RokuAka – 07

Remaining true to its pattern halfway in, RokuAka takes a step back from last week’s plot-and-action-packed drama and keeps things nice and breezy, starting with some tight shots and dialogue between Sisti and Glenn that’s open-to-lewd-interpretation, until it’s revealed they’re merely doing hand-to-hand combat training.

Sisti is a little impatient about it, but when Glenn tells her if she wants to truly protect her sister with magic, she’ll need to master some non-magical fundamentals, she’s on board. It’s good to still see the friendship of these two continuing to grow.

What would have been a return to routine at the academy is suddenly broken by the arrival of a “transfer student”, Re=L, whose transfer had been thoroughly telegraphed by the OP and ED. As befits her tendency to rush at everything head-on, even a greeting, Re=L comes at Glenn with her giant sword, confident he’ll block it.

She’s ostensibly here to protect Rumia, but she claims she’d rather protect Glenn, which I actually prefer to her being an early-Rumia-rehash, i.e. having a low opinion of him to start. These two go way back, after all.

Re=L comes on a bit strong with her eccentricities and lack of social skills. The class and Sisti in particular are a bit dubious of whether this is all okay. Re=L eventually settles in nicely, thanks in large part to the always kind and friendly Rumia, who it should be noted is always ready to die, hence her fearlessness in being in such close proximity to the blue-haired newbie!

Glenn, relieved Re=L is starting to fit in, hopes she’ll make more progress on a class field trip to a tropical island, where he eggs on the guys in the class to take stock of their uniquely fortunate situation, seeing as how tropical island = beach = girls in swimsuits. Meanwhile the girls on more than one occasion marvel at the idiocy of the boys.

After some beach leisure and sports, the next stage involves the lads devising a very nerdy plan to infiltrate the girls’ rooms (in order to make “lasting memories”), a plan stymied by Glenn. I was worried for a second he would join them, which would have definitely added more than a few Bastard Points to his record.

He learns from Albert-in-disguise that she’s just a decoy, and Albert’s warning about her being “dangerous” weighing on his mind. But while resting alone on the beach under a gorgeous starry sky, Glenn spots Sisti, Rumia and Re=L running into the ocean to affirm their friendship and splash around. Also surprisingly, Glenn’s not a lewd bastard about this either, but is simply glad Re=L continues to seem okay…

…Only Re=L is not okay. She puts on a good show, but something’s been weighing on her all the time since she transferred: Why Glenn left the Imperial Court Mages; why she left her. When she says Glenn is “her everything” and lives “only for Glenn”, Glenn may think she’s just messing around, but her confrontation with him later in the night makes it clear she’s not.

Re=L thinks she’s gotten a raw deal here, in losing Glenn and then having Sisti and Rumia swoop in and steal him from her. This may not be 100% fair to Glenn, who has in a way “given himself” to all of his students, not just Sisti and Rumia. But I also feel he owes Re=L an explanation for suddenly abandoning her, even though he probably didn’t think it meant as much to her as it clearly did.

With Eleanor Chalet planning something devious, this is not the time for anyone on Glenn’s side to be in emotional turmoil; especially with his talk about the “dark side” of military magic one can be swayed by if not used correctly or in the right state of mind.

Fune wo Amu – 06

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Majime barely seems to sleep through a night when he’s waiting for Kaguya to reply to his letter, but early in the morning when they finally meet in the hall, he runs away, scared of rejection. If she has bad news for him, he doesn’t want to hear it.

For Nishioka, the time to announce his impending departure from the department comes at an awkward time, but his hand is forced when the elders take stock of the group’s difficulties but looks to the first modern Japanese dictionary, the Genkai, for inspiration, knowing the five of them can do it. Nishioka makes sure they understand it’s four, not five now.

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When Majime hears of this, and of all the extra work not suited for him he may have to take on in Nishioka’s absence, he has a little bit of a freakout, as the pleasant dusk turns dark and foreboding, waves lap at his feet, then solidify into a thick mud into which he slowly descends. All of a sudden he’s become overwhelmed with doubt in both love and life.

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That night, at the boarding house, he goes into the library, a lovely cozy space positively packed with books, to both calm and steel himself. He finds the house copy of the Genkai, and finds an archaic word for chef (translated as “kitchener”).

He realizes a dictionary’s value, like the words within it, change with time. The Genkai is now a repository of Japanese linguistic history. He re-asserts his determination to complete The Great Passage, come hell or high mud.

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He also gains the confidence to ask Kaguya, who has just come home, for an answer to his love letter. Kaguya is caught off guard by his use of that term, and runs up to her room.

Majime is almost certain this means rejection, but it’s the opposite: she merely wanted to read it again, certain that it was a love letter (she wasn’t sure before). In truth, she has feelings for him too.

I loved the subtlety of her motions and the quietness and warmth of this scene. We’ll see how the happy couple proceeds from here.

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Fune wo Amu – 05

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Majime decides to take the next step with Kaguya the best way he knows how: with words. Lots of them. He asks Nishioka to look the thick missive over, and Nishioka is initially weary of the stiffness of its contents. Of course, Nishioka is also waiting for the other shoe to drop on the mischief he’s perpetrated on behalf of the Dictionary Editorial department and The Great Passage.

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His punishment turns out to be a transfer to the PR department (where he originally wanted to go when he started out) and the adding of a starter dictionary revision to the department’s already formidable workload. He lets the others know about the latter price, but holds off on telling them he’ll be leaving them in the Spring. Better to let them work, and get excited about their sample pages.

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After a long day of reassuring professors (and possibly some drinking as well), Nishioka returns home to his girlfriend Miyoshi, who works in the PR department he’s transferring to, and who made a rare phone call to him in the middle of the day to check up on him, reinforcing her role as Nishioka’s rock. No matter what becomes of him at the company, it feels like he’ll be okay as long as he has her. And she seems heartened by his determination to do everything he can for his colleagues before he has to go.

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As for Majime’s love letter, Nishioka actually seems to get pretty absorbed in it—that is, the parts that he can understand; there’s some Chinese poetry in there. He gives it the okay, so Majime waits by the boarding house’s genkan for Kaguya to come home from work, then delivers the document containing all his feelings to her personally. We’ll see where this goes.

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Fune wo Amu – 04

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Nishioka not only has the unhappy task of relaying the rumor their department’s ship may be scrapped before it gets out of drydock, but also comes up with a solution that might prevent the scrapping from taking place.

That solution requires him to use the skills that make him invaluable to the department outside its dusty walls: the ability to pound the pavement; schmooze and flatter; wheel and deal.

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The idea is, the more rumors spread about The Great Passage, the harder it will be for the publisher to cancel it without causing harm to their reputation. It also sound like a fine way to get on said publisher’s bad side.

The montage of everyone doing their part while Nishioka does his is…a bit sedate, but that’s the point. Like everything in this department, getting favorable result requires intense preparation, attention to detail, and patience. Those results don’t come fast…if they come at all.

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While on a well-earned day off, Nishioka opens up to his girlfriend about the “predicament” he’s in: a normal guy in a weird, “masochistic” job that will keep him busy until he’s bald, sharing an office with a weird guy who seems almost too perfect for the job of writing dictionaries.

I like how his girlfriend is mostly like “Uh-huh, that sounds rough bae, BRB need another beer!” but it’s an interesting and very different peek into Nishioka’s personal life that contrasts sharply with Majime’s in almost every way.

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I say almost because right not Majime also has not one but two women in his life: an old landlady trying to get him to court her granddaughter. Kaguya is pretty and seems nice enough, but she has yet to engender in me the same awe she does in Majime.

And sure, they share a desire to keep fighting for something even though it’s not quick or easy, and do make the episode’s titular “steady progress” by actually having a conversation, but it’s still a bit too steady (and early) for me to buy their romance.

Then again, love has many forms and colors, and theirs just may not be the flying-sparks variety, but something quieter, subtler, more outwardly mundane but inwardly profound.

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Kuromukuro – 24

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Muetta officially joins the good guys, fighting against her former allies, a contrite Graham reinstates Sophie, and Ken offers the crummiest marriage proposal Yukina could ask for—it’s a busy episode of Kuromukuro this week, in contrast to the previous episode’s leisureliness, and that’s before the giant battle to retake Kurobe Lab and deactivate the Pivot Stone.

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There are no cliffhangers for this counterattack: it’s presented in its entirety this week, ending in a near-total victory for the good guys, which is surprising, almost to the point of implausibility. Kuromukuro, the surviving GAUS 1, Zell, Liddy, and his Glider, and Muetta’s Medusa seem an awfully raggity force to take down Mirasa, Yoruba, Imusa, and Refill, but they get it done in mostly convincing fashion thanks to two things the Efidolg don’t seem have: teamwork and a sense of their own mortality.

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It’s teamwork that splits the Efidolg forces, teamwork that keeps them off balance, and teamwork that brings their glonguls down one by one. It’s another exciting battle that really pops thanks to the now-wintry backdrop of the Lab’s environs, and the clashing personalities, like Muetta and Mirasa, pop even more.

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As for Sebastian surviving, well, I’ll just say I would have preferred if he’d stayed dead. I have nothing against the guy, but his heroic death put much-needed weight and a human face on the capture of Kurobe. Heck, he’s the only character of note among the good guys who actually died in the first place. Others were brainwashed, but they seem to be okay as well, provided the implants can be extracted.

 

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Once Yoruba and Mirasa are killed (at least I think they’re killed), Imusa’s glongur combines with his commander Refills to make One Huge Super Mecha that starts tearing everyone up with its four flexible blade-tentacle thingys. This battle had the progression of an RPG, with the good guys having to defeat foot soldier-level foes, moving up to the elites, and finally the big bad boss with multiple points of attack.

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At this stage of the battle, everyone is wondering how much longer they can hold out, until Yukina takes it upon herself to direct the action, calling for a simultaneous attack on each of the four blades while she and Ken blast through their swipes. Ken gets to yell a lot, but this time Yukina gets to as well, seeming to connect with the Kuromukuro in a new way in the process.

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Completing the team effort, and escaping Refill gets stabbed in the back by Zell, who unmasks him to reveal…one of this own kind; at least a brainwashed clone of one. While under Zell’s own brainwashing microbot, Refill warns that if the Pivot Stone remains inactive, another, larger Efidolg fleet will be sent to Earth, a journey that will take 224 years but will happen.

That may sound like a long time, perhaps even enough time for Earth to reverse engineer enough Efidolg tech to build a defense. But it’s also just over half the time that’s passed since the Washiba Clan were wiped out. So while this particular crew of bad guys has been knocked out and the immediate danger would seem to have passed, there’s still much to be done to protect Earth for the long run.

As for Yukina, she seems shaken by her most recent experience co-piloting Kuromukuro. Is she, as Zell warned Tom, starting to feel the effects of the the permanent change “giving oneself” to a glongur enacts? I’m intrigued by the fact so much has gotten done with two whole episodes remaining. Should be an interesting finish.

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Fune wo Amu – 03

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Though it felt very dreamlike, Majime’s encounter with a beautiful raven-haired woman under the full moon wasn’t a dream; the woman is his landlady’s granddaughter, Kaguya (who happened to be born under a full moon), who is living at the boarding house for the time being as she trains to be a Japanese chef at Apricot, a nearby restaurant.

Majime’s interaction with her is…minimal so far, to say the least. He isn’t able to get a word out when they meet in the doorway, and he’s very troubled by this. Their initial encounter on the balcony was also portrayed as dramatically and profoundly as it must’ve felt to Majime, who is, after all, still a virgin and a total novice when it comes to women.

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By all indications, Nishioka isn’t exactly a casanova himself, but he’s Hugh freaking Hefner compared to Majime, and vows to take Majime under his wing in this endeavor. While he can claim more experience talking to, courting, and yes, sleeping with women, it’s Majime who’s far more at home and leading the way in the office, and Nishioka can’t help but be swept up in his search for word definitions.

When Matsumoto brings up the necessity of the editors of The Great Passage to check their biases and think about the experiences of those not like them when working on the dictionary, Nishioka can’t resist bringing up Majime’s virginity, and how that could adversely effect his performance on subjects pertaining to romance.

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This leads to the other editors asking about Kaguya, and when Nishioka learns she works at Apricot, the whole gang goes out to eat there, giving Majime a solid in. Kaguya is surprised he picked up on her hint to drop by so soon, but then again, she can clearly see he has friends in his co-workers willing to nudge him along.

Only baby steps are taken here, but Kaguya seems like the patient type. Like the builders of The Great Passage, she is undertaking something that will take years to master, but there’s no other way to feed her passion, so she’s going to do it. Majime can relate: he wants to accomplish something too, no matter how long it takes.

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Unfortunately, if that’s completing the Passage, a wrench is thrown into his goal late in the episode, but very early in the show: while in the bathroom in the new main building, Nishioka overhears that the Passage may be scrapped.

Looks like in addition to building the ship, the Dictionary Department will have to defend her value to the bureaucracy, lest The Great Passage never feel the lapping of the waves against her bow.

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Kuromukuro – 23

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I must say I didn’t expect Yukina, Ken, and Muetta to go to school what with everything that’s going on, but it’s not as if there’s that much more for them to do. The Efidolg are being really really nice in not trying to kill anyone else or attempting to secure either the Kuromukuro or Muetta’s glongur, but the Earthlings don’t really have a plan for how to proceed quite yet. As such, we get a calm-bef0re-the-storm episode, and a fair amount of fanservice, starting with Muetta in Yukina’s spare uni.

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In this calm, both Ken and Muetta try to figure out what they’re going to do with themselves if and when Earth survives the Efidolg onslaught. Again, the timing for a career counseling session seems a bit odd, but I appreciated the practicality of a samurai figuring out something else to do with his life – though I’m pretty sure he could make good money in the modern world demonstrating his fighting skills for education, entertainment, or both.

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As for Muetta, she is even more a fish out of water than Ken, since she’s not sure who or what she is anymore, whereas at least he had his ideals and an object of devotion in Yukihime. Just as the other teacher gives Ken some sage (if somewhat obvious) advice about the future, Marina also flexes her counseling skills by telling Muetta not to despair in her new situation, but to take life by the horns, as all humans do.

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I enjoyed Muetta’s reaction to the deliciousness of omelette rice (and the speed with which she consumed it), her description of the sustenance she’s used to (“square”), and her general bemusement with English loan words and earth technology (like “movies”). Ken is equally amusing as unreliable translator – the blind leading the blind.

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Most importantly, Ken has made peace with the fact that Muetta is not Yukihime, but her own person…and he wants her to fight with them. He expresses this wish during a shoot for a movie, the script for which Carlos has been working on since the attack and by all accounts seems completely absurd and incomprehensible.

I’ve gone on record as not being the biggest fan of Carlos or his desire to be remembered, but the shoot is fine harmless fun, even if it’s mostly a chance to see various characters in different outfits.

This was a quiet, somewhat rambling episode, but it wasn’t entirely pointless, and is likely the last episode of its kind. With only three left, Kuromukuro needs to get down to the business of thwarting the Efidolg threat.

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Fune wo Amu – 02

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When I was in Tokyo, I availed myself of the impeccable (compared to my city) mass transit, not just to get from Point A to Point B, but because I have an affinity for trains, and subways in particular. It was like I had died and gone to heaven: the unique aesthetics of the individual stations, the elaborate yet useful signage, the machines that sold everything from drinks to books.

Oh, and the people. Never did a single person block the opening doors of a train. People got in tidy lines, often using the lines on the platform, and ingress and egress were smooth and efficient, and ultimately quicker than if it was every person for themselves. Especially in the early mornings, it was a rush and a crush, but it all worked, and it was all polite and precise.

When Majime speaks almost wistfully about the way people on the subway got into neat lines (as if controlled by some unseen power…called courtesy!) and rode the escalators up and down, I could relate. I was on vacation after all; I had no particular place to be, nor any particular time to be there. Majime also takes his time, and Araki and Matsumoto are impressed by how he’s able to express how he enjoys his “hobby” of escalator-watching.

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The point is, everything is “fun” for someone, even if it’s boring for others, or even most people. Majime finds observing humans on the go fun. Matsumoto and Araki find dictionary-making fun—why else be in the business so long? And Majime’s new job, for which he seems preternaturally well-suited, also looks like a lot of fun.

His new office is an old, dim, dusty building (once the main building for the company), and there are stacked books with colored tags and shelves full of tiny cards, containing hundreds of thousands of words and their definitions. It is, to use the symbolism of the show, a shipyard—the place where the ship The Great Passage will be built, patiently, steadily, over a period of ten years.

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Majime seems pleased with his new position, and eager to contribute…but it’s working together with other people (rather than simply observing them) that troubles him. He’s unsure he’ll fit in, and even more worried he’ll let the others down.

His landlady Take asserts that he really shouldn’t be sweating such things at his age. Socializing with people is give-and-take, plain and simple. Take the two of them: she essentially exchanges hot, tasty meals for company, but through multiple encounters over however many months or years he’s lived in the boarding house, and it’s as if a different symbolic ship has been constructed—a friendship, to quote Mr. Burns—and Take’s able to say with confidence dictionary editor is the perfect job for young Majime.

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This episode is called “Encounter”, and it’s not just his new job, his new colleagues, and the great new undertaking he encounters. It’s a beautiful young woman, posed perfectly in front of a huge yellow moon, whom he encounters by chance while looking for his big fat orange cat Tiger.

Majime is literally taken aback by the sight of this striking person, and likely even more intrigued that she’d playfully take the words meant for Tiger (“There you are…I’ve come to get you”) as words he meant for her. No doubt she’ll play a big role in Majime’s growth in the coming episodes.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 05

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Aki and Marin reminded us so much of futaba’s superficial friends of Ao Haru Ride, I thought Erika would eventually go on a similar “realness” trip and dump them, but to the show’s credit, they’re keeping them around, only their role has changed. Now instead of being slightly annoyed by them talking about their boyfriends, Erika is jealous of their happiness with pliable boyfriends, not hard to crack nut like Kyoya.

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Jeez, has it only been five episodes? Things are moving along so well on Ookami Shoujo. I feel like most shows like it take an entire cour to get to where Kyoya and Erika are romantically even though there’s still much work to be done and fresh obstacles on the horizons. I say “work”, but as the next episode music suggests, Erika’s struggle is a battle, one to wrench open Kyoya’s heart and conquer it.

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Making that happen starts with believing it can be done, because despairing at his imposing gates, believing their impregnable-looking surface, will only lead to defeat. While going over her ideal Christmas (which is pretty standard: cake, fried chicken, gifts, being together), Kyoya complains on more than one occasion that “women are a pain”, and Erika agrees. He’s not wrong; women are a pain…but so are men. Especially Kyoya.

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After touching cheeks during their staged Christmas selfie she promised to send to Aki and Marin (a promise she cares about keeping) and going to a cafe to warm up, Erika gets a stomachache, then asks Kyoya a direct question in an attempt to quell it: “What am I to you?” Is she nothing but a useful servant? A convenient toy? Does he care about her? Erika is essentially scrambling up Kyoya’s ramparts here, blind to all the defenses he has waiting for her at the top; defenses she’s seen before.

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Her own defenses drop completely when Kyoya gives her precisely the perfect response of her dreams: He likes her, always has, but has been to shy to come out and say it, and the nervousness that builds from that pressure led to all of the nasty teasing. When she asks him to have a silly cliche Christmas night with her, he agrees without complaint, saying that whatever will be fun if it’s done with her.

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I’ll admit, my defenses were lowered too, this went on so long. Then evil shadows form on his face and he admits to just messing with her, calling it a “monkey show” and mocking her gullibility.  In other words, he pours hot pitch down upon her, and she falls back down to the base of the wall. Kyoya gets a glass of ice water to the face. He’s a terrible piece of trash, Erika shouts, and she hopes he dies, storming out in a public display.

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Men aren’t just a “pain” to women (and vice versa) because they make you jump through hoops, or interpret things without sufficient information from your perspective: they’re a literal emotional and physical pain. A pain in the gut, A dull burning in the heart. Kyoya cuts deeper there than he ever had before, and I feel Erika’s pain clearly, having been there as we all have.

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Here’s the maddening thing about Kyoya: he cruelly passed his sweet and sincere confession off as false, but it wasn’t the content of the confession that was really false; only the florid presentation. Confessing like that isn’t Kyoya’s style; it’s far outside is comfort zone where he picks on and teases and runs down Erika because, almost like a little boy who likes a girl, he doesn’t know how to process what he’s feeling, and that frustration causes him to lash out. It’s pretty textbook stuff…but Kyoya isn’t a little boy anymore, and he knows he went to far.

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Erika’s parents are really chill. They didn’t even make the couple keep the door open!

But in fixing things, which is what he wants it wouldn’t do him any good to pretend he’s comfortable (yet) saying the kinds of things that made Kyoya so happy she cried. No, he atones in the most Sata Kyoya way possible: announcing himself as her boyfriend to her folks, coming into Erika’s room, demanding an apology for her throwing water and wanting him to die, and slapping a “collar” – or rather, a cute gold necklace, around her neck, so everyone knows she’s his. He resorts to his code.

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BAAAAAAAAAW. So f-ing cute. And hey, we finally learn Aki and Marin’s boyfriends are REAL!

The impregnable defense Kyoya maintains is as false and deceptive as the psych-out that got water thrown in his face. Erika hasn’t busted open the gates to brought her main force in yet, but she did sneak over the walls, and found that she’s always had a place there. He won the battle in the cafe, but she won the battle after that, when Kyoya comes to her and, in his way, apologizes and tries to make things right. Like me, Erika chooses to believe what Kyoya said, because that was him going out on a limb, before retreating and laughing it off as a joke.

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But, yeah, the war isn’t over. Post-credits, we see Kyoya returning home to a ringing phone. After the answering machine prompt, the caller hangs up without a word. Who was this? Kyoya’s parent? A stalker or ex-girlfriend-gone-bad? My two guesses: either a red herring cliffhanger to be quickly resolved next week (less likely) or…trouble (more likely). Trouble for Kyoya, trouble for Erika, trouble for Kyoya+Erika, and trouble for me.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 04

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“Back again so soon?”

It’s one thing to end the third episode with a confession, regardless of result, so much sooner than I expected. It’s another still for Erika to cross paths with the girl who was at Kyoya’s place before him, hears that “he’s done with girls because he has a dog now”, then rushes back for clarification! This is just outstanding initiative from Erika, who won’t let things stand the last time she was this door. But while she gets him to believe she really does like him, she doesn’t get a straight answer about his feelings for her (though the “got a dog, done with girls” comment to that other girl made it pretty clear to me).

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Letting a soccer ball hit Erika head-on, then punching the one who kicked it…that’s Kyoya for you

With the answer still ambiguous to her about whether Kyoya likes her in the same way, she decides to operate under the assumption he doesn’t…quite yet, and that it falls to her to do something about it. Enter Kyoya’s friend from middle school, Hibiya Takeru, who comes in and immediately makes a big impact on the show.

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Likely still too sore over Kamiya’s deception to talk to him, and with Sanda never talking to Kyoya, she needs an ally, and finds one in the muscular, boisterous Takeru, who is very gung-ho about helping her crack the infuriating nut that is Sata Kyoya. But enthusiasm and good intentions don’t necessarily translate into success, and they don’t here.

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Backfired!

In short, Kakeru give Erika terrible, terrible advice and goofy stunts that would never work in a million years. It might even be that not allying herself with Kakeru could have made her better off, because all his advice seems to afford her is the opportunity to make a fool of herself in front of Kyoya again and again.

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The contents of Kakeru’s mind would make great van murals

That said, I’m glad Erika now has another friend (and a guy, at that), who she can talk with about these things earnestly. His ideas for her may be cockamamie, but she carries them out to the letter regardless; after all, love makes fools of us all. She’s so desperate for results, she pretty much ignores the logical side of her brain telling her this is all a waste of time, effort, and dignity.

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Your advice is crap! GIVE ME MORE!!!

Fortunately for us, watching Kakeru and Erika in action also happens to be a hoot and a half. Not only because they have great comedic chemistry, but because they’re both romantics, and feed off each other’s energy where someone like Kyoya either sucks it all up or deflects it entirely. Kakeru may be a a bit of a Mimbo, and more chivalrous and devoted to Erika’s cause than the average joe would be, but he’s a heckuva lot more normal than Kyoya in how he interacts with Erika. He and Erika are on the same level.

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That’s refreshing after seeing Erika play the servile supplicant so frequently, even though I know it’s been her choice to do so. You probably know where I’m going with this: the more I watch Kakeru and Erika together, the more I’m thinking they’d make a better couple, to the point even both of them seem to get that vibe. Kakeru uses this for his last, and perhaps riskiest idea yet: calling both Erika and Kakeru out, saying he’s fallen for Erika, and forcing Kyoya to decide right then and there.

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Oh, man, look at that! It’s a triangle! So on-the-nose. But hey, it’s also covered in little “cracks”, which means it’s a brittle triangle. While the prospect of Kakeru being a legitimate rival for Erika’s heart, the reality is, he hasn’t really fallen for her. The triangle is only rhetorical, and that’s how Kyoya sees it, which is why his seemingly cold, assholish response makes perfect sense: He tells Kakeru to “do what he wants”, even though it breaks Erika’s heart right then and there, because he knows Kakeru isn’t serious. In other words, “Nice try, but this isn’t going to work on me either.”

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Erika’s heartbreak is short-lived, as Kyoya chases after her and gives her a real arm (not a plastic skeleton arm this time), and essentially tells her she’s just going to have to keep working at it if she really feels the way she does. He’s essentially asking for even more emotional commitment from her…but he is asking for it, about as nicely as he can. As he says to Kakeru, “I’ll decide when I’ve fallen for Erika.” Neither Kakeru or Erika can decide. He’s asking Erika to buy into the self-importance he’s placing on himself, like a leap of faith, not knowing where it will lead, but looking forward to seeing what happens.

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And just to put a final cork in the short-lived Kakeru+Erika route, in a post-credits scene Erika meets Kakeru at the riverbank to politely reject him; naturally, he forgot he confessed to her for real. He may not be a love interest, nor a particularly useful ally in Erika’s fight for Kyoya. But he is still a new, real friend she can treasure. And real is always valuable.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 03

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This show has improved in each of its three episodes, which is all the time it takes for Erika to listen to Sanda’s advice and follow her feelings honestly and confess to Kyoya. This is in part accomplished by the tried-and-true and nicely-executed “nursing ill love interest to health” scenario, which reveals to both Erika and Kyoya that their exchanges in this “fake” relationship are growing alarmingly genuine.

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For one thing, Erika doesn’t come to Kyoya’s house to nurse him back to health because it’s part of her duty as his dog, or to keep up appearances with their fake relationship. She does it because she’s worried about him, and because she wants to. And while she’s not thinking about it this way at all, there’s nothing like a bad cold to reveal the true nature of an “adversary”, if you will.

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As ever, Erika is seeing sides of Kyoya he keeps tightly guarded from everyone else, which makes her feel understandably, well…special. But again, that feeling, and falling even further for Kyoya, is a by-product of her helping him, not an intended reward. That utter lack of ulterior motive is as baffling to Erika as it is vexing to Kyoya, considering their history…but to paraphrase Sanda, the heart is not the head; it don’t have to make sense.

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If this episode accomplished nothing else (which isn’t true, it accomplished a lot), it afforded us the resources to compile our most comprehensive analysis of Kyoya to date, confirming many suspicions with facts of his life. His lack of a strong mother figure speaks volumes about how he deals with women, and the loss of a beloved dog in middle school indicates a hesitancy to commit or form strong emotional bonds with anyone else, fearing more pain and anguish.

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Between his mommy/women/abandonment/commitment/self-esteem issues, Kyoya is a far more wounded and fragile individual than he lets on, and Erika has still only seen the slightest glimpses. She’s privy to the same indicating facts we do, but she’s so emotionally compromised herself at the moment, she hasn’t painted as clear a picture of him yet.  She also saw his “non-Prince Smile”, which is to say, a genuine smile bourne from real happiness. Put incredibly simply: he likes dogs, ergo he likes Erika, who is his “dog” at the moment.

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Being with Kyoya makes Erika want to stop lying and be his real girlfriend, along with wanting to take care of him when he’s sick. Being with Erika is like being with no other woman in Kyoya’s life. When Erika suddenly stops by his apartment one night to confess properly, Erika is in a very emotionally malleable state, and Kyoya…well, he’s just had a visit from a pretty lady with whom I’m sure he demanded the least emotional connection possible. And yet the timing feels right.

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I always appreciate a guy or girl with guts who confesses earlier rather than later, regardless of the consequences or the fact neither they nor I usually like the response, but that’s to be expected: an early confession that ends in rejection or ambiguity usually means the show to follow will be about clearing up the ambiguity, and if and how the initial rejection is ultimately overturned, resulting in romantic victory.

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Make no mistake: Kyoya isn’t questioning Erika’s feelings for him because he doesn’t want them, nor because he doesn’t have the same feelings for her. He’s questioning them because he doesn’t think he deserves them, and probably also fears losing her once he has her. While he’s antagonized and insulted Erika plenty, he’s doing it in hopes of keeping her at a safe distance. The one he’s really torturing is himself. We’ll see how right or wrong I am about all of this in the weeks to come. Until then, great progress was made here.

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P.S. The peppy ending theme, “Wolf Heart” by Oresama, is a toe-tappingly fun, well-produced, and addictive piece of pop that’s also a nice salve for the sting of that failed confession.

 

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 02

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Pretending to be dating the school Prince has its benefits, like when Sata comes with an umbrella to take Erika home in front of a jealous Marin and Aki. But its immense costs of the lie are starting to mount, and I’m not just talking about her self-esteem: half of the school is in love with the Prince, and all agreed to a “look but don’t touch” policy to keep the peace.

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Between the resulting abuse from that at the continued humiliations she has to suffer when no one’s looking, from holding his umbrella for him to serving as a shield for car mud, to having to actually fetch a stick, one would imagine Erika is getting tired of this charade, which would mean Sata is winning. Her real friend Sanda tells her to just give it up and find a real boyfriend, or at least look for viable alternatives to the Black Prince, or otherwise quit griping.

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Erika for her part is aware of the shabby treatment she’s enduring, but part of her sees it as a battle of wills: she knows Sata is going the extra mile to torture her, and she’s not going to surrender so easily. Sanda perhaps rightfully sees it as simple masochism on Erika’s part, but she doesn’t actually enjoy being treated like this. She’d like a little romance, like the kind she still sees in Marin and Aki’s relationships. (For all we know, they’re both lying too!)

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She finally experiences some, or at least a very realistic simulation of it, in her interactions with Kimura, after surveying the field of guys and finding them lacking (an amusing mini-montage). Because Erika hasn’t so much as fallen for a guy before, she’s particularly vulnerable to deception, and Kimura fools her hook line and sinker, along with us, right up until she admits to him she’s not really Sata’s girlfriend.

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Since the whole point of Kimura being nice to her was to steal her from Sata for revenge, he drops the act like the flipping of a switch, even rubbing it in what a cheap moron she is for falling for his ploy. That’s when Sata reveals he’s been stalking them the whole time (!) and despite saying he hates violence, clocks Kimura. While he’d never admit it, Kimura did succeed in making Sata jealous.

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This is where the show makes the argument that despite the fact both guys objectify and use Erika by exploiting the weaknesses in her personality, Sata is the lesser of two evils…and in this, it mostly succeeds. Sata, after all, doesn’t seem to be maintaining the boyfriend fiction for any ulterior motive I’m aware of; his behavior towards Erika is a lot more sincere, even if he does code it with unfortunate pet dog references.

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There’s also the notion floating around that while Kimura hurts Erika for no real reason other than spiting Sata, Sata’s dog-and-master act seems to come from a buried desire to reform Erika. He’s not saying it, but his actions scream “Things don’t have to be this ridiculous. If you don’t like the way things are between us, you have the power to change it. His latest heroics have her heart starting to skip for him; will she garner the will to abandon her lies and games?

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It still seems there’s a legitimate risk in doing that, as Marin and Aki would surely not take kindly to learning she lied (again, even if they’re lying too) and she’d still have the scorn of every girl who likes Sata. And even after all that, Sata might reject her, like he rejects all girls. The risk is acceptable, and preferable to continuing to maintain falsehoods that open her up to intentionally shabby, degrading treatment. But that doesn’t make Erika’s choice any easier.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 01

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I went into this show extremely suspicious from what I’d initially gathered about it: a guy treating a girl like a dog just isn’t something that appeals to me as as source of entertainment. After this episode, this is still the case, but at least the show is quite clear about Shinohara Erika’s unfortunate situation being entirely of her making, and it’s up to her to get out of it, not anyone else. It’s your typical pride-vs-appearance tug-of-war, and so far, pride is losing out.

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Sure, getting to school late on the first day is rough, because everyone’s already split up into groups. But building an empty relationship based upon lies to ingratiate oneself with vapid self-involved girls in the back of the classroom just makes things worse. Like Futaba in Ao Haru Ride, she doesn’t really gain anything from pretending to be friends with them, aside from the appearance that she’s not alone when she really is.

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Marin and Aki don’t really give a shit about Erika, regardless of whether she’s banging a model. Even when Erika has Sata Kyouya playing along, the only reaction she gets out of them is relative indifference, followed by mild irritation, since the rest of the school thinks he’s such hot stuff. And the cost of this farce is far too high. At this early stage in her high school life, it would be better to come clean, but she’s not going to do that.

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So as I said, the titular situation, in which she must serve as Kyouya’s dog, is entirely of her making. She got him involved in her web of lies, and he’s perfectly willing to help keep those lies going for her, as long as she’s willing to completely humiliate herself. But a part of him obviously cares about Erika beyond “killing time”, so it seems he’s making things hard on her because he hopes she’ll eventually stop with the lies. She has the power to stop being a dog. Will she get the picture? Ehh…I’m not sure I care.

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