A Couple of Cuckoos – 11 – A Proper Woman

Sachi is out visiting her folks at the newly opened family diner, so when a storm causes a blackout, it’s just Nagi and Erika, who instinctually hold one another. Growing up loaded, Erika is so unaccustomed to outages she assumes the Martians are attacking.

Once she lights her aromatherapy candle, she and Nagi calm down, and have a cozy little conversation about how much fun they’re both having. Then Erika realizes there’s an emergency kit in the entry hall coat closet and has him go collect it.

While in the hall, Nagi finds a puddle, then trips and falls into who he thinks is Erika…but it’s actually Sachi, who just got home. When he falls into her, they lock lips, but he dismisses it as no big deal and returns to Erika, who is calling for him like a wife would.

But it is a big deal for Sachi, and there’s no way she can forget it! After hearing the exact same scenario play out on her and her friends’ favorite anime, she decides “Screw Onii” and avoids him for the next couple days, making the atmosphere at home awkward for everyone, including Erika.

When Nagi finally comes clean to Erika about what happened, Erika dons her sexy teacher cosplay and points out where Nagi erred. He may still see her as his brat of a kid sister, she’s close to marriageable age; a “proper woman”, and Nagi was insensitive.

When it’s just Nagi and Hiro at the next library study session, Hiro can tell something’s up and offers her services as spiritual counselor free of charge. She tells Nagi he can be insensitive, especially when he blew through her admitting she was engaged and publicly declared academic war against her. But she also likes how straightforward and direct he is, so she advises him to be that way here.

Thanks to the perspective and advice of two other people who care about both him and Sachi, Nagi arrives at Sachi’s door nervous but prepared to end this little row with honesty and contriteness.

He tells Sachi he’s sorry for hurting her and being so thoughtless, and declares his intention to no longer look at her or treat her as just his kid sister, but the proper woman she is fast becoming.

His words do the trick; we know that Sachi wanted this from Nagi, and hearing the words from his mouth without her having to beat him over the head with a baseball bat means the word to her.

Of course, Nagi remains blissfully unaware of the fact Sachi has feelings for him, but hey, at least they’re talking again. Erika is clearly relieved that the vibes will improve

I remain unenthused at the prospect of a Sachi Route, and their accidental kiss could reasonably be held in contempt of the laws of physics, but it was true that Nagi wasn’t being fair to Sachi, and his adjustment in thinking was both welcome and arrived upon thanks to the friendships he’s forged with Erika and Hiro.

Summertime Render – 10 – A Leaf in the Forest

This week is a no-holds-barred Scooby-Doo adventure almost from start to finish. After watching what Ushio went through to warn Shinpei, there’s no way Sou isn’t going to tag along as they head to his family’s old abandoned clinic up in the mountains. Ushio also struts her Shadow Power stuff, able to transform into a shell necklace Shinpei wears, and explaining how her swimsuit is her armor.

Her abilities combined with Shinpei’s courage and Sou’s loyalty make them the perfect team to investigate a creepy haunted hospital. One great detail is a rare statue of the ancient Japanese deity Hiruko-sama, in the form of a limbless leach-like fertility idol. The fact that legend suggests it was heteromorphic creates an enticing connection to the clearly equally-ancient Shadows. Shinpei, Ushio and Sou end up in what seems to be a Shadow nursery.

Turns out there’s something even more terrifying than a Shadow … a baby Shadow, one that seems docile and harmless enough right up until Shinpei tries to shoot it with a nailgun. It dodges and rolls and bounds all over the place until Sou hits it with his baseball bat.

But then it wraps around the bat (again, Shadow) and very nearly kills him, only Shinpei has been practicing his nailgunning and gets three shots into the Shadow. Ushio finishes it off with her Shadow hair, and cue Victory Fanfare for the Scooby Gang. As much as I fear for their safety, it’s a hell of a lot of fun watching these three old friends get shit done.

At the end of the battle, Ushio gives Sou a playful shove forward as the three continue their investigation, but her arm starts bleeding, like the injury that occurred to a previous copy of the arm has returned. After her powers are essentially a cheat code for most of the episode, it’s good for the episode to self-level and demonstrate she’s far from all-powerful.

Shinpei knows this, and he also stands by his promise to always protect her (which made her blush earlier), and his foreknowledge of the nightmares to come even make a dark cave full of Shadow babies seem…not that bad? He knows firsthand it can always be worse! That said, considering how much effort it took to defeat one baby, the trio have their work cut out for them.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Couple of Cuckoos – 10 – Cup Ramen and Foie Gras

When Erika takes off to hang out with her mom (the one who raised her) Sachi doesn’t waste the sudden opportunity to hang out with her Onii. She ostensibly wants to buy a gift for their mom, but both of seem to agree their mom isn’t much of a gift receiver, so you have to think part of her just wants to see what it’s like to go on something like a date with Nagi.

The two settle on an apron (and sure enough, their mom could take or leave it) but when Sachi comes upon the idea, Nagi rewards her with a head pat, which pisses her off to no end. As much as she pretends not to stand him, Sachi wants Nagi to see her as a girl, not an imouto. Alas, he’s utterly oblivious. He just wants to study and win Hiro, which is why he’s probably none too pleased about suddenly being yanked out of the house by Erika.

Erika, who herself was blissfully reveling in her first cup ramen, got a text from her dad saying he’s coming—no discussion, not argument, he’s just coming and that’s that—so she ditches both wallet and phone, grabs Nagi, and heads out. Where doesn’t matter; that even she’s not sure is the point. No GPS or purchase history means even someone as rich and powerful as her dad can’t find her if she doesn’t want to see him.

Instead, Sachi is person who encounters her dad making himself at home in the house. She initially thinks he’s a burglar, but she should have called the cops anyway, considering he later lures her out and plys her with foie gras. I’m with the wait staff of his restaurant: it’s weird that he suddenly takes Sachi out to dinner.

Sachi is there for the foie gras, and also considers it equitable to tell Erika’s father about how she and Nagi are getting along. She probably doesn’t realize she’s being a snitch, because she’s distracted by the fact this is another opportunity for her: if she says they’re terrible together, she could potentially be able to swoop in and have Nagi to herself (again).

But Sachi is not a bad person, so she tells Erika’s father the truth: as mismatched as their personalities seem, Erika and Nagi definitely have a spark—je ne fois gras, if you will. Their chat is interposed between scenes of Nagi showing Erika a good time with zero yen thanks to a steep hill and a piece of cardboard.

As for Erika’s increasingly creepy dad, he heads into his office to admire a framed photo of him and Erika’s dad with Erika…and Nagi, looking like older toddlers. This is strange, as my understanding is they were separated at birth; this suggests they were reunited at some point. It also gives credence to the fact the “certain someone” Erika is trying to reach through SM is, in fact, Nagi, and the two of them simply somehow forgot they knew each other as kids.

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 10 – So Cute, So Cool

Hot on the heels of the cultural festival is the athletics festival, and while I was fully ready to throw my hands up and shout “no more festivals”, this episode soon convinced me otherwise. That’s entirely because the five-person mixed relay team is none other than our five friends Shikimori, Izumi, Nekozaki, Inuzuka…and Hachimitsu.

The three jocks of the group help train the fast but mishap-prone Izumi and the slow, indoorsy, generally reluctant Hachimitsu. Both are amazed and heartened by how kind and patient Shikimori, Nekozaki, and Inuzuka are. Hachimitsu has the most athletic ground to cover, but she has the right teachers.

In fact, both she and Izumi are sufficiently inspired to keep training together even when their sporty friends have to head off to practice for their other events. Izumi wonders why Hachimitsu is working herself to the bone for running, something she’s never been a fan of.

As she zips her jacket over half her face, Hachimitsu’s answer is simple; if it makes everyone happy, then she’s happy. On the day of the festival, the girls watch the guys do the human cavalry thing, and Hachimitsu notices Shikimori ogling Izumi, looks a little jealous for a moment, then tells a joke. It’s a nifty little exchange that really deepens the complexity of this group’s bond.

When Hachimitsu participates in the bag toss, she turns out to be quite exemplary at it. No doubt she was motivated by watching the boys working hard, and by the warm and enthusiastic support of all of them. Her reward for her near-victory is one of Shikimori’s biggest smiles, and Hachimitsu can’t help but beam back in pride and satisfaction.

With the mixed relay approaching, Hachitmitsu can’t help but feel nervous. Shikimori, who looks so calm and cool, takes her hand in hers, revealing it’s ice cold because she’s nervous too. But nervousness and lack of confidence are two very different things. Shikimori says that having fun is most important, but if it’s all the same, she’s going to have fun winning. Hachimitsu can’t repel competitive fire of that magnitude.

Nekozaki gets their team into first place in the first leg, then hands it off to Hachimitsu. She’s moving so much faster than she’s used to she gets disoriented and trips herself. She falls on her face and skins her knee, but the baton never left her hand; they’re still in it. She gets back up and keeps running, handing the baton off to Izumi cleanly.

Izumi loses a shoe, but simply loses the other and keeps running in his stocking feet, and does not trip and fall, or fall further behind. He hands it off to Shikimori, who singlehandedly gets the team from the rear back into second place with acceleration that uniformly shocks all in attendance.

Just before Inuzuka receives the baton from her, he gets one good look at her intense face and knows that he just can’t let her or the others down. He only has one man to beat, and he beats him to the finish. Izumi is the first to tackle him into a celebratory hug, followed closely by Nekozaki.

Izumi is so high on their upset victory, he exhibits absolutely no propriety by taking Shikimori into his arms and holding her close, very nearly causing her to overheat. Then Hachimitsu—indoorsy, wisecrakin’ ol’ Hachimitsu—smiles a genuine smile of glee as she thanks everyone for working hard, shocking her friends.

The victorious quintet then poses for a beautiful Postcard Memory as Hachimitsu reiterates how happy and proud she is to have such fine friends. I tell you, it’s legit goddamn tearjerker material, and it’s also one of Shikimori’s best episodes. Just five incredibly cute, cool friends, supporting each other, making each other better, and having a blast. Who could ask for more?

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 09 – All Aboard the Friend-Ship

Don’t get me wrong: I like Izumi, and feel he’s both delighted and transcended his male damsel-in-distress archetype. That said, it’s not his name on he show, so to have a whole episode where he’s basically in bed sick is a great opportunity to explore Shikimori’s other relationships, starting with Inuzuka.

Inuzuka has known Izumi far longer than Shikimori, and so when you factor Shikimori’s need to compete in everything, that disadvanage is a sore spot. Thankfully, by spending some time with her (and due to the sleuthing of Hachimitsu) he learns she doesn’t just see him as some kind of rival, but that she often projects her big brother on him.

It’s gratifying that while Shikimori is initially competitive and pouty, she ultimately chooses not to usurp Izumi’s wishes for Inuzuka, not her, to take his notes and visit him while he’s sick. She can rise above those more possessive aspects of her personality.

After the Inuzuka segment, the episode becomes a tribute to girlfriends, i.e. girls who are friends. Nekozaki shines as she and Shikimori spot Kamiya at the bookstore. She invites Kamiya to join them in hanging out and Kamiya accepts, which makes Nekozaki’s day as she’s always wanted to get closer.

Little does she know how close Shikimori and Kamiya already are thanks to their shared adoration for Izumi and their intense rooftop encounter, and after returning from the bathroom she assumes the two became instant best buds in her brief absence.

The truth is that they’d already become closer on that rooftop, but hadn’t quite had the opportunity to build upon that moment to expand a relationship for which there was no reason not to become more of a friendship. Nekozaki is a useful facilitator for that purpose here.

In a wonderful segment, Shikimori and Kamiya team up against two aggressive but also highly virtuous gyarus on the basketball court, mopping the floor with the former high school champs with ease thanks to some baller teamwork. The power of friendship is on full display, but since it’s two-on-two Nekozaki is the odd woman out, and plays referee.

The girls’ bond is revealed to Nekozaki first by watching the two interact at the mall and now play together on the court. Nekozaki heard the chatter from other classmates establishing Kamiya as either a stuck-up/aloof cool beauty or a tragic loner, but the Kamiya she watched today seemed nothing like that externally-manufactured concept.

Later, when Nekozaki is walking with Kamiya, she wonders what or who brought about this change, because from Nekozaki’s perspective, it looked like Kamiya was carrying some pain. Kamiya isn’t quite ready to say who, but she will say that that person told her to treasure what she feels.

Kamiya apologizes for never saying yes to Nekozaki’s many offers to hang out in the past. But being the sweetheart she is, Nekozaki apologies right back for coming off as a little pushy about it. Nekozaki did it not just because she sensed Kamiya’s hurt, but also because she recognized Kamiya was a person it would be an honor being friends with.

Nekozaki is perfectly fine letting Kamiya take her time discovering more of her feelings, and when she’s ready, Nekozaki will be there to hear her or be a shoulder to cry on. Nekozaki wants nothing more than for Kamiya to smile from the bottom of her heart. That desire is at the heart of friendship … where everyone is welcome aboard and no one goes overboard.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 07 – Kamakura Cuckoo

Still stoked over Hiro telling him she thinks he can carry her burden of being engaged to her family shrine, Nagi is presented with a possible means of getting closer still to Hiro: a field trip form from Erika. As he’s the first person Hiro sees the next day, he’s able to ask her if she’ll join his group, and she says yes…but they’re going to be collecting shrine stamps, and she won’t be defeated.

They leave school in a downpour, but to Nagi’s disappointment Hiro did not forget her umbrella. They still walk to the station together, and Nagi brings up his confession, and whether Hiro will really “process” it if he beats her several more times at exams. Hiro then explains that inheriting the shrine is her parents’ idea, and she’s always simply let fate sweep her along.

That said, if Nagi can change her fate, she wants him to try. Of course, he’ll still have to defeat her many times over in order for her to believe he’s amazing enough to deserve a chance. She’s asking a lot, but it’s totally worth it to Nagi.

The previous night Erika told Nagi she wouldn’t be going on the trip for security reasons (she’s famous and could be abducted for a ransom). Why she doesn’t simply have a bodyguard all this time is not explained, but in any case the next night she’s reconsidered, and for Nagi’s sake, no less.

The skinny is that a fourth member has weaseled his way into their trio: walking SM glossary Asoma Shion, who is a big fan (but not stalker) of Erika’s. Erika will keep Shion at bay while Nagi can have his date with Hiro. She’ll also get a lot of great shots of herself at Kamakura.

It seems win-win, but Shion sucks at taking photos, while Nagi is subconsciously so worried about the punk snatching away his fiancée that he spends much of the trip keeping his eye exclusively on Erika and Shion.

When Hiro disappears without explanation and Shion runs off for “‘Grammable ice cream”, Erika and Nagi are left alone on a beach at sunset. Erika makes some sand “””””art”””” for a picture with her and Hiro, but instead has Nagi take a picture of her alone. He tries to keep the phone from her, and inadvertently snaps another perfect shot of the two of them, like it’s just second nature.

She smiles and tells him she still thinks the pictures he takes of her are the best. Then he brings up that mysterious “someone” Erika mentioned wanting to reach through her photos, and asks her who that person is. She seems willing to tell him, but warns him his “fate might change” if she does. Just then, the waves wash away “FRI” from her sand scrawl, leaving only “END”.

Not exactly subtle, but hey, like Nagi, I’m definitely curious to learn who this person is. I was also surprised that after taking great pains to arrange a date-like scenario with Hiro, Nagi spends most of the time paying attention to Erika, even though she was running off with Shion specifically so he could be alone with Hiro. Granted, she’s unaware of Hiro’s “engagement”.

He may have been harboring a crush on Hiro for a long time, and she may even be receptive to his feelings now that she knows his feelings (albeit with some heavy conditions he’s willing to clear) But so far it’s Erika who can claim a closer bond and better chemistry with him.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 06 – Naked and Engaged

Erika not only doesn’t have a problem with Nagi confessing to Hiro; she wants to help him, unaware that Hiro is engaged (since Nagi doesn’t share that detail). She tells Nagi that Hiro “putting him on hold” isn’t the end of the world; if she truly didn’t like him she would have summarily rejected him.

For their first study session, Erika and Nagi arrive at school at the same time despite taking different modes of transportation, and despite Erika dressing up like a literal cupid, Hiro can’t help but notice how close the pair seem to be. Erika and Nagi themselves aren’t aware how good they are together!

In an effort to catch up (and eventually beat) Nagi in a contest of with whom Erika is closest, Hiro invites herself over to Erika’s house. She diverts Hiro to her parents’ house, which Nagi believes puts him in the clear to have a nudist evening with their house all to himself. However, Erika’s parents’ house is “being renovated”, so she has no choice but to bring Hiro there.

It’s a classic sitcom scenario in the mold of shows like Fraiser, with Nagi not only having to remove any evidence that he lives there, but spend most of the time hiding around the corner naked. Erika does her best to keep diverting Hiro, but then things get even more complicated when three of Erika’s stalkers show up at her house. Thankfully, Nagi dispatches their leader with ease, and without being detected.

Ultimately, it’s not just about being caught for Nagi. He genuinely wants Erika’s first friendship and first houseguest to go well. That plan is almost torpedoed when Hiro finds his shrine stamp book on the counter, but Erika is able to explain it away as having borrowed the wrong book. This, of course, only confirms to Hiro that Erika and Nagi are very close.

Her solution to that is to invite Erika (and fellow study buddy Nagi) to her house, which turns out to be a huge shrine. Shrine Maiden Hiro is indeed cute as hell, while Hiro’s mom is extremely prejudiced against Nagi, giving him only a small hard candy while Erika gets a delicious-looking jelly roll-like  confection.

Nagi does get a personal shrine stamp from Hiro, who demonstrates that her stamp game is far better than her regular handwriting. When Erika goes to the bathroom, she asks Nagi if he understands now what she meant by “engaged”. She isn’t promised to another man, but is poised to inherit the shrine.

Why that should mean romance is a no-go when—well, she exists, which means her mom and dad had a kid—I don’t know, but Hiro doesn’t want to burden Erika with such a “heavy truth”. As for why she told Nagi? She thought he could handle that burden. He may be “on hold” indefinitely, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t like and respect him.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Spy x Family – 04 – True Elegance

From the moment the Forgers enter the gates of Eden College, they know they’re being observed. Loid and Yor’s respective special sets of skills tell them that Eden instructors are watching from every angle, failing families just for walking or looking sub-elegant. Loid leads the way in putting on as elegant a show as possible, while warning Yor and Anya to keep their guard up.

The pre-interview trials continue with a plump Eden student stuck in a muddy drainage canal. If the Forgers help the kid they’ll get their clothes soiled and won’t be admitted inside the school. But Loid prepared for a number of contingencies, and the three of them have a change of clothes ready once the planted fatty has been extracted.

After that, the Forgers face an even more ridiculous test when the school’s farm animals escape from their enclosures en masse. Once Loid identifies the lead cow, Yor springs into action, leaping over the charging animal and hitting its pressure points to stop it dead in its tracks. Anya then notices the cow is scared, and uses her esper powers to comfort it and send it on its way.

These feats of heroism move one of the housemasters watching the Forgers, a walrus-bearded, monocled gentleman obsessed with elegance. He’s doubly impressed by the fact that the farm animal escape was not intentional, but a legit accident, and that a number of important people were among those the Forgers saved. He rushes out and declares the Forgers have earned the right to interview for Eden.

After Loid and Yor change their clothes a second time, the interview commences. Loid remarks that even though he’s dealt with infiltrating terrorist groups and deactivating nuclear bombs, by far the most nervous he’s been is this pauncy school interview. But the Forgers have practiced this ad nauseum, and both Loid and Yor are ready with detailed, elegant answers to the three housemasters’ questions.

Anya, being a little kid, is the weak link in the family, partly because she only barely passed the written exam, but also flubs her words and makes some questionable improvisational choices when unexpected follow-up questions are asked.

I love the detail that goes into their responses, and how the three very different interviewers react, how Yor reacts to Loid’s praise, and how both of them react to how Anya wants to be with them forever. Anya’s ability to read Loid’s mind also gives her access to quick (if out-of-context) answers that the interviewers accept…but only to a point.

The Forgers are undone by the Eden housemasters’ Good Cop-Bad Cop-Elegant Cop strategy. The kindly housemaster and the elegant housemaster are all but won over, but the third is Murdoch Swan, arrogant, callous, and recently divorced  son of the former housemaster.

He has an axe to grind, and does everything he can to trip up this disgustingly perfect family. And he succeeds, asking Anya whether she loves her old or new mamas more. Yor almost kills him, and Loid smashes a table and storms out.

It looks like everything’s over, but with Anya clearly in Eden uniform in the end credits, Swan probably wasn’t going to have his way. In fact, Mr. Elegant, Henry Henderson, does what Loid wanted to do and punches him for disgracing the school.

Back home, the Forgers are in a funereal mood, certain that not only did they fail the mission, but apprehensive that it could spell the end of their family. It’s ultimately Yor who pulls Loid out of his funk. The three will leave it in the hands of the two good housemasters. Hopefully fate will smile on these three beautiful people.

Spy x Family – 03 – A Grand Ooting

Yor arrives at her new home and the Forger family is complete. Loid is surprised by how little luggage she has and how quickly and efficiently she puts it away; Yor is surprised by how clean the place is and how good a cook Loid is. Anya almost opens up Yor’s box of death, but is warned by Yor’s own thoughts not to.

While the three get along just fine to start, once they actually have to start practicing the Eden interview, things go sideways fast. Anya’s answers are too honest (she’s ordered to stay home and watch TV all day) while Yor’s are all over the place (and strangely bloody). Loid begins to doubt if this mission can work.

That said, they all go out for the kind of outing (mispronounced “ooting” by Anya) that upper class families go on. They certainly look the part. First up is the opera, then a museum (where Anya gets a kick out of the classical nudity while Yor digs the guillotine). In the kids section Anya scribbles her parents’ true identities (which, again, they don’t know she knows), but since they’re just that—kid’s scribbles—Loid and Yor chalk it up to her vivid imagination.

When a political rally turns out to be too much for Anya (she’s overwhelmed by the combined negative thoughts of the hundreds of people assembled)  the three head to a café for some lunch. There, Loid’s doubts about the viability of the mission resurface, as Anya has terrible table manners for a purported upper class child, and Yor is again way too blissed out on cutlery.

Yor suggests they have a nice after-lunch rest at a quiet park with a great view of the city (I got a kick out of Anya saying the people look like “tiny bits of trash”—now that’s upper class thinking). But when one of those people turns out to be a thief stealing a purse from an elderly woman, Yor springs into action, though quickly loses the culprit in the crowds.

Anya scans those crowds for the thoughts of the thief, and when she finds him, rather than expose her power she simply points at a restaurant near to where the thief is, and Loid does the rest. Yor watches Anya while he chases him down and retrieves the wallet. Then they take the grandma, who has quite a strong handshake to the hospital to be checked out.

When the three start interacting naturally in front of the granny, she remarks what a lovely family they are. That’s when Loid starts to think that maybe, just maybe they can pull off this academy admission plan. That, and after a day full of upper-class activities (and one citizen’s arrest), Anya’s answers in the next mock interview are a lot more convincing.

They may be an odd family who are keeping profound secrets from one another (with only Anya knowing the truth about everyone), but they also happen to be adorable, and their interactions throughout this episode were a pure joy to watch unfold as they take their first tentative steps to being a family.

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

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