Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun – 04 – Standing Up to the Queen

Tomozaki just landed a lucky break. If there was no reason for Izumi Yuzu to approach him, he’d been making his presence known to the point that when he approached her, she felt she could come to him with her TackFam problem, which is really a Nakamura Shuuji problem. Bottom line: Izumi likes Shuuji, and wants to get good enough at the game to take him on. We also learn Shuuji recently turned down the Konno Erika, leader of the Neckties to which Yuzu belongs.

Yuzu invites Tomozaki to her place so he can teach her, and after one match he knows exactly what she needs to get better, starting with learning how to execute a short jump, which is simply a matter of practice and muscle memory. Yuzu is grateful for Tomozaki’s advice but wonders what the deal is with his various poses and gestures…turns out he’s mimicking Hinami’s teaching style without knowing it!

By the time Tomozaki is drawing detailed diagrams of all the moves Yuzu will have to memorize, she asks him: What is all the intense effort even for? He tells her what it’s not for: making friends or winning praise. When Yuzu claims she can’t ever change from her current status of superficially laughing with her necktie-wearing friends, he assures her he is proof that anyone can change; they just need to commit themselves and put in the effort.

While Hinami calls Tomozaki’s break with Yuzu pretty “miraculous” when they meet up for a debrief, she can’t deny he properly capitalized, using what he knows best (TackFam) to really connect with someone. That said, she still wants him to ask Fuuka out on a date, even producing movie tickets for them to use.

The night before, Tomozaki practices asking Fuuka out on the recorder Hinami gave her, showing how he’s learning how to listen to himself and adjust. But he also accidentally opens a folder of recordings Hinami didn’t delete: ones in which she too practices talking. He already considers it amazing she’s so good at the Game of Life; to hear the process firsthand is even more amazing.

Like him with TackFam, no matter how high a level you achieve, you can never stop practicing. But with practice comes the realization that sometimes circumstances won’t always accommodate your plans, nor will practice always inform what to do when it’s go time. To whit: Tomozaki calls an laudable audible: coming clean to Fuuka about having not read any of her favorite author, and thus not yet being ready to read her own novel.

This could have turned out disastrously, but the risk was well worth the reward of starting fresh from a position of honesty. A white lie or misunderstanding rarely forms a strong foundation for a relationship. While there’s clear and justifiable disappointment in Fuuka’s reaction, there’s also the sense she’s happy he’s being so honest. He’s also able to break the news naturally and casually enough not to come off as dismissive or cruel.

Working entirely outside the letter of Hinami’s plan while hewing to the spirit of her training, Tomozaki shows great growth here, while rejecting her “an in is an in” mentality. Yes, the author misunderstanding, got Fuuka talking to him, but so did simply asking Yuzu for a tissue.

He also wisely realizes that to ask her out on a date so soon after basically restarting their friendship from a place of honesty would be overdoing it, so he withholds the tickets for now. If he gets any flak from Hinami, he’ll be ready with a pretty good explanation. However, their next meeting is preempted by Shuuji’s two mates: he wants a TackFam rematch, now.

In the AV room, Tomozaki plays Shuuji while Shuuji’s mates, Yuzu, and Erika and her two Necktie acolytes watch. Tomozaki proceeds to beat Shuuji handily in match after match, but Shuuji keeps asking to play again. He grows more frustrated, even as he starts to improve slightly, to the point he’s able to take out one of Tomozaki’s health stocks.

That frustration creates an increasingly unpleasant tension and aura of desperation around Shuuji, to the point Erika begins to mock him as “weak”, his obsession with a “stupid game” as “creepy”, and that she dodged a bullet when he turned her down. The “stupid game” comment draws the ire of Tomozaki, as does her assertion that all of Shuuji’s hard work and practice amounts to nothing.

The old Tomozaki would have muttered something and not followed through, but this newly Hinami-trained Tomozaki is at least adept enough at the Game of Life to call Erika out for the haughty tourist she is. Shuuji may have been a dick to him all this time, but at least he’s committed to improving and keeps fighting no matter how much he loses. All Erika can do is mock someone else’s effort when she (at least as far as Tomozaki knows) puts in none at all.

Yuzu even has the courage to chime in and call Shuuji’s efforts “beautiful in a boyish way”, despite the fact doing so is contradicting the vaunted Queen of the Neckties. But I have no doubt it was Tomozaki’s earlier words about her ability to change that helped her summon the courage to speak up. Erika slinks away, pretending not to have learned anything, but she did. So did Shuuji, who probably resents Tomozaki defending him but also appreciated it.

Notable for her silence during all this is Hinami, which was no accident. The thing is, while she observed that Tomozaki had things well in hand, I also think she stayed above the fray in order to avoid needlessly upsetting the apple cart with Erika & Co., who would have likely felt ganged up on if she’d joined Tomozaki and Yuzu—an example of maintaining balance through inaction. Regardless, both Erika and Shuuji stop giving Tomozaki a hard time, now knowing better what he’s made of.

At their next meeting over lunch, Hinami asks how things are going with Fuuka, wondering if he’s lost motivation. He assures her he hasn’t, but without explaining the whole situation with coming clean and not wanting to pile on with a date request, Tomozaki pulls another laudable audible: whipping out the very tickets she gave him and asking Hinami if she’ll join him instead.

Hinami’s look of surprise is followed by the kind of proud face a master makes when their student has just done something good. Unfortunately, she’s not free tomorrow (what do you know, she does have other obligations!), but she is free for a movie now. Is it just me, or do these two just make a good couple, full stop?

It’s too early to tell, but I appreciate that Hinami doesn’t go all cliché blushy or tsundere at the prospect of Tomozaki asking her out. Maybe she gets that it’s for more “training”, or as thanks for her help so far. But at some point all these times they’re meeting up one-on-one and having fun will start painting the picture of two people…going out. We’ll see if anything comes of their consistently pleasant proximity, and more importantly, if more people start noticing them together all the damn time!

Crucially, this outing proved Tomozaki isn’t just some automaton carrying out Hinami’s directives, nor does she want him to be. She’s taught him the basics, and it’s up to him to experience how to properly use them and switch things up when warranted. The recording of Hinami also shows that her life game is an ongoing work in progress. I know it’s Tomozaki’s name in the title, but I would love to delve more into Hinami’s growth, and if Tomozaki has anything to teach her—something his recent shrewd freestyling might portend.

Fruits Basket – 47 – Nothing Like a Prince

Yuki continues to open up to Manabe, expounding on the evolution of his relationship to Tooru. First she was a wierd classmate who lived in a tent, then he saw he could use her to rebel against the Souma clan. At some point, he started to realize strong maternal vibes coming off of her as a result of her showering him with unconditional love and kindness.

It started when she told him to become friends with her again even if her memories were taken by Hatori. And Yuki panicked when he felt this way, and immediately tried to deny and suppress those feelings, even trying to interact with her more “like a man does a woman,” creating a love triangle with Kyou even though the two men weren’t seeking the same thing.

It’s the first time Yuki’s able to talk at all about this being about more than competing or not being able to “beat” Kyou for Tooru’s heart, but rather feeling something other than romantic attraction and being okay with her and Kyou as a couple; after all, he’s observed the two together and is pretty confident they love each other.

The one thing Yuki doesn’t want is to waste the kindness and warmth Tooru gave so freely. He wants to use it to move forward and discover his own “special purpose in life.” He’s buoyed by being able to discuss it so candidly with Kakeru—who he notes is also a kind (in his way) person to listen without judgment. However, Yuki wisely doesn’t discuss any of this with Todou Miki!

Yuki sees a day coming that he’ll be able to tell Tooru how he truly feels and about the purpose he’s found thanks to her love and support. Until then, he’ll keep watching over her, as he does right after casually confronting Kyou about the hat, which causes Kyou to withdraw into his room.

Before Yuki came home, Tooru and Kyou were having a flirt-fight in the entryway over his confiscating of her Cinderella script after she let Shigure know about it. Kyou still hasn’t committed to even participating in the play, and he certainly doesn’t want Shisho to know about it.

There’s also the matter of Tooru simply not being able to act like anything resembling an evil stepsister, as expected. She promises to work hard and even go without food in order to master the role, but it seems hopeless. With Ayame and Mine sure to provide some unique takes on Cinderella costumes and both Kyou and Saki also seeming miscast, the scriptwriter decides to scrap what she has and write a script that better fits the actors.

I’m all for that, and it’s great to see Ayame trying to support his brother in any way he can, once again making up for all the neglect Yuki suffered in the past, including from a then-indifferent big bro. It’s also fun watching Yuki’s classmates react to finally meeting his very different brother—while I’m sure Mine probably felt like she just struck gold upon meeting Saki and Arisa!

When Yuki goes off to look for Kyou for Tooru, he finds him sulking on the staircase. Kyou is going over what he said to Yuki when his hat was offered back to him. Remember: Kyou still considers Yuki not only a rival for Tooru’s heart, but the underdog, even if the truth is he’s running more or less unopposed.

As such, Kyou interprets Yuki bringing up the hat and the fact he gave it to Tooru to be another instance of looking down on him. When Yuki dares bring up Tooru (specifically why Kyou is making her worry by ditching rehearsal), all of Kyou’s insecurities come pouring out.

He lists all the ways he sees Yuki as better—having a living mom and dad, being needed and praised by others, surpassing him easily as he desperately struggles, etc. Had they ever deigned to open up to one another, Kyou would know all those things Yuki has “over” him are more curses than blessings. What I’d give for Kyou to watch last week’s episode and the first half of this one!

Instead, Kyou sees Yuki’s expression—one not of anger but of sadness, almost on the brink of tears—and sees it as yet another instance of looking down on him. So he punches a window and storms off. This results in another welcome interaction betweeen Yuki and Machi, as Machi contradicts her classmate saying he’s the least prince-like person she knows—again, because she knows Yuki’s pain.

Kyou finds Tooru sitting in the classroom after everyone else left, and his thoughts stray towards what she was thinking about before he arrived, when she was alone. When she excitedly presents Kyou with the revised script, I was fully prepared for him to dismiss it out of hand, or even slap it out of hers, like the old Kyou; like the Kyou who might’ve resurfaced after his rant to Yuki.

Instead, he draws ever so close to Tooru, and then agrees to do the play, warning her not to laugh at him! The two share blushing looks before heading home together. The now-explicit contrast between Yuki’s and Kyou’s feelings for Tooru paves the way for potential happiness for all three of them in the future. I’m also not discounting the potential for a relationship between Yuki and Machi—stranger things have and will happen!

HenSuki – 07 – Cupid Can Only Do So Much

HenSuki takes a break from Keiki’s Cinderella investigation to focus on his duties as Designated Cupid for Koharu and Shouma. After Keiki plays the third wheel, a double date is the next phase, with Keiki selecting Sayuki as the girl who’d least interfere with what they’re trying to do (Yuika might entice Shouma; Ayano might like his stink, and Mao won’t accept Shouma going out with a girl).

Everyone has a great time, except for Sayuki, who assumed Koharu would be bad a bowling (she isn’t). Koharu beats everyone, and gets to command Shouma to call her by her given name. Later, with Keiki, Koharu declares their contract complete (she deleted his photo long ago, knowing he’d keep his promise). What’s left to do, only she can do: tell Shouma the truth about her age, and confess her love.

Keiki cheers Koharu on, but as he knows Shouma so well, also has a pretty good idea how it will go. And so it goes: as soon as Koharu shows him that blue ribbon indicating she’s older, he dumps her on the spot, citing his lolicon as a disqualifying factor in dating her. Koharu runs off crying her eyes out, heartbroken.

Later, with Keiki, Shouma admits dumping Koharu broke his heart too, and was one of the hardest things he’d ever had to do. Keiki understands that Shouma can date whoever he likes for whatever reason, but still thinks it’s bullshit for him to give such a lame reason for utterly crushing Koharu’s dreams, after she spent a year mustering the courage to even speak to him.

As Koharu is about to start deleting her pics of her and Shouma, Keiki comes in to cheer her up, telling her only Shouma is at fault here for being such a rotten guy beneath his good looks. The Two Minutes Hate is interrupted by a contrite Shouma, who suggests a compromise: between getting over his lolicon and dating her, he needs a “rehab” period.

Koharu hits back at him by saying he’s essentially asking for his cake (not “Keiki”) and eating it too; he doesn’t want to be exclusive, but also isn’t willing to cut her loose for good. In other words, he’s the worst! Koharu dials it back, saying she’s just getting back at him for dumping her so harshly.

But then, Shouma wonders why it’s so dark in the club room and turns on the lights, revealing the hundreds of candid photos of him Koharu has collected since falling for him. With that, Shouma has a very good reason for not wanting to date her…such obsessive affection would quickly turn to hate if things ever went south.

Still, I wonder if, like Keiki with all his admirers, Shouma will make good on staying friends with her. She could help him get over his lolicon, and he could help her…stop so aggressively stalking him? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – 11 – Decluttering

The sudden departure of Teresa and Alec for vague “family reasons” comes as a shock to all, especially when the reality of their absence sinks in via their now-empty apartment and desks at school. But no one is hit as hard as Mitsuyoshi, who is constantly encountering things that remind her of Teresa, and of the fact he had his chance to say something to her and blew it.

I don’t think Mitsuyoshi is mad at Teresa—nor should he be—so much as he’s angry at himself. He can’t hide his change in behavior post-Teresa from his best friend Kaoru, who quickly comes to suspect Tada liked Teresa and has been shaken by her disappearance. Kaoru wants to help him, but doesn’t have enough info, and it’s too sore a subject to broach lightly.

One friend who has no compunctions about broching sore subjects is Nyanko Big, who despite lacking thumbs is able to get into his closet and rifle through the box he filled with mementos of his time with Teresa.

Mitsuyoshi goes off on his own, and senses a great emptiness from all of the spots he’d previously visited on their last day together. Like the new tenants in the apartment, everything has changed, and there’s nothing for it but to move on. Mitsuyoshi tosses his Teresa Box in the trash.

That practical and emotional “decluttering” continues in the photo club, where he unceremoniously erases Teresa and Alec’s names from the whiteboard. Then they find an extra memory card filled with all of Teresa’s photos. They’re mostly of rocks, but the greatest treasure is the sole video file of their game of photo tag.

That’s the day Teresa and Alec truly became two of the gang, and she also managed to capture Hajime and Hinako’s unspoken love. Those memories of Teresa laughing and smiling just keep rushing through Mitsuyoshi until he can’t take it and flees home to retrieve the box from the trash, only to find it’s already gone.

He sulks in his dark room until Kaoru confronts him, though not before showing him the photo he was looking for, which Hajime submitted for him, and which won an Excellence prize. In it, Teresa is beaming, her hair flowing in the wind, rainbows reflected in her eyes. It’s an absolutely gorgeous image full of love—the photographer’s love for the subject in particular. Kaoru says there’s no way such a photo could have been taken if Mitsuyoshi didn’t feel that way about her.

Mitsuyoshi finally opens up about how angry he’s been since Teresa left, and how stupid he was to stay silent and close love out of his life. All he wants is one last chance to see Teresa and talk to her so he can tell her how he feels—even if she rejects them. Gramps comes in with the un-tossed box, telling Mitsuyoshi that now that it’s “stopped raining in his heart” it’s time to search for the rainbow that comes after; i.e. Teresa.