Horimiya – 10 – Pure White Snow

First of all, I’d like to simply make the observation that for a show called Horimiya, which is short for Hori-san to Miyamura-kun, there sure hasn’t been a lot of the title characters! They show up in the beginning for a brief comedy bit in which Hori is more worried about Miyamura being stolen from her not by girls, but guys like Tanihara and Shindo.

Miyamura’s growing discomfort with Hori’s kink isn’t addressed, and so simply continues to hang there in the background without a satisfying resolution. Hori simply hasn’t been a very likable character lately, and doesn’t help her case with her biphobia this week. Instead, the episode is dominated by Yoshikawa Yuki, who for me was always a character best enjoyed in small portions.

To be frank, Yuki’s crisis isn’t compelling enough to me to carry a whole episode, and starts to grow repetitive as she continues her M.O. of running away from her problems. Unlike her sister, I don’t mind her turning down Yanagi, as she barely knows the guy, and likes Tooru. What I do mind is just about everything else she does and says.

While we don’t hear her say the actual words, it’s later clear Yoshikawa comes clean to Remi about her feelings for Tooru at least to some degree, and in exchange Remi agrees not to correct Kouno’s misunderstanding about Tooru and Yuki dating. Yuki doesn’t like lying or pretending, and wants the lie to be real. She’s just too scared to put herself on the line.

As such, she runs away from the problem, staying home from school for four whole days and stewing in her present state of frustration simply because she fears feeling something far worse if she were to take action: the sting of knowing for sure that Tooru doesn’t like her “that way”, shattering the limbo in which she resided all this time.

Yuki’s sister points out something it’s logical for a big sister to know, but which we already knew from watching Yuki: she never tells anyone what she wants, and almost always regrets it. Yuki is also hung up symbolism surrounding her name, which means “snow”, while “sakura” means the beautiful things that bloom after the snow melts.

Still, when her sister requests she make more of the “snow white” cookies she baked, Yuki at least finds the courage to turn her phone back on. As she suspected, she’s confronted with hard truths, as one of the dozen texts she got is from Tooru telling her that Sakura told him she likes him.

Yuki returns to school but pretends like nothing is wrong, but Tooru wants to talk about it. Yuki assumes he said yes, and that this is the end of their game of pretend, but Tooru surprises her when he says Sakura didn’t ask for a response; she just wanted to get it off her chest. More to the point, Tooru considers Sakura way out of his league, and is certain she’ll find someone better than him.

Yuki ponders the effort Sakura must’ve mustered to bake cookies for Tooru everyday, and the courage she amassed to tell him how she felt. Meanwhile, she just runs, at all times terrified of rejection. Sakura is warm cherry blossoms in the spring while she’s “gross, muddy, freezing” snow, like her name.

Then Yuki exhales, and Tooru notes he can see her breath, and says if it’s going to be this cold it could at least snow, as he was bummed it didn’t snow as much as usual this year. Yuki lists all of the negative aspects of snow and why no one wants it, particularly the part where it ends up melting in the spring.

Tooru surprises her again, saying the snow doesn’t melt because it’s spring, but because it decides to melt…to recede…to run, even when there are some (cough) who want it to stick around. It doesn’t melt because the cherry blossoms ask it to. Hearing all this from Tooru makes Yuki happy, as does when he gently takes her index finger in his hand and leads her back inside where it’s warmer.

For the first time, Yuki hopes it will snow…the pure-white kind. And then it does. Sengoku doesn’t make the symbolic connection, instead asking Remi what’s up with Sakura, as she seems to be acting especially happy. All Remi says is that it’s “the exact opposite” and heads out for tutoring. Sakura arrives in the office, notices Remi didn’t open the window.

She walks over to open it and spots Yuki and Tooru together outside, clearly enjoying each other’s company. Suddenly Sakura has to go, but Sengoku stops her to ask what’s wrong. Going by what Remi agreed to do for Yuki, we can assume Sakura believes Yuki and Tooru are dating, which means she was rejected before she had a chance to ask the guy out.

Sengoku calls this guy a complete idiot and moron who should be expelled—who wouldn’t want to be with her? I’m sure he considers this the right thing to say, and Sakura is grateful for his compliments, but there’s really nothing he can say to stop her from dropping to the ground and sobbing, because her heart was just recently broken. She’ll get over it, but right now it sucks.

That said, if Yuki and Tooru have come to an understanding, they never did come right out and say it. Does Tooru know how Yuki feels about him? Does she know he feels the same way? The next time we see them will they be the way they always are, with neither having explicitly confessed to the other? Can they graduate from pretend dating to the real thing? I hope so, considering all the time we’ve spent on this triangle—and not spent on Hori and Miyamura!

Horimiya – 09 – Taming a Fierce Golem

Miyamura has the kind of day where Hori puts his hair in pigtails, and then slaps him when he attracts the attention of three other girls, then gets disapprovingly glared at by a random classmate.

On the walk home, Miyamura asks if Hori is angry, and while she wants to rant about how it’s very convenient that the same girls who treated him like he was invisible are suddenly all over him when she’s standing right beside him, instead she says betsuni—not really.

That would have probably been the end of it, but then Miyamura is approached by Tanihara and his friend, two of the boys who excluded and haranged him in middle school. At first Tanihara seems to be polite and genuine, but when Miyamura says his name he says he’s “skeeved out”. Tanihara mocks him for making his girlfriend carry his bag, and mockingly congratulate him for “scoring”.

Hori, already in a crappy mood, asks if they’re done talking, then beats the crap out of them (off-camera). While grabbing a burger, Tanihara tells Shougo about the encounter. Shougo warns him not to mess with Miyamura what with his “leveled up DEF stats”; Tanihara goes on to describe Hori as Miyamura’s “summon”.

Shougo, who was the one who reached out to Miyamura and has been established as having the highest emotional intelligence in the show, can see right through Tanihara’s claims he doesn’t care about Miyamura. To paraphrase Kylie Minogue, Tanihara can’t get [him] out of [his] head.

While washing dishes like the adorable couple they are, Miyamura notices Hori’s bruised knuckles from punching the jerks, and also notices Hori not noticing the bruises, and would say they were nothing if asked about them. He revels in having someone who’ll get mad on his behalf; who will always have his back.

He’s also learned that this is a two-way street. “Having Hori’s back” means indulging her when she asks him to yell at her and hit her. When he demurs because he genuinely doesn’t like doing those things, she insists with the sweetest, least punchable face. When he still won’t do it, she looks like she’s about to cry!

Shougo asks Miyamura if it’s not something he can discuss because it’s “something sexual”. But when Miyamura asks Hori to come along and she says “louder”, and he finally relents, yells, grabs, and drags her along to her delight, Shougo sees it as exactly that, or at least something close.

Hori ends up meeting Tanihara and the other kid she beat with a third friend of theirs loitering outside the konbini and tells them to buzz off. The third kid, having not experienced her violence, acts all too disrespectfully, incurring the ire of his two friends. Then the three witness Hori walking up to Miyamura, who then slaps her and drags her roughly away, shocking the guys and Tanihara in particular.

As usual, Hori is over the moon about being treated like this, and again, Miyamura is right on the cusp of bringing it up when he sees her joyful face and decides to let her be. My stance on this? People are going to have their kinks, and for Hori, it’s being treated like this by and only by Miyamura.

Miyamura has indulged her thus far to the point it’s so normalized she expects to be “rewarded” with such treatment semi-regularly. He’s clearly conflicted about this, so discusses it with her dad, while sitting in a tub for some reason. He reckons she likes it because it’s the exact opposite of how he normally acts, and tells him to think of it like “taming a fierce golem.”

Back at school, Tooru tries to say high to the kid who was eye-stabbing Miyamura earlier—named Mizouchi—but gets ignored. Miyamura thinks he knows why: the guy has a crush on Hori. When he goes to the science lab to look for his phone Miyamura finds Mizouchi there. Mizouhi is disgusted by what a airhead and lame-o Miyamura appears to be, wondering out loud why Hori chose him.

Miyamura’s response to Mizouchi’s query ties nicely into his present crisis, as he asks him “If you had to, would you punch Hori?” Mizouchi says of course not, he could never hit her…and Miyamura says that right there is why Hori would never choose him. When Miyamura and Mizouchi run into Hori in the hall and Hori starts babbling, Miyamura gives her the treatment she wants, then tells a gobsmacked Mizouchi to leave her be as she smiles and blushes to herself.

Mizouchi’s opinion of Miyamura changes immediately, and becomes even more confused when he sees Miyamura’s eyes are raw with tears. Clearly, he and Hori need to have a sober talk about this. If it bothers him, maybe having hearing her express why it’s so important to her will help make it bother him less?

* * * * *

Shougo was right about one thing: Miyamura is in Tanihara’s head. He’s in his very dreams, weird ones in which the two of them are cooped up in a locker while Miyamura talks about the “inside” and “outside”, and a moment from middle school when Tanihara saw Miyamura crying by the rabbit cage. After waking up in a cold sweat, Tanihara asks Shougo for Miyamura’s number.

When Miyamura doesn’t answer his phone, Tanihara goes to his family’s bakery just as it’s closing. What ensues is an exchange that alternates between awkward, fraught, and warm, as the two lads once on opposite sides of an imaginary border make plans to hang out and talk about things that need talking about, or about nothing at all.

In the former category, Tanihara is struggling with the guilt of not only failing to feed the rabbits when it was his turn, leading to their deaths, but pinning the blame on Miyamura, whom he knew liked the rabbits (and they liked him) more than anyone.

It hurts his heart to think about how he never apologized…but it’s not too late. You could say Tanihara deserves to feel shitty about what he did.  But knowing Miyamura, if he knew what Tanihara did—and maybe he always did—he’s already forgiven him. He can, because Tanihara feels remorse about it, and while he’s trying to exorcise his own demons, he also sees the strange new creature Miyamura has become, and would like to know him better.

It makes me wonder even more whether Miyamura knows Tanihara framed him when he finds Hori’s yearbook (and his promptly warned not to peek if he doesn’t want to be punched). Miyamura admits to also saving the big, heavy, unwieldy books (from a heavy unwieldy past) simply because he couldn’t be bothered to ever toss them out.

Now that he’s growing closer to others, including Mizouchi and Tanihara, he’s glad he didn’t. Right now he feels like there’s not a person in the world he can’t become friends with. As for whether he can raise that much-needed talk to gain clarity over Hori’s being-mistreated-by-him kink, well…we’ll see.

Horimiya – 08 – Reaching Milestones

I. Exclusion Zone

At some point after being with Hori, Miyamura has a dream in which he meets with his old socially awkward, and above all angry self, who was so tired of being left out and made to feel so pointless that he even considered dying. The older Miyamura urges him to hold off on the whole dying thing and hang in there, as he actually ended up doing IRL.

While telling him about all of the wonderful people waiting to be friends, and most importantly, a girl who he’ll need as much as she needs him, Present-day Miyamura takes stock of how far he’s come from those dark brooding middle school days before Shindou reached out. He wakes up with tears in his eyes, likely weeping for that old Miyamura, and wants to see Hori. Who wouldn’t want to see their lover after that dream?

II. Bestselling Tearjerker

From there, we shift to the relationship of Remi and Kakeru, who came as a pre-made couple at the outset. Remi waxes lovingly about why she loves Kakeru, who has never been strong or athletic but always strives and stuggles to be stronger for himself and for Remi, which in turn inspires her to be better. She remembers him being very different back when they first started talking.

Remi recalls a key moment in understanding Kakeru when she overheard his buds talking about the wildly popular Remi and her BFF Sakura as “Beauty and the Beast”. Kakeru refused to subscribe to his mates’ assessment, insisting the two girls both looked “normal.” He wasn’t so much defending Sakura, whom he didn’t know, but he wasn’t going to lie to fit in.

Remi ends up approaching Kakeru first, asking about the old-looking book he has. It turns out to be Goethe, who channeled his own unrequited love into his confessional novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. Assuming her interest in books is genuine (and it is!), he starts lending her and Sakura editions of all kinds, starting with Grimms’ Fairy Tails.

When answering Remi’s question of where all these books come from, Kakeru gives her the perfect opening to invite herself over. Remi finds a book on a high dusty shelf about the last day before the end of the world, and when he asks what she’d do, she says she’d indulge herself by eating desserts and whatnot. Kakeru notices she’s wearing her pigtails slightly higher, and Remi is clearly happy he noticed.

Back at school, Kakeru is grateful that Remi is talking with him on the regular, but makes mention that his friend Kamioka has a crush on her. Remi responds immediately with an indifferent “so” that notably lacks the usual stutter employed to indicate genuine interest. Basically, she doesn’t give a shit about Kamioka! She asks to come over to his house again, but he says he might “get the wrong idea” about her intentions.

Back in the library, Remi asks Kakeru what he’d do if the world was going to end tomorrow. Again, Kakeru cannot lie, and in any case doesn’t want to, as he says he’d tell Remi he liked her. Of course, by answering so truthfully (not to mention blushing like a beet) he makes it clear he does like her, giving her the opening to say she likes him, accompanying her confession with a beautiful smile.

In the present, Kakeru is loved and fawned over by girls and boys alike, and is the damn StuCo President besides. Remi loved him back when he wouldn’t get swept away by others, but she also loves him now, swiping a spider she’s not at all scared of (but he is) from her shoulder when asked.

III. Spicing Things Up

Hori and Miyamura may have slept together, but thankfully that isn’t the end-all, be-all of their relationship, only a key milestone on the long road ahead. While they know each other quite well by now, they’re also still learning. Miyamura uses the excuse of having some old polish lying around to paint her boyfriend’s toenails, a less violent way of marking her man than neck bites!

Through most of their time together, Hori has done most of the “messing around”, so while she’s painting his toes, Miyamura decides to get playful and put his foot on her head, as if stepping on her would make him “level up”. He immediately prostrates himself in apology, but Hori isn’t mad, just confused.

After all, the same Miyamura who rages at Sawada and beats up Shindou is always so calm and well-mannered around her, making her wonder sometimes if he’s “faking it” for her. He asked if he’d rather treat her like he does them, yelling at and hitting them, and in a purely rhetorical sense, Hori imagines it and is kinda turned on, simply because it’s so unlike how Miyamura really treats her.

The next day at school Hori basically has Miyamura act like the wild delinquent that pops out when Sawada Shindo are around, which includes speaking like one—which thoroughly spooks Tooru and Kakeru. When he drops the act and starts to cry, they immediately know: he’s indulging Hori’s whims.

When the couple find themselves in an empty classroom waiting for the next period, Miyamura realizes it might just be the time to bust out “Meanyamura” on Hori. As he yells at her, grabs her collar, and pushes her against the wall, two underclassmen pop into the room, and one look and “Huuuh?” from him send them running away screaming. How does Hori feel about all this? She’s entertained and turned on.

This segment walks a fine line between actual relationship abuse and the mere trappings as a means of spicing things up. Hori loves the kind and gentle Miyamura, but because he’s someone she loves, she loves all sides of him, including the theoretical or fanciful ones. Miyamura, in turn, goes along with her because he loves the big ol’ weirdo who gets a kick out of it.

IV. Love Needs No Stinkin’ Glasses

Another key milestone for lovers is a desire to share and spread that love, doing what they can when they can to help their lovelorn friends (if any). Yuki is asked out by some random guy in Class 6, but keeps quiet about it for four days until Hori and Miyamura both get involved. Knowing how Yuki has a tendency to let things she wants pass her by, Miyamura gets the ball rolling by having Tooru agree to be Yuki’s fake boyfriend.

Tooru is all for this, and even takes Yuki’s hand in a totally platonic way he’s always been with her, unable to see the signs that she likes him. Tooru is ready to help Yuki turn a guy down…up to the point he gets a look at the guy. Horimiya’s bishounen game continues to be solid, as the lad in question—one Yanagi Akane (even his name is cool!)—is so ridiculously gorgeous Hori says even her boy can’t compare!

Tooru is so intimidated by Yanagi’s beauty he utterly fails in his role of possessive boyfriend, but Yanagi senses he’s Yuki’s boyfriend anyway. Could it be he can sense their history, and even Yuki’s unspoken feelings for Tooru? But mostly, Tooru wonders why the heck she’s turning this guy down…if he asked him out he’d say “yes” in a heartbeat—after it stopped skipping, presumably!

While Yuki says Yanagi is “kind of too hot, you know”, the main issue is she just doesn’t know the guy, or why he’d be into someone he didn’t know. Yuki learns from Remi (in a welcome role as Hot Guy Knower) that in addition to being super-hot, he’s also “hilarious”, as evidenced when Yanagi repeatedly bumps into a wall. Turns out the kid is virtually blind without glasses he seems to have misplaced.

Yuki waits for Yanagi at the gate after school to tell him she believes he might’ve had the wrong girl, due to his poor eyesight. Maybe the one he wanted to ask out was Hori, whom she declares to be “much taller and prettier”. C’mon, Yuki. Yanagi says no, he asked the right girl out; he knows what she looks like, and surprisingly for a guy at this school, he doesn’t know Hori at all.

Hori, Miyamura, and Tooru eventually arrive at the gate, resulting in a bit where Yanagi can’t tell Miyamura from Hori or vice versa, even at close range. The others admit this is hilarious, as Remi promised, but it seems Yuki has a choice to make. She can dismiss Yanagi’s confession out of hand and remain in an unpleasant love triangle with Tooru and Sakura. Orrr she could go on a date with the one guy at school who knows her but not Hori, learn more about him, and see how it goes. Like if Tooru were asked out by Yanagi, the choice is clear!

 

Horimiya – 03 – Just a Couple of Hand-Lovers

Throughout elementary and middle school, Miyamura exuded a gloomy aura and was always the last to be picked for partners or groups, because everyone thought he was “weird”. Yet it doesn’t seem like he stayed away from others because he wanted to be. He pierced his ears in an apparent act of coping, or possibly controlling a part of his life when so much seemed outside his control.

Miyamura learned of Hori Kyouko’s existence the same day she learned of his; the two were assigned together due to their seating positions. Yuki mentions his gloominess to Hori, but once she actually meets and talks to him, she smiles declares him perfectly normal. Now, in their current state, Miyamura is a Part of the Group, with Yuki, Tooru, and Hori all pushing their desks into his without him having to move.

They’re all relieved they’re back in the same class for the new term, and Miyamura and Tooru end up going to the roof to apparently “affirm their friendship”. Tooru repeats the same descriptor of many past classmates, when he calls Miyamura “weird”, but the key difference is that he adds “but that’s okay.” Weird isn’t bad. It’s going to be okay, Miyamura thinks. He just wishes he could’ve told his younger, lonelier self.

Hori ends up at the cafeteria earlier than expected, and ends up sitting with Remi. Remi has noticed that Miyamura is “pretty hot” and asks Hori if he’s her boyfriend. When she says no, Remi asks if she can have him. When Hori doesn’t strongly object, Remi says fine, then “he’s mine”. That’s when Hori gets legitimately upset, envisioning Remi and Miyamura laughing together. She revises her position, telling Remi in no uncertain terms that Miyamura is hers and she’ll never let her have him.

With Souta now in grade school, Miyamura and Hori see less of him, which means they’re spending more time alone together. Part of that time is spent watching cheesy horror movies that Hori clearly likes getting Miyamura flustered about. But they also just hang out, talking about anything, letting their conversations peter out and not getting hung up on the lack of stuff to say.

Miyamura notices Hori’s index finger is double-jointed, something Tooru mentioned when he and Hori were comparing hands. But while Miyamura warned Tooru that he’d better not grasp her hand if he wants to live, here she gently weaves her fingers into Miyamura’s larger ones without hesitation, and quietly says “I love you”, before revising it to say she loves his hands. He tells her the feelings mutual, and as they sit there, their hands intertwined, he quietly says he loves her too.

They both heard each other. No one else needs to hear or know. Their love is right there and plain to see. It’s all over their faces, and they just fit together so perfectly and effortlessly. But school, as Miyamura once declared, remains “hard.” It’s hard because Tooru overhears Remi talking to Sakura about how Hori blew up on her for joking about taking Miyamura.

The next day, Miyamura arrives at class with a bruised cheek from a fight. Then Tooru arrives in even worse shape; I love how he’s no match for Miyamura in a scuffle, despite him asserting Miyamura was “prettier than most girls” with his hair up. Yuki pairs off with Miyamura while Hori talks to Tooru.

It started last night when Tooru told Miyamura that Hori was in love with him. When Miyamura denies this, insisting they’re still just friends, Tooru asks him what he’d say if it were Hori himself telling her…which of course we the audience just witnessed during their movie night. Their spirited verbal sparring turns physical, and Miyamura utterly squashes Tooru.

When both Tooru and Miyamura take the blame for beating each other up, Hori is perplexed, but Yuki less-so, because Miyamura told her straight up that they were fighting about Hori, but told her not to tell Hori.

If this all sounds like some drama is starting to stir, you’re not wrong. But it’s the kind of realistic drama that tends to crop up in close friend circles at school. Tooru may not be 100% opposed to Miyamura being with Hori, but it’s more Miyamura’s equivocation about their status that stokes his frustration.

Miyamura is called “weird” many times this week, with both derision with affection. In high school, a girl and guy hanging out and occasionally muttering I love you to one another and sitting in quiet bliss together and yet not outright “dating” might count as being “weird”…but it’s also okay!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 05 – Love is In the Air

…Or at least it seems that way, with Nene and Aoi’s class suddenly chock full of new couples. Rumor has it when you confess to someone under a certain tree on school grounds, you’re assured to become a couple. When Aoi’s childhood friend who likes her practices on his male friend, the next day they’re a lovey-dovey couple.

When Hanako-kun suddenly asks Nene to meet him under the tree, she begins to consider if he likes her, rather than wonder what apparition he’s trying to rein in. The source of the successful confessions turns out to be a kodama, or tree spirit. Hanako does indeed confess to Nene, but compels her to reject him, rendering her bait for the kodama, which he then defeats.

Afterwards, Hanako teases Nene for hoping it would be a real confession, only to make her cry genuine tears. Realizing he was reckless with her feelings, Hanako chases after her, takes her hand, removes his hat, and offers a sincere apology, and insisting she stay with him until her tears stop. It’s a very moving scene, aided in no small part by Ogata Megumi’s excellent voice acting.

Seeing Hanako-kun without his hat sparks a newfound interest in learning more about the mysterious ghost boy, including what crime he committed and how he died. Hanako is suspicious of her prying, however, and places Kou between them as a buffer. When Minamoto-senpai is brought up, Nene sings his praises in an admiring, flowery tone, unaware the subject of her praise is not only right behind her, but Kou’s big brother.

As it happens, Teru has come to take Kou aside and admonish him for his lack of progress. His duty is to defeat the Seven Wonders, including Hanako, and Teru is not pleased with the fact Kou seems to have become chums with him. “There are no good apparitions,” warns Teru, who decides if Kou can’t do the job, he will, setting up a major confrontation with Hanako in the near future.

Nene, meanwhile, just wants to learn more about Hanako, and having limited success in the school library. Then a gorgeous, doll-like green-haired girl approaches her, and suggests she visit the Fifth Wonder, the 4 O’clock Library, for more info. Later Aoi warns that while white and black books are fine, one must never read a red book. Three guesses what color Hanako’s book is…

Oresuki – 03 – Bounce Back

When Sun, Himawari and Cosmos all arrive at the library at once, it’s clear that some shit is going to go down. Joro almost manages to slip out of it by revealing his darker side and calling out the two girls for using him as a convenient tool, not because he’s a dear childhood friend or cute kohai.

That last-ditch effort fails when Pansy throws him under the bus, telling them he was trying to get her to date Sun while claiming to be on their side. Sun punches him for playing with the girls’ hearts, declares their friendship over, and carries him off.

It sure looks like this is curtains for Joro, and that all Pansy did was assist in this catharsis of misery. But when she mutters “have faith in me” to Joro on his way out, it becomes apparent there’s still more to this story yet to be explored.

Since there was a bystander in the library during the exchange, rumors spread and Joro is ostracized overnight, including having his indoor shoes bedazzled and a detailed golf course model placed on his desk, which is such a bizarre and random head-scratcher of a prank I couldn’t help but laugh.

With Joro out of the picture, Sun is free to spend the next week of lunch periods in the library with Pansy, unaware that she’s putting the finishing touches on her grand plan. It all starts by asking him, quite simply, why he tricked and entrapped Joro, using the feelings of Himawari and Cosmos as his tools in that venture.

And there it is: Joro, as we know, wasn’t the mastermind here, but neither was Pansy: it was Sun all along, sore over an incident years ago when a girl he liked asked him if he’d help her get with Joro. Sun was the one who put the girls up to confronting Joro about asking Sun about them. Joro played the part Sun knew he would (aware as he was about “dark Joro”) and he got his revenge.

Believing he’s all alone with Pansy, Sun doesn’t deny any of this, but proudly proclaims he was after revenge for “losing” to Joro back then, and again with Pansy. He’s also enough of a jerk that he threatens to “do whatever he wants” to Pansy without consequence, since they’re all alone.

Of course, they aren’t. Joro, whom Pansy summoned to the library a minute before Sun arrived, is a witness to her takedown and exposing of Sun as the villain. She threw Joro under the bus in the previous dust-up to give Sun the false sense that everybody was against Joro, when in fact she loves Joro and intended to clear his name.

Joro comes out of his hiding place at the perfect time, and tells Sun where he truly erred: in making light of the “birdbrained” two girls’ feelings for him in order to use them in his scheme to destroy him. A chastened Sun promises to apologize, and departs, and then Joro tells Pansy that her efforts don’t change the fact he hates her, and he won’t be returning to the library.

That’s when Pansy tells Himawari and Cosmos to come out of their hiding spot; unbeknownst to Sun or Joro, Pansy invited them to listen in on the truth of things.

In golf parlance, we can call this episode a major bounce back for Joro. Himawari and Cosmos apologize, the vandalism of his stuff ceases, and Sun confesses in front of the class, clearing Joro’s name to the whole school through the same rumor mill that sullied it.

That brings us to Joro and Pansy, and why the latter fell in love with the former. Turns out, it isn’t his “dark side” she necessarily likes, but the kind, hardworking side that waited by the north entrance to the gym after Sun’s game, standing there dutifully and waiting with his arms full of Sun’s favorite food.

What Joro remembers most about that day was the gorgeous, well-endowed, raven-haired maiden whose eyes met his and with whom he became transfixed, only to never see her again. The last twist is the most predictable lame: Pansy is that gorgeous maiden, and was simply hiding her looks behind a “plain girl” disguise.

While I understand this reveal was necessary, it was very clumsily done for a show that had just crafted such an intricate tapestry of romantic intrigue, and portrays Joro in a very poor light: someone who is now more or less on board with this “Hot Pansy” on the surface but is still confident he’ll never fall for the Pansy inside.

While the ball might’ve land in a bunker (more golf talk…sorry) at the end, after three (or more precisely, 2.85) strong episodes that subverted my expectations, Oresuki has earned some benefit of the doubt. Let’s see where this goes!

Oresuki – 02 – Golden Sombrero

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Joro’s thankless parallel missions to help both Cosmos and Himawari win the heart of the same guy would continue on for a number of episodes, but this week that’s just a small part of a much bigger picture, as the plot progresses farther than I could have anticipated. Lesser shows might’ve have kept the cupid act going longer, but Oresuki sweeps it all aside in favor of something new. It has more to say. Much more.

It also reveals something I touched on last week: the intentional repetition of situations and dialogue that lend the show an appealing poetic rhythm. While Cosmos and Himawari are equally terrible in executing the plans Joro lays out for them (due mostly to how nervous they get around Sun), their particular ways of bombing are both unique to their characters. It takes a lot of hands-on involvement from Joro to get the two definite dates with Sun.

But it’s not just the girls’ ineptness that makes things hard for Joro. Either consciously or not, Sun is simply hesitant to go on a date with either Cosmos or Himawari, and on Pansy’s urging, learns that there’s a girl Sun already likes. In a third “Darth Bench” scene, Sun confesses to Joro that he’s in love with Pansy, adding further complexity to an already unwieldy love polygon. His story is also very similar to the girls’, as there was a third exit from which he encounter Pansy, who encouraged him after seeing him cry.

This scene with Sun features some subtle yaoi undertones, such that until he specifically said “girl” instead of the vaguer “someone,” I thought Sun might confess his love for Joro. Not only that, after the way Joro genuinely blushes when Cosmos and Himawari mentions his strong bond with Sun, I had to remind myself that Joro was interested (at least initially) in those girls…and hence not into Sun.

Joro refuses to help Sun with Pansy, claiming not to know her well enough (partly true, but also partly a lie) but when Sun brings up a baseball metaphor, Joro responds with advice as if it were about baseball and not love. Sun’s confession of love for Pansy ups the danger for Joro exponentially, since that bombshell renders not just one but both of his cupid missions futile.

When Sun sees Joro talking with Pansy about Sun, and Pansy gets angry for Joro cruelly pushing his friend on her when it’s him she loves,  he gets suspicious. But Pansy of all people bails Joro out, confirming Joro’s claim that they’re not close and were only talking about official school business.

Still, Joro keeps Cosmos and Himawari in the dark, clearly overestimating how much time he has before they find out on their own…which of course they do when Sun does the same thing to the two of them that they did to Joro: ask them to help him get closer to someone else…in this case, Pansy!

That brings us to the Golden Sombrero, a baseball term for when a batter strikes out four times in a game. In this episode, Joro strikes out once when he’s not entirely honest with Sun vis-a-vis Pansy, once when he’s callously dismissive of Pansy, and twice more when he tries to explain to Cosmos and Himawari why he kept Sun’s true feelings from them.

As a result of Joro’s Golden Sombrero, his friendships with both Cosmos and Himawari are in the toilet, all because he took Sun’s words about baseball literally and inadvertently advised him to do what he thought best, which was to ask the two girls he went on a date with about another girl. His friendship with Sun seems secure for now, but Joro is still keeping him in the dark about who Pansy really likes.

That brings us to his latest scheduled meeting with Pansy in the library after some time off, which I assumed was to get a possibly-still-suspicious Sun off their trail. Instead, Pansy comments about how “interesting” things have gotten now that Joro’s plans for the girls have gone up in smoke and the girls are now doing what Joro did for them: supporting someone they love in their quest to be with someone else.

Early in the episode, I wanted to take Joro to task for being so unceasingly hostile towards Pansy in all of their interactions, since we hadn’t really experienced enough of Pansy as a character to justify that attitude. And yet, here we are, with Pansy effortlessly manipulating people and having a gas doing it! She even brings Cosmos, Himawari, and Sun to the library in order to find out how much more interesting things can get.

While that final twist feels very Jerry Springer-esque, it’s entirely earned by the events that preceded it. Sun may be the school’s ace pitcher, but when it comes to twisting people into knots with change-ups and curveballs off the diamond, Pansy wins walking away!

Oresuki: Are You Really the Only One Who Likes Me? – 01 (First Impressions) – Why is that Bench There?

Right off the bat, Oresuki looks good—and keeps looking good; there’s a lot of love in the animation and character design—but otherwise feels so damn boring. Ordinary high school kid narrating? Check. Childhood friend who likes him, unbeknownst to him? Check. Regal StuCo Prez who won’t give him the time of day? Check. Everyone has nicknames. Stop narrating! Show, don’t tell!

So, it’s not looking good. But then interesting things start happening. First, Regal StuCo Prez Akino “Cosmos” Sakura asks Ordinary high school kid Kisaragi “Joro” Amatsuyu out on a Saturday date…but it’s not what he thinks. When she sits him down on a bench, she doesn’t confess her love for him, but his best friend, Ooga “Sun” Taiyou. She wants him to help her go out with him.

The next day, Joro spends the day with his childhood friend, Hinata “Himawari” Aoi. She sits him down on a bench and confesses her love not for him, but for Sun! Even more hilarious, she fell in love with him at the same exact time Cosmos did—when they spotted him from opposite sides of a hall secretly crying after a big team loss.

Needless to say, Joro is pissed off; he was aware that Himawari had feelings for him, and no doubt saw her as a reliable Plan B. Instead, because he can’t resist either of the girls’ charms in the moment, he agrees to help both of them get with his best friend, whom Joro admits is quite a catch.

As all of this goes down, Joro shares his inner thoughts with us, the audience, like Fleabag in…Fleabag. And while he’s patient and dutiful to both Himawari and Cosmos as the two bomb in their attempts to naturally approach Sun, his Plan C is to help both of them and let Sun decide, and he’ll ask out whomever Sun rejects. I mean, Sun can’t date both of them…can he? (He totally can.)

But the sequence of twists in Joro’s carefully manicured bonsai of a plan for high school love is not yet finished: there’s a third bench. That bench is purchased on Amazon by the librarian’s aide Sanshokuin “Pansy” Sumireko, a girl who is quiet and meek to everyone but Joro, whom she teases and berates at every turn.

As Joro learns when she makes him sit on that third bench (to the tune of a modified arrangement of “The Imperial March”, hilariously enough), Sumireko is in love with him. Not Cosmos, not Himawari, but Pansy. Furthermore, she’s been stalking him for a while and the Joro she’s fallen for isn’t the Nice Joro he presents to everyone else. She wants Inner Thoughts Joro. Mean Joro. The Joro he only shows us, the odd slip-up aside.

Just like that, Mr. Calm, Cool, and Cynical is totally off-balance. Someone he’d never imagined would come close to liking him is the only one who likes him. Yet of the three young women, Pansy seems like the one best suited for him—I mean, she likes the guy beneath the surface! And though we saw her the least this week, I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of her, even as Joro tries to stick to his Plan C.

Oresuki starts out cliched and obvious on purpose, so when interesting things start happening and it flips the script on you not once or twice but three times, you’re that much more surprised and delighted. Or at least I was. But you don’t have to take my word for it…go watch it!

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – 13 (Fin) – On Second Thought…Screw Duty!

Tada-kun never fell in love…until he did. And just his luck, it’s someone who is not only from very far away, but whose hand is promised to another. Against as a monumental, implacable an obstacle as Teresa’s stated duty to her country, he feels lost, defeated; like nothing matters anymore—even feelings that got him on a plane.

As Alec basically lets Teresa cry it out one more night (and cries right beside her, owing to her own unrequited love) Kaoru emerges from the sidelines to encourage Tada not to give in to despair or give up on saying what he came there to say to Teresa. While messing around, Kaoru accidentally lets the royal invite Rachel slipped in Tada’s bag.

That’s all the stimulus Tada needs to spring into action, retrieving the damp envelope at all costs. He’s regained the will and the imperative to see and speak with Teresa one last time…even if he’s being a bother.

Turns out Tada is far more of a bother to Charles and Alec than Teresa, but while Alec is quick to call for Tada to leave, Charles, who puts Teresa’s happiness before his own, lets her and Tada have some more time together. Nothing he says or does can change the fact Teresa simply doesn’t love him.

It sucks, but it’s not at all unexpected when two people are arranged, basically at birth, to marry one another. Love can certainly develop in such a scenario, but in my personal view it’s definitely putting the cart before the horse, and such arrangements aren’t a match for organically developing love such as Teresa and Tada’s.

When Tada finally confesses he’s loved Teresa since they met, she accuses him of being unfair. She left Japan so she could lock away all of her feelings deep inside for all time, but all it took was him following her to her home and saying a few words to break that lock.  There’s no “last day of crying” for Teresa, as long as she’s not in a situation where she can live with the one she loves.

As the credits roll, we return to Japan, where aside from Pin-senpai graduating, is more-or-less the status quo…with one very important development: Charles broke off his engagement to Teresa, rightfully acknowledging that it wouldn’t be fair for either of them to follow through with something that was not their choice.

In a bit of a surprise, Teresa not only seems happy to be free of her engagement to Charles, but took it further by “running after” Tada back to Japan, either delaying or outright cancelling her succession to the throne.

Tada is shocked that she would all but abdicate for him, but once they’re in each others arms, the whys, wherefores, and consequences melt away, and it’s just the two of them, Teresa, and Tada, no longer having never fallen in love. Is it a bit too neat and tidy of an ending? You bet…but who cares!

AICO – 10 – Explanations Give Way to Emotions

While “AICO” is off communing with “Aiko”, Sagami decides that his team will help Yura carry out the mission by helping him return AICO’s artificial brain with the Matter. In doing so, he basically concedes that AICO is an artificial being and thus expendable, or at least her sacrifice is instrumental in ending the Burst.

Kazuki isn’t okay with that. Artificial brain or not, he’s fallen for AICO, which Kazuki says is “based on a misunderstanding.” But just because Yura created AICO doesn’t make him the arbiter of who and what can and should be preserved.

While looking for AICO, Yura ends up engulfed by a Human-form Matter, which turns out to be controlled by Yuzuha. She recreates the mountains they once visited to beg him to help her find her body.

All this time, she’s been reaching out to the humans—not AICO—in order to make a human connection. Her body is at the hospital with her father, but she has no scientific data or even anecdotal information for Yura to use to be able to science a way to save her. It’s a very unfortunate situation all ’round.

Meanwhile, AICO makes contact with her real-brained counterpart in the purple/pink Matter. Aiko heard Isazu’s address, and knows an attack from the military is imminent. To that end, she asks AICO to find her family and get them out of harm’s way ASAP.

What about Aiko herself? She believes her “time is up”, and that there’s no longer any time to save her family and herself; and given a choice between the two, there is no choice. She resolves to suppress the Matter as much as she can to facilitate the task she gives AICO.

More interestingly, while existing as the Matter, she felt like she began to lose herself, but has been able to hold onto herself due entirely to her Dream Contact with AICO. Her artificial duplicate has lived her life in her stead, and she’s been able to watch and feel everything she’s felt, the good and bad, thus keeping her human.

AICO doesn’t like the idea of leaving Aiko behind, but ultimately she accedes to her wishes and hurries to where her mother and little brother are being held in stasis.

The resulting emotional reunion is an austere yet surprisingly powerful scene the show successfully earned. Artificial or not, AICO is pretty much Aiko, and rescuing her family has always been a higher priority han rescuing herself.

As the Divers deal with the increasingly dormant Matter, Aiko manages to free Yura from a panicked Yuzuha’s grasp, and Yura races to the cocoon, just as AICO takes her leave of her family. From the look of her, she seems particularly resolved to doing something that will probably result in her own sacrifice.

After all, while Aiko’s need for AICO to act in her place to save her family is all well and good, nothing about those wishes addresses the issue of the Matter itself. Will Aiko or AICO have to die to end it, or is there still a way to reunite them, which could also reunite Yuzuha with her body?

Tsurezure Children – 05

Ahh, conversations through texting. So fraught with danger. You’d think communication would be a cinch in these heady days of high technology! NOPE. Take Takase and Saki. They both like each other and want to confess, but Saki is too scared to do it in person, so after a string of texts goes very well, she sends that text.

Unfortunately, Takase was about to do the same thing at the same time, but bailed at the last second, instead asking if she’d meet up with him later. But he just had to include a comment about how confessing via text is shitty. And so both Saki and Takase end the evening not as a happy couple…but wishing they were dead.

MOVING ON! Kaga Yuki’s childhood friend Nanase Kaoru joins the astronomy club, and she laments how Yuki’s clearly only there because he has a crush on Sasahara. But when Sasahara steps out for a bit, Kaoru pounces.

She tries in vain to lead an entirely Yuki along to the realization that she likes him, but ultimately has to resort to kissing him, lest their be any doubt. A kiss that Sasahara walks in on, no less! Still, by episode’s end, Yuki is willing to knock on Kaoru’s door for a family errand. They’ll be fine.

LASTLY, we have Kamine Ayaka and Gouda Takeru. Ayaka is worried that since they started going out, things aren’t going so swell with Takeru, making her wonder if he’s not into it. As if to confirm her fears, Takeru is very standoffish after school and even starts talking as if he’s trying to gently but firmly dump her.

But it’s all good; it’s fine…he’s not trying to dump her, he’s saying their awkward tension is what can’t go on…not their relationship. To that end, he wonders if it’s okay if they hold hands. And Ayaka’s instincts were right on at least one front: he avoided her because he was sweaty…which makes her so happy she gloms onto him with glee. Daawww…

Tsurezure Children – 04

For three of the four couples, “futility” is the name of the game this week. Kana and Chiaki are now officially together, but forces conspire to keep them from taking their relationship to a more physical place.

After some initial awkwardness and another one of their little comedy bits, they’re well and truly ready to do the deed (Kana even brought protection), only to be stymied by not one but two rude interruptions by Chiaki’s curious mom. Chiaki, brah, lock your damn door.

I’m finding the more complex relationship rooted in a long-standing friendship the more interesting pairing in TC so far, as demonstrated by my lack of enthusiasm for the two skits in the middle.

Neither the painfully blunt Akagi asserting dominance on the tentative Ryouko, nor Ruruya’s inability to answer Yuki’s confession because he fears she’s just teasing him really resonated for me. Hopefully both stories will go to more interesting places at a later date.

Sugawara and Takano’s latest appearance splits the difference between the first skit I liked and the later two I didn’t. But yet again, the situation is the same for Sugawara: the onus is on him to communicate in no uncertain terms that he likes Takano, that he’s not joking around, and that he wants to be her boyfriend.

He’s worried about being friend-zoned, but at least there’ll be closure. And we know that Takano wishes she was…exactly what she is: someone Sugawara would want to date. These two simply need to get on the same page for once. I think they at least inched a little closer.

Tsurezure Children – 03

First couple: Kana is frustrated that even after a year of dating, her boyfriend Chiaki hasn’t kiss her or even held her hand. Turns out he has no idea they’re dating, and thought her confession a year ago was one of the many comedy bits they do. Now that he knows Kana’s true feelings, Chiaki is willing to step out of the friendzone with her.

Second Couple: Matsuura just got turned down by her crush, and is on her way home to wallow in self-pity, but her senpai, Katori, tracks her down and proceeds to act in a very annoying fashion, but with good reason: by punching and kicking him for being so annoying, he’s letting her forget her troubles and helping her feel a little better.

Third Couple: Yamane, who looks vaguely related to Rock Lee, is asked out by Kurihara, a girl he has a crush on. She wants to take him out to lunch as thanks for saving her from a groper, and she also knows he’s a good guy by watching him give up his seat to the elderly on the bus.

Yamane simply can’t believe someone as cute as Kurihara is bothering with him, a self-professed weirdo, so when she formally asks him out, he chokes and hits the button that brings the waitress rather than give her an answer.

Fouth Couple: Finally, we check back in with the unlikely pair of Takano and Sugawara. He helps her sweep up, but she takes it as a sign she’s doing crappy job of cleaning. Just when he thinks he’s making progress talking with her and asking her out, it eventually dawns on him they’re not talking about the same thing, and “cleaning up” isn’t “looking good”…but just “cleaning up.”

He retreats for the time being, but will hopefully try again soon…with amusing results. With so many different couples at so many different stages and paces of romantic relationships providing comedy, there’s scarcely a dull moment in Tsurezure Children.