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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 09

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 08

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Ao Haru Ride – 02

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When I think back on it, this show’s first episode had its protagonist in a very dark place. Of course, high school can be a dark place for a sizable chunk of youths; a place where you compromise and do what you have to do to just get through it; where you take advice given years ago about “always getting along with your friends” and you make that happen at any cost, because the alternative is being all alone.

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In other words, it’s a pact you make with yourself, and it’s a pact we thought Futaba would continue to honor for some time, both much to our chagrin and, evidently to Mabuchi’s as well. While he’s still hard to read, his words to Futaba about Asumi and Chie being “friends in name only” created a small fissure in the “High School Armor” she’d spent so much time and effort polishing; getting lost in its sheen and forgetting important things like emotional connections and trust.

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Those cracks spread when Futaba finds Makita—a girl who acts all cutesy around guys like she used to and pays for it by having to eat outside in the cold, alone—to have a perfectly reasonable explanation for why she acts the way she does—because that’s just who she is. She’d rather bear the petty ire of her peers than cease being her natural self. She doesn’t deserve the treatment she’s getting, but no one said high school was fair.

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That’s when Futaba, with her now badly-cracked armor, sits down with Asumi and Chie, and she suddenly can’t suffer any more bile directed at Makita. The real Futaba bursts out of the tatters of that false armor, giving her “friends” a thorough piece of her mind, thereby losing them in the process. But good riddance: real friends should be able to be themselves around one another. Futaba couldn’t be that around them, so they weren’t meant to be friends.

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She realizes this too, so it doesn’t hurt much when her relationship with the other two girls is officially rescinded. But while she lost those two vapid gossips, she gained a lot more: the respect, attention, and even affection of Mabuchi Kou (who she finally starts calling “Kou” rather than Tanaka, since that’s his name now), a new, real friend in Makita…and our regard as well. I gotta say; girl did good this week. I’m glad Kou realized that too, giving her a cute hug through the window, shielding her teary-eyed face from passersby.

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Her gesture to cast away the artifice of “getting along at any cost” and its fallout may have been modest in the grand scheme of things, but right here and now, in the jungles of high school, it was a significant, life-altering achievement. And no doubt Mabuchi was a catalyst for that change, whether he intended to be or not. I’m now hopeful there’s something about him that she can fix…no need to keep things one-sided!

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