a “knight-errant”, or ronin, and she heads off on her own, never to be seen again!

Tomoe would be a huge loss if the other characters both old and new couldn’t hold their own, but they totally can. Toa’s penchant for graphically dissecting defeated monsters while looking exactly like Hasegawa haunts Makoto, while a Mio without a Tomoe to snipe at is still jockeying for her master’s attention…though she deems Rinon “a charming little girl” for assuming Mio and Makoto are dating.

Makoto and his new friends are reluctant to part once arriving at Tsige, so they have a big celebratory feast at a blue-collar tavern of Toa’s choosing. Perhaps due to him being served one too many orders of  Brazen Youngster-Style Primeval Meat, Mio’s dreams of a steamy night alone with Master are dashed when he hits the hay and falls right to sleep. There’s also the fact that he’s just a kid, and has eyes only for Hasegawa or her isekai equivalent.

Thanks to the use of Mist Gates, Makoto and Mio return to the Demiplane where a far more confident and forthright Emma is waiting for them, along with Mini-Tomoe, who also has no idea where her counterpart is. I like how Makoto obviously isn’t worried about Tomoe (except perhaps whether she’ll destroy any other towns), but he does seem to miss her towards the end.

So did I towards the end, but like Makoto I was sufficiently distracted by the lively goings-on quickly of his expanding Demiplane empire, including that one grizzled dwarf who is absolutely hell-bent on creating a garment or accessory that will kill Makoto instantly. He’s got a long way to go!

On the way to Tsige Makoto uses his trusty bow to swiftly deal with some pretty rare monsters, who drop valuable ruby eyes that the Rembrandt Trading Company is looking for. The only problem is, Makoto has heard some ill rumors about misfortune befalling anyone who deals with Rembrandt.

Thankfully, this does not dissuade Makoto from doing a deal with them anyway, though as soon as he arrives he is summarily rebuffed. Perhaps he needs a bit of Tomoe’s memory-altering powers…or maybe he’s going to try to negotiate his way to a profit without the many OP tricks at his disposal. Either way, Makoto & Co.’s journey has never not been extremely fun, zippy, and more often than not, hilarious.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S., the show has now cycled through three distinct EDs. This one went back to showing Makoto and his sisters growing up, which is very sweet and uplifting. My favorite, however, continues to be Tomoe and Mio’s shred-tastic power metal cover of the first episode’s Enka-style ending, as seen below:

That’s the good shit.

Osamake – 02 – The Cost of Assumptions

Maru Sueharu was indeed a famous and talented child actor, while his dad was a stuntman and his mother an “unsuccessful” actress. Abe Mitsuru asks why Sueharu suddenly quit acting six years ago, but I doubt the answer matters much to him, as once Mitsuru found out Sueharu liked Shirokusa, he decided to date her for the express purpose of humiliating him and proving that he “won”. I take it back; this guy’s a dick!

Mitsuru also makes clear his intentions to officially confess to Shirokusa at the confession festival, in hopes of squashing Suehar’s first love for good. Why he cares so much about Sueharu is anyone’s guess, but the bottom line is that if Sueharu will need to make a big splash at the festival to foil his scheme.

Despite Kuroha loudly proclaiming she and Sueharu are now dating, Shirokusa still agrees to write a script for a play Sueharu will perform for the festival—provided he’s the star and she gets properly compensated. She then contributes to his persona non grata status with the boys by exchanging NINE info with him.

Kuroha, who we learn is one of four beautiful Shida sisters who live next door to Sueharu, stops by to check on him. Once again the two exhibit a warm, lovely lived in chemistry. While she’s organizing his books, a photo slips out of one of them: a photo of him as a kid with someone who is clearly Shirokusa.

Sueharu, who calls Shirokusa Kachi, doesn’t make the connection to his old friend “Shiro”, because he is very dumb and possibly face-blind. Right on cue, Shirokusa then calls Sueharu up, and they have a playful little chat to arrange a place and time to meet and talk about the play. After the call, Kuroha knows it was Shirokusa on the line, and is worried about Sueharu jumping back into acting after so long.

She also makes clear that even if it doesn’t go well it doesn’t matter, because he has other qualities besides acting ability, and she reiterates that she likes him. When she teases his red face, he raises a mirror to show her hers, then tries to go further by taking her by the chin and teasing a kiss, only to chicken out when she was ready to go.

I realize I said this last week, but it sure would be a lot easier if he got over Shirokusa and dated Kuroha for real! I know, I know, love polygon romcoms need these kinds of bumps to provide drama. Speaking of drama, on the day Sueharu practices on stage with Tetsuhiko, he suddenly suffers what I’d describe as a panic attack and passes out.

He wakes up in the nurse’s office, with Shirokusa by his side, ready to begin their meeting when he’s ready. She admits she decided to write the script for him because she’s supporting him getting back into acting. As far as payment goes, she wants neither cash nor groveling, but an explanation for what happened to his acting career. Sueharu proceeds to tell a sad tale of his mother getting the role of his mother in the second season of Child Star, the show that made him famous.

But his mom put so much into her role, she ended up hitting her head while filming a scene where her character was to be hit by a car. The show was going to be cancelled, but Sueharu insisted the show go on. But after that second season it went on indefinite hiatus, along with his career. He couldn’t tell anyone at the time what happened due to a gag order.

Sueharu’s story moves Shirokusa to tears, and not just because it’s a sad story, but because it throws off her whole revenge plot against him—which predates his by six years! As expected, the “Shiro” Sueharu and Kuroha saw in the photo was her. She was spellbound by his performances on TV, and had him invited to her house to hang out. I particularly love how in this flashback her younger self looked his way with her head sideways on the desk, just like she did in the present when he asked her to write him a script.

Back then, she asks if she could write something for him to act in, and he was enthusiastic about it. He thus became her muse, as she began to write prolifically. But when he stopped coming by without explanation and his show ended, Shirokusa took it as a personal affront. She dedicated to becoming stronger, prettier, and famous to get back at him for leaving her.

As she walks home after their meeting, Shirokusa is in tears, because he’d gone from her first love to her hating him, and now she’s back to loving him, especially knowing what happened wasn’t her fault, or anyone’s. My questions are, is she in cahoots with Mitsuru or are they using each other to make Sueharu envious, and will this revelation lead to her cancelling her vendetta?

Whatever path she takes, Sueharu and Kuroha are proceeding with the play in which he upstages Mitsuru and confesses to Shirokusa. But Kuroha doesn’t trust Shirokusa and worries that this is a trap by her and Mitsuru to kick him as low as he can go just when he’s riding high. Nevertheless, Sueharu wants to give it a try.

While Kuroha is worried about him, as a childhood friend would, she’s also supportive, telling him that even after all this time his natural talent is still there, and he’s a better actor than he gives himself credit for. As long as he’s acting for someone, she knows he’ll do great. Ideally, that someone is her!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Osamake – 01 (First Impressions) – The Romcom Where The Childhood Friend Won’t Lose!

When Maru Sueharu (melodic name, that) encounters his classmate and the school’s vaunted idol, Kachi Shirokusa, he’s honored she knows his name, and says her first novel moved his heart. His praise moves her to tears as she thanks him, showing a side no one at school had ever seen, and that was that: Sueharu “fell victim to love’s poison”, as for him love isn’t something you fall into, but rather eats away at you.

It’s eleven days until the cultural festival, on the second day of which is the “confession festival”. While on friendly speaking terms with Kachi, Sueharu made no further progress with courting her. His mate Tetsuhiko isn’t surprised. She’s smart, athletic, an award-winning novelist and model—way out of the league of Sueharu…who just seems to be…some guy?

Sueharu watches Kachi (imperiously voiced by Sakura Ayane) tearing her own notes rather than letting a girl copy them. Then he catches Kachi in the library, either writing fresh notes or re-writing the ones she tore, all with tears in her eyes. If ever there was an chance to approach her, it’s here, but Sueharu chickens out. Tetsuhiko suggests Sueharu ask his childhood friend Shida Kuroha out instead of tilting at windmills.

She’s out of his league to, but due to their osananajimi status, she might actually say yes. Sueharu admits that Kuroha is cute, all the guys like her, she’s good at communicating, and he respects her a lot. Just then, Kuroha announces her presence, bending her diminutive frame to face him while he sits on the floor. Sueharu gets all shy, something Kuroha mentions is something she likes about him.

As other boys in class curse Sueharu and plan his death with startling detail for daring to have an “older loli” as a childhood friend, Kuroha makes no effort to lower her voice when she asks if Sueharu regrets rejecting her when she asked him out. Even Kachi and her friend Maiko take notice.

Sueharu prostrates himself and admits that yes, he’s grateful to have Kuroha. Then Maiko accidentally blurts out that Kachi is dating actor Abe Mitsuru, himself the son of a famous actor. Sueharu’s heart drops out of his chest, and he flees the classroom in a cloud of despair.

Naturally, because they’ve known each other since they were little Kuroha knows just where to find him sulking: on the riverbank. She repeats that her asking him out was only because “she lost a game” but he knows that while she acts like an older sister, she likes to be doted on. Because he’s spot-on about that, she cradles his head in her chest as a reward.

Kuroha reiterates her affection for Sueharu, for being nice to her even when he’s hurting himself. She also says that despite the fact he rejected her, her feelings are still there, which is why she can relate to how he’s feeling having been passively rejected by Kachi.

It was in this scene where Kuroha and Sueharu won me over. For one thing, both the characters and their seiyuu Minase Inori and Matsuoka Yoshitsugu have properly gorgeous chemistry that oozes from the screen. They feel so comfortable and sweet together, it’s a crying shame they don’t just date each other…but then there wouldn’t be a show, would there?!

Instead of taking the easy route of going out for real, Kuroha offers to help Sueharu get revenge on Kachi, for stringing him along out of a desire to “keep him around” despite having a boyfriend; the proverbial cake and eating it. It would also be revenge for Kuroha, who is insulted by Kachi’s implied rejection of her friend. As far as she’s concerned it’s Sueharu who’s out of Kachi’s league.

It’s here where Sueharu mentions in VO that Kuroha’s name is based on “clover”, which is not just a symbol of luck, but promises, thinking of her, and…revenge. And at their first meeting to plan this revenge, Kuroha makes no secret of her preferred method: Sueharu and her pretending to be boyfriend and girlfriend, thus depriving Kachi of the buddy she friendzoned.

Before Sueharu fully agrees to this method, Kuroha immediately settles into the role, which she made quite clear would be “all profit” to her, as she’d get to go out with the guy she loves. She gets close to Sueharu, runs her hand down his arm and weaves her fingers into his, whispers in his ear, and eventually gets him on his back, hoping to commence their “fake” dating plan with a real kiss.

Just before their lips touch, Sueharu thinks of Kachi crying on the bridge and wigs out, leaving an upset and unsatisfied Kuroha alone. After trying and failing to get dirt on Abe Mitsuru—he’s perfect!—he flees to the roof to basically monologue in a very dramatic, theatrical way—one instance of many in the episode that allow Matsuoka Yoshitsugu to have some fun with his performance.

Turns out it’s no accident that Sueharu is often performative like this, as we learn when Abe Mitsuru appears on the roof, having heard Sueharu was asking around about him. When Sueharu expresses surprise a famous guy like Abe knows him, Abe says he doesn’t so much know him, but remember him…as the “former genius child actor” Maru Sueharu! This is the first sign that Abe isn’t going to be just some faceless baddie gumming up the gears of Sueharu and Kachi’s romance. Hell, it’s possible Sueharu inspired Mitsuru to follow his dad and become the actor he is!

As it is, Osamake takes the tried-and-true formula of a two-girl, two-boy love polygon, but flips the script of the classic childhood friend character, so often portrayed as meek, supportive, and ultimately content with an unrequited love.

Kuroha may be supportive, but she’s neither meek nor content. Confident and assertive, she knows exactly what she wants and isn’t going to give up trying to get it. And hopefully, for once, the childhood friend won’t lose, as the title suggests (it could be lying). Sueharu came off a bit dull at first, but through his interactions with Kuroha we see what she sees in him. I just hope he doesn’t have amnesia about child acting…that would be one romcom cliché too many!

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 24 – Getting Back in the Game

While rest and recovery are the order of most days at the Butterfly Mansion, relaxation is most certainly not. That’s not just because of Zenitsu’s constant bellyaching, but the fact that Shinobu wants to begin their rehabilitation training ASAP, starting with Tanjirou and Inosuke. The training is handled by Kanzaki Aoi, Tsuyuri Kanao, and three pint-sized masseuses.

Zenitsu is perturbed when he sees the two returning from their first session as if they had just been beaten to a pulp, but Zenitsu soon finds out the score for himself, and he’s very disappointed in his companions. Why, he raves like a madman after taking them aside, are the complaining about getting massages, playing cup games, and light sparring, all with cute girls?

Zenitsu has no trouble with the massages or with beating Aoi at cups or tag, but Kanao is another story. She beats them at everything, and handily, as befits Shinobu’s apprentice. Zentisu and Inosuke are so frustrated that they stop showing up, but Tanjirou is determined to become strong enough to beat her.

The three little lady masseuses, who have really taken a shine to the sweet, wholesome Tanjirou (let’s be honest, Zenitsu’s a creep and Inosuke’s a forlorn beast) offer him some key advice. Kanao, along with Shinobu and all the other Hashira, are practicing Total Concentration Breathing … continuously. That is, every breath, morning, noon, and night.

The girls present him with a small, extra-hard beginners gourd he’s expected to break with nothing but his breath; Kanao can break a gourd over ten times its size. But while he clearly has a lot of grueling work to do (even short bursts of breathing wear him down), Tanjirou knows he can’t save Nezuko unless he’s stronger, so he puts the work in.

His efforts don’t go unnoticed by the lady of the mansion, Shinobu, who visits him on a rooftop while he’s practicing and even getting him to blush due to her close proximity and striking beauty. Shinobu is rooting for him because she too would like to live in a world where humans and demons got along.

It’s just, unlike him, she’s growing tired of believing that will ever be possible, having been ground down by battle after battle with lying, deceiving demon opponents. Tanjirou can smell anger behind her smile, which surprises Shinobu, causing that smile to briefly fade.

She tells him how her older sister, pure of heart like him, fought for peace with demons even when they ended up killing her. Due to her love and admiration of her sister, Shinobu promised to always carry the smile her sister loved, no matter how much she might want to frown or cry.

Knowing how much it sucks to lose a sister, she implores Tanjirou to keep Nezuko safe with everything he’s got—and there’s no reason to think he won’t. While I enjoyed this episode and the added depth given to Shinobu, Nezuko’s total absence is both conspicuous and disappointing—especially with only two episodes remaining.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun – 06 – The Second-Tallest Mountain

Hinami has a bold idea for Tomozaki’s next assignment. While she was going to make him her own campaign manager for the StuCo presidential election, but with Mimimi throwing her hat in the ring, Hinami believes Tomozaki will get more out of being Mimimi’s manager. Hinami makes clear this isn’t meant to be a form of electoral sabotage: Mimimi is important to her. But she’s as confident that no one—not even Mimimi—can beat her.

Hinami’s attitude towards Tomozaki is basically “You’re not going to win, but give it your best shot”. The question is, is Hinami really this arrogant about the certainty of her victory, or is she quietly hoping Tomozaki will help Mimimi supplant her? Absent other information, I proceeded thinking the former: Hinami wants to win, and she’s not orchestrating her own exit from the spotlight.

Just as she has every right to believe victory is in the bag, Tomozaki has every right to doubt his ability to manage Mimimi’s campaign. Heck, when they almost collide in the hall and he earnestly asks her, she turns him down flat, justifiably questioning his reliability. While in the library, he gets extra context from Fuuka for why Mimimi is even going after Hinami’s throne: she wants to change things, and herself. So does Fuuka, though she adorably tells Tomozaki not to tell anyone!

The next morning outside of school, Tomozaki witnesses Mimimi campaigning beside her kohai and handpicked manager Yumi. He also spots Hinami working the crowd with her manager Mizusawa (the undertones of those two being a couple go uncommented upon). Hinami makes personal appeals to everyone around her, having memorized virtually all of their club affiliations.

Tomozaki sees how formidable a boss Hinami is, and how it’s probably for the best Mimimi chose someone else as her manager. But that changes when they almost collide in the hall again, and Tomozaki can immediately tell Mimimi needs help with her list of campaign promises. Not with the content, mind you: with the layout. He revises it in the lab and wins her over, but for her, it begs the question: why is he so dead set on helping her?

Tomozaki is ready with an answer she can relate to: The uber-powerful Hinami is simply an irresistible challenge to go up against; he wants to take her on and win. What he doesn’t tell Mimimi is that he’s not currently leveled up enough to go toe-to-toe with Hinami in the game of life—she’d mop the floor with him in any theoretical “battle”. But he could gain crucial life XP by “summoning” the top-tier character Mimimi as his “champion”.

Hinami may be imposing in her ability to amass and win hearts and minds, but as he follows her around the school, Tomozaki is reminded how Mimimi is no slouch in that department. Foregoing a full-on frontal assault for a rearguard action, Mimimi targets specific school groups and negotiates bargains in exchange for their votes.

It starts in the gym, where Mimimi can’t help but stuff her head inside Hanabi’s shirt, but she also makes an appeal to her senpai, promising an electric pump for all of the ball clubs. Later that afternoon, Tomozaki and Mimimi rest a spell in a park, where he notices her “totes adorbs” new haniwa (traditionally a funerary object), and she provides further context for her quixotic run at Hinami.

Mimimi starts out with a very effective quiz for Tomozaki: He’s able to immediately answer what is Japan’s tallest mountain or America’s first president, but in the case of naming number two, he doesn’t know. Mimimi does, because she’s perpetually been number two at school, both in academics and sports. She wants to move out of the second place shadows, to better validate all of her hard work and be recognized for it.

Later, Tomozaki asks Hanabi for some help sound checking the gym for Mimimi’s campaign speech. Despite being shirted by Mimimi earlier, Hanabi agrees without hesitation, because it’s for her friend Mimimi’s sake. She just asks Tomozaki to look out for Mimimi, who is an “overdoer” despite her claims to the contrary.

Mimimi and her “Brain” stay in constant contact via LINE (at which Tomozaki has gotten much better) while at school, Tomozaki has grown accustomed to Mimimi’s bubbly enthusiasm and it’s even rubbed off on him a bit, which amuses her to no end. He’s even learned to dodge her back-slapping! The two are well and truly on the same wavelength. Hinami spots the two from her perch on the upper level of the cafeteria, initially looking concerned, but then with a proud smile.

Their physical positions in this scene are instructive. Tomozaki and Mimimi are doing everything they can to win this thing from the lower ground, even though Hinami, by all indications, is sitting pretty atop the high ground, and still not even considering the possibility of an upset loss to Mimimi. But ultimately, only one candidate can win.

Questions abound: Will the result profoundly affect their friendships, and if so, how? If Mimimi loses, can she take solace in knowing she did her very best with Tomozaki by her side? Could their time together lead to them…dating? Would Hinami handle defeat with grace, or with an identity crisis? With its intricate and fast-evolving relationships, Bottom-Tier Tomozaki has infused new life and intrigue in the well-worn school election scenario, and I can’t wait for the returns!

Jujutsu Kaisen – 03 – Gauging the Crazy

Here I thought we’d be spending more times in the woods of Tokyo’s outskirts, but Yuuji joins Gojou and Megumi to Harajuku to pick up Jujutsu Tech’s third first-year student, Kugisaki Nobara, voiced by Seto Asami of Chihayafuru fame.

Her first act in Tokyo is to try to browbeat a modeling scout into signing her, and her first reaction to meeting Yuuji and Megumi is to let out a blatant sigh. I immediately came to like her, and while she’s short-tempered and mercurial, she and Yuuji soon bond over love All Things Tokyo.

Unfortunately for them both, sightseeing and sushi (revolving or otherwise) will have to wait, as Gojou has the two of them enter a curse-infested, graveyard-adjacent abandoned building in Roppongi. Nobara exhibits her lack of patience with Yuuji and unwillingness to work together.

They split up, with Yuuji starting at the bottom with the miniature Buster Sword Gojou gave him. He has no problem with the Curses he encounters, but as Gojou tells Megumi (who is sitting this one out), this is more a test for Nobara anyway. She’s used to country Curses, but in the big city where there are more people and negative energy to draw on, the Curses are on a different level.

Nobara learns the hard way that “level” means more than cursed energy, but also cunning. After she uses her customized hammer and nails to defeat a mannequin Curse (using the hilariously bad catchphrase “Nailed it”), a scared child hiding behind boxes is taken hostage by another Curse.

After weighing her life and the little boy’s, Nobara tries to get the Curse to release him by dropping her weapons, but the Curse won’t bite. Fortunately Yuuji arrives in the nick of time, punching through the (unreinforced) concrete and slicing off the arm of the Curse that was holding the kid.

With the kid safe, Nobara finishes off the Curse by using a voodoo-like straw doll to hammer a cursed nail into its heart as it flees, defeating it. I hasten to add that no one has made hammering a nail into a straw doll look cooler than Jujutsu Kaisen! She then proceeds to ask Yuuji how the hell he managed to punch through solid concrete.

As the ordeal is resolved, we learn a little bit about Nobara’s reason for leaving the countryside. The brass tacks (pun intended): when she was in first grade she met Saori-chan, a beautiful girl from the city who was ostracized by the townsfolk to the point she was forced to leave. Nobara simply didn’t want to be in a place that did that to her friend.

After earnestly thanking Yuuji for his help with a bright smile, she seemingly devolves into first-grade mode, telling him they’re even now. As for her more superficial reason for joining Jujutsu Tech? She likes Tokyo, but didn’t want to deal with the considerable expense.

With that, the field test is passed, and the group escorts the kid back home and then they grab some grub, though Yuuji and and a hangry Nobara bicker over the kind of sushi place they should go to. Megumi remains aloof the whole time, giving the other two the opportunity to bond over their mutual vivaciousness.

Nobara makes for a fine addition to the Jujutsu first-year class, alternating between frolicsome fervor, coarse sullenness, and everything in between. She’s a blast, full stop, and I can’t wait to watch the full trio in action.

Warlords of Sigrdrifa – 04 – Seeing the Sea…and a Whole Lot More

The Pillars seem to have a new trick up their sleeve: attacking in a group of four, each time one of them is splashed by the Valkyries, it is almost immediately revived by the other three. All the while, a terrible high-pitched whine is emitted from the Pillars, distracting Azu enough to get hit and have to make an emergency landing, where the Pillars’ signal eventually knocks her out.

But thanks to some rest, a tasty meal provided by the grateful civilians of Tateyama, and some video footage from three kids, Azu is able to determine that the high-pitched signal is what the Pillars use to communicate their need to regenerate when destroyed. If the Pillars can make that signal, then they can disrupt it.

The problem is, they won’t have the element of surprise if they just fly in, because the Pillars are strategically positioned so that one is far from the others, as well as widening their effective search range. The three-man support wing devises a solution for the Valkyries: taking a detour to base by sea. And because they’ll be at sea, everyone will have to dress accordingly. That’s right, folks: it’s a swimsuit episode.

Last week Sigrdrifa successfully engendered genuine and profound drama pathos when Miko and Claudy performed their Valkyrial duty to help a soldier pass on. This week it switches gears entirely, declining to build on that drama and instead dispensing with both peril and seriousness in favor of a gonzo fanservice bonanza.

Mind you: this isn’t only about putting our main quartet of ace pilots in skimpy swimsuits—there’s ample beefcake (and buttcheek-slapping) to go along with the bikinis (or in Sono’s case, a standard-issue school one-piece). The Valks’ support crew consider it an honor to guid their idols through an Abyss-like vertical labyrinth, even locking their bodies together to form a bridge.

By the time the four emerge from a swimming pool and Claudy sneezes, the Pillars are on their tail, but fortunately they’re able to run to their Hero Wings and take to the skies, thanks in part to well-timed backup by a fifth Valkyrie, whom we’re sure to be introduced to next week. Was this a shameless expedition in conspicuous exhibition? Hell yeah it was. Was it also a ton of fun as long as you kept your brain switched off? Also yes.

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