Urusei Yatsura – 04 – As the Crow Flies

Ataru and Lum are playing Shinobu and Mendou in a spirited game of doubles tennis, and Lum ignores pleas not to cheat by flying. Her resulting point soars so far it smacks one of the tengu crows carrying a capsule containing a slumbering space princess. It slides down the hill and flattens Mendou, and Ataru pounces on it as soon as he sees the face of the occupant.

The crow attendants are impressed not with Ataru, but with Mendou’s “slicked-back” good looks. They believe he’ll be the perfect mate for their Princess Kurama to engage in “amorous congress” with. They urge Mendou to kiss her so she’ll awaken and get down to business.

Naturally, Mendou is a little hesitant, but Ataru isn’t, and steals the kiss. Lum immediately zaps him into the stratosphere, so the first thing Kurama sees is Mendou’s handsome mug, and assumes he’s The Guy.

The four crow attendants are fine with this, but their elder is against it. Tradition dictates that the one who awakened her with a kiss become her mate, and that’s the Ataru clown.

The others want to keep that a secret, and so does Lum, who agrees to help them ensure the princess ends up with Mendou. Kurama then arrives in class and is all over Mendou, causing a huge uproar among his many admirers. Both Ataru and Shinobu try to tell her the truth, but are tied up by the crows and Lum.

Lum and the crows then set to work building an impromptu “love nest” right in the schoolyard, into which Kurama drags a still-hesitant Mendou. While he recognizes her beauty, he still feels things are going way too fast. That’s when Ataru drops in, still tied up, to tell Kurama the truth: he kissed her.

The elder crow backs this up and says tradition must be adhered to. But when Kurama asks specifically why that is and what the consequences are, he has no idea. So the crows set up a device so he can confer with the past elders of the past of their homeworld.

The elder ends up going back to the very first elder, who admits to having created the tradition from whole cloth simply because it was the way he met his own bride after a long and exciting adventure.

At the news of this, Kurama smashes the miraculous device and says to hell with such a sappy, meaningly tradition. She storms back into her nest, and Mendou follows her in to commit himself to her as her groom.

That’s when Ataru puts a big ‘ol record scratch on their moment by dropping a giant temple bell on top of Mendou, sending him into his darkness basketcase raving mode. Kurama is instantly put off by such a pathetic display and leaves.

Freed from what ended up to be a capricious and arbitrary tradition, she’s raised her standards for who should be her husband, and sets out to find someone who “checks all the boxes”, marked by an inspiring postcard memory.

Princess Kurama is another fun new character with a cool, striking design and voiced with exquisite haughtiness by Mizuki Nana. I also enjoyed her crew of adorable doting crow tengu. While I salute her for washing her hands of Mendou and Ataru, the fact she’s just as shallow as they are suggests she won’t enjoy the best luck in her pursuit of the perfect man.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Engage Kiss – 13 (Fin) – Bless This Mess

Shuu, Ayano and Sharon are fighting as a cohesive unit, but against Kanna the best they can do is maintain a stalemate. Enter Tabula Rasa Kisara, who despite having no memories decides on her own not to let what seem like nice people die in a battle with a not-so-nice person.

The addition of Kisara to the battle definitely gives Team Shuu an edge as Kanna starts to flounder a bit, but then she summons three powerful demons, which means all of the other demon hunting contractors spring into action, for the city that’s the only home they have, for honor and glory, and money too.

When even Kisara can’t quite get to Kanna’s heart to seal her, Shuu lends her power in the form of a kiss. Turns out their old contract terms work just fine, and the newly re-Hot Topic’d Kisara has a stiff second wind at her back. She keeps Kanna occupied enough for Shuu to fire his demonic bullet. Asmodeus flees from Kanna, and Kisara carves her into ribbons, sending her back to whence she came.

In the aftermath, while some demons made it to the city, there were no civilian casualties, so the contractors call it a victory. Sharon admits the Abbey will still be coming for Kisara, but at least today, Sharon won’t be the one to kill her. Wondering where a demon girl fits in a human world, Kisara gets a supportive hug from Ayano.

The Hachisukas continue their sibling rivalry for control of the city—and international coverup to maintain their autonomy. Sharon makes a joke to Ayano about spending the night with Shuu before boating off to face inquisition. Shuu visits his parents’ grave and promises his work isn’t done, but he’ll do it the right way this time.

As for Kisara, she wants Shuu to teach her all the memories she lost, which apparently includes fulfilling the role of his girlfriend. Things are about to get hot and heavy in his apartment when the lights come on to reveal Kanna gobbling up all the food in the place. While the authorities kept her restrained in the bowels of city hall, this is only the latest of several escapes.

Those escapes result not in her unleashing demons on the city or causing any damage, but inserting herself back into Shuu’s home and life and voicing her disapproval of Kisara. Now Kisara has in Kanna what Ayano has in her: a younger rival for Shuu’s attention.

With Kisara, Ayano, and now Kanna all pointing weapons at him and asking whose side he’s on, Shuu’s in the messiest mess yet. And frankly, that’s the best way for this series to end: never taking itself too seriously and gleefully embracing the mess.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Classroom of the Elite – S2 06 – The Mask Drops

The title of this episode comes from Lord Byron, but one could quote Yoda too: failure is the greatest teacher. Suzune was too busy trying to be accomplished and exceptional enough for her brother to look her way to realize that sometimes failing is the point.

While at first I thought Kiyotaka was throwing out random rumors about Kikyou being the Class D traitor, when pressed, she happily owns up to it. Without dropping her outward syrupy demeanor, she admits her primary goal right now is to get Suzune expelled.

She also offers Kiyotaka a friendly reminder that she still has evidence of him groping her if he ever tried to expose her. Not only that, she’s decided on the spot that before she can think about helping Class A, she’ll want him expelled along with Suzune.

Sudou is still angry from how things went down thus far when Suzune first approaches him, but she remains standing near the elevator when he decides to return. Suzune realize the two are alike in their obsession with seeking acknowledgment, but now she knows that going it alone won’t be enough. She asks Sudou to help her, and when he agrees, she flashes an exceedingly rare Horikita smile.

Sudou returns to the class, bows, and apologizes for being a dick, showing growth, while Suzune bows out of the final relay, meaning Kikyou will run in her place. When another student bows out, Kiyotaka takes his place, and Suzune’s brother happens to be beside him in the relay.

Manabu is impressed with Class D’s sudden turnaround after they seemed to be circling the drain, and Kiyotaka tells him whatever happened to get them back on track, it was Suzune’s doing. Manabu acknowledges that, then accepts Kiyotaka’s offer to race him.

The other two runners in their row start off before them, but it doesn’t matter: Kiyotaka and Manabu are running their own race. Not only that, they’re both so freakishly fast it doesn’t matter how big a head start the other runners had.

In the end, Team Red won while Class 1-D ranked dead last in class points. That said the results of the sports festival don’t cause a dramatic shift in the status quo. But it wasn’t a wasted opportunity for Class D, because Suzune was able to learn from her failures and grow, just as Sudou was. Suzune also now has the “weapon” in Sudou that Kiyotaka insisted she procure.

That leaves the post-festival groveling, which an honorable person like Suzune would never back out of. When she arrives before Ryuen, Kikyou is also there. Suzune, who knows she’s the Class D traitor, asks her to drop the cutesy act…and what to you know, she does! Dark Kikyou is a lot of fun, and makes no bones about her only immediate goal being to eliminate anyone who knew the “old her”—even her current ally Ryuen, someday.

Suzune gets Ryuen to discuss how he and Kikyou manipulated the sports festival from the get-go and even got Saki to pretend her injury was worse than it was. Suzune reveals she’s recording all of this on her phone, but Ryuen points out that he prefaced his explanation as “indulging her fantasy”, meaning there’s reasonable doubt he was being serious. Also, he recorded everything too, in case Suzune tried to edit hers.

Just when Suzune is ready to eat crow and grovel as instructed, Ryuen gets a text message with a third audio file: one in which he’s heard instructing Saki to intentionally injure Suzune. He claims not to know who recorded or sent him this, but he can only tip his hat to that person, as it creates a stalemate from which he and Kikyou withdraw for the time being.

Why he wouldn’t suspect Kiyotaka of being behind this move, I do not know, but that’s who I assume did it, perhaps with Kei obtaining the actual recording for her new “handler”. In any case, the triple-twist, combined with an always welcome appearance of Dark Kikyou, made for a surprisingly entertaining finish to the outing.

Considering the modest gains Class C enjoyed from the festival, I’d say this is a net win for Team Kiyotaka/Suzune, due to the aforementioned emotional growth of the latter and the former at least knowing the score vis-a-vis Kikyou’s goals.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Classroom of the Elite – S2 05 – Losing Streak

Kiyotaka suggests that Kikyou may have sold out Class D for private points from another class, and if Suzune ever wants to lead the class, having a traitor among them is an intolerable threat. When Kikyou joins them to scout Team White, Suzune comes right out and asks if Kikyou betrayed the class, and of course Kikyou denies it, asking that they trust her.

The day of the sports festival, Sudou is full of vim, vinegar, and confidence that he’ll be able to lead Class D to victory, aiming for a clean sweep. Arisu quietly observes under a tent, paying particular attention to Kiyotaka, whom she no doubt understands is D’s true mastermind.

After getting out to a comfortable lead, things start going all Scuderia Ferrari on Class D. Sudou is beaten down by a cheating Ryuen outside of the watch of any teachers. Suzune collides with a Class-C girl and injures her ankle, suspecting it was intentional. The ace of the boys is increasingly pissed off, while the ace of the girls is hurt.

When the girls lose the Piggyback Joust, Sudou vows to Hiyotaka (on whom he has a crush) that he’ll win enough for the both of them, but he loses too. Hiyotaka rattles Suzune’s cage, telling her to “be useful” for once as she’s the only one who can bring back Sudou after he flips out and quits. Kei asks Kioyotaka if there’s any chance they can come back from their deficit; Kiyotaka says he never had any intention of winning.

No, his goal is to lose as much as possible. As for why their participation list was submitted when he knew there’d be a leak, he says it was Suzune’s idea. Finally, just as Kiyotaka is trying to track down Sudou, Kikyou tells her she’s wanted in the nurse’s office, where she not only finds a severely injured Class-C girl she collided with, but Ryuen as well.

The girl, no doubt manipulated by Ryuen (her injury might not even be real, but if it is, that makes him that much more of a jerk), accuses Suzune of intentionally injuring her. Not wanting to cause trouble for her StuCo president brother, Suzune asks what she can do for the complaint to be dropped. Ryuen says he needs a million private points…and to grovel before her after the festival.

So yeah, Class D and Suzune in particular are going through some shit. When she crosses paths with her brother, she’s happy he even bothered to stop to hear her say she realizes how incompetent she is, but she’s resolved not to cause trouble for him. And all of this shit she’s enduring is being either passively or actively endorsed and/or caused by Kiyotaka.

To what end? The title of the episode is the clue: Every failure is a step to success. Kiyotaka isn’t interested in fun or easy victories. They won’t become Class A that way. No, they have to fail and suffer again and again and again, harden themselves, and use what they’ve learned from those failures to succeed when it matters most.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 02 – Youthful Indiscretion

This week our step-couple encounter their first friends, who come to them completely unbidden. Mizuto immediately pegs Kawanami Kogure as a player just trying to use him to get to Yume, but Kawanami assures him he just wants a mate. Minami Akatsuki approaches Yume during physical tests and spends perhaps too much time comparing bust sizes.

Despite being even littler than Yume, Minami is a decent athlete, which only prompts the “reinvented” Yume to try even harder at the various athletic tests. She ends up wearing herself out, but before she falls Mizuto is right there to catch her. In the nurse’s office, Yume comes clean about not being the most athletic person, and Minami is actually a little relieved, as Yume isn’t as perfect and unapproachable as she feared.

The second half of the episode is Yume’s Dizzy Fever Day, and Minami insists on visiting her new friend at her house to make some rice porridge, escorted, of course, by Mizuto. Apparently, when Yume has a fever she “travels to the past”, since she calls Mizuto “Irido-kun” and tells him she felt lonely when he left her side.

As Mizuto and Minami cook in the kitchen, Minami lets on that she knows Mizuto had a girlfriend, despite his aloof attitude, and may even have deduced that Yume was his girlfriend. As such, she asks him what would happen if he got another girlfriend.

After Minami feeds Yume in bed, possibly fulfilling a number of lifelong dreams, she then departs, leaving Mizuto and Minami alone together. Yume’s first comments upon his return are “look at you, in the kitchen with Minami”, but he says Minami is just outgoing, able to get along with anyone, even the likes of him.

Yume brings up a time when they dated when he let go of her hand while she was sick in bed, and wants to hold Mizuto’s hand again. In her feverish, vulnerable state, it’s only natural to want to embrace the familiar and nostalgic. She even gets Mizuto to provide a monologue about the time between the seventh and eighth grades when they dated, ending when “trivial disagreements piled up”.

I have to say, that doesn’t sound like the kind of horrible rancor that would keep these two apart forevermore, especially when Yume pretends to still have a fever long after it’s passed so Mizuto will keep pampering her (which is extremely cute). Even when he finds out and feigns anger, he lets it slide.

More than anything, Yume doesn’t want Mizuto to “leave her behind”. He assures her he’ll “stick around” since they’re siblings now, but as Minami gleaned, they’re more than just that. With their history, they can’t not be.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 01 (First Impressions) – Old Habits Die Hard

Irido Yume and Irido Mizuto dated in junior high, and apparently had a pretty rough breakup. Now, due to their mom and dad marrying one another, they are now stepsiblings. Naturally, their folks don’t know about their history, so Yume and Mizuto have to hide how much they loathe each other, and settle for trading barbs outside of said folks’ earshot. Already, I love it. It’s so awkward, and somewhat tawdry. I wouldn’t wish this fate on anyone!

But here’s what really makes Tsurekano interesting: as they spend more and more time together—and they can’t not, as they not only live under the same roof, but are in the same class at the same school—they both learn in just this first episode that those old feelings they once had for one another don’t take much to resurface. Yume claims the class rep mantle and gains a lot of friends fast (never her forte in the past), but it backfires when guys try to befriend Mizuto to use him as a stepping stone to ask her out.

Back home, Mizuto doesn’t let Yume express any pity for him, or even say what’s on her mind, but it’s clear it bothers her that what she did might’ve ended up hurting him. Just because you’re exes doesn’t mean you automatically stop having feelings for each other, even a sense of wanting to protect the other. She overcompensates the next day by clinging to Mizuto and saying she has a brother complex, and after Mizuto makes them supper when their folks are out, she remembers the feel of his shoulder and tries to deflect by demanding he forget.

Frustrated by how passive he’s being (and has always been), Yume finally decides to get a literal rise out of him by striding into the living room in a tiny, tightly-wrapped towel and nothing else. While he is indeed initially flustered, her victory is brief, as the towel starts to loosen. Rather than do anything brazen, he covers her up with his hoodie, knowing she didn’t think this plan through. He just knows her too well. They both know each other too well.

And because both Yume and Mizuto are in a rom-com anime, it was inevitable that one of them would slip and fall towards the other, leading to a compromising—but also familiar—position. Mizuto even calls Yume by her old name, Ayai, as he brushes her bangs back in preparation for a kiss that is really only interrupted by the sudden arrival of their parents. Yume’s lucky there’s storage in the couch they were on.

But let’s assume these two are done and done for good because they are now stepsiblings. The show has many places to go with this, from exploring how they’ll no doubt stumble and fall again into old patterns from when they dated, to how they’ll try to counter that by entering hostility-regret-truce spirals, to the underlying mystery of why they broke up.

I also loved the detail that they were both shy “nerds” who still have rooms packed with books, and are both at the top of their class. Oh, and most important: while there are times that I’m on Team No One, at the end of the day both Yume and Mizuto want to make sure their parents are happy. They’re good kids, and I look forward to watching them navigate this strange new normal.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Heroines Run the Show – 08 – Photo Finish

With the departure of Nagisa (and, it would seem, Hiyori’s makeover) the show moves on to something else…Field Day, which always ends up a lot blander than the other big school event episode archetype, the cultural festival. That said, a jock like Hiyori lives for such days, and can’t understand why no one in her class wants to volunteer to run in the mixed relay with her.

The teacher has to choose, and he ends up putting Aizou and Yuujirou on the team. The boys are grumpy, as they didn’t think they had to participate in any events, but Tamura actualy made it so their schedule was free to enjoy their “youthful high school life”. They get a lot of attention from the girls, and invoke a lot of envy in the third-year boys.

They find out from Juri and Chizuru that a bunch of girls backed out of their assigned events, and Hiyori is just doing them in their place. At first they’re worried their messy-haired friend is taking to much on, but when they see how much goshdarn fun she’s having darting around like a pinball, they relax.

The field day is also the stage for three distinct couples: one of which we already know of in Hina and Kotarou, who ace the three-legged race by being perfectly in sync. Then there’s Aizou’s brother Ken, who decides to give up his casanova ways and choose one girl, the twin-tailed, slightly tsundere-ish Arisa. Finally, it’s clear when Yamamoto points his camera at Juri that he’s the BF she’s mentioned in passing.

Yuujirou gets the motivation he needs when three third-years try to rough him up; both he and Hiyori are saved by the bell for the relay, otherwise they might’ve started something. Aizou doesn’t care about winning…until his brother is his opponent. As for the fourth unnamed member of the relay team? She’s kinda just there…and I assume she’s their teacher’s kid sister?

Unnamed girl starts the race, but passes the baton cleanly to Yuujirou, who gets to run against one of the surly jealous third-years, and even passes him with his idol smile! It’s a win for Melancholy Cats (one of the listeners of LIPxLIP’s podcast) everywhere.

I would have thought Hiyori would be the last to run, but she’s second-to-last instead, running against her senpai Hina, who builds a bit of a lead for the final handoff. Aizou and Ken slug it out, cheered on by Aizou’s entire grade and a tentative Arisa, respectively. Ultimately, Aizou wins, and in an unguarded moment of joy, Hiyori gives both members of LIPxLIP a high five.

Certain she’s made an enemy of all the school’s fangirls, instead they follow her lead and a hearty exchange of high-fives ensues. Juri then reveals to Hiyori and Chizuru that Yamamoto is her boyfriend. Everyone has a wonderful time, and Hiyori will certainly sleep well later that night. As for me? Ehh. It was a perfectly fine Heroines Run the Show, but by no means the finest.

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 06 – Raidolympic Games

This week’s grab bag of athletic segments follow a consistent pattern: Raidou and Aharen try to participate in a certain activity, Raidou initially believes Aharen is either good or sucks at said activity, Aharen and Raidou gradually get better and have a tough match, and Raidou overestimates how good they are and they both get beaten by stiffer competition.

Despite being huge and relatively fit (except for that one segment where he was tubby) Raidou isn’t that great at…much of anything. In that regard, Aharen makes for a perfect opponent for him, as she’s not that great at anyting either but when they play together, two things happen: they get a little better, and they both have fun.

After Ooshiro teaches the two how to swim, Raidou and Aharen have a half-lap race that Aharen wins by staying underwater the whole time and holding her breath. They actually play to a draw in table tennis and bowling, the former match being cut short by the bell and the latter due to a comeback from Raidou after he starts throwing underhand while Aharen’s beginner’s luck wears off.

Their fourth contest is in basketball, where usually the taller or bigger player prevails, but Aharen channels Muggsy Bogues, who played in the NBA despite being only 5’3″ (160cm) tall. Aharen, like Bogues, darts around or under the towering opponent, using her quickness to get past him. She only loses when she misses her last bucket.

After watching a violent movie together (which technically counts as a completely off-camera date?!) the two try their hand at a two-player zombie-themed first-person shooter. While Raidou initially envisions himself to Leon to Aharen’s Mathilda in The Professional (one of my favorite films), he quickly dies, and Aharen shows that her lack of judging distance means she can headshot every enemy with ease, even while dual-wielding.

When Aharen goes to the bathroom at the arcade, Raidou quickly encounters her again by the crane game, but there’s something off about her; she’s way louder and more expressive than his Aharen. Assuming (naturally) that she’s suffering a sudden bout of amnesia, he simply shows her a good time…before the real Aharen shows up and reveals that the other Aharen is actually her little brother Ren, who likes to dress in her clothes.

The final segment before credits is the shortest but sweetest, as Raidou sneezes and comments that it’s gotten cold. Aharen “runs hot” so she hugs him to warm him up. When he asks her to let go, she withdraws behind a utility pole, which is suddenly too far away. While there’s no movement on their status as a dating high school couple, they both seem happy where things are at, so it’s all good.

In the post-credits segment Ren tries on more of Aharen’s clothes, and she asks him why. His answer—because they’re cute and he loves them—is good enough for her, and when he asks if he shouldn’t, she simply gives him a hug and says it’s fine.

Aharen-oneesan unconditionally supporting her cross-dressing brother might be one of her sweetest, most heartwarming moments yet. If anyone has a problem with him, they’ll have to deal with her…and her hulking kinda-sorta boyfriend!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 05 – Golf Eve Online: Aoization

After that doomed mad dash to the golf course in a poorly chosen classic car driven by Tinarina from Raw Time, Aoi feels betrayed…until she sees Eve’s ball soaring through the sky as the plane takes off. Once back in Japan Aoi tries to get back on the first flight to Nafrece, and she’s only stopped by Shinjou.

Aoi is feenin’ for Eve so hard, she barely manages a shrug at the appearance of her top amateur rival Himekwa Mizuho, and even lets slip to her mom/sponsor Seira that she met someone amazing at the tournament. Seira immediately launches an investigation into this “Eve Aleon”.

Meanwhile, Eve can think of nothing more than getting back on the course with Aoi. She’s listless, and needs to get the doe eyes from her three kid siblings to get off her ass and hustle Mr. Kevin a sixth or seventh time. She ultimately wins, since Lily buys pizza to celebrate, but it’s touch and go at the beginning of the three-hole game.

Eve just isn’t feeling the “heat” she felt at the tournament playing Eve, and worse still, thinks she may never feel that heat playing golf again. I mean, if you can’t play with your soul mate, what’s the point of anything? I be she wishes she’d gotten Aoi’s contact info, huh?

While Aoi and Eve struggle with being apart, Rose stops by Cathy’s HQ to collect the not inconsiderable payout she got when Eve beat Dollar Tree Morticia. Cathy wants to hire Eve to work exclusively, envisioning she can “service” fans even if she loses. Rose says that sounds like a great idea but probably wouldn’t fly.

Mind you, Rose most assuredly doesn’t discourage Cathy for Eve’s sake; Eve is a tool she wants to use to make money. Cathy knows this too, and so her pursuit of Eve has probably only just begun. As for Seira’s investigation, when she learns Eve is an “illegal golfer with mafia ties” she stops worrying about Aoi having a genuine rival.

To Seira, Eve is just a “pebble” on Aoi’s otherwise smooth road to success (and succession), but to Aoi, Eve is everything. When Clara introduces Eve to the concept of VR golf and how it’s particularly popular in Japan, Eve decides to try it out, presumably in the astronomically small chance she’ll run into Aoi virtually.

I love the whole VR setup, which is the kind of advanced SAO-style full-dive tech our world has a long way to go to achieving. The details are great, from how she’s so focused on golfing she lets the attendant dress her up as a techno cat maid, to the way the course uncannily moves so she doesn’t have to.

Rose’s manipulation of Eve’s motivation is so unyielding, she not only sends a message to Aoi in the middle of the night masked as a message from Eve, and shows Eve rankings that indicate there’s one player in all of VR-dom better than her…she listens in on the two when they inevitably reunite on the course, albeit a fake one.

And what a reunion it is, what with how wildly the two are dressed and how much they missed each other after such a short time. It’s clear even seeing virtual versions of each other (which aren’t that different from their real selves) really puts a spark back into both of them after how down they felt in each other’s absences.

Still, Eve is frustrated that she can’t play Aoi on a real golf course, so Aoi gets her to promise to meet her one one someday soon. That means getting on the youth golf tour for real—without “special invitations”, but if it’s to play golf with Aoi, Eve is ready to pinky swear. She would have, too, if she wasn’t suddenly logged off.

A tearful Lily is the one who logged her off, and she has terrible news…they’re about to lose their home. Is this more Rose fuckery, as in they can buy the place from whoever is taking it if Eve wins another match for her? I wouldn’t put it past her. Either way, if there’s a way out of this crisis, I’m sure it will be golf-related. Hell, it had better be…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 04 – Snakebit

When Aoi missed her putt, Eve confronts her angrily, thinking she let her win. But Aoi admits the miss was “her mistake”—apparently no one noticed Anri flashing a laser into Aoi’s eye before she putted, including Aoi herself. But she wants to have another go at a real game with Eve, so they agree to meet back at the course at 5 AM so they can play until her flight back to Japan.

Normally Eve would be able to keep such an appointment, but Catherine cashes in on Rose’s favor to her for letting Eve into the tournament that very night, and Rose and Anri deliver her to a massive configurable underground golf course. This is just the window-lickin’ craziest shit.

Eve is Catherine’s golfer, while her opponent in a real estate deal, fellow mobster Mr. Nicolas, has hired the thoroughly corny Vipère, a vampy minx in a leather catsuit. In addition to their employers’ bet, Vipère makes it interesting for her and Eve by saying whoever loses becomes the personal property of the other for a day.

Eve is neither amused nor impressed by all this nouveau riche and faux-vampiric posturing, and simply wants to get on with the game. But every other shot she makes is totally off, and she has no idea why…until she notices the same thing most of the audience probably noticed immediately: Vipère stinks. Not at golf, but literally.

Every time Vipère unzipped the front of her catsuit near Eve, she messed up. Turns out her perfume is a sublt poisons that threw her game off just enough to almost lose. Not about to lose to a cheater with fangs and a way too active tongue, Eve uses her Yellow Bullet to drive her ball out of a bunker and straight into the hole, beating Vipère and fulfilling her favor to Rose and Catherine.

What follows is a lot of plot malarkey, unfortunately. First, Eve has Vipère drive her to the course to meet with Aoi…in Vipère’s slow antique car. Aside from it not being Vipère’s style at all (why is it yellow?) Anri was right there in the parking lot with a Jaguar XJS, which if I know Rose had a V12. Combined with the fact the distance from the underground course to the above-ground one wasn’t revealed until it became a problem, and my eyes were rolling like a Titleist on the green.

Just as Anri manufactured Aoi’s loss and Vipère almost manufactured Eve’s, the the plot tomfoolery ends up manufacturing the first major interpersonal conflict between Aoi and Eve, as Aoi waits as long as she can but has to board her flight before Eve gets there. She leaves her Pac-Man ball on the tee, but drew a tear in its eye and “Liar” on the other side.

As her plane takes off, Aoi spots Eve and her Blue Bullet taking flight. So, I guess the airport is right next to the golf course? What with that crazy golf bunker, I half-expected Eve’s golf ball to go into the jet engine, forcing it to land and giving the two a chance to play.

Of course, there’s a good chance that would have ended in fiery tragedy, so maybe it’s best Eve didn’t hit the plane….I just hope their budding friendship hasn’t been shattered irrevocably. After all, Aoi began the episode with a mistake caused by others; now that Eve was late, the two are even par, as they should be.

Komi Can’t Communicate S2 – 02 – Komi Cuddles a Kitty

The second episode of Komi’s second season is a big of a mixed bag, but it’s strongest at its extremities. The first segment is short but sweet, as we watch Komi’s detailed morning prep before opening the front door to find there is a typhoon. The power goes out and there’s scary lightning, but a call from Tadano calms her down, and her mom dare not interrupt.

The segment in which Komi speaks the most by far is followed by a rather meh Ren segment in which she desperately wants to see Komi’s underwear through her black stockings. When the reflections don’t work out, she literally jumps into a puddle to snap some pics, only to be thwarted by spatters of mud on her lens. Thankfully, Ren is “purified” not only by a sudden rainbow, but Komi’s innocent reaction to it.

The third segment involves three of the more rarely seen boys exchanging hypothetical visions of dates with the various girls in the class. If nothing else, this segment has variety, placing Najimi, Agari, Ren, Nakanaka, Agari, Inaka, and Yadano a chance to shine in idyllic date scenarios. But the best one comes from Tadano, who envisions nothing more elaborate than washing dishes beside Komi.

It’s a warm and fuzzy way to segue to the warmest and fuzziest segment—when the kitty-crazed Komi goes to a new cat café. Najimi can’t go due to their cat allergy, while Tadano bows out as well simply because he wants Komi to be more comfortable inviting others like Onemine and Kaede. None of the cats like Komi’s aura until the chonky, normally aloof “Boss Cat” Chocolat approaches her and curls up in her lap, thus filling Komi’s heart.

Chocolat counds as Komi’s 15th friend, so there are now “just” 85 to go (methinks she’ll have to befriend an entire sports team at some point).  The final segment involves a game spearheaded by Ren simply so she can get Komi to tell her “I love you.” It’s a game where the person being told those words loses if they blush or otherwise strongly react.

When it comes time for Tadano to say them to Komi, he can’t get half a word out before being DSQ’d for blushing. Komi is able to keep her composure, but excuses herself to the hallway to release some steam. Just as Tadano wishes he’d gone to the cat café with Komi, she wishes she could hear those three words for him—if only in the context of a game!

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 03 – Just Golf, Baby

Eve doesn’t half-ass anything. When given an audience with Rose’s boss, a higher-up in the Nafrece underworld, she offers up her damn body in exchange for the chance to play in the U15 Tournament. Fortunately, the boss lady rejects that offer, but I am worried about the one she accepts, which Rose brings up without Eve knowing what it is.

Whatever Faustian deal Eve is now tangled up in, all that matters is that she’s able to keep her promise to Aoi to play one round—in this case, the final round of a world tournament. Rose makes sure she looks the part, dressing her in her boss’ brand name attire and giving her a full set of clubs. After a couple episodes in street clothes, it’s great to see Eve all glowed up.

The two other girls in her team unfortunately go through hell, as Rose tells Anri, because Eve is a simple destroyer, concerned only with defeating her one opponent; Aoi, who enters the final round 9 under par. As Rose racks up a -3 in four holes Rose further describes how Eve’s style of golf methodically destroys any opponents in her vicinity, causing them to forget their own styles in a hopeless bid to keep up.

While her group mates are probably going to be feeling the negative aftereffects on their own games for many matches in the future, Aoi is spellbound by Eve’s performance. As the leader, Aoi is in the final group with the latest tee time, but she just can’t wait to get out there and play “in the same air” as Eve, who she can tell is having a blast.

Aoi begins her round knowing Eve’s score, and insists that Amane keep her updated every three holes via hand signals. Amane is fine doing this because 1.) she’ll take whatever motivation for Aoi she can get and 2.) she’s quite certain even Eve can’t hope to beat Aoi. But while Amane knows Aoi’s game like the back of her hand, she’s only seen a little bit of what Eve can do. This time, she sees more, including how accurate she can be even while driving her ball through the same woods where it got lost in her last game with Aoi.

While Eve and Aoi duel, their respective support groups watch; her classmates at the fancy Raiou Girls Academy in Japan (the architecture of which reminds me of a car dealership or auto parts store for some reason), where we meet Haruka, Aoi’s supposed rival in her homeland, and Ichina, who wants to be a caddy for someone like Aoi, not a player, and is training accordingly.

They, like Amane, and even Eve herself, believe it’s a foregone conclusion Aoi will go one point under Eve to take the win on the 18th hole. But on what should be a straightforward birdie putt misses the cup, an error so timely and uncharacteristic it makes me wonder if there’s some kind of chicanery involved. That feeling is amplified watching Rose spreading her arms at the sun like a villain about to cackle.

While I don’t forsee I’ll be the biggest fan of Eve and/or Aoi being pawns to these gangsters, this episode was 99% Eve and Aoi enjoying the absolute goddamn hell out of a match together, and however it ends, they’re going to want to play each other again as soon as possible. After all, until someone shows up who can beat either of them, they’re all they’ve got.

Komi Can’t Communicate S2 – 01 – Eighty Seven

Komi Can’t Communicate picks up where it left off: with Komi in her room, this time greeting the morning after bonking her head groggily reaching for her phone. On her window sill are three treasured photos that demonstrate how much progress she’s made making friends.

After a brief but lovely prelude of Komi making her way to school, Najimi surprises her at the shoe lockers by touching her face with her cold hand (it’s winter). Komi then does the same thing to Tadano.

After Najimi breaks the fourth wall for a bit, she has Komi ask all of her friends to write their names down in a small notepad. Out of the 100 friends she wants to make, she currently has…thirteen. That means she needs to make 87 more in just one semester!

I wonder whether this will ultimately be a matter of the final number not mattering because, well, thirteen is a lot of friends, especially when some of them haven’t gotten a segment in the anime yet!

But this season will certainly introduce more oddballs, starting with Katai Makoto, the mild mannered fellow who missed the start of school with an illness, got anxiety about going back, and bulked up and dyed his hair so now everyone assumes he’s a violent delinquent. It doesn’t help that his attempt at a friendly smile comes off as an evil smirk.

Katai’s inner monologue is completely at odds with how the rest of the class sees him, and they form a human wall arounf Komi to protect her from his delinquentness. Even so, he manages to sit down beside Komi, and the two of them, too scared to be the first to talk, simply stare each other down.

Enter Tadano, who is nice to Katai (of course) and give him a tour to refamiliarize himself with the school. But Katai thanks Komi for her silent advice, even calling her a “master of communication”.

The next segment involves a study session for upcoming exams, spearheaded by Najimi, who insists take place at Nakanaka’s, ostensibly so they can play video games. While Najimi jumps into bed and sleeps, Nakanaka and Ren get into it, aiming to determine who likes Komi more. A kind of heated RPG battle between them unfolds, with Tadano wisely staying out of it as the increasingly elaborate insults fly.

When the two girls finally turn to Komi and ask her straight-up who she values more as a friend, she writes a response that leaves no room for doubt: Both of you are important friends to me. Briefly chastened by her heartfelt sentiment, Ren and Nakanaka still decide to determine who is the better friend…through video games. Najimi, fresh off their nap, beats them both and makes sure to gloat about it plenty.

The final segment is the simplest and quietest, but also the sweetest, as the exams are underway. Komi, who only took out two pencils, drops one on the floor and breaks the tip of the other. She’s too scared to ask the teacher to pick them up (students can’t leave their desks), but Tadano picks up on her little dilemma and drops his own pencil so he can call the teacher over.

When Tadano realizes he has no eraser, Komi returns the favor by breaking hers in two and dropping half on the ground so Tadano can ask the teacher to retrieve it for him. The two are so tickled pink by their concern for one another, it makes concentrating on the exams hard, while Tadano will go on to treasure that half of Komi’s eraser like a precious gem.

If you’re like me and were itching for more Komi, you weren’t disappointed: the second season opens with more of the same characters in slightly different scenarios, combined with a new quirky character for Komi to befriend on the long and probably over-ambitious path to 100.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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