Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible – 09 – The Flavor of Fulfillment

It may be a new year, but for Shiraishi, not much has changed. Most people still fail to notice his existence. But when he arrives at his new class, he finds that some things that haven’t changed are in his favor: Kubo is not only still in his class, but still sitting beside him, this time near the windows.

Kubo has celebratory soft drinks with her two besties, and with the next day comes the school committee assignments. Shiraishi notes that he usually just ends up with the leftovers since the teacher doesn’t notice him raising his hand, so Kubo gives him an assist by volunteering for the environmental committee and telling the teacher Shiraishi raised his hand too.

Kubo knows Shiraishi enjoyed the environmental committee because he was able to make the flowers bloom, even if everyone thought they were blooming without being tended to. The other member of the committee last year was Sudou, who happens to remember Shiraishi because of his green thumb.

When he and Kubo end up in the same lab group as Sudou and Sudou needs an eraser, Kubo mentions that Shiraishi has five, and Sudou strikes up a little convo with Shiraishi. Later, Shiraishi thanks Kubo, as it’s the first time he’s been able to enjoy talking with someone other than her. Kubo has to temporarily retreat to blush, as him saying he enjoys talking with her catches her off guard.

When Shiraishi is trying to buy a new “youthful lemon” flavored Fanta, Kubo surprises him and he accidentally buys water. She then wonders why youth tastes like lemon. Shiraishi thinks his youth would probably be more like water—often overlooked or ignored for its lack of flavor.

When Kubo talks about all the ways he could have a fulfilling youth—making friends, having his first kiss—Shiraishi is overwhelmed, as he claims not to even have any friends to begin with. This miffs Kubo, who asks what about her?

That’s when, now nine episodes in, Shiraishi finally realizes that he and Kubo are friends. I guess I can cut him a little slack as she’s his first friend, and realizing she is his friend greatly improves his mood. So he’s slow on the uptake as usual, but thankfully no longer totally clueless thanks to Kubo.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Skip and Loafer – 08 – Clout Chaser

When Nao-chan learns Mitsumi will be going to the zoo with the Shima boy she’s always talking about, she immediately worries that he’s a hot city boy giving a country girl a try before dumping her like a sack of potatoes. She’s concerned enough that she almost considers letting Mitsumi leave the house in the outfit she chose for herself. Almost!

We rewind a bit to Sousuke apologizing to Mitsumi and Mika for when Saijou Ririka bothered them. He says Ririka is a childhood friend, but Mika doesn’t buy it. She digs into Ririka online and learns she was caught drinking in sixth grade and was cancelled for snapping back at online criticism.

Mika now thinks she knows why Sousuke’s so “chill” around girls at school: because he’s a “clout chaser”, surrounded by messy glamorous types like Ririka. Considering she’s still harboring some feelings for the guy, that prospect disappoints her.

But on to the date-not-date between Sousuke and Mitsumi! Nao-chan picks out an adorable ensemble for Mitsumi, but also decides to shadow her on the date, to get a better idea of this Sousuke fellow. Naturally, Mika decided to do the same, thing, and they end up joining forces. Notably, Nao-chan is in “disguise” as a male, and introduces herself as Mitsumi’s uncle.

As you’d expect, Sousuke and Mitsumi have a splendid time together, snug as two bugs in a rug. Mitsumi soaks in the big city zoo and all the exotic and adorable animals, while Shima is soaking up Mitsumi’s wonderful vibes. When Nao-chan asks Mika why Shima took Mitsumi out, she can’t answer; it’s hard to tell what he’s thinking.

But when Nao-chan asks if Sousuke could be toying with Mitsumi’s heart, Mika is unequivocal: there’s no chance of that. Nao-chan reads Mika’s face and deduces that she likes Sousuke too, but Mika insists she just wants to snag a “hi-spec” boyfriend while in high school—any hunk will do!

While on the zoo monorail, Nao-chan and Mika tempt fate by sitting right across from Mitsumi and Sousuke. Sousuke is clearly worn out (it’s a very hot day), and Sousuke suggest they hit up the gift shop and call it a day. When Mitsumi voices her disappointment that they weren’t able to do everything she planned, Sousuke tells her they can simply come again. There’s no reason this had to be a one-time thing.

As Mika overhears, she kicks herself for thinking Sousuke was a “clout chaser”. If anything, that’s a label she could apply to herself. At the gift shop, Mitsumi buys herself and Sousuke matching panda pendant/straps, while Nao-chan reveals her true identity as a woman to0 Mika and suggests they cool down with some mango ice cream at a spot she’s heard good things about.

The second half of the episode is the pajama party, which is relocated to Mitsumi’s house. Nao-chan is so happy Mitsumi has made such sweet friends, and Mika and Yuzuki even start to bond a little over their shared knowledge of fashion trends.

Yuzuki also finally feels she can talk honestly with Mitsumi, Makoto, and Mika, which wasn’t the case at her previous fancy international school. Yuzuki admits she went with the flow and ended up in an undesirable spot; she decided when she transferred she’d wear her heart on her sleeve.

While she might’ve initially come off as cool and even a bit prickly, now that everyone knows her better it’s worked out quite nicely. In her mind, Mika analyzes how Yuzuki’s old classmates might’ve realized how special a girl she was and decided to tease her “just a little”—and feels a little guilty for at times being that kind of person herself.

Meanwhile, Sousuke is at cram school with Mukai, and even there he gets hounded by girls, much to Mukai’s chagrin.

When the evening rolls along, Mika says her goodbyes and takes her leave, as she’s going to go out to dinner with her family. But while on the elevator down to the exit, Nao-chan nails it on the head: there is no family dinner. It’s Mika’s turn to be analyzed—this time by Nao-chan.

She can tell that Mika keeps up with styling trends an clearly worked hard to get into Mitsumi’s school, but lacks confidence and is afraid of being hurt (much like Nao-chan herself at that age). Once outside, she tells Mika it’s not too late to go back inside and say she got the day wrong. Mika says that would be “cringe”, but Nao-chan points out that a little cringe can be endearing.

After cram school, Sousuke is about to go out to eat with Mukai, but gets a text and suddenly runs off. He meets Ririka at a family restaurant, thinking there would be other friends there, but it’s just her. She asks him to go on a walk with him. On this walk, she brings up Mitsumi, “the bob-haired girl”, whom she’s pegged as Sousuke’s “favorite”.

When he says they’re friends, Ririka laughs a cruel laugh, and says he’s always liked “circus acts.” Sousuke doesn’t hesitate to tell Ririka not to talk about his friend like that.

To this, Ririka’s mood sours. She tells him that just because four years have passed since the “controversy” doesn’t mean he has any right to a fun little high school life of his own. Back in the sixth grade, Ririka came along at Sousuke’s urging to the gathering where alcohol was being served, and now her life is under a microscope.

When Ririka wants Sousuke to walk her home while holding hands, the way they used to when they were little kids and child actors, it’s made clear that her interest in him goes beyond their long history. Furthermore, Sousuke clearly feels guilty about what went down with the drinking incident. It makes him servile towards her, and she’s willing to exploit that at will.

While Mika was wrong to be disappointed in Sousuke for chasing after models earlier in the episode, it’s clear there’s a part of him he’s keeping secret from Mitsumi, even as she’s a totally open book.

It’s true that she seems to be developing some deeper feelings for him that he may not feel he deserves to reciprocate. But that aside, they’ve demonstrated they can be open and earnest with each other. I wonder if this Ririka matter is something he’ll ever ask her about.

As Mitsumi has a classic sleepover with her three girlfriends (yes, Mika decided to take Nao-chan’s advice and return to the party. Good for her!), Sousuke lies in his dark, messy room, contemplating his messy past and Ririka’s harsh words. And we must contemplate whether Sousuke starts to put some distance between himself and Mitsumi, heeding Ririka’s warning that he’s not allowed to have a fun high school life. That would be a damn shame.

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – S2 07 – Staying Cool In a Bigger World

When the summer heat arrives, Tsukasa and Nasa realize that the air conditioner in their little home doesn’t work at all. Nasa naturally knows enough about air conditioners to quickly pick one out, get it delivered same-day, and install it.

He needs to borrow some tools from an old friend from middle school, Nakiri Ouka. As Tsukasa learns, Nakiri quite pretty herself, but she’s so shocked by the news that Nasa married, her reaction is extremely, rudely, hilariously delayed.

With the new A/C installed, Tsukasa and Nasa kiss and go to bed, but Tsukasa feels it’s too hot, so Nasa sets it to stay on for an hour. When 26 degrees ends up being too cold for both, he ups the temperature to 28 degrees.

When he does this, he sees that it’s still a bit too warm for Tsukasa, who has pushed away her covers in her sleep, so he lowers it to 27. Then Tsukasa wakes up, tells Nasa she loves him, and kisses him. Since this heats them both up, they reduce the temperature down to 26.5.

The next segment has nothing to do with air conditioning or temperature compromises, but involves a new character voiced by Kuno Misaki: Kagami Kyuuma. Kyuuma is a beautiful but presumptuous girl who is a bit of a space cadet.

When Kaname isn’t around, she pretends Tsukasa is Kaname, even asking if she’ll put her hair in pigtails. Tsukasa is put off by how pushy and odd Kyuuma is, but her opinion softens when Kaname arrives, Kyuuma rushes out to buy ice cream for them both, and Nasa reveals he knows her too.

Kaname all but admits she puts up with Kyuuma’s weirdness because she’s cute, but she’s also capable of kindness.

Finally, when Nasa returns to Nakiri’s to return the tools she lent him, she asks him about what’s good about married life. He tells her how his wife smells great, how she drinks warm water, and how being married has expanded his world immeasurably.

This all sounds great to Nakiri…who then starts thinking favorably about getting a wife of her own! We’ll see if he and Tsukasa end up inspiring Nakiri, like they did his former teacher, to expand her world too.

The Ancient Magus’ Bride – S2 07 – The Good With the Bad

While doing wall climbing in P.E. class, Rian remembers when Philomena helped him climb a tree. She knew exactly how to do it, how to tell him how to do it, and did it faster. She still exhibits climbing prowess in the present, but she smile she wore when Rian praised her is gone.

We learn that Elias makes himself invisible to sit in on Chise’s classes, which is a bit creepy, but I’ll give him a pass since he still lacks a good grasp on human behavior and boundaries. His fellow faculty member Adolf (Stroud, not Hitler) is old enough to remember coming home to Dresden after it was bombed into oblivion in WWII.

Elias wonders if having such memories is good or bad. As Chise is his official master, Elias is loath to absorb knowledge from others, but Adolf suggests he still try if he wants answers to such questions. Meanwhile, Lucy and Chise seem to be hitting it off, while Veronica asks (but doesn’t order) Philomena to try talking to Chise more.

Any efforts to grow closer to Chise are interrupted that night when a magical messenger falcon summons Philomena home to a gloomy castle. There, she’s greeted by spooky faceless guards in hoods with echo-y voices, and also teased by other young people calling her the child of a usurper, and her time at the College worthless.

The towering maid Alcyone is friendlier, as Philomena reports that a girl at the College sensed her presence. Alcyone tells her that even though their kind can mask themselves almost completely, there are still some mages out there who can smell the emotions and very souls of others; Chise must be one of them. Philomena still wants a countermeasure.

Within two minutes of entering her “grandmother’s” study, Philomena is smacked in the face with a cane for simply raising her head when not told to do so. She does so at the mention of a gift that her grandmother was “planning” to give her, but perhaps won’t. She reminds Philomena that she’s only allowed to attend the College due to Veronica’s “charity.”

The P.E. teacher, who seems to have transformed himself into some kind a water elemental through over-experimentation, is a lot more encouraging and supportive of his charge, in this case an Alice who is working her butt off to show Renfred that she can be useful.

Adolf, who despite being much older than Renfred considers him a senpai, shares a drink with him, knowing that the more he pushes Alice away, the more she’ll resist being pushed. Renfred knows Alice isn’t a child to be ordered around anymore, but doesn’t want her to end up like him or his dad.

The episode ends with some home ec cooking, followed by a rather sharp transition to a camping trip. The College’s curriculum includes such classes on top of P.E. so its students know how to survive and thrive in what can be a harsh and unforgiving world.

Chise demonstrates that her curse has endowed her with stamina on top of strength, impressing Lucy. She may need both, as someone or something is watching her from the brush…

Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible – 07 – Matching Pens

Shiraishi and Kubo return after about a three month delay, and I couldn’t be happier for another comfort-food series to watch early in the week. Kubo continues to indulge her crush by embracing destiny: it’s raining, and Shiraishi forgot his umbrella…but she didn’t.

While she qualifies their walking together under the same umbrella as an “experiment” to see if anyone notices him, the bottom line is she wants to walk under the same umbrella with him, so any story will do. He even makes their walk more intimate by picking a less busy route home (though he was simply trying not to be seen). But Kubo’s sister sees. Oh, she sees.

While out and about, Shiraishi spots Kubo’s cousin Saki carrying heavy bags. He offers to carry them for her, and to tell Kubo (whom Saki worships) that she carried them the whole way so she’ll be praised. While walking, Saki asks what kind of relationship Shiraishi has with Kubo.

While he says they’re merely “classmates”, not even going so far as to say friends, Saki can smell the bullshit. That’s reinforced when Kubo comes out to meet them, and makes Shiraishi prove he knows her first name, Nagisa, by saying it. She in turn calls him Junta. Saki’s right; they’re not “just classmates” anymore.

The next segment is one of the most relatable ones I’ve ever come across: not only did I use to disassemble my pens when I was bored in class, but the spring was my favorite part too! I love Kubo’s extremely perplexed expression, and how she makes lemonade out of lemons.

When Shiraishi loses the spring for his pen, she offers him one of hers, which he can keep. It has a cute rabbit-and-carrot motif, and also happens to exactly match the pen she’s using. And while she tells Shiraishi he can replace the cartridge, she swears she bought a second before she knew she could do that. A likely story.

The final segment is another relatable event: the ol’ high school sleepover with Kubo, Kudou, and Tama, complete with snacking, asking about one’s love life, and just generally enjoying each others’ company. With their second year arriving soon, there’s a possibility Kubo and her friends will be separated.

That means she and Shiraishi could also. He had considered this earlier in the episode, and seemed a bit blue about the prospect of no longer having her in his class to “find him”. But I doubt they’ll end up separated, and even if they do, they still live nearby and can find any number of other ways to spend time together.

Skip and Loafer – 07 – Usurpers

As Summer Break approaches, the third years have given way to their juniors, which means Mitsumi is now officially a secretary, and on her chosen path to become a public servant. There’s also a new student council president, but it isn’t Takamine Tokiko.

That’s not only a shock to Mitsumi, but to Tokiko herself, who has been dreaming of being president for years. Instead that position was claimed by former Soccer club president Kazakami Hiroto, for what seems to be flippant, opportunistic reasons to boot.

It’s a big blow to Tokiko, even if she tries to put up a brave front. Mitsumi wants to comfort her, but doesn’t want to patronize her. By watching Tokiko vicariously, Mitsumi realizes that even though hard work build builds confidence, we’ll never know if it will actually pay off until it does.

When Mitsumi tells Sousuke that her afterschool council duties consist of a lot of studying, he asks if he can join her. This shocks her, as it means he wants to spend time with her unbidden. Their study session is interrupted by Kanechika, who has decided to show someone the first movie he ever made.

It’s entirely self-made, as he had no friends, and it features a stolen tokusatsu plot and accidental cameos from his parents, and he’s embarrassed the whole time the others are watching. But he’d rather show it to them then keep it hidden forever.

Tokiko is inspired by Kanechika’s bravery and willingness to depart from his comfort zone in the service of personal growth. She stops moping over losing the presidency, which was in part due to how she presented to others, and applies her keen organizational skills to becoming more open, approachable, and laid back, starting with congratulating Kazakami.

The second half of the episode emphasizes that special time just before summer break, when boys and girls decide to put themselves out there and ask their crushes for contact info and/or on dates. Due to Shima’s looks and popularity, he’s constantly turning down girls he knows don’t want to be “just friends”.

This means others are commenting on Sousuke, even though Mitsumi would rather not hear about that. It’s clear that every time he’s speaking to another girl, even if he’s rejecting her, she feels a pang of self-consciousness and perhaps even jealousy. She also believes it was just “dumb luck” that they became friends, which I believe is selling herself well short.

Yuzuki, who may well have rejected a few enterprising lads (but we don’t get to see that), decides that their friend group should dedicate the summer break to girl time, doing high school girl stuff. She even points out that she, Mitsumi, Mika and Makoto make for a strange quartet considering how different they all are, but it works!

That said, Mika still sometimes feels like the odd girl out, in particular when it comes to Mitsumi. Strictly speaking, Mitsumi isn’t just a friend, but a rival for Sousuke. Having been a high schooler, it can be tough when a friend of yours likes the same girl(s) you do, so I related to Mika’s predicament.

It doesn’t help that Mitsumi’s relationship with Sousuke is shoved in Mika’s face when she returns to the classroom to grab something she forgot. Mitsumi and Sousuke are chatting as usual, and Mitsumi, quite accidentally, asks Sousuke if he wants to go to the zoo with her. In her mind, she wanted him to go with all of them, but out loud, it’s as if she’s asking him out.

When she realizes her error, Mitsumi is mortified, but both she and Mika are shocked when Sousuke says “sure”. After turning down dozens of girls, he’s quick to agree to hang out with Mitsumi. Mika walks away, clearly a bit dejected.

Then Sousuke gets a call from someone saying they’re at the school gate, and he suddenly runs off. Outside, Mika encounters this someone, a glamorous-looking girl in another school’s uniform. She asks Mika to show her to Sousuke’s classroom, where she encounters Mitsumi. Then Sousuke returns, tells her she can’t be there. Then he takes her by the arm and excuses the two of them.

Mitsumi calls the girl “unique”, but Mika educates her on just how unique: that girl is professional model Saijou Ririka, and the youngest-ever cover girl of a magazine she reads to keep up on beauty and fashion trends.

Is this another usurper—Sousuke’s secret girlfriend? Doubtful! It’s more likely she’s literally related to him (like a cousin) an old childhood friend, or someone he knows from the entertainment industry. Either way, I don’t think Mitsumi should feel threatened. But if she wants to break out her country bumpkin dialect more often, I won’t protest!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Ancient Magus’ Bride – S2 06 – Choosing Their Roles

When Chise asks Elias why he intended to make her his bride when they met, he’s literally saved by the bell. Unsure of how to answer such a question, but knowing that eventually he’ll have to, he reaches out to Renfred for advice. The thing is, Renfred considers Alice his daughter, not a prospective spouse. Alice overhears this, and is troubled.

That night, after the buses have stopped, Alice is picked up by Chise in Simon’s Citroën 2CV. The priest assumes they’re good friends, but at first the two girls are hesitant to define themselves as friends, but Simon notes how everyone defines and interprets things in different ways, then points out all of the ways they are indeed good friends, and they can no longer deny it.

Alice has a tasty dinner, prepared by Silky, at Chise and Elias’ house. There, she learns that Chise and Elias sleep in the same bed, but tonight, Chise will share her bed with Alice. In that bed Alice opens up about her current conundrum regarding Renfred.

Alice recalls the day Joseph paid them a visit. While Alice is ostensibly Renfred’s “bodyguard”, on that day he protected her, at the cost of his arm and the reopening of his face wounds by Joseph’s hand. She was too weak to protect Renfred then, and feels like she’s only grown taller, not stronger.

While she’s happy Renfred sees her as a daughter, she doesn’t want to think of him as a dad, since her established idea of a father is a worthless deadbeat, not and awesome mage. Her familiar Will pops up to tell her not to stress over nomenclature. If she wants to be his bodyguard first and foremost, she simply has to keep grinding towards that goal.

When talk turns to Chise’s relationship with Elias, Chise bashfully withdraws under the covers. It’s still a sensitive subject, simply because she hasn’t gotten an answer from Elias as to why he made her his bride. Fortunately, later that night when she climbs onto the roof, he’s there, having also not been able to sleep.

There, the two hash things out, more or less: Elias admits that making her both his apprentice and his spouse was a “convenient solution.” Chise says, in other words, he had certain roles for her in mind. Only different individuals define their roles in different ways. But labels, as it were, aren’t as important as the feelings and intent behind them.

Whatever her and Elias’ roles—husband and wife, apprentice and master—she’s happy when he’s with her. As for “happy”, she defines it quite eloquently as the state of being able to “make it through another day.” Having heard that definition, Elias tells Chise he’s happy he got to speak to her, and happy to take on the role of husband.

The next day at the College, Renfred scolds Alice for lollygagging when class is about to start, but she uses the opportunity to tell him that she rejects the role of daughter (and someone he must protect) that he has foisted upon her. She doesn’t want to be his “duty” or “job”, she wants to be his bodyguard.

To all this passionate yelling, Renfred responds by patting Alice on the head, tells her she’s still a child as long as she’s standing there shouting, and tells her if she wants to protect him, she’d better run along to class. It’s probably not how Alice wanted their talk to go, but at least she was able to convey some of her feelings to him.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Skip and Loafer – 06 – Every Now and Then

When Fumi reports that there’s a boy she likes, Mitsumi does a milk spit take. She then asks Fumi how she knows it’s love. Fumi gives all the usual answers: you find ways to be closer to him, but also worried about saying the right thing, to the point that sometimes you have to run away. Mitsumi feels left behind, and wonders if she’d recognize love if she experienced it.

That day, Sousuke is out sick. Mitsumi believes the timing is terrible, as the syllabus for the final exams will be distributed today. But when she texts him he tells her not to worry; he simply overslept. One of his friends from middle school says he’d often quietly skip when it didn’t bother anyone. Other girls in the class bring up all sorts of rumors about his playboy past.

Those rumors are churning through Mitsumi’s head that night, and she dreams of Sousuke arriving at school in a purple suit and bozozuku bike to ask her to hand in his notice of dropping out. The next day he’s not there for roll call, and Mitsumi seems genuinely low until he hears him come in late.

When they’re put to work stapling printouts after class, things are a little awkward. Sousuke asks if Mitsumi is mad at her. She’s not, but she’s concerned about him skipping school after hearing the things she heard. That gets Sousuke miffed, as he surely detests such rumors.

As such, when she says stuff like studying for final exams is important, he fires back “maybe for you,” which oddly echoes something she said to him when they first met. Mitsumi runs off blushing.

That night she finds it hard to study, as she ponders whether Sousuke held a grudge from way back on that first day. Sousuke stops by an actor friend’s house to ponder if he was holding a grudge, and asks his friend for advice. His friend is shocked, as this is the first time he’s sounded so serious about a girl before.

The next day, Mika instantly assesses Mitsumi’s situation: that she and Sousuke are having their first little tiff. That said, she doesn’t help her too much. Mitsumia and Sousuke are class officers together, she has ample opportunities to figure out the best way to make up. But she does tell Mitsumi if “she said what she wanted” at the time, there’s no reason to go back on it.

Mitsumi thinks on that, and determines that she didn’t say what she wanted to say. So after class she takes Sousuke aside. He tries to cut off a lengthy discussion by apologizing for coming off as harsh, which wasn’t his intention. She in turn, apologizes for getting on his case. She also explains the reason she did: the bottom line is that school is more fun when he’s around.

As she walks off, Sousuke moves without thinking and grabs hold of her wrist. And then he opens up about what’s going on at his home (it’s very “uninvolved” at the moment) and that he hated the idea of her believing stupid rumors about him. He tells her to ignore them, and she says she will, blushing as she does.

The palette of the scene brightens considerably as the clouds outside part and the mood improves, with Sousuke laughing about how he hasn’t “made up with someone so dramatically since grade school.” But that’s precisely the kind of pure earnestness you get when you’re friends with Mitsumi!

Mitsumi rebuts that it’s okay to do stuff like this “now and then”, and starts feeling things that seems similar to the things Fumi was describing about realizing she liked someone. When Sousuke gives her a sheepish smile and tells her she’s the first time he’s been “real friends” with a girl, her face gets even redder and she has to withdraw.

As she runs home at top speed, Mitsumi calls Fumi to declare that she believes you can feel “that way” about a friend too. But I’m not entirely convinced, and nor do I think Fumi will be, either.

If this is the episode where Mitsumi finally realizes she might like Sousuke as more than a friend, then it’s also the episode where she first denies it, in favor of maintaining their easy, breezy status quo.

However things turn out—and if they were to go in a romantic direction, I don’t necessarily see Sousuke being opposed—there’s one constant with these two: they are immensely fun to watch!

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 16 – The Next Generation

Eve’s Rainbow Shot not only beat Mizuho and Kaede and gained her and Aoi the All-Japan Girls’ Tournament trophy. It also cut through a memory block she’d had since she was eight years old. She remembers who she is and who her parents were. This causes Aoi’s mom Amawashi Seira to go down memory lane to when she, Amuro Reiya and Hodaka Kazuhiko were brought on as ambassadors for her father’s new golf company Athens.

The three were rivals in golf but friends in life—and in Seira and Reiya’s case, lovers. We learn that Amawashi intended for the leadership and legacy of Athens to carry on when he passed, so he decreeds that Seira would marry whichever man won a new Athens-sponsored Japanese leg of the pro tour. Reiya was was ahead of Kazuhiko until he suddenly collapsed and had to forfeit. Kazuhiko went on to the pro tour.

Seira is informing her father that she’s pregnant with Reiya’s child when a disheveled Kazuhiko returns. Her father wants her to get rid of the child, but Kazuhiko vows to marry Seira and raise Reiya’s child as if it were his own, including teaching it how to play golf. It’s an arrangement Seira’s father accepts. The child born is Aoi, and Kazuhiko is true to his word: both he and Reiya teach her their golf.

But the truth is, Aoi was led to believe that the wrong man was her father. Kazuhiko returns to Nafrece whenever he can to see his true love, Eleanor, and his daughter, Evangeline. Eve and her mother live a simple, quiet life. Kazuhiko teaches Eve golf, and comes to believe she’s even more talented than he is.

But while on a family luxury cruise, this family is shattered in a shipwreck. Kazuhiko and Eleanor perish at sea, but Eve washes ashore with a head injury and with amnesia. The rest we know: Eve ends up in a new family with Klein and Lily, works on-again, off-again as an underground golfer for Rose, and was finally able to rise out of that whole mafia mess and escape to Japan with her sweetheart and top rival, Aoi.

Hearing Eve say her father’s name is Hodaka Kazuhiko weighs on Aoi, until she finds Eve on a rooftop just as it starts to rain, and tells her that her father once went by Hodaka until he married into the Amawashi clan. If Kazuhiko was both their father, that makes them sisters. But Eve doesn’t believe it, and Aoi insists it’s true. Eve concludes if neither of them are lying, someone else is…and the only one of their of their parents still alive for sure is Aoi’s mom.

A rain-soaked Aoi confronts her mom that night, but Seira has lived this lie for nearly a decade, and isn’t about to own up to it now. She assures Aoi that Kazuhiko is her one and only father, and that her mother wouldn’t lie to her (even though she has been). In any case, Aoi needs to rest up; Seira has big plans for her to become the youngest tour pro.

Aoi begs her mother to let Eve play in that tournament too, unaware that many years before, the two most important ment in Seira’s life were pit against each other in a similar manner. But Seira forbids it; she now knows about Eve’s mafia entanglements, and wants neither Aoi, Athens, or the Awawashi brand anywhere near it.

Just when it looked like our golf girl sweeties were about to take the next step, everything seems to have blown up in their faces thanks to this new question of paternity. But one thing is certain: Aoi and Eve are but pieces in a game of chess their elders have been playing for too long. To flip the board over and start anew, they’ll need to cease being pieces.

In / Spectre – 24 (S2 Fin) – Naked Lunch

In/Spectre’s second season concludes with a wry and clever “quickie” episode—a case that doesn’t seem like a case at all, but simply two good friends regarding a doll-like young woman eating alone at an extremely pricey unagi restaurant. She’s a mystery, and mysteries keep Kajio up at night. He hasn’t been sleeping well since his wife Yukie died.

His bespectacled friend Jujoji serves Kotoko’s role for much of the lunch, theorizing about how rather than the victim of a random mugging, Yukie was actually murdered by Kajio. In fact, Jujoji feels oddly compelled to prosecute his friend because of the presence of the tiny mystery woman eating unaju alone, suggesting she may even be the avatar of Kokuzo Bosatsu, bearer of the sword of wisdom, keeping a slippery criminal (i.e. an eel) from slipping away.

The two friends laugh off their exchange, drink more, and part ways, but unbeknownst to Jujoji, Kajio chose to have lunch at a fancy unagi restaurant because he was actually going to turn himself in to the police for murdering Yukie, so no one else could have her. It is only after they part ways that Kotoko confronts him, and when he addresses her as Kokuzo Bosatsu, she assures him she has no connection to that particular deity.

No, she is confronting Kajio at the request of Yukie herself, who is now a ghost and thus able to communicate with the Goddess of Wisdom. The reason Kajio has been sleeping so poorly and felt a great weight isn’t out of guilt or regret—he’s incapable of that—but the actual physical haunting of his dead wife, who told Kotoko to tell him that turning himself in won’t relieve him of these symptoms.

Suddenly dispossessed from the illusion that he was on the mend, Kajio begs Kotoko to exorcise Yukie from him. But since Yukie isn’t breaking the natural order of things, but is merely exacting righteous retribution upon her asshole husband, Kotoko is disinclined to acquiesces to his request (as a fine pirate once said) and bids him good day.

This makes Kajio angry and resentful to the point of actually considering killing Kotoko in the same manner he killed his wife. However, before he tries anything, he makes the mistake of asking Kotoko what she was doing in a fancy unagi restaurant on her own, which she maintains was a mere coincidence.

So she tells him, in so many words, that she went there to eat unagi because it’s an aphrodisiac, and she’s staying at her boyfriend’s that night, and wants to have lots of great sex  with him and maybe get pregnant. Yes, the Goddess of Wisdom and Horniness disarms Kajio with her naked crassness.

Kotoko ends up surprising Kurou by showing up at the end of his shift, and after a stop at the grocery store, head to his place hand-in-hand. She tells him about her day, he calls her ruthless as usual, she says he’s working too long and hard, and it’s high time he give her something long and hard, hopefully tonight. It’s Iwanagi Kotoko at her most raunchily charming best, and as good a way as any to close the book on what is hopefully not the last season of In/Spectre!

Urusei Yatsura – 21 – Urusei Babies

This week we get a flashback to when Lum, Benten, Oyuki and Ran were being oppressed by their teacher when they were little tykes. Only their school is in space, their teacher is a robot, and they’re doing most of the oppressing with increasingly violent pranks. As a fan of Muppet Babies, it was great to see these characters as rugrats but still fundamentally themselves, and the all-star voice cast nails their younger versions, as you’d expect.

We also get a good idea about the group dynamics at this early stage in the four “friends'” lives: Benten is the aggressive ringleader, Lum enthusiastically goes along with her mischief, Oyuki doesn’t stop them but merely observes and keeps her hands clean, and Ran always tries and fails to stop them, and always faces the same consequences they do. We already see her fury-ridden alter-ego being forged.

In the present, the four girls are concerned when Oyuki reports that Planet Urchin is being redeveloped, because that’s where they left CAO-2-sensei—stuck and trapped alone on one of those spikes for the better part of a decade. Luckily for them, once he’s free all he desires to to clap them with chalk dust one last time before going on his way. That clapping does involve destroying the wall of their café, but this show rarely dwells on property damage.

The second segment is a little less inventive due to the return to earth (I love it when we’re out in space, and the alien and school designs are weirder), involving Ryouko deciding to make a voodoo doll of her brother …because she’s bored? When he realizes what she’s done he pulls his katana on her, which does him no favors.

Ryouko cannot resist the temptation to do horrible things to the Mendou doll (and thus Mendou himself), so she leaves it in the care of someone she believes she can trust to keep it safe: Ataru. Ataru wears it around his neck at all times because Ryouko asked him, but this is not great for Mendou, as Ataru takes a lot of punishment throughout an average day, and he feels everything Ataru feels.

Initially, Mendou acts to everyone like he’s suddenly being a stand-up guy dedicated to keeping his friends Ataru safe. But then he confirms that Ataru has the doll of him, and that makes Ataru aware of what the doll can do to Mendou. Mendou in turn, makes a doll of Ataru, and the two spar in the most pointless battle imaginable, in which they each dole out the exact same amount of harm to one another with every attack.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World – 09 – Restaurant: Possible

Alina comes to Mitsuha’s store requesting a consultation: Her family’s modest restaurant is under attack from a wealthier rival after Alina rejected his son’s advances (she only has eyes for her dad’s handsome apprentice). Mitsuha is happy for another consultation gig, so she takes the job on, while Princess Sabine mimics her every move.

The plan is 3-pronged: get the restaurant back up and running under the current staff, recoup the losses from the days it was closed, and thwart and deter any further attempts at sabotage from the competition. Mitsuha asks Alina’s dad to ditch the usual master-apprentice process and directly teach his apprentice and daughter how to make the necessary dishes.

Mitsuha also employs the maids who were her first customers to spread word that Paradise Restaurant is the only one in town that serves the vaunted “Yamano Cuisine.” She even hires the mercs Grit and Ilse to wait tables, something they’re all too happy to do after getting burned out from hunting. When the owner of the rival restaurant shows his face, Mitsuha is ready.

The rival owner rolls in with two royal guards in tow and with charges of wrongdoing, accusing Paradise of serving counterfeit Yamano cuisine. He’s brought Mitsuha’s apprentice, Mr. Marcel, to judge the quality of the food, a decision that ends up blowing up in his face when Mitsuha emerges from the kitchen and within minutes Marcel is in the kitchen helping out!

Before the rival owner can make any more objections to a situation already well out of his control, both the entire Bozes family and the King and Chancellor arrive at the restaurant; the former because they heard Yamano’s cuisine was being served, the latter because Sabine is working there.

The rival owner is arrested on suspicion of arranging the assault of Alina’s dad, and all’s well that ends well. Mitusha even enlists the king’s help matchmaking so Alina can get with the apprentice. She only makes a single gold coin, but considers it worth it because she had fun with her new friends. 80,000 gold may be the destination, but she’s enjoying the journey!

Urusei Yatsura – 20 – Never Break the Chain

UY spends a decent chunk offworld this week as we check in on Benten, who gets knocked out by mushroom gas and has the chain she wears like a sash stolen. After getting a bath at Lums (with Ataru nowhere in sight), the two head to Oyuki’s on Neptune, where she has a package for Oyuki.

It’s a VHS tape of all things, with what amounts to a diss track from three middle schoolers who aspire to be as cool and badass as Benten, Lum, and Oyuki. They are Ginger, Sugar, and Snake, and if nothing else they have decent video production and choreography skills. When Lum and Oyuki bristle at the idea they’re “punksters”, Benten reminds them they always followed her into trouble.

Benten races off (without the map to the duel), and is followed by Lum, who is there for her friend, and Oyuki, who wants to be compensated for the VCR and projector Benten smashed out of rage. They end up meeting the three little twerps in a popular cafe on Earth of all places. They produce Benten’s chain, run off, and basically tell their senpais to come and take it.

In the ensuing chase, we learn Sugar can turn invisible, Ginger can play dead, and Snake can shed her skin. But none of these things are enough against Lum’s flight and electricity, not to mention Benten’s brawn and Oyuki’s…well, Oyuki is just kind of along for the ride!

The chill’uns end up luring Benten, Lum, and Oyuki to a vacant lot where their “computer” SALT #1, a giant metal Big Boy mascot that computed their duel strategy, lands right on top of its targets, who are lucky to have been right below a pitfall. SALT #1 then runs out of juice, and when it is replenished with veggie oil, barfs up hundreds of seemingly identical chains and launches back into space.

But before it does, Benten, Lum, and Oyuki are stuck under its foot in very close quarters. In the heat of the battle, Lum melted Benten’s chain into ash, and while she’s guilty about it, she’s not about to own up to it, lest Benten in her fury take her most prized possession: Darling. So she electrocutes Benten, asking her what’s more important, her stupid chain, or her friends?

While Oyuki comes up with a beautiful and romantic theory about a fellow biker dude giving Benten the chain as a memento, the truth is far more mundane: the chain is the key to Benten’s house. This is why Benten was locked out of her home for ten days and had to bathe at Lum’s—she didn’t have a spare.

To add insult to injury, she unknowingly left her back door open, which allowed the brats to break in, produce another chain, and dare their senpais to give chase once more. But at this point Benten is home and happy, Lum is stewing in her underwhelm-ment, and Oyuki is sippin’ tea. Playtime’s over, punks! Go back to school!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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