Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 08 – Heart to Heart

It’s What the Public Decided

I was initially going to give this episode a lower score simply because it precedes the long-awaited “goods”—i.e. our main duo confessing to each other. But not only would that not be fair, it would be disingenuous. I personally loved the slice-of-life segments this week, forgiving them for “delaying” said goods and appreciating them for what they are: treasured moments of relative mundaneness before the season and series kick into final gear.

I’m always saying how Love is War could spawn numerous solid spinoffs, and one focusing on the family dynamics of the Shirogane clan could certainly be one of them. I particularly love Kei’s two-sided attitude towards her brother, one side being embarrassed and another being proud of how cool and capable he is.

It’s why she spends the birthday cash he gave her to make sure he dresses as cool as he is, even if she’ll never admit to her fawning classmates that she at least half-agrees with them! The fact that Miyuki’s wardrobe is that of an eighth grader because he wanted to save the family money so Kei could look good speaks to how Miyuki is just as proud of his little sister.

No Interest in the Fanciful

Another staple of Love is Wardom is the scenario of Kaguya being dismissive or stoic about something right up to the point it could present an opportunity for romantic success with the President. This time it’s a little heart charm that’s part of the culture festival merch. Tsubame recounts the thousand-year-old Hoshin legend that gives the festival it’s name and burning-heart theme.

Whether a valiant young man really did give his heart to the ailing daughter of a lord or the legend was simply cooked up to give the lord authority doesn’t matter. What matters is that Tsubame tells Kaguya that if you give something in the shape of a heart to someone you like during the festival, it will mean eternal love, and Kaguya believes her, because she wants to believe One Simple Trick will get the job done.

In reality, Kaguya is still wavering between wanting to confess and being too scared or proud to do so—even if it’s in a stealthy way like serving President a pie filled with heart-shaped fruit. But both we and Ai are in shock when suddenly, out of the blue, Kaguya declares to her, while clutching her foot in bed, that she does indeed like Miyuki. She’s done denying it…it’s just a matter of taking one last step.

Culture Festival Magic

Ai tells Kaguya she’s at a crossroads. Whether being the first to confess is the loser or not (the narrator points out this is the theme of the show…duh!) there are only two choices: hold onto her pride and continue suffering in limbo, or confess and experience the relief that comes with it. Even admitting she likes Miyuki to Ai is a great weight off her shoulders. Admitting it to Miyuki is a whole other matter entirely.

As the culture fest is in the final stages of preparation, Kaguya wonders how people find the courage to confess to the ones they like when the cost of rejection is so high. Miko’s friend Kobachi answers that by casually admitting she’s now dating the Cheer Squad Leader: capitalizing on “Culture Festival Magic” when a flurry of confessions and new couples emerges.

News that the Cheer Squad Leader is dating Kobachi is a cause for elation from Yuu, who had considered the possibility the guy was dating Tsubame. Now, there’s a good chance his crush is single. Will he take advantage of the magic and confess to Tsubame, or forever be her kohai and teammate? Kaguya urges him to do the former ASAP, lending him the very courage she thought was so elusive.

Ultimately, the unrelenting march of time must provide the courage Kaguya requires in order to confess to Miyuki. If she can’t go through with it, Miyuki will confess instead. Or maybe they’ll find a way to do it at the same time? One scenario I will not abide is neither of them summoning the courage to confess, or for Miyuki to move to America for college without any confessions at all.

If there’s a fourth season in the mix, I don’t want this one to end with heartbreak. I want it to be the beginning of the evolution in their relationship they’ve sought all along even while constantly denying themselves of it. By rights, they could have been a couple for years. The series ipping the rug out from under us, while dramatically justifiable, would just be cruel. Kaguya and Miyuki are so close to what they want…what would be so wrong with giving it to them, and us?

Fabiniku – 06 – Cellophane Squid

When Schwartz summons the sleepy and adorable Goddess of Night (Noto Mamiko), the Lord, Lucius, and the town guard all bow their heads, while the goddess notices Tachibana, shrinks to human size, removes Tachibana’s pink coat, and reveals the tattoo that identifies her as a hero of the Goddess of Love and Beauty.

We not only learn that Jinguuji could be considered Tachibana’s “weapon”, as Gram is (or rather was) to Schwartz. They also learn that Tachibana’s charms affect different people in different ways. The lord hopes to enter into a mutually beneficial political marriage with Tachibana, which she seems to be receptive to owing to the promise of three meals and a nap per day.

Jinguuji proves to be more than just her weapon in this world, but also an important devil’s advocate. Tachibana is only looking at the surface benefits and ignoring the disadvantages of the arrangement with the lord. Chief among them is the fact that she and Jinguuji  have been having fun traveling the world rather than staying and working in one place. Rather than let the town become their next office, the two decide to continue their vacation.

While resting in the apartment between towns, Tachibana unearths a composition book from when she and Jinguuji  were in elementary school. Tachibana wrote that her dream of the future was “cellophane tape”, which Jinguuji admits made so little sense he was actually afraid. But it’s instructive that in response to the question “if you could only take one thing on an island with you, what would it be?” The young Tachibana wrote “Jinguuji”.

As for Jinguuji’s dreams for the future, he doesn’t let Tachibana read that part, scribbling over it with permanent marker. This results in a spat between the two, with Tachibana huffing as she walks ahead of him and calling him a useless eggplant. It’s this state of rancor in an unfamiliar land that contributes to Jinguuji losing track of Tachibana.

In the process of looking for her, he finds the same cart in which they briefly spotted the captive elf premier. She’s been taken prisoner to be used as a sacrifice to their deity, which demands only the most beautiful people. The vain she-elf tries in vain to use her “allure” to get her captor to free her.

To add insult to injury, the squid vendor shows up with a captured Tachibana, claiming she’ll be an even more beautiful sacrifice. Obviously Jinguuji will show up in time to save both beautiful women, but until then it looks like we’re in store for a lot more chaotic, irreverent comedy. I’m here for it!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Fabiniku – 05 – Ch(armor)ed

Lucius, perhaps sensing that Jinguugi and Tachibana might be useful, has them accompany her and the captive Schwartz to defeat a “Living Armor”. On the way, Lucius admits even he is not immune to “Audrey’s” charms, and feels compelled to give her a candy.

The peculiar thing about the Living Armor, which introduces itself as “Vizzd The Incomparably Skilled”, doesn’t so much kill its victims as…steal their clothes. Schwartz runs in headfirst and is the first to be disrobed, followed by Lucius, who is revealed to be a woman—which wasn’t really a surprise.

When Tachibana gives Lucius her pink dress to cover up, she reveals her slip, setting Jinguugi off. When he puts his jacket on her, the Charmed status only increases—such is the power of the “boyfriend shirt” effect. This leads to the two bickering about their “preferences” while Vizzd can get neither a word nor a blow in edgewise.

Jinguugi’s Charmed status and increasing irritability results in him making quick work of the Living Armor, revealing that Vizzd is really a small girl aligned with the Demon Lord was piloting from within. Lucius takes her to the station an interrogates her, but Vizzd is rescued in the middle of the night by a fellow Demon Lord underling, Kalm.

The next morning, Schwartz is hoping to get a peak at Tachibana in her bedclothes (which, dude), only to discover Jinguugi’s “Door to Tachibana’s old apartment” skill. Schwartz notes how much it seems to be a place where a guy lives, which is the perfect opportunity for Tachibana to reveal that she was once a 32-year-old male salaryman.

Schwartz is crestfallen, but Tachibana shows off her effortless ability to make friends—an ability Jinguugi has always been both envious of and perplexed by. Turns out Schwartz didn’t even know he could bring up a menu with his stats and skills. He seemingly activates one when a massive purple mouth-like opening forms in the sky above them…or could the color be a hint that this is that Kalm lady?

Love of Kill – 03 – Chez Château

After a recap of last week’s episode that seems specifically designed to pad the runtime, Song opens the curtains of the motel room and learns that Chateau isn’t a morning person. She takes him up on the offer of a shower, only to find he’s taken her clothes to wash them. Chateau’s reactions are fun, and actually suggest she has a pulse, which is nice.

Their motel comedy gives way to a flashback to five years ago when Song, who is about to be promoted to executive in the criminal organization of which he’s a member, betrays his boss by shooting him in the head. But being presented with his treachery doesn’t explain why he did it, or why we should care.

After getting a talking-to from her boss (who is awfully one-note as exasperated bosses go) Chateau heads home to her tiny studio apartment in what looks like the 24th Ward’s Shantytown. Naturally, Song is waiting for her to invite him in—like an annoying vampire—but at least he brought some high-end cream puffs.

Chateau isn’t in the mood to talk, and remains befuddled that Song insists on all this contact with her. His comment about her smell not digusting him is something I’d hoped would be followed up on, but a call from Chateau’s mom puts Chateau in such a state that Song excuses himself for the time being.

Sigh…I don’t think I’ll ever forgive a show for such poorly drawn and animated cars, but I remain sufficiently intrigued by the mysteries Love of Kill is coyly dangling to stick around a bit longer.

Komi Can’t Communicate – 06 – First Strike

This week Komi’s Got Jokes! Unfortunately, they’re dad jokes, delivered by writing them down on paper. Scurrying away to call Tadano and sheepishly recite such jokes doesn’t improve matters. But what she lacks in comedic ability she makes up for in pure adorability. I’m surprised Tadano couldn’t at least…humor her!

The next segment is Komi’s very first shopping trip with friends, as well as the first time buying her own clothes (something usually left to her mom). Najimi makes it a competition—possibly just so they can see Komi in a cheongsam—but the one who wins with all “10” scores is Tadano, who chooses a simple light summer dress and cute sandals. Despite having never picked out clothes for a girl, he knows what suits Komi best.

Following her new threads, Komi works up the courage to go to the salon to get a haircut. The salon’s newest employee Arai almost  but is understandably in awe of both Komi and her boss Karisu’s beauty. It isn’t until Komi has Arai keep the change as a tip and points at the word “thank you” in a magazine that Arai understands Komi didn’t dislike her at all, but simply doesn’t like chatting at the salon.

Exams are almost here, which means it’s time to hit the library and study. Agari warns Tadano, Najimi, and Komi that if the burly quietude monitor Gorimi-senpai hits any of them with a paper fan three times, they’re ejected from the library. Najimi is obviously the first to be tossed; their third strike coming when the trio’s Jenga tower collapses. Even so, Komi is happy to have played another game and received her “first strike”—as is Tadano.

Finally, with exams out of the way it’s time for summer break. We see Komi bored and desperately wanting to call Tadano to hang out, but just can’t hit the “Call” button, and when she finally works up the courage to do so, quickly panics and hits “End Call” as soon as he answers.

Tadano, by the way, is equally hesitant to call Komi even though he perfectly diagnoses her situation. Fortunately Najimi cleans everything up by arranging for the three to hang out, and both Komi and Tadano are elated to be scoring some summer time together. Maybe she’ll don the outfit he chose for her!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 11 – The Logbook

Viola’s mom kicks her bitchiness up to 11, not only insisting her daughter dress a certain way, but accept the fact that she can’t wear what she wants or live her own life. For her mom, Viola’s future consists of being married off to the eldest possible son of the richest possible family.

Not content to sheepishly accept her status as a mere commodity to be traded, Viola “runs away” from home with her luggage, though she only ends up having a girl’s sleepover with Alice and Caph. Viola’s situation reminds use that she suffers a curse just like her brother: one that threatens to limit her prospects for life. If, say, Bocchan were to lift his curse and become the head of the family, he’d likely let Viola live her life as she saw fit.

That’s one reason why Viola gives Alice an old servant logbook which may hold answers about when and how Bocchan’s curse was first established; that, and Viola really does care for her brother. Alice ends up discovering a passage about two women in white nun’s habits visiting the main house right around the time Bocchan was cursed. It’s clearly no coincidence.

One of the white nuns in question is Daleth, leader of Zain and Caph’s order, and thanks to her being able to use the eyes of various wildlife to spy on Alice, Daleth knows the maid has her hands on the logbook. She orders Zain to take it and destroy it, with the implication that if he doesn’t harm could befall Caph. But when Zain is honest about what he’s doing and why, Bocchan offers the book back for Zain to burn. He knows Zain would do anything for Caph, just as he’d do anything for Alice.

Zain ends up “destroying” the book with his magic, but retains a tiny scrap with which he can fully restore the book once Daleth’s eyes are no longer watching. But it’s doubtful he was able to fool Daleth, who finally reveals her face this week, as wel as the bombshell that she has the corpse(?) of Alice’s mom Sharon in her possession.

The slice-of-life episodes made sure we thoroughly cared about Bocchan, Alice, Viola, Caph and Zain so that when the plot-heavy episodes like this come around, they have some bite. There’s now a non-trivial possibility the curses is lifted next week. But even if it isn’t, I don’t see Bocchan and Alice’s love for each other waning anytime soon.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higehiro – 02 – Freedom and Choices

A princess raised in castles is going to act like royalty, like Queen Elizabeth. A princess raised by wolves is going to act like a wolf, like San, AKA Princess Mononoke. Behaviors are learned through social interactions and time. Sayu has apparently lived a life where her choices were few and her freedom nonexistent.

Leaving home only gave her a fleeting freedom, and she eventually had to do what conditions at the time demanded her of her to survive. As a result, she still behaves around Yoshida the way she had to behave around other men with whom she treated her body for shelter. He notes that the smiles she flashes often feel forced, strange, and wrong.

It’s doubly frustrating to him that someone so young had been forced into a situation where she didn’t feel safe not smiling when she didn’t feel like it. He calls her out on it with what I’d call “harsh kindness”, assuring her that even if his home isn’t hers, she’s allowed to be there, and doesn’t have to be “weird” or “lie to him” with those smiles.

Sayu understands what Yoshida is on about, and so tells him that she was thinking to herself why he’s so nice. He reiterates that he’s not being overly nice at all; he’s just being decent, the way everyone should be to each other. She says she’ll try her best not to refuse when he offers her things, or smile when she doesn’t mean it.

But she also points out that those smiles and refusals are habits that will be hard to break, since she’s still not quite used to the unprecedented freedom and choices Yoshida has given her. But through her attitude and the housework she does for him, she hopes to make him think he’s glad she came into his life. Despite everything that’s happened to her, Sayu remains a kind and decent person herself.

While last week focused on the establishment of Yoshida’s new normal at home, here we get a look into his work environment, where his crisper shirts, enhanced hygiene, and shorter-than-usual work days have led to rumors he has a girlfriend. But when his immediate underling Mishima’s code has some bugs in it, and she’s forced to work late, he works late with her, and even gets takeout.

Mishima takes their ensuing alone time to learn that Yoshida doens’t have a girlfriend, and was recently rejected by Gotou. Mishima considers herself “lucky” Gotou rejected him, and wouldn’t mind going out for a beer sometime. Like Sayu, she tells him he’s kinder than most by not simply giving up on her, but as with Sayu, he doesn’t think he’s any nicer than everyone should be.

When he gets home, Sayu is wrapped in her blanket like a Yuru Camp character, apparently angry he’s home late after she cooked dinner. But she follows her annoyed tone with genuine giggling, as she was just messing with him. As she reads manga and he has an after-work beer, he realizes that he really should have a way to get a hold of her.

Sayu threw her old phone in the ocean, and while at the mall she refuses to let him buy a new one, so he does so when she’s not around. Hashimoto, the only other person who knows about Sayu, can tell that Yoshida likes Sayu by the care he’s putting into choosing a case for her. Hashimoto gently warns him that it’s fine to be nice, but he should start thinking about how things are going to go, before she settles in too much, or she falls for him, or he falls for her.

Yoshida assures Hashimoto that that won’t happen, but while romance is out of the question, there are already glimmers of familial and paternal love. Hashimoto didn’t go so far as to say “she’s not a lost puppy”, but he’s right that Yoshida needs to come up with some kind of plan beyond keeping her off the streets.

One day at work, Gotou approaches Yoshida and they end up going out for yakiniku and beer, which she confesses she can only go out for with him, since all other men expect her to be a “sweet, proper lady.” That’s now three women who consider him to be uncommonly kind and understanding to them. One wonders why she’s with the man she’s with if she can’t be herself with him!

Gotou commences an anything-goes Q-&-A between them, starting first by asking if he’s dating someone. When he refuses, she lists all the evidence that he is—leaving work on time, cleaning himself up better—and mentions how Mishima seems to have a thing for him. He repeats that there’s nothing there, because in his give years at the office he’s always been in love with her.

When Gotou caught wind of the rumors, she was bothered by the fact he’d immediately been “taken in by another younger girl.” With the rumor staunched, Yoshida loses some points by asking Gotou what cup size she is. I know she said “ask me anything”, but c’mon, man!

When Yoshida comes home, late again, and not eating the dinner Sayu made again, she can tell he’s feeling down and needs a hug, so she hugs him. Like when she put her hand on his earlier, she does it because she wants to, and because she thinks it will make him feel better. And while in the bath he laments being a grown man cheered up by a teenage girl, it shouldn’t be anything to be ashamed of…ask any dad!

When he presents Sayu with a new phone, we learn he chose the white case for her over the black. White, the color of purity and chastity, yes, but also, Sayu just happens to like white! In that same vein, he didn’t buy it for her as a gift or a sign of his affection, but as a practical means of communication when they’re not both home.

Of course, he also doesn’t want her to worry if he is late. He doesn’t want to do or say anything to make her feel bad. He wants her to have every choice and opportunity someone her age should have. In this and in basically everything he’s done for her thus far, he’s acted like a father.

Yoshida acknowledges that Sayu is a woman, but to him, she’s a little kid. Someone to protect unconditionally. Someone who doesn’t have to force herself to smile to make him feel better. Maybe the endgame, then, is to simply adopt her.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higehiro – 01 (First Impressions) – Inadvertent Guardian

Yoshida had the evening with his attractive co-worker Gotou all planned out in his head. They’d have a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant, and if things went well, he’d ask if she wanted to come home with him. He hadn’t banked on the possibility Gotou was already seeing someone for years, and simply never mentioned it at work because she wanted to keep life and work separate—which is perfectly reasonable.

Thus rejected, Yoshida goes and gets drunk with a friend until that friend has to head back home to his wife. Yoshida blabbers about how Gotou “tricked” him, and stole his heart and won’t give it back, but I’ll forgive his attitude as he’s allowed to wallow in defeat, drunk and horny as he is. The bottom line is Yoshida didn’t want to look past sleeping Gotou, and now he’s a little lost at sea.

He most certainly didn’t plan to encounter a runaway teenage girl (voiced by Ichinose Kana) outside his apartment, nor for this girl to offer to let him sleep with her in exchange for a roof over her head for the night. But even when her other options are seemingly ruled out, Yoshida makes it quite clear that he’s not sleeping with a “little kid”, nor is he prepared to leave her to the tender mercies of the night.

So, in his drunk and staggering state, he invites her in, then collapses into his bed to pass out. The girl, no stranger to crashing at men’s houses in exchange for sex (though she is thankfully not shamed for this), sits on the bed and asks matter-of-factly “Hey, are you sure you don’t want to do me?” He’s sure. When asked if there’s anything else he wants, before passing out he mumbles “miso soup.” The next morning, that’s what he gets: miso soup, made by the girl he flat-out forgot he invited in last night!

When he hears how he rejected her offer of sex, he salutes his last-night self, relieved nothing sordid happened. She also mentions how he mumbled about being rejected by someone named Gotou, and whether he wanted her to make him “feel better”. Once again, he declines, saying he’s not so far-gone he needs “a tiny little teenage girl” to do that.

When she points out that her breasts are quite big and asks “aren’t F-cups you can touch better than H-cups you can’t?” he flat-out asks why she’s trying to seduce him…and if she even wants to sleep with him. She says she doesn’t, but then embraces him and says she’s never met a man willing to let her stay for nothing in return, so maybe he’s the “abnormal” one. That’s when Yoshida, God bless him, asks for her ID, a gesture that again makes clear he’s not interested in her in that way.

He learns her name is Ogiwara Sayu, that she ran away from high school in Hokkaido six months ago. When he tells her to go home already, she says she’s sure they’re happy she’s gone, Ichinose Kana’s voice breaking ever-so-slightly. The more Yoshida thinks about Sayu, the worse he feels about it. He takes it out on her to a degree by calling her “stupid”, “dumb as a rock”, and “a spoiled brat”.

But beneath those harsh barbs, he understands that Sayu is not “fine” as she says in the slightest; that what she’s had to do to survive since leaving home is not right or okay. More than she’s an idiot, she’s a victim: both of a home that she felt she had to leave, and to a world apparently full of men who taught her all the wrong lessons and twisted values and standards. He’s also angry that such a kind and sweet young woman couldn’t have a “normal life” and a “normal love”.

Obviously, Yoshida’s positions are showing both his privilege and paternalism. The former was a result of his own upbringing and life experience; the latter was learned through both, just as Sayu learned a certain way of living the last six months. But I can forgive the motives behind his fundamentally principled choice to stop this child from being harmed anymore by offering her a safe, clean place to stay.

I’m not going to pretend that in the real world this isn’t his choice to make. As a matter of law, he should probably go to the police, right? And yet who’s to say Sayu wouldn’t be harmed anyway if he took that route? Considering what she’s been doing to stay away from her home, it’s clear going back there isn’t what’s best for her. Being placed into an overworked and uncaring social services system also wouldn’t be much better.

The fact there are no easy answers or cut-and-dried solutions add a lot of welcome emotional heft to the whole scenario. Yoshida, whom I mentioned is somewhat lost at sea, has encountered a fellow castaway adrift and rudderless, who has the added disadvantage of being far too young to have to endure the waves. So for now, he decides to lash their ramshackle rafts together and chart the course of least harm.

The more time he spends with Sayu, the more disappointed in his fellow man he becomes. When he heads out to the patio to smoke, she calls him “nice”, but our boy Yoshida is not so deluded to think he’s some saint, and makes it clear to her in perhaps his best line of the episode: “Listen up! I’m not nice. They were shit.” He contemplates the environment that put Sayu in such an unfairly precarious situation, and even implicates himself for “letting her stay spoiled” by giving her a place to run to.

But even as he checks headlines about an unrelated case of a man arrested for kidnapping a teenager, and Sayu walks over him, inadvertently giving him a look up her skirt, Yoshida isn’t about to cut the ropes of her raft free. He found her on those waves, which means he feels responsible for her well-being. That doesn’t just mean a roof under her head, but more appropriate clothes, pajamas, and a futon to sleep on.

Sayu isn’t ready to accept all this without worrying about not being able to repay him in some way. Yoshida is again disheartened by the fact a kid has to think that way, but indulges her by insisting that the cooking and cleaning she’s done constitute more than adequate payment, and that arrangement will serve for the time being.

The next morning over breakfast, Yoshida explains to Sayu that it isn’t the act of shaving that makes him feel old, but becoming too lazy to shave every day. Sayu spares no tact in saying he doesn’t look good with stubble, so he decides to shave after all. The exchange indicates this won’t be a one-way street. Perhaps in helping keep this lonely damaged girl safe, Yoshida can find a new course in life post-Gotou rejection.

Higehiro is fraught with potential problems, as all series involving an adult and a child always are. And yet unlike the horrifically skeevy KoikimoHigehiro presents its situation, questions and arguments in good faith, and from a place of human decency and empathy. It’s a compelling, hopeful tale of an imperfect person trying to do the right thing for someone who has already been wronged far too much. Unlike Koikimo, I don’t feel like I need a shower after what I saw, but rather want to see what happens next!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 09 – New Digs, New Threads

As  foreshadowed last week, Nasa doesn’t lose much when they return home to find the apartment building burned down. All his valuable paperwork and data is either at the bank or in the cloud, and he not only has renter’s insurance, but a full grasp on what’s needed to make a claim. Tsukasa marvels at how much Nasa keeps proving why she loves him so much.

It’s not just because he keeps a cool head and doesn’t express anger or regret in the face of what would be a disaster for most people. It’s that the first thing on his mind is that everyone else in the building was okay (they are). The only possession that survived was the tree commemorating their marriage, which can easily be transplanted.

When Nasa and Tsukasa head to the bathhouse to have a nice long soak and consider what’s next, Kaname ends up offering a detatched house on their property where they can stay until they find a suitable new place. Nasa thinks it’s good luck, but Tsukasa knows otherwise: by being someone so kind and well-liked, people are quick to help someone like Nasa.

Kaname does consider one potential problem: now that Nasa and Tsukasa are staying on the Arisugawa’s property, the time will come when Aya finally realizes Tsukasa isn’t just any “relation” of Nasa’s, but his wedded wife. In the end, no amount of hints can crack Aya’s Airhead A.T. Field, but Kaname and Aya’s mom just comes right out and says it.

Aya starts to go into a flashback about Nasa, her first and only love, but her mom cuts her short. As someone whose own husband cheated on her and left her for a younger woman, Aya’s mom wants her to do whatever she needs to do—cut her hair, go to school abroad (on her own dime), whatever—to get over it and move on.

Aya knows that in times of heartbreak one should hold their head high, so she does so and congratulates Nasa and Tsukasa, then considers becoming a YouTube idol…an idea quickly shot down by everyone.

Nasa and Tsukasa may be set with a new place to live for the time being, but Tsukasa did lose quite a bit of her wardrobe in the fire. That means it’s time to go to the laundromat, but the new husband and wife quickly become embarrassed over the prospect of handling one another’s…unmentionables.

They decide to go to the ‘mat together, and watch their clothes mingle in the wash together, something that’s so mundane and yet also so intimate. Tsukasa also lets slip that under her tracksuit she’s not wearing any underwear, since it’s all in the wash. Not wanting to make a big public display of affection, Nasa instead snaps a picture…and draws Tsukasa’s ire.

At the end of the day, what’s called for is a clothes shopping trip, and not to the department store’s discount clothes section, but to Harajuku, a place Nasa has neither ever been to shop. He gets to see Tsukasa try on one cute outfit after another, and even a few outfits he picks out for her, revealing his girly side.

When the time comes to buy underwear, Tsukasa initially holds Nasa’s hand, but changes her mind and deposits him on a bench, instructing him to simply not look like someone who should be arrested. When their shopping is done, Nasa makes, as Kaname calls it, another manly “move”, asking Tsukasa if, at some point, he, her husband, would be able to see her in her underwear.

She turns beet red and turns away, but doesn’t reject the request out of hand; in fact, she says he can see “as much as he wants”. Of course, that won’t be much for the foreseeable future; the two are so embarrassed by the subject being broached that they drop it immediately so they can then shop for clothes for Nasa. Still, it’s a good thing those questions are being posed. They are married, after all!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kakushigoto – 02 – Boxes Within Boxes

In addition to being about a single father and daughter, Kakushigoto offers a glimpse into the lives of manga artists. Kakushi’s team is up against a deadline, so they escape reality by getting absorbed in doing chores or cooking. They end up completing the manuscript in time, and while it might sound counter-intuitive, they were only able to do it because of the gyoza-making session session.

Since a manuscript is done, Kakushi and crew have some free time, so they head to a beach (and a villa owned by a manga artist who, like many, dreamed of working by the sea, only to soon regret it). Unfortunately for Kakushi’s assistants, the villa is in dire need of a deep clean.

Meanwhile, Kakushi spies on Hime, who is on a school field trip. He’s caught several times by Ichiko, who thinks he’s talking about her (and not Hime) when he says “the cuteness is undeniable.”

Kakushi also goes to great lengths to ensure Hime doesn’t endure teasing, first by buying a beetle for her to easily catch (though it’s the wrong species), then flying in an Indian master chef to add seasoning to her curry (though it’s too spicy for the kids).

He returns to find his assistants are too exhausted from cleaning to go out, so they aim to have double the fun tomorrow. Alas, a typhoon hits the area hard, and they’re stuck inside with the power out and nothing to do…but draw manga. One of them, Rasuna, draws in her swimsuit, because she brought a swimsuit so she has to wear it somewhere, dammit!

While taking Hime to a festival, Kakushi keeps spotting bootlegged merchandise bearing the face of a character from his manga. Mortified Hime will put two and two together, he buys up all of the masks, cotton candy, and attempts to shoot all of the targets, using his assistants to carry the huge loads of merch away.

In the process of doing all of this, poor Hime has to sit on a bench and wait instead of spending time with her dad. It’s a case of Kakushi worrying and thinking way too much. Hime isn’t actively trying to find out the truth of his livelihood.

In another segment that bends reality, a pair of police investigators come to Kakushi’s makeshift studio, on suspicion they’re running an antisocial cult. With every piece of “evidence” the detectives find, their crazy suspicions grow more ridiculous, until they fear Kakushi and his comrades are planning to overthrow the government.

Three of his four assistants surrender, hoping they’ll receive leniency, and Kakushi follows suit when he considers the possibility of not being there for Hime. Ultimately it’s Rasuna who proves to the cops that Kakushi is indeed a manga artist and harmless—as long as you consider a naked artist’s portrait in the back of his book!

Finally, while printing out photos of their festival trip, Kakushi wonders where Hime’s yukata came from. She tells him it’s hand-sewn, and she found it in the closet. Kakushi opens said closed, for the first time, and discovers boxes for every year of Hime’s life up to 16, no doubt packed with age-appropriate, hand-made clothes. Kakushi has been so busy with his manga and keeping his job a secret, he never knew his wife too great strides to ensure Hime would be well-dressed after she was gone.

Fast-forward to the present day when Hime is 18, lamenting how she never tried to find out what her dad really did and is only learning now. She finds new boxes for ages 17-20 in the storage house. It sure seems like Kakushi has died at this point, and that lends an extra layer of melancholy to all the segments in the past—especially when you consider how much time (and money) Kakushi spends keeping his job secret.

If he’s dead when she’s 18, that means the 10-year-old Hime only has seven years left with her dad. It’s kind of heartbreaking!

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 07 – The Victory Gardener

When Naofumi’s trader friend sends him to a village in dire need of a huge order of herbicide, he, Raphtalia and Filo soon find out why: What started as a “miracle seed”, ironically provided by the Spear Hero Motoyasu to end a famine, grew into a scourge of a vine that not only overruns the village but infects its children like a parasite and breeds plant monsters that mere adventurers can’t defeat.

Naofumi goes above and beyond his duty by not just delivering the herbicide, but healing the kids with his potion lore, and with Raph and Filo providing the offense while he provides defense and support, defeats the central plant monster, leading to the destruction of the network. It honestly isn’t that difficult a quest, now that Naofumi and his two wards are so powerful.

Having cleaned out the village elders’ entire supply of cash, he agrees to take the rest of his payment in trade; specifically, the fruits he himself developed by altering the seeds so they won’t cause anymore trouble, just bear profitable fruit. With that, Naofumi returns to the trader with the merchandise, and he in turn offers another delivery job, this time to a hot springs village.

Here, the rivalry between Raphtalia and Filo for Naofumi’s attention kicks into the next gear, with Raph learning the romantic qualities of the bath she’s in only to learn Filo is already sharing her bath with Naofumi, or when she brings milk to share with Naofumi only to find him combing Filo’s hair. Raphtalia considers Filo an interloper: she was there first, and Naofumi is hers.

She tries once again to win Naofumi over once and for all by going off on her own to find a crystal called latium (an ingredient in love potions) that can be obtained from the nest of a certain native bird, only to find Filo is on a similar quest to make Naofumi her “mate”…and collect some eggs for eating. But when Filo almost falls off a cliff, Raph catches her, and when the giant silverback they landed on chases them, Filo transforms and has Raph jump on so she can jump to safety.

The trip to the birdsnest is short and unproductive, again due to the silverback, but Raph and Filo decide not to let the boar boss them around anymore. They work together to slay it, trade it in to some villagers for cash, and use it to purchase an expensive metalcrafting hammer for Naofumi, as a token of their mutual gratitude. Insofar as Naofumi can be touched by anything, he seems touched by the gesture.

Raph and Filo can be pretty irritating when competing, but thankfully far more fun to watch when collaborating. As for Naofumi, he’ll probably never see either of them as anything other than kids…and if you think kissing will get you pregnant, you kinda are a kid.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 06 – Threads for Filo: A Sidequest

This week, Naofumi needs to solve a problem. It’s a problem that may be minor in the grand scheme of things (compared to defeating the next Waves or repairing his rep), but any game-like isekai scenario worth its salt is going to have sidequests, and this is one of them. Filo needs clothes that won’t tear to shreds whenever she transforms from human to giant bird form.

The Armorer doesn’t have magical clothing, so Naofumi goes to a dressmaker. The Dressmaker needs magic thread, so Naofumi goes to the Mage. The Mage needs a gemstone for Filo to spin magic thread, and gemstones are rare and hard to come by. They’re also expensive, so as the Mage searches for one, Naofumi strikes out with Raph and Filo to make some money.

After helping a man race home to deliver a healing potion for his mother, Naofumi learns he can make a nice buck ferrying people to various locations, like Lyft, and can charge more if the clients are in dire need.

Take a wealthy and connected accessory seller: when a rival trader directs a group of bandits to mug him, Naofumi (or more precisely, Raph and Filo) make quick work of them.

It’s a nice reminder that in addition to Raph, who is no pushover, Filo is not only a good carriage-puller but fierce in battle as well, with powerful wind-based magic at her disposal.

When Naofumi spares the bandits’ lives, but only if they pay for those lives with everything they have, the trader takes a shine to him, lauding his entrepreneurial spirit. As payment for being saved, he offers Naofumi all of his knowledge and connections, including how to use mana to imbue gems, and connecting him to all of his fellow traders.

Finally, he gives Naofumi a deed that he shows to a mining foreman, who grants him permission to search for the veins of gemstone. Those veins are located in a particularly dangerous part of the mine swarming with monsters, so Naofumi goes in ready to rumble, along with the party of Raph the swordswoman, Filo the filolial, and the Mage. (Part of the mine looks just like Petra in Jordan).

After overcoming monsters who use illusory magic to make the party members think their allies are saying the last things they want to hear (Naofumi doesn’t need Filo; Raph only got close to Naofumi to kill him; Filo wants to eat Naofumi), they finally discover the vein, but it’s being guarded by a boss: a compact chimaera called a nue.

As Kevin Penkin’s awesome battle music plays, Raph and Filo rush headlong at the beast, but Raph ends up knocked down. The Mage offers support with fire-based magic, and the party regroups. Naofumi exploits the nua’s sensitive hearing by having Filo screech into his newly-acquired bat-shield. The mage fires more fire at the nue, then Raph rushes in and impales it. Filo delivers the coup de grace with a brutal kick to the skull.

The nue thus defeated, Naofumi retrieves the gemstone they came for, and back in town, Filo uses it to spin magic thread from her mana. They then deliver the thread to the Dressmaker, who spares no energy or passion crafting the cutest possible number for Filo: a frilly white dress with blue accents that crucially won’t be torn to shreds when she transforms.

It was great to see Naofumi & Co. face a problem and solve it in a logical yet interesting step-by-step process. It was also nice to take a step back from Naofumi’s ongoing feud with Motoyasu and Malty. And like any good sidequest, in addition to achieving the main objective, Naofumi gained a lot of new knowledge and experience points, making him that much more prepared for when the next Wave appears.

Takunomi. – 02

Michiru has somewhat overblown standards of how a young Tokyoite office woman should look, and her perceived failure to meet them leave her frustrated to the point of tears upon coming home. Enter Nao, who works at a clothing store. Michiru offers shochu as payment for fashion advice.

After the presentation of “chu-hi” (shochu highballs) as one of the more delicious alcoholic beverages one can enjoy (for those over the age of 20), Nao opens her closet for Michiru, who settles on an understated natural look. In doing so, Michiru rekindles the passion that drove Nao into clothing industry: that satisfying moment when a customer has found their look.

As for things like finding a man to accompany her to couples spots like Tokyo Sky Tree and an office demeanor in which she’s not mixing up words like “call” with “coal”, Michiru is on her own. But when she comes home, she can be assured of good drink, good food, and good friends.

Update: What do you know, my local state-run wine & spirits store actually sells shochu, a 50-proof mugi (barley) variety made in Kyoto. Earthy and nutty, it’s great neat, on the rocks, or with club or flavored soda. Kanpai!

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