Fruits Basket – 34 (S2 09) – A Too-Perfect Monster

Rin’s story is placed on hold as this episode is entirely given over to the fated rematch between Kyou and Akito. On the way in, Kyou castigates Yuki and the others for letting Tooru be all alone at the beach house, two which Yuki throws a “what about you?” back in his face. As much as they might hate Akito, obeying him is “how it’s supposed to be.” And yet how unusual is it for Akito to give the Cat another audience? Akito’s looking to head off any further intrusions from Tooru by appealing directly to Kyou.

For what it’s worth, Tooru is ecstatic that Kyou was finally invited in. Little does she know all Akito wants is to stamp out the beautiful thing she and Kyou have, and turn him against her. The visit goes about as well as you’d expect, considering how little experience Kyou has dealing with Akito. He tries his best to keep his temper in check, but Akito knows exactly how to push his buttons and make him erupt into a scattered emotional mess.

This is in sharp contrast to Yuki’s last couple meetings with Akito, in which he proved to himself that Akito’s taunts and mind games are of little utility. When Kyou’s eyes widen and he trembles as Akito’s proverbial tentacles surround and restrain him, it’s in large part because Akito is tapping into Kyou’s long-held guilt that his mother committed suicide because of him, and thus is undeserving of love, happiness, or hope.

But what really pushes Kyou into the deep end from which he may never return is when Akito starts insulting Tooru as a fellow “monster”, an angel far too perfect to be normal or real. Kyou sets the record straight, telling Akito just how scared Tooru was when she saw his true form, yet still held onto his hand lest she lose him forever. Akito derides Tooru as a monster, while Kyou’s Shisho made him think of her as a little flower in the dirt.

No matter how many times one might trample that flower—that hope—it always blooms anew after periods of nurturing sun and rain. As we see in a flashback involving Lil’ Kyou meeting Kyouko, Tooru became that little flower for him.

In their previous meeting Akito and Kyou made a bet: if he defeated Yuki by graduation, Akito would stop calling him a monster and welcome him into the Zodiac. But if he failed, Akito would confine Kyou just as he did previous Cats. It’s a terrible bet; one Akito can far too easily rig in her favor by poisoning Kyou’s all-too-fragile mind. Just bring up the guilt about his mother, and he starts wondering why he was even kept alive this long.

And yet, when he reunites with Tooru on the beach, the little flower he loves so much he can’t let her get any more involved with him, he resolves to stay with her until “the end”, when he’ll go quietly into confinement and save her from being trampled.

Of course, there’s no way in hell Tooru would want him to do something like that for her sake or anyone else’s. And I predict the more we learn about what she’s keeping under the still-closed lids in her heart, the more we’ll find she harbors very similar guilt about the fate of her parents as Kyou does, which will only draw her closer to him as he plans for a gradual separation.

In any case, quietly making such choices without consulting her is just plain bad form and walking backwards by Kyou. Hopefully Tooru will learn about what he has planned for himself before it’s too late to change anything, and find a way to help reconcile the guilt over the past that continues to press upon both of them.

Fruits Basket – 33 (S2 08) – Quiet Voices

In summoning the Zodiac members to the annex, Akito intends to gradually isolate Tooru, the “Ugly Girl” with whom Akito locked is in a one-sided competition. Tooru isn’t trying to take anyone from him, just get along and help out with their problems if she can.

Of course, simply by existing and being kind-hearted and caring, Tooru is an affront to Akito’s authority as “god” of the Zodiac. The members and their souls are Akito’s property. To put it crudely, Tooru is fuckin’ with Akito’s shit, and he will only tolerate it so far.

All we know is, none of the Zodiac members dare oppose Akito…except for Yuki, who thanks to Tooru has developed a more rigid spine and thicker skin. Tooru is worried about what Yuki said to her on the beach, especially the part spoken in such a “quiet voice” she couldn’t hear it even when she strained to do so.

The next day Yuki apologizes for making her worry, but won’t apologize for the kiss. In exchange, he’s fine with her forgetting everything he said, but she won’t. What was said (what she heard anyway) was important, after all.

Kyou is a little different in that he’s no so much in open rebellion against Akito as simply not worth his time or trouble, being the Cat and all. It’s because of this Akito doesn’t summon him, allowing him to continue hanging out with Tooru. What Akito doesn’t realize (at least until witnessing the two having fun on the beach) is that as long as Tooru has Kyou, she won’t be lonely and miserable, which is what Akito wants.

Previously, Akito assumed Kyou was a monster who even Tooru couldn’t have fun with, but he is ignorant to just how much growth Kyou has gone through. Rather than be tight-lipped about his rosary, for instance, Kyou tells Tooru how it’s made of bone and blood of “some great monk”, making it a constant reminder that someone was sacrificed so that his true form could be controlled. Just telling Tooru this, and letting her comfort him, is immense growth.

Meanwhile, someone who is clearly not only an emotional prisoner of Akito but of her own emotional complexes is Isuzu AKA Rin, whom Tooru finally meets by chance while chasing down a sheet.

She meets Rin in her Horse form, as Rin is exhausted from walking to the beach. In the cold open we see she’s crashing at Kagura’s house, but like virtually everyone else she has no intention of letting anyone know about her desires or problems.

Despite being exhausted, Rin transforms back into human form through sheer willpower after nearly kicking Tooru’s head in as a horse. She takes Tooru’s change of clothes, but otherwise doesn’t give her the time of day, and not-so-kindly asks Yuki to butt the hell out of her business. Seeing her as she is now reminds me of much earlier versions of Yuki and Kyou, but without the slightest interest in knowing Tooru.

When Rin calls Yuki Akito’s toy and Yuki doesn’t so much as flinch, it angers her even more, and she storms off in a rage, later stomping the sand castle Tooru and Kyou built. Yuki assures Tooru he’ll take care of Rin, but for now has to return to the annex from which he snuck out. He’s continuing to play Akito’s game, even as his hold on him is diminishing by the day.

But now that Akito has seen how well Kyou and Tooru have gotten on, which means a new avenue for antagonism. Thus he finally orders Hatori and Shigure to summon Kyou, in an effort to complete her isolation. Shigure is excited at this development as it no doubt fits within whatever twisted scheme he has, while Hatori is not amused.

As for Kyou, he has no idea what’s coming down the pike. Yuki warned him not to risk hurting Tooru by being too impertinent if and when Akito summoned him. Hopefully he got the message even though he hates the messenger…

Fruits Basket – 32 (S2 07) – So Hard Because It’s So Simple

This week’s cold open features Akito, who has followed Shigure’s advice and arrived at the seaside, confronting Yuki and whispering something in his ear. While we can’t hear what hesays, Akito is likely using the exact same ammunition he’s used in the past—trying to cover Yuki in a hopeless pitch black, warning him any glimmers of happiness or warmth are mere delusions.

But there’s something different about Yuki here from previous confrontations with Akito, and the fact Yuki’s voiceover is all we here is key to that. First of all, he’s not having a goddamn panic attack, so that’s good! While Akito approaches and launches his attack, Yuki is testing a new “armor” he has developed as a result of “opening the lid”—the armor of his memory of saving Tooru.

When Momiji proposes a watermelon splitting contest, Tooru starts to bring up her mother, but stops herself, awkwardly saying “gumshoe” instead of “mom”. She doesn’t want to trouble people with stories of her mom when she knows nothing about their own.

Hiro, who learned that morning that his mom is pregnant, can now see the effect of his harsh words to her, while Kyou can again sense something off in Tooru, and suspects it’s Hiro’s fault.

While Momiji, Hiro and Kisa are napping, Kyou asks Tooru about it, and she in turn asks Kyou about his parents. As expected, there’s not much to say: his mom was killed in an “accident” (holding back that it was suicide) when he was very small and he and his biological dad are estranged.

Tooru then shares the details of her watermelon splitting contest with her mom. Neither of them had any aim to speak of, as her mom smashed both a flowerpot and Tooru’s dad’s shrine, but they still had a lot of fun, and the warmth and love of that memory brings a smile to Kyou’s face.

But amidst all these happy feels, you can’t help but wonder: what is missing from Tooru’s almost impossibly ideal childhood with her mom prior to her death? Why doesn’t she remember (or claims not to remember) anything about her dad, from whom she inherited not only her kindness but her very manner of speaking?

Akito, Kureno, and Hattori arrive, and arrangements are made for the Zodiac members to formally greet her at the annex. Before that, Akito spends some time by the ocean, with Kureno not far away. Yuki encounters them while on a walk, and we’ve now reached the events of the cold open.

Predictably, Akito fires shoots some lies Yuki’s way—telling him he’s “all alone as usual” and “such a lonely boy.” Akito’s idea of Yuki as an individual might as well be frozen in amber. That’s who Yuki was, and those barbs don’t cut nearly as deep as they once did, when Akito’s influence on him was stronger.

Shigure rounds up Momiji, Hatsu, Kisa and Hiro, and all of them are gloomy because none of them are in a particular hurry to meet with Akito, especially if it means leaving Tooru behind (not to mention Kyou, who never sees Akito). Momiji in particular seems at peace with the fact he’s “disliked” by Akito, but he can deal with that if he can continue having fun with Tooru.

Back at the beach house, Tooru is determined not to be glum, and stirs into action making pancakes with Kyou, who’s never had them before. Kyou can sense Akito’s reason for coming as putting a damper on their good times.

When Shigure arrives with the Zodiac members, he’s received by Akito, Kureno, and Hattori. Akito sends Kureno away without meeting with anyone (deeming it “unnecessary”) and proceeds to launch into a villainous rant, boasting about how she discouraged Yuki and laughing about his attempts to separate from her.

Shigure takes all this in stride, and is his usual polite self as Akito goes to receive the others. While Hattori isn’t pleased with Shigure’s methods (i.e. “scheming” and “shaking things up”) he lauds him for at least trying to do something to exact change.

I may not know exactly what Shigure is up to, but I do know that Akito is more a means and not an end to his plans. That Akito doesn’t seem aware he’s being manipulated seems to be working in Shigure’s favor.

While Yuki weathered his latest confrontation with Akito well, it still left him feeling as gloomy as everyone else who has dealings with the pale little shit this week. So it’s fortuitous that he and Tooru meet on the beach at dusk, just when he’s feeling his most alone.

Just then, there’s a beautiful meteor shower in the sky above them. They’re only visible to Yuki because he was able to survive dark clouds and pelting rain of Akito’s bitter mind games, which in turn was possible due to both his memory of and friendship with Tooru, twin totems in his efforts to cast away the darkness.

Akito tried so hard to make Yuki think he was useless, but when Yuki encountered Tooru and helped her out, it was the first time he felt needed. In that regard, she saved him just as much as he saved her, because it turned his world upside-down and let him dream of a better one, of which he’s now privileged to be a part.

Akito’s dark clouds never stood a chance against the dazzling showers of kindness, warmth and joy that Tooru so generously shares with him every day. They’re why he won’t lose to Akito. When Tooru asks why he looks sad, Yuki tenderly takes her shoulders, kisses her forehead, and tells her she’s “so dear” to him. So it’s official: Tooru is the Dear of the Zodiac!

Puns aside, Yuki compares Tooru to the sky: i.e. something he’ll never reach. It’s clear Kyou is making more progress with Tooru, and Yuki knows if he becomes bitter or possessive about it, he’s no better than Akito. Just as he’s liberated himself from Akito’s now-hollow lies an manipulations, he must move past the memory that helped him do so, and shrug off the comfy blanket that is Tooru in order to keep moving forward.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 12 (Fin) – Team Effort

In an attempt to be fair, not equal, Miku cites a technicality in the Campfire Legend: the key is not dancing with Fuutarou, but holding his hand at the finale. Since Fuutarou has two hands, she proposes she and Ichika both be holding them at the proper time. Unfortunately Ichika was coughing and couldn’t hear what Miku proposed, and Miku can’t bring herself to repeat it.

That brings us to the more pressing matter: Itsuki has apparently vanished. Despite fading fast due to catching Raiha’s cold (getting wet last night couldn’t have helped) Fuutarou coordinates a search, bringing a masked Ichika (who apparently caught Raiha’s cold through him) along with him. However, whenever a quint is masked or their face otherwise concealed, one has to suspect something is up. Also, the normally lilac-topped “Ichika’s” hair looked a bit too deep red.

Sure enough, Fuutarou catches on that “Ichika” is really Itsuki in disguise, because back when they were skiing she called him “Uesugi-kun” instead of “Fuutarou-kun.”He waits until the two of them are up in a chair lift to say so.

Turns out Itsuki got separated and lost due to her poor eyesight. That begs the question Why not contacts? Nino wears ’em, and her vision is thoroughly impaired. In any case, Itsuki was apparently testing Fuutarou to see if he’d be able to tell them apart…because their father can’t, I guess?

Itsuki’s whole thing is a bit of a head-scratcher, so let’s move on, shall we? Fuutarou reaches his limit, and he reaches the point where he can’t seem to get rid of the five quints, when at the start they were running away from him. 

He somewhat coldly asks what purpose would be served by any of them staying with him, and the head teacher declares the room where he’s resting to be out-of-bounds, which all but ensures they’ll find a way to break in and be with him.

This is all happening during the campfire, which Nino stands beside all alone, dancing with no one. Fuutarou took her a aside earlier to tell her “Kintarou” couldn’t make it, which seems like a cowardly move on his part, especially after she explicitly asks if she can trust him. I know he’s trying to spare her feelings, but I reckon Nino would prefer honesty over fiction.

Meanwhile, Miku and Ichika have a nice sisterly moment where Miku does what Fuutarou couldn’t with Nino: she’s forthright and honest. She likes Fuutarou, so she’s going to do what she wants going forward, while accepting that the others can do what they wish too. Even Yotsuba has a rare subdued moment where she finds Fuutarou’s well-worn camp guide and kicks herself for pushing him so hard he got sick, when again it was likely Raiha who got him sick.

As the campfire (and, incidentally, the show) builds towards its finale, the five sisters are surprised to find all of them breaking into Fuutarou’s room at the same time, even going for the light switch in unison. They also each manage to grab one of his fingers the moment the campfire ends.

Flash forward to the future, when Raiha is now a high schooler, the morning of the day her brother is getting married. The bride we see could be any one of the quints we know, and indeed is depicted as more of an amalgam of the five than any individual quint.

It’s therefore an incomplete future; he may one day have to choose one and their identity may be revealed, but this season is not interested in answering the question of who quite yet. There’s more story to be told! Back at school, the five sisters are finally on the same page about studying with him, with the final holdout Nino tsundere-ly relenting to the majority. Ichika’s decision to quit or change schools for her acting career is left up in the air.

When a recovered Fuutarou warns them he’ll be working them hard in order to get their test scores up, they’re all unnerved and run away from him together, the way they used to when they first met him. The difference is, they’ll be back, for his tutoring, for his friendship, and maybe for more. They can’t not…after all, they were all held hands at the end of that campfire!

In the final ranking of the Quintuplets…Wait, what’s this? They all scored 100? It’s a five-way tie! What are the odds? Looks like the argument of “Who is the Best Quint?” will have to be resolved in Season 2, coming Winter 2021…

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 11 – Their Own Campfire

There are two distinct sensors that can’t be tripped when she and Fuutaoru are trapped in the storage shed, potentially overnight: the burglar sensor on the door to the shed, or the sensor in her heart. It’s a corny line, but it’s said internally, where as we all know all manner of corny things are said in the comfort of our own heads, so it’s fine. It’s also adorable, and another reason why Ichika has pulled away as my favorite of the five Nakano quintuplets. That, and amazing lines like “No enjoying my thighs!”

As Yotsuba, Miku and Itsuki notice that both Ichika and Fuutarou are missing, Ichika tries to pass the time chatting with Fuutarou, only for him to be preoccupied with making a fire. What finally gets his attention is her telling him she’s thinking of quitting school—something she couldn’t tell any of the sisters. To her surprise, he doesn’t judge or condemn her. Instead, he lauds her for finding something she wants to do, and envies her for having the requisite options.

Ichika needed someone to tell her it’s okay, and he does so, unaware of how significant it is coming from him. Then he successfully starts the fire, and Ichika assents to calling off their dance at the school campfire. However, that doesn’t preclude them having their own little campfire dance right then and there, and further driven by her heart, she holds out her hand with the brightest smile we’ve seen from any quint to date.

If that invitation to dance didn’t cause your eyes to shimmer at least a little, you might be a Grinch! But then Fuutarou brings up the campfire legend that Ichika did not know about, and she withdraws from him, overcome by guilt for inadvertently hurting Miku. In the process, she knocks over a big log, which almost falls on her before Fuutarou swoops in to rescue her, locking the two in a romantic dance-like pose.

When the log falls it damages the door, trips the alarm, and activates the sprinklers, but fortunately it’s switched off before security is called. Unfortunately for both Fuutarou and Ichika, Miku and Itsuki are the ones who deactivate the alarm and unlock the door, discovering Fuutarou and Big Sis in what could artfully described as in flagrante delicto, through no fault of their own.

The next day, both Ichika has caught cold (due to the sprinklers) but Fuutarou is yanked out of bed by Yotsuba to go skiing. When he meets Miku on the slopes she’s cold towards him, as neither she nor Itsuki 100% believed his and Ichika’s explanation of last night’s events. Mostly, Miku is frustrated with her predicament: if she and her four sisters are all “equal”, what is she supposed to do with her feelings for Fuutarou if Ichika has already taken steps?

Yotsuba proposes a game of ski-tag, Ichika eventually joins the others, and while she’s skiing beside Fuutarou makes sure he hasn’t/won’t tell anyone else what she told him about quitting school. Not knowing how to stop, Fuutarou crashes, and ends up in the vicinity of where Nino was snowboarding. When wiping his brow, the band-aid she put on “Kintarou’s” forehead comes off and she finds it.

Once again, I wish he’d simply reveal to Nino that Kintarou is an invention and that he’s the cool guy she likes, only with different hair. But at least when he hides from her (and Yotsuba, as the game of tag is still on), he ends up in the same igloo as Miku, and in the warmth of that space her frustration gradually fades. It’s a lovely, cozy, disarming scene between the two.

Miku proposes a handicap against Yotsuba, but he doesn’t want to ignore the work she put into being the most athletic quint. He wants to be “fair, not equal” in their treatment of her, and that’s when a light bulb blinks on in Miku’s head. She doesn’t have to feel restricted by the notion that she and her sisters are all equal. All is fair in love and war!

As Itsuki skis all by her lonesome, Miku gives Ichika a call. Hopefully some air can be cleared in the last episode of the season…and I’m not talking about ski jumps! Whatever happens, I’m just not ready to say goodbye to these characters.

As expected, Ichika’s extended time with Fuutarou gained her top ranking in the penultimate episode, giving her an insurmountable 11-point lead over Yotsuba going into the finale. Miku’s igloo scene gave her a boost this week. Yotsuba, Nino and Itsuki rounded out the episode ranking.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 10 – The True Test of Courage

Yotsuba is determined to have “no regrets” when it comes to the school camp. So far, that’s translating to finding excuses to be with Fuutarou, including joining him for the test of courage. Does she just want to have fun with him and make happy memories, or does she want to confess her feelings—it’s not entirely clear, because it’s probably not entirely clear to her. So she’s content to spend time with him. The problem is, she has four sisters limiting her share of Fuutarou time.

After scaring Itsuki with his creepy clown mask and spurring Nino to chase after her, Fuutarou is concerned the two ran towards Chekhov’s Cliff, and chases after them. He only finds Nino, but since he’s still wearing a blonde wig, she mistakes him for his bad-boy “relative”. Rather than telling Nino the truth (which would have been more dramatically satisfying), he pretends to be the fictional “Kintarou-kun”. Basically, he chickens out here.

That’s a shame, because he’s selling Nino short if he thinks she wouldn’t come around to being less hostile and more understanding with him if he knew about his past and that the photo was of him. He pays an immediate price for keeping her in the dark, as when he rescues her from falling off the cliff, she asks him to be her campfire dance partner. He’s only saved from having to answer by a sobbing Itsuka emerging from the woods.

Meanwhile, Ichika and Miku (who saw right through Fuutarou’s disguise) both want to dance with Fuutarou, but both are clearly uncomfortable hurting one another. Still, when Miku insists Ichika be the one, she doesn’t refuse it, and simply hopes Miku won’t regret the consequences of that choice. Fuutarou has no way of knowing the “sacrifice” Miku made when he asks her where Nino was, drawing her ire.

Fuutarou starts to become worried that all of the quints are angry at him and that he has to exercise damage control lest it cause problems for tutoring. While Fuutarou is moving logs with Yotsuba (another exercise she reeled him into) Ichika pitches in, both in helping him with the logs (Fuutarou isn’t the strongest guy) and with advice on how to talk naturally to her sisters.

Then the subject of the campfire dance comes up, and Fuutarou heartlessly puts it out there that they should call it off. Granted, he’s oblivious for Ichika’s feelings for him (not to mention Miku’s), and assumes Ichika doesn’t want to do it. But dude, you were just going on about communicating better!

His words cause Ichika to cry, but he recovers by wrapping his warm coat over her while they hide from Yotsuba and the others. They’re not sure why they’re hiding (again), but as a result they’re both locked in the storage shed, another rom-com standby that gives a couple-in-waiting a chance to clear the air and/or make things clearer. Either that happens next week, or QQ twists things in another way.

P.S. With just two episodes left (damn!), here’s where the “Best Quintuplet” Rankings sit:

Scoring is inverse to the ranking, i.e. the first-ranked quint gets five points, while the fifth-ranked quint gets one. As you can see, Ichika surpassed Yotsuba for the lead after the fireworks and never looked back, while Nino rallied from the bottom to tie Yotsuba for second place. Either of them could potentially catch Ichika, but it will take some doing.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 09 – All To Themselves

Pictured: Not Ichika

Yotsuba approaches Fuutarou in the hall with Miku, excited about the upcoming School Camp and the campfire legend, but when it comes time for a study group, Yotsuba runs away and Ichika has a shoot, but not before giving Miku a wig so she can pose as Ichika at her class meeting. However, it turns out a guy in Ichika’s class lied about that meeting so he could ask her to dance with him at the campfire. “Michika” wasn’t ready for this level of acting!

Thankfully Fuutarou was listening in and intervenes when the guy suspects she’s not really Ichika. Miku then offers the excuse that she’s already dancing with Fuutarou at the campfire, and clings to him in order to convince the guy that they’re a couple. Miku even has the gall to ask the guy why one confesses. His answer is because you want that person “all to yourself.” But how does that work if you’re one of “five fifths together as one”?

With that matter settled, the quints (minus Ichika) surprise Fuutarou by taking him out shopping for school camp clothes, all their treat in exchange for serving as their model for their ideal guy getup. Their choices say a lot about their personalities, as Miku chooses traditional garb, Yotsuba chooses loud and gaudy, Itsuki chooses…her idea of tough and manly. Only Nino, who has pretty consistently good fashion sense, seems to take things seriously, choosing a stylish yet understated look.

But when Fuutarou checks his phone, he learns that his beloved Raiha is in bed with a fever. He stays by her side all night and into the morning. He misses the bus for camp, but he says it doesn’t matter. The heavily worn camp leaflet suggests otherwise, and both his dad and Raiha know it. Raiha contacts Itsuki, who comes to fetch Fuutarou.

To his surprise, the four other quints are with her; the six of them will head to camp by car (specifically the family’s custom six-door E-Class Benz). He reveals once they’re on the road (but stuck in traffic) that other than their place, he hasn’t spent a night away from home since elementary school, and all that pent up excitement seems to have bestowed him with a “traveler’s high,” combined with the scant amount of sleep he got due to watching over Raiha. That doesn’t save him from a savage backdoor flip-off from Nino!

They’re not able to make it to camp due to a winter storm, so Fuutarou and the quints shack up at a fancy hot springs inn. Nino warns her sisters how men can transform into wolves under such conditions, but since this is a harem rom-com there isn’t any other choice: the six of them have to share a single room intended for only four.

Before a sumptuous feast that will put tomorrow’s curry to shame, Miku informs Ichika of what she did to preserve her cover, namely say Ichika was going to dance with Fuutarou. Ichika, harboring her own feelings for the guy, is fine with the arrangement, especially if it’s okay with Miku, while Miku is fine with it because it was the result of her lie, and because she doesn’t consider Ichika a romantic rival. And considering how little she understands love and dating, it’s no wonder!

After dinner the sisters make avail themselves of the outdoor hot baths. Nino again implores everyone to remain vigilant, as Fuutarou’s traveler’s high makes him that much more of an unpredictable threat. In order to mitigate that threat, she gets them to all part their hair the same way so he won’t know who he’s sleeping beside. All this caution and planning are moot, as Fuutarou is totally passed out when they return to the room.

The next morning, which is bathed in heavenly light, Ichika finds herself dangerously close to a still-sleeping Fuutarou, having drifted there in her sleep. She’s happy to get another look at him asleep and draws even closer , admitting to herself that if this makes her lose her Ichika cool, she can’t exactly refer to him as “just a friend.”

When Itsuki pops in to announce breakfast, she catches a glimpse of Ichika looming over Fuutarou, though it’s such a short look before she retreats she’s not 100% sure which sister it was, only that it was one of them and she has no idea what to make of that!

Fuutarou’s Wardrobe by Nino

To summarize, Ichika’s becoming more honest with herself about Fuutarou and Miku may have just gifted her a crucial leg-up in that pursuit. Yotsuba is throwing out all kinds of hints, Itsuki wants to determine if Fuutarou is an “apt tutor” by maintaining proper distance, and Nino longs for Fuutarou’s bad boy “relative”, genuinely unaware the photo is of Fuutarou himself.

Finally, Ichika’s career is taking off, which means she may soon have to change schools to make it work. With all these emotions and developments swirling around the qunits, this could prove to be a school camp for the ages: marking an end to some things and the beginning of others. In other words, buckle up!

Fruits Basket – 31 (S2 06) – It’s NOT Okay!

In the midst of a bad storm, Momiji announces that he’s secured a Souma beach house for everyone to stay during summer break. He’s invited everyone but the Horse, the Rooster, and Rin. Tooru wants to go, but she hasn’t yet finished her summer homework. One wonders why she can’t just take it with her and finish it there…though I imagine with all those Soumas there will be too many distractions.

Leave it to Yuki, who is happy to help Tooru out. While in her room, he notices the old cap again and finally asks her about it. She keeps it because it represents a happy memory when a boy helped her out when she was lost. That she doesn’t remember what the boy looked like doesn’t change the fact that it’s a cherished memory, and why she still has the hat. That seems to comfort Yuki, who is on the cusp of discussing it more when Momiji interrupts.

The next day everyone clears out of Shigure’s house, and he prepares to join them after taking care of some “work” first. It seems Rin has paid him a visit, and wants…something from him. As tends to be the case when Shigure meets with someone in secret, the words spoken don’t always reveal what’s truly being said.

While what that “something” is isn’t 100% clear, one can make an educated guess from the way she kneels and draws closer to him, and Shigure’s gaze lingers on her low-cut blouse. Her addressing him as Gure-nii suggests they’re brother and sister, but this is the Soumas we’re talking about…so who the heck knows!

Down by the sea, Tooru revels in the sun, sand, and water, showing off her swimming skills (though she needs to learn how to breathe while doing so!) and playing with Momiji and Kisa. Kyou and Yuki eventually join in the fun, with Yuki even complimenting Tooru on the adorable swimsuit they all picked out for her.

He does so after remembering Akito’s past words about having to live a “pitch black path without potential or hope.” Rather than despair from those words, Yuki rejects them. He believes he can walk in the light, and that light is Tooru.

It looks like the summer fun will never end until Hiro ends it like a needle scratch after picking up Tooru’s wallet with her mom’s picture in it. He calls her out for not having a photo of her dad, and for always going on about her mom like she’s got some kind of complex.

If Hiro expected Tooru to come up with a retort or to defend herself, he doesn’t know Tooru! Instead she smiles a sad, defeated smile and gets saved by the Momiji bell. But Kisa can and will defend her friend, and asks why Hiro even came if he was just going to shit on poor Tooru!

That night Hiro apologizes to Kisa for being so harsh, and she apologizes for getting angry with him and questioning his motives for coming. Both these cute kids have grown quite a bit; I know that because time was it would take a whole episode to make up, now it’s adjacent scenes.

Meanwhile, Hiro’s words still ring in Tooru’s head, as do images from her memory: her mom at her dad’s shrine, a cup with two toothbrushes, suddenly finding herself with neither parent. They flash by so fast and yet carry so much seering sorrow and longing, and Tooru can only tell herself again and again that “it’s okay”, even if how she’s choosing to handle this isn’t particularly okay.

The next day Momiji’s regimen of summer fun continues with a beetle hunt, and Tooru is hiding behind a mask of cheer and enthusiasm, letting herself get swept up in Momiji’s flowery energy…anything to avoid burdening others with her grief. While Hiro initially sees her smiles and thinks all must be well, Kyou can tell she’s down, because he knows by now that sometimes it’s when Tooru looks most happy that she’s really the most depressed.

Meanwhile, Shigure stops by Akito’s before joining the others at the beach. Akito hates everything about the summer and curses the “ugly girl” and the others for getting cocky and deluding themselves. Akito wants to “teach them a lesson”, to which Shigure suggests Akito accompany him to the vacation house so the lesson can be taught in person.

Whether Shigure is plotting against Tooru and the others or merely being deferential to remain on Akito’s “good” side (as if such a thing existed), these interactions always makes my skin crawl and fill my heart with dread.

It’s a good thing, then, that the episode ends by replacing some of that dread with tenderness. Yuki comes down with a low-grade fever, but he is notably smiling the whole time. When Hatsu leaves him with Tooru, he takes a bit of her hair in his hands and gently, lovingly twirls it about as he tells her that one day he’ll have something important to tell her, and hopes she’ll listen when that day comes. It’s the day he plans to “open the lid” on a shut box.

That’s both the pitch black box Akito stuffed him in, and the boy-with-the-cap mystery box. Will Yuki’s avowal here spur Tooru to explore opening the lids on her own boxes containing the painful things she’s ashamed to share? Will she tire of carrying those burdens alone? Will she be a match for Akito’s curelty and scorn…or will her light get snuffed out like so many others in this wretched family’s history?

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 06 – Dad Wants Results

As a result of all his help at the fireworks festival, Fuutarou is well-liked enough by Ichika that she walks to school with him, something any lad in his right mind would die for! But as good terms as he’s on with the eldest quint, the youngest continues to harbor a deep animosity for him.

Itsuki still holds a grudge for him refusing to help her study back when they met. She and Nino remain outside the study circle, and his attempts to convince them to join it are rejected with prejudice. That said, Fuutarou was way too loose with his words to Nino in front of her friends, making it sound like the two of them slept together!

Fuutarou remains committed to studying, so he declines to join Ichika, Miku and Yotsuba for parfaits, but Itsuki flags him down on the way home and puts him on the phone with their father, who informs Fuutarou in no uncertain terms that he expects results for his investment: if any of his daughters fails the upcoming midterms, he’ll be fired.

It’s a gut punch for Fuutarou, who doesn’t immediately react well to the warning, as he takes out his anxiety on Itsuki, who is convinced he’s only doing this for the money and doesn’t want his half-assed help after rejecting her. The two end things in a bad place, declaring they’ll never work with one another ever.

When Fuutarou comes to the quints’ place so he work with Ichika, Miku, and Yotsuba, Itsuki is nowhere to be found, but Nino is around, so he can’t let the others know the cost of failure lest Nino exploit that information to sabotage him. Nino gets the info anyway when she pretends to be Itsuki while Fuutarou is in the bath. I guess her goodwill toward him didn’t last past the fireworks festival, huh?

Meanwhile, Ichika has picked up on Miku’s feelings for Fuutarou, and makes every effort to put the two in closer contact with one another, from insisting Fuutarou spend the night (hence the bath) to plain ol’ shoving Miku into Fuutarou’s chest, then having Yotsuba check his pulse…which is high, but to be fair Yotsuba chased him around the house!

When Miku comes right out and asks him what type of girl he likes, Fuutarou only doles out his three top qualities in a girl after the three each complete a page of notes. Ichika invites Fuutarou onto the balcony for a break, and brings up his fight with Itsuki. She sees Itsuki and Fuutarou as “too alike” for their own good, but thinks it’s fine for friends to fight, but as friends, not sworn enemies.

She also knows both of them are stubborn and its holding up their reconciling. She’ll do what she can for him, but at the end of the day it’s up to him to make things right with her. Fuutarou is impressed with how much of an “oldest sister” Ichika is, and follows her advice to praise her by patting her head, causing her to blush profusely.

Still, Ichika is being the good big sister by deferring to Miku’s feelings regarding Fuutarou…at least for now. When it’s time for bed, Miku bunks with Ichika and volunteers her bed for him, only to drowsily return to her bed out of habit after going to the bathroom. Fuutarou wakes up to find Miku curled up beside him!

Whatever consequences result from this innocent mix-up will pale in comparison to what happens if any of the sisters fails the midterms. This isn’t just about Fuutarou losing his job and the money his family needs. He’ll suddenly be cut off from the five young women who are gradually helping him grow as a person, just as he’s helping them. So I hope, for all their sakes, he finds a way to help them all pass.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 05 – The Eve of Reckoning

With a title like “The Night Before Battle”, it was clear there would be one more calm-before-the-storm episode before that battle took place, but in this case, it was not only earned, but welcome. After all, there a lot of reunions that need to happen before battle is joined. That starts with Alice’s protege Eldrie and her “uncle” Bercouli.

Eldrie is concerned about the dead weight that is Kirito, but Bercouli demonstrates that he’s still capable of defending himself through sheer willpower. That means he may yet come back to them, hopefully in their hour of greatest need. That’s coming soon, by the way—their forces are outnumbered more than 16-to-1.

Alice considers that perhaps Kirito can’t hear or react to her voice because she’s still suppressing her feelings, and that maybe a gesture of those feelings may finally wake him up. She comes close, but is interrupted by Tiese and Ronie, who heard Kirito was at the camp. I suppose kissing him wouldn’t have mattered; the conditions haven’t been met for him to come back yet.

The pages are beside themselves upon learning of Kirito and Eugeo’s fates, and Alice can’t help but notice they act as if they loved the boys. They rebut that assertion by saying they don’t deserve the right to say they love him, citing their traumatic experience that led the boys to break Axiom law to save them. Alice rejects their position, transforming to “peacetime” Alice Zuberg that would have been had she not been kidnapped.

Her lesson to the two is that bodies are unimportant compared to the hearts and their souls. If they feel they love someone, or that they can and should do something, they need not be ashamed to carry those feelings with pride. It’s something she learned from Kirito and Eugeo and is happy to pass on.

Alice is less enthused by Lady Fanatio carrying such feelings with pride, especially when she asks to see Kirito so she can “try various things” in an attempt to revive him. Alice betrays her own personal feelings for Kirito by barring Fanatio from seeing him. But such bickering has to wait; it’s time for the war council.

Administrator truly screwed the Human Empire in her management of their military forces. The remaining Integrity Knights must make do with what little they have and pursue a strategy of bottle-necking the enemy’s superior numbers in a narrow, barren ravine, hoping that location will also prove challenging to dark mages, who require material in order to cast their arts.

After saying what could be her final goodbyes to Kirito (leaving him in the pages’ care) and Eldrie, Alice mounts her dragon and the forces move into the ravine. The gate resolves, heralding the “Final Load Test.” The good guys are at a huge disadvantage against Miller’s massive forces.

I don’t doubt they’ll need to rely on a last-minute intervention from…someone; maybe Kirito answering the call in their greatest need, maybe Asuna, finally arrived in Underworld and ready to fight to save her fiancee. As for Alice…we just saw a lot of death flags… :(

Ao-chan Can’t Study! – 09 – Another Goal

Ao has successfully gotten rid of Kijima. At school, he avoids her, and warns others not to interrupt “Miss Horie’s” studying. At home, she has only a super-creepy companionship doll and her dad to comfort her.

Oh, and Yabe, who is determined to assist her studying, but finds she’s far too distracted to make any progress. So he does what any tutor would do: punishes her by making her dress as a catgirl maid. AS YOU DO!

When Kijima comes calling and encounters Yabe, he’s surprised how accepting he is about letting him have one last try. But it makes perfect sense to Yabe; if Ao feels better, she’ll study better. So Kijima sneaks into Ao’s room and hears her talk to herself about having nothing but him on her mind.

A little mild friskiness ensues—Ao is a little miffed he goes for her stomach first and doesn’t touch anything else, but melts when he kisses her head—and the two have a bit of a breakthrough in their relationship, now that the cards are on the table.

Furthermore, Kijima is prepared to help Ao study, and is find holding off on dating (and other activities) until she gets into a good school and moves out of the nest. Ao’s a little disappointed Kijima is being so accommodating, but considers dating him another goal to strive for through study. In other words, welcome motivation.

BokuBen – 06 – Imagine and Be Considerate

Kirisu-sensei somehow knows about Nariyuki and Rizu’s accidental kiss in the mountains, but she doesn’t know about all the other inappropriate incidents with the girls he’s tutoring. That is, until Fumino, Rizu and Uruka burst in one after the other to forcefully declare that those incidents—of which Kirisu had no prior knowledge—were all their fault, not Nariyuki’s.

Nariyuki is convinced this is the end for him: forget a VIP recommendation, he could get suspended for all the things that he did/were done to him. But instead Kirisu lets him go, and she does so precisely because Fumino and Rizu made it a point to come in and talk to her, something she imagines they wouldn’t normally want to do, considering how things turned out when she was their tutor.

Nariyuki sees Kirisu’s scratched-up hand and it dawns on him that she was up there in the mountains looking for Rizu because she was worried, and that there’s a nice person under that cold demeanor. Kirisu has of course nailed it, but Kirisu won’t give him the satisfaction of knowing that.

She’ll leave Nariyuki alone for now because the girls are clearly enthusiastic about him tutoring them, and because they’re making progress. But she still thinks it’s folly for them to let their fleeting emotions steer them on life paths that don’t match their considerable talents.

The girls are waiting outside with baited breath, each of them very contrite about blabbing about all the compromising situations they’ve been in with him, but it’s all water under the bridge. As Nariyuki walks off with them, Kirisu remembers him calling her a nice person and betrays a small blush and smile.

The main dilemma this week then isn’t the intrusion of Kirisu-sensei—who is dealt with in the first five minutes—but another issue that crops up which was inevitable considering how much time Nariyuki is spending with three lovely young women: untoward rumors.

When Nariyuki is smirking in class due to his tutoring plan having so much success (and a glowing assessment from the headmaster), his friends assume he’s acting like that because he got lucky in love. He vehemently denies such insinuations; he rarely if ever thinks romance with the three tutees, owing to the fact he no idea they have any romantic interest in him.

His ignorance of how his words could be used against him is exposed when he fails to properly refute rumors he kissed someone, calling the encounter an “accident.” That sends his puerile mate running out of the classroom crying about wanting to “kiss girls like Nariyuki.” Naturally, Uruka overhears this and her heart is suddenly in turmoil, because whatever girl(s) are kissing Nariyuki, it ain’t her!

In a clever use of an English lesson about yes-or-no questions, Uruka straight-up asks Nariyuki if he kissed someone, and continuing to shoot himself in the foot with his responses, doesn’t come right out and say “no” (because his and Rizu’s lips met, there just wasn’t anything to it). Absent any context, Uruka takes his non-denial as proof he has a girlfriend, gives a half-hearted endorsement, and races off to cry.

When Fumino offers a caring ear, Uruka tries her darndest to post the questions applying to her as being about “her friend”…a friend has known a guy for years, was cheered on when she swam, and who know studies with him. Fumino’s no foolmino, and her response is tailored to Uruka, not this non-existent “friend”: don’t assume one kiss that may or may not have happened means the guy has a girlfriend.

She tells Uruka’s “friend” to keep fighting, and that she’s rooting for her 100%. Also, she should ignore the rumors about Nariyuki…though the rumors are snowballs into the absurd so rapidly, Fumino knows she’s asking a lot. But when Rizu appears and drops her books when she overhears the rumors, Fumino realizes Rizu might like Nariyuki too.

That supposition is all but confirmed when both Uruka and Rizu’s test grades drop suddenly and drastically. Fumino is happy for both of them, and wants to root for them both, even if that’s ultimately impossible. As for me, I’m just glad she’s not in love with Nariyuki too…at least not yet.

Because of that, Fumino can act normally around him, and when he comes to her for advice about how to end the sudden awkwardness between him and the other two, Fumino knows she just can’t come out and say it’s because they like him. It’s really something he should figure out himself, so she tells him to imagine how they feel and be considerate of that in future interactions.

Naturally, there’s no way Nariyuki will use the advice the way Fumino intends. Instead, he takes what she’s saying to mean Uruka and Rizu may be acting awkwardly because they’ve grown too close, blurring the lines between tutor and tutee. So he decides he should take a step or two back and restore a measure of personal boundaries with the two.

Mind you, that’s precisely the opposite of what Uruka wants, and her two trusty, loving friends know just how to help her: by shortening her skirt and opening her blouse for her next encounter with Nariyuki. Like her cute date outfit last time her friends aided her, she ends up feeling ridiculous and embarrassed.

Nariyuki, committed to widening the distance even in the face of such adversity, tries to do just that in a physical sense, but Uruka stays with him, and the two are so focused on jockeying for position that they get lost right outside a shrine to academic and romantic success. What a coinkydink!

Once the two pray (Nari for academic success, Uruka for romance) the heavens suddenly open up, and with no umbrellas, the two wait it out under the shrine. Uruka lies down and suddenly falls asleep, and Nariyuki’s eyes can’t help but wander to her legs and tan-lined bust.

Of course, that’s the point: Uruka is only pretending to be asleep, hoping if she leaves herself “wide open” he’ll make a move. She feels something soft on her head, then tongues licking her everywhere, and imagines it’s Nariyuki doing so, but upon opening her eyes she discovers the various stray shrine cats find her tasty. Nariyuki has widened the distance.

As they walk home, and Uruka is wondering if she’s “just not attractive”, Nariyuki notes how her chest is. Taking the hint, Uruka draws closer, much closer, and can hear that his heart is racing, telling him so. He basically tells her it’s racing because she’s so close to him with her top open. He thinks she should only dress like that in front of the guy she likes, to which she says “OKAY NO PROBLEM!” beaming like the Best Girl she is.

When the next test comes along, her grades are suddenly back up, but Nariyuki doesn’t know why. You’d think someone who picked up on Kirisu being a good person would be a little more observant of how one of his oldest friends was acting around him, but what are ya gonna do. Otherwise, it’s another hard-won victory for Uruka, with an assist from her friends. I’ll savor it, even though she still has Rizu to contend with—not to mention Fumino, if Nariyuki should do or say something to make her fall for him.

BokuBen – 03 – Acts of Defiance

In direct and efficient 78-second cold open, Yuiga’s mission is suddenly made tougher: Furuhashi and Ogata must receive an average score or higher on the upcoming midterms. Both the headmaster and their former tutor (pink hair) believe its in the best general interest to steer the girls towards the fields of study in which they excel, believing their desire to study elsewhere frivolous.

The ex-tutor even considers it negligent not to press more strongly for the girls to get in their lane. The adults aren’t factoring Furuhashi or Ogata’s dreams or happiness into the equation. But Yuiga has been here before himself, and so he’s uniquely equipped to empathize with and fully support them in their bold endeavor to forge their own paths based on their passions, not their natural gifts.

Of course, only Furuhashi and Ogata overhear the headmaster and tutor, and now feel the pressure to succeed lest another tutor—and their favorite by far—be relieved of his duties (though I can’t imagine that would have stopped him from tutoring them anyway). Takemoto wonders why they look so down; she can sense the sudden heightened pressure now on their shoulders, and Ogata’s commitment to get results.

Now that all parties (save Takemoto) are aware of the raised bar for those results, Ogata, whose Japanese midterms come first, asks Yuiga to come to her house to supervise her studying. The fact she’s so comfortable not only inviting him, but also interacting with him at her family’s udon restaurant, speaks to the evolution of their relationship from adversarial and suspicious to something far more like a real friendship.

Meanwhile Yuiga isn’t just doing this so he’ll get a free ride; he has a philosophical horse in this race, plus he just likes these girls and wants to help if he can…not to mention Ogata looks fantastic in her restaurant outfit. He doesn’t know he’ll be fired if they fail, so Ogata simply asks the rhetorical question of what will happen if she fails. His answer—they’ll just keep studying for the next test—is comforting…as is his patting of her head.

When the day of the test comes, Ogata is immediately fearful when she sees parts of the test are areas she didn’t study as thoroughly, but resolves to do her best, and lo and behold, she scores an above-class-average 71, to her own bewilderment and Yuiga and Takemoto’s delight. Ogata refrains from mentioning out loud that a little bit of dumb luck factored into that score, but that’s just another reason to keep at it.

That means it’s up to Furuhashi. Only problem is, she has a cough and a high fever. Yuiga suggests she delay and take the make-up test; she declines, as it would mean an automatic 20% deduction in score (which hardly seems fair). To prepare, she invites Yuiga and Takemoto to her house…which turns out to be huge, with a genkan with more square footage than Yuiga’s living room.

Being unaccustomed to visiting female classmates at home, Yuiga takes Furuhashi’s “just come on in” too literally and walks in when she’s topless. Yuiga realizes the error of his ways and stays out until needed.

Just like he saw Ogata in a new light at her home, Yuiga learns something new about his old pal Takemoto: she’s a superb cook. When he likens her appearance to that a new wife, Takemoto’s imagination conjures a scene of domestic bliss between her and a salaryman Yuiga.

Turns out Takemoto was right: some hot food and rest were just what Furuhashi needed, and she feels ready for the midterms. Like Ogata, she voices her hope that he’ll keep tutoring her, and that she trusts she’ll reach her dreams if she sticks with him. Yuiga is flattered, but urges Furuhashi, whos pajamas a a little see-through, return to bed.

Furuhashi manages a score higher than average as well, impressing the headmaster and further irking the former tutor. Yuiga and the three girls celebrate at a family restaurant. Yuiga may not know that his tutoring job and VIP consideration was just saved.

With Ogata and Furuhashi out of the woods, the second half of the episode focuses on Takemoto Uruka, and IMO reinforces her standing as Best Girl. Her swim club friends, impatient with her pureness and lack of progress in nabbing Yuiga, take matters into their own hands by taking her to a hip clothier and dressing her up all adorable-like; a way in which she can’t help but feel extremely self-conscious.

In this suddenly out-of-sorts state achieved by her caring friends, Takemoto has no idea how she’d act around Yuiga, but immediately gets her chance as the two cross paths in town. Since she’s right next to the bookstore, she tells him she’s going to buy some textbooks; he decides to join her, while failing to remark on her very different and extremely cute new look.

While initially weary, Takemoto soon finds comfort and joy in being so close to Yuiga; feeling the warmth of his shoulder and feeling his breath in her ear as he talks. A little boy points at them and declares them a couple, and when a kid does that you know you look like one.

Outside the store, they come across a store selling an accessory Yuiga’s sister wants; but the competition to win it is couples-only. Sensing another opportunity, Takemoto seizes Yuiga by the arm and leads the way.

The competition turns out to be a “princess carry” endurance contest, and Takemoto is worried she’s too heavy because she’s recently gained a lot of muscle in swim club. She soon tears up about the prospect of being too heavy for Yuiga, but he interprets those tears as abject embarrassment over having to be held by him, and he commits himself to winning the contest, which they do.

Takemoto is happy beyond words. Her friends dressed her up cute so she’d more easily “attack” Yuiga, but the fact is she’s always wanted to be a princess; people have just noted her athleticism and placed her in the “tomboy” mold, and inertia has kept her there.

It was immensely fun to watch Takemoto’s girly side openly expressed. She was the third of three girls this week defiantly moving against the grain set for them by others, and her resulting glee really emanated through the screen. She may not have confessed—and perhaps never will!—but spending a day as a couple was at least something, and seemingly enough for her for now.