Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 11 – Twitter, Ramen, And Missed Connections

This week’s collection of stories vary wildly in tone from ludicrous to serious to unabashedly earnest and poignant—and that’s all fine, since it depicts the reality of high school life, it’s highs, lows, and MEHs. First, due to their stubborn refusal to make the first move, both Kaguya and Miyuki are letting the sand pour away in the hourglass of summer without meeting up.

When Kaguya learns Hayasaka is following Miyuki on Twitter, she decides to sign up to mitigate her loneliness. Her appalling lack of IT skills (beyond speed typing) mean poor Hayasaka’s much-needed replenishing bath is being constantly interrupted by Kaguya panicked cries for assistance. In the end, Kaguya runs into the same issue as texting or calling: she has to make the first move to follow Miyuki (garnering her mental image of Miyuki saing “how cute” for once).

Alas, she’s unable to do so and risk breaking the stalemate. She and Miyuki might describe the importance of to winning the “war of love” and preserving their pride through inaction, but the “war” is Pyrrhic, and their pride only a thin facade barely concealing their fear. Hayasaka muses at how happy they’d be if they simply acted on their obvious mutual feelings, and is envious of the depth of those feelings.

Part Two is from the POV of a “ramen connoisseur” who treats the acts of ordering, seasoning, and eating ramen as a kind of war all its own. When Chika enters the same shop, he assumes she’s lost, but all of her actions suggest a fellow connoisseur, one of “his people.”

Even when she seemingly makes missteps that detract from his respect for her, she surprises both him and the chef with increasingly choice moves, from choosing super-firm noodles that will withstand the “mini-ramen” method, crushing garlic into the broth, and even draining the bowl like a boss, something that makes the aging dude recall his youth when sodium intake was of no concern.

Chika is adorable and awesome throughout the segment in which she attains an easy victory, living her best summer life while her president and vice-president wallow in their dark rooms. One day it finally becomes too much, and both of them don their uniforms and go to school in hopes of possibly meeting the other there.

They both have the right idea, but the wrong timing, as Kaguya has already departed the office by the time a winded Miyuki gets there by bike. The ennui and melancholy so very palpable in this gorgeous third segment that takes its time, and in which no one wins. The solution to seeing each other (something both want very badly) is to simply shoot a quick text to each other, but because neither can do that, they fail to meet. The pointless war continues.

Post-credits we get a surprise fourth-segment, narrated entirely by Kaguya in monologue. She describes all of the things that have kept her, the privileged daughter of a very wealthy man, from living a normal girl’s life and experiencing the simple things people like Chika take for granted.

The segment makes no attempt to hide Kaguya’s ornate, grandiose lifestyle, but also never fails to make us sympathize with her. The lack of warmth, love, or even the sharing of a damn room with her father, who summoned her to the main house for a two-second exchange, causing her to abandon shopping plans with Chika, her sister, and Kei, is particularly devastating, as is Hayasaka’s holding of her hand for emotional support.

The segment thankfully ends on a triumphant note: no longer will Kaguya have to settle for the view of distant lights from her giant, lonely bedroom window; she’s going to the festival to see them up close, with people she cares about and who care about her in return. Maybe, just maybe, an armistice in the war of love can be reached…

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 10 – Recovering From Fevergate

Splashed across a tabloid spread, “the sleepover incident” has created fresh and lingering tension between Kaguya and Miyuki, which should go without saying: it was a major step forward, even if it was utterly innocent. Still, neither is prepared to admit the incident for what it was, or their frustration with how it turned out, resulting in heightened passive aggression.

Things boil over when there’s only one slice of cake left (Yuu ate the second), leading to an epic, hour-long battle of wills with the two insisting the other eat it, even bringing up memories that make each of them have to turn away and blush about. The eventually come around to feeding each other simultaneously, but before they can do so Chika comes in to break it up, eat both bites, leading to a loss for both of them.

In the next segment, Kaguya seeks advice from Kashiwagi, while Miyuki goes to Yuu for advice on how to resolve the issue “for a friend.” Both tell their sides of the story, and each of their confidants is outraged by the injustice, leading to both Kaguya and Miyuki qualifying those events with other factors.

By the end of it, both Kashiwagi and Yuu agree (albeit quite independently) that if nothing happened and they both properly apologized, there is nothing left to be angry about. Of course, neither knows that the reason Kaguya is upset is that Miyuki didn’t even try to lay a finger on her.

Miyuki confronts her in the hall and says that he actually, did, but it was only one finger on her lips. Sufficiently satisfied (not to mention elated beyond belief), Kaguya returns the favor by touching his lips with her finger, making them even. This is how despite starting out in a state of tug-of-cake-carnage, both come out winners.

Now fully made up and back to normal, the term ends and Summer Vacation is about to begin. Both Kaguya and Miyuki are relying on Chika to use as a co-ed conduit to hanging out with each other without exposing how they feel (even though, if they’re honest, they already did that with the lip-touching).

Unfortunately for them, and as Kaguya quietly predicted, attempting to control Chika into getting your way is a lot tougher than you’d think. She’s off to Hawaii for a week in the Summer, and thus won’t have time for any other trip of that length, so she’s pretty much out. That’s when Yuu chimes in, wanting to make memories with his senpai.

That gives Miyuki an opening to suggest the end-of-Summer fireworks festival, which all four agree upon (Chika and Kaguya with particular enthusiasm). The only problem is, the August 24 date doesn’t work for Chika, who’ll be at a “tomato festival in Spain.”

No matter—Kaguya and Miyuki are committed to not wasting the vacation without ever hanging out with each other, and now they’ve found a new willing, and more malleable co-ed conduit to do so in Yuu. Could such a scenario provide the necessary conditions for either of them to move past feverish bed-sharing and coy lip-touching? We will see…

Zombieland Saga – 07 – A Truly Shocking Performance

(Apologies for the horrible pun that titles this post.—Ed.) Last week’s episode proved ZLS is far more than just a venue for Miyano Mamoru’s manic voice performances or a showcase for idol-dancing CGI. It can also do serious character drama. How would it resolve the generational rift between Franchouchou’s dual aces?

With Junko unwilling/unable to continue in this new and scary idoling world and holed up in one of the mansion’s many rooms, Ai commits to doing Junko’s part as the days to Saga Rock count down, even as the strain causes her head and limbs literally fall off (kudos to the foley artists for appropriately gross sound effects as the zombies move about).

Even Lily admits there may be nothing any of them can to to convince Ai to come back. Sakura asks Tatsumi for help, but he shouts her away. Even so, Tatsumi later breaks down the barricade Junko had built over the door and, surprisingly enough, provides the sober voice of reason. He acknowledges Junko’s fear of how things have changed in the last thirty years, but assures her the calling of idol is no less noble than it was in her time.

He also suggests something Junko didn’t consider a possibility: that if she doesn’t want to get so close to her fans…that she just shouldn’t. She can still sing and dance with the others while continuing to carry the Showa flag and live the life she’s most comfortable with.

He also reminds Junko that she’s not the only one with fears as a result of waking up a zombie in a strange time and place. He informs her how Ai died, and the weather forecast for the festival, and how Ai is going forward to face her fears. Considering she’s already dead, what harm would it do Junko to give this idol thing one last try?

With that, Tatsumi leaves Junko with her outfit for tomorrow’s festival…and a casual order to fix the door he busted (hey, this is still a comedy first and foremost). The next morning everyone waits as long as they can, but then pack into the van without Junko.

Just as they start off, Junko heroically leaps over the mansion gate lands in front of the van…which absolutely pummels her, in such a similar fashion to Sakura’s own demise it sparks a vague memory for her. Like a zombie horror movie, Ai slowly gets up…but not to eat brains; to join her fellow members of Franchouchou, all of whom but Ai run to embrace her.

Still, Ai decides to bury the hatchet as the group prepares for their show, promising Junko she’ll have her back. Tatsumi liberally sprays shoe waterproofing all over the girls so their makeup won’t melt in the coming rains.

The others join Ai as she watches her old group Iron Frill knock it out of the park (without anyone getting roasted by lightning). Why the more popular band would open for unknowns like Franchouchou, I have no idea, but that plot contrivance is only one of a long chain of them that, IMO, somewhat mar the group’s biggest moment yet.

While Iron Frill’s dancing and singing was 2D animation, the show breaks back out the smoother-moving but still far creepier CGI models of the Franchouchou members. I remain mostly unconvinced this was the best way to animate them performing, as it really pulls you out of the otherwise 2D world of the show.

Technical aspects aside, I liked how the storms made Ai so frightened she couldn’t sing properly, threatening to make their big break a disaster right from the start (the rain also forces much of Iron Frill’s crowd to flee, combined with the fact they don’t know who Franchouchou is). I liked Junko having Ai’s back even better, especially when Ai said she’d have hers. Junko may have nerves too, but they don’t relate to performing in a thunderstorm.

The idols regroup and finish out their first song strong, but the entire stage is suddenly destroyed by lightning, making real Ai’s worst nightmare: a repeat of the events that killed her. However, due to them already being dead and zombies (and perhaps the thick coats of spray Tatsumi applied), their exposure to lightning only makes them glow, and makes their voices distorted.

The group proceeds to perform their last song in “autotune” remix mode, their bodies providing the only light on the stage, and occasionally shooting lightning beams out of their fingers. This sequence of events represents a new level of preposterous-ness for the show.

While a show about zombie idols already demands one to suspend disbelief about quite a number of things, the piling on of absurd events culminating in glowing idols shooting lasers while singing autotune…was just a bit much.

The attitude that created this sequence seems to be: “So we carefully crafted a nuanced character conflict between Junko and AI rooted in generational differences…but SCREW ALL THATAnything goes when they take the stage; nothing has to make sense!” Never mind the fact that there were zero consequences for Junko not practicing with the group for weeks. I know she’s one of the best from her time, but no one’s that good!

All that criticism aside, the festival, ridiculous as it was, had the intended effect of getting Franchouchou much-needed publicity, as news of their “illuminating” performance at Saga Rock ends up published in a magazine. We’ll see how that translates into cash to fund their operation, but more importantly how it heightens their statute in the idol world, and how they’ll respond to that increased fame.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 06 – Rainy Days are The Worst. Rainy Days are The Best.

After a cold open involving Hirotaka and Kabakura being photographed doing BL roleplay, we rewind to Narumi and Hirotaka both forgetting their umbrellas, despite being adults. Kabakura isn’t worried about any of his effects getting wet, so lends them his umbrella.

Hirotaka switches both the side he’s on (so she doesn’t get splashed by cars) and the position of his bag so smoothly, Narumi takes note of it in her inner monologue, and it’s further evidence he’s legit boyfriend material. Meanwhile a soaking wet Kabakura encounters Koyanagi and asks if she’ll share her umbrella, and rather than say he gave his to their friends, he says he forgot it, and gets doted on by a concerned Koyanagi.

For her part, Koyanagi professes her hatred for rainy days because her shoes get wet, but when she invites herself to Kabakura’s for dinner and he invites her to spend the night, she professes her love for rainy days. So basically, she and rain are like Asuka and Shinji.

Then we see why Hirotaka and Kabakura were posing like would-be lovers: to cheer up Narumi. Hirotaka can sense something’s up, but Narumi is being all coy with false smiles and “it’s nothing really, don’t worry about it.”

Finally, Hirotaka waits for her after work and continues to pursue the issue, going so far as to ask if he’s “so undependable” she can’t tell him what’s up. Finally, she relents, and it turns out to be nothing; a character in a manga she (and Kabakura) liked died.

If it were something genuinely troubling, would Narumi have told him? I like to think so, but even not, sometimes it pays to be persistent when someone is trying to spare you trouble or worry…and in this case, Hirotaka already was worried.

Finally, Christmas approaches. There’s talk of Santa and when Narumi, Hirotaka, and Naoya stopped believing in him. Nao, in a thin and much-less-warm-than-it-looks Santa costume handing out free coffee outside Starbucks, states that he never stopped believing in Santa; his definition of who it was simply shifted to anyone you love or are connected with who makes you happy. Narumi praises Nao as a saint.

Last year’s Christmas was The Worst for Koyanagi. Sure, she had plenty of time to make a wicked awesome costume, but the reason she had that time is that Kabakura spent the holiday working his ass off, and they didn’t even speak to each other until the new year had some.

This year Koyanagi assumes it will be more of the same, and that she simply has to make peace with the fact her boyfriend is a workaholic. But as office elevator doors close, Kabakura suddenly teleports from his desk to the doors, forcing them open and joining Koyanagi.

He ends up taking her to a super fancy and exclusive restaurant, the reservations for which he made over a half-year ago, and the cost of which he worked extra hours to afford. Koyanagi, appreciative of his efforts, presents him with the gift of a limited-edition event item.

Hirotaka and Narumi stay in for Christmas Eve, eating takeout, drinking beer and wine, and playing video games together. Both couples look like they’re having nice Christmases.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 05 – He’s with Me, and She’s with Him

Hirotaka and Narumi are not kids anymore, and the former is far removed from his “bad boy” days when he thought getting an earring and acting like an adult would help him become one quicker. In hindsight, he wondered what his past self’s big rush was; he’d much rather stay a kid. Being surrounded by games and toys from childhood certainly helps.

That philosophy works against Hirotaka the adult when he stays up playing games all night on a weekday, making him a virtual corpse at the office. It’s a downside, but at the end of the day a small price to pay for You Doing You.

Still, an unconscious Hirotaka is hardly interesting, so Narumi heads to the Starbucks for a grotesquely elaborate frappé she orders entirely in English, and the barista is a super cute! Not only that, they soon realize they actually know each other.

Kabakura and Koyanagi are also there. Kabakura, who’s always carried a torch for Narumi, is stunned by Koyanagi’s assertion that the blond kid is likely an exe. But while Koyanagi tries to take the high road and stay out of it, her and Kabakura start feeding off each other with increasingly hypothetical theories.

Then Koyanagi texts Hirotaka to come, and she and Kabakura learn the truth is somewhat more mundane: the blond kid, Naoya, is Hirotaka’s 19-year-old little brother.

Naoya asks to stay at Hirotaka’s (it’s closer to his college), and Narumi extends the invitation to the whole gang. Soon, the core quartet has dropped its guard and starts talking about obscure things Naoya doesn’t quite understand because he’s a normie.

That normie-ness is borne out by an evening of complete gaming ineptitude (while Hirotaka, ever the big brother, simply plays as though Nao isn’t his partner and wins anyway, before passing out again).

When the time comes for everyone to head home, Nao offers to walk Narumi to the station, and Kabakura springs to attention, warning him she already has a girlfriend. Even I slightly suspected that Nao was using a pure-and-innocent act as a front for his playboy-ness, especially when he acted dumb about what he was doing.

However, after Koyanagi leans in to kiss Kabakura and explains the relationships in the room, Nao demonstrates he really is that pure and innocent. He breaks into tears not because he’s lost Narumi to his brother, but because he’s so happy his brother has somebody, and always hoped that somebody would be Narumi.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 04 – Love Could Be Labeled “Poison” and We’d Drink It Anyway

I’m of the mind you’re never too old to cry at anime. I speak from experience! WotaKoi hasn’t made me cry yet, but it does agree with me on this point, as Narumi demonstrates to Hirotaka with a lunchtime screening of Sailor Moon.

It also tells some truths about people who are very into things being drawn to each other, even if they aren’t super-into the same things. That’s certainly the case with our two couples, but it doesn’t change the fact that their partners are constantly surprising one another with how their differing tastes and desires mesh—or clash—with their own.

Hirotaka happily goes along with Narumi’s desire to have him cosplay as a woman for a photoshoot, and the execution is successful enough to fool Kabakura. But Kabakura doesn’t go along with Koyanagi at all, and even if they get along part of the time, they never seem to waste an opportunity to fight with one another…which isn’t always entertaining for bystanders!

Ultimately Koyanagi gets what she wants by bribing him with a rare figurine he’s really into. As we saw last week with the two at Hirotaka’s house, they are capable of showing great sweetness and tenderness to each other, but Kabakura’s embarrassment with certain aspects of their relationship can lead him to lash out, and Koyanagi gives as good as she gets.

In another example of differing styles, Narumi responds with Hirotaka’s incredibly colorful and verbose text communication with a simple, samurai-esque “at your pleasure.” Both Koyanagi and we learn that the two have always communicated this way, and that Hirotaka’s face can’t keep up with his words or moods, resulting in his usual stoic face.

The purpose of his text(s) was to invite Narumi out for drinks, and since Kabakura is also coming, she should invite Koyanagi too. The four revel in going out for drinks for the first time, but Koyanagi proves to be a quick and volatile drunk, and while he seems able to hold his liquor better, Kabakura proves no less volatile.

Narumi and Hirotaka try and fail to keep the two from blowing up, until a botched making-up session results in Koyanagi storming out. Narumi catches up to her, and she’s sobbing real tears.

The booze brought out her most vulnerable and insecure side; the side that worries that Kabakura acts the way he does because he’s not happy with her; that theirs is a relationship of convenience because they’re both otaku; that he’d rather be with a cute girl like Macross F’s Ranka Lee.

Kabakura is hella mean throughout the night (must he keep calling the clearly attractive Koyanagi an “ugly hag”? He does not.), and his joking around and blithe insults come across as callous and cruel considering Koyanagi’s worried state. But at least he has the good sense to stop—eventually—and let her cry on his shoulder.

The things drunk Koyanagi talked about lead Narumi herself to wonder if Hirotaka would rather be with a non-otaku. Hirotaka can sense her unease, but makes it clear to her he’s not dating her because she’s an otaku or because it’s easy, but because he loves seeing her do the things she likes, and always has, even if they’re not always the same things he likes.

The fact this episode featured not one but two incidences of the women being worried about whether they’re good enough for the men made it feel a bit unbalanced. Then again, I can totally buy that Kabakura acts the way he does sometimes because he’s just as anxious about his self-worth as Koyanagi apparently is.

In any case, I’m really enjoying watching the intricacies of the two couples’ relationships unfold before us. One has been an official couple for far longer, but both have history and just feel right…warts and all.

My Girlfriend Is ShoBitch – 03

Honestly, one of the worst things about ShoBitch is its title: it should actually be called Watashi no Kanojo wa Totemo Iidesu. (ほんとに私の彼女はとてもいいです。or My Girlfriend is Really Nice). Because Akiho is not a bitch! She just goes way beyond what is decent in normal daily conversation when it comes to analyzing her boyfriend’s sexual preferences.

Now we learn the reason she is the way she is: her mother Fuyumi gave her this “education.” Haruka learns this rather quickly upon meeting Akiho’s mom, while Akiho’s dad is essentially…Haruka, grown up. You can kinda see in his eyes that it’s been a lot of work living with Fuyumi, but the fact that every other aspect of her is perfect (like their daughter), he has no cause to complain.

In fact, Fuymi is almost too dutiful, to the point of making her husband feel like there’s no way he deserves someone so good. Then he remembers: not everyone could put up with all the innuendo…not to mention imbue their daughter with an almost identical attitude towards…that kinda stuff.

The day of Akiho and Haruka’s first date arrives, and Akiho predictably over-analyzes and over-prepares, to the point of deciding that 30 degrees is the ideal amount of head tilt to maximize her attractiveness to her man, which…yeah, Haruka doesn’t care about your head angle, especially when you’ve got such a cute outfit for the date!

Haruka runs into a bit of bad luck when across from him and Akiho is a real-life pervert with what looks like a blow-up doll-kinda thing(?), and Akiho takes comprehensive notes on both that and the movie they go to see, which is far raunchier than Haruka thought it would be.

That being said, Haruka, like Akiho’s father, is built for this kind of relationship, able to take any and all strange comments and requests, and only gently steer her back in the right direction of things veer off too far. Just being with her for the day made him happy, but that only makes Haruka feel bad for letting her research dominate the date.

Haruka says it’s no biggie; they can just go see the cherry blossoms on Sunday. The thought of another date so soon fills Akiho with joy, but she goes right back into her pattern of over-preparation, and she’s so anxious about the day she becomes sleep-deprived and even gets a fever.

After a trip to the (very inappropriate) nurse’s office and her mother picks her up, Akiho vows to get better for Sunday, and Haruka, not getting his hopes up, is shocked to discover on the day of their date her fever has disappeared. Let’s call it an efficient immune system, shall we?

Alas, most of the cherry blossoms already fell before they got there. Akiho is crestfallen, but again, Haruka reiterates that it’s no big deal (not a lot is  big deal to him, unless she’s on her knees before him in the school hall, speaking in a tone of voice that could be easily misinterpreted).

They can always come back next year, he tells her. Insinuating they’ll be together an entire year from now is awfully bold, but I don’t currently see anything getting in their way. I mean, look how happy Akiho is to hear that!

Speaking of ‘getting in the way’, I was glad none of the other girls in Haruka’s circle made an appearance this week; after the last episode I needed a break, and the show shines best when the lead couple is on screen. It was also neat to meet Akiho’s parents—It was essentially like looking into Akiho and Haruka’s future.

My Girlfriend Is ShoBitch – 02

After Haruka learns Akiho is a lot less comfortable sharing an umbrella in the rain than walking in it and getting her shirt wet (revealing that she’s not nearly as raunchy as all the research she’s collected suggests), we spend a seemingly impossibly long time with Haruka’s moe sister Kana, who is really annoying.

She’s only a year younger than her brother, and learning he has a girlfriend is a shock. Thankfully, after meeting Akiho, Kana realizes it’s not the end of the world; indeed, after some posturing, the two get along swimmingly, much to Haruka’s relief (and after clearing up some misunderstandings)

Akiho is class rep, which means it’s her job to fire up the class to do a formal cleaning, which she does with a stirring speech that inspires the boys about not letting their rooms get so dirty their moms clean them and find their dirty mag stashes.

Akiho is very prone to misunderstandings, so when she hears two guys equate switching girlfriends to discarding trash, she gets very nervous. Luckily Haruka is a sentimental guy who doesn’t like to throw stuff out, but treasure his “personal belongings”, which she also takes as meaning she’s safe from being discarded.

After watching an anime perpetuating the girlfriend making lunch for her boy, Akiho exposes one of her weaknesses (besides taking almost everything anyone says or does the wrong way): she’s a bad cook. What a shocker! Interestingly, Haruka doesn’t even get to try the eldritch abomination; Akiho keeps it away.

Instead, after seeing how good Shizuku is, she begs her senpai to be her cooking master, and in between the inappropriate arrangement of vegetables and the use of many a double entendre, they whip up a mean pot of beef stew.

When Shi asks for Haruka’s banana for desert, he seemingly calls her bluff, making her flustered…but he’s really just giving her his banana (this was a stretch, as they’re in Shi’s house, so they’re her bananas, surely).

Haruka walks Akiho home, but it’s raining again. Both have their own umbrellas, but Akiho decides to take a little step forward by pretending she doesn’t, so she and Haruka have to share, and walk close together so as not to get wet.

ShoB***ch is the definition of pleasant, lightweight rom-com fare. I still found Kana and Shizuku a bit too intrusive this week, and I’m hardly optimistic about the prospect of still other girls entering Haruka’s orbit, gumming up the works. While they’re tolerable at the moment, the show shines when it’s just Haruka and Akiho, with Yuuki Aoi delivering a nice low-key performance with the occasional burst of passion.

My Girlfriend Is ShoBitch – 01 (First Impressions)

Shinozuki Haruka finally summons the guts to confess to the beautiful class rep Kousaka Akiho (an excellent Yuuki Aoi). To his surprise, Akiho immediately consents to be his girlfriend. So this is going to be one of those romantic comedies where the MCs are already a couple, not trying to be one.

Comedy, then, will arise out of the contrasts in how they view one another as people, as well what they each regard as a “normal” romantic relationship to be. It’s both their first romance, but while Haruka is fine with taking things nice and slow, Akiho…well, it’s not that she doesn’t as well, it’s just that she assumes that as her boyfriend Haruka will want more.

I mean, she’s not wrong: we’re introduced to Haruka fantasizing about Akiho lifting her skirt to reveal she’s going commando. It’s just that her matter-of-fact assertions of her awareness to Haruka’s more carnal nature subverts instilled romantic mores that promote a careful and deliberate courtship, thus delaying immediate carnal gratification.

It’s just that Kousaka Akiho has clearly taken to the role of girlfriend with the same care and fastidiousness that net her the class’s highest test scores. She’s done her homework…but her self-training needs to be adjusted from “TV-MA” to “TV-PG”.

That being said, I enjoyed her deadpan delivery of all sorts of sordid things—as well as Haruka’s reactions, which range from bashful to exasperated. The bits are quick come in quick succession in a satisfying rhythm, whether it’s between Haruka and Akiho, Haruka and his childhood friend and “big sis” Shizuku, or all three.

Shizuku has a lot of fun teasing Haruka by not leaving him alone, and one would that by getting himself a girlfriend he’d have to endure a little less of her teasing, but for the moment her primary goal is to get the two a little bit closer.

Unfortunately for Haruka, Shizuku only reinforces Akiho’s inaccurate assumption that she must be always think of ways to maker her and Haruka’s relationship more “extreme.” Haruka manages to get through her head that he’s not like that, and that the two of them get to choose the pace, not Shizuku.

That’s a triumphant moment, because it reveals (if it wasn’t already apparent) that Akiho herself would prefer a less “extreme” pace to their courtship—though she’s sure to keep surprising him with the things she’s researched about romance.

I’m not 100% sure what “ShoBitch” means, but it sounds like too harsh a term to describe the docile, intelligent, thoughtful Akiho. In keeping with its off-putting title, My Girlfriend is ShoBitch toes the line between charming and overly indulgent.

While unlikely, it’s not preposterous that a studious, socially awkward class rep like Akiho could develop an “advanced” (i.e. more adult) ideal of romance (to match her advanced academic facility), and the one guy bold enough to ask her out would be both rewarded and tested. This is worth another look.

Kizumonogatari III: Reiketsu-hen

Araragi Koyomi has beaten Dramaturgy, Episode, and Guillotinecutter with relative ease, and secured his master Kiss-Shot’s four extremities.
This third movie isn’t about that mission; that’s over now. It’s about everything that comes after, and how we get to Kiss-Shot being at full power to the greatly diminished state in which we were introduced to her in 2009’s Bakemonogatari.

Kiss-Shot promised Koyomi she’d make him a human if he got her arms and legs back, and while Oshino was meant to be Koyomi’s fourth opponent—he in possession of Kiss-Shot’s heart—he is satisfied that the balance has been restored. He not only surrenders the heart, but forgives Koyomi’s 5 million in debt before taking off.

So, will Kiss-Shot keep up her end of the bargain she struck with Koyomi? She’s certainly happy to be in her 26-year-old form; giddy, even. They meet on the roof of the cram school and talk simply like two old chums.

Kiss-Shot tells Koyomi about her first servant, whom she lost to suicide (she tells him more about this during Onimonogatari), and pulls Kokoro-watari, a memento from that time, out of her body.

After watching Kiss-Shot frolick on the roof, Koyomi realizes he’s a bit hungry, so volunteers to pick up some snacks at the local 7-Eleven while Kiss-Shot ‘prepares’ to restore his humanity.

Upon his return, he discovers the nature of that preparation: Kiss-Shot graphically devouring Guillotinecutter, then wondering where Koyomi’s “mobile snack”, i.e. Hanekawa is.

It’s a devastating revelation to Koyomi that yeah, when Kiss-Shot is talking about food she’s talking about humans. She feeds on humans, and he not only saved her life, but restored her to full power. As he rages in the gym equipment room, blaming himself for Guillotinecutter’s death, Hanekawa pays him a visit.

As far as Koyomi’s concerned, he doesn’t deserve to get his humanity back after everything he’s done. He doesn’t even deserve to live, and certainly doesn’t want to live to the point where he sees Tsubasa as food. He’s already disgusted with the fact that the three hunters he defeated were on the side of justice.

Tsubasa, not surprisingly, has his back when he doesn’t have his own. She’s made her selfishness known to Koyomi, and she wants to see him next term, so he can’t die. Besides, throwing away all he’s accomplished thus far would just be running away. Even if he eats her, she’s fine with it, because she wouldn’t call someone a friend unless she’s willing to die for them, no matter the reason.

No, pointing the blame on and killing himself isn’t the right path for Koyomi. Not when he’s the only one who has a chance against a Full Power Kiss-Shot. Knowing he has to go up against her, Koyomi asks, for the first time ever, if he can touch Tsubasa’s boobs, in order to “build up his tolerance” for Kiss-Shot’s own substantial bust.

That attempt goes bust, however, when Tsubasa is more than willing to let him fondle her boobs and even take her maidenhood if he likes, but he chickens out and instead gives her a weak shoulder massage.

Hitagi may end up being Koyomi’s beloved, but there can be no doubt who his best friend is after watching these movies. Because all this takes place before he even meets Hitagi, Tsubasa is free to be the one and only girl, and thus one hell of a best one.

Alright, no more fooling around, it’s time to fight his master Kiss-Shot, who makes one hell of a fiery, explosive entrance in the stadium, the venue of their duel. Kiss-Shot know realizes she was insensitive in being so casual about how she took her meal. With that in mind, she asks him to return to her side, but of course he can’t, because she ate someone.

Koyomi saved her life, and won back her limbs, because she was weak. Once she was no longer weak, and Koyomi saw what she was capable of, he essentially woke up from the spell he had been under. At an impasse, they begin to go at it.

Because they’re both immortal, quick-healing vampires, it’s an absolutely bonkers fight, with heads and limbs flying all over the place, oftentimes sprouting back up before the old parts faded away. But as bloody and brutal as it is, the fight is a stalemate, with neither party able to inflict lasting damage on the other.

Once again unable to stay away when her friend is in need, Tsubasa tells Koyomi something isn’t right, and it’s something everyone but Koyomi would have realize by now: Kiss-Shot wants to be killed; it’s the only way for Koyomi to get his humanity back.

When Kiss-Shot tries to lash out at the interfering Tsubasa, Koyomi (or rather, his head and some neckbones) latch on to Kiss-Shot’s neck, and he starts sucking her blood, a lot of it, until fully half of it is gone, leaving her shriveled and powerless.

But he doesn’t want Kiss-Shot to die.

Instead, he wants everyone to get what they want; everyone to be satisfied. So he calls out to Oshino, whom he knows is watching, and hires him (for five million) to come up with a solution. Unfortunately, no amount of money will change the fact that it’s impossible for everyone to be satisfied.

So instead, Oshino, true to his nature of attaining balance everywhere he can, proposes a way for everyone to be dissatisfied in equal measure. Kiss-Shot can live on as pseudo-vampire mimicking a human, robbed of all her power and dependent on Koyomi to survive.

Koyomi, meanwhile, will become a pseudo-human mimicking a vampire; and both will continue to live, and the risk to humanity will be greatly reduced, but not completely eliminated. Koyomi won’t let Kiss-Shot die, so he takes the deal.

Fast-forward to August and the beginning of a new term for Koyomi and Tsubasa. He still heals quickly for a human, but not nearly as quickly as he was. He also views the world differently now that he can walk in the sun again, something Tsubasa thinks is very positive.

Koyomi pays a visit to Oshino at the cram school to give what’s left of Kiss-Shot some of his blood. On the roof, Oshino characterizes the situation thusly:

What you remember of a vampire eating someone…is like the disillusionment of watching a cute cat devour a live mouse.

And here you are, having chosen to keep your own little vampire like a pet.

You’ve dulled its fangs, pulled out its claws, crushed its throat and neutered it, right?

You, who was once treated as a pet, are getting back at your former master by treating her as one…not a moving tale, is it?

Well, it was, and is, most definitely a moving tale, but I prefer Koyomi’s more poetic way of characterizing it:

We, who hurt each other so terribly, will sit here licking each others wounds. We damaged goods will seek the other out in comfort.

If you are to die tomorrow, I’m fine with my life ending then as well.

But if you want to live for me for one more day, I’ll go on living with you today as well.

And thus begins a tale of kindred bound by their scars.

Soaked in red and written in black, a story of blood.

One of which I’ll never speak.

Our very own, precious as it is, story of scars.

And I have no intention of reciting it to anyone.

It’s not just a beautiful way to end this fantastically epic prequel trilogy, but an artfully powerfully-stated mission statement for all of the stories in the Monogatari Series that follow chronologically. It’s inspired me to re-watch Nekomonogatari (Kuro) and then Bakemonogatari from the beginning, with a new appreciation for where Koyomi has been, andthanks to the recently completed Owarimonogatari—where he’s going.

Finally, major kudos to Kamiya Hiroshi, Horie Yui, and Sakamoto Maaya; all three elevated these movies that much more with their layered, engaging performances.

Sore ga Seiyuu! – 12

sgs121

Ichigo’s foot is hurt, and though she tries to hide it, both Futaba and Rin know it’s hurt. The success of the concert is in jeopardy, but both of them care more about her health. Ichigo, not wanting to let everyone down, assures her she can do it, and makes the others promise not to tell Kaibara. Her foot, her terms, it would seem.

sgs122

However, after watching Hocchan on TV and bumping into her at the studio (not recognizing her at first because of her disheveled off-stage appearance), Futaba gets yet another invaluable piece of advice, this time about units: everything is shared amongst everyone, be it happiness, hardship, or pain. That means the foot isn’t just Ichigo’s problem and Ichigo’s call, it’s the unit’s. Rin agrees with Futaba, and Ichigo tells Kaibara, who naturally freaks out.

sgs123

However, the Earphones haven’t gotten this far without overcoming hardship (or lack of natural dancing talent, in Futaba’s case.) So Ichigo gets taped up, and both Rin and Futaba will pick up her slack in the dancing department, rearranging choreography to lessen the strain on Ichigo’s foot, doing a slow song while seated, etc. Konno even finds a clever way to conceal Ichigo’s swollen foot: fuzzy leg warmers!…Which at least to me call to mind the soft padding of earphones.

sgs124

In order to balance out the proportions of their look (with their $5000 outfits…geez Kaibara!), they also go out wearing bunny ears, and while the first tense few moments after they take the stage they worry they’ll be laughed right back off of it, but the full house of nearly 500 (480 to be exact) end up digging the cuteness.

The trio goes out with everything they have, powered by Futaba’s pre-concert motivational speech that was the culmination of everything she’s learned from working with pros like Hocchan, and while Ichigo stumbles, she doesn’t fall, because Futaba and Rin take hold of her and keep her upright. The unit even gets a call for an encore.

It’s an unforgettable night for the Earphones; far more of a success than any of the girls could have hoped for, especially considering the setback with Ichigo’s foot. But they pulled it off with aplomb, and it was immensely rewarding to watch them do so.

9_ses

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 09

ook91

At this point, I know what makes Sata and Erika work, and I know it’s a strong bond forged in hellfire that isn’t going anywhere. The show is keen to reinforce that with “challenges” to their relationship that rarely last longer than an episode or two, rather than introduce threats for the sake of stoking drama.

ook92

Not only does Kamiya Nozomi believe he can ‘convert’ Sata into someone like him, but his charisma and persistence make us believe he can, too, at least early on. He’s the kind of ‘final threat’ that could take a show right to the end.

Ookami, meanwhile, proceeds to demonstrate just how doomed Nozomi’s crusade really is, without creating yet another relationship dilemma for Erika and Kyoya. In fact, Erika is glad Nozomi is sticking by Kyoya’s side; she knows how nice it is to have normal friends like Marin, Aki, and Ayumi.

ook93

Nozomi believes Kyoya is resisting his instincts, and so throws gorgeous girl after gorgeous girl at him in hopes of “waking him up.” In the process, Nozomi is callously using his admirers as tools and bait…and Kyoya isn’t biting. I felt bad for Miho, Nozomi chooses, because she’s an innocent bystander in this. Nozomi is presenting Kyoya as an unattached suitor, which isn’t the case.

ook94

Nozomi doesn’t quit while he can, but rather turns to more extreme tactics. It only takes two seconds for the girls to respond in the affirmative to his request they sneak into his room that night, and he sets up a “Who’s the King” game with the specific purpose of getting Kyoya to kiss Miho.

Again, it’s a cruel use of both the girls and guys, and underlines the fact that it isn’t Kyoya who has ‘something wrong’ with him. Even when Nozomi takes things to a point where he thinks Kyoya has no choice but to be kissed by Miho, Kyoya shuts her, and Nozomi, down.

ook95

Foiled yet again, Nozomi is increasingly desperate and seems out of ideas, going back to the fact that he has 500 girls’ emails, all of whom worship him and would do whatever he wants, which he equates with enjoying life 500 times more than Kyoya with his plain girlfriend.

To this, Kyoya offers his interpretation of Nozomi’s situation, with classic Kyoya ruthlessness: “It doesn’t matter how much trash you pick up; You’ve just got a pile of trash.” The wording is way too harsh on the girls, but the point is, quality (of relationships, not merely looks) over quantity. Not only that; Kyoya has already been down the road Nozomi is on. He knows exactly where it leads.

A case in point occurs just after Kyoya bits him goodnight, when one of Nozomi’s 500 shows up and he puts the moves on her, wanting comfort in his time of vulnerability and defeat. She recoils: someone asked her out (Kimura, from episode 2!), and she accepted, so they can’t hang out anymore.

ook96

Now Nozomi has 499 girls…but the loss of that one was his awakening, because deleting her made him feel absolutely nothing. He looks at Kyoya and Erika, so devoted to each other and so embarrassing in their flirtation, and for the first time really sees them.

Now he starts to get excited about finding a girl — one girl — who could be as special to him as Erika is to Kyoya. A girl who would make him feel bad (or at least feel something) if she dumped him. I’m not saying Nozomi’s lifestyle is something to avoided, and I don’t think the show is trying to make that point either.

What it is saying is that it’s far to easy to convince oneself that that’s the life for you. Kyoya once thought so, but he, and now Nozomi, have learned that it isn’t.

9_ses

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 08

ook81

Our fake couple is now a real couple, but the show wastes no time blemishing their perfect cherry blossom date by teasing the next fly in the ointment: Kamiya Nozomi, the Red Prince.

ook82

Oh, and about that date: Kyoya only agreed to go because he lost rock-paper-scissors. And once on this date, he feels he’s under no obligation to do anything with Erika other than look at the trees. His uncooperative, unromantic attitude sparks an argument with Erika after he refuses to go on a boat ride. Trouble in paradise so soon? But of course; this is Kyoya and Erika we’re talking about!

ook83

Erika stubbornly takes a boat out by herself, and surrounded by happy-looking couples, arrives at two conclusions. First, Kyoya is a jerk. Second, she’s a jerk too, for being so pushy. She realizes that simply forcing him to do stuff because he’s her boyfriend isn’t fun.

ook84

But that’s only half the story. While just as stubbornly sitting alone, Kyoya comes to the same conclusions. When he sees how happy another girl is when her date gives her a peck on the head, even though he didn’t want to, Kyoya starts to get it. He’d rather see Erika smiling sincerely. The two make up quite cutely over takoyaki, and all’s well in paradise once more. Compromise and give-and-take – the keys to any healthy relationship!

ook85

After that, it’s back to school, and Erika is delighted to find not only Ayumi, Marin, and Aki in her class, but her beloved Kyoya as well. Marin and Aki call her out on her cockiness, as now it’s their turn to be jealous their friend gets to be so close with her boyfriend all the time.

Their line to Erika is hilarious but also wonderfully meta, as it acknowledges Marin and Aki are actually much more than just the “self-obsessed class bitches” they began the show as. Sure, they’re still shallow, but they do care about her and value Erika’s friendship. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be so annoyed.

ook86

Speaking of annoying (along with tacky and charismatic), as Erika & Co. approach their classroom it’s revealed Kamiya Nozomi is also in their class, and has wasted no time getting the lay of the ladyland, literally blocking the door unless girls give their names. Just as he assumed in the park that Kyoya was with only one of his many girls, when he sees him with Erika, Ayumi, Marin and Aki, it reinforces that assumption, which makes Kyoya something Nozomi was hoping for: a worthy rival for the girls’ love.

ook87

I can’t fault Nozomi’s misinterpretation at this point, because Kyoya really does give off that air of non-monogamy with his intense popularity with the girls. And with that misinterpretation in mind, his constant hitting on Erika also makes sense. She’s one of Kyoya’s girls, but he’ll make her his, and learn what’s so special about her. Erika, perfectly content in her monogamous relationship with Kyoya, is intermittently flattered and put off by Nozomi’s extremely un-subtle advances. She’s not buying the tacky sales pitch…mostly.

ook88

But even deflecting that pitch gets her and Nozomi in trouble for talking in class, and they’re appointed the lead student organizers for the class’s upcoming orienteering trip as punishment. Kyoya goes home without her, in a wonderfully shot little sequence where the colors are so bright and washed out it’s like she’s being isolated in some kind of draconian medical facility!

In there, she must endure even more of Nozomi’s flirting, even inviting her out some ‘adult fun,’ right after getting off the phone with another girl, and Erika has to put her foot down, telling him the behavior she’s witnessed from him just…isn’t right.

ook89

Still wrongly assuming Erika is one of Kyoya’s many girls, he clears something up to her: he has no girlfriend. He doesn’t believe in girlfriends, and deems monogamy a kind of tyranny that has no place in youth. For him, ‘Tis more fun to have all kinds of experiences with all kinds of girls, without getting tied down.

He’s either under the delusion that no girl will ever start feeling serious about him or ever object to him having other girls…or maybe he’s aware of those possibilities and his freedom is more important than that kind of stuff. There’s also the fact that every girl he’s with knows what they’re getting into, and so they’re the ones responsible, from Nozomi’s perspective, if things go sour.

ook810

Erika cannot endorse Nozomi’s philosophy. It’s just not how she was brought up, but she also wants the institution of monogamous romance to succeed, for obvious personal reasons. But when she tells Nozomi she and Kyoya are dating exclusively, he can hardly believe it. Almost every chance he gets, he points out just how…plain and normal Erika is, and how that reduces her value as a person. That’s the reason I really dislike the guy; not his promiscuity.

Kyoya and Erika’s happiness is far less important to Nozomi than having a decent love rival to battle over girls with. To that end, when he gets alone with Kyoya (who decided to be the dutiful boyfriend and wait for Erika, which is sweet),  he probes him to see if he’s serious about just dating plain ol’ Erika by asking what quality made him sink so low. Surely it’s because she’s rich, or has dirt on him, or because she’s good in bed.

That’s the hit nerve that confirms to Nozomi the state Kyoya is in, which he considers ‘sad’ and ‘a waste’. He’s in love with a girl far below his standing, and needs to be shown the error of his ways. This doesn’t bode well for Erika, who Nozomi may continue to pursue, which could get Kyoya jealous. It just doesn’t bode well period...but who said high school romances were all takoyaki and boat rides?

8_ses