Komi Can’t Communicate S2 – 07 – …But Sometimes She Can

Komi is haunted by the possibility Najimi saw her holding Tadano’s hand as he slept. She spends all night trying to word a letter of explanation, but because she’s not 100% sure Najimi did see it, she doesn’t want to write anything to make Najimi suspicious. Meanwhile, Tadano wants to thank Komi for coming by, but isn’t 100% sure whether she was actually there or if she was just part of his fever dreams.

In their efforts to not say something that will give the other party the wrong idea, the misunderstandings only mount. Ironically, this is a sign that Komi is indeed becoming better at communicating. She is not just thinking internally and freezing up like the past, but trying to figure out what someone else is thinking or intended. That said, Komi was most certainly not just “checking his pulse!”

The last few episodes have shown an incremental uptick in the Komi x Tadano romance angle, but there are always new weirdo friends to meet, and this week’s is Naruse, whom I honestly can’t remember even in the background of previous episodes, but maybe that’s the point. As invisible as he’s been to me (and the rest of the gang), he is absolutely in love with himself.

Nine months into the school year, Naruse finally decides now is the time to approach Komi. One interesting bit of possibly accidental perceptiveness on his part? He assumes Komi has never spoken to him due to a communication disorder, for which he doesn’t judge her. But he clearly has a blind spot when it comes to the protective wall of secondary friends surrounding Komi, Tadano, and Najimi; he assumes they’re all his fans even if that’s a very big delusional reach.

When Komi returns his hanky that he saw him drop, he assumes it’s a sign she’s in love with him. Because of this, he’s a bit too forward in asking for her contact info, and gets Tadano’s instead. Naruse also has a constant deadpan translator/commentator in Chuushaku Kometani, who I wished would have gotten in a narration fight with the usual female narrator; to no avail.

The third and final segment returns us to the central romance as groups are to be formed for the upcoming class trip to Kyoto. When Tadano asks where she went for middle school, she says Kyoto, but after that she starts acting squirrelly even for her. Tadano correctly assumes she’s not feeling okay. After what may be the first instance I can recall of Najimi getting the eff out of the way, Tadano asks her about it, and she initially says it’s nothing, she’s fine, and they part ways.

But then, when they’re still only about ten feet away, she calls him, and tells him what’s been eating her: she lied about going to Kyoto. Her class went to Kyoto, but she was the last person chosen for a group, which picked her by playing jankenpon. She’ll never know whether the other members of her group welcomed her with a smile, were offended by her presence, or didn’t care one way or another…because she couldn’t raise her head.

It’s Komi’s most extensive and most heartbreaking sharing of her bad old days before she met Tadano (and Najimi), and Koga Aoi does the lord’s work infusing Komi’s tiny voice with meloncholy and longing. It’s also probably the most she’s spoken continuously yet; another sign that things aren’t the same as they were then, and never will be.

Tadano tells her she has friends now. Even if some of the others would “rather be with someone else” (highly arguable), Tadano would rather be with her than anyone else. He adds Najimi in there in case he sounds too forward, but I think Komi gets the idea as she hangs up and finishes their talk in person.

After talking with Tadano, Komi feels a lot better and is actually looking forward to the trip. The next day, in a complete inversion of her traumatic middle school experience, every single girl in the class wants to be in the same group as Komi, so the teacher has to employ a lottery system. To them, being able to spend time with her isn’t a burden; it’s a prize.

Komi Can’t Communicate S2 – 06 – Tadano’s Dizzy Fever Day

While Komi spent New Year’s Eve with her extended family, Tadano spends it at home playing video games until midnight with Najimi. The next morning Najimi is still there, and suggests they call as many friends as they can to go on their first shrine visit. But between Komi not picking up, Ren in Hawaii, Agari almost choking on mochi, Inaka not in cell range, Nakanaka playing a crucial mobile game, Yadano playing battledore, and Katai doing pushups, it seems like it might be a bust.

However, they still manage to organize a huge group, including Komi, who calls Najimi back after the initial missed call. Najimi leads the charge up the steps to the shrine, leaving her and Tadano in the dust. As we know, this is Komi’s second shrine visit of the day, but it doesn’t matter, because she’s happy to be invited and to spend time with her friends…and Tadano. She also flashes a cheeky streak by withholding her fortune from him (which is excellent).

In the middle segment Katai continues his elaborate plan to make Tadano his best friend (or possibly boyfriend?) by inviting him ice skating. Tadano asks if he can invite someone else, and to my delight Najimi wasn’t his first call and isn’t around to suck up all the oxygen. Instead, Katai sees Komi’s presence as a sign she’s worried about her “student”; in reality, Komi is still weary of Kati, but also isn’t opposed to trying to bond as friends some more.

Turns out Tadano is the only one of the trio who know how to ice skate, which means he gets to teach them both, starting with Komi. Before you know it the two are skating together hand in hand, but because Komi over-corrects on her braking step, she spins around to face Tadano, and they both realize how this must look. Katai also eventually lets go of the fence and, with Tadano taking his hand and eventually letting go, the big guy is able to get the hang of it as well.

Possibly due to being out in the cold, Tadano comes down with a fever. He stays home alone, promising his little sis he won’t die, but in an extended scene, this cold gets worse and worse and he starts to get delirious and worry about actually dying. It doesn’t help that his bottle of sports drink is empty and he doesn’t have the strength to get out of bed. What he does have is a charged phone, which he uses to call Najimi…or at least he thought he called them, but ends up calling Komi instead.

The doorbell rings, and who should be at the door but Nurse Komi to the rescue. She bears hot ginger tea and ingredients for rice porridge, which she expertly and lovingly prepares in the Tadano kitchen. While I’m sure she’s upset that Tadano isn’t feeling so swell, you can tell she’s absolutely reveling in the opportunity to take care of the boy she cares for, especially after all that he’s done for her. That said, her enthusiasm for the job of nursing him to health results in her trying to feed him, perhaps out of habit from doing the same for, say, her brother.

When Komi comes back from washing the dishes, Tadano is out like a light, and she can’t help but draw near to him, watch his sleeping face, tuck him in so he doesn’t get a chill, and in perhaps one of the most touching moments of the entire series, slides her hand into his. Unfortunately Najimi mucks up the moment by bursting in unannounced, but it was still a beautiful moment. Her increasing number of colorful friends are fun, but her quiet little interactions with Tadano—ones she’d never have with anyone else—will always be my favorite part of this series.

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 05 – Win-Win

When Aharen tells Raidou about a Pokemon Go-style mobile game that was launched seven years ago like it’s a new trend, he dusts off his maxed-out Yankee Godzilla character, believing her tiny, harmless-looking Shirorin will be no match against him. He’s eager to score a win against Aharen, but instead he gets stomped. It’s the classic Cactuar Conundrum: tiny and cute doesn’t automatically spell weak.

We’ve seen how strong Aharen is in the crane game department, so when Futaba spends almost all her pocket change in vain trying to win a Yankee Godzilla doll, Aharen proceeds to win nine of them. I don’t think she’s trying to show up a kid; merely show her how it’s done. She even leaves a gimme right near the out spout for Futaba to win with her last 100-yen coin.

The next segment is one of those that crops up often in a 4-panel comic: where one character changes dramatically—in this case Raidou becoming overweight overnight. When it dawns on Aharen it could be her fault for feeding him so much of her massive lunches, she reads up on dieting, hoping to help him.

But when Raidou spots her with the diet book, he assumes she’s trying to diet, something he doesn’t think is necessary, so he decides to lead by example and show her that exercise, not dieting, is the key to success. He loses all the weight he gained, only to learn Aharen never had any intention of dieting…but will surely consider leaner lunches in future!

The re-slimmed Raidou is in trouble; if he fails the midterms he’ll have to take supplementary classes. To avoid this, he proposes that he and Aharen study together, assuming from her serene demeanor that she’s already fully prepared to do well in the exams.

The two try a number of different venues for their studying, but be it the library, a restaurant, or the park, they find themselves distracted by something and can’t study. Ultimately, the classroom turns out to be the ideal spot for studying, with their desks pushed together as usual.

When Aharen, Raidou, and two classmates have after-school cleaning duty, Raidou marvels at how seriously Aharen takes this. She’s so professional in her cleaning, his vivid imagination starts to wonder if she’s also a cleaner, i.e. an assassin. She certainly seems to have a cool head for it…

After the other two kids leave, Aharen tries to move a dusted bookshelf back where it belongs, only to lose her balance and almost have it fall on her. Raidou exhibits catlike reflexes by rushing to Aharen’s rescue. Later, they continue studying, and Raidou thanks her for helping him with studying. Aharen’s response is so quiet even his trained ears can’t hear…

…So she draws closer to him and gathers him into a long, warm, affectionate hug. She expresses her happiness at being able to finally help Raidou, after all this time she’s caused trouble and relied upon him. Raidou’s response is as expected: he’s never once thought she was trouble, and he relies on her too, so he thanks her in return.

It’s easily the swetest and most romantic things have ever gotten between these two. So many anime couples have trouble communicating, but these two are crystal clear in how they feel about one another, and aren’t even embarrassed to walk about arm-in-arm or to share such a long hug.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 04 – Veritably Cordial

Raidou and Aharen’s closeness finally catches the attention of their poetry and prose teacher, Toubaru-sensei (Hana-Kana). But while at first glance they look like they’re flirting, upon subsequent glances she becomes entranced by their idyllic innocence as they gain her “veritable esteem”. Basically, they’re such good kids, the teacher gets a nosebleed.

When Raidou is a little slower than he’d want to be in handing Aharen a bottle of water when she’s choking on food, he decides that both of them need to be more expressive. While sharing a number of activities meant to elicit strong emotional responses means they’re growing closer as a couple, their faces remain veritable Noh masks to all but each other.

The pair transition from practicing more expressive faces to engaging in rap battles as the result of an inspirational trip to the CD store (something that I’m amazed is a thing that still exists in this age of Spotify and iTunes). Aharen is a natural, but Raidou needs to practice (which he does back at home, bemusing his sister and mom).

Raidou’s sister feels bad about being too harsh about his rapping, so gives her brother a fidget spinner as an apology. At school Aharen is oddly drawn to the device, and as soon as it’s in her tiny hand it barely stops spinning. She pulls of one slick trick after another, to the point Raidou worries she’s become addicted…only or Aharen to hand it back to him once she’s “spun it enough”.

The final segment involves Raidou and Aharen trying to relax in a park, but come afoul of a bunch of kids, including three boys who call her “King Aha” due to her spinner tricks. The girl of the group is worried about Aharen “seducing” her childhood friend, so challenges her to a Reversi duel. Raidou plays her first and loses completely, while Aharen simply lets her win. When the boys pick on the girl, she gets them to apologize.

After all that very non-relaxing excitement, Aharen looks very wan and hollowed-out by exhaustion. Luckily for her, her family dog Nui, a big Golden Retriever, doesn’t mind Aharen riding him home. It occurs to Raidou that the kids might’ve been on to something calling her “King”…she looks far more regal riding her dog than she has any right to be!

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 03 – Our Weird Dance

This week’s cavalcade of quiet, calm hijinx begins with Raidou looking like a shounen hero and Aharen looking like a toy troll. Turns out it’s just a matter of bed head, not that she’s joined a death metal band. When Raidou’s attempts to tame the hair result in a lotus-type shape, it’s up to Mitsuki, whose family happens to run a salon.

After cutting both Aharen and Raidou’s hair (the latter being a big step forward, even if her original attempt was to shave him bald), Aharen thanks her by inviting her to eat lunch with them. Unfortunately Mitsuki is too shy to sit too close, but Aharen just happens to have extendable chopsticks. Mitsuki also helps her apply toner, moisturizer, and lip balm, then give Aharen a fully body massage for good measure.

When one of their classmates who is training for baseball grows so large he blocks Aharen’s view of the chalkboard, Raidou tries to help out by going through every possible alternate position before concluding that the best one is the most normal; simply pushing their desks together and getting cozy. However, when the teacher announces that everyone is changing desks soon, Raidou is determined to make his “last days” sitting next to Aharen-san count.

In a co-ed softball game for P.E., Raidou learns throwing strikes to Aharen is nigh impossible due to her strike zone being the roughly the size of a postage stamp. He thinks she’s calling her shot, but her arm is itchy, and when she makes her stance lower, it’s simply the heat making her “all droopy”. But by walking her on four pitches, hers is the winning run for her team, so he at least is able to deliver her some glory.

In Home Ec class, Raidou, who can’t cook anything, is paired up with two other classmates whose cooking skills he’s not sure of. But Aharen is also on his team and she’s a great cook, so he knows they’ll be fine. However, after softball she has no energy, so he has to cook, with horrifying results. Thankfuly Aharen has a strong stomach and wolfs down all the food he made, giving her the energy needed to whip up a meatless four-course meal and a passing grade for the team.

Finally, Raidou tries to help Aharen with what he believes to be her dream to become a famous YouTuber,  practicing choreography for a weird dance while her phone records. Here Raidou’s imagination truly gets out of hand as he imagines the two of them becoming internet famous and filling arenas with their bizarre dancing that is reminiscent of Elaine’s from Seinfeld. Turns out she has no designs on being famous; she was just practicing dance moves for class.

As for changing desks, well…I expected them to simply switch places and remain next to each other, but even that doesn’t happen. And you’d think the teacher would realize Aharen can’t see if she’s behind another huge athletic kid! But that doesn’t matter, because the blissful days of sitting beside each other shall continue indefinitely…as will their whimsical antics.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 02 – XYZ

Raidou and Aharen’s rapport continues to be strong and easygoing, but while Aharen has distance and communication issues, Raidou has an overactive imagination. For instance, he imagines Aharen was in a street fight with some toughs, when she really just got something in her eye. I liked how difficult it was for Raidou to administer the drops, and how when he gets something in his eye, Aharen is quick to reciprocate—though like me, she sucks at administering eye drops!

Raidou’s imagination also runs wild concerning the constant feeling he and Aharen are being watched and followed. He looks back on all of the petty offenses he’s committed against people in his life (mostly against his little sister) and believes himself a “monster”, and thus deserving of a hitman after him. Dude is an absolute goof.

However, he’s downright normal compared to the one following them, Aharen’s towering childhood friend Ooshiro Mitsuki. She is protective of Aharen, whom she calls Reina, but also terrified of Raidou and so keeps her distance. Even when Aharen insists he’s neither scary nor a bad guy, Mitsuki can’t help but stick to her misconceptions. Also MAO voices Mitsuki in “Pecorine on caffeine” mode.

The next segment involves Aharen wearing a mask due to a mild cold, and thus not being able to properly notify Raidou that his fly is all the fuck open, revealing his pink strawberry print boxers. Let it be said that Aharen’s reaction to this is as amazing as her attempts to warn Raidou are ineffective. That said, she does come up with a lot of clever ways to block the sight of his crotch from others.

Even on the way home, after an exhausting day of failure, Aharen  positions herself in front of him to spare him embarrassment. When he finally determines that she’s been trying to get him to notice something, and sees the reflection of the two of them in the mirror, it seems like he finally gets it…only for him to wrongly assume Aharen got a haircut.

Next up is the first segment with just Aharen and Mitsuki. Even though Raidou is absent, Mitsuki is weary of getting too close to Aharen, since she’s worried she’ll be yelled at, scolded, or bopped on the head (again). That said, it’s raining, and Mitsuki keeps trying to clandestinely lend Aharen her umbrella, only for Aharen to believe the umbrella is cursed and locks it up in front of a hastily-built shrine. Ultimately Aharen shares her umbrella with Mitsuki, and uses the fact she’s within talking distance to thank her for watching over her.

The post-credits sequence is short but sweet, as Raidou breaks out the Reversi (AKA Othello) board and challenges Aharen to a match. He thinks he’s got a worthy opponent (he touts himself a “Raidou Family Champion”) when Aharen exerts the aura of a lion, but he ends up trouncing her. Then he gets her to admit she let him win, insists she fight him with everything he’s got, and then she trounces him…twice.

The Detective Is Already Dead – 08 – She’ll Steal Your Heart

This episode starts off with a gag—that the carrots in the curry Kimi made are too hard. They’re hard because he couldn’t find the kitchen knife, which Siesta confirms is still missing. Siesta is rather harsh and perhaps even a little possessive of her Sidekick when she informs Alicia that her services as substitute detective are no longer required. Kimi disagrees, and allows Alicia to continue investigating beside him.

Then sirens blare, and the next victim of the heart-stealer is revealed. Siesta, Kimi, and Alicia visit the grief-stricken mother of the woman, and regrets only taking and never giving to her daughter. Siesta is again harsh and clinical in questioning the grieving mother, causing Kimi to interrupt, while Alicia comforts the mother by assuring her that it wasn’t a one-sided relationship.

Siesta and Kimi have a tiff and go their separate ways for the day, but Alicia isn’t far behind, and Kimi presents her with a gift—the ring she liked at the curbside jeweler—and she asks him to slip it on her finger as a groom would. Siesta returns to apologize, only to see the two together, wish them every happiness, and storms off in a fresh barely-concealed huff.

Needless to say, Kimi has become quite fond and trusting of Alicia, in spite of the fact so much of her is still shrouded in mystery. In place of all the things he doesn’t know, he fills his heart with all the things he does, including that she’s a good person, and completely misses how she suspects she used to be a bad one. Turns out the ring was a tracking device, and Kimi soon finds a stabbed but not killed police officer…and Alicia on the ground with a gunshot wound.

It was when Alicia first said she was once bad that it first popped into my head she was Hel in a different form. That’s because everything I’d seen so far pointed to that. So I fully expected the episode to zag instead of zig, and pull something completely different out of nowhere; once again to prove it doesn’t really care about process or clues so much as the final twist.

Instead, it just zigged—Alicia is Hel, or at least the innocent, kind surface side of Hel. She’s been unknowingly switching into Hel Mode and stealing the hearts of the victims. Once she put the pieces together for herself, Alicia was left with nothing but the inevitability that her fun with Kimi had to come to an abrupt end.

Just as her reveal as Hell was earned, so is Alicia’s tearful goodbye to Kimi before turning into a knife-brandishing Hel. It was truly heartbreaking after all the moments—both tender and fraught—they’d shared, and become a kind of big-brother/little sister detective duo.

Again, Siesta comes in to do what is necessary, tackling Hel!Alicia before she can kill Kimi, then preparing to shoot her in the head before Kimi pulls his gun on Siesta. His heart may still be beating in his chest, but there’s no denying that Alicia stole it anyway. How else could he point a gun at Siesta?

Kimi was emotionally compromised. He’s a human being; it happens. Siesta doesn’t hold it against him, nor does she impose some kind of punishment for him losing objectivity. On the contrary, Siesta admits that Alicia was so trustworthy to her that she didn’t start suspecting her until the most recent victims, meaning she didn’t have the knowledge to act before anyone was killed. Call me crazy, but I like the fact that while Siesta is legendary, she’s not perfect.

But as both Kimi and Siesta were trying to do the right thing and were momentarily at odd with one another like never before in their three-plus years together, they’re soon reunited when Chameleon abducts Hel!Alicia and dares them to follow him to his not-so-secret private island base (which…what a stock villain move). They have a comrade to save, and they’ll do it the best way they know how: together.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Detective Is Already Dead – 07 – Wallowing in Sentimentality

Alicia takes to the mantle of Substitute Legendary Detective like a fish to water, donning a gumshoe’s coat and plaid cap and running all over downtown searching for the Eye of the Sapphire per Siesta’s instructions. Kimi does his best to catch up, but is constantly losing sight of the Mini-Sherlock. She’s just happy to be outside for the first time in a while, leading her to wonder why she hadn’t been outside for so long.

A couple weeks pass, and Siesta recovers from her injury, so the three go out for celebratory drinks. In Alicia’s case they’re all non-alcoholic, but something tells me the dark red liquid in a wine glass Siesta is enjoying isn’t just “juice.” Alicia is also somewhat frightened of just how in-sync Kimi and Siesta are, and is about to call them a couple of lovebirds when she’s abruptly cut off.

Alicia ends up heading to bed first, leaving Kimi and a Siesta who’s not quite done partying. After somewhere around ten “last” drinks, Siesta is hopping on her bed in a loose bathrobe and slurring her words as she spouts nonsense about melons so unlike Siesta, Kimi assumes she’s speaking in some kind of higher codespeak he can’t quite pick up.

There’s nothing to decode in her desire for him to sleep beside her. While she teases his forgettable face, she places her hand on it when she says she’ll never forget their three years spent together, and proposes that after so much serious talk they try doing something…“not so serious”.

We don’t learn how far the two got—or if Siesta passed out right after making her proposal—but when she wakes up next to him all sobered up, she prepares a syringe with a memory-wiping compound. Fortunately, Kimi is saved by the doorbell. It’s Alicia, who managed to solve overnight the real case Siesta apparently gave her: to discover that Kimi’s left eye was injured, and an eyepatch needed for it to fully heal.

Now donning his new “daring pirate” look while out and about with a slightly jealous Siesta, Kimi gets a call from Detective Kase, who assures him they actually didn’t meet two weeks ago. Instead, the Kase he met had the lighter she’d already given to him, so it was an impostor.

It could have been Hel, who sat this episode out so Kimi could play Alicia’s babysitter by day and Siesta’s Casanova by night. Not that I minded this in the least—Kimi and Siesta’s interactions remain the heart and soul of the show—but I imagine some heavier-weight material is in store for us next time.

Crow’s on the case with some thoughts on episode 7 here.

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 04 – The Witch and the Snow Fairy

After three weeks of chiding her for getting so close to him, one day Alice is keeping her distance, seemingly avoiding Bocchan. When he tries to approach her, she Shunpos away like a Shinigami out of Bleach. But he soon deduces that she’s caught a cold and doesn’t want to give it to him.

Defying her caution, he tucks her into bed in her cottage and vows to stay by her side until she’s better. It’s a lovely inversion of their usual dynamic, with Alice seeminly capable of anything while Bocchan is weak an ineffectual.

Winter has come to Bocchan’s villa, and with it a fresh blanket of morning snow. The episode really captures the childlike glee that comes with the first sight of such a snowfall (assuming you’re not trying to drive to work that morning).

Bocchan is similarly elated to get to see Alice set against the pure white backdrop, accentuating her loveliness. The two and Rob build a snowman and have a spirited snowball fight, with Alice demonstrating she also has Matrix-like powers of evasion.

In the midst of all the wintry fun, Alice loses one of her earrings, which belonged to her mother and is thus precious and irreplaceable. By the time she realizes it’s gone it’s nighttime and snowing harder, but Bocchan goes out unbidden to dig through the snow looking for it.

The conditions quickly sap his energy, and he’s soon lying in the snow, exhausted. This is how the witch Caph finds him, and when she hears what hes doing, for whom, and why, and that he won’t give up, her initially hostile stance softens, and she decides to help him with her fire magic.

The earring thus found, Bocchan and Caph go in and the witch is introduced to Alice. A lazier or more obvious choice would be to make Alice jealous of Caph for vice versa, but the two women get along famously, and in any case, Caph apparently has her own guy friend whom she admires and adores the similar to how Bocchan and Alice adore each other.

What she doesn’t have is any concrete answers for Bocchan about his curse or how to break it, no matter how much Alice plies her with food, tea, and dessert. Caph is sympathetic to Bocchan’s plight and has even taken a shine to the guy, but she doesn’t consider herself anywhere near the league of the witch who did this to him.

Caph flies off in her bat form, but I’m sure she’ll be back. The next day while outside touching up the Bocchan snowman, Alice recalls a memory from when she was bullied by the rich kids for not being rich, even though she was adorable. Only Bocchan was kind to her, dusting the snow off of her (he could touch people at the time) and saying she looks like a beautiful snow fairy when set against the white powder.

It really brings into focus Alice’s love and devotion to Bocchan, and when he says the same thing he said back then—that she’s like a snow fairy—Alice can’t help but chortle gleefully, for her beloved Bocchan has scarcely changed in all these years. Indeed, the main change is the curse, about which hopefully something will be done before this series concludes.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 09 – Fuel to the Fire

Last week Kazuya acted like a heinous criminal but suffered zero consequences and was actually rewarded with a phone case because Chizuru conveniently ceased to remotely resemble the character we’d known up to that point, while Ruka fell of the face of the earth. How do you come back from such a fiasco?

First, by bursting Kazuya’s bubble: he didn’t get a gift from Chizuru because he’s special, but because it’s a common rental girlfriend practice. And Chizuru still considers their relationship strictly business. When she straight-up asks if Kaz has fallen for her, he lies and denies it. But you can’t help but think she’s lying too.

Second, by welcoming Ruka back to the show, and with a vengeance! Devastated that he blew her off to go on a date with his rental, Ruka demands to immediately go on another date with him that same day, and it’s well within her rights as his GF to do so. When it’s clear to her his mind is elsewhere, she blindfolds him and spirits him away to a love hotel room.

There, she removes her socks (to get comfy) and Kazuya tells her about the situation with his and Chizuru’s grans. Ruka tells him straight up there’s no future for him and Chizuru, who can only ever be platonic, while his gran is very likely looking at the future in the form of a great-grandchild, which Ruka is ready and willing to provide when the time comes.

That time isn’t now, however. Kazuya is overwhelmed and retreats to the bathroom, which gives Ruka the opportunity to slow things down a bit. Her heart rate has never been faster but she knows she shouldn’t rush into sex.

When he fled to the toilet, however, Kazuya left his phone with Ruka, who sees a notification on his lock screen that tells her where and when he’s attending a New Year’s shrine visit with his family and Chizuru. She then decides to crash said visit…and good for her!

I for one have had enough of Kazuya and Chizuru comfortably maintaining a charade when the bottom line is they’re lying to their families. So I was elated to see Ruka invite herself and make them squirm. Kazuya agreed to be her boyfriend, after all; by rights, she should be there, and Chizuru should be off on some other rental date or acting shoot.

Ruka even comes right out and states the truth to Kazuya’s family that she’s his girlfriend, leading Kazuya to tell his grandmother that she’s a pathological liar. Kazuya, you absolute scumbag. Lowest of the low. Die in the garbage fire to which you and Chizuru keep adding fuel!

Ruka then confronts Chizuru in private, telling her Kazuya told him what the score is, and that she’s grossly overstepping her rental GF bounds. When Chizuru pleads “it’s complicated”, Ruka rightly responds that’s because they’re making it complicated.

Ruka suspects that’s intentional, perceiving that Chizuru has fallen for Kazuya and wants to stay on as his “girlfriend” indefinitely. She gives Chizuru an ultimatum: if she doesn’t love Kazuya, then walk away. It’s the right, fair thing to do. Shit or get off the pot, Chizu-chan!

At the shrine, Ruka takes Chizuru’s gran aside, and learns that it’s not just a great-grandchild she’s after. All Gran wants to do is ask Ruka—who in addition to being a “pathological liar” is also Chizuru’s “nearest, dearest friend”—all about her future granddaughter-in-law. It’s clear to Ruka that Gran loves Chizuru and wants her to be family. So it really is more complicated.

That doesn’t change the fact that as long as Chizuru and Kazuya only see themselves as a rental arrangement, it is wrong to keep leading Gran on. So after Kazuya earnestly apologizes to Ruka for the terrible things he told his fam, she makes it clear to him that she’s not giving up on winning both him and his Gran over, no matter how long it takes.

To that end, she gets a job at the same karaoke parlor where he’s working. He has to learn that further ghosting and two-timing of his real girlfriend will not be tolerated. Kazuya doesn’t deserve Ruka—honestly, Kazuya doesn’t deserve a quick death—but he’s got her.

The question is, will he be won over by her, or will she be the catalyst that forces him and Chizuru to abandon their ridiculous current arrangement for something—anything—real? My guess is the latter. Hopefully we’ll know the answer in three weeks’ time.

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 08 – Worst Christmas Ever

I had high hopes for Kazuya’s trial dating of Ruka, as it could help him and Mizuhara complete their post-rental separation. It could also have been a means of seeing more Ruka, someone actually honest about her feelings for Kazuya and thus a naturally more tolerable character than Mizuhara. Alas, the best episode of the series is immediately followed by the worst.

We never get to see Kazuya and Ruka’s “honeymoon” period, we just skip to him loathing his existence anew and desperate to cancel his Faustian deal with Ruka. And that’s despite him knowing full well Mizuhara may not think anything of him other than as a client.

The bottom line is he’s not happy with Ruka because he doesn’t like Ruka the way he likes Mizuhara. Which is fair! Meanwhile, Mizuhara looks unhappy too as she spots Ruka with Kazuya, suggesting she is also having second thoughts about going along with Ruka’s deal.

I get how Kazuya feels, but the despicable things he does throughout the episode threaten to make him irredeemable, not to mention excruciating to watch. For one thing, he doesn’t dump Ruka even though it’s clear it’s not working. Instead, he’s content to string her along, lies about having family Christmas plans, and Ruka is never seen again in the episode. WTF?

After thinking about why Mizuhara decided to work as a rental girlfriend for all of ten seconds, he hears her showering through the wall and jerks off. The next day, instead of enjoying a date with Ruka—something he’d consider torture for some reason—he spots Mizuhara with what appears to be a date…and proceeds to stalk her. ALL DAY. ON CHRISTMAS EVE.

That’s not just torturing himself, but the audience as well. This shit is hard to watch. Lest we forget, Kazuya is not a high schooler but an college student and full-grown-ass adult. At any point during his stalking he could—he should—get arrested and tossed in jail. Of all the boundaries of decency and privacy he’s broken, this is probably the worst instance, especially considering his goal to become a better person. All that progress went down the shitter this week.

When he starts to believe Umi-kun is Mizuhara’s real, perfect boyfriend, he feels solidarity with a brotherhood of her clients he doesn’t even know in opposition to a her personal life he also doesn’t know. By sumply watching them creepily from afar during their date (which might not be a date) and eavesdropping on Umi’s call, he has no context with which to jump to conclusions.

Umi could be a client, or an old childhood friend, or a brother or cousin, or a manager, or a gay friend, or a scout. With an incomplete picture gleaned from stalking them, Kazuya decides they’re boyfriend and girlfriend, and Umi is planning to sell Mizuhara into sexual slavery (or something to that effect).

For his hours of disgusting criminal conduct, culminating in him jumping out before Mizuhara and Umi can “kiss”, Kazuya is rewarded. Turns out they weren’t going to kiss, Umi was fixing her earrring, and they’re not dating, Umi is a fellow actor. That’s right, Mizuhara is starting out as an actress. She’s working as a rental girlfriend and living in the same dump as Kazuya to pay for acting school.

One after another, Kazuya presents up his incorrect assumptions and Mizuhara knocks em down, until it’s clear he’s been stalking her for hours, and listened in on Umi’s phone call. Yes aside from momentarily turning cold, calling what he did “simply stalking” and asking if he has “anything better to do in life”, he’s completely let off the hook!

This is Mizuhara, who in the past has legitimately threatened legal action against him if he doesn’t back off her life. But it’s also the Mizuhara who slowly seems to be falling for Kazuya, despite him being an absolute ghoulish cretin of an incel. Love has certainly made and idiot (and criminal) out of him, and so it’s made an idiot of Mizuhara as well.

She presents him with the gift of a new phone case (which she picked out with Umi) and he breaks down crying, which is good, because it means he is at least aware of how much pure trash he is, even if he seems incapable of changing. Among Mizuhara’s excuses for the gift is that she feels bad leaving him to deal with Ruka alone.

The mention of Ruka underscores how frustrating this entire episode was. It seems to be portending Mizuhara and Kazuya becoming a couple, but poor frail-hearted Ruka ends up being a placeholder and pawn while the inevitable is delayed. Ruka herself felt like gift to us for our endurance, only for her to be immediately ripped away so we can watch Kaz do crimes. Sorry, I wasn’t havin’ it!

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 07 – Matters of the Heart

Kazuya’s half-assed attempts to “shut Ruka up” go rather badly, as he accidentally cops a feel and also holds her tightly when she falls down a flight of stairs. After saving her, Kazuya cops to Chizuru only being a rental, and in turn begs Ruka to promise via voice recording not to divulge what she knows about them to Kuri or anyone else, for his gran’s sake.

Kazuya assures her this isn’t for him. Even though Chizuru is a rental, she’s “the best girlfriend anyone could ask for” and he doesn’t want her to get hurt. For her part, Ruka is surprised Kazuya isn’t the shallow superficial type she’d expect would normally go for rental girlfriends (ahem…like Kuri). Moved by his honesty and selflessness, Ruka admits she’s a rental too.

Kazuya meets with Chizuru to discuss the emergency. Chizuru finds Ruka on the rental agency website and considers taking action against someone who would “put a fellow pro at risk.” Besides that she recommends they feign ignorance for now and hope she won’t spill the beans.

Without realizing it, Chizuru is at a restaurant lending her ear to Kazuya without it being a formal rental transaction, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. So of course, she immediately cuts their interaction short once Kazuya points that out! Talk about being caught off guard…

The next day while waiting to meet up with Kuri, Ruka intercepts Kazuya instead, asks for a hug of all things, and the two must flee when Kuri arrives, eventually hiding in a lab. Once there, Ruka wraps Kazuya’s arm around her and activates the heartbeat monitor on her phone, which reads 90 bpm.

When Kuri discovers them, Ruka outs herself as a rental, ending the charade and sending Kuri packing looking gray and defeated. Kazuya chases after his friend, leaving up in the air the ramifications of Ruka’s “pursuit” of 90, which has now been achieved thanks to him.

While reporting recent events to Chizuru through her intercom, Ruka tracks him down, takes out her phone and presses “record”, and promises not to tell anyone about him renting Chizuru or about Chizuru’s job…but only if he goes out with her, because she likes him!

In addition to Kazuya being the first man to get her heart rate to rise 90bpm, having heard all of the things Kazuya did for his rental girlfriend’s sake was evidence to her that he’d treat a real girlfriend with even more love and care. With Kazuya facing a decision that will effect her, Chizuru decides to come out of her apartment to discuss things properly.

Ruka takes pride in knowing she’s “gone further” with Kazuya since he never grabbed Chizuru’s boobs, but is flustered and disheartened when she watches Chizuru enter an apparent mere “client’s” apartment so easily, like she’s been in there many times before. Ruka glomms onto Kazuya and refuses to let go, but when he tells her if he an Chizuru can have 5 minutes, she doesn’t refuse.

Here, Chizuru and Kazuya talk things out like the mature adults they are, and exhibit that while they’re not real girlfriend and boyfriend, Ruka is right that they’ve developed a meaningful relationship beyond the transactional. Kazuya is obviously flattered to hear a girl say she likes him, but couldn’t “betray” Kuri by dating her. I put that in quotes because let’s be honest, Kuri was the one lying about having a real girlfriend!

Chizuru’s response isn’t what Kazuya expected: while her end goal will be for him to find a new girlfriend, and this would seem to be a perfect opportunity, she both agrees with his reasoning vis-a-vis Kuri and likely admires him for putting considering the feelings of others before himself. But when he prepares to leap out the window to talk to Kuri in person, Ruka catches him and assumes he’s running from her.

Kazuya falls out of a tree and hurts his back, making it all too easy for Ruka to chase him down and reiterate her desire for them to date. When Kazuya tells her he can’t trample Kuri’s feelings, he ends up trampling on hers instead, and she breaks out into legitimate tears of anguish and desperation. She even correctly points out that Kazuya likes Chizuru…which to which Chizuru (who caught up to them both) reacts pretty predictably.

It’s here where Chizuru, not bad at reading people herself, realizes Ruka’s feelings for Kazuya are most likely legitimate, and so she tells Kazuya to date her after all. Her reasoning is somewhat cynical; while he’s technically giving in to Ruka’s blackmail, dating her is the best way to keep their secrets secret, and they can spare Kuri’s feelings by keeping him in the dark.

 Chizuru also makes sure to repeat what Ruka said about it only having to be a “trial period” of dating if Kazuya doesn’t immediately like her the way she likes him. With that, Kazuya asks Ruka to stop crying so he can ask her own and she can accept…and Kazuya suddenly has a real girlfriend. Well, sorta!

As for the root of Ruka’s very real and powerful feelings, we learn about her history of having a weak heartbeat and how it affected her social development and perspective on love. She became a rental girlfriend in hopes that someone somewhere would be able to make her heart beat faster, but it never got anywhere near as high as Kazuya when they first met (79 bpm) or when they were hugging in the lab (90 bpm).

This is actually pretty clever on the show’s part. You cant really say Ruka fell for someone she barely knew, because she doesn’t judge love as a product of familiarity or knowledge, but simply attaining a measurable biological threshold. The question “does an elevated heart rate always mean love” is irrelevant; it means love to her.

This all results in Rent-a-Girlfriend’s best and most complete episode yet, and with Ruka rising to “Best Girl finalist” status. It took what could have been a thoroughly trashy or tacky love triangle scenario, cutting through lies that were getting in the way, and imbuing it with, well, genuine heart. And of course Ruka’s seiyu Touyama Nao is wonderful throughout.

HenSuki – 06 – The Scent of Destiny

After Keiki rescues her on the stairs, StuCo vice-chair Fujimoto Ayano presents him with a token of her gratitude: some delicious homemade cookies. She also gets very close to Keiki and inhales deeply, which Keiki thinks is a little strange but also pretty cute. He has master stalker Koharu investigate Ayano, and comes up with nothing abnormal aside from a tendency to “gap moe”and of ending up in close-quarters situations with Keiki.

After Yuika accuses Keiki of doing terrible things—in her dream last night—Ayano invites Keiki to a clean-up session in town. Sayuki tags along as his self-appointed dog, and is soon up to mischief when she pounces on him under the bridge. Keiki, remembering what his grandfather said whenever their dog jumped on top of him, rubbing his butt is the way to show the dog who’s boss. It works on Sayuki, who has to withdraw due to overexcitement.

As for Ayano, she seems perfectly nice, neither interested in being Keiki’s slave nor making him her slave, nor writing about him and his best mate getting it on. She’s mostly just…normal. Unfortunately, the other shoe inevitably drops when she invites him to an otherwise empty StuCo office, where she’s adjusted the lighting, music, and accomodations to make Keiki very, very sleepy.

He wakes up to Ayano unzipping his pants, wanting to remove his sweaty underwear. Turns out her fetish is smell; specifically the body odor of boys. All the clues were there with her constant smelling of him and his clothes, but for her to take it to this extreme was still…deflating. Keiki himself imagined he’d finally found someone normal enough to complement his normalcy, after all.

Still, of all of the kinks the girls he’s encountered have had, Ayano’s seems the least egregious. After all, why is it so awful for Keiki if she likes his stink? People who like each other tend to be attracted to each other’s scents anyway. It’s not like she’s asking if she can punish him/if he can punish her. I daresay the ultra-normal girl Keiki says he’s after doesn’t actually exist, at least not at his school. The next best thing, then, is the most tolerable of the “weirdos”.

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