A Couple of Cuckoos – 16 – Full Throttle Sachi

Sachi wants to know more about this Segawa Hiro girl her dear brother loves so much he’s willing to date her even while engaged to Erika. Rather than talk to Hiro, she ropes Erika into a day of stalking. Once it’s determined that Hiro is a perfect superhuman (who even delivers a 100-yen-coin she found on the street to a police box) she confronts Nagi about it, telling him he’s too good for her.

I’m not sure how Sachi’s inner logic works, but by saying this to Nagi she’s implying that she’s not too good for him. At the same time, she decides she’s going to attend the same high school as Nagi, Erika, and Hiro, presumably to become closer to her brother’s ideal of Hiro. Naturally when she shows up in her sailor uniform she creates as big a stir as Erika’s arrival.

While Hiro gives Sachi a tour of the school, Nagi and Erika follow and try to listen in. When the our ends and Sachi’s first question is about how Hiro feels about Nagi, he can sense something’s up and runs to confront them both. Only neither of them have anything to say, because apparently they’ve become friends with a shared like of…him.

Nagi, Erika, Sachi and Hiro then have lunch together, making Nagi’s friends going all meta by drawing up the diagram of relationships in their imaginations that’s pretty much spot on with that of the show, including their conclusion that Nagi isn’t exactly living an easy carefree life.

It’s one thing to want to go to Nagi’s expensive college prep school, but quite another for their family of modest means to afford for both her and Nagi to attend. Nagi and Erika accompany her to the Umino diner as moral support, but their parents are surprisingly fine with it. They’ll be able to afford for Sachi to go to Nagi’s school…if they sell the diner.

Sachi protests along with Nagi; this parent martyrdom won’t stand. Sachi and her mom then get fired up, and the men of the family back off. It ends up being the third woman in the family, Erika, who is able to quench the flames and suggest a third way: Sachi will work hard to get accepted to Nagi’s school, while the folks’ll come up with a way to pay without selling the diner.

Saying they’ll just “figure it out” seems like a cheat, especially when it’s suggested from Erika, whose monthly cosplay wardrobe probably exceeds what the entire Umino clan spends in a month. But that’s not the biggest problem with the episode, which is its central figure: Sachi.

Sachi is two basic things: a brother complex in human form, and a serial copycat. She follows through whatever she sets out to do, but has no hopes or dreams of her own. She only wants to do what her brother has done, following but never leading. It was like that when he won at swimming, reading, and running, and now she’s doing it with school.

Sachi is cute, but she’s a painfully dull and shallow character, her hot-and-cold attitude towards her brother is rote and tiresome, and there’s zero change she wins the Nagi sweepstakes. That makes any episode that focuses on her to this extent feel like a slog.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 15 – Alliance of the Engaged

This episode sidesteps the cliffhanger of Hiro wanting to know why both Nagi and Erika called Sachi their sister, and for most of its running time focuses primarily on Nagi and Erika’s time together at the festival, which was encouraged by Nagi’s parents.

Erika’s never experienced a festival like this, and while she tries to pay for goldfish scooping with a credit card (even though she actually has a wad of cash!) it’s clear she’s having hella fun. Even if Nagi would rather be having this date with Hiro, he can’t deny he’s having fun too.

Of course, they’re not having this festival date in a vacuum. Sachi’s friends tease her for having a brother complex, since they peg Nagi as a drab studyholic (pretty close to the mark!). Erika’s InstaStans also notice her at the festival and try to chat her up again.

Nagi doesn’t want to cause a scene by beating them up again, so he grabs Erika and runs until they lose their pursuers. They happen to stop on a pedestrian bridge with a perfect view of the festival fireworks, another first for Erika.

That’s when Hiro shows up, having finally finished the work her family had her doing. She again broaches the topic of them both saying Sachi was their sister, so they take her to a family restaurant to sit her down and tell her the truth: that they were switched at birth, and that they’re now engaged.

Erika worried Hiro would hate them if they told the truth, but Nagi knows her a little better and knows Hiro wouldn’t be like that, and so she isn’t. In fact, as she’s “engaged” herself thanks to pushy parents, she feels a kinship to the two of them. If anything, they’re now closer than ever thanks to this new knowledge.

When Erika suddenly rushes off to buy a gift for Sachi at the festival like she promised, Nagi offers to walk Hiro home, but she says she’ll be fine, and they part ways for the evening…or so Nagi thinks. No sooner does he turn his back than Hiro grabs his sleeve and solemnly tells him: “No more secrets.” With the look Hiro has in her eyes, Nagi can only promise this.

Sachi happens to watch this scene unfold, and suffice it to say she’s not a fan of it. Her brother being engaged to Erika is one thing; Erika is her blood sister, and her parents arranged it. But Nagi being all lovey-dovey with this third girl? That’s something that sticks in Sachi’s craw. That sad, Erika loves Hiro too, so there’s no easy answers for how to simplify or untangle this romantic web.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 09 – Batting Off Steam

While informing Nagi the bath is free, Sachi’s towel slips off, but in a nice subversion of the trope, Nagi isn’t awake to see anything. Sachi, however, sees one of Hiro’s texts on his phone, referencing a d-d-d-date. The next morning, Erika finds Nagi all dressed up and ready to go. Nagi meets Hiro resplendent in comfy casual clothes, and is excited for their date, but also expects it to be another shrine stamp-collecting affair.

So he’s surprised to find Hiro has taken them to an amusement park. She usually goes alone, so it’s significant she’s bringing him along. Yes, she is doing it in part for the couples discount, but also because she believes Nagi can “keep up” with her. That proves mostly true, as Nagi accompanies her on every heart-racing ride again and again, and even accidentally kisses a reflection of her in the hall of mirrors.

Back home Erika finds Sachi texting curses to her brother and confirms that he’s on a date with a Hiro-chan, appreciating that Sachi feels like the other girl is taking her brother away. Sachi is also upset he’s out on a date when he’s engaged, calling it “indecent”—something Erika never considered as she never planned to actually marry the guy. No Nagi around affords the biological sisters another opportunity to hang out, as Erika tags along when Sachi goes on her usual de-stressing trip to the batting cages and public bath.

Nagi returns home having felt like his date with Hiro was a “disaster”, but he’s way overreacting. There’s nothing wrong with a girl saying she thinks you’re “cute”, and it’s obvious she had a lot of fun by the way she was humming when they parted ways. A few hours later, at three in he morning, Nagi and Sachi’s dad (and Erika’s biological dad) arrives at their door, saying they’re all going fishing.

Turns out this is a tradition for both Nagi and Nagi’s dad, though Nagi always gets seasick and always says he has a terrible time. His dad though, has always picked times when he knew Nagi was down, and there’s nothing like fishing to take you out of a bad place and into a better one. While Erika and Sachi compete for the biggest catch, Nagi admits to his dad that he “doesn’t hate” his life right now.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Couple of Cuckoos – 08 – Family’s Complicated

While Erika is out shopping, Nagi is preoccupied with her words on the beach about his “fate changing” if he knew who she was trying to reach through social media. That’s when Sachi shows up unannounced. With Erika out, she assumes Nagi messed things up, and gets him to reveal the issue.

Spending time with Sachi for the first time in a while gives him a taste of home, so he stops moping and remembers Umino family tradition to deal with things head-on. Only Sachi slips out while he’s making dinner and returns to the family’s tiny temporary rental, only to pack her things and head right back to Nagi and Erika’s.

Nagi, who gets a call from his mom saying Sachi has to come back tomorrow, tells Sachi she can’t stay, but it’s not just his call. It’s half Erika’s place too, and she doesn’t mind if her sister wants to stay. There’s also the matter of her needing help studying for entrance exams, and Erika dresses up like a stereotypical schoolteacher for that end.

That said, once she and Sachi are alone togeher, Erika manages to suss out the true reason her sister is there. When Erika suddenly showed up at her place, Sachi panicked. Would Nagi marry her and just be gone? She thought she had more time with her onii. She wanted more time. When they were little, they were very close. She pretends he’s a pain in the ass, but that clinginess still lingers.

The next morning Sachi earns her keep by making everyone a huge breakfast, then Erika takes her and Nagi out shopping for the things that will make Sachi more at home. In the process, the sister talk about how they’re always being flirted with and turning guys down.

Sure enough, they soon attract a crowd of onlookers while hanging out at a café. Nagi rushes to them, worried they got caught up in something, but trips and makes a fool of himself. That’s when both Erika and Sachi acknowledge him and suggest they get going, and it dawns on Nagi that his fiancée and sister are “kind of a big deal”.

The three have fun making a photo board, and christen it with a cute photo of the sisters and a very blurry Nagi rushing into the frame. But through all the eating and shopping and fun, he hasn’t been able to talk to Erika about what she said that day on the beach. So when she’s out of the bath, he’s kneeling in the hall, ready to talk.

He tells her he recognizes that everyone has their problems even if they don’t talk about him, and that he doesn’t just want to pry out of curiosity. But Erika said what she said, and Nagi heard her, and he doesn’t want to pretend that exchange didn’t happen. He may have been raised to face people head-on, but he admits to her he’s not ready for an answer that may “change his fate,” so he asks her to wait until he’s ready.

Erika’s serious look is soon replaced by a hearty laugh, but she agrees, and so her mystery remains intact. While this outing brought Sachi more to the forefront and made her more of, well, a character, I could never quite shake the feeling the episode was dragging its feet. The household has grown by one, but it feels like no one is taking the situation seriously yet; it’s just three people playing house. I wonder how long that status quo can hold.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 07 – Kamakura Cuckoo

Still stoked over Hiro telling him she thinks he can carry her burden of being engaged to her family shrine, Nagi is presented with a possible means of getting closer still to Hiro: a field trip form from Erika. As he’s the first person Hiro sees the next day, he’s able to ask her if she’ll join his group, and she says yes…but they’re going to be collecting shrine stamps, and she won’t be defeated.

They leave school in a downpour, but to Nagi’s disappointment Hiro did not forget her umbrella. They still walk to the station together, and Nagi brings up his confession, and whether Hiro will really “process” it if he beats her several more times at exams. Hiro then explains that inheriting the shrine is her parents’ idea, and she’s always simply let fate sweep her along.

That said, if Nagi can change her fate, she wants him to try. Of course, he’ll still have to defeat her many times over in order for her to believe he’s amazing enough to deserve a chance. She’s asking a lot, but it’s totally worth it to Nagi.

The previous night Erika told Nagi she wouldn’t be going on the trip for security reasons (she’s famous and could be abducted for a ransom). Why she doesn’t simply have a bodyguard all this time is not explained, but in any case the next night she’s reconsidered, and for Nagi’s sake, no less.

The skinny is that a fourth member has weaseled his way into their trio: walking SM glossary Asoma Shion, who is a big fan (but not stalker) of Erika’s. Erika will keep Shion at bay while Nagi can have his date with Hiro. She’ll also get a lot of great shots of herself at Kamakura.

It seems win-win, but Shion sucks at taking photos, while Nagi is subconsciously so worried about the punk snatching away his fiancée that he spends much of the trip keeping his eye exclusively on Erika and Shion.

When Hiro disappears without explanation and Shion runs off for “‘Grammable ice cream”, Erika and Nagi are left alone on a beach at sunset. Erika makes some sand “””””art”””” for a picture with her and Hiro, but instead has Nagi take a picture of her alone. He tries to keep the phone from her, and inadvertently snaps another perfect shot of the two of them, like it’s just second nature.

She smiles and tells him she still thinks the pictures he takes of her are the best. Then he brings up that mysterious “someone” Erika mentioned wanting to reach through her photos, and asks her who that person is. She seems willing to tell him, but warns him his “fate might change” if she does. Just then, the waves wash away “FRI” from her sand scrawl, leaving only “END”.

Not exactly subtle, but hey, like Nagi, I’m definitely curious to learn who this person is. I was also surprised that after taking great pains to arrange a date-like scenario with Hiro, Nagi spends most of the time paying attention to Erika, even though she was running off with Shion specifically so he could be alone with Hiro. Granted, she’s unaware of Hiro’s “engagement”.

He may have been harboring a crush on Hiro for a long time, and she may even be receptive to his feelings now that she knows his feelings (albeit with some heavy conditions he’s willing to clear) But so far it’s Erika who can claim a closer bond and better chemistry with him.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 06 – Naked and Engaged

Erika not only doesn’t have a problem with Nagi confessing to Hiro; she wants to help him, unaware that Hiro is engaged (since Nagi doesn’t share that detail). She tells Nagi that Hiro “putting him on hold” isn’t the end of the world; if she truly didn’t like him she would have summarily rejected him.

For their first study session, Erika and Nagi arrive at school at the same time despite taking different modes of transportation, and despite Erika dressing up like a literal cupid, Hiro can’t help but notice how close the pair seem to be. Erika and Nagi themselves aren’t aware how good they are together!

In an effort to catch up (and eventually beat) Nagi in a contest of with whom Erika is closest, Hiro invites herself over to Erika’s house. She diverts Hiro to her parents’ house, which Nagi believes puts him in the clear to have a nudist evening with their house all to himself. However, Erika’s parents’ house is “being renovated”, so she has no choice but to bring Hiro there.

It’s a classic sitcom scenario in the mold of shows like Fraiser, with Nagi not only having to remove any evidence that he lives there, but spend most of the time hiding around the corner naked. Erika does her best to keep diverting Hiro, but then things get even more complicated when three of Erika’s stalkers show up at her house. Thankfully, Nagi dispatches their leader with ease, and without being detected.

Ultimately, it’s not just about being caught for Nagi. He genuinely wants Erika’s first friendship and first houseguest to go well. That plan is almost torpedoed when Hiro finds his shrine stamp book on the counter, but Erika is able to explain it away as having borrowed the wrong book. This, of course, only confirms to Hiro that Erika and Nagi are very close.

Her solution to that is to invite Erika (and fellow study buddy Nagi) to her house, which turns out to be a huge shrine. Shrine Maiden Hiro is indeed cute as hell, while Hiro’s mom is extremely prejudiced against Nagi, giving him only a small hard candy while Erika gets a delicious-looking jelly roll-like  confection.

Nagi does get a personal shrine stamp from Hiro, who demonstrates that her stamp game is far better than her regular handwriting. When Erika goes to the bathroom, she asks Nagi if he understands now what she meant by “engaged”. She isn’t promised to another man, but is poised to inherit the shrine.

Why that should mean romance is a no-go when—well, she exists, which means her mom and dad had a kid—I don’t know, but Hiro doesn’t want to burden Erika with such a “heavy truth”. As for why she told Nagi? She thought he could handle that burden. He may be “on hold” indefinitely, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t like and respect him.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Couple of Cuckoos – 05 – Shrine Stamp Maiden

Nagi is loathing returning to school, not sure he can face Segawa Hiro after she rejected him because she was already engaged. However, once he actually goes, he finds he’s the only one making this weird. Hiro has been “researching” him, and learned that he studies alone in the library an hour before school starts, and so decided to join him for a morning study session.

While Nagi is again initially hopeless, preoccupied with whether Hiro wants to steal her from her fiancé or is simply friendzoning him, eventually the two find common ground in their shared love of collecting shrine stamps. Sure, she has over four times more stamps, but he has a couple of rare ones she doesn’t. Oh, and she arrived at school earlier than him. Looks like Nagi’s in for a high school life of cozy study sessions and competing with the girl he likes in all things…

Then things go all Cuckoo and Erika not only transfers to Nagi’s school, but end sup in his and Hiro’s class. No doubt that was not an accident on the part of Erika’s parents. Turns out she was expelled from her fancy girls school when she accidentally posted the picture of them looking like a natural couple. Since such relationships are forbidden, she got the heave-ho. Nagi can’t fathom why her friends would be such “sticklers for the rules”, and Erika quietly muttered that they weren’t friends.

Erika doesn’t let that linger, and Nagi doesn’t press, but he remembers those words when he sees hordes of people surrounding Erika (though keeping a semi-respectful distance), and Erika looking thoroughly uncomfortable and lonely. Erika told him that their engagement has to remain a secret from everyone at school, so Nagi hesitates to approach her. That’s when Class Rep Segawa Hiro approaches her and breaks the ice.

Nagi isn’t surprised by Hiro’s kindness—it’s a big part why he likes her so much—while the other classmates go absolutely apeshit over sharing the air of two higher forms of life. Honestly, you’d think especially a prestigious school like this would have rules and such in place against this kind of behavior which too often feels like harassment rather than the harmless admiration the episode makes it out to be. And Nagi takes part in it!…though not for the same reasons as everyone else.

As soon as Erika and Hiro started hitting it off, Nagi imagined a metaphorical guillotine blade hanging over his head should Erika find out he confessed to Hiro and Hiro find out he’s engaged to Erika. While he’s trying to find the right time to approach Erika, it ends up being a day of stalking instead. This is the first episode of Cuckoos where I just wasn’t a fan of Nagi whatsoever…he was too cartoonish with a side of creepy (the less said about the shot of Nagi and Erika unbuttoning their shirts the better).

Nagi finally breaks the stalemate when he witnesses Hiro suddenly crouch to the ground and start sobbing. He rushes out of his hiding spot to tell Hiro that whatever Erika said or did, she didn’t mean it, she’s just nervous and is actually a good person. But Erika didn’t say anything; Hiro’s tears are of joy, because she just might be Erika’s biggest fangirl.

She just couldn’t hold it in anymore, ya know? And while I’m sure Erika is flattered, my heart sunk a little now knowing Hiro isn’t above the drooling masses wigging out over their new classmate being a big deal online. I laughed at Hiro’s threatening face after Erika tells her that Nagi is “another one of her fans”, but the flimsiness of that lie will certainly present a problem down the road.

What I did like was Erika being genuinely touched by Nagi came to her defense and called her a good person (which she is), even if he misunderstood what was happening. She blushes and tells him she’s “not half bad”, definitely a compliment coming from his reluctant fiancée. I also liked learning that Erika takes after her biological mom’s athleticism. Neither she nor Hiro are just pretty faces.

The idea of the three having morning study sessions should prove a font of comedy and drama. But between Nagi’s aggressive stalking the school losing their mind over a minor celebrity, and how Erika often comes off as traumatized because of it, this outing had its share of blemishes. Fortunately, that’s far more forgivable for a two-cour show—we’ve got a long way to go.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 04 – Sister Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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