Bocchi the Rock! – 06 – No Enemies Here

Bocchi is always starting over from zero. Just when she had a wee epiphany on that audition state, took a step towards her bandmates, and showed a little bit of what she’s got, the ticket quota thing comes down on her like a ton of bricks. Being presented with more tickets than people you know is bad enough; to then have to be reminded that neither dogs nor your five-year old sister who is always roasting your won’t be allowed in a club is another.

Just like that, the number of tickets she has left to sell triples, and her anxiety intensifies accordingly. After Bocchi’s ghost escaping from her sigh knocks a recapping Mr. Guitar into the drink, she sits there not knowing what to do. She lied to her family about having friends to sell to. And then all of a sudden she catches a break, though it doesn’t seem like one at first: an extremely hungover woman with mauve taupe hair, a side braid, and glossy black nails.

Bocchi isn’t sure what to make of this person, but buys her some water, meds, and revitalizing clam-flavored miso. The woman—let’s call her Kikuri, since that’s her name according to MAL—then gets rightback to drinking, lining up boxed sake like dominoes and taking a generous swig from a bottle. When Bocchi tries to slip away from this weirdo, she trips and almost falls, but Kikuri catches her by the guitar.

When Kikuri says she plays bass, Bocchi gets worried she’ll be angry with a kid like her who knows nothing about rock. With the speed and precision of an auctioneer she crafts a lie about buying it a day ago but not really feeling it so he’s going to pawn it. That’s when Kikuri takes Bocchi by the wrist gently but firmly and says, in her most normal voice yet, that one day isn’t enough for that kind of thing.

Bocchi is separate from the rest of the band this week, and Nijika continues to prove she has the highest emotional intelligence of the four, as she’s concerned about overwhelming Bocchi for the second straight episode. But Bocchi is fine, having met someone who can relate to her struggles, and serves as a possible model for a “dark future” Bocchi who drowns her sorrows in Suntory Strong Zero from her closet.

Booze fuels a “Happiness Spiral” that allows Kikuri to keep living day in, day out. Bocchi thinks this sounds like a sad kind of happiness. but just as BtR! doesn’t judge its central pink ball of nerves, it doesn’t condemn Kikuri either. She’s a bit of a mess, but she also feels like a human being, and as we learn throughout the episode, a damn fine one at that.

But if booze is the Kikuri’s yang, the bass is her yin. So she decides that the two of them are going to put on a little street performance for the Kanazawa-Hakkei festival goers. She puts in a call to a friend, tells her she’s still alive, and asks them to bring some amps. They both plug in, and she tells Bocchi she’s “not in combat” with the people gathering in front of her—“Don’t get it twisted who your enemies are.”

That said, her recommendation that Bocchi simply close her eyes while she plays also comes in handy. Kikuri lays down a smooth and inviting base line that Bocchi can simply dive into and have fun with. All the anxieties and concerns of the outside world can melt away as she and Kikuri simply jam. One of the girls listening offers words of encouragement, sensing not incorrectly that “the guitar girl seemed nervous”

The vibes simply keep improving for Bocchi until she opens her eyes, sees the people listening to her, and it dawns on her that there are no enemies among them. That’s when she really starts to put some licks down, and Kikuri is astonished by how quickly her playmate is able to overcome her nervousness. The performance is another opportunity for BtR! to flex its animation and direction muscles, with lots of cool camera angles and such.

When they bring their jam to a close, Bocchi and Kikuri are met with enthusiastic applause. It’s only when it’s all over that Bocchi reveals she only opened one eye, and going back it’s true we never saw both of her eyes open at once! She manages to sell two of her three tickets to the yukata girls, and Kikuri buys the third, no doubt as eager as Nijika to see this girl unlock her considerable potential to rock.

I love how Kikuri has to borrow the cash she just gave to Bocchi to catch the train home. I love Kikuri, period, and hope we get more of her soon. I love how Bocchi LINEs her concerned bandmates to report she’s sold all her tickets. I love that they don’t believe her, and all agree to be extra-nice to her at the next practice. And I love the tiny fireworks in the distance at the end, celebrating another Bocchi win.

This was yet another beautiful episode of BtR!, brimming with comedy, empathy, and creativity. To borrow and slightly alter a well-known phrase, the tens will continue until quality declines.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 08 – Heart to Heart

It’s What the Public Decided

I was initially going to give this episode a lower score simply because it precedes the long-awaited “goods”—i.e. our main duo confessing to each other. But not only would that not be fair, it would be disingenuous. I personally loved the slice-of-life segments this week, forgiving them for “delaying” said goods and appreciating them for what they are: treasured moments of relative mundaneness before the season and series kick into final gear.

I’m always saying how Love is War could spawn numerous solid spinoffs, and one focusing on the family dynamics of the Shirogane clan could certainly be one of them. I particularly love Kei’s two-sided attitude towards her brother, one side being embarrassed and another being proud of how cool and capable he is.

It’s why she spends the birthday cash he gave her to make sure he dresses as cool as he is, even if she’ll never admit to her fawning classmates that she at least half-agrees with them! The fact that Miyuki’s wardrobe is that of an eighth grader because he wanted to save the family money so Kei could look good speaks to how Miyuki is just as proud of his little sister.

No Interest in the Fanciful

Another staple of Love is Wardom is the scenario of Kaguya being dismissive or stoic about something right up to the point it could present an opportunity for romantic success with the President. This time it’s a little heart charm that’s part of the culture festival merch. Tsubame recounts the thousand-year-old Hoshin legend that gives the festival it’s name and burning-heart theme.

Whether a valiant young man really did give his heart to the ailing daughter of a lord or the legend was simply cooked up to give the lord authority doesn’t matter. What matters is that Tsubame tells Kaguya that if you give something in the shape of a heart to someone you like during the festival, it will mean eternal love, and Kaguya believes her, because she wants to believe One Simple Trick will get the job done.

In reality, Kaguya is still wavering between wanting to confess and being too scared or proud to do so—even if it’s in a stealthy way like serving President a pie filled with heart-shaped fruit. But both we and Ai are in shock when suddenly, out of the blue, Kaguya declares to her, while clutching her foot in bed, that she does indeed like Miyuki. She’s done denying it…it’s just a matter of taking one last step.

Culture Festival Magic

Ai tells Kaguya she’s at a crossroads. Whether being the first to confess is the loser or not (the narrator points out this is the theme of the show…duh!) there are only two choices: hold onto her pride and continue suffering in limbo, or confess and experience the relief that comes with it. Even admitting she likes Miyuki to Ai is a great weight off her shoulders. Admitting it to Miyuki is a whole other matter entirely.

As the culture fest is in the final stages of preparation, Kaguya wonders how people find the courage to confess to the ones they like when the cost of rejection is so high. Miko’s friend Kobachi answers that by casually admitting she’s now dating the Cheer Squad Leader: capitalizing on “Culture Festival Magic” when a flurry of confessions and new couples emerges.

News that the Cheer Squad Leader is dating Kobachi is a cause for elation from Yuu, who had considered the possibility the guy was dating Tsubame. Now, there’s a good chance his crush is single. Will he take advantage of the magic and confess to Tsubame, or forever be her kohai and teammate? Kaguya urges him to do the former ASAP, lending him the very courage she thought was so elusive.

Ultimately, the unrelenting march of time must provide the courage Kaguya requires in order to confess to Miyuki. If she can’t go through with it, Miyuki will confess instead. Or maybe they’ll find a way to do it at the same time? One scenario I will not abide is neither of them summoning the courage to confess, or for Miyuki to move to America for college without any confessions at all.

If there’s a fourth season in the mix, I don’t want this one to end with heartbreak. I want it to be the beginning of the evolution in their relationship they’ve sought all along even while constantly denying themselves of it. By rights, they could have been a couple for years. The series ipping the rug out from under us, while dramatically justifiable, would just be cruel. Kaguya and Miyuki are so close to what they want…what would be so wrong with giving it to them, and us?

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.

My Senpai is Annoying – 08 – Not Just Another Day

It’s Golden Week, and this episode is all about our two couples. Kazama and Sakurai go on the date to an aquarium that Kazama was brave enough to propose. Kazama likely believes he isn’t “worthy” of Sakurai or that he’s “out of her league”, but Sakurai likes him for who he is and he shouldn’t overthink things. Instead of worrying about how he could say or do things differently to make their date better, he should just enjoy the damn date!

Futaba has her Golden Week all figured out, sourcing her plan for the week from periodicals touting the proper route to becoming “a capable woman.” Of course, this is nonsense, as we know that as someone who has lived on their own since junior high and has a good job and wonderful friends,

Futaba already is a capable woman. But when the scenario of a horror TV program is eerily similar to hers, suddenly she doesn’t want to be alone. Takeda, sensing Futaba’s anxiety in just a 27-second phone call, comes calling, and Futaba is elated.

Kazama may be extremely self-conscious throughout most of the date, but Sakurai is having a perfectly good time watching cute sea animals, and especially when they meet a dolphin named Souta (Kazama’s first name) who has the same “unfriendly stare”. There’s even a stuffed Souta that Sakurai photographs with Kazama and laughs about, but Sakurai isn’t laughing at Kazama, she’s laughing because she’s having fun with him.

Futaba and Takeda also have fun on their day off, going to an arcade then out to ramen at Takeda’s go-to spot . They mention to each other more than once that this day kinda feels like work, but that’s only because they’re together.

Between the laid-back atmosphere of the ramen joint (unlike all the other restaurants busy due to Golden Week) and Takeda winning Futaba a crane game plushie simply because he wanted to, it’s a very good thing that things feel so normal and right when they’re together, at work or not.

After leaving the aquarium, Kazama suddenly has a notion and asks Sakurai to stay put until he comes back. But again, Sakuai becomes the target of unwanted attention, this time from two strangers who really want her to try mafé, with one of them even grabbing her arm.

When Kazama returns, he rescues Sakurai by borrowing a line from a shounen manga, of course. Kazama claims Sakurai is “his”, which is not always okay in some situations, but obviously Sakurai is into it and not about to contradict him. Also, it goes both ways, with Kazama being every bit hers as she is his.

Once again Kazama is embarrassed about his words and actions, but has no reason to be; for the only person who matters—Sakurai—he was very cool, and once again proved himself as someone who has her back. As they walk to the train, she uses his first name Souta to thank him. Of course, the item Kazama went back for was a Souta the dolphin plushie, so she could’ve been thanking him…but c’maaahn. She was totally thanking Kazama the guy!

As it has with previous episodes, Senpai continues to excel at portraying warm, cozy instances of two couples enjoying each others company. Kazama and Sakurai seem well on their way to dating, and even if Futaba and Futaba aren’t, they’re definitely much more than just co-workers.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Senpai is Annoying – 07 – Doing What You Love

This week is the Futaba-Natsumi friendship origin episode, and I’m here for it! They’re honestly such a wonderfully cozy pair of BFFs it didn’t matter if we didn’t witness them meet, but I’m so glad we did. Poor Futaba’s GPS is going haywire so she decides to follow someone in the same fuku…only for Natsumi to start running at top speed!

Despite Natsumi leading Futaba not to school but the arcade where she intends to play hooky, the two become unlikely but fast friends in the back row of the classroom. When it comes time to join clubs, Futaba expresses her wish to join the art club because she loves to draw.

Natsumi hates competition ever since a boy tripped her to win a relay on sports day in grade school, but Futaba, unaware that Natsumi is harboring that bad memory, tells her if she loves doing something—in this case running—she should do it, or she may regret it if she doesn’t.

It’s almost verbatim the advice Natsumi gives to Yuuta when the two encounter one another running in the evening. Yuuta likes basketball, so he should play, even if he’s not the best at it. You can’t get better if you don’t try! Meanwhile, Futaba and Takeda end up having a little mini-date of sorts when they’re tasked with saving a spot under one of the blooming cherry trees for an office after-hours function, which honestly looks like a ton of fun.

After complementing her hair color and her drawings, Futaba recalls how it was Natsumi who gave her the courage to join the art club. Futaba would draw between classes in her sketchbook, but one day a couple of bullies decided to mess with her, which…why would you mess with Futaba?! Why would you want to do anything but protect her with your life?

For Natsumi, the answer is she wouldn’t. For the crime of making her beloved Futaba cry, one of the bullies gets a devastating punch to the face. She then tells the boys that it doesn’t matter if she “sucks” at drawing; she’s doing what she likes to do, so lay the fuck off!

The boys wisely learn the error of their ways, and their apology isn’t forced or obligatory, as he actually explains why what he did was wrong and regretted doing it. He also realized that both they and Futaba are in the same boat, in their case joining the baseball club despite being crap at it because they like baseball, dammit!

As for Natsumi, she doesn’t get in trouble because the boys went to the teacher to explain that they were in the wrong. Futaba thanks Natsumi by telling her they should call each other by their first names only. With that, a legendary friendship was forged, which continues into their adult lives now that they both live in Tokyo.

Takeda enjoys Futaba telling the story as much as Futaba clearly enjoys telling it, as her eye shimmer with love as she described how her friend supported her in pursuing her passion. We barely set one foot in the office this week, and that’s okay, because it was simply lovely to learn more about Futaba and Natsumi. As for Futaba’s senpai, it’s pretty clear he’s not “annoying” as the show’s title says, but I guess My Senpai is Someone Who I Like Hanging Out With and Talking To would be a bit too long…

Adachi & Shimamura – 12 (Fin) – Having a Wuvly Time

When Adachi learns Hino and Nagafugi not only spent the night together, but bathed together before school, she decides she can’t fall behind; she must be bold and decisive in asking Shimamura for the same opportunity.

Shima, ever bemused and practical, notes that her family’s bathtub is tiny, but Adachi still gets a win: Shima lets her stay for the whole weekend. Adachi can barely restrain her pure joy over this development. She over-packs to a ridiculous degree and ends up arriving way earlier than expected.

While at Shimamura’s, Adachi naturally feels closer to her friend, as she hoped to become. She gets to sit between Shima’s legs again, only instead of Adachi running away, Shima’s little sister (also named Sakura) takes her sister away for a rare bath together.

The first day Adachi says “nothing happens” with Shima, but at the same time, doing nothing with the one you cherish is pretty nice in and of itself! Shima also surprises her one day with matching hairclips, which make Adachi so happy she almost blurts out “I love you!”—until twisting it into “You look wuvly!”

Honestly, even if Adachi said those three words to Shimamura, it probably wouldn’t change things dramatically. She has Shima now, and while it may be a fight to keep her, we know from Shima’s perspective that she likes having Adachi around, later likening her to a cherry blossom she can look upon even when it’s not Spring and the trees aren’t in bloom.

Adachi gets to fall asleep on Shima’s arm, they go to school together for the first time, and Adachi’s prayers for them to sit together aren’t answered, they remain about the same distance from each other in the classroom, so that’s a wash.

As with IWGP, A&S takes a “Life Goes On” approach with its ending. Adachi doesn’t ever confess to Shimamura, and they never end up kissing. They’re still not even on a first-name basis. But forget those standard signposts; this show had a more nuanced, delicate touch. It was a pleasant, cozy portrait of two people who take great comfort in one another and are happier around each other than not, whether they’re doing something or nothing at all.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 08 – Someone Having Fun is Invincible

After some objections from both sides of the bout (both the rebels and Rindou), Azami gets his way, taking his seat as one of the judges for the final two matches. He’s flanked by two pro-Central WGO Bookmen in Decora and Courage, who brought Anne up from a “cloddish” sprout and taught her everything she knows. Thus both Takumi and Satoshi face a far less impartial and more hostile panel, though Anne gets to remain.

Takumi starts off with a delectable Calamari Ripieni, which acutally garners praise from all of the judges, even Azami. However, Rindou’s Causa suplemented by the rare Amazon fish Pirarucu, is simply better on every level, and Takumi is beaten by unanimous decision. It’s an honorable defeat, but a certain one, as the change of judges probably wouldn’t have affected the end result.

That brings us to Satoshi vs. Eishi, and we actually don’t see Eishi the entire rest of the episode. Everything is focused on Satoshi, who uses a very non-Japanese traditional ingredient in wild rabbit to craft a traditionally very delicate dish in a clear Wanmono soup, which any kind of wild game could easily spoil.

As the judges take a sumptuous journey through his dish and its morphing textures and flavors that preserved all the umami but removed all the unpleasant gaminess, Satoshi’s closest observer is Nene, who has known him since they were kids and was always jealous of his natural talent.

Little does she know he never looked down on her; in fact, as he was being mechanically prepared to succeed his parents in a process devoid of passion and joy, it was watching Nene work her butt off at her family’s restaurant that first awakened the idea of actually having fun cooking.

If Nene is outraged that Satoshi can seem so happy and content and lighthearted under such high leverage situations as this potentially-decisive Shokugeki, she has no one to blame but herself, who Satoshi credits with “saving” him from quitting cooking altogether. The judges agree: his cuisine has what it takes to at least put up a fight against Der Weiss Ritter. But first we have to see what Eishi has come up with.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 21 – What About Us?

I’ve never been particularly interested in 3DK’s longstanding ticking clock on Hikari and Iroha’s relationship. It’s a two-dimensional source of drama and dread on a show that’s proven itself capable of developing nuanced solutions to conflicts that rise organically from its cast of 3D characters.

Case in point: 3DK invested so much time and loving care to bringing Ishino and Takanashi together, yet the biggest threat to Hikari and Iroha’s relationship remains frustratingly murky.

There’s nothing unclear about the statuses of their friends, however: Ishino x Takanashi is very public, while Itou confirms to Hikari that he and Ayado made love. It’s quite on point for Itou to cry tears of joy afterwards, as well as to tell Hikari that it probably has changed his world, but a lot more changes are to come as he and Ayado share more experiences.

I kinda wish we’d gotten more of Ayado’s perspective—perhaps telling Ishino or Iroha about it—but still, kudos to the show for being both unambiguous and tasteful in the portrayal of a very common milestone in young people’s lives.

As their final year in high school begins to draw to a close, Takanashi, Ishino and Itou are all thinking about their futures…while Hikari hasn’t. Why would he? The future, to him, is just a place where there’s no Iroha.

Better to make the most of the present lest he come away with regrets. For Hikari, this means blowing off career surveys, studying and even some classes to spend maximum time with Iroha.

A side-effect of all the dating is a precipitous drop in his grades, something he keeps from both Itou and Iroha until the former hears it from the teacher. Like any best friend as kind as he is, Itou is concerned about Hikari, and urges him to be mindful of finding a school/romance balance.

However, Hikari doesn’t want to tell Itou why he’s neglecting his studies. He doesn’t want to tell Itou that Iroha is moving in a month, because that will only make that move—that future without her—more real.

Instead of getting back to his studies, Hikari takes Iroha out on more and more dates, even as she gets increased pressure from Mabuchi (the doctor) to stop what she’s doing presumably due to an undisclosed medical condition…but we just don’t absolutely know for sure!

One thing’s for sure: frolicking on a frigid beach in October isn’t going to help that condition…and I’d be very surprised if one or both of them didn’t come down with a cold next week.

But fine: Hikari doesn’t know the truth, and neither do we. Iroha doesn’t know about his bad grades until Itou tells her, and when she pulls out what she thinks are his notebooks for studying, they’re filled with things he’s planned for them to do together.

Seeing this note makes Iroha cry, because Hikari is planning a future for them that may not be possible. When he comes back with warm drinks, she tells him she lied: she’s not going to transfer schools. But that still doesn’t explain if and why they’ll separated in a month’s time.

Then again, perhaps Hikari’s request to his mom to loan him a large sum of money from his mom, and both his and Iroha’s reluctance to “go home” means they’re going to run away together, finally taking charge of their future.

But if Iroha’s real circumstances are so serious she’s yet to breathe a word of them to the man she loves, out of a reluctance to hurt him, what if those circumstances worsen, and there’s no longer any way to hide them…or avoid hurting Hikari anyway?

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 20 – Opening The Door To A Frightening World

“Never mind, I don’t care,” Takanashi lied. That’s where he finds himself at the beginning of this week: in denial of his feelings for Ishino and the feeling that he’s letting her slip away in his friend Sakurada’s arms. This week Sakurada is revealed as less of a character (or viable love interest to Ishino) and more of a catalyst for Takanashi to stop playing games.

When his mom ends up in hospital with a mild concussion, Takanashi hits the supermarket so he make hijiki for Anzu, and on his way out, he runs into Ishino, who can just tell something’s up. Takanashi resists the urge to tell her to butt out of his business (in fact she’s the one to bring up her meddling), but does tell her he doesn’t need her pity.

That grinds Ishino’s gears, as it should: forget never giving her the time of day: Takanashi has a serious habit of acting cool to hide his emotional struggles. He relents and asks Ishino to join him at his house, since she knows how to make hijiki.

Ishino also has a problem: it’s virtually impossible for her say “no” to Takanashi, no matter how selfish or mocking his request. But this isn’t about him playing games; it’s about him actually making some kind of effort, in his way, to let her know that her help at the house would be tolerated, appreciated…even preferred.

Meanwhile, someone who would prefer it if Hikari were to fall into a ditch and die is Iroha’s brother Chika, who has heard about the two of them going on an overnight trip. Hikari insists nothing will happen (which isn’t exactly fair to Iroha, if she wants something to happen!) and that the trip had to be postponed anyway; Chika gets his lick and death threat in anyway.

That feels like the first real ripple in Hikari and Iroha’s relationship in ages, and even then it’s due to a third party, not any conflict between the two of them. Back at Takanashi’s it’s pure domestic bliss—complete with spousal bickering, something Anzu probably isn’t used to considering they have a single parent.

Their argument is over whether Takanashi is justified in limiting Anzu’s exposure to Kaoru, or whether he’s just being  overprotective and even petty. Ishino and Takanashi make up in front of Anzu to calm her, but it isn’t long before they’re at it again, and this time it’s when he brings up Sakurada.

He asks, and almost orders Ishino not to go on the date with Sakurada, a serious request that he treats with his usual teasing jocularity (doesn’t want anyone taking his “pet”). While Takanashi is again trying his best to say what he wants to say, the fact is his best isn’t quite good enough. He has to be better.

He runs after a crying Ishino to apologize, and also properly explain his feelings: he feels like she’ll be an important part of his life, and if he lets her go on a date with his friend, he will regret it. So he asks if she’ll be his girlfriend, a question Ishino has been waiting for so long it barely feels real.

It’s been a recurring joke for him to immediately reject her when she asks him, but when he finally asks her, she’s just as quick in saying “yes.” Then he kisses her, daring to open a “door to a frightening world”, but opening it nonetheless. I have no doubt he’ll still tease her (and she’ll tease him back) but at least now there’s no doubt about his feelings.

Shifting from Newly-formed couples to Recently-formed couples, Itou ends up alone at Ayado’s house when something “comes up” with her parents. After four hours of wholesome video game-playing, Ayado can’t take it anymore: she wants to make out.

Itou worries that he’d be betraying her parents’ trust in him if he did anything with her, but Ayado disagrees. Ayado wants him to do something, and will be dejected and miserable if he doesn’t. You’re good, dude…Carry On. And carry on they do…though the episode is somewhat coy about how far.

Back to the couple that inspired all these new doors being opened: Iroha comes over for dinner with Hikari’s whole family again and has an absolute blast, as always. She loves how kind his family is, and how it explains why he’s so kind. Case in point: he offers to walk Iroha home, but she declines.

I can’t have been the only one to think that slightly awkward goodbye was foreboding, and what do you know, the next day Iroha is at the hospital talking with the doctor Hikari thought she was dating back in the beginning, telling her “it has to stop,” presumably due to her undisclosed health condition.

While new doors have been opened for the others, it looks like Iroha and Hikari’s is going to start closing. It’s something both of them have known would eventually come to pass. I just wish we had more of an explanation about why there’s such a seemingly firm clock on her life expectancy. At least Hikari deserves to know, even if it crushes him.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 19 – Tabasco In The Orange Juice

From Iroha slapping her brother with a wet towel when he accuses her geeky boyfriend of dragging her down to his level, to Hikari showing that he’s grown into a far better boyfriend than Iroha’s boyfriend could imagine, I loved every minute of this episode.

It was full of instances of friends leaning on one another in times of need, quickly sorting out misunderstandings, and, of course, Ishino gettin’ some legit attention from a guy other than Takanashi! The only major mark against this episode is that there’s no Ayado, but that allows the episode to maximize its time with everyone else.

First, a brief rift between Itou and Hikari emerges when Itou asks Takanashi for advice on how to proceed with Ayado. Hikari knows he’s not the one to go to for advice of that nature, but is still embarrassed enough to avoid Itou, until Itou himself calls him out and they sort it out together.

Itou assures him every couple goes at its own pace, and that if Hikari doesn’t even intend to go all the way with Iroha (as Itou suspects he will with Ayado, very soon), Itou respects and will support him. It’s some very mature conversation between best mates, clarifying that this isn’t a race!

Speaking of early bloomers, Kaoru comes to Takanashi’s house to apologize for keeping Anzu out late, but manages to pierce Takanashi’s innate distrust and loathing for All Things Tsutsui with a heartfelt monologue about why he loves Anzu and wants to help her big brother keep her safe. Still, Takanashi is frustrated enough with Kaoru’s shrewdness that he decides to take it out on Hikari, who after all only wants some of the same advice as Itou.

While heading back downstairs from the roof, Takanashi very clearly tries to get the attention of Ishino, and ask her if she’s free for…something. But his friend, who met Ishino at the maid cafe, asks her out first, having already gotten a half-hearted okay from Takanashi to pursue her. It’s clear despite his aloof attitude, Takanashi doesn’t like his friend spending all this time with Ishino. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve had until you’ve lost it!

Hikari and Ishino have been just humming along, but with another three-day weekend coming up Iroha wants to go on a trip…an overnight trip—to eat and see the sights in another town. But Hikari is overwhelmed by the possibility that they may end up doing it, and gets so stuck in his head he appears outwardly opposed to and stressed out about going on the trip, and Iroha drops the issue and heads home.

For her part, Ishino told Hikari before he met with Iroha to just get fucking laid already…though at the same time no one reinforces Hikari’s own insecurities and sense of non-worth than Ishino, even though she’s just messing around.

But Ishino now finds herself in a bit of a love triangle. I doubt this new guy (I didn’t even hear his name) is anything other than a means to show Takanashi that he actually does requite Ishino’s feelings, at least to some degree, whether it’s true love or he’s simply pleasantly accustomed to having her around.

Ishino assumes the worst; that he’s some kind of playboy just trying to get in her pants. I’m not 100% convinced that’s not the case either. Good luck, Ishino! As for Takanashi, he should take after his friends and reconcile his feelings.

Hikari, good man that he is, doesn’t spend days worrying about what a shit he is, and corrects himself almost immediately, actually taking the time to look at the travel books Iroha marked, then running after her, embracing her from behind, and agreeing that it will be a fun time. He just had to get out of his own head, and put himself in her shoes: she must have been excited to tell him about the trip, and was looking forward to it since the last three-day weekend.

Unfortunately, due to Iroha’s poor test scores, she has to take remedial classes over the weekend, but Hikari assures her they’ll go the next time. Here’s hoping there is one—it would be a great step forward for their relationship.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 03 – A Little Bit More Good than Evil

All of the various knots Boogiepop tied the first two eps are laid bare this week and then gradually unraveled, bringing the three-part arc to a satisfying conclusion. It starts with Tanaka Shirou searching for his girlfriend Kamikishiro, unaware she’s already dead. Class Rep Niitoki Kei joins him in the search, as does Saotome Masami.

Of course, we know Saotome is up to no good, and his true goal is to draw out both Echoes and Kirima Nagi. And his plan works…kinda: when they send a PA message summoning Nagi to the broadcast room, she shoes up, but not before cutting the lights, taking all three of them down, and tying them up before presenting them to Echoes to determine if any of them are Manticore.

When Nagi frees the three, Kei wants to know what’s going on, but Nagi doesn’t want to involve them, as they’re “too normal” for what they’re up against. This rankles Saotome, still sore over Nagi rejecting him for the same reason. He reveals his treachery by stabbing Echoes with a pen loaded with poison that will keep him from regenerating, just when Manticore arrives.

He also slits Nagi’s throat, an event that was a horrifying to behold in the moment, even if I knew there were supernatural means of bringing her back. Echoes escapes to the roof with Nagi, and Manticore follows, while Tanaka runs away screaming, leaving Kei alone with Saotome, who liked how it felt killing Nagi and wouldn’t mind doing it again.

Echoes and Manticore engage in a kind of aerial parkour duel, the animation for which is crude, but effective. Manticore eventually bests Echoes, slamming him to the ground where Saotome and Kei are. This is where Manticore explains all the horrible things she’s going to do, including taking Nagi’s form and turning Kei into a soulless slave.

But as Kei holds him upright, Echoes has other ideas. He transforms himself into data and shoots himself into space. Saotome pushes Manticore out of the way, but gets vaporized himself. Denied her prey Manticore starts to go a bit loopy, and prepares to kill Kei in her rage, but her hand is stayed—nay, her whole left arm cleaved off—by none other than Boogiepop, who has come to the rescue.

After suspending Manticore with magical threads, Tanaka makes a triumphant return, shooting an arrow through Manticore’s head, killing her and ending the threat. Turns out his act of cowardice was just that—an act; Boogiepop told him earlier that the opportunity to “shoot through the truth” would come if he wished to…and he decided to do so. In this case, to avenge his beloved and defeat the demon that claimed her.

Turns out in his brief time with the bloodied Nagi, Echoes gave her a little of his life force, allowing her to heal with no ill effects (which is why Manticore thought he was a bit too weak, even with the poison). Tanaka thanks Nagi and Kei for their help on Kamikishiro’s behalf. Boogiepop further explains that Echoes was sent to judge whether humanity was worth living; thanks to Kamikishiro, with assists by Tanaka, Nagi, and Kei, the verdict was favorable.

Kei also wants to thank Boogiepop, but with the threat lifted, Boogiepop is gone. Still, Nagi suggests she thank the next best thing: Miyashita Touka, despite Touka having no idea what happened. This brings us full circle to the end of the first episode, when Nagi and Kei encounter Touka and Kensuke walking home. All in all, I really enjoyed this intricate little mechanism, and I’m looking forward to the next crisis that will necessitate Boogiepop’s return.

Bunny Girl Senpai – 12 – Trying Your Best ‘Till You Disappear

Sakuta tells Mai and Nodoka the story of Kaede he’s never told anyone, but now that Kaede is making friends and thinking about going back to school, he can’t hold it off. It’s also the story of himself and the rest of his family. When Kaede suddenly enters a dissociative state as a result of online abuse, she loses her memories and becomes the “Kaede” we know.

Other than her outward appearance, everything about her is different, to the point she could have switched personalities with someone the way Mai and Nodoka did. She walks different, talks different, eats different. Kaede’s Mon can’t deal, and due in part to being a big brother who is utterly powerless to stop whatever Kaede’s going through, the slash marks on his chest appear one night.

The doctors believe they’re self-inflicted, as “Adolescence Syndrome” isn’t a theory they’d subscribe to. But Sakuta gets sick of the hospital and sneaks out, finds himself on the beach, and meets his “first crush”, Shouko. Shouko tells him “life is here for us to be kinder”, and she strives every day to become a little kinder than she was the day before.

Sakuta adopts that credo; one could say it’s all thanks to Shouko that he’s able to do any of the stuff he does to help his friends later on. But here, before he meets Nodoka or Tomoe or Mai, we see that the first person he helped was Kaede. He helped her simply by acknowledging that she was Kaede. She didn’t have to be the old Kaede. He was the first and only one to accept her, not as an anomaly, but a person.

Back in the present, where Kaede is on the cusp of “leaving the nest”, Sakuta gives her a book the old Kaede apparently lent to her friend. In it is a note expressing that friend’s wish to be friends with “Kae-chan” again. Tears well up, and Kaede suddenly faints.

She wakes up in the hospital, none the worse for wear, but the doctors believe that her dissociative state may be wearing off. The note was apparently the trigger. The Kaede we’ve known all this time is still there, but she overhears Sakuta reporting to Mai that he doesn’t know how long she has.

Kaede accelerates her plans to go to school, even risking her well-being to do so (the dark red bruises appear when she gets overly stressed, and rushing things when it comes to going back to school is definitely stressful. Sakuta, hoping there’s something he can do for her as her big brother, promises he’ll show her the school.

But first they go to the zoo and watch the pandas, tigers, giraffes, elephants, meerkats, and all the other animals, all just “doing their best to live their lives”. Like Pandas with their not-very-nutritious bamboo diet, Kaede—specifically this Kaede—has it rough. But all she can do is keep doing her best.

That night, before heading home, Sakuta delivers on his promise to take her to school: an empty school at night. It proves just the thing. Having seen the place in the flesh for the first time, Kaede is more optimistic and motivated than ever to go to school during the day. Not because she might be out of time in her current state, but because it’s the next natural step.

Her opportunity to go to put that optimism and motivation to the test never comes. The Kaede who wakes up is the old, pre-breakdown Kaede. You can tell, too: Kubo Yurika totally switches up her voice. She remembers Sakuta, but doesn’t remember going to the zoo, and doesn’t speak in the third person. “Kaede” is gone.

Will it be for good…and isn’t that okay? It’s not like Kaede died, after all. Sakuta may feel like he lost someone precious—and in a way, he did—but that person was never going to be around permanently. We’ll also have to see how the “original” Kaede reacts to everything in her life, from her parents, friends, even her room layout, being different from how she remembers. Will Sakuta seek to bring back a part of “Kaede” to help bridge the other Kaede’s gap of experience?

Bunny Girl Senpai – 11 – #KaedeGoals

That little cliffhanger about Mai (actually Nodoka in Mai’s body) being seen with Sakuta by a photographer? No biggie; the director of her upcoming film decides to spin it into a marketing opportunity, while Mai admits to the relationship and is candid not only in how it occurred (a kohai confessed in front of the entire school) but why it matters (were it not for him she wouldn’t be back in show business).

Now Mai and Sakuta get to hang out without any problems, and the two are on cloud nine. Then Sakuta gets a letter from “Shouko” whom he later confirms is not the middle schooler of the same name who hasn’t come by the house in a while, but rather his “first crush.”

When he confides in Futaba seeking advice, Futaba texts everything he tells her to Mai, making her status as a confidant now somewhat suspect! It’s all good, once more: Mai is fine with him meeting Shouko, as long as he’s back by six so she can make him dinner. He doesn’t get a kiss, though.

The main dilemma this week isn’t Sakuta and Mai’s relationship or the return of “Shouko”, but Sakuta’s little sister Kaede, who’d kinda served as the show’s mascot up to this point. Still, as a victim of such intense bullying she and Sakuta had to move and she stopped going outside, it was clear the show was going to promote her to the lead in an arc at some point.

Sakuta is about to go to the beach to meet with Shouko, but he’s delayed by the sudden appearance of one of Kaede’s classmates, who saw Sakuta in a magazine tracked him down. She wants to meet with Kaede to apologize for not doing more to stop the bullying, now that the ones who bullied her were themselves bullied out of the school. Back home, the numerous visits from the other girls Sakuta has helped has convinced Kaede that she can’t remain stagnant, and begins compiling a list of goals to become more independent.

Her first small step is to answer the phone when someone other than Sakuta is on the line (in this case, Mai), but the stress of doing that for the first time in a long time causes her to nearly faint. Even more distressing, when Kaede is resting to recover from a fever, Sakuta notices a dark red blotch on her neck; no doubt another symptom of adolescence syndrome, much like his own chest slash marks.

However, Kaede recovers, the blotch disappears, and she keeps taking smal steps, aided in no small part by an extremely kind and understanding Mai, who offers a number of cute outfits she wore in magazine shoots for Kaede to wear when she goes outside.

The day finally arrives, and Sakuta comes home to a fully resolved sister. Still, it takes Sakuta lying about how far outside of the entryway they’ve strayed to get Kaede to follow through; call it one last little nudge to get her where she herself wants to be. It’s a truly triumphant, emotional moment that’s a long time coming; even Sakuta can’t help but tear up.

Kaede was scared of the outside, where the love of their home, like a security blanket, wasn’t out there to protect her. She still is. But she’s far more scared of staying inside, so even though her brother tricked her, she’s grateful.

From there, Kaede takes larger and larger steps until she’s able to roam around outside without clinging to Sakuta. He decides to surprise her by taking a trip to the beach, along with Mai and Nodoka. They have a grand old time, and Kaede is having fun…until her friend arrives, and she retreats behind Sakuta once more.

This friend doesn’t understand why Kaede doesn’t remember her, but Sakuta has an explanation, and it’s something he’s been waiting for the right moment to tell Mai too: Kaede has no memories. I suspect that is to say, no memories from after whatever psychological break she suffered as a result of her bullying.

Obviously, that’s still objectively not good, and looking back at Kaede’s behavior, it has seemed like a part of her was missing beyond the part that could go outside and interact with people. The stagnancy she fears isn’t just about remaining shut in, but about that yawning gap in her memory.

The two main questions are 1.) will and how will Sakuta & Co. help Kaede get those memories back, and 2.) where do “Shouko” and Makinohara Shouko” fit into this equation, if at all?

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