Hortensia Saga – 01 (First Impressions) – A Glimmer of Hope in an Age of Turmoil

What have we here….an un-ironic, non-isekai, no-nonsense Euro-style medieval fantasy epic? Welcome to Hortensia Saga, which plunges us right into the thick of an attempted coup…what odd timing

One of the king’s loyalist retainers transforms into a giant werewolf and kills him right before his daughter’s eyes, and then goes on to kill one of his baddest-ass knights, Fernando Ober (or Albert, depending on the subs).

The late Fernando’s brother Maurice Bauldelaire (Hi, Tsuda Kenjirou!) arrives at the Ober estate to tell his nephew Alfred the news that his father is dead, making Alfred the new Lord of Ober.

Maurice also rescued the adorable Princess Mariel, who cut her hair short and poses as a young lad named Marius whom Alfred takes under his wing as his squire. That’s fine with Mariel, who wants to become stronger so she can protect those she cares about.

Marius and Lord Alfred were brought together by shared tragedy and grief and become fast friends. If Alfred is aware Marius is actually a princess in disguise, he never mentions it, even after four years pass and she becomes his trusty squire. That’s a helluva time jump, and I kinda wish a little more time was spent on developing their friendship, but alas, this saga has a lot of ground to cover.

In those four years both were trained by Maurice and feel ready for their first real battle against the forces of Camelia (the retainers who betrayed the Hortensian crown). It doesn’t go particularly great, as their allies were pre-slaughtered and both youngins have to be saved by Maurice, but the two had each other’s backs, didn’t give up, and escaped with their lives, so call it a learning experience.

Marius is sufficiently injured that she doesn’t wake up for days, but when she does, Ober’s maid Nonnoria (Ueda Reina, pushing a bit too hard) is there to welcome her back to the land of the awake.

Marius joins a discouraged Alfred at his family grave where they met four years ago, Alfred declares his resolve to become much stronger, and Marius declares she’ll become stronger right beside him. The one thing they can’t do is give up hope. Little does Al know his squire is a girl and the heir to the kingdom he serves!

I was ready to pass on Hortensia when its opening sequence involved a hefty helping of lazy CGI extras, and featured characters who weren’t that much better designed or animated. If you’re going to go as arrow-straight with your milieu as this, you’d better bring it with the execution.

What actually kept me watching was the voice acting of Horie Yui and Hosoya Yoshimasa, two seiyuu I admire but haven’t seen in a lot of leading roles of late. Their work elevates a classic but bland premise, a rushed narrative, and merely serviceable production values. I’m putting this in my “maybe” pile for this season.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 09 – Calming Rituals

In the first segment, Miko becomes the protagonist of her own LIW spin-off as she regales Kobachi with harrowing tales of her experiences in the StuCo that have brought her to the brink of resignation. The drama of various incidents she’s witnessed from various doorways are greatly heightened, and their context twisted to feed the narrative of Miyuki as “Lust Incarnate”.

Kobachi assumes Miko has simply misunderstood each of these incidents, but Miko ends up learning the wrong lesson by simply shifting the role of StuCo supervillain from Miyuki to Kaguya, labeling her “Evil Incarnate” and recontextualizing the incidents as engineered by a deviant and sadistic mind.

However, Kaguya’s response when Miko confronts her—phrased as “What do you think of Miyuki?“—garners such an unexpectedly pure and guileless response, Miko is left not knowing what to think of everything she’s seen and heard…which means she loses.

The next segment is Kaguya-centric and builds on the purity of her response. She’s been avoiding Miyuki ever since her hospital visit, lamenting to Hayasaka how she’s become incapable of staying calm and collected around him. Hayasaka suggests Kaguya takes a page from Ichiro and other sports personalities and adopt a “calming ritual” to steady herself in stressful times.

The process for adopting such a ritual starts with Hayasakai turning on some music and simply having Kaguya dance it out, calling to mind Chika’s awesome dance ED last season as well as being thoroughly adorable. Kaguya eventually settles on touching her left cheek with her right hand, and even impresses Hayasaka with the speed with which she masters the gesture.

However, when it comes time to use it, Kaguya finds herself locked in a Street Fighter II-style match with Miyuki, who unloads a number of special moves that raise her anxiety levels way past safety levels (enter a great momentary cameo by last week’s elite doc…and his theme music).

In the end, despite losing most of her HP Kaguya wins the match by resorting to the use of her black belts in Aikido and Judo, thus freeing her right hand from Miyuki’s grasp. As soon as she touches her cheek she’s calm again…only to immediately lose that calm when she realizes she hurt Miyuki! Still, the ritual worked, so she wins.

In the third and final segment, Yuu rather inexplicably joins the cheerleading squad, which is akin to a polar bear seeking refuge in the middle of the Sahara. He immediately regrets his hasty decision, as he finds himself among members of the “Tribe of Yay!”, while he is, at best, of the “Tribe of Meh”.

When the group agrees on gender-swapping their uniforms, Yuu finds himself in a spot: Miko will refuse because she hates him, Chika will judge him because she’s so real with him, and Kaguya certainly won’t do it because…wait, Kaguya is happy to do it! “Anything for a StuCo colleague in need” and all that.

Kaguya seems to get a kick out of putting Yuu in her school uniform, as well as applying makeup. Miko sees the former (again, sans context) through the partially opened door and flees without comment (another chapter for her spin-off). Then Miyuki peeks through the door as Kaguya is having fun with Yuu and is naturally super-jealous. Oddly, this segment ends without a winner or loser, but promises that Yuu’s story will continue next week during the Sports Festival.

LIW continues to exhibit a strong penchant for diversity in both style and substance, always keeping us on our toes on what it will dish out from segment to segment and yet never letting us down. My only mark against this episode is the dearth of Chika and not quite enough Kobachi, whom I’d like to see more of. But the show has a rare gift for keeping things both fresh and focused. Its characters are always strong and consistent pillars in a motley universe of unpredictable scenarios and cleverly subverted tropes.

Working!!! – Special – Lord of the Takanashi

working41

A few months back I voiced my frustration over Working!!!’s apparent reluctance to deliver a proper resolution to the Inami x Takanashi romance, instead ending on a “To Be Continued.” Well, this hour-long special is that promised continuation…and baby, it delivers. All is forgiven.

I still think this could have gotten done in the last couple of episodes of the threequel, but in hindsight, I didn’t mind the material we got instead, as well as this special that gives the resolution plenty of time and space to unfold.

working42

Because while there are lots of other good things going on in this special—Yamada coming to grips with being reunited with her mom; Popura trying to be the best future chief she can be; Nazuna preparing to take over the world one day—most of the time the focus is where it should be: on our main couple.

Takanashi continues to cross-dress on order from his mother, who would deny him both romance and manhood as long as he’s dishonest about his feelings.

working43

Yachiyo is concerned about Takanashi (mostly because he’s a good worker and she needs the labor) so when Inami beseeches her for a time when she can run into Takanashi (who had his schedule adjusted to avoid her), the boss is happy to comply.

Inami lies in wait and confronts Takanashi, who is very reasonable with her, and seems to be on the cusp of saying what he should have said a long time ago, but yet again a parent butts in and delays the catharsis; his mother, again, not allowing a son who lies to date anyone.

working44

The only way this stalemate will be broken is if Inami sallies forth to rescue Takanashi as his knight in…his own work uniform. I love the idea and the symmetry of Inami dressing as a boy to save the one she loves dressed as a girl (especially the little dig Yamada gets in about her wrapping her chest).

But the outfit won’t be enough: Inami must face a gauntlet of Takanashi’s sisters, deployed by her mother to test her. The first challenger is Kazue, but Inami gets past her accidentally by congratulating her on her re-marriage. Okay…maybe this won’t be so hard after all…but that doesn’t mean it isn’t funny!

working45

Izumi is next, but she’s actually glad Souta ended up with Inami, so forfeits their fight, accepting a forehead flick as defeat even though said flick never reaches her forehead. Just when it looks as if Kozue has Inami’s number (revealing Inami can only fight against men), when her buds show up looking for her, she totally flakes out.

But like Izumi, she’s on Inami’s side. So is Inami’s final challenger Nazuna, who instead tests how nice a person she is by refusing to fight her even though Nazuna seems to be rearing for one.

working46

Nazuna later becomes a powerful advocate for Inami at their home, where her mother remains unconvinced Souta should be freed. When we see the photo Nazuna produces of her mother as a 17-year-old arguably even tinier and cuter than even Popura, it’s concrete proof of how much people can change, if you just give them the opportunity to do so.

The clincher for Souta’s mom is when Popura shows up, and she realizes her son has changed: he went for the ordinary-sized girl over the tiny one.

Also extremely amusing is the fact Takanashi’s mom keeps that picture of her around her office because despite loathing how tiny she once was, she shares the same love of tiny cute things as her son, which is why she takes an instant liking to Popura, using her as a prayer offering, then attempting to kidnap her as she returns to work, satisfied Souta is on the right track.

working47

Takanashi brings up his intense affection for all things cute and small, which Inami initially and wrongly mistakes for a soft rejection. Takanashi goes on to say he doesn’t just want to be someone who can proclaim loudly and proudly that he loves tiny cute things; but that he can proclaim that he loves all the things he loves – like Inami.

He finally, finalllllly confesses, she says she feels the same way, he says he’s known that for some time, and she lets him take her hand the way lovers do, without creepy CGI grabbing wands. THANK GOD.

working48

After that wonderful exchange, and all the fun and hilarious stuff that led up to it, I stand fully propitiated. Working!!! took a while to get to where it ended up (three cours and a special, to be exact), but it got there. It didn’t let me down.

Hell, it almost makes me want to go all the way back to the beginning, this time without the stress of not knowing when or even if things will work out…because they did. So I guess there’s nothing left to say but Thank you, Working!!!, for all the laughter-food!

9_ses

Prison School – 04

ps41

It doesn’t take long to reveal what Gakuto intended by assaulting both the vice president and president: he wanted the latter to “punish and forgive” him. At first, this is played out as Shiraki sodomizing Gakuto with a pixelated vibrator…but turns out to be just harmless electric clippers (thank GOD), with which she shaves his head, the clippings of which Gakuto offers to Kiyoshi as the all-important pigtails he’ll need to complete his girly look. Gosh, what a friend! If only his powerful intellect were used to better humanity…

ps42

His wig thus acquired, he must grab a girl’s uniform from the laundry; no mean feat. This show is a master of portraying suspense and stress, and dangling everything on whether someone comes out of a doorway, or turns around, or, later, spills tea on a backpack.

Thanks again to Gakuto (who literally pisses himself distracting the laundry service guy), Kiyoshi gets away with a uniform undetected. With that, he has everything he needs for the sumo date, and tries to get some sleep, promising he won’t fail Chiyo. Meanwhile, Chiyo seems super-psyched for tomorrow.

ps43

The day arrives: so full of potential pitfalls and foreboding, but also ample hope that all will go according to plan. As Kiyoshi and Gakuto collect the purses of the girls of various girls who have come for track day, Chiyo makes huge amounts of onigiri for Kiyoshi, assuming all boys eat several times more than girls…not to mention believing Kiyoshi got permission to leave.

As Kiyoshi enjoys a bento and some “fine asses” as noon and zero hour draws nearer, a sense of calm seems to settle over the two. Everything has been set into motion, and everything they worked and shat and pissed and sweated and bled for is finally about to come to fruition. Kiyoshi also remarks on how close a friendship he and Gakuto have achieved in the last three weeks. Gakuto says its all for the Three Kingdoms figurines.

ps44

The bell rings. Zero Hour. From this point on, Prison School becomes a taut, elegant thriller, complete with a first-person perspective of Kiyoshi placing the fartbox on the toilet, slipping out the window, into the drainage channel, through tunnels, beneath Shiraki beating his comrades, and out to his changing zone.

He’s barely done transforming into “Kiya-tan” when Shiraki, no longer busy beating the others, calls out to him. He has a choice: run and risk being exposed, or stay put and hope he’s a convincing enough girl from behind to fool the glasses-wearing Shiraki. Somehow, some way, it works, and Shiraki moves on. Is this fortune smiling on Kiyoshi’s Big Day?

ps45

Oh no! Mari grabs him by the backpack before he can step outside of school grounds! But wait, she just wants “her” to take her backpack off her back. When she spots the tear in Kiyoshi’s jacket, she apologizes and lets him go, showing Mari’s empathetic side for once. After that, it’s smooth sailing till the rendezvous point.

Chiyo truly outdoes herself in the adorableness department, between her outfit, the way she sneaks up on an overjoyed Kiyoshi, and her intense enthusiasm over watching a student sumo match with him. Her seiyu Hashimoto Chinami is one of the few voices in this show I’m not familiar with, but she does a great job projecting Chiyo’s warm and genial personality, along with her excitement with the whole affair.

Kiyoshi and Chiyo are just plain infectious to watch here; it’s like he’s died and gone to heaven. Sure, he doesn’t give a shit about sumo, and she sucks at cooking, but HE DOESN’T CARE IT’S CHIYO, for cryin’ out loud. He eats every bite of plain salted white rice, and gets rewarded with a close-in selfie with her, as if they were already boyfriend and girlfriend!

ps46

Then…heaven turns to HELL, and so heart-rippingly fast it made my head spin. I was rooting so hard for Kiyoshi and his success, but in the back of my head I still remembered that he’d done things for which a penance would someday be exacted. I just didn’t think it would happen so fast! From peeping to peeing to stealing and fleeing, to so easily allowing Gakuto to sacrifice his dignity and high school years…Kiyoshi is no pure angel.

And yet, it’s nothing in particular he does or says that leads to him so harshly receiving his “karma” and being driven into the ground. It’s something that just happens, as a result of what he’s already said and done, along with what he failed to do, like check to see whose uniform he stole.

Turns out, he stole CHIYO’S. And because he ate too much of the rice to be “nice”, and had to go to the bathroom (for real this time), he leaves Chiyo alone with his bag, and when she spills tea on it, she notices her uniform in that bag, and it’s over. It’s ALL OVER. She manages to get “You’re disgusting” out before storming off.

Meanwhile, back at the school, his cover is about to be blown, as Shiraki loses patience, goes into the mens room, and prepares to knock down the door where the now-malfunctioning m-poop-3-player sits. It looks like the boys are in for another month of prison. But far, far worse, Kiyoshi’s aspirations with Chiyo are in tatters. It’s going to be tough to come back from all that.

10_sesRABUJOI World Heritage List

Prison School – 03

ps31

Three episodes, in, and I’ve been subjected to three sickeningly funny, pants-shittingly good outings by Prison School…and hope is still alive that Kiyoshi will have his date! But while there’s plenty of sex and toilet humor, and enormous boobs to be had, there’s also taut, witty dialogue, tremendous voice performances, and a solid narrative replete with “cause and effect” situations. And holes. Lots of holes.

Cause: the guys peep on the girls. Effect: they’re thrown in Prison School. Cause: Kiyoshi escapes the scorn of his sweetheart. Effect: the date is still on, he just needs to break out. Cause: Kirihara also has a secret he needs to conceal. Effect: Kiyoshi’s Plan A fails, and he’s forced to move to a more daring Plan B.

ps32

But those are just the main plot points. There’s also the fact that Shingo, Andre, and Joe start getting suspicious when Kiyoshi and Gakuto start spending so much time together, while they start to suspect Shingo is on to their escape plan. Then Shingo catches them in the shower in a couple of very compromising (but ultimately innocent) positions, giving Shingo the idea that his two friends have begun a physical relationship. And while his initial reaction is shock and horror, he accepts Kiyoshi for who he is. What a nice friend!

ps33

As for the holes I mentioned, a change in their duties the day of his date means Kiyoshi must find an alternate covert route to his hole in the wall, so he uses a drainage channel. While hiding there, he comes across an even smaller hole, through which he can watch Shiraki doing Hindu squats, as is her wont, from the most favorable possible angle.

But again cause and effect rear their ugly heads: due to his position, when Shiraki’s stiletto slips and falls through a hole, it goes right into Kiyoshi’s hole. The resulting blood makes his friends, who’ve been told about him and Gakuto by Shingo, think he pitches as well as catches. But Shingo makes the excuse to Shiraki that Kiyoshi has hemorrhoids.

That segues nicely into Gakuto’s revised plan for Kiyoshi to escape: using an audio recorder with sounds of flatulance to serve as a diversion for Kiyoshi while he’s away. Only their internet access is restricted, so he must record those sounds himself.

ps34

The Three Kingdoms-obsessed Gakuto is always extremely formal and archaic in his speech patterns and vocabulary, so when he and Kiyoshi discuss the pros and cons of what he’s about to do, it’s given all the pomp and heft of a far nobler venture than intentionally shitting oneself in computer class. Yet Gakuto sells the ever-loving shit out of it, cutting loose and producing the necessary audio to aid Kiyoshi—who is, after all, getting him his ultra-rare 3K figures.

ps35

Cause and Effect strike again, when a weak-willed Kurihara, having dug up the booty pics he buried, re-buries them in concrete, he also patches up Kiyoshi’s escape hole. But Kiyoshi doesn’t despair long; he decides he’ll break out by dressing as a girl (snatching a uniform from the laundry truck that will come Friday) and walking out the front gate with the other girls. This is a very old, very stupid bit, but I have full confidence in Prison School to put its unique mark on it when the time comes.

ps36

That confidence is even further buoyed by the final dramatic set piece of the episode, a masterpiece of movement, timing, and ecchiness. Gakuto, who seems a little more weary of Kiyoshi’s chances of success, seemingly goes nuts when he’s supposed to lay low, getting up in Shiraki’s crotch, being smothered in her bust, and finally pulling down President Mari’s skirt. What is his deal…has he lost it? Or is this another plan? Is he creating a cause for some intended effect? We shall see, my friends.

9_ses

Working!!! 3 – 13 (Fin*)

w3131

GODDAMNIT, WORKING!!!. Would it kill you to resolve what has remained a romantic standstill for three seasons?!! Don’t get me wrong; I love Working!!!…but I fucking HATE WORKING!!! sometimes. And as good a start as it gets off on, this episode is unfortunately one of those times. I know, Japanese anime usually tend to focus more on maintaining a status quo than progressing relationships, but Working!!! proved it could buck the trend by finally bringing Yachiyo and Satou together. Is it so much to ask that they do the same with Takanashi and Inami?

w3132

Apparently it is; at least in a 13-episode span. And wouldn’t you know it, it isn’t any particular problem between the two that causes the impasse from continuing. Rather, it’s freaking parents. First, Inami’s estranged father, who crashes Inami’s date with Takanashi when she forgets her wallet, then calls into question Takanashi’s fitness to date his daughter due to his transvestite tendencies (for which his mother can be blamed). Thus, the date goes pear-shaped, returning the two to their status quo of being cordial, even affectionate with one another, but not yet a couple.

w3133

This displeased me. What displeased me even more was that precious minutes of this supposed finale were spent revisiting whether Inami has been cured of her androphobia, or exploring Souma’s scopophobia, or Popura’s atychiphobia. These phobias are all well and good, but the resolution of Yachiyo x Satou gave me hope the same would be done with Inami x Takanashi. Only yet again, Working!!! is dilatory; skittish about resolving its most compelling romantic entanglement, for no other reason than it need to keep going a little bit longer.

w3134

That “little bit longer”, it seems, will come in the form of an hour-long special, in which hopefully the fact that Takanashi flakes out on another get-together with Inami due to the intervention of his mother will be resolved. I certainly hope it does, because frankly, I’m sick of the status quo. I know this is slice-of-life, and it’s a comedy, but I didn’t introduce these serious romantic elements, the show did, and it’s the show’s responsibility to follow through and stop leading me on, damnit!

8_ses

Working!!! 3 – 12

work3121

Satou is back and he and Yachiyo are now a couple, but it’s pretty much business as usual at Wagnaria…except for the fact Takanashi is now “Kotori-chan.” Everyone’s a little worried about this, but he claims it’s not a compulsive thing; he’s dressing as a girl (again) to help sort out his feelings for Inami, which seems arbitrary and silly at first, but gradually comes to make more sense by the very end.

Until then, he witnesses Yamada finally learn how to make a proper billing slip, and Kirio plays along that he’s a girl, and manages to get Takanashi to describe the kind of person he likes (which is just a description of Inami) before revealing he knew it was him all along (and getting slugged for it in a way that also calls Inami to mind!).

work3122

Later, Takanashi and Satou notice that Souma has been unusually quiet and un-meddling lately, though they learn it’s just because he purchased a camera that lets him be voyeuristic from a further distance, amassing a large collection of albums full of photos of Wagnaria staff. Takanashi and Satou ending up confiscating the ones of Inami and Yachiyo, respectively. Was it Souma’s intent all along?

As for Popura, she’s called into the break room after work to find Yachiyo and Kyoko waiting for her. I’d be just as worried as she was that she might be in some kind of trouble (no matter how nice they are, a boss can’t arrange a private talk without an underling worrying it’s bad).

Turns out Yachiyo is leaving Wagnaria to use what she’s learned there to fluorish on her own. Satou is aware and supportive, natch. And Yachiyo, Kyoko, and even Satou believe Popura has grown enough to become the next chief, replacing Yachiyo. This has been a long time coming, as we’ve seen Popura thrive all season as her co-workers have been distracted by personal issues.

work3123

Finally, Takanashi’s cross-dressing rather surprisingly pays off. From his perspective, at least, he feels he and Inami can interact a lot more naturally when he’s pretending to be a girl. He’s also in the unique position to ask her if she prefers if he’s a girl or a boy. Suddenly on the spot, Inami answers honestly: she prefers the boy.

Then, out of the blue, Takanashi invites her to come with him to the store she couldn’t find on her own because she got lost. In effect, a date. He can scarcely believe he did it, but he did, and tomorrow, he’ll be back to being Takanashi. To which I say, bravo! Unfortunately, there’s only one episode of Working!!! left to explore a Takanashi-Inami date, if it actually happens, but if it does and the two can progress a little more, I’ll take it.

8_ses

Working!!! 3 – 11

work3111

Now this is more like it: a Working!!! with focus and progress, which deftly balances the long-awaited development of long-standing serial plot with the show’s usual slice-of-life and character-derived comedy. Long has the shy Satou suffered in Wagnaria’s kitchen, unable to properly express his feelings for Yachiyo. Long has the sheltered, isolated Yachiyo suffered in Wagnaria’s dining room, unable to properly express her feelings for Satou.

This week, building on their birthday date (which ended awkwardly), the couple finally manages to come together and say what needs to be said without any misunderstandings or narrative half-measures. After nearly three seasons, we’re finally thrown a whole bone, as the show surrenders and breaks the status quo of these two’s relationship. And I couldn’t be happier.

work3112

Neither could Yachiyo, it would seem, as she practically buries the twee Popura in her Flowers of Happiness. Then those flowers wilt when Kyoko refuses to let her make any more parfaits or other treats for her, showing this transition isn’t without difficulties. But this is merely Kyoko trying too hard to get out of the way of Satou.

While he’s not happy about Kyoko being such a force in Yachiyo’s life, the fact is he fell for the Yachiyo who loves and admires Kyoko, and even if a lot of things will change now that he and Yachiyo are dating, Yachiyo making Kyoko parfaits and talking about Kyoko to him all the time don’t have to go away.

work3113

In the light of what turns out to be a fairly harmless transition (except to Satou’s stress-sensitive stomach, for which he takes off two weeks), Kyoko lifts the co-worker dating ban, with a very encouraging eye towards Takanashi, knowing full well his feelings for Inami. In fact, now that the seemingly impossible (Satou and Yachiyo dating) has occured, it opens up the possibility the show could end with Takanashi figuring out what to do about Inami, as Satou did. Whether he will remains up in the air, as for now he dresses in drag as “Kotori-chan.”

As for Satou and Yachiyo, they remain painfully adorable in every scene they’re in together, especially now that the air has been cleared and there are no more secrets about who love whom: they both love each other, and it’s magnificent. Of course, Yachiyo is still new to many of the ways of the world, and ends up getting lost in the dark on her way to Satou’s apartment, but the fact she’s always carrying a katana offers her some protection from unsavory elements.

I also appreciate that after Yachiyo cooks dinner for Satou, and there are no options for her to get home at the late hour, she simply spends the night, taking Satou’s bed while he takes the floor. There’s a lovely casual practicality to it. I just wish we could have gotten a glimpse of the two talking in the dark before drifting off to sleep.

9_ses

Working!!! 3 – 10

w3101

Souta and Kozue both have dreams about unpleasant experiences with their infamous mother Shizuka this week. Souta remembers being dressed as a girl against his will (perhaps a reason he has a fetish for cute things) while Kozue laments that her mother never remembers her name (perhaps a reason she drinks so much). However, she has a couple of friends who care about her (even if they have trouble always dealing with her) in Mitsuki and Youhei.

w3102

The reason both siblings dream of their mother is that she’s apparently on her way to visiting her children after an untold amount of time away working. She reminds me of Chitoge’s mother, only we find out a lot less about her other than the fact she’s extremely busy and powerful and she seems to have a unique way of messing with her kids, from laughing at Kazue’s marriage, divorce, and reconciliation, to making Izumi cook despite protests she’ll die, to persistently forgetting Kozue, the middle child, even exists.

w3103

While there still may be a part of her that still wants Souta in women’s clothing (and indeed, he’s dressed in drag independently for various reasons throughout Working’s run), his primary concern is that she’s found out he likes a girl, and he worries she’ll put said girl (Inami) under undue scrutiny. He vows to protect Inami no matter what, but his mixed reactions to her (bouncing his head off a wall, then walking her home with their hands closer together) continue to confuse Inami. One of these days, these two are going to figure it out. But then again, maybe they never will. Still, any glimmer of progress is appreciated.

8_ses

Shimoneta – 03

shi31

After top art student and school’s pride, Saotome Otome, caught a glimpse of Okuma and Ayame’s rooftop antics, she literally snags him on a chain and drags him away to her studio, where she presumes he can assist her with (or rather she can blackmail him into) helping her with a romantic problem that is making her art suffer. The subject of her affections? Anna. So when Okuma must tell her who he loves, he says the first girl’s name that comes to mind: Ayame, so as to avoid conflict.

But Otome’s artists’ block is merely a side effect of a much larger problem that afflicts not only her, but much of the population: a decade of PMs and oppression is leaving large swaths of the population unable to express their love, or even identify what they’re feeling as such. This isn’t surprising; dirty jokes and the sexual knowledge that makes them dirty are crucial to natural human interaction. Without them, there’s a large gap that is filled with whatever else people can come up with.

shi32

For a certain unsavory admirer of Anna, that something is stalking and candid photos with threatening messages. Anna is shaken by this, but Ayame assure Okuma she’ll protect her while he tries to get Otome to join SOX, revealing that her friendship to Anna is genuine, even if the two are on opposite ends of the moral spectrum. Anna, after all, is person who made it possible for Ayame to exist in normal society; she’d surely be in jail without her. But with the very survival of the human race is at stake, and so Ayame must act against her best friend.

Anna, for her part, knows Okuma isn’t the stalker, despite Goriki’s suspicions (which are his own way of expressing his own love for Anna), and agrees to a sting in which Ayame will dress as a boy as they go on a date. At the same time, Otome plans her own rescue of Anna by the stalker, shaving Okuma’s legs and putting him in drag (for the second straight episode).

shi33

As they wait in the bushes, Otome cannot help but compulsively draw Anna, her first real model, in her own unique way of expressing her love. The resulting sting is a pretty thrilling and complex bit of physicality, as not only does the stalker turn out to be huge, but there are three of them, and not everyone in a position to protect Anna is close enough to stop their attacks.

Fortunately, Ayame knows right where to kick the first stalker, and Okuma is in time to stop the next one with a devastating right. Interestingly, he moved out of instinct, but isn’t sure who he moved for: Ayame, whom he told Otome he loved on a whim? Or Anna? Heck, why not both!

shi34

Whoever he was trying to protect, he loses his wig and takes a rock to the back of the head, and ends up not only landing on top of a stunned Anna, but his lips and legs end up locked with hers for a not inconsequential amount of time before he gets up, starts to apologize, and passes out from the rock blow.

As for Anna, that sudden closeness to a boy and the touch of his lips seems to awaken her libido with a vengeance. Again, she has no idea what’s going on, but she knows it feels amazing. Will this be an isolated incident eventually forgotten, or will Anna never look at Okuma the same again?

8_ses

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren – 03

chu2-3-1

The series’ promo art featured Rikka touching noses with a theretofore unseen pink-haired girl, something we weren’t sure what to make of. With sequels come new characters, which are a reliable way of keeping things fresh and interesting. But they can also disrupt the ideal chemical balance of a show, by clashing unpleasantly with or sapping screen time from the established characters. That pink-haired girl—Shichimiya Satone—faced an uphill battle in a series that already juggling a lot of characters.

At first blush, we can report that she comported herself quite well. Far from feeling tacked-on, Satone does precisely what a good new character should: shake things up without spilling any of those things on the floor. She feels necessary; offering us a new glimpse of Yuuta’s past. All we knew was that Yuuta’s chuunibyou inspired Rikka; we don’t know what caused it until now. While we can’t remember him saying anything about a close friend back then, it turns out he had one, and it was a girl. Not just any girl: a magical devil girl with the alias Sophia Ring SP Saturn VII.

chu2-3-2

We like how easily Satone and Rikka engage in mystical battle—bouncing off each other as if they were sisters. The battle also drew attention to its practical elements: you basically exchange elaborate attacks and defenses, and the one who can’t keep up with all the ridiculous things being spouted is the loser. In this regard it makes sense that Rikka is “on the ropes” when Yuuta breaks them up; Sophia been at this a lot longer. And since she taught Yuuta everything he knew (or at least got him started on that path), that kinda makes her Rikka’s master’s master—at least in the arena of delusion.

Bringing back a girl from Yuuta’s past inexorably reopens that past for Yuuta, and when Satone unexpectedly gives him an Eskimo kiss—a gesture far more intimate than anything he’s done with Rikka (excluding the weird spanking last week)—that’s when the promo art makes sense. This was something they used to do all the time as younger kids. She wasn’t just some girl who bothered him in school; quite the opposite; he thought she was cool. He obviously doesn’t think that now, but nor does he seem particularly worried about her still having Chuunibyou; she’s just being herself.

chu2-3-3

But whatever she owes to her, Rikka considers Satone an invader serious threat in both of the worlds she inhabits. And we feel she has legitimate cause to be concerned, even after Satone offers an olive branch and vows to root for Rikka. That’s because Satone then touches noses with Yuuta and promptly runs off, as if her presence there was painful. Yuuta’s last scene with Satone on the balcony is nice, because it establishes his guilt about suddenly up and leaving her behind when he transferred. That guilt is all the opening Satone needs. That, and she’s very cute.

We wouldn’t be surprised if her gesture of goodwill to Rikka was really a challenge in disguise: “May the Best Girl Win.” But we can’t dismiss her as a cynical wrench being thrown in the works of Yuuta and Rikka. She has just as legitimate claim to Yuuta’s heart as Rikka, and even if Yuuta doesn’t love her yet, that could change. Yuuta and Rikka’s could possibly even benefit from such a test. After all, it’s only been a day since she met Satone, and at its end, Rikka is already touching noses with Yuuta.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Golden Time – 12

gold12

Banri and Linda get into the spirit of the party and they’re posing for a photo in a compromising position just as Koko has tracked him down. She throws a drink at him and slaps him. Back at his place he explains the situation and apologizes profusely. When Koko presents him with the photo of him with Linda, he tells her the full truth about his past with Linda. Koko begs him not to remember any more. To that end, the next day, Banri meets with Linda, confirms that she didn’t like him romantically in the past, and asks her to pretend they don’t know each other from now on. He gives her the photo, which she tears up.

This episode goes from being brutal for Koko—63 unanswered texts, roaming the streets in the middle of the night worried sick, finally finding her lying boyfriend in drag tangled up with Linda—to brutal for Linda: having someone she’s always loved literally in her arms, having him snatched away by the interloper, and the next day losing him as a friend altogether. Having just finished Kyoukai no Kanata, Mirai’s refrain of “it would have been better had I never met you” would seem to apply to poor Linda—the opposite of the adage “better to have loved and lost.” It sucks to see them split like this, but as we’re only halfway through the series, something tells us she’s still not out of the running. That’s not to discount Banri’s relationship with Koko, which almost bursts into flames before his eyes.

He works feverishly to repair the mess he’s made by telling Koko the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, even the things that may shock and hurt Koko, and he’s to be commended for doing so. His feelings for Linda may come to the surface now and again, but with no memories to accompany them, and the knowledge that he never dated Linda, he’s decided to ignore and bury them as much as he can, committing himself fully to Koko. After falling down last week, the truth sets Banri free. One day, the past Banri may still resurface, eliminating the Banri who loves Koko. But he won’t let the threat of that theoretical day ruin what he has with Koko. Of course, he may think slightly differently if he knew Linda loved him, and loves him still. If he’s a storm as Koko says, he wants to be like the Great Red Spot: the kind of storm that won’t be dissipating anytime soon.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Yowzah, Banri and Linda went from eye-screwing to steamy full contact in no time at all, thanks to their bacchanalian surroundings; a realistic portrayal of the power of great parties.
  • We’re not saying he’s that shallow, but Mitsuo seemed awfully smitten with Linda’s assets. Forget 2D-kun; there’s a better chance of Linda ending up with Banri’s best mate. Uh-oh!
  • We’re willing to forgive the coincidence of Koko ending up at the club. She was doing a very thorough sweep of the town, and a late night party kinda stands out.
  • That being said, the woman who took the picture of Banri and Linda with the glowstick looked an awful lot like Koko. Was that intentional?
  • They’ve been dating for six episodes and Banri and Koko have no pictures of themselves as a couple? WTF? There are cameras on their frikkin’ phones. It may seem like a trifling detail, but as we see when Koko expresses her unease, a photo can make a big difference.
  • We’ve noticed that a lot of important discussions between characters have happened in the dark; the notable exception being the meeting where Banri cuts Linda lose.

Golden Time – 11

gold11

After being subjected to a torrent of advice from his seniors, Banri decides he wants to get a part-time job so he can pay for his beach trip with Kouko, but she’s against it, as it would mean spending less time with him. While thanking Nana for her help, she tells him a party waiter’s job is his if he wants it, and tells him to have Mitsuo come too. At the masquerade party, Banri dresses up as a maid and Mitsuo wears a speedo. While serving drinks, they come across two devil twins: Nana and Linda. Kouko, who has the photo of Banri and Linda, calls Banri, but it goes to voicemail.

Wethinks young Tada Banri may be getting a little too accustomed to lies and secrets. While on the train to his all-night job, having lied to Kouko about writing a paper, he tells Mitsuo he can put up with Kouko’s quirks because “he loves her”, but inside, he’s decided to endure whatever she can dish out because he’s guilty about being in love with Linda. He’s as awful as he thinks he is if that’s actually the case, but he’s awful anyway for the lies. At the cafe (the first one) Kouko laid out very clearly the consequences of being away from him too long. She’s not a girl you want to lie to.

While Banri couldn’t have predicted bumping into Linda at a swanky party, it would look far less compromising later on if he had simply told Kouko the truth about wanting a job. Instead he avoided a fight and decided to shield her from the truth (which never works) and now Mitsuo, Nana, and Linda all know he was working at that party while Kouko’s in the dark. We’ll take our Banri-scolding hats off long enough to say we enjoyed the party milieu, in which Nana yet again brings Banri and Linda together. It makes one wonder if she’s doing it on purpose!

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • There was something used car salesman-like about the Tea Club girls this week. Don’t sign anything!
  • We love the sinister way Nana says “party waiter.” We actually just love Nana, period.
  • he running gag of Banri being unable to recognize Nana in her various get-ups is coming along nicely.
  • Already armed with Chekhov’s photo, if Kouko ever finds out he was with her at that party when he was supposed to be writing a paper…well, “Hell hath no” and all that.
  • That being said, it would be even more brutal if she doesn’t react violently at all, but merely collapses in despair.
  • We wonder: how long would Banri and Linda have stared longingly at each other had the host not told them to get back to work? Probably forever!