More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 10 – All the different parts

As expected, Shiori was not gesturing towards the love hotel, but the beach nearby to make a sand castle. She invites Jirou to make a tunnel through it like old times, resulting in more innocently delivered double entendres as she tells him to go in deeper, etc. Akari is not amused by him acting all lovey-dovey towards Shiori. Notably, she is not acting the same way towards Minami.

When she and Jirou are assigned to go buy drinks and snacks for the group, Akari leaves his sight for two seconds and she’s mobbed by beach bros wanting to know her name and number. At first Jirou thinks she knows them, but it’s clear from her body language she doesn’t like their flirting, so in the heat of the moment he pulls her into an embrace and says they’re married.

This makes Akari happy, but then Jirou ruins it by apologizing like he always does, and for assuming she hated what she did when she said no such thing. She tells him to stop apologizing all the time, because it makes her feel like a loser for “letting her heart race”. Of course, one can’t really control one’s heart from racing!

After Shiori notes Mei’s tan line on her midsection is fading by touching her there, the two go into the bath where they’re in the midst of gyaru talk. Sachi and (possibly) Natsumi are the only actual non-virgins there, but they appreciate Mei contributing to their talk, while Akari and Shiori actually connect over their mutual discomfort with love talk.

After the bath, Akari runs into Jirou, notices his sunburn, and offers to rub aloe on his back (her watermelon nails are adorable btw). She notices he’s not ticklish there, and decides to test further by grabbing his midsection from behind. She’s very upfront about how she’s felt a distance between them since they arrived and doesn’t like it. When Sachi appears, they separate, and Jirou even calls Akari “Watanabe,” causing her to schedule a one-on-one talk later that night.

Once out by the beach shop, Akari lays it all out, literally: pulling off her hoodie to reveal the skimpier bikini just for him. She tells him she was excited about going to the ocean with him, but he’s so self-conscious about how others see them, it makes her feel cold and lonely.

When Jirou says he assumed she’d be embarrassed around a plain boring guy like him, she says she choses who she hangs out with. She knows how he looks at her at their apartment, and doesn’t want that to chance just because they’re somewhere else.

When Jirou points out that Akari is talking like a jealous girlfriend would, she pushes back on that, but not all the way. That’s when Shiori and Mei show up and they have to hide in a hot cramped part of the beach shop in a very compromising position.

Again, Jirou’s main concern is “being seen” by the other girls, and even though he’s right on top of her, Akari feels like she doesn’t exist. He’s putting his concerns about what others might see or hear or think over her. Back in the simpler times she was admiring Minami, she kept a more optimistic outlook, but being close and comfortable with Jirou for months now only makes her scared about him leaving.

Even when Shiori and Mei run off, with the former worried about ghosts, the two stay in that cramped space and talk this out. He brings up how she wanted him to look at her, and she says “that was just in the moment”, but if she said that about all the things she’s said so far, why would he change his behavior? Basically, does she mean what she’s saying or not?

As expected, the cramped, overheated conditions result not only in Jirou getting hard (and Akari mistaking it for a knee) but actually fainting from heatstroke. He comes to back at the bathhouse, and when he’s feeling better, Akari is more clear about what she wants out of this. She doesn’t just want him ogling her body, but looking at all the different parts of her.

She also wants to see and know all of his different parts, seeing as how they’re still married and all. And it’s the “still” that stays with Jirou after their talk. What will they be to each other when the marriage practical is over? What do they want to be? And where do Shiori and Minami fit into that future? There’s a lot to sift through in the final two episodes, but at least these two are really looking at each other and consciously thinking about this stuff.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 04 – Shoulder to cry on

During P.E. class when Minami is playing basketball and generally looking like a higher form of life, both Akari and Jirou hear from their friend(s) that he and Shiori are considering staying with one another as a marriage practical couple despite making A-rank.

This news obviously puts a wrench in Akari and Jirou’s plan, leaving both feeling blue. Jirou, knowing how much Akari likes Minami, imagines he’s in a fantasy video game and Minami ends up beating the final boss and winning the hearts of both heroines.

When Jirou and Shiori cross paths, to Jirou’s credit he doesn’t pretend something isn’t bothering him, and Shiori’s known him long enough to know that something is. She says she’s not sure yet whether she and Minami are extending their time together, so Jirou starts to try to tell her he’ll work hard to attain A-rank so that they can be paired together.

Meanwhile, Akari gets cleanup duty for chatting during P.E., and ends up crossing paths with Minami. His sudden presence in the storage room startles her, and she bumps into a shelf, causing a box to start to fall. Minami rushes towards her and starts to fall, leaving them face-to-face.

Akari asks Minami what Jirou asked Shiori, and his answer is yes, he’ll stay by Shiori’s side “forever” if that’s what she wants. Throughout the whole exchange but unbeknownst to Minami, Akari’s heart is beating like a hummingbird, and when she hears what sounds like a rejection from his lips, she starts to cry. Then Minami puts his hand on her chin…

I say Jirou started to tell Shiori he wanted to pair with her, because he isn’t able to get the words out. I would have hoped Shiori would have gotten the gist but she apparently doesn’t when Jirou’s friend Kamo interrupts, having seen Akari and Minami in the storage room together.

But before Kamo can say anything, Minami and Akari exit the school, and Jirou senses a strange atmosphere. Minami and Shiori head home together chatting spiritedly about nothing in particular, while Akari acts awkward and distant towards Jirou and heads off on her own.

He later learns that Akari ditched class, and Kamo tells him he witnessed “kissing going on” between Minami and Akari. He shrugs it off as having nothing to do with him, but it’s clear that he has conflicting feelings about it, what with he and Akari getting along so well of late.

When he comes home, Akari is lying on the couch on her phone, looking morose. He sits down beside her, sarcastically apologizes for not being Minami, and she asks him upfront why he’d bring him up. That’s when, again, to his credit, Jirou doesn’t beat around the bush, but says what he heard: that she was kissing Minami after P.E.

Akari laughs it off, as in reality he was just checking her eye for dust; Kamo saw what he wanted to saw from the angle he had. Akari thinks it’s “hilarious” that Jirou thought a misunderstanding from “straight out of a manga” took place. But Jirou tells her he was ready to root for her, and it’s only fair to expect her to get some kind of return considering how hard she’s been working to get Minami to look her way.

At this, Akari’s mask of sarcasm drops, and bitter tears of frustration start to fall. Jirou is right in theory, but the reality is Minami doesn’t see her that way, and more and more seems to be content to be with Shiori, even beyond the marriage practical situation. When she realizes she’s crying in front of Jirou, she tells him to look away, and he does … kinda. He pulls her into an embrace so that his head is next to hers.

In this way, he’s technically “looking away”, but he’s also there for her, in a moment when she needs someone to be there. She needs to have a good cry without the pressure of having to hold it in to keep up appearances. At this point, Jirou knows who Watanabe Akari is more than anyone else at school, Minami included. And Akari, no doubt having that feeling of being safe and secure in Jirou’s arms, puts her arm around him and cries it out.

After this cathartic moment, Jirou feels self-conscious for overreaching, literally and figuratively, but he did the right thing, as evidenced by Akari’s mood after a cleansing shower. First, she borrows one of his t-shirts, resulting in the deceptively powerful boyfriend shirt scenario. Then she plops right down beside him, leans on him, and has some ice cream as she watches TV.

When he insists he’s no longer overwhelmed by situations like this, she puts her ear to his chest and calls him a liar, as his heart is racing. Of course, since she was worried Minami could hear her beating heart in the storage room, she can relate, which is why she’s so comfortable around Jirou now.

She also hastens to mention that she’s not so “easy” that she’d kiss Minami on a whim, and in any case, she says to him for the first time that her first kiss ever was with Jirou. Jirou sits there unresponsive as she shakes him and urges him to answer for that kiss, and as he does, he admits in his thoughts how happy he feels.

Perhaps for the first time, he’s not thinking about losing Shiori to Minami, or Akari preferring Minami to him. He and and Akari are simply sitting together on their couch, enjoying each other’s company; a cozy, caring family of two. It’s something I could honestly watch all day.

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 03 – Starting over from zero

Akari knows Jirou is in love with Shiori, but wants to know specifically why he’s drawn to an earnest, family-oriented girl, and what he wants such a girl to do for him. He wisely says “lunch”, which sets Akari off on a homemade bento kick.

She proves to be a very good bento cook, and they gain lots of points as cook and taste-tester, but one little detail—a lack of sugar in the rolled omelet—reminds Jirou that she’s doing all of this for Minami, not him. That shouldn’t bother him, as he’s into Shiori…and yet.

Jirou also can’t help but feel a little…left out when Akari goes all out to look as cute as possible to deliver a bento to Minami at his part-time job. But then Akari asks him for another goodbye kiss as a reward for her hard work, and tells him she only wants his kiss, since it made her feel safe.

Before he can summon the guts to kiss her again, Shiori shows up with extra apple pies she made for Minami, citing his sweet tooth. When she sees Akari with Jirou and a box lunch for an apparent picnic, she leaves feeling lonely. Little does she know she caused Akari’s confidence to absolutely plummet.

She never delivers the bento, and sits on the couch with her head in her knees. Jirou tries to cheer her up, but the bottom line is, she though she could appeal to Minami with cooking, but was wrong about him not liking sweet things, and now doesn’t know what to do.

Jirou tells her she has “tons more good points”, but when put on the spot, the only things he lists are related to her looks, body, and sex appeal. When she asks if he’s ever though about her that way, he says no, but she knows he’s lying. Then she jumps on top of him.

The animation and Oonishi Saori’s voice acting do a lot of strong, heavy lifting here, as the scene strides the line between being amorous and a little forced. You can see in Akari’s face and hear in her voice that she’s just as unsure about this as Jirou is, and yet she’s trying to press forward.

Jirou pushes through his body’s urge to “graduate” from virginity and rejects Akari’s advances, saying it’s only something you do with someone you love. Leaving aside that this is false, this results in Akari getting off him and saying they should stop this whole fake marriage thing.

That’s just what they do, and at the next month-end eval, Shiori sees that they’ve fallen to 75th place while she and Minami are up to 8th. She knows something’s wrong; Jirou knows it too, and knows that he erred. When he felt Akari’s cold trembling hand, he knew that he was wrong about her: what they were doing on that couch was just as new to her as it was to him.

Shiori invites Jirou onto the school roof to talk to him about things, and really does yeoman’s work as his trusty childhood friend, albeit by subordinating her own feelings. She promises him that no matter how much he screwed up with Akari, he can make things right.

Shiori’s pep talk is just what Jirou needs to break the awkwardness stalemate and give him the courage to knock on his fake wife’s door. To his shock, she not only answers but invites him into her uber-girly room, where he proceeds to apologize, but also provides a lot of real, honest talk.

He admits the obvious, that he’s fantasized about her, but also that it wasn’t like he didn’t want to do it with her, only that he wanted to do it with more care than the spur-the-moment scenario they found themselves in when she was discouraged about cooking for Minami.

He doesn’t go so far as to “out” Akari as just as much a virgin as she is, but he almost doesn’t have to, as hearing him come out and say all these things makes her face red as a beet and has her retreating into her bedsheet. But Jirou also asserts that he doesn’t like it when things are awkward between them.

Pulling back the sheet from her head like a bride’s vail, he declares that he wants them to be a married couple again. When he realizes he left out “for the practical” and stumbles all over his words, it evokes a hearty laugh from Akari, who attempts to save face by mocking him for being so desperate.

But she also ends up telling him—in just as disarmed a way as he just said all those embarrassing but true things—that she “likes him quite a lot”, even calling him by his first name. She laughs it off, but later on her balcony she covers her mouth with her hands in shock over having “said it.”

She says it in a way that could mean she’s been meaning to say it for a while. In any case, they’re giving this marriage another go, but this time they both have a deeper understanding of the kind of people the two of them actually are. That new understanding definitely has the potential to make them more attracted to one another as partners.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Love Flops – 01 (First Impressions) – Five Uneasy Pieces

Kashiwagi Asahi lives in a spacious apartment with an AI assistant Lovelin (Nanachi again), and while listening to the morning news, his birthday of October 8 (just four days ago!) happens to be the luckiest for today. The mysterious fortune teller then lists off a series of “lucky words” that don’t make any sense until he starts his commute to school.

The first word, corner, refers to a rushing girl with purple hair and glasses colliding with  him when they meet at a blind corner. They end up in a risqué position, but he promises he didn’t “see anything” as a result of that position, and they part ways relatively amicably.

Then comes train, when he boards a completely empty car only for a busty green-haired woman in a chinese dress sits right next to him, falls asleep, clings to him, then nearly kicks his head off when he starts her awake.

The next “lucky” word is staircase, when a third beautiful girl stumbles down a flight of steps and she’s launched crotch-first into Asahi’s face. She mistakes the plastic banana holder in his pocket for being happy to see her, and smacks it before running off. So far, Asahi can hardly be blamed for these situations.

Next up is robotic cleaner, when he encounters said robot cleaner in a park trying to dispose of a diminutive redhead’s bra, then the girl herself. This girl accuses Asahi of hacking the robot into stealing her unmentionables. It then chases her away.

Next up is dog, as a silver-haired fellow is being humped by a very big and assertive pooch. To this, Asahi turns about and pretends not to see what is going on, rather than attempt to save the waifish lad and incur the dog’s wrath. It isn’t until he arrives in his newly reorganized class that Asahi learns that everyone he encountered is in his class.

The purple-haired girl with glasses is Izumisawa Aoi (Itou Miku), a transfer student; he short-haired girl is Karin Istel (Kouno Marika), from Germany;  the redhead is Amelia Irving (Taketatsu Ayana) from the USA; the silver-haired boy is Ilya Ilyukhin (Takahashi Rie) from Bulgaria; and the green-haired well-endowed lady from the train is his new teacher, Bai Mongfa, from China (Kanemoto Hisako).

Asahi can’t believe his rotten luck, even as he learns what the last lucky word, letter, referred to a love letter in his locker inviting him to meet after school. His contractually assigned friend Ijuuin Yoshio assures him he’s hit the jackpot; he has the pick of these three beautiful girls, one beautiful woman, and one beautiful guy. I’ll give Yoshio this: he’s refreshingly progressive!

As the rest of the episode unfolds, Asahi has second encounters with each of these potential suitors, in which he attempts to correct the misunderstandings that occurred in their first meetings. He and Aoi almost collide around a corner again, but don’t. Alas, when he fishes through his pockets for what he believed to be her dropped handkerchief, he instead produces Amelia’s bra, scandalizing Aoi and earning him a slap.

This encounter makes him late to order lunch, and there’s nothing left for sale, but he’s not alone; Karin was also too late, and is clearly very hungry. Because Asahi’s a decent guy, he offers her the banana he brought for lunch (this guy really likes bananas, having toasted one for breakfast), while also pointing out that its holder was what she mistook for his manhood. She meekly thanks him for the food.

Asahi then gets another chance to rescue Ilya from becoming unmarriable all over again, albeit not necessarily by choice. Ilya hides behind him, and the randy dog  targets him, even managing to somehow get his pants off. Asahi blacks out, but when he comes to, it’s looking up at a very grateful Ilya.

The dog also managed to bite him, which would normally mean he should probably get tested and treated for rabies, but since this is a goofy anime some alcohol and spray-on bandage will suffice. He receives this treatment from Mongfa-sensei, who doubles as school nurse, and apologizes for their earlier awkward interaction.

No sooner does she leave than Amelia Irving arrives with a very specific ailment: chafing in the chestal area. Fortunately for her, Asahi saved her bra from the trash robot. He returns it to her, and she apologizes for jumping to the earlier conclusion that he hacked the robot, having later realized that was…unlikely.

Having repaired four of the five new relationships he’s built on this most auspicious day, all that’s left is checking out what the final lucky word letter portends. Responding to the love letter, he arrives at a giant blossoming cherry tree he doesn’t remember being there (he has several memory gaps in this episode, though it’s never explained).

There, waiting for him, is none other than the first girl he ran into, Aoi. She’s there to confess her love to him, but because it’s so breezy, her skirt flips up and reveals to him that she’s been going commando ever since their first encounter. The item she dropped was not a handkerchief, but side-tying underwear. For once, Asahi is lucky here, as Aoi doesn’t realize what the wind is doing and the moment isn’t spoiled.

Love Flops thus introduces its lead and his harem of potential girlfriends by resorting to all of the shameless, risqué, fanservice-y clichés but the Bluetooth-enabled kitchen sink. While at times it seems like a very over-the-top satire of harem rom-coms, the fact that it may actually be a genuine and un-ironic contribution to the form almost makes it more amazing. It’s pure tasteless trash … and yet I couldn’t look away.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 23 – Breaking Bad

Having come up with butkis in the search for Sousuke, it’s time for the crew to head home. But just as Erika and Sachi pile into their car, Hiro takes Nagi’s sleeve and declares that they’ll be taking the train home instead. On the ride home Erika tells Sachi about how Hiro said she wanted to “have” Nagi, and neither they nor their driver are convinced they’re not concerned.

As for Hiro, one reason for staying behind with Nagi is to visit a local shrine and collect another shrine stamp (naturally both these stamp nerds have their books on them). While Nagi prays for academic success with the occasional smidged of romance, Hiro admits to not praying for anything in particular, only expressing her gratitude that they made it there.

She could also be grateful for simply having Nagi to herself, a time that heavy winds and rain extend when the station is closed. With no buses home and a taxi too expensive, the two decide to spend the night in an inn. Sachi and Erika panic when they see Nagi’s text to this effect.

Nagi is a little out of his element too. It’s clear he and Hiro are being bad here, not just because they’re both engaged, but because they lie about being 22-year-old newlyweds (much to the delight of the inn staff). That said, youth is the time for being bad and testing boundaries.

This episode is replete with cute Hiro faces and poses, as she is in particularly playful mood, no doubt out of the aforementioned gratitude and contentment that comes with being all alone with the boy she likes. After the two bathe (in separate baths) and change into warm robes, they play the word chain.

Then a lizard (or gecko?) appears in their room and Nagi wigs out. Hiro moves towards it but trips on her robe, and the two end up in a very amorous position. Not only that, a flushed Hiro weaves her fingers into Nagi’s and asks him if, after a day of doing bad things, why shouldn’t they…keep going?

Nagi locks up, and Hiro then waves away the proposition by saying she wanted to go buy liquor, having placed a 1000-yen bill in Nagi’s hand. Nagi is scandalized, but understands Hiro’s desire to break free of her Model Student binds on occasion. That said, he’d rather they not get tore up. Hiro compromises and says she just wants sake.

Then a firm knock at the door comes, someone calls “POLICE!”, and Nagi indeed sees a Police badge through the peephole. Turns out it’s Erika and Sachi in sexy cop cosplay, complete with Sobasshi ID and pink cuffs. This is as Nagi was starting to change in preparation to make a run for it. I won’t linger on the questionable logistics of how the girls got there so damn fast.

Suffice it to say, their arrival prevented Nagi and Hiro from getting up to any more no good than they actually did, and on the ride home Nagi passes out after barely getting any sleep the night before. Erika asks Hiro what they did, and Hiro replies “just…stuff”, and cryptically declares that Nagi “really is a boy”.

Regardless of her lack of detail, Erika and Sachi now know Hiro is serious about Nagi. We’ll see if this spurs any action in them in the final episode, or if we’ll have to wait for another cour for any kind of break in the logjam.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Isekai Ojisan – 06 – Skipping Karaage Night

Ojisan continues to show Takafumi and Fujimiya his torturous first days in another world, where his captors try to sell him but end up making forty times more bronze coins selling a used scoring pad, adding insult to injury. Ojisan is imprisoned for seven days, but thanks to his translation ability is able to communicate with the world’s spirit of light.

He reaches out to the beam of moonlight in his cell, and it becomes a solid sword in his hands. He uses that to break out of jail and release all the cute little creatures imprisoned there, but they turn out to be vicious monsters and he spends the rest of the night slaughtering them.

This, to Ojisan, represents being “off to a good start.” Fujimiya gets a text from home; it’s fried chicken night, but she’s eager to learn more about how he saved Elf from the vemon dragon. She later regrets passing on the chicken as the dragon fight is over in five seconds. Ojisan makes the right first move by offering the half-naked Elf his hoodie, but she temporarily “glitches” from the sudden urge to kill the orc-looking man before him.

She checks herself and stows her dagger in the transdimensional inventory, but to Ojisan it looks like she’s stabbing herself, and lifts up the hoodie expecting to find a gaping wound. Needless to say, it’s not the best first impression to expose a girl’s nudity right after covering it, so in this instance Elf’s berating of Ojisan is justified. But he’d only ever interpret that verbal abuse as contempt, when really the opposite is true.

That’s proven to be the case when Ojisan fast-forwards to the night he was frozen by Mabel, as he wakes up with both Elf and Mabel sleeping on top of him, perhaps to hasten his thawing but also because at least in Elf’s case she has a thing for the guy despite herself (and his looks).

Elf’s monopoly on Ojisan is disrupted by Mabel, who talks in her sleep about not wanting to work. Ojisan suggests that after sleeping in a bit, they go out for breakfast. Mabel and Elf formally introduce themselves and their goals (Mabel wants to explore, Elf wants to find ancient relics, and Ojisan, AKA “Wolfgunblood”, wants to find a way home. “Wolf”, as Mabel starts calling him for short, plans to scout out a dungeon where the storied Hero known as the “Shining Crusader” apparently is.

For now, though, it’s late, and Fujimiya is starving from skipping dinner. Ojisan in his magnanimity offers to treat her and Takafumi to ramen. Even though Takafumi ends up being a few yen short and Fujimiya has to pay after all, the three slurp with great abandon, as watching Ojisan’s adventures clearly worked up an appetite.

I imagine next week will pick up on the part of Ojisan’s story where he currently has two ostensible party members and seems poised to gain a third. I bet the “Hero” mentioned is the third female character in the OP and promo art, voiced by Toyosaki Aki.

Considering what entertaining characters Elf and Mabel are, I’m looking forward to her introduction and seeing how she bounces off the others…not to mention how Takafumi and Fujimiya react and comment on her arrival in Ojisan’s life.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Isekai Ojisan – 05 – Another Region Code

It’s clearly become a daily habit for Fujimiya to come by Takafumi’s place where they watch video of Ojisan’s isekai adventures. They’re basically couch potatoes watching fantasy reality TV. But hey, if it’s entertaining, and there’s no other way Fujimiya knows of to hang out with the oblivious Takafumi, so be it!

The latest “episode” they tuck into is when Ojisan was “nearly assassinated” The identity of her assailant in the night is made plain by her ice sword and silvery blue bangs. It’s Mabel, whom Ojisan scorned by ignoring the hints she dropped and defeating the Blaze Dragon without the god-freezing sword.

No sooner does Ojisan express worry about whether Mabel is eating well does she pass out, and she wakes up in an inn. When he asks what happened to her life of leisure, she says the village cut down the tree she lived in and gave her an ultimatum: get a job, or become the village pet. She chose neither, and instead froze everyone from the hips down and dropped icy water down their backs before fleeing.

She now finds herself aimless, but Ojisan tells her she already has the means to live the life she chooses, not just with the ice sword, but with a Cosmite ring he slipped on her finger while she slept. When Mabel considers reforming her gloomy personality, Ojisan rejects the notion that being an introvert is a bad thing, and says her eyes are attractive.

Between the ring and the compliments, Mabel has the distinct feeling she’s being proposed to by Ojisan. She offers him the ring back, but her claim about having no romantic feelings is debunked by the fact the ice seal on the sword (and thus, her heart) is melting like gangbusters behind her.

When Ojisan insists she keep it and that they should turn in for the night, Mabel’s first instinct is to ask for change for the public bath. That’s when Ojisan breaks her misunderstanding by saying once she sells the ring she can get change for the bath and everything else for the remainder of her life. Realizing this was not a proposal, her heart and the sword freeze so violently Ojisan takes defensive action.

When Elf hears the commotion and comes in the room, she finds what looks like Ojisan magically tying Mabel down to have his way with her, so she snaps his chains and lets Mabel free to encase him in ice for the night. The two women find kinship in their mutual emotional suffering at the hands of Ojisan. Mind you, he isn’t doing this intentionally…his brain just has a different region code.

The idea of being able to translate body language, sarcasm, and innuendo is expanded as the story continues, with Mabel and Elf chatting while Ojisan stands frozen. Takafumi and Fujimiya are intrigued when they hear Mabel say the word “Japan”, and starts to tell a story of another traveler from Japan who came to their world and was greeted by a god who bestowed upon him a divine power.

Mabel creates beautiful visuals for her story with ice and tells the story well, but it’s a story Elf has already heard, and she harshly cuts her off, resulting in having to comfort her with hug when she breaks down into tears. Back in our world, meanwhile, Ojisan feels cheated: when he ended up in another world, he wasn’t greeted by a god or given any divine power.

That leads his audience of two to insist that he rewind his memories all the way back to 18 years ago when he was 17 (and actually young looking!) and first arrived in the other world. While rewinding, he passes by dozens of instances of him being hunted, captured, persecuted, and nearly executed in a number of different ways, underscoring how rough Uncle has had it and how amazing it is he’s as well-adjusted and untraumatized as he is.

But the elegantly set up joke is that a “god” did in fact speak to him when he first arrived…he was just too busy being beaten up by adventurers who thought he was an orc to hear. Also, the “god” in question was simply a recording in Mandarin, which when Takafumi translates with his phone, reveals that when Ojisan was being beaten, he wished to be able to understand the language of his attackers, and that wish came true.

While we know from his misadventures over the next eighteen years that this didn’t make life in this new world much easier, it did make it possible, such that when he did come upon a couple of souls like Elf and Mabel who were willing to see him as more than just a hideous orc variant, he gained companions.

Of course, with Ojisan’s brain region coded as it was, simply speaking the language wasn’t enough. He missed the nuance and context of their words and actions and almost always completely misinterpreted them. One wonders if Elf and Mabel themselves were bestowed with divine patience to endure his infuriating conduct without murdering him!

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 15 – Hello Neighbor

Chizuru lost her key at some point during the evening, and the landlord is out, so she invites herself into Kazuya’s apartment. To do exactly what Kazuya is not sure, but as you’d expect of our horny jackass protagonist, he has a lot of thoughts on the matter, culminating in him almost asking if she wants to spend the night at his place.

He fails to realize that might not even be a last resort for Chizuru, and that there are other resorts to explore, like whether she left her back screen door open. That said, getting around to her side to look is awkward at best and dangerous at worst. Luckily Kazuya is there to keep her from falling; unluckily he grabs her bum, then they both lose their balance and he ends up on top of her again, just as Mami rings his doorbell.

This is when the potential of the classic sitcom “hide one person from the other person” scenario nearly reaches full flower, especially as Kazuya failed to lock the door after Chizuru came in. The two of them hide in the kitchen helplessly as Mami rings again, opens the door, looks in, assumes Kaz has gone shopping…and leaves.

After both Kazuya and Chizuru breath a sigh of relief, the recriminations begin: Why, Chizuru wants to know, is Mami popping by his place at 11 PM? He doesn’t know, but it may have something to do with her talk with Chizuru on that bridge, which she’s unaware he overheard. Regardless, Mami is well on her way home when she realizes she saw a fancy girl’s purse in Kazuya’s apartment, and her eyes go dead. So this isn’t over!

Kazuya and Chizuru return to where they were before Mami arrived, which is exactly how to deal with the situation of Chizuru being locked out. But then she sees the light in the landlord’s is on, so she heads down there. That’s when Kazuya remembers her gran’s words and tells her straight-up that she can always come to him, her neighbor, if she needs help and can’t ask family or friends.

That’s when Chizuru partially drops her armor and tells him that other than her hospitalized gran, she has no other family. She promised her late gramps that she’d become and actress, and so she’s following that dream with everything she can, including working as a rental girlfriend to pay for that dream. She tells Kazuya she’s “not that special”, just a normal girl chasing a childish dream.

Clearly moved by her opening up, Kazuya proceeds to let her know a little more about his family situation, and how he doesn’t really have a dream like hers, but nevertheless has a future lined up taking over the family shop. He doesn’t mean to brag, only to acknowledge that he’s lucky, and to reiterate that no matter how she might value or de-value herself, he wants to be by her side.

Adding “forever” at the end of his statement was probably not the best idea! Still, Chizuru says if he wants to stay by her side, she can’t very well refuse…amending that at the end by saying that’s a “rental girlfriend’s job.”

While pure luck brought Chizuru into his home, and their initial interactions were awkward, their evening ends having grown just a little closer to each other. Kazuya saw a little bit of the Chizuru her grandmother described, as well as the Chizuru that is receptive to being cared for. Kazuya hasn’t experienced the pain and loss she has or worked remotely as hard as she has for his future, but he can empathize. She’s not just a hottie; she’s a person he wants to support, labels be damned.

The next day at college, Kazuya crosses paths with Chizuru and is fully prepared to pretend they don’t know each other, per their agreement. But Chizuru, clutching her books, loosens one hand into subtle good morning wave, and acknowledgment that they do in fact know each other. That little gesture makes his entire day, and as he’s making copies and he imagines the copies are photos of her, it’s clear to him and us he’s “down bad” like never before.

So naturally, Mami sidles up to him from behind asking him what’s up, and his outsize reaction to her sudden appearance would automatically make anyone suspicious. Looks like we’re in for a bit of Mami and Ruka cooking time next week.

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

Tokyo Revengers – 05 – Babes and Bikes

When Takemichi, whom I maintain looks way too babyfaced for a dead-end adult, is unceremoniously fired, he returns to Naoto, because it’s not like he has anything else going on in this life. He asks if he could just ask tell Past Hina everything, but Naoto says he only believed him because he was into the occult at the time. He worries Hina might think Takemichi is insane and stop liking him. I was internally yelling at Naoto “So?”

Wouldn’t it be worth a shot for Takemichi to break things off with Hina in the past, thus severing her connection to the gangs altogether? Then again, perhaps too much happened in the time between Takemichi and Hina breaking up for that to work. In any case, Naoto has found articles about a scuffle at the Mushashi shrine on August 3rd (two weeks from now) of 12 years ago between the Mikey and Draken crews of the Toman Gang, resulting in Draken’s death.

Takemichi can’t believe how the articles say it was a fight between two people he observed to be closer than brothers, but regardless of if and how things got that way, his new mission is to save Draken from dying. If he does that, he may be able to save Hina and Akkun. He and Naoto shake hands, and he finds himself in a very compromising position with a beautiful blonde in nothing but her underwear in a karaoke booth.

Completely disoriented and freaked out, Takemichi runs…almost directly into Hina, who’d just been walking home from cram school. Hina’s sharp enough to know when Takemichi is being a “kid” and when he’s being an “adult”. Lately he’d been a kid, and cold and distant towards her. Now, however, he’s considerably kinder. Then Draken calls, and Hina insists on tagging along.

Takemichi’s in no position to argue: since time moves at the same rate in past and present, Past Takemichi has been inadvertently complicating his future self’s mission by being a youthful, impulsive little shit. Takemichi and Hina arrive at the Musashi Shrine and are ambushed by bikers, but it turns out to be a big meeting of all the Toman divisions.

Draken greets Hina warmly and the two exchange apologies, then Draken asks his girlfriend Emma to take care of Hina while they talk. Emma, as it turns out, is the lovely young lady ready to go all the way (sans kissing) with Takemichi at Karaoke. Takemichi has no coherent defense (though he’s not lying when he says he doesn’t remember how he ended up that way).

Hina dispenses swift punishment, beating bloody the same kid she was so worried about always getting into scraps. Aside from still being around when the Toman meeting is over, that’s all we get of Hina, which was a bit frustrating, since so much between her and Takemichi is left up in the air.

As for Emma, she tells Takemichi she’s not actually into him, she just wanted to “grow up faster”, sleeping with him in hopes of making Draken, whom she is into, jealous, and lamenting that all he cares about is “Mikey, bikes, and fighting.”

As for the big Toman meeting, Takemichi is impressed by Mikey’s ability to command and inspire his troops. When the third division’s captain and vice-captain—Pah and Peh—come to him with a problem, they have Mikey’s full attention. A friend of Pah’s got into it with Osanai, leader of the Moebius gang, over “something stupid”. The friend got the shit beat out of him, and the friend’s girlfriend was raped and beaten.

Moebius may be two generations older than Toman and may control Shinjuku, but when Pah says he demands satisfaction nonetheless, Mikey asks if anyone objects, and no one does, which means there’s going to be a battle between Toman and Moebius, and it’s going to take place…on August 3.

That’s news to Takemichi, since the news articles Naoto had said the fight was between Mikey and Draken’s crews. Did the reporter just mix up the names and groups involved, or did the particulars of the conflict change because Takemichi went back in time again?

He doesn’t know either, but one thing he does know is that he has to save Draken. But when he approaches him the next day volunteering to be his bodyguard, Draken curtly declines. Takemichi doesn’t give up right there, however, and decides to follow Draken as he goes about his day.

Unsurprisingly, most of that day is filled with Mikey, whom Takemichi gets to see in a wildly different light than when he’s commanding his crew. For one thing, he’s upset his Kids Meal doesn’t come with a flag, but Draken happens to have one, and Mikey’s spirits are immediately raised.

Draken and Mikey’s day shifts from comedy to drama when Draken takes Mikey to the hospital, where Pah’s friend’s girlfriend has been lying in the ICU with a coma for the last few days. Her parents confront them and her dad levels all manner of curses at them. Mikey is upset because he didn’t do anything, but Draken bows deeply in apology and makes Mikey do the same.

He impresses upon Mikey the need to minimize collateral harm to innocent people, including the friends and family of his crew. Mikey may have nothing to lose, but that doesn’t go for everyone he commands. Draken tells Mikey to always “have a heart that cares for others” while conducting Toman business.

That exchange clinches it for Takemichi: Draken isn’t just Mikey’s muscle,  piggyback ride, or consigliere. He’s all of those things too, but most importantly, he’s Mikey’s heart; his conscience. Which explains why Mikey turns bad when Draken dies. Conspicuous in his absence throughout this episode was Kisaki Tetta, who filled the void left by Draken, a relationship eventually leading to Hina’s death and Akkun’s suicide. It feels like Kisaki is a wild card in the scheduled August 3 battle with Moebius.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 03 – In Good Faith

When Fuutarou arrives at the sisters’ apartment building for the next tutoring session, he’s determined not to slip up, yet is flummoxed by the auto-lock door and intercom. Fortunately, Miku is not only forgiving, but welcoming.

So far I’m thoroughly  enjoying the variety of the sisters’ greetings, and what those say about them:

Episode 2
Itsuki: “Wh-What? Stop staring. It’s rude.”
Yotsuba: “Good Morning!”
Nino: “You again?”
Ichika: “Hey, Fuutarou-kun.”
Miku: “…”

Episode 3
Miku: [Cheerfully] “You’re going to tutor us, aren’t you?”
Itsuki: “So you had to come.”
Yotsuba: “Welcome, Uesugi-san!”
Nino: [Glares, slams door]
Ichika: [Still in bed]

Fun details like this help up the sense of chaos and the difficulty level of Fuutarou’s task. When he has four of the five gathered for the session, he takes a moment to admire the progress he’s made. But in fairness, Yotsuba’s friendliness was pre-loaded into the equation. The only real progress he made has been with Miku.

While Ichika is sleepy and disinterested and Itsuki passively abstains from his tutoring, Nino is by far the most hostile, and proceeds to actively sabotage Fuutarou’s efforts by clearing out the room one sister at a time. Yotsuba has to sub in for the basketball team. Ichika has to get to work. Itsuki will have more quiet at the library.

That just leaves Miku, who genuinely wants Fuutarou to teach her history. Nino takes a different tack with her, suggesting her interest in Fuutarou is romantic and insulting her taste in men. When Miku stands up for herself, Nino challenges her to a cooking contest to determine who’s more homely.

Under ideal circumstances Nino would win this one running away. But since Fuutarou is poor, frugal, and has an underdeveloped palate, he judges both their dishes to taste good, resulting in a tie. Then again, Miku’s omerice may just look awful but taste great; inner beauty and all that.

A telling sign of Nino’s true beef with Fuutarou comes when Miku blushes with pride when Fuutarou’s praise for a dish she had no confidence in. Nino can see the effect Fuutarou has on her sister, and she hates it. Still, Nino wins the day, because thanks to all her stalling tactics there was never any actual tutoring.

Not only that, Fuutarou’s own confidence has taken a hit, as he no longer believes it’s possible to get along with Nino in this world. Miku disagrees, assuring him if he approaches her in good faith she’ll come around…but it’s up to him to determine how to do that. Fuutarou then takes off, but forgets his flash cards, and Miku buzzes him back in before taking a shower.

He returns to find Miku is already out of the shower and is drying her hair. But wait, that’s not Miku, it’s Nino! I’m not sure if Fuutarou is colorblind, but one thing’s for sure: Nino is almost blind full stop. She mistakes Fuutarou for Miku, apologizes for how she acted, but blames Fuutarou for inciting the enmity between them.

When Nino asks “Miku” to grab her contacts, Fuutarou can’t find the appropriate shelf, so Nino comes to help look and gets very close to him. When he withdraws, she assumes Miku is still mad and has a mini-tantrum, bumping her arm on the cabinet and shifting some books. Fuutarou dives onto her to shield her, and she finally realizes there’s an intruder in the house.

Fuutarou tries to explain but is interrupted by Itsuki, who snaps a compromising photo that, if taken out of context, could ruin Fuutarou’s chances of ever setting foot in their apartment again. This is, of course, what Nino has been lobbying for from the get-go.

An impromptu tribunal of the quintuplets is then enjoined, with Ichika presiding as judge (you better call her “Your Honor”!), Itsuki as the prosecution, and Miku as the defense. When Miku clarifies that she let Fuutarou back in to get (not take) his flash cards, Nino again accuses her of having feelings for the guy.

When Nino and Miku’s bickering intensifies, Itsuki tries to restore calm, but is brusquely dismissed by both of them (she is the youngest after all). Ichika then recalls how well they all used to—past tense—get along as sisters, which is the last straw for Nino, who runs right out of the apartment. Miku tells Fuutarou to let her be, and Raiha informs him dinner is ready, so Fuutarou takes his leave.

On his way out he encounters Nino skulking outside, and takes a seat opposite the door with the excuse that he doesn’t want to go home until he’s “solved a problem” on one of his flash cards. In reality, he wants to once again approach Nino in good faith. He’s realized now that she considers the apartment to be their place (as in her sisters’), and that an outsider like Fuutarou has no place there.

Fuutarou can relate, having a sister himself whom he loves more than anyone else, and would never want her to hate him. But rather than come to a breakthrough in his favor, Nino resolves to not accept him as her tutor, even if it makes all her sisters hate her. Thus Nino cements her role as the toughest nut to crack so far. But if anything is worth doing…

Taketatsu Ayana, veteran sister seiyu, is really the ideal voice for Nino: with a sharp confrontational edge by default balanced by a tender vulnerability under the right conditions. The question is, will Fuutarou ever learn what those conditions are? Based on this weeks events, not anytime soon! Fortunately, he has other fish to fry (i.e. quintuplets to recruit) who may not be quite as obstinate as Nino.

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