Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 10 – He Carries All Our Hopes With Him

BINAURAL ASMR – 👻 Horror House Experience 👻 (Wear Headphones)

Before Yuu and Tsubame head to the Horror House, we get to experience it along with Kaguya, Maki, Nagisa and Tsubasa, and also found out how both Yuu and Miko contributed to making it the unique and terrifying success it clearly is.

Mind you in Miko’s case that success wasn’t intentional, but her classmate and president of Tabletop Game Club Makihara Kozue has a sadistic streak and pretty much tortures Miko with scissors, feathers, and even dang ear nibbling in order to record (with binaural mics in Miko’s ears) the perfect immersive experience for the house.

It looks like the perfect venue for Yuu and Tsubame to get a little closer; heck, even Kaguya and Maki hold hands for support in there! But when Miko finds Nagisa and Tsubasa making out in their locker, she decides visitors to the horror house shall forthwith be segregated by gender.

This, of course, ruins the whole purpose of Yuu taking Tsubame to a haunted house, since they won’t get to, ya know, experience it together. While a setback, it’s not a terminal one, and more importantly isn’t due to anything Yuu said or did.

Hell Is About to Start Now

Moving on, it’s always been clear Chika has no particular romantic designs or even prospects; I imagine her “type” is a man so beautiful and perfect that he might not exist, at least not at Shuchiin. He might be somewhere in Lichtenstein. Her lil’ sis Moeha, on the other hand? She has a crush on President Shirogane, specifically thanks to being friends with his sister Kei, and accurately interpreting her tsundere barbs towards him as the praise and admiration it actually is.

Chika tries to warn Moeha that Miyuki is not who she thinks he is, then proceeds to list off all the things he’s bad at. Of course, she has to include the disclaimers that Miyuki worked his ass off until he got the hang of those things, which endears him to Miyuki even more. Chika believes the only way to “cure” her sister of this curse is to allow her to witness Miyuki juggling.

Like a host of other skills requiring either talent or hard work, Chika assumes Miyuki will be terrible at it and turn Moeha off him like a cat on a hot tin roof. She assumed wrong; Miyuki is quite good at juggling, thanks to her grandma. He’s also good at cup-and-ball, top-spinning, and yo-yo. Chika breaks down in a floor kicking-and-pounding tantrum, while Moeha is as enamored of him as ever.

Of course, the real reason Chika should give for why Moeha shouldn’t be pursuing the President is because of the Vice President, i.e. Kaguya, who appears behind Moeha like a glowing specter in an unsettling jump cut. Moeha then proceeds to list all of the legitimate reasons she likes Miyuki, which are the same reasons Kaguya loves him, and the two bond over their shared subject of affection. Kaguya just loves that she can talk about Miyuki with someone who understands!

If He Goes Down, We Go Down

Back to Yuu and Tsubame, as Tsubame invites Yuu to her class presentation, a kind of festival games set-up. Yuu can feel the momentum in his favor, and while he’d shrink, hesitate, or turn tail in the past, here he rides that momentum like a wave.

He wins a giant heart-shaped cookie, then offers it to Tsubame in the middle of a crowded classroom where 90% of them know what that means. He then makes it clear to those who don’t: the gift is an expression of how he feels about her.

It is indeed a 100% Public Confession, and while Tsubame has a good reaction and does not summarily reject him, she does suddenly run off asking for “time to think about it”, leaving Yuu in an uncomfortable limbo.

As Yuu’s success hangs in the balance, Miyuki contemplates the cost of failure: blanket Self-Imposed Restraint on Romance. Like a stone in a pond, Tsubame’s rejection of Yuu will have ripple effects for all the other would-be couples in the blast radius. Miyuki and Kaguya would have to put their romantic plans on hold to comfort Yuu. A confession in such an atmosphere would be romantic suicide!

Miyuki (and Kaguya) are invested in Yuu’s success, because if he goes down, they go down, and with no time left before he heads to Stanford. He asks Chika if Yuu has a chance, but her answer is biased against both Yuu and Miyuki, whom she’s long thought of as garbage men (not sanitation engineers, mind you). 

Still, even Chika can admit that over time she’s come to find both guys as “pretty decent men”; high praise for someone with her standards. If Tsubame takes the “point-addition approach” with Yuu, the kid has a chance. The most and best they can do is watch over him.

Of course, the stakes are much higher for Miyuki. Will he be able to keep his hands off the scenario and let the cards fall where they may? Will a Yuu defeat really spell as much doom for him and Kaguya as he assumes? We’re close approaching the endgame here, folks. You can tell from the surging notes of some of the absolute best musical scoring in the business.

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 10 – Reina’d-Back Camp

When Ishikawa and Satou suggests that their group of friends go on a camping trip, Reina is as excited-looking as Raidou can remember seeing her. Miyahara-sensei is happy to transport them to the campground and pick them up at the end of the trip, drifting her minivan along the way just for shits and giggles. Reina offered to bring all the ingredients for dinner and comes with an overstuffed backpack that turns out to contain no food.

No matter; the group fishes and forages for their supper, making sure to check with the campground manager that everything is safe to eat (nobody wants to go on a camping trip). Reina whips up a sumptuous feast that’s probably all the more satisfying because all of the ingredients were procured with their own hands. When Ooshiro turns in early, keeping to her sleep schedule, the others go on a bit of a test of courage.

Ishikawa and Satou, revealing that they are as invested in Aharen x Raidou as the audience, strategically withdraw to leave the lovebirds alone together. The two stargaze, and Reina is on the cusp of saying something important when a beast rushes them; it turns out to be Nui with the food she forgot.

Later that night Ooshiro wakes up to find Reina hasn’t slept a wink. Reina wants advice on how to tell Raidou how she feels without ruining what they have. Ooshiro has watched Reina and Raidou long enough to confidently assure her that everything will work out fine.

When Raidou emerges from his tent for some midnight ramen, Reina follows Ooshiro’s advice and joins him. After they split the cup ramen, Reina says…something that is obscured by a sudden breeze, which also keeps us from hearing Raidou’s response. All we see is Reina leaning in to kiss Raidou, her eyes filling with tears, and running back to her tent.

While we’re left to ponder what was said and the meaning of Reina’s tears, things more or less return to normal, which is probably what Ishikawa, Satou, and Ooshiro should have expected. These two have never made a big deal about being the couple they so clearly have been for some time; it stands to reason they wouldn’t make a big deal out of making it official (if that’s indeed what happened).

One thing’s for sure: the two are as close as ever, and possibly even closer, as observed by master esteem detector Toubaru-sensei, whose throes of esteem overload twist her into increasingly romantic positions with her friend and colleague Miyahara-sensei, further adding fuel to their side-ship. Will the remaining episodes address what was said under the stars that night, or the kiss and tears that followed? I sure hope so!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Heroines Run the Show – 07 – Always My Heroine

Nagisa knows who LIPxLIP is, and it doesn’t take long to get Hiyori to admit that she’s working as their manager-in-training.  It still doesn’t explain why they accompanied her to the station, however. Of course, Hiyori has her revenge for having her secret job so easily revealed. When Nagisa says she seems “different”, she gets him to admit she’s cute just as easily!

I had my reservations about the sudden arrival of Nagisa, but these two are basically the cutest; they’re just such a good fit together…nice and balanced! It’s crystal clear to Aizou and Yuujirou that Nagisa is in love with Hiyori, and only a couple of minutes of riling him up has him standing up like a shounen hero saying “She’s the only girl for me!” Unfortunately for him, when Hiyori tells Nagisa he can stay at her place, it’s just as clear to LIPxLIP that she has no earthly idea Nagisa has those kinds of feelings for her.

Nagisa, being so in love with Hiyori, warns LIPxLIP that he won’t give up on her, even to an idol, and that they “can’t have her.” This comes as a surprise to them, but Nagisa has a point: as someone who once teased Hiyori because he liked her, our idols can’t pretend that there’s something about Hiyori they value above other girls, even as they endlessly say she doesn’t act like a girl most of the time.

As for Nagisa, his stature, good looks, and instant likability have Uchida-san trying to recruit him as an idol. He respectfully declines, as he already has a dream in place: taking over the family restaurant, the fish for which Hiyori’s family provides, making their coupling that much more inevitable.

The actual FT4 show is a lot less built up and laid-back than I expected, but there are some very good reasons for that. True, Aizou and Yuujirou are stewing in the front row as their rivals play with the crowd like putty in their hands, but Nagisa and Hiyori are an island of serenity by comparison.

You can tell he’s super chuffed that Hiyori’s attending a show with him. His favorite member of FT4 is all too fitting: the glue guy who hangs out in the background and lets the others hog the spotlight, but without whom there’d be no music. He doesn’t come out and say it—he may not even be aware—but that’s what Hiyori is becoming to LIPxLIP—increasingly indispensable.

Nagisa has a plan. He never had any designs on staying at Hiyori’s place overnight, but he did bring all the gear he needed to cook her a gourmet meal as thanks for attending FT4 with him. But the sumptuous feast is only a prelude…a way of preparing the ground for a confession of love.

Earlier at the station, Nagisa played dumb when she mentioned how he said she looked weird in a dress, which we know has informed her personal style ever since. But not only does Nagisa remember, but he’s mature enough now to admit why he teased her at the time: because she was too cute, and he was worried someone else would take her away.

No sooner does he say “I love ya” does he stand up and walk out of the apartment, saying he’s leaving on the shinkansen tomorrow. He doesn’t want to pressure her into an answer; a text or call sometime will suffice.

A good word for Hiyori after hearing Nagisa’s confession: befuddled. It never once occured to her that her best friend forever felt…that way. Hell, she never thought anyone would ever say they loved her. Fortunately, she remembers she has two girlfriends and calls them up for their help over hamburgers.

Juri is happy for Hiyori, and when asked, is extremely genuine and eloquent when she tells Hiyori when she started liking the guy who became her bae. He wasn’t even her type at first, but he gradually became so. As for Chizuru, she won’t brook any hesitation on Hiyori’s part: a confession from a hot childhood friend is both a rare treasure and a cliché…and Chizuru has no problem with clichés.

Juri brings things back down to earth a bit, and assures Hiyori that Nagisa is probably just as worried as she is about their relationship possibly changing for the worst. But as he was brave enough to tell her how he really felt, all Hiyori can do is return the favor.

Hiyori may not know what she wants when it comes to romance, but she does know what she doesn’t want: anything that will negatively affect what she’s got going on now: school, track and managing. She’s going all out with all three, and there just isn’t time for romance right now…not until she’s seen those things through.

Nagisa is surely a bit disappointed, but probably also relieved that it’s not a hard no, just a “not just now”. He even admits he jumped the gun. He tussles her hair, tells her she looked good when she dressed up but also thinks she looks good when she’s running around and covered in sweat, which is just beautifully heartwarming. Hiyori thanks Nagisa for telling her how he feels, as it gives her confidence she can become a heroine.

Nagisa tells her the truth: to him she already is one, and always will be. He promises he’ll be back in Tokyo after graduation to take business courses in college and train in restaurants. He’ll be working hard too, and hopefully, they can work hard along side one another soon. Their parting is such sweet sorrow, but they’ll surely remain in each other’s hearts as they go after their dreams with everything they have.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 04 – Sister Act

Within the two weeks he and Erika are living together, Nagi apparently is able to study enough to ace the exams and conquer the legend that is Segawa Hiro. Both the nerds and normies salute him following through on his boasts. When Hiro again invites him to the rooftop, he should have known beating her at one exam wasn’t going to cut it as far as winning her over.

As far as she’s concerned, she’s still beating him in exams, 10-1, so his confession “will not be processed”. When she declares all the other ways she surpasses him when it comes to both studies and life, the two end up chasing each other around the school and messing up a classroom and panting on the ground. Hiro had fun, but she makes it clear there’s no way she and Nagi can go out. You see, she’s engaged too!

He has had so much fun, in fact, he’s surprised to learn that his time playing Erika has already come to an end. He says he appreciated having a place to “let off steam” and how it was fun overall; Erika said it was the worst, but he can probably tell she’s not being entirely sincere. But once he packs up his stuff and bows to the house, suddenly it’s all over, and they go their separate ways…

…Except Nagi returns home to find it dark and locked; turns out his family is temporarily staying at an inn while the plumbing is fixed. There’s no room for him at said inn, so it’s back to his birth father’s house…where Erika is still making herself at home. Turns out she wanted to have a go at living on her own without help. Nagi is surprised she wants to improve herself, and vows to help her become a “professionally independent person” like him.

When Sachi comes by to drop off some of Nagi’s stuff, she finally gets to meet her biological big sister, something both she and Erika are understandably nervous about. Despite Nagi saying how friendly Sachi is and how easily she warms up to people, their first encounter is extremely stif and awkward. Sachi later confides in Nagi that she’d looked up Erika on IG before, and finding out she’s even cuter in person threw her off.

Nagi commences “Operation Sister Besties” by getting the two to cook some karaage together. While Erika is a nightmare chopping cabbage, she gets to see Nagi and Sachi interact like a real brother and sister that they are, while Nagi gets to see Sachi and Erika very much acting similar…they even eat the same way. When he points this out, they protest his assertion…by heaping praise on one another.

Erika decides to interrupt dinner by having Sachi try on some of her clothes. With Nagi not around, Erika makes clear she has no intention of marrying Sachi’s brother, something that seems like a load of Sachi’s mind. They also exchange contact info. Back home, Sachi’s folks are irked that she went and hung out with Erika. This is rich for people who went behind both Nagi and Erika’s backs to set them up to be married!

Whatever Hiro’s deal is with her engagement, it seems like a hard stop in Nagi’s quest to win her heart. Nagi and Erika are living together again, this time indefinitely. Sachi has finally met her sister and Nagi’s fiancée and can’t help but like her, but how long these good vibes last is anyone’s guess. I’m surprised how much has happened just four episodes into a twenty-four episode series. Things have moved very swiftly, but there’s clearly a lot more in store for our cuckoos.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 06 – Countdown to Farewell

If it hits you you die

The first segment of the episode makes it clear this will be an episode about what kind of future Miyuki and Kaguya want, and how to get there. While Kaguya’s parents do not attend her parent-teacher conference, she has the good fortune of relying on both Miyuki’s dad (who already considers her a daughter) and Ai’s mom (whom Ai clearly worships) as “honorary parents”.

Not only is Ai a mama’s girl, but shares mom’s twisted personality. But things get more serious as the sun drops during the actual conference. Kaguya doesn’t really have anything to say about what she wants for the future; she’s probably just going to do what her parents—her real, absent parents—tell her to do. That means advancing to the university to which Shuchiin High is affiliated.

Miyuki, however has different goals. He’s determined that his future involves moving on from Shuchiin and going to college five thousand miles away at Stanford. He seems resigned to the fact this means No More Kaguya, so he declares to us, the audience, that all Kaguya has to do to “win” their long and harrowing battle is to not confess to him by the cultural festival.

At that point, he vows to confess to her, so they can at least date for the few high school days they have left before parting, possibly forever. But if the gauntlet has been thrown only in his head—where no one but the audience sees it—has it truly been thrown?

Conducive to Confession

Miyuki knows he has his work cut out for him to compel Kaguya into a confession before the culture fest; despite his best efforts he’s been frustrated by failure just as she has for lo these many years. At this desperate time, he decides asking Kaguya out isn’t tantamount to a love confession…so he asks her to join him to scout another school’s festival.

The only problem is, Kaguya doesn’t realize he’s asked her out until she’s already casually declined. Because Ai isn’t Doraemon and cannot manipulate the space-time continuum, she suggests that a distraught Kaguya summon the same courage Miyuki did and ask him out.

And she does! Kaguya employs her calming ritual, then tells Miyuki she’s changed her mind. Unfortunately, she says more words that muddy the waters, causing Miyuki to question whether she means for him to go alone. Having already expended all their courage and arrived at a stalemate, they rely on the other council members to pop in and give them the boost they need to make that one tiny final step towards arranging a date together.

Alas, Yuu, Miko and Chika only make matters worse; Yuu by laughing at the fact he witnessed a guy asking a girl to the culture fest in the hall; Yuu for bringing her disciplinary sensibility to the same event, and finally Chika saying Kaguya definitely shouldn’t go because she’ll get hit on too much. Kaguya seemingly breaks through the fog by suggesting a male accompany her, but that somehow turns into Yuu going with Miyuki. The boys have fun, but Miyuki and Kaguya both definitely lose, and not for want of trying!

Tofu EgO DEATH

While observing Chika transferring a guitar song from one musical scale to another, Miyuki considers every high schooler’s dream of rocking out on stage, something Chika immediately shoots down on account of her considerable experience with Miyuki’s artistic pursuits, and begs him to look at himself more objectively.

Miyuki takes Chika’s advice by starting from a place of wanting to know what women think about him, starting with Miko. Unfortunately, it’s all staged and phrased like a confession to her, which she’s actually flattered by until he pulls an identical act on Chika, who clears things up with Iino.

Thus Miyuki endures an onslaught of shit-talking, as Miko admits that looks-wise he’s not her type, and that she’d prefer the kind of ideal prince of a man that may not even exist. Chika admits that the president actually is more or less her type as someone who is always rising to the challenge in a “single-minded, unbecoming way.”

But since she’s just realizing this and also knows of all of Miyuki’s glaring flaws, she takes said realization as a major blow to her ego, which of course continues to eat away at Miyuki’s. Due to Chika’s penchant for turning discussions into “strange events”, the office is filled with a fog of glumness as Miyuki concludes he’s simply a worthless person no one would consider confessing to.

That is, until his soul mate enters the room, is brought up to speed about the legal insulting session, and asked what she’d change about Miyuki. As we know from her little heart incident at the hospital last season, we know Kaguya already considers the president “an ideal human being”. So her answer—Miyuki is fine the way he is. No notes!—comes as no surprise.

His confidence, recently sloughed away like Mars’ atmosphere by the unintentional roast with Chika and Miko, is instantly, fully restored. Such is the power of the one you love saying exactly what needed to hear, when you needed to hear it. Someone who doesn’t overlook your flaws, but cherishes them along with your merits.

Frankly, if Miyuki was being mature about this, the cultural festival is too late; he should simply confess to her now and get it over with. I’m sure he won’t, but while his Stanford declaration has seemingly placed a ticking clock on their relationship, one can’t rule out that she will confess to him at some point, or may even follow him to Stanford.

The important thing is that at the halfway point of what may well be Love is War’s final season, they’re not out of options yet.

Summertime Render – 04 – Ushio Deux

Last week Shinpei encountered Ushio on the beach, dramatically backlit by the festival fireworks. But it’s only this week that she says anything, and actually tackles Shinpei. Nagase Anna has such a refreshing voice that’s perfect for Ushio: crisp, clear, and full of exuberance.

Considering his previous encounters with doppelgangers of people he knows, Shin is understandably weary, as this Ushio must be a shadow. But she’s different from the others. For one thing, she’s not evil. For another, she doesn’t know she’s a shadow (or what a shadow is). As far as she’s concerned, she’s just Ushio. She wished for Shin to return, and he did, so she wastes no time confessing to him.

Shin still doesn’t fully trust this Ushio, but she’s talking and acting so much like Ushio, it’s a complete trip. When she runs off and joins the festival—still in her swimsuit—he chases her down, takes her to a quiet storage area and insists she stay put, lest someone see her and wig out. Incidentally, the only person we see spot her is Shadow Mio.

Shinpei gets back to the gang in time to join Tokiko in witnesseing Seidou totally crashing and burning in his sudden confession to Mio. Tokiko knows full well who Mio really loves, and that her brother is doomed to fail. Mio friendzones Seidou so fast his head spins.

That’s when he’s comforted…not by Shin or Toki, but but someone wearing a magical girl mask. Everyone instantly recognizes Ushio’s voice, and thus she’s found out even faster than Seidou was rejected by Mio. But when Mio sees Ushio, she naturally wigs out…because this Ushio is a monster…or is she?

For the moment, no; Ushio remains a compelling enigma: a shadow somehow gone wrong. When Shin first takes hold of her, I assumed he was going to scold her or lead her back to her hiding spot. But then he grabs her so hard it hurts her, and even causes her to bleed, and that’s when the shoe drops: this isn’t Shinpei.

But wait, when Shin returned, Mio said the code word and he gave the right response, right? Right; but as we see, Shin is jumped by Shadow Mio on his way back to his friends, and Shadow Shin updates his memories. Not only does he know his code with Mio, but now the shadows know he’s experiencing time loops. Shadow Shin’s solution to that? Don’t kill him…at least not until “everything is done”.

Shadow Mio obeys Shadow Shin, who heads to Shin’s friends. Regular Shin may be badly hurt, but even when Mio breaks his arm, he keeps trying to crawl to the real Mio to keep his promise to protect her. Shadow Mio is about to break his leg as well when her head is blown off by two shotgun blasts from none other than the woman on the Ferry.

The engaging mystery of “New Ushio” and her lived-in rapport with Shin combined with the added suspense and peril of the evil shadows and one hell of a switcheroo return Summertime Render to rare rating air.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 05 – The Truth Is Revealed

Smells Like Teen Spirit of Expression

Oh, my sweet summer child…you didn’t perchance think Miyuki’s rapping was never going to addressed, did you? It all starts when Kei calls Chika asking her big sis to murder her brother. Turns out he’s been practicing at home. When Miyuki tells her there’s no other way to convey his feelings to a certain someone, she’s eager to help him out, just as she did with his anthem singing.

Alas, not only is Chika not remotely inoculated against the scourge of Miyuki’s sea sluggish rhymes, she’s not that strong a rapper herself in the first place, having never really done it before. Still, she stands by the axiom that it’s not how you express something that’s important, it’s what and to whom. Miyuki sets her straight: rap is both a sport and an art, but most of all, it’s a conversation.

Chika’s first attempt at rapping is like watching a baby deer take its first wobbly tentative steps. But once she locks in on the fact that rapping and piano are not that different, she starts to put out something that does more than just bear a passing resemblance to rap. No sooner does Miyuki tell her he has nothing left to teach her, he proceeds to ask her to teach him how to rap. The teacher hath become the student…

Straight Outta Chiba

It isn’t until their training is nearly complete that Chika bothers to ask whether the person Miyuki needs to rap to is someone she knows. He says she does, and we flash back to that karaoke box, where we learn Ai actually opened up to him (presumably before the rapping) about who she is, what she does, and who she works for.

As a fellow commoner who can empathize with what Ai must be going through, Miyuki embraces her as a friend and gives her his number. He uses it to invite Ai to Chiba Park where he has something he wants to tell her. As Kaguya eavesdrops on her employee-sister’s call, she tags along, while Chika is eager for some BL action, believing Herthaka to be a male butler.

With Chika backing him up, Miyuki spits out his feelings, which challenge Ai’s belief that one needs to put on an act in order to be loved. This rapping Miyuki is being his own best self, and sees no reason why she can’t be hers too.

When Kaguya feels confused, lost, and left out, she eventually cut loose with the illest rhymes of the group, on her first try no less! Then she gets cocky and puts Ai on blast, provoking Ai into delivering her own freestyle rap. As with Miyuki and Chika’s raps, Ai’s is accompanied by music-video style dramatizations.

Ai finally comes out as being jealous of Kaguya enjoying her life as a teenager, with all its highs and lows. She wants a friend in Miyuki…with the option to possibly steal him from Kaguya in the future.

They’re in Nirvana…Never Mind

The final segment somewhat surprisingly does not involve rapping, but is the second of Shijou Maki’s visits that put the council in “student” council. She’s joined the volunteer club at Nagisa’s behest…a club that includes just her, Nagisa, and Nagisa’s boyfriend, whom we finally learn after three seasons is named Tsubasa.

Unaware of Maki’s feelings for Tsubasa, Nagisa is transparently lovey-dovey with him around her. As such, she’s come to think of Nagisa as the devil. Yuu and Miyuki warn her that as the couple is in “nirvana”, breaking them up will be nigh impossible. Maki, as innocent as her cousin, is unaware that the Nirvana they speak of pertains to Nagisa and Tsubasa having knocked boots.

In the end, Maki doesn’t get any useful advice other than the kind that is no longer useful: love is all about speed. Once you know you love someone, it’s imperative to confess to them ASAP, lest they get stolen away, as Tsubasa was. Miyuki, exhibiting the same self-awareness as Kaguya did last week, warns her waiting for the other person to confess is just a passive way to save face.

But Maki’s visit isn’t a waste. She can take some solace in commiserating with and warning these boys not to follow her down the path of inaction. Miyuki envisions Yuu with Kaguya and Yuu envisions Miyuki with Tsubame, and they can feel a glimmer of what Maki feels in reality. So the StuCo office will always be open to her, whenever it gets too hard watching Nirvana from the outside.

P.S. There’s a new ED involving the gang rapping and breakdancing on stage. It’s awesome and features some pretty slick animation (as well as more “serious” character design of the characters) and better rapping than any of the raps in the actual episode. Like the Starship Troopers ED, it also ends with a sweet moment of togetherness with Miyuki and Kaguya.

 

A Couple of Cuckoos – 01 (First Impressions) – Family Knots

Umino Nagi is a straight-A student at a good school who spends most of his time studying and battling his academic rival. He was also accidentally switched at birth. Now that he’s sixteen, he’s going to meet his birth parents. While his sister Sachi, who has been his sister for those sixteen years, decries her brother as an egg-headed loner, her tough act quickly falls when faced with the possibility of losing her brother.

Nagi pats her head and assures Sachi he has no intention of changing his family this late in the game. On his way to the meeting, he encounters a beautiful young woman with twin tails in a frilly dress, seemingly about to jump to her death. Nagi leaps into action, but inadvertently gropes the girl while trying to keep her from jumping. And she wasn’t going to really jump, she was just recording something for her Insta.

While not the most auspicious (or original) manner of meeting, the two soon bond over a common problem: family issues. The girl, one Amano Erika, is trying to start drama in order to convince her mom that she’s not getting married, while Nagi is a mix-up baby. When he learns what school he attends, she decides that he will be her fake boyfriend so she can gt the wedding called off.

When Nagi bristles at this plan and tries to walk away, she holds up very crisp 8K video of him groping her. While I wish there had been one of those *ding-dong* sounds accompanied by a PSA saying “Let’s not blackmail people”, this puts Nagi in a bind, and surrenders. The speed with which Erika resorts to an underhanded tactic is later revealed to be a clue about who she really is and where she comes from.

Despite having the wherewithal to blackmail and mocking Nagi for having never dated anyone, Erika has to google what boyfriends and girlfriends do. Both agree “doin’ it” isn’t a viable option, so she settles for photos of her with her bae. She gets it in her head that if they wear matching badass outfits and he looks tough, her parents will be more inclined to back down. Thus in the middle of this fake boyfriend ploy, they have a dress-up date.

Despite Erika blowing over $3,800 (on her limitless credit card, confirming she’s a rich girl in net worth) none of the photos they take look genuine, but rather look exactly like what they are: staged. Erika ends up going with their first photo, which was taken on accident and thus totally candid and natural, giving you “a sense of the air of the moment,” as she rather poetically put it. Alas, it doesn’t work, and her parents urge her to stop messing around and head home before curfew.

Before she can, Nagi enters another very well-worn but in this case nicely-executed trope of accidental romance anime: revealing surprising toughness when the girl is threatened by three stalkers. This happens very suddenly after an episode that had a nice steady flow, and I feel like another comic disclaimer not to commit assault should have popped up, but I still like how it revealed a new side to Erika: that Nagi’s former delinquent parents brought him up to win any fight he found himself in.

Erika genuinely appreciates his chivalrous behavior, and when her car shows up to take her home, lets him know she’ll delete the blackmail video, something I appreciated being resolved here and now rather than continue to loom over Nagi. Erika reveals that because she’s “like this” she has no friends, but that she and Nagi felt like friends for a day and it was fun. She also says, claiming to be joking later, that if it were him she had to marry, she might not have as much of a problem with it.

Naturally, when Nagi arrives to meet his birth parents, he learns both they and his own parents have arranged for their two kids to marry, so that they can all be one happy family. They just assumed the photo meant they’d already met and were dating!

Tha means his birth parents’ kid, the one he was switched with, is Erika, which explains why she has more of a delinquent streak in her (and sense of street fashion!) than a hoity-toity rich princess. In keeping with the nature she inherited form her birth parents, she follows through on her promise to punch her fiancé the way Nagi punched those punks.

That is one hell of a conceit, and once you suspend your disbelief such a ridiculous arrangement would ever be made between two very different pairs of parents without any input from their children, it looks to be an extremely fun one too. A Couple of Cuckoos arrives fashionably late but looks great and has a goofy but engaging concept, while the 24-episode run means we’ll have ample time to dig into who Nagi and Erika are and how they handle this arrangement.

The two cours also means there’ll be ample time to tell three parallel relationships: between Nagi and Erika, the kids switched at birth, between Nagi and Sachi, siblings not related by blood, and finally the surprise reveal of Nagi’s aforementioned academic rival, who is also his crush, Segawa Hiro (Touyama Nao), whom he’s vowed to confess to once he’s usurped her class ranking throne. Did I mention she can’t remember his name? It’s all a big, beautiful mess!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Love After World Domination – 01 (First Impressions) – Opposite Factions Attract

Aikawa Fudou is Red Gelato, leader of the Freezing Sentai Gelato 5. Magahara Desumi is the Reaper Princess of Secret Society Gecko. They should be mortal enemies, but when we meet the two, they’re having an adorable third date together, and contemplating holding hands.

The prospect of holding hands seems far too advanced for these two romantically stunted people. But when Blue Gelato enters the frame, Fudou and Desumi have no trouble holding hands…as they grapple in a sudden struggle of life and death between hero and villainess. Or at least that is the illusion these two lovers must maintain.

Love After World Domination isn’t what I expected. I thought that Fudou and Desumi were simply actors in some kind of super sentai show. But there’s every indication the Gelato 5 are actual superheroes, while Desumi really is an actual villainess. They all may have their downtime in civilian clothes, but when it’s “showtime” they’re fighting an actual war against each other.

About a week before their third date, Fudou delegates the defeat of Gecko’s boss in bear form to the others Gelato rangers, while he takes on the Reaper Princess by himself. She’s impressed that he can keep up with her, while he’s astonished by her beauty, grace, and ability. In other words, it’s love at first sight for both of them, totally irrespective of their firmly opposite affiliations.

Professor Big Gelato, who is in charge of the Gelato 5, hears Fudou imply that heroes can’t fall in love and smacks him in the face, oficially ordering him to tell the woman he loves how he feels. Little doe Professor Big know that the woman in question is one of the Gelato 5’s greatest foes.

Meeting Desumi one-on-one in a particularly romantic moonlit setting, Fudou comes right out and tells her he loves her…in the first episode. Desumi tries to point out all the reasons why no one could ever love her, but Fudou is a regular on her social media accounts and thus has learned a great deal about her and has fallen for her. She’s not not open to the idea of dating, even if she knows nothing about dating.

Fortunately, Fudou knows fuck-all about dating too, which means they’ll be fumbling through it together, which will make it that much more fun to experience, as well as for us the viewers to watch. The premise of enemies falling for one another is a simple yet immensely powerful one, hearkening to Romeo & Juliet and before.

But integrating the quirky dynamics of sentai heroes vs. occult baddies is an inspired choice, and the execution is competent as it is cute. This episode got me thoroughly excited to see how far these two goofy lovebirds will go with their forbidden love.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 12 (Fin) – Nishikata’s Quest

For three seasons and dozens of vignettes, we’ve watched Nishikata undertake a gradual journey of enlightenment and awakening, from an origin point of modest, adolescent…dumbness. This season and this episode in particular, Nishikata’s brain has finally started to get wise to the fact that it has never been about winning or teasing with Takagi. It was more simply about being with him.

As these confusing feelings sprout up in his dinosaur-filled mind, Takagi must know that he’s distracted by the imminent coming of White Day, even if she doesn’t know that Hamaguchi urged him to confess to her on that day. Faced with such a monumental task, Nishikata retreats into the games, creating his most elaborate yet: Nishikata Quest, a series of boxes containing riddles leading to other riddles.

But when there are no more riddles, and he hopes Takagi to be at her most frustrated and defeated, that he’ll give her his White Day present In other words, when all is said and done he not only wants Takagi to be comforted, he wants to be the one to brighten her mood. Alas, his grand plan is dashed when Takagi is unable to make it to school on White Day due to strong winds delaying her ferry.

When he thinks she’ll only be gone for first period, Nishikata tries his best to take good notes that he’ll share with her. But when she texts him that she won’t be coming at all, he realizes how lonely he is without her sitting at the desk beside him…how things just feel “off”. After school, Hamaguchi gives Houjou some white chocolate, but just can’t manage to confess his love to her. But Houjou still looks happy he at least made the attempt.

When Mina finds the first of Nishikata’s boxes on the floor of the classroom (jostled off Takagi’s chair when Takao and Kimura are fighting), she leads Sanae and Yukari on his epic mind-bending quest. When they find the final box bearing Nishikata’s name, Yukari realizes this was all one big gesture of love for Takagi, and insists they put all the boxes back where they found them, lest they spoil loverboy’s efforts.

When Kimura kept Nishikata company during solo library duty, Nishikata noticed that Kimura was reading the same novel as Takagi when she said “I love you”. Kimura recommends the book and lends it to Nishikata, who reads it when he gets home and can’t find the “I love you” Takagi purportedly took from the page. It’s here where the dusty light bulb in his head finally switches on. That time she said “I love you”, like so many other times he remembers, were Takagi expressing her honest feelings.

For that reason, Nishikata can’t wait until tomorrow to see Takagi or give her her White Day gift. Heck, he can’t wait one more minute, running out the door, onto the bus, and running some more to the docks. When he spots Takagi getting into her car and driving off, he chases the car…on foot. Finally, fate smiles on him as Takagi’s car happens to turn at just such an angle that she spots him running behind, asks to stop the car, gets out, and runs to meet him.

In effect, it’s a romantic climax I’ve probably seen dozens of times both in anime and movies and other TV. But there’s something about the way it’s executed so beautifully, and with all the accumulated feelings and experiences these two have been through in three seasons, that elevates what could have felt clichéd in less skilled hands to truly epic status.

Even better, we don’t need the classic “I love you” confession; the fact Nishikata is there at all, chasing Takagi down, is all Takagi needs to know how he feels. And then he comes right out and says he’s there “because I wanted to see you.”

He may think he failed when his White Day gift got dropped and smashed by a car, but the gift doesn’t matter; she doesn’t even open it, instead taking his scuffed up hands into hers and saying he’s already given her the best gift she could have asked for: him, there, with her.

It’s pretty much the best ending a Takagi-san fan could ask for, made all the more satisfying because there’s an upcoming movie that could well elaborate on their new adorable normal. As we’ve come to the end of this season, there few things I’m looking more forward to than seeing these two on the screen again as soon as humanly possible.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 11 – Merry Dried Sardine Day

Last week might’ve been the last “standard” episode of Takagi-san,  because this week is anything but normal. It’s suddenly Valentine’s Day, and for much as Takagi and Nishikata interact, there’s hardly any teasing. It’s pretty clear why from the moment Nishikata opens his locker and finds three boxes of chocolates from three different kouhai. For as predictable as Nishikata is, we’ve known Takagi long enough to know what’s up.

Major Kudos to both the animation team and Takahashi Rie for making it plain that Takagi is just a little “off” this week. She came to school early so she could put chocolates in Nishikata’s shoe locker, only to find three girls had beaten her to the punch. That Nishikata tries to hide the fact he got chocolates only makes things more awkward, even though he tries to find the right opportunity to tell her.

Meanwhile, Houjou interrupts Hamaguchi talking with the boys to nonchalantly hand him a bar of store-bought chocolate before sauntering off. Hamaguchi assumes the worst, since he spotted her at the grocery store buying ingredients for homemade chocolate. If he gets a Meiji bar, that means she doesn’t love him! Of course, even here, I knew Houjou must’ve just screwed up the homemade chocolate.

Oftentimes predictability can make a show boring or unengaging, but the opposite was true here. As we watch Nishikata struggle to tell Takagi about the other girls’ chocolate, even trying to intentionally lose a contest to cheer her up, it is wonderfully, heartwarmingly plain that winning and losing those little games doesn’t matter to him nearly as much as wanting to turn Takagi’s frown upside-down. And hey, he does—albeit accidentally when the teacher catches him goofing off.

Fortune favors Nishikata, as Takagi just happens to be walking down the hall when she sees him respectfully return the chocolate to the three girls who gave it to him. Takagi knows why. It doesn’t matter whether the girls made a mistake and meant to put it in another boy’s locker (the one who played the dog at the culture fest). Nishikata takes this entirely in stride, because he’s not interested in those three girls. He never was.

Their innocent mistake may have screwed up Takagi and Nishikata’s February 14th, but after school the universe rights that wrong by once again having the two cross paths by chance. Their timing is so precise, the moment Takagi finally decides on a text to send him, she hears the alert on his phone as he’s already arrived. It’s kismet!

What follows is one of the most serious, dramatic, honest, and beautifulest exchanges between these two in all these three seasons. Takagi admits she was bummed out all day because when she saw those three boxes of chocolates, she was worried Nishikata would mention them, and that she’d respond by “acting mean” again.

Takagi doesn’t like the part of her that’s mean when she’s jealous. I adore the empathy they express for each other in this scene; how awful even the thought of hurting each other makes them feel. That said, all’s well that ends well, and Takagi manages to give Nishikata a box of chocolates. Only the first box she gives him is actually full of dried sardines.

She just happened to prepare that little prank before he mentioned it being “National Dried Sardine Day” (because of how the numbers “214” resemble the Japanese word for dried sardines). That their two adorkable minds thought alike—and are thinking alike more and more—delights Takagi to no end.

The next day, Nishikata sees Hamaguchi sitting in the hall looking super-cool. Since the store-bought/homemade chocolate mixup was all cleared up, he’s resolved to confess his love to Houjou on White Day. Not only that, he tells Nishikata that’d he’d better confess to Takagi on that day too.

And I fuly agree with Hamaguchi…he sure as shit better! Or, if it’s Takagi who confesses to him, he’d better accept his damn destiny. I don’t want any cliffhangers for a fourth season…let’s get this done!

Attack on Titan – 78 – Dropping the Ball

The incremental struggle of the two Yeager Brothers continues, with Eren stoving in Porco’s head before continuing to grapple with Reiner and Zeke finding himself wounded and on the ground. The two are so close and yet so far, and the Marleyan Eldians are doing everything they can to stop them from coming together.

But Pieck was right: they didn’t hit Zeke hard enough to keep him from letting out a roar if that’s what he wanted to do. Colt rushes to him with the news Falco had injested some of Zeke’s spinal fluid, asking for nothing more than to let Gabi take him and ride a horse far enough out that Falco won’t be affected by the roar. He has Zeke’s sympathies, saying it’s a “shame”, but Zeke lets out a roar anyway.

As a result, hundreds of soldiers who drank the wine with Zeke’s spinal fluid are transformed into pure Titans, including Falco. Colt holds him tight the whole time, and gets burned to death as a result, leaving Gabi all alone to watch in horror as the Falco Titan gnaws at Reiner’s nape. Pieck gets another shot off despite being harassed by Mikasa and Armin, but Zeke is only faking his death.

Eren senses this, crystalizes his Titan body to restrain Reiner, pops out, and continues to rush towards the still-alive Zeke hiding under the Beast’s skeleton. But what had been a short distance for a Titan to cover becomes a much farther distance for Eren on foot. Before he can close that distance, Gabi gets ahold of an anti-Titan rifle…and blows Eren’s head off.

That’s a hell of a midway point to an episode that already featured the deaths of a great many secondary and tertiary characters in short order, but it was clear this wasn’t the end for Eren. We’re taken back to when he was in the Marleyan hospital, where Zeke met with him and appears to agree to Zeke’s plan for euthanization. However, when Zeke tosses him the baseball, he fails to catch it; it lands on the ground behind him.

2001: A Space Odyssey-style trippy montage ensues, returning us to the present and then to a place outside of normal time and space altogether: the “Paths” of which Zeke reported dreaming in the first episode. There, Zeke is chained to the sand as a solitary figure approaches Eren, who can move freely. The figure is the founder Ymir, source of the power to achieve their dreams.

It’s only here, where he believes Zeke needs his cooperation in order to proceed and is thus at his mercy, where Eren finally tells us what Armin convinced himself into believing, and tried to convince Mikasa and the others as well: Eren was only going along with Zeke. He has no intention of carrying out the Eldian euthanization. But in revealing his true feelings, Eren screws himself over, because Ymir gives him the cold shoulder.

Eren may be free to move about this uncanny land of the Paths, but he has no authority or dominion over Ymir because he lacks the blood of the royal family whom she obeys. Zeke does, and over the “mind-numbing” time he spent in the paths, figured out a way to do away with his bloodline’s vow renouncing war. Zeke’s chains were only an illusion; they crumble at his command, and Eren is shackled by another.

Zeke doesn’t blame Eren for his Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal, but rather their horrible father for brainwashing him and involving the two brothers in this whole horrible business. But with involvement comes terrible purpose. Eren was the key to Zeke gaining the power of Ymir. He played himself into quite a predicament…but something tells me Zeke shouldn’t celebrate his victory quite yet…

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