Asagao to Kase-san. (OVA) – The Sun is Always Shining Above the Clouds

Asagaro to Kase-san, an OVA released in the Summer of 2018, is a concise but solid piece of serious yuri storytelling in the vein of Aoi Hana, Sasameki Koto, and Sakura TrickIt strikes that delicate balance of covering a fair amount of material while never feeling like it’s trying to do too much. The stakes never stray from the future of a couple of young lovers who start dating in their final year of high school.

That they’re both girls, living in relatively conservative Japan, never comes up, because this isn’t about whether they can be together or not. It’s about their mutual love, plain and simple, and how they weather other challenges to remain together, a state neither of them at any point wish to leave.

Mild-mannered gardening fanatic Yamada Yui had never dated anyone before she and the athletic track star Kase Tomoka got together, but they’re together before the opening credits, which is a heck of a timesaver! Suffice it to say they liked each other to the extent they were equally enthusiastic about becoming a couple.

That mutual enthusiasm paid dividends, as before long the like turned to love. There’s never any doubt that Kase is as smitten with Yamada as vice-versa, even if the latter tends to feel inferior due to Kase’s social and literal stature at school. There are also times when she allows Kase to swept up by others, often interrupting potential time alone.

But while Yamada comes to realize she’ll have to be more assertive at times, the fact that Kase is so popular isn’t a problem for her; it serves to validate why she loves her so much in the first place: Kase’s a surpassingly kind and gregarious young woman.

In any case, in moments when Yamada might feel lonely due to indulging Kase’s natural gregariousness, Kase’s own desire to be alone with Yamada means it’s never that long before she seeks Yamada out, both grateful for her patience and relieved to have in her a kind of haven.

Time with Yamada is special to Kase; more special than time with anyone else. That’s whether they’re on an intimate nighttime phone call, alone together in Yamada’s room raising the temperature a bit, or on a beach in Okinawa making up and out after Yamada gets a bit too “surprised” seeing Kase nude.

The biggest threat to their relationship isn’t the fact that they’re both girls, which is refreshing. Instead, like any other relationship, it’s the unrelenting march of time and the changes it brings. Kase is on the fast track to Tokyo U on an athletic scholarship; Yamada’s inertia seems to be keeping her tethered to her hometown, commuting to the local college from home.

Especially when Kase calls to offer to turn down the scholarship and she essentially tells her not to, Yamada is on the cusp of relegating their relationship to a long-distance affair, with visits very few and far between. It’s only on the very day Kase leaves for Tokyo that Yamada wakes up and realizes she doesn’t want that at all. She wants as much Kase as she can get, and so she runs and keeps running until she’s in Kase’s arms aboard the Shinkansen.

How will Yamada manage to get into a Tokyo school? Ehh, she’ll figure it out! The most important thing is that they’re together, like they want to be. They’re also on the same wavelength; Kase really didn’t want to leave Yamada, but felt trapped by the circumstance of her athletic excellence. Fortunately for her, Yamada wasn’t going to let something like that cause what they had to fall apart.

Backed by gorgeous animation and superb voice work from Sakura Ayane and Takahashi Minami, Asagao to Kase-san delivers an elegant and captivating romance between two girls for whom simply no one else would do, and whose bond managed to withstand the winds of change. Give it a watch and your heart will grow at least three sizes!

Advertisements

How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 10 – Please Don’t Literally Crush Your Skull!

It’s Wintertime, the Silverman Gym Christmas Party is coming up, and Hibiki, Akemi, Ayaka, Satomi and Gina want to use the even to snag some guys Hibiki isn’t quite in the shape she wants to be due to overindulgence in delicious winter foods.

Machio suggests she try lying triceps extensions, or “skull crushers,” and Hibiki makes what must be a common mistake with any workout that brings a metal bar that close to your head. Still, by cramming in workouts prior to the party, Hibiki hopes to be the first among them to bag a boyfriend.

The big night arrives, and the young women arrive in cosplay in order to apply for a free training session. They fan out and mingle with all the handsome, fit young men who attend the gym at different times, but quite adorably none of them are quite bold enough to ask for any numbers.

Speaking of numbers, Machio drew them all over his muscles as a novel way to reveal the winners of the gym raffle, the first place prize for which is a pair of tickets to an amusement park, which Satomi wins. While posing with the other winners, she and the girls learn that beneath their slimming casual clothes, the lads are all macho-men like Machio.

That also means most of them are spoken for, so it would seem their mission to snag a boyfriend failed. When Satomi can’t use the tix due to Winter Comiket approaching, Akemi asks if she can have them…and asks Machio to join her! The ladies are shocked.

When Akemi and Machio meet up at the very not-Disney-affiliated-at-all “Tochigi Destiny Land”, Hibiki and Gina decide to trail the pair, while Satomi ends up coming along, wearing the same winter uniform as the high schoolers in order to hide in plain sight.

Part of me wished the tix were for Amagi Brilliant Park, but then I would not have met TDL’s mascot, Mockey, whose appearance Satomi’s inner thoughts sum up quite succinctly.

While observing Akemi and Machio reveals that they’re simply on a normal innocent date, things take a turn when the two suddenly sneak into a suspicious tend. However, the true reason for them coming to TDL is revealed: they’re there for a cosplay event.

Specifically, Akemi is there to see Machio’s sweet, sweet pecs (honed by the incline bench press), which, as she explains while temporarily transforming into Sawako, look even better when juxtaposed with leather armor. Finally, Satomi is skipping about in a high school uni without a care in the world until she runs into someone she knows, specifically her fellow teacher Aina, who is also wearing their school’s uni. They vow to pretend this never happened, but I remember, senseis…and I won’t soon forget!

BokuBen – 07 – Storming of the Bastille

Rizu doesn’t know that Uruka likes Nariyuki, and Uruka doesn’t know that Ri likes Nariyuki, but Fumino knows both of those things, and she doesn’t want to rock the boat. However, fate seems to conspire against her, as she trips over her own feet and lands upon Nariyuki in an apparent passionate embrace that Ri happens to witness.

Fumino, convinced Rizu is furious, tries to make it right, ultimately by shoving Nariyuki into Rizu’s embrace; but his head ends up in Ri’s bust—no doubt due to poor calculations on the part of Fumino, for whom math is not her strong suit, as we know. Turns out Rizu only appeared angry because she was squinting due to using a backup pair of glasses.

From there we shift to Nariyuki’s increasingly complex relationship with Kirisu-sensei. When he attempts to rescue a cat from a tree, it ends up jumping off, and Kirisu twists her ankle catching it. Nariyuki helps her get to her apartment, which is an appalling mess.

But since Kirisu is actually a good person (which is why she saved the cat), she makes coffee for Nariyuki and helps him study some history as thanks for his assistance.

While helping her clean, Nariyuki stumbles upon a trophy case packed with accolades from when Kirisu was an ice skater, proving that her desire to steer the girls away from their “emotional” choice of life path is borne out of her having made the same choice when she was younger, and coming to regret it.

Nariyuki tells her that while he appreciates where she’s coming from, he’s decided he’s going to “hold his head high” and “regret it later” with them. It’s only a meaningless, foolish path if they fail, and he can’t yet say that they will.

With that, he takes his leave. When he asks if it’s really okay for a man to have come to her place, she dismisses him as still a child, but once he’s gone, she drops the pretense and reveals she was a nervous wreck, because he was actually the first man ever to be at her place.

One one of their now regular one-on-one chats, Nariyuki tells Fumino about being at Kurisu-sensei’s last night. Knowing it could enrage Rizu and/or Uruka, she drags him to a tree, pushes him against it, and makes him promise not to tell anyone what he just told her.

Naturally, the next time she’s in class, she’s hounded by classmates convinced that she’s in some kind of “special relationship” with Nariyuki, something Nariyuki himself doesn’t deny (since he considers both his tutoring of her and her coaching of him in matters of women to be “special”).

Fumino’s classmates are extremely protective of her, and aren’t about to let just any schmo go out with her, so they send a covert surveillance team to the library where the two are studying, and determine that there’s no overt romantic spark between them, but that they share a “deep trust that transcends the boyfriend-girlfriend barrier.”

Or was she? Fumino may be committed to not making either Rizu or Uruka sad (or mad), but she can’t deny she’s enjoyed all the time she’s spent with Nariyuki, and not just in a tutor-tutee scenario. He’s supporting her wish to pursue her dreams, after all!

When she finally informs Nariyuki of the rumors going around about the two of them, she “jokes” that maybe they should just go out for real. Only judging from Nariyuki’s reaction—and her reaction to his reaction—it sure doesn’t feel like it was a joke. As much as she wants to be above the love polygon, this episode leaves little doubt that she’s one of the vertices.

Bunny Girl Senpai – 06 – Quantum Entanglement-by-Butt-Kickin’

On the eve of finals, Mai decides she’s used enough of the stick and whips out a carrot in the form of her bunny girl suit, which she wears while tutoring Sakuta. Why the change of pace? She witnessed him stand up for Tomoe at the station, and thinks better of him for working so hard even for a fake girlfriend. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is that Mai isn’t the slightest bit threatened by Tomoe.

The finals come and go, as does the last day of school and the start of summer break: July 18. Sakuta and Tomoe have been dating three weeks now, but Tomoe assures him she has an ironclad plan for the breakup. After a fun final date at the beach, she shakes his hand and thanks him for his help. She’ll simply tell her friends she dumped him when she realized he only had feelings for Mai—something that happens to be true.

But I knew, after that “final” date, there was no way July 19 would come. Instead, July 18 resets, as I predicted. What I didn’t expect was that Tomoe isn’t aware of the reset…or at least says she isn’t. They go on their beach date a second, then a third time.

Sakuta starts to suspect Tomoe may be lying about not knowing about the looping. It’s confirmed when she turns around and smiles at him during the principal’s address; something she hadn’t done in previous iterations. Not only does Sakuta know for sure that she’s lying, but he knows why.

On the fourth July 18 Sakuta throws Tomoe for a loop (for a change), taking her to Enoshima, the place they were originally going to go on their first date, but he’s making it their last. They climb the prodigious stairs to the shrine, and he fills out a votive tablet for good relationships. Tomoe thinks it sinful, since their relationship isn’t real, but he tells her that when they both agreed to do this, they agreed to to it all the way, even to hell.

Moreover, it isn’t sinful for Tomoe, since she’s actually in love with Sakuta. She plays dumb, but once they’re alone on the observation deck, he finally gets her to admit that she’s aware of what she’s doing, and why. Sakuta tells her flat out that whether she repeats time a hundred or a hundred million times, his feelings for Mai won’t change.

Tomoe counters that her feelings have changed. At first, she only meant for the fake relationship to help her save face. But every time she loops, her feelings for Sakuta only keep building up. A stirring monologue ensues, with Touyama Nao effortlessly bringing the feels. Finally, Tomoe does what needs to be done to move on: to stop lying to herself confess her love, clearly and loudly.

The next time Sakuta wakes up, it’s not July 18, or July 19; it’s June 27 (again). Tomoe sent them all the way back to the day she was asked out by the guy her friend likes. This time, she turns him down properly, resolved to face the social consequences…which don’t turn out to be that bad; her friends don’t end up ostracize her. Better still, she can still be good friends with Sakuta, which was always part of her plan.

As for Sakuta, he gets to redo asking Mai out, and she responds just as he’d hoped, as she steals a kiss to express how she feels about him. The next three weeks proceed as they did the last time, with the two differences being Sakuta knows what’s going to happen (even the exam questions) and he and Tomoe aren’t fake dating. They don’t have to.

It was, after all, nought but a simulation of the future, and yet still just as real as the future to come. In her traditional casual science-y explanation, Futaba surmises that Sakuta was drawn into the looping with Tomoe due to “quantum entanglement”, which happens when two particles collide. In this case, Tomoe and Sakuta kicking each other’s butts. Will this show’s delicious cleverness never cease? I for one hope not.

It certainly wastes no time getting the next arc started, as the episode closes with Sakuta meeting a middle school girl who just happens to share the name of his first crush: Makinohara Shouko.

Bunny Girl Senpai – 05 – The Penguin that Follows the Others

I can definitely see the similarities to Bakemonogatari and Sakurada Reset here, and that, readers, is not a bad thing, at least for me. Both of those shows could subvert the concept of a Tsundere Girlfriend or Jealous Little Sister without breaking a sweat, and so too does Bunny Girl. 

In a lazier anime, agreeing to fake-date a kohai would land Sakuta in some seriously warm water, but after he explains everything properly to Mai, she withholds punishment, claiming that’s its own punishment, but really it’s a gesture of trust. Sakuta was the one and only person who never forgot her, after all (except for one brief period).

As with Araragi Koyomi, Mai can see her would-be-boyfriend is trying to help someone in need, and doesn’t judge that someone’s choices that led to them needing help. Instead she gives Sakuta her blessing, serves as the first person other than him to interact with his shut-in sister, and then bids him a good night.

However, she does warn him not to let “pretend” turn into “serious”—not to betray the trust she’s putting in him—and he laughs it off too casually for her taste, as well as mine.

The next day Sakuta is ready for his fake date with Koga Tomoe. She’s late, yawns on the train, and can’t keep her hands off her phone (he has neither smart nor flip, the damn hipster). 

When she lists the reasons for her fatigue (group chatting till 2AM; watching funny animal videos; preparing for the date “a bit”), Sakuta starts to get to the root of Koga’s frustration that led to her becoming an all-seeing, all-knowing Leplace’s Demon: She must be informed. She must join in on the conversation. She must be liked, and not seen as a loner or weirdo.

This point is driven home at the aquarium as they watch penguins: she deems Sakuta to be the penguin whom the others laugh at but doesn’t care, while she’s the penguin who follows the others in lockstep. Later, Sakuta gets more insight: Tomoe was once a “country bumpkin” from Fukuoka (hence her adorable lapses into drawl), but began a regimen of thorough reinvention and improvement to become the stylish and proper-speaking person she is.

Sakuta can surmise that she feels guilty about “abandoning” the person she is and wondering whether who she is now is who she really is, but he considers that kind of thinking “immature.” He assures her that who she is now is who she is; the culmination of choices she made and hard work she undertook. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Sakuta also shows Tomoe a few things, such as when they spot a classmate of hers from a group further down her class’ pecking order. The two of them help this classmate find a strap she lost on the beach, despite her feeling “unworthy” of someone of Tomoe’s stature wasting their time on her. Sakuta isn’t the kind of person who ranks people by their social stature; all are equal as long as they are virtuous.

When Tomoe catches a cold from falling into the water and spends a day in the nurse’s office, she asks Sakuta why he’s gone along with her “unreasonable” requests. He states it’s because she seemed desperate when she asked. Their differences in how they see the world are laid bare: she wants everyone to not hate her, while he wouldn’t mind if everyone hated him as long as there was One Person who needed him.

That one potential person Mai checks in with Sakuta on his land line phone, and he is honest about having enjoyed his “date” with Tomoe. Her nonverbal response is an enigma; is she intrigued; disappointed; neutral? She’s in Kagoshima on a TV shoot, and casually asks him to “bolt out of his house” to see her, but he doesn’t.

Futaba (who has unrequited feelings for his friend Kunimi) tells Sakuta that since Tomoe is satisfied with her current condition, there’s no need to relive it; the “demon” has found its desired path. Kunimi’s girlfriend Kamisato once again confronts him about spending time with her squeeze. Kamisato is another who only sees a ranking number hovering over someone’s head; if it’s not high enough, she wants nothing to do with them.

Sakuta tells Kunimi about the second fight picked by Kamisato, and it leads to Kunimi informing him of untoward rumors about Tomoe being loose/easy. Despite Tomoe’s efforts and veneer of satisfaction, her relationship with Sakuta has brought a different kind of unwanted attention. When Mai leaves a message on Sakuta’s phone, he moves to call her back, but stops. He has work to do.

Again, like Koyomi of the Monogatari series, Sakuta is going to perform the task he volunteered for to the best of his ability. He may not be the strongest or smartest, but that doesn’t mean he can’t outsmart someone who can easly outstrong him. As Tomoe already starts feeling the fallout by being left out of her friends’ conversation, Sakuta puts his plan into action.

That plan is nothing more than defending the honor of someone who doesn’t deserve the nasty rumors being told about her. He does so by letting the jock (who I believe originally tried to ask her out) come to him, provoking him into punching him, then getting back up, presenting himself as someone ready to throw hands, then kicks him hard in the shin.

The jock protests that Sakuta isn’t being “fair”, but…c’mon; pot, meet kettle! Sakuta ensures the exchange takes place on the train platform where the maximum number of peers watch how pathetic the jock is, giving him the negative attention he foisted upon Tomoe and then some.

In that moment, Sakuta was Tomoe’s boyfriend. She felt it; and surely he felt it too. They may not have spend much time together, but they both have a pretty good idea of who one another are. At her darkest hour, when it seemed everyone was ready to hate her (and indeed when it seemed she’d reset time to before this all happened), he was that One Person for her.

The person who’d go maybe too far to help her. The person she needed. You know…a friend! Hell, he announced in front of half the school he was a virgin for her sake. He’s a stand-up dude, and she couldn’t be blamed for falling for him right then and there.

Whether that’s precisely what happens, it’s without doubt a nudge in that direction; two people becoming a little closer through shared experiences, the most recent of which were fraught enough to require him to take her by the hand and run away, and the adrenaline of which caused them both to laugh uncontrollably as they ran.

Tomoe now understands a little more what Sakuta meant about his “One Person” position, and asks how she can repay him. Sakuta—ever classy yet also a bit arrogant—tells her she can be his friend “when all the lies are over.” The thing is, the lies may already be over, and Tomoe may just want something more than a friend. Why else would she frown at the sight of one of Mai’s TV commercials on her phone?

As for Sakuta…while he fought hard for Tomoe, there’s no overt indication he’s doing anything more or less than what he deems to be his duty, as he promised to be her boyfriend for the first term. As such, Mai may not have anything to worry about.

But he got awfully into the role on that train platform. He showed Tomoe that she only needs one person, and so far that one person is him. Can Mai—can we—trust that he’ll be able to extricate himself from a Leplace’s Demon so satisfied with him as her boyfriend?

Bunny Girl Senpai – 04 – Full Circle to Acceptable

Now that Mai can no longer sashay around in public as a bunny girl, what’s next for the show with the now-obsolete title? Well…

We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.

— Pierre Simon Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities

…Oh dear. That sounds complicated! But really, it boils down to Sakuta seemingly reliving the exact same June 27th three times, similar to the plot of Endless Eight, in which some variable has to be satisfied in order to break the loop.

With Kamijou Touma-esque luck, this phenomenon occurs the day Sakuta finally gets a “sure, we can start dating now” response from Mai after a month of telling her he loves her (which she explicitly asked for). The “Leplace’s demon” turns out to be someone else who got a confession: Koga Tomoe (Touyama Nao), the first-year who kicked Sakuta’s butt (and whose butt, in turn, was kicked by him).

The problem is, Tomoe doesn’t want to be confessed to, because the boy confessing is the object of her best friend’s affections, not her own. While hiding from him with Sakuta inside a lecturn, Tomoe panics and knocks it over, and she ends up in what looks like in flagrante delicto. Not only does the guy see it, but so does Mai when she enters the room from the other side. This is the third repeat of the day, mind you, before he got her okay to start dating.

Because Tomoe is never confessed to, June 28th arrives, and Sakuta has a major misunderstanding to clear up with Mai. He returns to Futaba, who always lends him an ear, but to the show’s credit it finally gives her a chance to be more than that, as she is harboring unwanted but increasingly strong feelings towards Tomoe’s friend, who has a girlfriend.

But there’s yet another wrinkle here: Tomoe starts working at the same restaurant as Sakuta, and her three friends show up, both to support her and to warn Sakuta that he’d better not hurt Tomoe, or else. It turns out the misunderstanding that she and Sakuta are dating is something that works to her advantage, and she begs Sakuta to keep the lie going after work, at least for the rest of the school term.

It’s a twist on the usual “fake dating” angle, because Tomoe actually has a good personal reason for doing it: as someone who was uprooted after middle school (and her accent comes out whenever she’s excited), her high school friends are all she has, and she doesn’t want to lose them just because some guy one of them likes likes her instead.

Is this the best way of dealing with her predicament? I don’t know, and neither does she or Sakuta, but he is willing to help her out, at least for now, even as he wonders how the hell he’ll be able to explain all of this to Mai. To Mai’s credit, she’s willing to hear him out. He kept his distance, and then she came to him, wondering why he didn’t come to her at once. He may not have gotten her okay on the third June 27th, but she still likes him, and wants to know what the hell was up with him and that first-year girl. I recommend the plain, simple truth…even when it’s neither plain nor simple.

The show introduces a new science-y phenomenon with the same confidence and satisfying pace as the first one, and if anything, the interactions between characters have gotten even better. They’re very natural; despite their rough butt-kicking start, Sakuta and Tomoe can still be civil, cordial, even friendly to one another.

Similarly, while Mai has every reason to be mad and/or concerned, she reaches out when he doesn’t to get to the truth of matters. Everyone just seems to have a good head on their shoulders; a rarity in anime. Throw in clean, attractive character design and animation and understated yet effective soundtrack, and Bunny Girl Senpai is firing on all cylinders.

P.S., regarding the title of this post, I really Tomoe’s aside about Sakuta’s big bold public confession being the thing that brought him around “full circle” to being acceptable, at least to the first years, since such a gesture was regarded as brave and cool. Also amusing? His genuine reaction of surprise! Hang in there, Sakuta, you’re not so bad as that rep of yours.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 09 – Changing at Their Own Pace

Hirotaka and Narumi go on a normie date to a theme park, and Hirotaka takes the normie part very seriously, bringing along a piggy bank and fining Narumi whenever she uses an otaku reference or says something a yaoi would say. Never mind the fact that bringing a piggy bank to a date isn’t a very normie thing to do!

Hirotaka is doing this because he believes he won’t truly make progress in his relationship with Narumi until they can spend time as something other than otaku buddies. That is to say, he wants to see the same side of Narumi her other dates saw: the one actually trying to hide her otaku/yaoi sides.

The date proceeds normally, with both Hirotaka and Narumi incurring penalties for letting their true sides slip. Then they reach a haunted boat ride, and in her rush to get aboard, she ends up leaving the platform on a boat not with Hirotaka, but with Kabakura.

Turns out Koyanagi, who ends up in a boat with Hirotaka, made Kabakura take her to a theme park, because she heard Hirotaka and Narumi would be doing it and it sounded fun. Narumi has to cross her arms tightly so as not to accidentally hold Kabakura’s hand, and both are scaredy-cats.

Meanwhile nothing fazes Hirotaka or Koyanagi, though the latter can sense a bit of restlessness on the former’s part. He tells her not to worry too much about how fast things are progressing; it’s not often two people go at the exact same pace. There’s nothing wrong with taking things slow, and if that’s how things are going, there’s no reason to shake things up.

When the two couples meet up then part ways, Narumi and Hirotaka rest a spell on a bench, and Narumi scares the dickens out of Hirotaka by saying “this isn’t working” and “we should end this.” She’s not talking about their relationship, thank God, but about the piggy bank penalties. Once free to talk about otaku stuff, they both feel much more at ease.

She then gives Hirotaka a surprising gift: a pair of earrings. It turns out she too wanted to see a side of him she hadn’t seen before; in this case, the side of Hirotaka who wanted to grow up fast. While the looks of the show on the whole are pretty much average for the genre, the animators take their time on Narumi fiddling with her hair and Hirotaka suddenly pulling it back to reveal she’s wearing (clip-on) earrings too.

He leans in to what looks at first like a kiss to thank her, but it turns into a hug, albeit a tight and romantic one. He thanks her for the earrings, and admits he can be as childish as she claims to be. He had no reason to be concerned about them not going anywhere, or nothing changing, because they are…just at their own pace.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 08 – Wind, Lightning, and New Fire

If you’ve ever worked at an office, you have a pretty good idea of the atmosphere of the first half of this week’s episode. When it’s dark and stormy, suddenly its darker outside than in in the middle of the day, there’s a strange cozy feeling to the office, occasionally someone’s sunroof will be open, and you have to remember to SAVE YOUR WORK often, lest a power outage claim the building.

It’s much the same at the office where our four otaku work, but we learn that Hirotaka is afraid of lightning (or rather, traumatized by years of having the power go out while he’s in the middle of gaming). But when he remembers many years ago when he answered the door during the storm, Narumi was on the other side of the door. Then, as now, she puts him at ease, and he her.

Hirotaka is considerably less at ease when during a night of drinking his ability to make Narumi jealous by flirting with other girls is cited as a virtual impossibility. Hirotaka remembers being jealous of the guy Narumi dated, even to the point of getting an ear pierced that probably didn’t need it.

As Hirotaka comes to the always-dueling-in-public Kabakura and Koyonagi, curious what they do when they’re not arguing, Narumi is at Starbocks (Naoya’s eyes still swollen from sensitivity training earlier this week), wondering what a real date is; all she and Hirotaka do are the same things they’d do if they were good otaku friends as before.

Well, both seem to feel uncomfortable about that at the same time, as if the flames below their seats had finally made that seat uncomfortable enough to get up out of it. Just as Narumi is expecting another “at-home” date of reading and/or gaming, Hirotaka asks her out to do the things she used to do with her previous, normie boyfriends.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 07 – Playing a Netoge, Then Eating Out Separately

This week’s WotaKoi is split between two completely different stories involving the core quartet, which is probably for the best as I doubt either one could be sustained for the entire episode’s length. Feeling more than ever like two distinct episodes works to both stories’ advantages, as neither wears out their welcome.

Most of Part One is presented within the virtual world of a fantasy netoge the crew has agreed to play together. The warrior Kabakura and elf assassin Narumi are the first to arrive, and Kabakura is thoroughly charmed by Narumi’s adorable avatar.

Not too much later the sexy black mage Koyanagi joins them, but when they end up in a random encounter with a rare boss, they’re almost undone when Hirotaka’s avatar is being controlled by Nao. Once Hirotaka takes over, he literally takes over, as in defeating the boss and collecting the loot as if he were playing solo, without any cooperation from the others.

Despite being perhaps the least enthusiasm for the game, he’s still the best at it and his player has the maximum level, because, well, he’s a game otaku. Acing games is kinda what he does.

We’re back in the real world for Part Two, as the guys and gals split off for a night of drinks and dinner. Hirotaka and Kabakura must patiently endure their two junior co-workers talking non-stop about Narumi and Koyanagi, including getting their personalities and traits totally wrong due to their lack of interaction with them.

Meanwhile Narumi and Koyanagi are poised to have a lovely dinner chatting over the anime Narumi had Koyanagi borrow and watch…only for the two to, as usual, hold opposite views regarding said anime. They regain common ground in considering their boyfriends in BL situations, but once again butt heads over which of them should be on top.

When dinner’s over, the four end up running into each other on the street. With the junior co-workers there, the two couples play things cool and quiet, not overly indicating they’re dating each other, and merely bidding each other goodnight.

It was definitely a case where things might’ve been easier (or at least less irritating) if Hirotaka and Kabakura had simply said they were dating Narumi and Koyanagi, respectively. But at the same time, it’s really not their business, so the lads are content to endure their ignorance for the sake of romantic privacy. And rightly so!

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 06 – Rainy Days are The Worst. Rainy Days are The Best.

After a cold open involving Hirotaka and Kabakura being photographed doing BL roleplay, we rewind to Narumi and Hirotaka both forgetting their umbrellas, despite being adults. Kabakura isn’t worried about any of his effects getting wet, so lends them his umbrella.

Hirotaka switches both the side he’s on (so she doesn’t get splashed by cars) and the position of his bag so smoothly, Narumi takes note of it in her inner monologue, and it’s further evidence he’s legit boyfriend material. Meanwhile a soaking wet Kabakura encounters Koyanagi and asks if she’ll share her umbrella, and rather than say he gave his to their friends, he says he forgot it, and gets doted on by a concerned Koyanagi.

For her part, Koyanagi professes her hatred for rainy days because her shoes get wet, but when she invites herself to Kabakura’s for dinner and he invites her to spend the night, she professes her love for rainy days. So basically, she and rain are like Asuka and Shinji.

Then we see why Hirotaka and Kabakura were posing like would-be lovers: to cheer up Narumi. Hirotaka can sense something’s up, but Narumi is being all coy with false smiles and “it’s nothing really, don’t worry about it.”

Finally, Hirotaka waits for her after work and continues to pursue the issue, going so far as to ask if he’s “so undependable” she can’t tell him what’s up. Finally, she relents, and it turns out to be nothing; a character in a manga she (and Kabakura) liked died.

If it were something genuinely troubling, would Narumi have told him? I like to think so, but even not, sometimes it pays to be persistent when someone is trying to spare you trouble or worry…and in this case, Hirotaka already was worried.

Finally, Christmas approaches. There’s talk of Santa and when Narumi, Hirotaka, and Naoya stopped believing in him. Nao, in a thin and much-less-warm-than-it-looks Santa costume handing out free coffee outside Starbucks, states that he never stopped believing in Santa; his definition of who it was simply shifted to anyone you love or are connected with who makes you happy. Narumi praises Nao as a saint.

Last year’s Christmas was The Worst for Koyanagi. Sure, she had plenty of time to make a wicked awesome costume, but the reason she had that time is that Kabakura spent the holiday working his ass off, and they didn’t even speak to each other until the new year had some.

This year Koyanagi assumes it will be more of the same, and that she simply has to make peace with the fact her boyfriend is a workaholic. But as office elevator doors close, Kabakura suddenly teleports from his desk to the doors, forcing them open and joining Koyanagi.

He ends up taking her to a super fancy and exclusive restaurant, the reservations for which he made over a half-year ago, and the cost of which he worked extra hours to afford. Koyanagi, appreciative of his efforts, presents him with the gift of a limited-edition event item.

Hirotaka and Narumi stay in for Christmas Eve, eating takeout, drinking beer and wine, and playing video games together. Both couples look like they’re having nice Christmases.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 05 – He’s with Me, and She’s with Him

Hirotaka and Narumi are not kids anymore, and the former is far removed from his “bad boy” days when he thought getting an earring and acting like an adult would help him become one quicker. In hindsight, he wondered what his past self’s big rush was; he’d much rather stay a kid. Being surrounded by games and toys from childhood certainly helps.

That philosophy works against Hirotaka the adult when he stays up playing games all night on a weekday, making him a virtual corpse at the office. It’s a downside, but at the end of the day a small price to pay for You Doing You.

Still, an unconscious Hirotaka is hardly interesting, so Narumi heads to the Starbucks for a grotesquely elaborate frappé she orders entirely in English, and the barista is a super cute! Not only that, they soon realize they actually know each other.

Kabakura and Koyanagi are also there. Kabakura, who’s always carried a torch for Narumi, is stunned by Koyanagi’s assertion that the blond kid is likely an exe. But while Koyanagi tries to take the high road and stay out of it, her and Kabakura start feeding off each other with increasingly hypothetical theories.

Then Koyanagi texts Hirotaka to come, and she and Kabakura learn the truth is somewhat more mundane: the blond kid, Naoya, is Hirotaka’s 19-year-old little brother.

Naoya asks to stay at Hirotaka’s (it’s closer to his college), and Narumi extends the invitation to the whole gang. Soon, the core quartet has dropped its guard and starts talking about obscure things Naoya doesn’t quite understand because he’s a normie.

That normie-ness is borne out by an evening of complete gaming ineptitude (while Hirotaka, ever the big brother, simply plays as though Nao isn’t his partner and wins anyway, before passing out again).

When the time comes for everyone to head home, Nao offers to walk Narumi to the station, and Kabakura springs to attention, warning him she already has a girlfriend. Even I slightly suspected that Nao was using a pure-and-innocent act as a front for his playboy-ness, especially when he acted dumb about what he was doing.

However, after Koyanagi leans in to kiss Kabakura and explains the relationships in the room, Nao demonstrates he really is that pure and innocent. He breaks into tears not because he’s lost Narumi to his brother, but because he’s so happy his brother has somebody, and always hoped that somebody would be Narumi.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 04 – Love Could Be Labeled “Poison” and We’d Drink It Anyway

I’m of the mind you’re never too old to cry at anime. I speak from experience! WotaKoi hasn’t made me cry yet, but it does agree with me on this point, as Narumi demonstrates to Hirotaka with a lunchtime screening of Sailor Moon.

It also tells some truths about people who are very into things being drawn to each other, even if they aren’t super-into the same things. That’s certainly the case with our two couples, but it doesn’t change the fact that their partners are constantly surprising one another with how their differing tastes and desires mesh—or clash—with their own.

Hirotaka happily goes along with Narumi’s desire to have him cosplay as a woman for a photoshoot, and the execution is successful enough to fool Kabakura. But Kabakura doesn’t go along with Koyanagi at all, and even if they get along part of the time, they never seem to waste an opportunity to fight with one another…which isn’t always entertaining for bystanders!

Ultimately Koyanagi gets what she wants by bribing him with a rare figurine he’s really into. As we saw last week with the two at Hirotaka’s house, they are capable of showing great sweetness and tenderness to each other, but Kabakura’s embarrassment with certain aspects of their relationship can lead him to lash out, and Koyanagi gives as good as she gets.

In another example of differing styles, Narumi responds with Hirotaka’s incredibly colorful and verbose text communication with a simple, samurai-esque “at your pleasure.” Both Koyanagi and we learn that the two have always communicated this way, and that Hirotaka’s face can’t keep up with his words or moods, resulting in his usual stoic face.

The purpose of his text(s) was to invite Narumi out for drinks, and since Kabakura is also coming, she should invite Koyanagi too. The four revel in going out for drinks for the first time, but Koyanagi proves to be a quick and volatile drunk, and while he seems able to hold his liquor better, Kabakura proves no less volatile.

Narumi and Hirotaka try and fail to keep the two from blowing up, until a botched making-up session results in Koyanagi storming out. Narumi catches up to her, and she’s sobbing real tears.

The booze brought out her most vulnerable and insecure side; the side that worries that Kabakura acts the way he does because he’s not happy with her; that theirs is a relationship of convenience because they’re both otaku; that he’d rather be with a cute girl like Macross F’s Ranka Lee.

Kabakura is hella mean throughout the night (must he keep calling the clearly attractive Koyanagi an “ugly hag”? He does not.), and his joking around and blithe insults come across as callous and cruel considering Koyanagi’s worried state. But at least he has the good sense to stop—eventually—and let her cry on his shoulder.

The things drunk Koyanagi talked about lead Narumi herself to wonder if Hirotaka would rather be with a non-otaku. Hirotaka can sense her unease, but makes it clear to her he’s not dating her because she’s an otaku or because it’s easy, but because he loves seeing her do the things she likes, and always has, even if they’re not always the same things he likes.

The fact this episode featured not one but two incidences of the women being worried about whether they’re good enough for the men made it feel a bit unbalanced. Then again, I can totally buy that Kabakura acts the way he does sometimes because he’s just as anxious about his self-worth as Koyanagi apparently is.

In any case, I’m really enjoying watching the intricacies of the two couples’ relationships unfold before us. One has been an official couple for far longer, but both have history and just feel right…warts and all.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 03 – Beige or Pink, It Doesn’t Matter

Hirotaka proves he’s a good man to have in a pinch when Narumi falls behind on her BL doujinshi for Comiket, perhaps due in part to the two dating. He helps her complete her work in time and helps man her table when the day of the event arrives. It’s never explicitly said, but it’s clear Hirotaka derives enjoyment from assisting the woman he likes with her creative passion, so it’s not even a question of feeling put out or overly relied on.

Hirotaka does have to run off for a smoke when he observes one too many of Narumi’s fans fawning over her work, and finds solace in Kabakura, who is in a similar situation with his girlfriend dressing up as a super-suave dude and being quickly surrounded by fangirls.

Still, when Narumi realizes there are still so many “gods” whose work she loves she has yet to visit, Hirotaka sends her off with his blessing, manning her table in her place, and quickly drawing the admiration of many a customer turned on by a tall, dark, and handsome guy peddling BL doujinshi, forcing Narumi to return and “save” him. But it’s all good; Hirotaka is having fun.

In the second half, Narumi and Hirotaka navigate the rough waters of transition from the platonic childhood friends that they were to something more…adult. When Hirotaka invites Narumi to his place for drinks, her first thought is of what color underwear she’s wearing, lest the night take that kind of turn.

To her combined relief (since she’s wearing beige) and mild disappointment, the only turning that seems to be in store is that of Wii-wheels as they play Mario Kart together. She’s initially terribly nervous about being alone in Hirotaka’s apartment, but quickly remembers who he is and eventually relaxes.

She’s hit with another surprise when Koyanagi and Kabakura join them for the “sleepover”, and while Hirotaka takes his shower, the girls search his room for his print stash, which Koyanagi is convinced all red-blooded Japanese otaku still cling to, even in this age of digitization.

Harumi is initially put off by the big-boobed figures out in the open, but then takes a trip down memory lane when she finds his true stash: that of magic cards and other collectibles. Hirotaka joins her in reminiscing, stating that the time he traded cute characters for powerful ones was the genesis of their friendship, something Narumi feels guilty about not remembering.

She wants their relationship to be “fair” and for  Hirotaka to be honest with her and not hesitate to “punch” her if he thinks she’s a terrible person, but c’mon…there’s no way Hirotaka thinks that. But if she insists on penance, he exacts it by leaning in for a kiss—a real one this time—reminding her that he is, in fact, a man. A man concerned neither her bust size nor the color of her undergarments.

Also, how cute are Koyanagi and Kabakura with their matching necklaces, extremely competitive video gameplay, and drifting off on the couch together? They’re a very different couple from Narumi and Hirotaka, but no less fun to watch.