Eromanga-sensei – 03

When Masamune investigates the abandoned, possibly haunted house next door, he’s surprised to find Yamada Elf has just moved in: and likes to play the piano naked after a shower to get inspired to write.

After the standard accusations of peeping tommery, she invites him in, and most of the episode is given over to making Elf a little more dimensional, if still grating in her intense, obnoxious arrogance.

As Sagiri’s bedroom window faces Elf’s office, you’d think it wouldn’t be long before she found out who Eromanga-sensei is, but Elf sees Masamune’s sister and thinks she’s just that: a little sister who has fun drawing, not the person whose services they’re fighting over.

It’s also a bit shitty of Masamune not to even mention to Sagiri his little wager with Elf, considering Sagiri is the ‘prize’. Then again, it’s a good thing that Masamune isn’t the perfect MC while everyone around him is flawed in some way.

Indeed, Masamune’s flaw seems to be that in spite of Elf’s toxic personality, incessant pretentiousness, and pronunciation of ahhh-neee-may, he can’t help spending time with his new neighbor, nor indeed being a fan himself, even if meeting Yamada-sensei wasn’t what he expected.

For a time, it doesn’t seem like Elf invited Masamune in just to rub his nose in her superior success, but to spend time with a fellow author. She earnestly asks why he’s a fan, and he earnestly answers: after a death in the family, her books cheered him up. They taught him that novels can “save lives” of some readers, and for that she has his heartfelt thanks, competition or no.

Elf’s reaction betrays a softer, more genuine side to her, even if it’s short-lived and she’s back to being awful the next day. But it’s also clear that she’d rather have Masamune around than not, and also strongly disagrees with his workaholic approach to authoring, as she considers her job a “hobby” and only writes if her motivation is maxed out.

Despite knowing nothing of their competition involving her, Sagiri is uneasy anyway because her big brother, who has been All Hers up to this point, is suddenly ‘in the web’ of a cute, rich next-door neighbor.

While her music and online fans keep Eromanga merry, I feel one of the factors that drives her motivation to draw is knowing Masamune will always be there in the house, serving her meals and protecting her.

Yamada throws a thorn in that arrangement, and it will be interesting to see whether that motivates Sagiri to explore beyond her room. But yeah…Masamune really should tell her about his wager with Elf.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 03

I said last week that Akane and Kotarou aren’t in a hurry, but I guess I have to take that back now. Between all the pairing off going on in the run-up to the class trip, and the fact that at some point everyone will be heading off to various high schools, the two can’t sit on their hands forever. That being said, neither has any experience with courtship, so much of their nascent relationship is sustained through the messenger app LINE, as they remain painfully unable to talk to one another in school.

They also have a lot going on, what with Kotarou’s literature club and local festival activities and Akane’s track meet. This eats up the time they could be spending hanging out. Akane’s track buddy Nishio (who tended Kotarou’s wounds) considers him a friend now, and she’s serious about surpassing Akane, at least in track. Akane, meanwhile gets perilously close to being asked out by Hira; it’s only a random exclamation from a nearby party that makes him think better of it.

Kotarou can’t attend Akane’s meet due to his drumming practice, and the show really excels both at capturing the tension involved in waiting for someone you like to text you, and showing just how torturous it can be to have to carry on with your plans that don’t include that person.

Fortunately, fate smiles upon the couple, or rather, volition does. Kotarou isn’t in a hurry to leave the shrine, while Akane, whose phone died, decides to check out said shrine on the off-chance Kotarou is still there. He is, and they have a lovely, if at times understandably awkward, encounter under the beautiful moon.

And feeling both the pressure of time and the auspiciousness of another meeting with the lovely, warm, kind Akane, Kotarou manages to finally ask her out—not with Line, but with words. Not with chance, but with choice. Naturally, we don’t hear her reply, but their once tentative dynamic has already entered a new phase.

Eromanga-sensei – 02

The beautiful girl at the door turns out to be Sagiri’s classmate and class rep at school, Jinno Megumi. After a joke about how much she loves dicks, the very flirtatious “Megumin” states her purpose for being there: she wants Sagiri to come to school so she can be friends with her, like she’s friends with everyone.

Well! That’s a strong personality to contend with, but she doesn’t get her way, at least today. Sagiri never meets her in person, but only overhears her conversation with Masamune through his phone—and later, without his knowledge, through Megumi’s, leading him to say some very nice things about his “pride and joy”, Sagiri.

After that new girl encounter, Masamune jumps into an old one, Takasago Tomoe, who seems to be a classmate and/or childhood friend whose family runs the bookstore where his manga are sold.

Well, they’re offered for sale, but to Masamune’s horror, it doesn’t look like any have actually been sold. He wants Tomoe to help him out by putting them in a more prominent spot, but she doesn’t bend: if he wants better placement and sales, he has to write better stories that touch people’s hearts.

The third girl Masamune encounters is perhaps the worst, Yamada Elf, a thoroughly unpleasant, petulant, arrogant young author who couldn’t be more different from Masamune (or Sagiri for that matter). She lets her “#1 on Oricon” standing go straight to her head, believing she isn’t just the Savior of LNs, she IS light novel. Yikes!

Masamune encounters Elf trying to poach Eromanga-sensei away, something even Masamune feels would benefit his little sister, so when he goes home he’s extremely contrite and gives an offering of not-so-tasty (according to Sagiri) snacks. I don’t see Sagiri abandoning her brother anytime soon…at least until the fourth girl arrives, whom I am predicting is another artist who tries to poach Masamune, the way Elf wants to poach Sagiri.

Until then, a tiny bit of progress seems to have been made in Sagiri; she asks if her brother’s heard back from Megumi, and also tells him she’ll wash her own underwear from now on, which means she’ll have to leave her room, however briefly.

Eromanga-sensei – 01 (First Impressions)

Izumi Masamune is a popular light novel writer despite still being in high school. He lives with his stepsister Sagiri, whose face he hasn’t seen in over a year. One day while he’s watching a livestream of Eromanga-sensei, the mysterious illustrator of his works whom he’s never met, he notices the note he left with Sagiri’s meal, proving that she is Eromanga-sensei.

She finally lets him see her face, and even invites him in her room to talk, but despite having collaborated with each other on light novels for three years, the road to re-connection won’t be a smooth one.

Eromanga-sensei’s value isn’t in the twist that the siblings are artistic collaborators. I figured that out the moment Masamune said he’d never met his illustrator. Rather, it lies in excitement bred from the sudden disruption of a long-standing status quo; a stalemate between Masamune and Sagiri that had no end in sight.

Now that they ‘know who each other are’, so to speak, they have an opening that I imagine they’ll be ever-so-slowly exploring throughout the show. A show with a crisp, clean, airy look and theme of emotionally distant siblings that viewers of he Oreimo series will find familiar, due to the two shows sharing the same character designer, Kanzaki Hiro, and writer, Fushimi Tsukasa (the two collaborated on the source novels of both shows).

The moment Sagiri finally opens her door is a momentous moment, but the Schrodinger’s Cat-style tension it releases is replaced by the long, difficult, and outright awkward road ahead.

As Sagiri says, this is all very sudden, and it’s hard for adults to wrap their heads around and process such sudden changes in life, let alone a kid who hasn’t left her room in three years.

It’s far easier for, say, Masamune to wrap his mind around this, because the mystery of who Eromanga-sensei was always irked him, and he never suspected for a minute it was his sister (Sagiri, on the other hand, seemed to harbor some vague suspicions, as his pen name is the same as his regular one, albeit in katakana).

Masamune also has the benefit of being able to leave the house at will and interact with other people face-to-face rather than exclusively through technology. Sagiri’s voice-amplifying headset is a nice touch for illustrating how ill-prepared for social interaction she really is. Even having Masamune in there is so strange, on more than one occasion she cuts off their encounters so she can return to the normalcy of solitude.

This is all to say that I really admired the way Sagiri’s condition is portrayed. She’s not slob; her room is neat and tidy, and there’s no denying she’s an immensely gifted artist, especially considering her age. She just…can’t leave her room, nor has she been able to since her mother (who encouraged her to draw) passed away. We all process grief in different ways, she did so by shutting herself off from the world that took her mom away.

Learning her brother is Izumi Masamune doesn’t change any of that. She still feels trapped in that room because of her mother’s death. And unlike Masamune, she doesn’t think they’re family just because they live in the same house and he serves her meals. It’s a combination of frustration over her self-confinement and shame that she’s been such a ‘troublesome sister’. Masamune’s unconditional love is confusing and frightening, and Masamune does come on a bit too strong with his enthusiasm over learning the truth at times.

But one thing’s for sure: Sagiri loves drawing for the enjoyment of fans and readers, just as Masamune loves writing for the same reasons. She likes the interaction her livestreams and blogging allow. She is every inch a child of the 21st Century, in which even self-imposed prisons still contain windows to the world. It will be interesting to see if, when, and how Sagiri is able to emerge from her room, and from the house to see the world again with her own senses.

…It will also be interesting to see if Masamune ever asks Sagiri where she’s been stashing the cash she’s made illustrating, and why she hasn’t contributed to living expenses!

Fuuka – 06

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This episode of Fuuka has no band/light music club practice, no Mikasa, Nachi or Iwami, and precious little Fuuka. Instead, true to its title, it’s all Hinashi Koyuki all the time, starting with a particularly bad day at the recording studio. Koyuki just can’t manage to find her voice, and it’s likely largely due to “Nico-kun” being back in her life.

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First, we look back on their friendship, when she seemed to have much harder edges and a tomboy streak. Yuu was a crybaby prone to moping, but took direction well, and genuinely seemed to enjoy spending time with Koyuki, adventuring and such. Indeed, at this time, Yuu liked Koyuki, he just couldn’t muster the courage to say anything.

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As for Koyuki, her home situation isn’t great, as she cries herself to sleep as her parents war downstairs. When she becomes a child of divorce and moves to Tokyo with her mother, her friendship with Yuu is tragically cut short, just when they’d made promises not just to make snowmen, but to start a band like their mutual favorite – HEDGEHOGS – and share the stage one day.

I understand Koyuki’s attraction to Yuu and vice-versa a little more now now – they were largely each other’s only and best friends. People fall for their besties all the time. Yuu, for Koyuki, was an escape from her unpleasant home. Koyuki drew courage and chivalry out of Yuu.

It’s just a bit unfortunate Yuu tells her he “likes it better when she smiles”, because it plants a seed in her head that her smile around him is some kind of prerequisite for him liking her. I’m sure ‘lil Yuu didn’t mean it that way, but still…

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Fast-forward to now, and when Yuu admits he avoided contacting her out of fear she hated him—when she avoided contacting him out of fear he hated her—the assertive Tama-chan comes back out, inadvertently bringing out the mopey, submissive Nico-kun. It’s a nice scene, because A.) it lets us see another side of Koyuki and B.) it shows how quickly their old dynamic from when they were kids can reassert itself.

When Yuu talks about the band Fuuka made him and others join, it really irks Koyuki, to the point she can’t listen anymore and has to go. She leaves on cordial, even upbeat terms, however, as she gets Yuu to renew their deferred promise to share the stage someday.

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Koyuki then gets splashed by a truck just when Fuuka happens to be running by, and invites her into the bathhouse she lives above. Koyuki gets to take the measure of her potential rival, and Fuuka’s bubbly exuberance and physicality contrasts nicely with Koyuki’s more modest, solemn bearing. Koyuki also learns Fuuka has never even thought of being in a relationship, which buoys her spirits as she heads home: maybe regaining Yuu’s affections won’t be so hard after all, eh? Riiiight.

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And because we can’t have two episodes of Fuuka in a row end on an upbeat note, we end instead with two amateur photogs in a “Starbuccos” looking over a shot of Koyuki and Yuu pinkie-promising in his street. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up on a tabloid magazine cover Fuuka happens to notice while walking by a newsstand, or something.

I’ll just close by saying I didn’t much mind the dearth of music or band practice this week, because, if I may confess, I don’t much care for that part of this show. It may yet change my mind, but for now I’m content with the relationship stuff.

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Fuuka – 05

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Fuuka continues to cement its role as my guilty pleasure of the Winter, thanks to its utterly shameless tendency to put protagonist Haruna Yuu in the most favorable situations imaginable, and still have him complain about it. That might sound unpleasant, but it’s actually pretty fun.

Adorable childhood friend coming by his house to reminisce? Sure, why not? Flipping through photo albums, where most of the pics are of Koyuki yelling at Yuu for various reasons, most of them related to him being a pushover? You got it! Yuu managing to blurt out that he liked her then…b-b-but not now! Seriously! (Now as well.)

Koyuki leaves suddenly, which Yuu takes as meaning he said the wrong thing, but little does he know she’s weeping tears of joy at the news her love wasn’t one-sided. I still don’t see her beating Fuuka. Fuuka’s the title.

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You know what this show didn’t need? Another girl! Especially not one who is impossibly tall and gorgeous, like she just jumped out of a magazine or something. But we get one nonetheless in the person of Iwami Sara, who seems very standoffish and aloof but I’m sure is really sweet deep down.

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She also happens to be the sister of Hisashi, one of the members of Hedgehogs (styled as HEDGEHOGS…because you have to YELL IT) who also graciouslly offers the use of one of his studios for the new light music club to practice…free of charge. Where’s this guy’s sense of entrepreneurialism?

In any case, the band…kinda sucks, particularly Yuu and Fuuka, but Sara is kicked off her third band and Fuuka decides to invite her into theirs, and the girl can not only play, but look very cool doing it.

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After practice they head over to Denny’s, I mean Danny’s, which—wait a second…

Kuzu no Honkai – 03

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Oh, that was Banny’s, not Danny’s. Nevermind…

…Back to Fuuka – 05

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Anyhow, the whole band is at some Denny’s ripoff, when all of a sudden everyone has somewhere to be…except Yuu and Sara. Did I mention Yuu’s face accidentally made contact with Sara’s boobs? Yeah…that happened, and then she smacked him in the face with a guitar, which should have caused a lot more damage to Yuu than it did. The magic of anime!

I’ve been ragging on this episode up to this point, but I have to say, I did not expect Sara to end up being one of Yuu’s best Twitter buddies, @0704-yamato.

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It happens so subtly as you expect Sara to be bored and checking her phone with just Yuu there struggling to find words to say. Turns out Sara’s the same way: finding it far easier to communicate through tweets than with her vocal cords, which so often uses the wrong words, or the right words the wrong way, resulting in misunderstandings (and getting kicked off bands).

When Yuu first started tweeting I was like “Oh great, this gimmick again,” but it paid off big league here, from the sundae, to Sara’s sudden change of character, for which she actually apologizes for by saying “sorry for the sudden change in character!”

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The next practice, held not at the full-up studio, but at Nachi’s ideal place (which he withheld so it didn’t look like he was as into this band thing as he really was), everyone has practiced a lot more, and they play a much smoother version of the show’s theme song, “Climber’s High!”

When Sara’s praise of Yuu’s progress is interrupted by Fuuka’s praise, and Yuu thanks her, Sara punishes him for allowing the interruption by jamming her guitar into his back. So this is how it’s gonna be, huh? Look out Koyuki: you’ve got more competition. (Note: next week’s episode is titled “Hinashi Koyuki”. Should be interesting.

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Fuuka – 04

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In what was for most of its running time the quietest and most emotionally engaging episode of Fuuka yet, Yuu gets caught in his web of omission, then the two have their first fight, as they both stumble over how to properly make up.

First of all, Fuuka has every right to be upset that Yuu was on a dock in the rain embracing her favorite idol. However close he is to her, Fuuka at least felt that at this point in their friendship he could tell her about Koyuki.

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Proving his inexperience in such matters, Yuu only makes things worse with his first attempt at an apology, inadvertently likening Fuuka to a “stranger”, which would be cruel if he weren’t so clueless.

For his inability to explain himself, Yuu gets the cold shoulder from Fuuka, making every moment of the day that follows a living hell where food tastes like ash and the beach at sunset is lonely as hell.

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Neither Yuu nor Fuuka want things to go on like this, so Mikasa takes Yuu aside and asks him to tell him straight up what’s going on. Yuu is able to articulate things, and also how upset he is he and Fuuka are fighting and how badly he wants to make up. Fortunately for him, Mikasa brought Fuuka along to eavesdrop, and she heard everything, and they finally exchange apologies.

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Fuuka also thanks Yuu for having her back when her track senpai shows up to harass her, then questions her designs on a band. Yuu has heard her sing and knows she’s good, and she proves it again when three of the five members of HEDGEHOGS (who were hiding in plain sight, including the restaurant owner) let her perform vocals while they play an impromptu trial concert that not only calls off the track senpai, but attracts a small audience from the beach.

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Fuuka even recruits the senpai as the drummer of the band, pegging Mikasa for the keys, herself for guitar and vocals, and Yuu for the bass (which he has no idea how to play…yet). All’s well that ends well, as Fuuka and Yuu, free of their row, are able to sit on the beach and admire the stars.

Fuuka even snuggles up beside him in his sweatshirt, but he panics, slips, and ends up with his hand up her shirt, ruining the lovely mood, both for Fuuka and me, the viewer, as I was enjoying the subtlety of their interactions to that point.

Naturally, when Yuu returns home, who is in his house waiting for him but the triangle’s third vertex Koyuki, no doubt unwilling to let some loud blue-haired girl snatch away her Yuu.

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Fuuka – 03

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Why don’t you just do what I dragged you here against your will to do?

So, we’re doing this, are we? Yuu seems to ask, as Fuuka founds a light music clu-excuse me, association, with him as a member, right before his eyes, with minimal resistance? Yes, yes they is doing this, because he let himself get swept away in Fuuka’s energy. So did Mikasa, but he’s a go-with-the-flow kinda guy. Yuu is complaining, but only to himself.

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LIVING THE DREAM

Things seem to get even worse for him as he tags along with Fuuka and Mikasa to the beach. Wait, we’re going to the beach in the third episode? That seems early for a show that doesn’t take place near the sea. Whatever; Yuu finds himself waiting tables. He tells himself he can’t do it, and so he sucks at it. (Is he getting paid, by the way, or is this just child labor? No one says.)

He’s rewarded by getting to push a giant inflatable orca around, with a Fuuka on top – a Fuuka who in past episodes thought this guy was taking pics of her undies somehow doesn’t see how Yuu might be flustered by the angle he’s viewing her from.

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(Non-romantic first kiss)…or is it?

Of course, the flustering takes them too far out to sea (of course) and the extremely athletic Fuuka suddenly develops a cramp and sinks like a stone (of course) and Yuu has a perfect opportunity to save Fuuka’s life. The show redeems itself somewhat when it’s Yuu, not Fuuka, who ended up passing out and requiring mouth-to-mouth. Fuuka also freaks out about how he almost died.

The “kiss” gets Yuu all riled up and confused; he knows it was rescue breathing, and even hears how Fuuka doesn’t mind indirect kisses since she’s “not a kid”…but later Fuuka tells him to keep the kiss a secret, since it was her first.

SO Yuu decides not to tweet what would have been the most interesting thing he’s ever tweeted. It would be as if the Dos Equis guy wasn’t constantly followed around by cameras.

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You’ve grown so pretty—though I should tell you this right here isn’t the most flattering light angle!

Speaking of celebs Koyuki is headed to the same one as Yuu for work, but wants to get together post-haste. Sure, why not. There are only so many beaches in Japan, right? That being said, I enjoyed the relaxed nature of the two meeting – for the first time since grade school – and slipping right back into an easy interaction, only now, as Fuuka said, they’re not kids.

It’s got to be an exhilarating feeling, and it would make another interesting tweet, but for the fact the Twitterverse would not believe him if he simply said he was meeting up with his childhood friend Hinashi freaking Koyuki, and if he provided photo proof, a lot of people would have problems with it, because…it’s Twitter.

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One person, I imagine, already has a problem with it: Fuuka, who goes out in the rain at night to look for Yuu perhaps forgetting about things called cell phones (Koyuki, for the record, had just gotten done saying how if it weren’t for cell phones, she and Yuu might never have seen each other again.).

And she finds him: on a dock, with her favorite idol in his arms after a freakish wind blew her umbrella away. She also seemed on the verge of saying something important to Yuu. Will Fuuka be upset Yuu never told him (not necessarily fair, as their relationship has so far been, essentially her making him do stuff and him quietly assenting), or will she just be happy to meet Koyuki, even if she’s a rival for Yuu’s heart?

As for the music clu-er, association angle, well, there’s almost no movement, though the beach restaurant guy tells Mikasa not to touch his drums, and Yuu tells Fuuka he can’t play an instrument, but is ignored. And we’ll probably never know if Mikasa got that hot bodyguard’s number…

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Kuromukuro – 18

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It’s a little detail, but I appreciate the fact that we see Yukina and Ken finally getting paid by the UN for their services. Everyone else working there seems to be. It also lets us know it’s been about three months since they started working together. The sudden influx of funds leads to Yukina taking her family to a hot spring inn. Mika catches word, unilaterally invites anyone who will come, and we’re off to the races.

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The hot spring inn isn’t the most luxurious—no food service and not even any close hot springs—but the ten attendees make do, and Ken uses the $400 pot he bought online to make curry (with Yukina’s help). The centerpiece of the episode is a long dinner scene that to its credit looks like a really fun place to be, unless of course you’re Carlos.

He tried to be clever about announcing he’s transferring but his cosplay video editing job was universally panned, and the announcement (and his on-screen plea not to be forgotten) is ignored in favor of other myriad conversations. The scene has a great energy, jumping from one discussion to another with several interruptions and interludes, just the way a big group dinner works in real life.

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Once it becomes time to check out the actual hot springs the next morning, Yukina happens to forget her towel, and she and Ken happen to go the wrong way and find a different hot spring than the others, where an injured Muetta just happens to be hiding.

We are tipped off to Muetta being at a hot spring before the encounter, and we actually catch a glimpse of her life as a child back home, a gorgeously alien world with crazy sky colors and celestial alignments. It makes her argument that she is not Ken’s princess a lot easier to buy. At least, she’s not lying when she says she has no memory of being Yukihime.

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Not long after Yukina and Ken find Muetta, men in black show up to secure the location…only for Yukina and Ken to end up separated again, and in that moment, Yukina is snatched up by an Efidolg robot and rises up into orbit, leaving her robe behind.

I wasn’t a fan of all the coincidences necessary for that ending to be achieved. This also smells like yet another case of Poor Defenseless Yukina being kidnapped—while naked, no less—and the Dashing Samurai having to find a way to rescue her. Not the most innovative storytelling. Also, while the emphasis on him is played mostly for comedy, I just don’t really care about Carlos, or whether he ceases to be on the show or not. Why should I, when no one else does?

Still, I liked the slice of life vacation elements, and I did not expect things to end so badly, so quickly, for Yukina and Ken. Yukina suddenly being up in orbit, at the mercy of those thoroughly unpleasant Efidolg knights, is a huge turning point—As is finally having Muetta in custody. I don’t doubt that in his desperation to quickly save his new princess, he’ll try to enlist the help of the old one. Pulling that off should prove even tougher than salvaging Carlos’ hack job.

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Prison School – 05

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Rarely has an anime made me feel so goddamn down as when Kiyoshi’s house of cards crumbled. So very much was riding on him performing the mission perfectly, and more to the point, the first nine tenths of the episode, with its sense of optimism, occasion, and essentially adolescent paradise, perfectly set us up to be as devastated as possible when the curtain fell.

But the show was cleverer than simply having Shiraki kicking in the door to find an empty stall. Instead, it played us once more, juxtaposing two scenes without indicating their exact timing with regard to one another. By the time the jig is up and Shiraki kicks in that door, Kiyoshi not only got back, but got back with Gakuto’s prized figurines.

Then Kiyoshi walks outside, and Mari is waiting for him, and she knows everything. Not because she realized he was the girl she stopped at the gate, but because her sister Chiyo texted her and their dad a picture of her with him. Pretty damning evidence, right there! But crucially, Chiyo didn’t send it in scorn or spite; she sent it before she found her uni in Kiyoshi’s bag, back when she was so overjoyed by the experience she was having she couldn’t resist sharing it. She also assumed Kiyoshi got permission from her sister and father.

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Chiyo’s intent, however, doesn’t change the fact that Kiyoshi is in deep shit, and not just with Mari and Chiyo, but with his comrades in stripes. Shingo in particular is extremely hurt and upset Kiyoshi didn’t trust them enough to tell them of his plans; had he done so, they wouldn’t necessarily have stopped him, but things might’ve gone smoother. He’s also extended everyone’s sentence another month, so they have every right to feel mad and betrayed.

As for Kiyoshi, Mari informs him he’ll be expelled, but we later learn behind closed doors she technically lacks the authority to do so and would prefer not to involve other parties. Whatever Kiyoshi’s intentions (and she of course assumes the worst, in part because of how her dad has shaped her opinion of men in general), his predicament is just what Mari needs to further her agenda of making her school all-girls once more.

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Mari can probably tell Kiyoshi feels terrible about what he did (which would indicate he’s not the degenerate she’s make him out to be—of course, that doesn’t serve her needs), and what lies in store for him in the next three years now that rumors of his misdeeds are already being spread. She intends to use that fear and despair to induce him to sign a withdrawal form, giving her the legal cover she needs to dispose of him. He’s ready to sign it, too; but he’d regret one thing from doing so: never having the opportunity to clear up the misunderstanding with Chiyo over her uni.

It would seem fortune wasn’t done smiling on Kiyoshi, and his inherent kindness and goodness thus far comes in to play as much a role in his fate as his badness. Chiyo, you see, is mostly upset that she stormed off without hearing an explanation, delivering a verdict with the barests of cases. Sure, her uniform in his bag looks bad, but she feels he deserves the chance to explain himself nonetheless.

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That fierce sense of decency and empathy leads her to storm into the office where Mari has Kiyoshi in her clutches, having heard rumors of him being expelled for what he did. She won’t stand for that, as she played a considerable role in getting him in the mess he’s in. Mari wants this situation to be seen as her looking out for her poor, naive, victimized sister, but Chiyo is a lot less messed up than Mari. She has a clear head and knows exactly what she’s saying and doing.

When Kiyoshi is about to fall for Mari’s bluff, Chiyo descends like an angel from on high, to call that bluff: if she makes Kiyoshi leave, she’s leaving too. Kiyoshi tells her—honestly—that he just grabbed her uniform from among hundreds by chance, and she believes him. And she doesn’t seem naive in doing so. Instead, she only ends up putting Mari in a tighter and tighter corner (even bringing up Kiyoshi’s affinity for Mari’s beloved crows), until she has to basically concede this battle.

But the reason I’ve come to love Chiyo so much—and why Kiyoshi probably only loves her more after all this—is not because she pressed his head to her chest, but because she showed us what she was made of. She’s not just some shallow pristine angel to be placed on a pedestal; she’s a fully fleshed-out individual with all manner of motivations and desires, ideals, and an iron will. She is Kiyoshi’s rock and his salvation. Now he must strive to be worthy of her.

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Mari may have lost this round, but she intends to wage a full-scale war on Kiyoshi and the other four boys, officially forming the “DTO”, or Boy’s Expulsion Operation. Shiraki, so strong and dominant towards the boys, cowers and sweats profusely in her president’s presence, and will do whatever she commands in service of this operation. I wouldn’t be surprised if they bend or break all the rules that are necessary; the ends will justify the means.

As for Kiyoshi, he managed to remain enrolled at school thanks almost entirely to Chiyo, but he immediately starts to see the effects of the means he employed to reach the ends (his sumo date). They seemed so innocent and logical and perfect at the time, but failure wouldn’t just mean more jail time or possible estrangement from Chiyo.

It also fundamentally damaged his relationship with Shingo, Joe, and Andre—but mostly Shingo, who forces the others to ostracize Kiyoshi. These wounds won’t be easily healed, if ever, but regardless Kiyoshi intends to bear the consequences of what he did.

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And that brings us, impeccably logically, to the Return of Hana. I said when they last parted that she wouldn’t be above pissing on him as payment for him pissing on her, and here we see her present that very idea to Kiyoshi in the bathroom, where she all but orders him to prove he doesn’t find her “dirty” by allowing her to do this at some point in the near future.

This could mean several things, or a combination of them, and more: Her sense of justice and equatability may be so rigid and literal, that this is the only way to settle the score. She could be a Mari plant, working towards inducing him to slip up again, in a way that will get him yet another month in jail and only one more infraction away from official expulsion.

Or perhaps Hana simply liked how things went down and wants to reciprocate, furthering her dominance of Kiyoshi (similar to Nakamura’s relationship with Kasuga in Aku no Hana). Last week everything seemed to be over for Kiyoshi. But everything—from his struggles in prison to his enduring relationship with Chiyo to Mari’s war agains the boys—is only just beginning.

With every episode of Prison School I watch, I feel dumber for not giving it a look when it was airing. The title scared me away, of all things! But it’s far more than its title, and it’s far more than silly ecchi comedy (though there is plenty of that); it’s a rich and dynamic exploration of the complexities of morality and adolescence. The two most compelling, relatable characters in Kiyoshi and Chiyo are also the most balanced on both fronts.

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Prison School – 04

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It doesn’t take long to reveal what Gakuto intended by assaulting both the vice president and president: he wanted the latter to “punish and forgive” him. At first, this is played out as Shiraki sodomizing Gakuto with a pixelated vibrator…but turns out to be just harmless electric clippers (thank GOD), with which she shaves his head, the clippings of which Gakuto offers to Kiyoshi as the all-important pigtails he’ll need to complete his girly look. Gosh, what a friend! If only his powerful intellect were used to better humanity…

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His wig thus acquired, he must grab a girl’s uniform from the laundry; no mean feat. This show is a master of portraying suspense and stress, and dangling everything on whether someone comes out of a doorway, or turns around, or, later, spills tea on a backpack.

Thanks again to Gakuto (who literally pisses himself distracting the laundry service guy), Kiyoshi gets away with a uniform undetected. With that, he has everything he needs for the sumo date, and tries to get some sleep, promising he won’t fail Chiyo. Meanwhile, Chiyo seems super-psyched for tomorrow.

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The day arrives: so full of potential pitfalls and foreboding, but also ample hope that all will go according to plan. As Kiyoshi and Gakuto collect the purses of the girls of various girls who have come for track day, Chiyo makes huge amounts of onigiri for Kiyoshi, assuming all boys eat several times more than girls…not to mention believing Kiyoshi got permission to leave.

As Kiyoshi enjoys a bento and some “fine asses” as noon and zero hour draws nearer, a sense of calm seems to settle over the two. Everything has been set into motion, and everything they worked and shat and pissed and sweated and bled for is finally about to come to fruition. Kiyoshi also remarks on how close a friendship he and Gakuto have achieved in the last three weeks. Gakuto says its all for the Three Kingdoms figurines.

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The bell rings. Zero Hour. From this point on, Prison School becomes a taut, elegant thriller, complete with a first-person perspective of Kiyoshi placing the fartbox on the toilet, slipping out the window, into the drainage channel, through tunnels, beneath Shiraki beating his comrades, and out to his changing zone.

He’s barely done transforming into “Kiya-tan” when Shiraki, no longer busy beating the others, calls out to him. He has a choice: run and risk being exposed, or stay put and hope he’s a convincing enough girl from behind to fool the glasses-wearing Shiraki. Somehow, some way, it works, and Shiraki moves on. Is this fortune smiling on Kiyoshi’s Big Day?

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Oh no! Mari grabs him by the backpack before he can step outside of school grounds! But wait, she just wants “her” to take her backpack off her back. When she spots the tear in Kiyoshi’s jacket, she apologizes and lets him go, showing Mari’s empathetic side for once. After that, it’s smooth sailing till the rendezvous point.

Chiyo truly outdoes herself in the adorableness department, between her outfit, the way she sneaks up on an overjoyed Kiyoshi, and her intense enthusiasm over watching a student sumo match with him. Her seiyu Hashimoto Chinami is one of the few voices in this show I’m not familiar with, but she does a great job projecting Chiyo’s warm and genial personality, along with her excitement with the whole affair.

Kiyoshi and Chiyo are just plain infectious to watch here; it’s like he’s died and gone to heaven. Sure, he doesn’t give a shit about sumo, and she sucks at cooking, but HE DOESN’T CARE IT’S CHIYO, for cryin’ out loud. He eats every bite of plain salted white rice, and gets rewarded with a close-in selfie with her, as if they were already boyfriend and girlfriend!

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Then…heaven turns to HELL, and so heart-rippingly fast it made my head spin. I was rooting so hard for Kiyoshi and his success, but in the back of my head I still remembered that he’d done things for which a penance would someday be exacted. I just didn’t think it would happen so fast! From peeping to peeing to stealing and fleeing, to so easily allowing Gakuto to sacrifice his dignity and high school years…Kiyoshi is no pure angel.

And yet, it’s nothing in particular he does or says that leads to him so harshly receiving his “karma” and being driven into the ground. It’s something that just happens, as a result of what he’s already said and done, along with what he failed to do, like check to see whose uniform he stole.

Turns out, he stole CHIYO’S. And because he ate too much of the rice to be “nice”, and had to go to the bathroom (for real this time), he leaves Chiyo alone with his bag, and when she spills tea on it, she notices her uniform in that bag, and it’s over. It’s ALL OVER. She manages to get “You’re disgusting” out before storming off.

Meanwhile, back at the school, his cover is about to be blown, as Shiraki loses patience, goes into the mens room, and prepares to knock down the door where the now-malfunctioning m-poop-3-player sits. It looks like the boys are in for another month of prison. But far, far worse, Kiyoshi’s aspirations with Chiyo are in tatters. It’s going to be tough to come back from all that.

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Ao Haru Ride – 07

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If you think this episode felt like stalling or a staving off of Futaba’s upcoming confrontation Yuuri, then this is the wrong show for you. Good shoujo anime often delve deep into the heads of their heroines and make their inner dialogue an interesting and crucial part of the story. What actually happens almost becomes secondary to how the heroine arrived at what to do or say.

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Ao Haru Ride succeeds in making Futaba wrestling with what to do, as it becomes more and more apparent what she must do, an pleasantly entertaining affair. Sure, there are times when it seems she’s going around in circles, but that repetition is helpful to her eventual understanding that she may not be able to love Kou and be Yuuri’s “precious friend.” Her procrastination helps her arrive at this conclusion.

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A good shoujo anime also tries to minimize the utilization of pure dumb luck and coincidence in the heroine’s dealings, or at least tries be subtle about it. But there was nothing subtle about Futaba’s “chance encounter” with her former friend Yumi, who in middle school was in the exact situation Futaba finds herself in now, thus serving as a very convenient cautionary tale.

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What works better is the fact that Yumi’s presence allows us more backstory that deepens our understanding of how Futaba came to be a tomboy in high school. She was once as passive and cute and docile as Yuuri continues to be, but she surrendered when things got tough, and is only now trying to figure out who she is. Yuuri, meanwhile, remains committed to being herself, no matter the social cost.

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Futaba hoists Yuuri upon a pedestal all this time, while her interactions with Kou this week demonstrate that her cute vulnerable girly side is far from gone, and Kou seems to bring it out without trying, even leading her to be self-conscious about her bag and change her shampoo. She’s worried Kou doesn’t see her as a girl…but if he loves her, who cares how he sees her?

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The main issue here is that no matter how loving and kind and sweet and forgiving Yuuri is, Futaba won’t know how she will react to the news she also likes Kou, and furthermore liked him first (though I’m not sure she’ll elaborate). And the harsh truth is, losing her as a friend is a possibility, though not a certainty. What is certain is that she has to tell her. Now she knows that without a doubt.

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