Classroom of the Elite – S2 13 (Fin) – Pax Kiyotaka

In a nice change of pace, this episode starts from Ibuki Mio’s perspective, of all things, as she visits Ryuuen’s dorm and then tracks him down. The swelling has gone down, but Ryuuen has abandoned all plans to continue the fight; he’s done. Mio doesn’t like it, and gives him a kick in frustration, but there’s no changing his mind. Clearly Kiyotaka’s beatdown had a lasting effect.

Kei wakes up realizing, in spite of knowing what kind of person he is, that she has developed feelings for him as a result of his white knight act. The cheeks don’t lie. She’s then ambushed by Maya, who like everyone else thinks she’s some expert on boys and dating due to her fake relationship with Yousuke. Maya asks for advice on her first date with Ayanokouji, even proposing a double date.

That night, Kei gets a call from Maya’s crush, but is slightly disappointed when it’s yet another business call. Still, she’s glad to be getting calls from him again, even after he’d terminated their arrangement. He wants her to investigate Maya and find out as much about her as she can.

As is appropriate for a season finale, Kiyotaka also checks in with the other major players, making an opening proposition for Suzune to join the StuCo, though he doesn’t push too hard. Kikyou spots them from a balcony above and gives them the stinkeye.

Most notably, Kiyotaka meets up with Ryuuen, who fully accepts his new role as former tyrant. He even demonstrated a measure of honor and selflessness by copping to a crime that wouldn’t get his whole crew expelled. But Kiyotaka made it so even he wouldn’t get the boot, because now that Ryuuen has been properly cowed, he is a valuable asset in his coming battle to get Kikyou expelled.

It’s not often that someone gets one over on Kiyotaka, so it’s pretty amusing that Maya turns out to be one of those people. Shortly after meeting him for their date, Kei and Hirata arrive, seemingly by coincidence, and Maya and Kei suggests the double date they wanted from the start.

Kiyotaka is a go-with-the-flow kinda guy in these situations, and so that’s just what he does as the quartet goes to see a movie and then heads to a café for some refreshment. Maya asks Kiyotaka about his future, and he says he’ll probably just go to college. Throughout the date, Kei shoots subtle little looks Kiyotaka’s way, but they either go unnoticed or ignored.

The two couples eventually split around dusk, when Maya plans to make her big confession. Kei may not be experienced in dating, but she’s 100% correct that it is both intense and a bit ludicrous to ask someone out after a first date on Christmas day. Kiyotaka turns her down how you’d expect: matter-of-factly and dispassionately, and she runs off accepting of his decision, but in tears.

That’s when Kiyotaka tells Kei to come out of her hiding spot, or she’ll catch cold. It starts to snow just as the two have a seat in the park. When she asks why he rejected Maya, Kiyotaka simply says she was a poor substitute for Kei.

Of course, he means as a pawn and informant, but Kei also happens to be a much more interesting (and after recent events, much stronger) person in general. The contrast is clear: Maya liked an idealized version of him; Kei likes the real him.

Kei casually offers Kiyotaka a Christmas gift, and is surprised when he gives her one in turn. While it’s just cold medicine, it’s the thought that counts, and she’s flattered that he worried about her to that extent, even if only in a purely practical way.

As they walk back to the dorms, Kiyotaka reveals that his abrupt termination of their arrangement, as well as rescuing her at the absolute last moment, galvanized Kei’s genuine trust in him, making her all but betrayal-proof. As he puts it, a good chunk of him has never left the White Room, where people are only tools to be used and discarded.

Those thoughts are apropos of the encounter that follows him and Kei parting ways for their respective dorms, as Sakayanaki Arisu. She greets him as if they’d known each other long ago, then references the White Room by name, notes that he, the “False Genius”, is his father’s “ultimate masterpiece”, and states that the role of “burying” him should fall to her.

So the curtain falls on a second season that ended in relative peace, with the promise of ever more intense personal battles to follow in next year’s Season 3. Whether it’s continuing his quasi-romance with Kei, making use of his new tool Ryuuen to bring Kikyou down, convincing Suzune to join the StuCo, or fending off whatever Arisu serves up, Kiyotaka will have no shortage of work to do.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Classroom of the Elite – S2 10 – Farewell My Lovelies

“The game is rigged, but you cannot lose if you do not play.” —Marla Daniels, The Wire

Paper Shuffle came and went with no students being expelled, and thanks in no small part to Class D’s increased unity and harmony, they picked up quite a few points on Class C. Ascension seems imminent, they just need to remain focused. When Kiyotaka’s study group spots 1-A’s Sakayanaki Arisu chatting with 1-B’s Ichinose Honami, whom Haruka deems “too perfect”, as someone has to have some flaws to be likable. Kiyotaka notices someone is hiding behind a pillar eavesdropping on them.

While walking along with Maya, Kei notices she’s being tailed by a large and unpleasant Class-C student; on their nightly call Kiyotaka tells her she can safely ignore the tail as it’s unlikely to escalate further. But how can he be so sure, and will he be in a position to keep his promise to protect Kei if the harassment does get worse? Meanwhile, Kei snapped a photo of the girl stalking his study group; she’s from Class A, suggesting she was doing so on Arisu’s orders.

In class, more reports of Class-D students being messed with by Class-C, suggesting the class is desperate with D about to supplant them. Suzune asks Kiyotaka if he’ll keep helping her bring their class to Class A. In a nice bit of foreshadowing, he says “as long as it remains necessary”, and then she gives him a book called Farewell My Lovely to check out at the library, as he’d stated his interest in it.

While at the library, Kiyotaka exhibits a measure of chivalry by taking a book off a high shelf for the petite Class-C student Shiina Hiyori; the two have a pleasant little chat about books. Kiyotaka is then taken aside by Chabashira-sensei, who tells him he has a visitor: his father.

Papa Ayanokouji doesn’t mince words: the White Room has resumed, and he wants Kiyotaka, who has strayed from the path laid out for him, to sign a letter expressing his wish to withdraw from the school.

Kiyotaka refuses, Mr. Ayanokouji threatens, and their stalemate is broken by a very unexpected party: Mr. Sakayanagi, Ayanokouji’s former secretary, the current school chairman, and Arisu’s father.

He explains that this school puts a high value on the independence of its students, and he won’t allow a parent to bully one of them into withdrawing against their will. That is that, as Mr. Ayanokouji leaves, but only for now. His mission to bring Kiyotaka, his “most prized possession”, back into the fold has only begun.

Kiyotaka learns that Sakayanagi was the one who recommended him for enrollment, having had his eye on him for some time and seeing his potential (no doubt Arisu sees it too). It’s also clear that Chabashira never knew Kiyotaka’s dad. He considers this a betrayal, for now it’s clear Chabashira has only been using him to try to advance her class to Class A.

That’s something that no longer interests him. He’s content to leave Suzune, Hirata, and the others to continuing those efforts, and he won’t get in their way, but he’s personally done trying to advance the class to Class A. What he’ll do instead remains to be seen, but one of his first calls is to Kei. He apologizes for getting her mixed up in so much trouble, but when he abruptly tells her they’ll no longer be having these phone calls, she’s shocked and genuinely hurt.

Watching him interact with and even seemingly befriend other students of late might’ve softened his image, but we know this kind of brutal coldness is Kiyotaka’s normal M.O. He’s never come out and named any of the people he’s interacted with friends. He even uses the “transactional relationship” label to him and Kei.

While he might not be 100% wrong on that note, the fact is their relationship has evolved to something beyond that, and his inability to see that or act accordingly is one of the flaws that make him likable, despite him acting like such a cold jerk most of the time. I can only imagine Suzune’s outrage at his sudden decision to walk away from the game.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 09 – The Thing You Wanted Most

Once, in a blue moon, an anime gives you exactly what you want. This was one of those times. All I wanted was to bask in the adorable bliss of Takagi and Nishikata’s 100% Unrequited Love: The Movie Date, and that is what I got. No school, no ancillary characters…just our main couple, together, like they were always meant to be.

The show teases us a bit by starting with Nishikata’s dream of “SanTa-kagi” visiting his home in the middle of the night and giving him a gag gift, then shows us Takagi at the ferry pier looking lonely and a little worried…until she spots Nishikata running to her, late and apologetic.

Nishikata realizes that with the year about to end he hasn’t scored a single victory against Takagi; a wrong he’s determined to right. After the ferry ride, he suggests they kill time at an arcade, and come across a new 100% crane game. His heart is set on the Kyunko+Ikeo plushie set, but tries to go for the easier score: a puzzle.

He fails, losing both to Takagi and to himself for trying for the easy win at the cost of what he really wanted. Then it’s Takagi’s turn at the controls and she quickly and effortlessly acquires the plushie set…which she can tell was the thing Nishikata really wanted, and so immediately gifts to him. She’s simply happy to have done something to make him happy.

When the two move on to the movie theater, Nishikata is very cognizant of the fact that some “couples” there might be fake couples who are only putting on airs so they can get the special gift for couples. While he considers himself and Takagi to be one of those “couples of convenience”, he’s determined to pass them off as a real couple (which of course they actually are).

This results in him strutting up to one of the attendants and declaring “two tickets for the Nishikata couple”—rather than Nishikata reservation—both surprising and delighting Takagi in the process. They also decide to go in on a “100% In Love Set”—two sodas and a large popcorn to share. Before heading into the theater, Nishikata hangs back to go to the bathroom, but he really just needs some time alone to write a Christmas card for Takagi.

When he enters the theater and spots the familiar back of Takagi’s head, he thinks to himself “I’m gonna sit…right next to her?” Yes you are, Nishikata, and you’ll like it! The two unwrap the special couple gift, which turns out to be a set of miniature figurines of a Santa Ikeo giving Shunko a Christmas gift.

The movie starts, and as the two lovebird dip into the popcorn their hands touch. As we know, the same voice actors who voice them also voice Shunko and Ikeo. The two thoroughly enjoy the movie, with Nishikata unable to hold back tears as the credits roll.

After the movie, the two stroll around town a bit, with Takagi asking Nishikata what kind of girl is his type, guessing that it’s someone like Kyunko—a bit of a klutz but also earnest and kind and always trying her best. Nishikata says he doesn’t think of Kyunko quite that way, and that’s to be expected, as he’s the Kyunko to Takagi’s Ikeo in their relationship!

Quite suddenly, Takagi challenges Nishikata to a race to an electric pole, which he wins easily, netting him his first and only “win” of the year, just what he wanted. Naturally, he gets totally full of himself and believes he simply cannot lose to Takagi, proving it by having her guess which hand he has a coin in.

Later, she bumps into him from behind, and, sensing something’s up, asks her straight-up what’s up with her. Turns out she decided to try acting like the klutzy-yet-earnest Kyunko for a little while, hoping he’d think she was cute. But Nishikata likes Takagi the way she is, teasing and all.

Takagi just happens to pose in front of the town Christmas tree as it lights up, spurning Nishikata to produce his Christmas present to her: a pair of gloves to keep her hands warm. Takagi can’t hide her surprise, nor her joy, at being given a thoughtful gift by the boy she likes. Nishikata notes that this isn’t turning out anything like his dream…which is good!

Takagi then gives Nishikata her Christmas gift to him: a scarf she made for him, partly while they were on library duty. Then they board the ferry back home, and Nishikata walks Takagi to her house, and they wave goodbye to each other. There’s no classic “confession” scene…but there doesn’t have to be one.

Nishikata walks, then runs home full of joy, having experienced perhaps the best day of his life. The Christmas card he bought and wrote for Takagi was advertised at the store as something “to someone you care about!” Turns out Takagi bought the very same card for him.

So while the actual messaging on the cards is somewhat cordial—he writes “Thanks for everything today”; she writes “Thanks for another fun year”—the more important message conveyed to one another is that they wrote those messages on a card they bought knowing it was for someone they cared about. Someone they love spending time with.

I don’t see how Nishikata can ever dare to deny who Takagi is to him anymore. Not after he, and Takagi, and all of us got everything we could have ever asked for, and more, out of the Best Date Ever.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 07 – Pumped Up for Peace and Quiet

Most anything short of officially dating could have topped last week’s on-stage confession, but if Takagi is anything, she’s patient, so this week is a return to slow, steady, and cozy. Soft and fluffy too, thanks to a dog Takagi is walking for someone. She knows Nishikata will come running when given the opportunity to walk a dog, while Takagi is fine simply walking beside Nishikata, dog or no dog!

After snapping a pic of Nishikata going all gooey over the fluffy good boy, the next segment involves him having to backtrack to school to get his homework. Naturally Takagi tags along, and Nishikata learns that the after-school scene is all about couples. He has absolutely no chance against the assumptions of other couple—like Nakai and Mano—that he and Takagi are one of them—another couple.

The brief but cute segment with Mina, Yukari, and Sanae underscores how the rest of the class views our two lovebirds, as we get a Yukari’s-eye-view of the two in their natural habitat. Sanae heard word they’re not actually dating—yet—but Yukari is 100% right in saying “they might as well be…just look at them!” Also, Mina still believes in Santa, bless her!

In the last segment, Takagi psyches herself up over library duty with Nishikata, and can you blame her? Hanging out with the boy she likes is hardly “duty”. Nishikata, who has already long since been duly impressed by Takagi’ repertoire, discovers she’s also a knitter. She says a slow one, but looks pretty fast to me! (Also, the knitting action and accompanying foley is wonderful low-key sakuga).

Nishikata accepts a brief knitting lesson—backing out when she guides his hands with her own—then feels pangs of jealousy when she hears she’s knitting something for “a 15-year-old boy”. Sensing he’s troubled, she offers him a release valve in the form of a photo of said boy—and he’s a good boy—an old, shivery Chihuahua!

Takagi and Nishikata don’t seem like the couple to attack mountain ranges or hit up raves or ragers once they start “officially dating” (whatever the heck that means). Netflix-and-chilling, or knitting-and-reading, is much more their speed. Fitting, considering no couple makes me more excited about peace and quiet!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. it has come to my attention that Takagi was crocheting, not knitting. Nevertheless!

My Senpai is Annoying – 03 – The Neckties that Bind

We learn two things when Futaba gives her scarf to a nursery school kid who lost her own: one, Futaba is bigger than some people, and Futaba has a kind heart. Takeda just happens to witness this good deed, and Futaba shivering afterwards, so he makes the obvious move: giving Futaba his scarf. Futaba is embarrassed, but also happy.

It’s cold because Christmas is almost here. Futaba and Sakurai end up the Office Santas this year, but after mulling it over in her mind and talking to Harumi about it, she only wants to be Santa for one person: her senpai, as thanks for all he’s done for her since she started. A necktie is the appropriate gift, but Futaba is quickly overwhelmed by the variety.

Thanks to a sales rep’s assistance, Futaba finds the right tie, though I think she should have gone with the flowers or pandas…the better to mark her man with something cute! The problem is, between her and Sakurai’s Santa duties and the extremely busy day at the office on Christmas itself, Futaba just can’t fund the right time to give Takeda the gift. Granted, her standards for “the right time” might be a bit too high!

After wrapping up a meeting at another office for a meeting, Futaba believes she’s found the perfect time, only for her stomach to growl, which to Takeda indicates they should go to dinner. She suggests Christmas chicken, even though it’s not Christmas—a decision neither she nor Takeda regret and had me salivating for some chicken myself.

Back at the office, Kazama is waiting outside for Sakurai, who sees him looking at photos not of herself, not Futaba, in her Santa outfit. She teases Kazama a little, to the point he pulls his scarf up and gently asks if she wouldn’t tease him quite so much. After walking her close to her home, he finally works up the courage to ask her to a belated Christmas dinner. Sakurai is overjoyed and immediately accepts.

Between this immensely cute “normal” couple and the slighly more unique dynamic of the tiny kouhai and her immense senpai, we’ve got two wonderful romances in the making, and I can’t take my eyes off either. When Futaba finally gives Takeda his gift, he takes the opportunity to give her his gift to her: a big fluffy scarf to replace the one she gave the little girl.

While Futaba is exasperated the next day when it’s clear Takeda thinks the tie she gave him is “too nice to wear”, instead proposing he put it “on display”, there’s no denying that receiving a new scarf from him the previous night totally made her end of year.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 09 – Secondborns Roasting on an Open Fire

It’s Christmas, and for the first time, Bocchan is going to host a party. Caph and Zain are coming, and so is Viola with the gift of a handkerchief for Rob. When their mom insists that Viola spend Christmas with “family” she does just that: by spending it with her dear brother. Strangely enough, Walter ends up doing so as well, as he replaces Viola’s driver in order to get a better idea of who he’s dealing with in Bocchan.

Zain ends up finally telling Caph she’s pretty while she’s apparently napping, but she was actually awake and heard his words. In her haste to see Rob, Viola drops her gift, which is picked up by Walter, who then finds a Santa costume in the hall and puts it on just as Caph crosses paths with him. Since Caph still believes in Santa she assumes the gift is for her.

As Caph and Viola bicker over the gift, Walter comes down the chimney in a cloud of soot and issues a challenge his older brother: the first one to discover the secret of the curse will become the new head of the family. As for their mother, well, she gets to eat dinner alone, because she’s an awful bitch who tried and failed to ruin at least two of her three kids!

As the new prologue to episodes states, Bocchan is never lonely, ever since he decided not to give up, and to instead spend his days together with Alice, whom he loves and who loves him in return. Alice very much wants a kiss under the mistletoe, and part of me thought this was the moment they learned the curse didn’t affect her…but she settles for sharing the “coldness” of the snow by lying down next to Bocchan after he trips and falls.

It’s a pleasant if somewhat static episode. I couldn’t care less about Walter and his challenge, but it was sweet to see Zain and Caph’s relationship take a baby step forward. As for the curse, there’s still three episodes to break it. Better get cracking, Bocchan!

Horimiya – 12 – The Mantis

This week it’s Christmas in Horimiyaland, and everyone is figuring out how—and with whom—they want to spend their holiday. It’s just too perfect that Yuki fell in love with Tooru having absolutely no clue that the boy’s family was freakin’ loaded. Money can’t buy you love! If anything, it intimidates a girl of more modest means like Yuki.

At a time when everyone needs Christmas cake, Izumi is scheduled to work through the holidays at the bakery, meaning he won’t be able to join Kyouko and her family. While she’s understanding—her boy’s fam gotta earn, nothing you can do about it—her dad, mom, and Souta are less forgiving. Never mind if it’s Kyouko’s the one technically dating him. They want Izumi!

Shuu and Sengoku were both convinced Tooru and Yuki were already an item, but by saying he only “recently” harbored a crush on Kyouko, Tooru he reveals he’s still in a transitory place: not yet far enough removed from the pain of not having those feelings returned, and thus not quite ready to look for love elsewhere. Compounding matters is that he likely considers Yuki his best mates.

Why else would he so helplessly waver when she asks if she can come to his place to play video games? Or sneak in the house like something elicit is afoot? Or so determined to keep the family’s statuesque personal assistant Yashiro’s nose out of his business? Like his other friends, Tooru likely doesn’t want Yashiro or his family to get the wrong idea in the present—even if it may well turn out to be the right idea in the future.

After they both calm down after tea and cake (from Izumi’s bakery!) and fire up the video games, Tooru lets slip that he’s “happy with the way things are.” And honestly, I really don’t see Yuki disagreeing with that. As they watch that loading screen, they both seem content and comfortable. No need to rush things.

There’s a bit of drama at school when Sengoku doesn’t immediately agree to spend Christmas with Remi at Remi’s, and for a very bizarre reason: her dad is into catching bugs and putting them in boxes. When it’s trifling things like this that come between lovers, you know it’s true love. Sengoku simply has to grow a pair. The bugs are DEAD, dude!

When Kyouko shows her parents her superlative marks (all A’s save gym and art…kinda the opposite of me!) her mom remarks how there will only be one more report card, and then she’ll graduate. As her parents bicker and Souta asks her to look at his marks, Kyouko gets lost in thought: What will her life be like after graduation?

But before that, it’s Christmas, and the episode doesn’t want to leave anyone out as it checks in on just about everyone, starting with a contact-wearing Yanagi and Yuki’s big sister, who have a cute little exchange by a big outdoor Christmas tree. Tanihara and his brother wrestle over a clear view of the TV.

In what is a promising development, Yuki and Tooru are hanging out together for Christmas. I’m rooting for you two tentative bastards….take all the time you need!

Motoko is studying hard even the night before Christmas, but Shuu makes sure she takes a fried chicken and cake break. Sakura urges Sengoku to stop being a goddamn wimp and go hang out with his adorable girlfriend on one of (if not the) most important nights for couples both potential and extant. On the latter front, Shindou asks his girlfriend to wait one more year for him to graduate, and she agrees.

The entire Hori residence—including Souta’s cute friend Yura—is united in their elation when Izumi stops by to drop off their cake. When he says he can’t stay, Kyouko is again understanding, but her family won’t let him leave without a hot drink, eventually stealing a whole hour of his shift at the bakery.

When they finally allow him to leave, Kyouko walks him home, despite not being dressed for the chilly night; she’s in slippers, for goodness sake! But there’s something she wants to say to Izumi, and mercifully it’s not to ask him to berate or hit her; that particular pothole on their relationship road seems to have smoothed out off-camera…and that’s fine.

No, Kyouko tells him the same thing he told her back when they first started going out: she still doesn’t know very much about him. But due in part to that and other factors, she wants to be with him even after they graduate. Izumi goes quite a few steps beyond agreeing, and proposes marriage! Whoa, boy! Immediately embarrassed by blurting out what is surely deep-seated but still premature desire, he shuffles off.

But Kyouko promises she’ll “make him happy”, something Izumi says is usually what the guy is supposed to say in such a situation—which ironically is the kind of cisnormative comment you’d expect from Kyouko! She insists she should be the one to say it, as she admits she’s self-centered and “only good at studying and chores” though she’s selling herself short.

These two lovable dorks then bow to each other, expressing how they’re looking forward to their future together. All I can really say to that is BAAAAAWWWW.

After the credits, we fast-forward to New Year’s, which Kyouko and Izumi are spending together at a festival. They get their fortunes, but they hardly matter, since they both agree that as long as the other person is smiling, it’s all gravy. They grab some amazake and reflect how they were the last people they saw at the end of the previous year and the first people they saw at the beginning of the new one.

Izumi wants every year to be like that. Izumi walks Kyouko home hand-in-hand, assuring her that they can and will indeed be together forever. And damnit, I believe him. And like them, I’m happy just seeing the two smiling together, shrugging off the anxiety around what would happen after high school, laying out their future, and sharing in the warmth, relief, and elation of knowing graduation will only be the end of their beginning.

Yuru Camp△ – 12 (Fin) – Campvengers: Tentgame

The final episode of Yuru Camp’s first season ends somewhat confusingly with flash-forward that starts exactly how the previous episode ended: with Rin on a bike. Only this time instead of a moped it’s a motorcycle (possibly her grandpa’s), and ten years have passed. Rin meets up with Chiaki, Aoi, and Ena at Asagiri campground, which has presumably become a Christmas tradition ever since the first time.

It’s mentioned that Nadeshiko founded a camping equipment company that really took off, and just when I’m expecting her to arrive by helicopter, she arrives instead by rocket-powered tent instead—like the one in the OP! Turns out Nadeshiko of the present is merely musing about what the future might hold. Then Rin returns with the gas, ginger, and no alcohol for Toba-sensei, and she’s welcomed home.

While Aoi, Ena, and Chiaki take their baths first, Rin and Nadeshiko wonder why Toba-sensei isn’t with her boyfriend for Christmas, referring to the capable young lad who helped them start their fire on Lake Shibire. Turns out that wasn’t her boyfriend or her brother, but her kid sister, who is often mistaken for a boy. Their father instilled in them a love of camping, just as Rin’s gramps did for her.

Then it’s Rin, Nadeshiko and Toba-sensei’s turn to bathe, and upon returning find that everyone is sporting a “Shimarin Bun” courtesy of Ena, hairstylin’ extraordinaire. Nadeshiko wants the same treatment, and then agrees to take a group picture without realizing that Ena actually gave her more of a Cactuar-esque bun.

It’s a bit too early to turn in, so on Chiaki’s suggestion, they avail themselves of the streaming service she signed up for prior to the trip so they could watch media to their hearts’ content. While I’d normally object to breaking out the technology when they’re supposed to be enjoying the untouched wilderness, it’s a cold night, and they’re basically running out the clock until they’re sleepy enough to retire, so I’m fine with it.

Rin and Nadeshiko officially share a tent for the first time here, first lying outside and watching the starry sky. They talk about Moped Journey, and how part of it took place where Nadeshiko is from. Rin thinks she’ll be working for new years, while Nadeshiko isn’t having luck finding a job. Before Nadeshiko nods off while smiling, she says they should go camping lots more next year. Rin in turn smiles and agrees. It’s one of many lovely, quite moments of friendship this series has so excelled at.

Rin wakes up to a 5:00 AM alarm, and wakes Nadeshiko, who is still so out of it she wishes Rin a Happy New Year a week too early. Before the sun rises over a very blue Fuji-san, Rin helps out as Nadeshiko prepares a traditional Japanese breakfast, using leftover meat and broth from the sukiyaki and the ginger Rin bought to make Yamato stew to go with grilled salmon and Rin’s veggie and natto miso soup.

Everyone gets up to break their fast together, and suddenly the sun emerges from behind Fuji-san. It’s as beautiful a sight as you will ever see—whether in this episode or in real life—as all sunrises call to mind rebirth, redemption, and new beginnings in general. And this Christmas Camping trip was certainly the beginning of friendships which could last well past Nadeshiko’s ten-year look forward.

After breakfast, the six young women break camp, Sakura arrives to take Nadeshiko and Ena home, Toba-sensei drives Aoi and Chiaki home, and Rin rides home herself. A bit later, while Rin is working at the bookstore, she’s approached by Ena to buy a camping book, having liked her first experience camping in cold weather.

Meanwhile, Chiaki tells Aoi and Nadeshiko that she tried to recruit Ena while they were camping, but Ena isn’t quite ready to quit the “Going Home Club”.  And so, expecting to remain in their mail slot of a club room for the foreseeable future the trio gives it a top-to-bottom cleaning.

While walking home, Nadeshiko’s worries about seeking employment are allayed by a text from Rin, who puts her in contact with Ena, who has a temp job writing New Years cards and tells Nadeshiko there’s a position for her. This…This is how Nadeshiko’s ground-up camping supply empire gets started! Roll credits.

After the credits, Nadeshiko makes a solitary journey by bike to the same seaside campsite where Rin soloed back in the first episode, when I all but immediately fell in love with this series. As soon as she’s all set up (complete with her retro gas lamp), she gets a text from Rin asking what she’s up to.

Nadeshiko says she’s soloing; so is Rin. Rin asks where; Nadeshiko decides to make it a guessing game based on the photos. Rin sends back a photo fo the exact same place, only with Nadeshiko in the shot—they went to the same place! It’s such a beautiful moment of friendship I’m not ashamed to say I teared up a bit!

It’s pretty much the perfect epilogue, and while viewers of Yuru Camp would have to wait three excruciating years for more Rin and Nadeshiko (including 2020, which was more like ten years), All I need to do is hit “Next Episode” to continue following their story in Yuru Camp Season 2!

Adachi & Shimamura – 06 – Throwing a Boomerang in a Chinese Dress

What is Christmas? What’s a date? What is it, exactly, Adachi really wants from Shimamura? Adachi doesn’t know, aside from the basics, and this is an episode in which that basic understanding is reinforced. Also, Adachi and Shimamura go on a Christmas date!

After getting the day off work, Adachi asks Hino what Shimamura likes, and she vaguely remembers something about fragrant tea, so they go shopping together. It’s the first time she hangs out one-on-one with Hino, and to their surprise, they spot Shimamura hanging out with Nagafuji.

Both Hino and Adachi feel lonely and a little jealous that their respective Number Ones would be alone with someone else, but as Adachi tells herself that night, it’s nothing to get so upset about. Nevertheless, she can’t help but pump herself up for a Christmas to Remember, even if she suspects unforgettable memories won’t be made just because it’s Christmas.

Adachi makes the adorable choice of wearing her work dress to the date, since Shimamura thought she looked cute in it. She wants to hurry up and hold her hand, but surprises Shimamura and jams her thumb. Shimamura touches Adachi’s lips and tells her if she wants to hold hands, just ask! So they do.

Off to the arcade they go, trying out air hockey instead of their usual ping pong, and immediately Shimamura’s competitive streak and distaste for losing rears its head, almost going so far as to accuse Adachi of hustling her. They follow that up with some fast food, while talking about what the future holds.

They may end up in different classes next year, but Adachi declares they should just go to class and meet up to hang out after school, like they’re doing now. Shimamura agrees, impressed by what an “honor student” Adachi has become.

Then Adachi gives Shimamura her gift—which was the very tea she wanted to try; good call, Hino!—and Adachi is surprised to learn that not only has Shimamura gotten her a gift in return, but the reason she was with Nagafuji is that they were picking out a gift for her (under the guise of it being for Shimamura’s little sis).

Adachi doesn’t care that the gift is silly—a boomerang and googles—the fact Shimamura gave her a gift is the best gift of all. She tries it out a few times in the park, but can’t quite get the hang of it. It gets colder, and Shimamura suggests they head inside…but Adachi realizes This Is Her Chance—and she may not get a better one—to tell Shimamura How She Feels.

She gets close—oh so close—to saying she likes her, a lot, but instead settles for something more cowardl-err, more pragmatic: she doesn’t just want to be friends, she wants to be Best Friends. Shimamura doesn’t quite get it, but salutes Adachi’s “ambition”.

So nothing truly dramatic happens just because it’s Chrismas…but I highly doubt Adachi will soon forget her memories of her date with Shimamura. It just comes down to whether best-friendship is all she wants. It seems to be for now; we’ll see if that remains true further down the road.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Adachi & Shimamura – 05 – Running Towards Sparkly Things

Throughout the episode Adachi is on edge until she achieves her objective: ask Shimamura to hang out with her for Christmas. Because she knows it will sound like asking her out on a date (’cause, well, that’s what she’d be doing) and thus change the complexion relationship forever, she struggles to find both the right time to ask and the words to use.

Her first opportunity comes when she asks if she can study at Shimamura’s place. This means Shimamura turns down an invite from Hino and Nagafuji, whom we learn have grown pretty darn close themselves, as Nagafuji for all the world looks like she’s about to kiss Hino on the lips before moving to her forehead.

Up in Shimamura’s dusty study room, she and Adachi get under the kotatsu, and Shimamura calls for a break while the room heats up. Rather than ask what she needs to ask, Adachi instead asks what kind of kid Shimamura was. Her answer is that she was pretty normal; her hair was shorter and undyed, and she wasn’t as inhibited.

She then nods off, and Adachi leans in to almost kiss her before withdrawing, only to have her lap commandeered by Shimamura once she wakes back up. Shimamura doesn’t explain why she’s so comfortable placing her head in Adachi’s lap, and Adachi is far too happy about it to ask why—or about Christmas. She just enjoys the moment for what it is: pure bliss.

The second half of the episode is from Shimamura’s perspective, and she lists all the weird things about Adachi lately. She’s constantly staring at her, always seems like she’s keeping herself from saying or asking something, and even got a higher grade on her English test. That last one is neither here nor there, but it’s proof that Shimamura has had a positive influence on Adachi’s academics.

Shimamura determines if Adachi can’t get the words out, she’ll have to help her do so, taking her by the hand to the roof for some deep breaths and to ask straight up what she wants to talk about. Adachi blushes and says she’ll tell her “after giving it some thought” even though she’s thought of nothing else for days.

Adachi somewhat reminds Shimamura of another friend she had in primary school, who always hid behind her like a trusty shield unless they came across “something sparkly”, then ran to that. That was, perhaps, the first time Shimamura started to question the value of getting close to anyone.

Adachi ends up appearing at Shimamura’s door early in the morning before school. She feels Adachi’s face and brings her in to warm up and, hopefully, finally ask her what she wanted to ask. And at long last, Adachi powers through her crippling hesitation to ask, in almost too roundabout a way, if Shimamura will hang out with her on the 25th of the month. That’s right—she can’t even say “Christmas”!

When Shimamura considers the question, its phrasing, the manner in which Adachi struggled to say it and the redness in her face, she almost asks “why”, but stops herself, knowing it could well irreparably harm their present relationship. She’s apparently so jaded about meaningful bonds that even if she did wreck them, she can’t see herself putting in the necessary effort to repair it.

It’s only when Adachi senses Shimamura pondering her question that she rephrases it in a way that simultaneously fails to get her true feelings across and makes it possible for Shimamura to accept. Adachi says she wants to hang out with “someone” for Christmas, which Shimamura takes to mean “not me specifically, but I’ll do since I’m really her only friend”. Of course, we know Adachi doesn’t want to hang out with anyone else, just like she doesn’t want to kiss or hold hands with or lie in the lap of anyone else.

That said, once Shimamura accepts, she can’t help but see how goshdarn giddy it makes Adachi, as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Is that really the reaction of someone for whom “anyone will do”? In her haste to start preparing their day, Adachi marches out of Shimamura’s house and bikes off without her, leaving Shimamura on the floor with her hand out yelling “Wait for li’l ol’ me!” in an uncharacteristic, old-timey way.

So yeah, these two aren’t quite on the same page, and at the moment Shimamura simply isn’t strongly considering the possibility of a romantic entanglement with Adachi in the near future. That said, if anyone can change Shimamura’s way of thinking about the matter, it’s Adachi. While her words continue to fail her, perhaps she can get the job done with her actions.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 61 – A Hymn of Twisted Metal

Sakura is flying around late at night…has she become a delinquent? No, she was just converting four new Clow Cards while using Mirror as her decoy in case anyone checks on her in her room. Mirror wants to tell her something, but Touya peeks in, and she has to return to her card form.

Kero-chan believes Touya is totally on to them but Sakura doesn’t see it. Why would her big bro teases her about everything—from her stomping to her tardiness to the way she eats—yet not tease her about dressing up in frilly dresses and collecting magical cards?

While escorting her to school Touya asks Sakura if he’s gotten a gift for dad yet. He needs a new wallet, but Sakura can’t afford one on her allowance, so Touya and her will pick one out and buy it together. I loved it when Sakura run down a list in her head of people for whom to give gifts…and leaves Syaoran out!

As we know, Touya knows pretty much everything about the magical goings on with Sakura, Yukito, and Tomoeda town in general. He’s pretty much onto Ruby Moon/Nakuru too! It’s just that he’s usually a passive observer and nothing more. I wonder how long he can keep that up when Yukito is growing more and more fatigued.

Sakura has homeroom duties with Syaoran, which I’m sure he sees as yet another glorious opportunity to tell her how he feels, only to be interrupted yet again, this time by Yamazaki’s inane rambling. I daresay this bit has the potential to grow stale, as one can only imagine so many iterations of Syaoran trying and utterly failing to say three simple words.

However, each instance seems to add more dimension. This time, Sakura has Syaoran translate the characters Meiling wrote in her letter, which mean “my dear friend”. Syaoran also tells Sakura that you give people “close to you” Christmas presents in Hong Kong as well, and Sakura tells him she’ll be sure to give him one. Dawww…

Speaking of confessing, Touya has said “I…you…” several times to Yukito without ever getting his intended words out. This week he comes closer than ever, telling the snow rabbit “I know the truth” before Nakuru pops out of the scenery and pounces on him anew.

After listening to Eriol practice a hymn of gratitude on the piano, Sakura prepares to meet her brother, but she and Syaoran sense Clow’s presence. She decides to go with Syaoran, and summons Mirror to go with her brother.

Once Sakura and Syaoran arrive at the location of the presence, they’re confronted by a detached metal railing with a mind of its own, full of sharp, jagged points. It’s one of Eriol’s nastier conjurings, seeing as how the animate twisted metal is a veritable hive of tetanys.

The pair hack at the metal to no avail; it simply reattaches and comes at them again and again. That’s until Sakura summons Mist, which causes the metal to corrode into harmless dust. The aftermath of their battle would appear to be a good time for Syaoran to say what he needs to say, but Sakura, having realized something, has to suddenly go!

As for Mirror!Sakura, she seems happy for the opportunity to hang out with Touya. Even though he immediately notices she’s not really his sister, he’s still kind to her and they have fun shopping and having coffee. Tange Sakura does a lovely job modulating differentiating between Sakura Prime and the quieter, gentler Mirror!Sakura’s voices.

Touya even thanks Mirror for helping Sakura, and offers her a humble gift for Christmas: hair ribbons for her normal form, which he knows has longer hair. Mirror accepts them, bursting with joy and gratitude.

When Sakura suddenly left Syaoran, it was out of a sense of duty to express her gratitude to her cards for helping her whenever she’s in tough spots. She decided to have Eriol teach her the hymn so she could play it (or at least one side of it) and record it for them to listen to.

Mirror, the only card who can communicate verbally with Sakura, warmly accepts the gift, and reveals that what she had wanted to say to her all along was thanks in return for changing them into Sakura Cards and taking care of them. Sakura’s cards love her—and who can blame them??

In the most heartwarming part of the episode, upon returning to card form, Sakura notices green ribbons in Mirror’s hair—the very ribbons Touya gave her. I have no idea how that worked, practically speaking, but it was hella sweet nonetheless!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 35 – Christmas Inferno

After having the Tokyo Tower dream again—this time while in class—Sakura wakes up with Mizuki-sensei looking right at her, giving further credence to the theory that she’s the shadowy figure. But never mind that; it’s Christmastime! Since Yukito birthday is Christmas, Sakura wants to give him a nice gift. She approaches Meiling, who instinctively assumes Sakura is about to kidnap her in order to steal all of Syaoran’s cards, a scenario we watch in brilliant “MeilingVision”!

Meiling assures Sakura that if the recipient of her gift doesn’t hate or fear her, she has nothing to worry about; it’s more about the feelings behind the gift than the object itself. Buoyed by this advice, Sakura works up the courage to call Yukito fiddles with the cell phone Tomoyo gave her until Kero-chan redials Yukito. She asks if he’d go to the amusement park with her, and he accepts.

Sakura is dressed to the nines and on cloud nine as Yukito is obviously the perfect gentleman as their date commences. Unbeknownst to either of them, Tomoyo is recording their date for posterity, which is a little creepy and stalkery until you remember…hey, it’s Tomoyo. Kero-chan is with her too. Then Sakura spots Syaoran on a (forced) date with Meiling.

From there it becomes a double date, with the two couples going on various rides in various combinations. Meiling correctly deduces that Yukito is the gift recipient for whom Sakura asked her for gift advice. Meiling is glad her advice helped, but also probably relieved Sakura is busy with another guy. Touya makes an appearance as a waiter, as he works absolutely everywhere.

A bizarrely burning wreath was foreshadowing for the Clow Card-of-the-week: Fiery. By the time Syaoran and Sakura both sense the card, it’s already set little fires all over the amusement park. Syaoran uses Time to freeze all the bystanders and Sakura uses Sleep to put them all to sleep, but when she uses Windy alone it only fans the flames. Firey is true to his name, and as an elemental is the equal of Windy: any clash between them will end in a stalemate.

That means Sakura must do something rarely done by Cardcaptors: use two Clow Cards…simultaneously. While Time saps Syaoran, she’s got the magical power to summon both Windy and Waterywho quickly restrain Firey and allow Sakura to seal it. It’s a gorgeous sequence, and maybe Sakura’s most bad-ass moment yet—she doesn’t even break a sweat! In an added bonus, since Kero-chan is related to the sun, gaining Firey restores some of his powers, though he’s still stuck in plushie form for now.

With Firey all sealed up, all that’s left is for Sakura to give Yukito his birthday/Christmas gift, which she presents while they’re on a huge Ferris wheel. She ultimately decided to give him a doll…of himself…that she made by herself. You do you, Sakura! Yukito is happy for the gift, and Kero-chan makes their view a little more magical by using his power to bedazzle the night sky.

With that, Cardcaptor Sakura’s marvelous first season comes to a close. I thought Clear Card was great, but the original is some next-level shit. I can only imagine how bowled over I’d have been had I watched it when it first came out, considering how well the animation holds up in 2020. I’m very much looking forward to continuing this magical cardcapturing journey.

Kakushigoto – 09 – The Time Traveling Virtuoso

We’re nearing the end of June IRL, but in the world of Hidden Things December has come. That means the harrowing end-of-year grind when editors crack the whip on the creatives. So why is Kakushi’s team so upbeat? Because they’re expecting the reward of a fancy hotel Christmas party at the end of the tunnel. Kakushi was originally not going to go, but will use whatever methods of motivation are needed to get through the grind.

Leave it to Tomaruin to pop everyone’s balloon of motivation by informing them that due to the publishing recession the company will only be holding a modest bar-and-karaoke gathering. Still, Rasuna scrounges up an invite from a rival publisher Kakushi worked for a while ago, and they are having a fancy party they can attend. Kakushi can even bring Hime, since it’s unlikely anyone there will recognize him as a mangaka.

Throughout this talk of parties is a discussion on the use of titles like “sensei” or “virtuoso” to describe mangakas. Those on the rungs below a manga artist use them as terms of respect; editors use them mockingly or as an expression of resentment. Naturally, Tomaruin calls Kakushi both, and for both reasons!

Kakushi likes the idea of showing Hime the “dignity” of his fake office job through a fancy party, and to correct her misapplication of the word “chandelier” to more lowly disco balls. He even digs himself a bit of a hole by calling December by its old Japanese name, Shiwasu, describing it as a time “when all the senseis are running” (due to the end-of-year grind).

Hime’s penchant for misinterpreting words means she starts to believe that all runners she sees are senseis, even though all senseis are runners—including her dad when he runs to get her after a misunderstanding regarding party invitations.

Tomaruin (perpetual thorn in Kakushi’s side, him!) invites Nadila to the lame party, so she take Hime there instead of the fancy hotel. Having already seen a “chandelier” at the karaoke, Hime assigns the term “Cinderella” to the real chandelier at the hotel, since it resembles that character’s flowing dress.

Kakushi learns he’s safe in his suit (no higher-ups at the rival publisher will suspect a mangaka of wearing one), but he has a different problem: that’s right, Tomaruin. He crashes the party hoping to poach an artist, and looks for one based on their outward appearance. In this case, since female artists are popular, a girl in a frilly dress flanked by a man in a suit.

The first such person to match that description…is Hime. She thankfully doesn’t recognize Tomaruin, but by taking back the business card given to her, Kakushi learns that it’s not the first Hime has gotten. Despite Hime’s misgivings, she actually attracts a lot of attention as a child magazine model.

When word spreads that there’s a poacher from a rival publisher, the exits are blocked. Tomaruin is dressed up dingily by Kakushi and the assistants in order to escape safely, but Kakushi himself is briefly suspected as the poacher—he’s wearing a suit, after all!

The misunderstanding is cleared up when a higher-up recognizes him. He’s reimbursed for his destroyed suit, but the bare-chested Kakushi needs some covering to leave, and must settle for the same embarrassing loli shirt Tomaruin wore to pose as a mangaka.

It’s a night of books incorrectly judged by their covers, but Hime still had a lot of fun, and Kakushi’s true profession remains a secret, so we’ll call it a win for him. Before heading home, the father and daughter encounter the “virtuoso” of chandeliers: a dazzling LED stylized Christmas tree Hime calls a “Super Cinderella.” Kakushi wisely doesn’t try to correct her…let her have her own adorable terms for things!

The ever-so-brief obligatory flash forward provides one more clue about Kakushi’s future status in the form of another incorrect term: “disappeared”. His former assistant Shiji, now working at a bookstore, sells a book to a customer about three mangakas who disappeared, one of whom is Kakushi, before quietly declaring that a lie. My first thought? He kept drawing, but merely changed pen names. In any case, I’m fearing the worst about this future less and less.

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