Rent-a-Girlfriend – 17 – Sumi Can Communicate

Three days after Ruka spent the night, Kazuya shows some genuine personal growth by taking out the goddamn trashChizuru had the same idea, and their timing is so synced up he almost wallops her when he opens his door. When she brings up Ruka, he assures her nothing happened, but the fact is she did spend the night. Later, when Chizuru is reading lines, she can’t focus thanks to Ruka’s words that morning.

On top of wanting to clear up the misunderstanding, Kazuya learns from the app that Chizuru’s birthday is coming up. He wants to give her a gift that means something, and also to thank her for getting him his phone case—which as we know played a key factor in him declining Ruka’s advances. He knows he can’t ask Ruka or Mami for ideas, so on Chizuru’s birthday he books Sumi, the forgotten Rent-a-Girlfriend.

Sumi, as we know, overheard Kazuya yelling out his feelings to Chizuru in episode 1, but other than that and being at Chizuru’s performance, she’s been a ghost, which is a shame, because every time she gets the spotlight, I find myself wishing Kazuya would just open his eyes and make her his girlfriend. It’s painfully clear (to everyone but him) throughout their date that she likes him!

Not only that, while she’s quiet and shy (though very verbose via text), she’s also perhaps the most thoughtful, kind, and caring of the four girls. Despite having so much less screen time than the others (or maybe because of that) she just constantly gives off Best Girl vibes. And Kazuya notes that she’s really making progress as a rental girlfriend, which she no doubt attributes to his help.

Kazuya procrastinates to the very end of the date to ask Sumi what she thinks would make a good gift for Chizuru. And while Sumi momentarily seems gloomy being asked about another girl, she quickly gets over that and helps the boy who has helped her. In her distinctive, adorable style of communication of gestures, little noises, texts, and the occasional spoken word, she suggests various gift ideas, all of which Kazuya considers but feels none of them are quite the right fit.

Sumi seems to have a Eureka moment and takes Kazuya by the hand, out of the department store where their date took place, and onto the roof of another department store where a “Rent-a-Fighters” power rangers-style show is going on. When Kazuya hears the pink fighter talking he realizes it’s Chizuru, working her ass off at yet another job in order to make her dream to perform in front of her Gran come true.

Watching Chizuru in action and delivering rent-a-kicks and punches inspires Kazuya to a degree, as he decides to stop wallowing and power through his indecision. Before parting ways, Sumi also tells him that sentiment matters most when it comes to gifts; as long as it’s from the heart, any gift from him would make him happy. Sumi isn’t only speaking rhetorically, mind you, but Kazuya doesn’t pick up on the nuance of her text.

Even so, when Kazuya starts walking away, Sumi looks at the photos they took together, her eyes start to get glassy, and before Kazuya knows it Sumi has him by the sleeve. Having not thought this through, Sumi remains silent and blushing profusely for a good long time, but eventually asks Kazuya for his birthday. They part ways again, and Sumi immediately puts the date in her calendar—an opportunity for her to give him something from the heart. Her satisfied smile melted my already melted heart.

Chizuru comes home well after dark, on the phone with her Gran declining an offer of dinner as she’s just too wiped. She takes a shower, gets a text from her idol frenemy Chi, then goes out on her balcony and finds a bag with a “Happy Birthday” note from Kazuya, who slipped it there from his side.

It’s a heartfelt note, explaining why he’s giving her a gift and that it can alleviate fatigue, which is especially timely sentiment considering how tired Chizuru is in that moment. When she opens the box within the box and finds pickled plums, her first reaction is “…Why?” She then notices Kazuya’s postscript insisting nothing happened with Ruka, and she remembers how passionately he spoke to her about not giving up, and pops a plum in her mouth.

Now, if you’ve ever had a pickled plum (I highly recommend them) you know how powerful the flavor is. They’re sweet, salty, and above all oh so sour. It’s a flavor that brings a smile to Chizuru’s face, and it’s a good flavor to represent the complicated nature of her and Kazuya’s relationship. It’s not necessarily comfort food, but slight discomfort food, giving you the kick you need when you need it.

Poor adorable Sumi doesn’t stand a chance, does she? T_T

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 16 – Turtle Curry

Kazuya is convinced Mami is going to let him have it now that she knows Chizuru was a rental girlfriend, but to his shock she’s nice. She’s worried she “pushed him” to this, something he denies, and says instead it was a kind of “social experiment”.

Mami leaves him saying he shouldn’t waste his time and money on fake girlfriends, but doesn’t believe a word he says otherwise. She knows something’s up, and while she calls him a loser, she wouldn’t be bothering with him at all if she didn’t still care about the lug.

From there, it’s a Ruka episode, which is always a delight because how there’s a simplicity to her dynamic with Kazuya. He fully appreciates what a stunningly cute young woman she is, but doesn’t have feelings for her the way he does for Chizuru, so even though she’s willing to be his real and actual girlfriend, it just doesn’t quite feel right for Kazuya.

That said, Ruka has the time of her life shopping and cooking curry wth expensive soft-shell turtle (a known aphrodisiac) for the one she loves. She clearly prepared for this, and the show doesn’t cop out by making her a terrible cook. The curry is damned good, and also works downstairs, if you catch my drift.

Kazuya knows he should be perfectly content eating, watching TV, and eventually getting down to some hanky-panky Ruka has already made clear she’s ready for whenever he is. She even sends a text saying she’s staying at a friend’s so she can spend the night, which she sees as only fair.

After all, she let Kazuya go on rental dates with Chizuru. If Kazuya is going to allow her to frame their relationship as near-as-makes-no-difference legitimate, that means he owes her. Mother Nature tends to agree, sending a dousing typhoon to cancel all the trains and keep Ruka right where she is.

After she takes a shower and changes into his baggy shirt (and not the pants he offered), Kazuya can already barely take it, so when he’s in the shower he rubs one out for some “clarity” on the situation. Not helping matters is how loud Ruka tends to be with Chizuru right next door. Also not helping matters is when Ruka digs through her purse and a condom pops out…”just in case.”

That night he sleeps on the floor of the kitchen, worried that he’s caused Ruka to act this aggressive to compensate for the stress his stuff with Chizuru is causing, but he’s focused on simply getting through the night. That becomes incredibly more difficult when Ruka snuggles up behind him, giving him the chance to do whatever he wants, which is what she wants too.

It’s the sight of the phone case Chizuru gave him that stops him from turning over. But when Ruka starts going on about how he must not think she’s attractive enough, or that she’s being too clingy or a pain or a bother, he gets up and sets her straight: he’d never cal her bother, she’s so cute he can’t take it, and hearing her say he likes her makes him want to jump for joy.

He just doesn’t want to make a “terrible mistake”. Ruka, understanding, retreats to her bed, but falls asleep happy thanks to all the nice things Kazuya said. The next morning, before kissing him goodbye, Ruka says those works made her feel like she could stay by his side, so she will. She also makes sure Chizuru overhears her yelling about their amazing night together, which Chizuru definitely overhears from the other side of her door.

I know Chizuru is the girl Kazuya is supposed to end up with, and he clearly has strong feelings for her, every time Ruka gets her chance (which is rare) to offer a viable alternative route, she sure doesn’t squander it. The production also doesn’t skimp on the detail needed to up the intimacy levels of their scenes, and Touyama Nao’s warm, singsongy, expressive voice fits Ruka’s energy perfectly.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 15 – Hello Neighbor

Chizuru lost her key at some point during the evening, and the landlord is out, so she invites herself into Kazuya’s apartment. To do exactly what Kazuya is not sure, but as you’d expect of our horny jackass protagonist, he has a lot of thoughts on the matter, culminating in him almost asking if she wants to spend the night at his place.

He fails to realize that might not even be a last resort for Chizuru, and that there are other resorts to explore, like whether she left her back screen door open. That said, getting around to her side to look is awkward at best and dangerous at worst. Luckily Kazuya is there to keep her from falling; unluckily he grabs her bum, then they both lose their balance and he ends up on top of her again, just as Mami rings his doorbell.

This is when the potential of the classic sitcom “hide one person from the other person” scenario nearly reaches full flower, especially as Kazuya failed to lock the door after Chizuru came in. The two of them hide in the kitchen helplessly as Mami rings again, opens the door, looks in, assumes Kaz has gone shopping…and leaves.

After both Kazuya and Chizuru breath a sigh of relief, the recriminations begin: Why, Chizuru wants to know, is Mami popping by his place at 11 PM? He doesn’t know, but it may have something to do with her talk with Chizuru on that bridge, which she’s unaware he overheard. Regardless, Mami is well on her way home when she realizes she saw a fancy girl’s purse in Kazuya’s apartment, and her eyes go dead. So this isn’t over!

Kazuya and Chizuru return to where they were before Mami arrived, which is exactly how to deal with the situation of Chizuru being locked out. But then she sees the light in the landlord’s is on, so she heads down there. That’s when Kazuya remembers her gran’s words and tells her straight-up that she can always come to him, her neighbor, if she needs help and can’t ask family or friends.

That’s when Chizuru partially drops her armor and tells him that other than her hospitalized gran, she has no other family. She promised her late gramps that she’d become and actress, and so she’s following that dream with everything she can, including working as a rental girlfriend to pay for that dream. She tells Kazuya she’s “not that special”, just a normal girl chasing a childish dream.

Clearly moved by her opening up, Kazuya proceeds to let her know a little more about his family situation, and how he doesn’t really have a dream like hers, but nevertheless has a future lined up taking over the family shop. He doesn’t mean to brag, only to acknowledge that he’s lucky, and to reiterate that no matter how she might value or de-value herself, he wants to be by her side.

Adding “forever” at the end of his statement was probably not the best idea! Still, Chizuru says if he wants to stay by her side, she can’t very well refuse…amending that at the end by saying that’s a “rental girlfriend’s job.”

While pure luck brought Chizuru into his home, and their initial interactions were awkward, their evening ends having grown just a little closer to each other. Kazuya saw a little bit of the Chizuru her grandmother described, as well as the Chizuru that is receptive to being cared for. Kazuya hasn’t experienced the pain and loss she has or worked remotely as hard as she has for his future, but he can empathize. She’s not just a hottie; she’s a person he wants to support, labels be damned.

The next day at college, Kazuya crosses paths with Chizuru and is fully prepared to pretend they don’t know each other, per their agreement. But Chizuru, clutching her books, loosens one hand into subtle good morning wave, and acknowledgment that they do in fact know each other. That little gesture makes his entire day, and as he’s making copies and he imagines the copies are photos of her, it’s clear to him and us he’s “down bad” like never before.

So naturally, Mami sidles up to him from behind asking him what’s up, and his outsize reaction to her sudden appearance would automatically make anyone suspicious. Looks like we’re in for a bit of Mami and Ruka cooking time next week.

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 14 – The Usual Is Ideal

Kazuya isn’t quite sure what he’s doing, but he wants to support Chizuru in her pursuit of acting, and he’s also pretty sure he loves her. Booking her every week will certainly support her financially, but when she tells him it’s a bit much and there’s “nothing in it for him”, it reminds him that their rental girlfriend-client relationship is purely transactional as far as she’s concerned.

Nevertheless, Kazuya is serious about supporting her, so much that he bows before Ruka and basically asks her to let him keep going on rental dates with Chizuru. Ruka, who is saintly in her patience of this dude, agrees as long as she gets to accompany him to Chizuru’s play to see if she’s really that great an actor. As for their rental date, Kazuya asks Chizuru to drop the act, as his “ideal” of her is the real Chizuru he knows.

I don’t know if hearing that makes Chizuru happy or what, but I do know that after their date is over and they part ways, she walks right back up to him, not as his rental date, but as Chizuru, and they continue hanging out. But when they go to the batting cages, it’s because Chizuru wants to blow off steam without being hit on by other guys. Kazuya is her shield, but his reward is getting to see her athletic side, along with her home run smile and full force of her high-five.

We then learn that the batting cages were also to kill time before going to visit her grandma, who is back in the hospital. Chizuru knows her gran likes Kazuya (not to mention still believes they’re actually dating), and while she takes a good long time replacing the water in the flowers, it affords Kazuya and her gran another chance to talk about stuff.

When Kazuya says he saw Chizuru’s play and thought she was amazing, and goes on to say she’s incredible and strong while he’s just a burden, Chizuru’s gran can’t help but laugh. She’s known Chizuru a lot longer, so she knows the real real Chizuru is, at the end of the day, a somewhat lonely, needy girl who loves acting and praise, and covers up those weaknesses with an “armor of ice.”

Gran knows that someday that armor won’t be enough for her granddaughter, and she’ll need someone who “sees her for who she is,” and solemnly asks Kazuya to be that someone. Kazuya, for all his issues, at least prefers the genuine Chizuru to her distant, performative rental persona, and now knows that even that version of Chizuru he believes to be so strong is just like him; always beset by and trying to hide her weakness.

Kazuya is also serious about not letting Gran down about being there for Chizuru, even if not as a real boyfriend. I can’t help but question his credibility to do so when he can’t even manage to toss his used tissues in the dustbin. But that also means there’s plenty of room for growth.

As Chizuru appears at his door to declare she’s lost her key and a preview involving Mami at his door too, next week looks to be a sitcommy scenario, but I hope the more serious matters explored this week aren’t left by the wayside.

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 13 (S1 E01) – The Play’s the Thing

After an efficient recap of where the four girls currently stand in the story, we return to Kazuya’s filthy flat (seriously dude, clean it the fuck up!), lamenting the “countdown to ruin”—Chizuru’s big acting break that will lead to her being discovered by a big-deal director and quitting her rental girlfriend gig.

He decides to buy a ticket to Chizuru’s play as “moral support”, but also wonders if he simply wants to watch the beginning of the end of his relationship with her. Sumi spots him, but before she can say anything the lights go down, the curtain comes up, and Kazuya gets a lot more than he bargained for.

Watching Chizuru perform as a completely different person—in this case a puckish kunoichi—is a revelation for Kazuya. He’s taken on an emotional roller coaster as Chizuru grabs the entire audience in her hand and doesn’t let go. She’s magnetic, clearly the “MVP” of the play. He’s so stunned by the end he doesn’t move from his seat for a while. Sumi, who can probably tell why, leaves him be.

But while he, Sumi, and indeed I truly thought Chizuru stole the show in which she wasn’t even the lead, her performance doesn’t lead to the opportunity she’d planned. Turns out the famous director is basically the lead actress’ damn uncle, and gives her the role. Even though she was a victim of nepotism, Chizuru thinks she wasn’t good enough.

Kazuya leaving the theater in no particular hurry combined with an upset Chizuru skipping the wrap party means the two inevitably bump into each other on the streets. Kazuya quickly owns up to coming to see her perform, and is extremely effluent in his praise. He also accepts the fact that this probably means the end of their rental dating.

When Chizuru explains that things didn’t work out and then puts on a brave happy face, Kazuya at least realizes that she’s trying to keep her frustration bottled up. But he’s not going to let her say she’s “just like him” in getting “too worked up” about acting, because her rental girlfriend gig is proof she does have talent, and plenty of it.

Chizuru’s attitude suggests she’s ready to throw in the towel and face reality, but Kazuya suspect she doesn’t want to, and also doesn’t think she should. If she needs to keep funding her dream of acting, then he’s going to keep hiring her to be his rental girlfriend, getting a job to pay the fees.

Chizuru is recalling Kazuya’s words when she comes home and sits in the dark, and then she gets a call from the lead actress who got the role thanking her for “warming up the crowd”, twisting the dagger and sending the cork on the bottle of her tears shooting across the room.

That said, her tear-filled eyes are suddenly reflecting the light of her phone, which just alerted her to a whole slew of new bookings from Kazuya, putting his money where his mouth is and adding financial support to his moral support. While she calls him a dumbass as usual for going to such lengths for her sake, the gesture doesn’t fail to bring a smile to her face and color to her cheeks.

I said in my review of the first season finale that if a sequel of RaG was made, it would be the girls who’d bring me back, since Kazuya was mostly an infuriating pest of an MC. Well, that sequel has now arrived two years later, and while Kazuya continues to keep a pigsty of a place and harbor a lot of misunderstandings, he’s…not that bad in this episode!

Ruka would probably disagree, seeing as how he continues to utterly ignore her, but that’s for another episode. Here Chizuru clearly stole the show, and Kazuya did what he could to make her feel better and encouraged her not to stop dreaming after one setback. He was a pretty good fake boyfriend! Now, keep it up!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 09 – All Aboard the Friend-Ship

Don’t get me wrong: I like Izumi, and feel he’s both delighted and transcended his male damsel-in-distress archetype. That said, it’s not his name on he show, so to have a whole episode where he’s basically in bed sick is a great opportunity to explore Shikimori’s other relationships, starting with Inuzuka.

Inuzuka has known Izumi far longer than Shikimori, and so when you factor Shikimori’s need to compete in everything, that disadvanage is a sore spot. Thankfully, by spending some time with her (and due to the sleuthing of Hachimitsu) he learns she doesn’t just see him as some kind of rival, but that she often projects her big brother on him.

It’s gratifying that while Shikimori is initially competitive and pouty, she ultimately chooses not to usurp Izumi’s wishes for Inuzuka, not her, to take his notes and visit him while he’s sick. She can rise above those more possessive aspects of her personality.

After the Inuzuka segment, the episode becomes a tribute to girlfriends, i.e. girls who are friends. Nekozaki shines as she and Shikimori spot Kamiya at the bookstore. She invites Kamiya to join them in hanging out and Kamiya accepts, which makes Nekozaki’s day as she’s always wanted to get closer.

Little does she know how close Shikimori and Kamiya already are thanks to their shared adoration for Izumi and their intense rooftop encounter, and after returning from the bathroom she assumes the two became instant best buds in her brief absence.

The truth is that they’d already become closer on that rooftop, but hadn’t quite had the opportunity to build upon that moment to expand a relationship for which there was no reason not to become more of a friendship. Nekozaki is a useful facilitator for that purpose here.

In a wonderful segment, Shikimori and Kamiya team up against two aggressive but also highly virtuous gyarus on the basketball court, mopping the floor with the former high school champs with ease thanks to some baller teamwork. The power of friendship is on full display, but since it’s two-on-two Nekozaki is the odd woman out, and plays referee.

The girls’ bond is revealed to Nekozaki first by watching the two interact at the mall and now play together on the court. Nekozaki heard the chatter from other classmates establishing Kamiya as either a stuck-up/aloof cool beauty or a tragic loner, but the Kamiya she watched today seemed nothing like that externally-manufactured concept.

Later, when Nekozaki is walking with Kamiya, she wonders what or who brought about this change, because from Nekozaki’s perspective, it looked like Kamiya was carrying some pain. Kamiya isn’t quite ready to say who, but she will say that that person told her to treasure what she feels.

Kamiya apologizes for never saying yes to Nekozaki’s many offers to hang out in the past. But being the sweetheart she is, Nekozaki apologies right back for coming off as a little pushy about it. Nekozaki did it not just because she sensed Kamiya’s hurt, but also because she recognized Kamiya was a person it would be an honor being friends with.

Nekozaki is perfectly fine letting Kamiya take her time discovering more of her feelings, and when she’s ready, Nekozaki will be there to hear her or be a shoulder to cry on. Nekozaki wants nothing more than for Kamiya to smile from the bottom of her heart. That desire is at the heart of friendship … where everyone is welcome aboard and no one goes overboard.

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 08 – Stroke of Noon

Izumi learns a lot of new things about his library buddy Kamiya during their quiet library rest area shifts…except what she’s thinking the whole time. That she’s an idiot for “waiting around” and not taking the initiative when he was still single; that she’s a bad person for having such feelings for someone whose heart belongs to another.

When Nekozaki asks if they can trade numbers, Kamiya does so with her usual quiet smile, but holds on just a little bit before letting it go: a wonderfully animated moment. Shikimori notices that hesitation, and also a measure of the pain hiding behind Kaimya’s smile. Kamiya’s face does a lot of heavy lifting this week.

Kamiya puts her hair up returns to her fawning fans, but soon the din of praise and speculation about her grows deafening, and she just can’t be there anymore. The cool beauty is overheating in that gaggle, and especially doesn’t want to hear people praise her when she feels like the biggest, worst loser ever.

Kamiya is soon joined on the roof, under a cloudy sky that matches her mood, by Shikimori, who offers back the number along with an apology. Now that she knows how Kamiya feels, trading with her feels cruel, and she doesn’t want to be cruel to anyone who likes Izumi, because no one who likes who she likes could ever be bad.

We’ve seen jealous Shikimori before, but Empathetic Shikimori is a far superior mode. While admitting she might seem “high and mighty”, she owns that 100% and assures Kamiya that nothing of what she’s feeling is wrong, and she shouldn’t feel compelled to bottle it up or throw it away for her sake.

Suddenly faced with the second person not to put her on a pedestal but simply let her be her (after Izumi, a large part of his appeal for her), Kamiya is overcome and lets those feelings flow out, sobbing uncontrollably. Shikimori does what you’d expect her to: draw the taller Kamiya into a warm, supportive hug.

Kamiya walks away from the experience glad that Izumi is with someone like Shikimori, and ready to move forward not in denial but in full acknowledgement of her feelings for him. But later that night, after the after-party when Izumi gives Shikimori a birthday/anniversary present, Shikimori feels weary.

She’s not weary specifically of Kamiya, but she’s a symptom of a larger problem on the horizon that she fears: that so many people will see what she’s seen in him all along, he’ll drift further and further away from her. She doesn’t want him to change, but she’s worrying too much.

Izumi credits much of his change for the better to Shikimori, and he’s not done changing and getting stronger she she can smile and relax and not worry about a grand piano falling out of the sky and onto her boyfriend. Hearing that he wants the exact same she does makes her start bawling like a baby.

One might think this means Izumi is singularly capable of tearing down Shikimori’s badass poise, but they’d be wrong. Shikimori is cool precisely because she’s not afraid to cry big sloppy tears over her love of Izumi. It’s a new high point for this pair of splendidly sweet, honest lovebirds.

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 07 – Kamiya-san Is Curious

The studio had an Izumi-style run of luck, enduring a Covid outbreak that delayed the episode, but Shikimori picks up without missing a beat, as the school culture fest commences. Last year Izumi and Shikimori had the same duties, but this time they’re separated as their class runs an animal-themed café.

Still, it doesn’t take long for them to come together as Izumi inevitably slips on a napkin and the Shikimori the bunny has to save Izumi the lion. While walking home after a busy first day, the two commit to spending the afternoon of the second day together.

It has to be the afternoon because both of them are busy in the morning: Shikimori with the café, and Izumi on library duty. He’s relieved to learn that his partner isn’t a stranger, but Kamiya, who has always been friendly and kind to him in their past library duty interactions.

As we enter the cultural festival stage of many anime series this season, Kamiya seems aware of the “magic” that leads to a surge of new couples. She’s uncharacteristically restless, and even delivers a wall slam to Izumi as she brings up his girlfriend Shikimori and wants to know how they met.

Izumi, who quite incorrectly assumes Kamiya likes Shikimori, obliges, telling her they got together thanks to that same culture fest magic. Last year, the numbers they got at the entrance matched, which was a rare fortunate moment for Izumi, as he had planned to ask her out during the festival.

After walking around and enjoying the festival in the clouds, when the time comes to take their photo (which legend has it bonds the matched couples together forever) Izumi loses his number. But Shikimori won’t let him give up, so they look for it. They come up empty, but put up a passionate united front in insisting the president let them have their picture taken anyway. The Prez can tell these two are keepers, and gives an exception.

The rest is history: Izumi asks Shikimori out behind the gym, and Shikimori’s response is a gorgeous, passionate embrace. Back in the library, Izumi apologizes for rambling on, but Kamiya is well and truly moved, striking an elegant pose that conceals what must be pained eyes.

While we’ve seen very little Kamiya so far, it’s been clear through her subtle glances at Izumi that she likes the guy, always has, and rues the fact she missed her chance. As amazing as Kamiya acknowledges Shikimori to be, she’s clearly frustrated Shikimori beat her to the punch.

It helps that Kamiya is an instantly likeable character, statuesque and noble and popular with both guys and girls, but not afraid to show another side to Izumi. Fukuhara Ayaka also lends her a wonderfully husky voice that’s lower than Izumi’s. We’ll see where this triangle goes as the festival continues.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 06 – There’s Always This Year

Izumi is still recovering from the sunburn he incurred at the river, but he’s still not missing the fireworks festival for the world. Shikimori says yes before he can even ask her to join him, and to his credit he doesn’t invite their other friends; this is a Capital-D date. Turns out Shikimori gets a little tangled up with her obi, but her brother helps her out. It’s a side of her we don’t often see.

Izumi comes fully prepared for a number of potential mishaps (including three separate wallets!) but nothing goes wrong as he gets to behold Shikimori in all her majestic pink glory. They take in the sights, and Izumi gets some cotton candy. It’s a bit too sweet for Shikimori, but she’s come around on sweet things since she and Izumi started dating.

When Izumi tries and fails to win a wolf plushie for Shikimori, she takes the rifle and vows to give it a try, engendering a chuckle from the attendant. She quickly avails him of his sexist belief by flashing the eyes of a huntress and shooting not only the wolf but everything else on the shelves. Her serious look is followed up by one of her biggest, sweetest smiles.

After spending a bit (but not too much) time with Neko, Inu, and Yui, misfortune strikes, but it’s Shikimori, not Izumi, on the receiving end: the strap of her sandal breaks. Izumi is able to fix it, but her feet end up covered in blisters. Izumi admits he wanted to take her somewhere special to view the fireworks, but it’s a bit of a walk and he doesn’t want her walking anymore. So he stoops down and tells her to hop on his back.

That’s right: Izumi may not look it but he’s pretty strong; certainly strong enough to carry his squeeze the required distance to the secluded spot. Shikimori is initially worried she’ll “snap him in two”, but she’s not as heavy as she thinks, nor is Izumi as weak as she thought. It’s a wonderful reversal for a show that so far has Shikimori providing most of the muscle. Izumi is unlucky, but not inept, and quite capable when it counts.

Sure enough, they’re all alone up at the top of the shrine grounds, and have a seat at a bench perfectly positioned for viewing the remainder of the fireworks. Shikimori has never seen them live, and Izumi admits that last year he was to scared to ask her to see them.

They were just friends at the time, and he was worried it would ruin what they had. Turns out Shikimori was waiting that whole night for him to call and invite her! But it doesn’t matter whether they didn’t go together last year. They’re there now, together, and they’ll be back next year.

As for the long walk back down those steps, Izumi doesn’t get far without slipping and falling with Shikimori on his back. Fortunately, his very stealthy dad swoops in Shikimori-style to save them both. Turns out Izumi’s folks came to the same spot to view the fireworks, and were sitting on a blanket just behind the lovebirds. Izumi’s dad was once strong enough to carry four people according to his mom, so he and Shikimori are no problem.

All in all, it’s another solid, sweet outing for our purple-and-pink-haired power duo. I feel an opportunity was missed for a kiss, or transition to a first-name-basis, but it was otherwise such a lovely time I really didn’t mind.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 05 – River Dance

Exams are over and summer break is here, so the gang takes the train to the river for a day of sun and fun…but not too much sun, since they don’t want their boy Izumi to die. Shikimori and Izumi are their cute selves throughout, while Neko and Inu continue to put out good vibes with the ever-sardonic Hachimitsu in the center.

The quintet preps food for some barbecue, and everyone is shocked by Izumi’s impressive knife skills. When Shikimori makes some ajillo (Spanish garlic shrimp) just for her him, Izumi learns she’s not perfect at everything … but he still eats as much as he can like a good bae because he knows how much heart she put into it.

After Izumi makes everyone S’mores the gang hits the river…though Shikimori briefly holds Izumi back to say they should have them again just the two of them some time. They test the water, which is nice and cool, then Shikimori lets Izumi out of her sight for just a moment, during which time he rescues a little girl being carried off by the current.

Once the girl is safe, Izumi’s foot cramps up, and then he is carried away. Shikimori spots him, and while everyone else panics she dives straight into the water and fishes him out. She’s furious he didn’t call for him to help, but can’t stay mad at him considering he may have saved a little girl’s life, for which she later thanks him with a kiss on the cheek.

Despite the girl being in grade school, Shikimori is still jealous, so when the gang gets gelato, she makes sure she at least gets an indirect kiss when Izumi tastes her cone. She’s about to taste his when Inu comes out of nowhere and gobbles it up. She in turn houses his gelato, and then gets horrible brain freeze, yet still claims victory in her agony.

On the train ride home, one by one everyone falls asleep…except for Izumi. Even Shikimori nods off and rests her head on his shoulder. Izumi reflects on how much fun he had, specifically because he was with Shikimori his friends. He doesn’t take any of it for granted. And when he nods off and Shikimori comes to, she places his head on her shoulder.

Aside from the near-drowning, it was just about as a perfect day by the river as the gang could ask for. Watching them goofing off, having fun, and being just great kids in general really brings all the warm feels.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 04 – Anywhere is Fine

Izumi, always sensitive to the heat and sun, is struggling on the roof where his friends have gathered to discuss plans for summer break. Not only do I salute these kids for being on top of things—how many times are anime are summer breaks wasted due to lack of communication? Enter Shikimori, who surprises him by touching his face with a cold sports drink.

Hachimitsu also offers him some space under her parasol. This notably doesn’t worry Shikimori, as “it’s just Hachimitsu”, i.e. not someone trying to steal her Izumi! As for where they’re going for break, they decide on the river, as the beach would prove too much for Izumi. They make it clear they’re not compromising on his account; they want to go somewhere where everyone will have fun.

Nekozaki Kyou, the energetic heart of the friend group whom I find myself loving more and more as the series progresses, decides that despite it just being the river, everyone should wear swimsuits. So instead of studying for upcoming final exams, she brings everyone out shopping. When Izumi says he probably won’t be swimming, she says she’s fine not buying a swimsuit.

…That is until she spots Izumi gazing a tad too intently on a poster of a swimsuit model in a skimpy black bikini. While Izumi is simply admiring her muscles (confirming that Izumi has a type) Shikimori races to the swimsuit store and finds the same bikini…but is hesitant to purchase it. Nekozaki seconds that, and assure her she and Hachimitsu will find her one that suits her.

Nekozaki can tlel when Shikimori’s fiery competitive spirit and hatred of losing rears its head; it’s what ended up being the icing on the cake for why she made it a point to become friends with Shikimori. She already had a girl-crush on her for being her idea of a perfect, pure, ideal woman, and then they played one hell of a passionate basketball game, and Nekozaki simply couldn’t stay on the friendship sideline a second longer.

I’m of the mind that Nekozaki is selling herself far too short, and that Inuzuka would be lucky to have her as a girlfriend. I know “Inu”zuka and “Neko”zaki indicate an incompatible dynamic (cats and dogs, oil and vinegar), I think if they’re honest with each other they’d make a good couple. Their sniping at each other feels like a practiced act.

Once the girls rejoin the guys in the food court, Izumi notices how excited Shikimori looks and asks her what she bought. When Shikimori says nothing, he knows she’s lying. Nekozaki saw Shikimori have Izumi in the palm of her hand earlier, but here the tides have turned; there are plenty times when she’s in his palm. It’s why they work so well as a couple.

The first day of finals arrives, and Izumi has a particularly cursed day, even for him; ending with Shikimori is pulling him away from an angry (tiny) dog (shades of the excellent video gamey ED). Later, Izumi is lamenting being unable to study properly when Shikimori gives him a call simply to hear his voice.

Night calls between girlfriend and boyfriend are often veritable fonts of big time feels, but this scene is the cream of the crop. The two sitting in their rooms in the dark, connected by the starry night sky. Izumi tells her about his love of the stars, but how he never got a chance to stargaze as a kid due to it always being cloudy when he wanted to.

When Shikimori assures him she’ll take him somewhere to see the stars, Izumi brings up the fact she lobbied for them to go to the river rather than the beach, and states his desire to take her somewhere she wants to go. The thing is, Shikimori is fine with anywhere as long as he’s there.

The two spout so many sweet somethings to each other, and they both want to desperately see each other’s faces—completely forgetting the fact that video calls are a thing. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most adorable and heartwarming moments yet between these two desperately beautiful, loving souls.

In the after-credit omake, Shikimori is at a cooking class with Izumi’s beautiful but accident-prone mom. She’s naturally nervous around Izumi’s mom, considering looks-and-kindness-wise she’s basically an older female version Izumi.

As such, the scene is humming with romantic tension, especially when Izumi’s trips while bringing Shikimori a left-handed knife, and Shikimori catches the knife with one hand and Izumi’s mom with the other. If mama didn’t already know Shikimori is far more than just a cutie, she sure as heck knows now!

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 03 – Not Clowning Around

It’s been established that Yuu is accident-prone, but his misfortunate is mitigated by the fact he has a cute and amazing girlfriend in Micchon, made only cuter by the fact she frets so much about what to wear on their first movie date together. It’s as if she isn’t aware that she’d look good in anything, even her comfy home sweats. Oh, also, she has a brother.

Micchon settles on a cute collared one piece dress and Mary Janes. She’s also early, knowing Yuu might be delayed by various unlucky occurrences. When it comes time to pick a movie, she tells him whatever he likes is fine, but he wants to learn more about her, so insists that they watch what she wants. Unfortunately for him, it’s a scary clown movie!

Micchon admits that movies like this scare her, so Yuu learns that yes, she does feel fear! But Yuu is more outwardly scared by the film, so while he goes in fully prepared to comfort Micchon if she gets scared, it’s her who takes his trembling hand into hers and calms him down (and keeps him conscious).

Yuu saved up so that he could get fancy pancakes with Micchon, but then misfortune strikes when he notices the string he tied to keep from losing his wallet snapped. But then good fortune befalls them when his adorable parents invite them to a feast at home. As with the movie, Micchon is excellent at hiding her nervousness, but assures Yuu that she can’t not be when she’s in the home of the one she loves.

Micchon also learns that Yuu gets his unlucky streak in part from his mother, as she must catch an errant fork headed for Yuu’s face and then catch a wet dish his mom drops. His mom seems oblivious to where he gets it from. I love how Micchon instantly starts calling Yuu’s parents mom and dad, and how his mom gives her more insight into his unlucky past.

When she says she hopes Micchon won’t “grow impatient” with Yuu, Micchon tells her that her belief that Yuu’s unluckiness is why he’s so kind and caring, because he understands pain better than anyone. Micchon has never once felt impatient or thought that Yuu was trouble; if anything, it’s an honor to support and protect such a beautiful soul.

Her heartfelt words are enough to make Yuu’s mom blush. In an anime world where parents are either dead, off at work or at odds with their kid or their choice of partner, it’s nice to see Yuu in a loving home and to see Micchon get along famously with his parents.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 02 – Sending Good Vibes

It’s sports festival time – the perfect opportunity for Shikimori and Izumi to cheer each other on. Unfortunately, his soccer game and her volleyball match start within ten minutes of each other.

Shikimori is disappointed, but while outwardly a weenie, her bae still has the confidence and earnestness to take her hand and assure her he’ll be cheering for her even if they’re apart, sending good vibes her way through hand contact.

And Izumi’s just as capable of making her blush as vice versa. Last week showed that an imbalanced relationship could be okay; this week shows us that it’s not unbalanced at all, but quite equitable. While catching the first few minutes of his game with Neko and seeing things aren’t going well, Shikimori sends a bit of those vibes back to Izumi.

It seems to work, but only a little bit: the ball ends up right by Izumi’s foot, but he still ends up tripping and missing the kick that was lined up for him, then gets belted in the face by a header. Even though it’s about time for her match to start, Izumi is more important, and Shikimori runs to his aid.

If her good vibes didn’t help Izumi in the soccer department, it ends up helping both of them in the boyfriend-girlfriend department, as they share a beautiful tender scene in the nurse’s office with soft guitar strumming. Shikimori compliments Izumi’s hair—which for the record is legit pretty, as are his eyes.

She also notices a scar on his forehead, and he tells her how he has a lot on his body, not from his dark past as an assassin, but simply due to his famous bad luck (Truck-kun hit his house, for gosh sakes!). Shikimori worries about him and again asks him to stay by her side as mnuch as possible. But before she leaves, he says he can protect her too, which causes her to almost climb under the covers with him.

We later see her bump her head out in the hall, cursing herself for coming on too strong it wasn’t originally a tease, but she passed it off as one. It’s moments like this when it’s just Shikimori and her thoughts that she truly does feel like a real human being—not just a pedestaled ideal of one.

That self-flusteredness appears to affect her volleyball game, at least at first, which can’t happen when Neko says that Kamiya, the volleyball ace is on the other team and giving her A-game. But when Izumi cheers as loud as he can from the upper balcony, Shikimori moves her ponytail from the side to the back and makes a face so cool and serious, everyone in the gym takes notice and swoons.

It’s here where Doga Kobo flexes its animation muscles while continuing to provide an immensely strong Shikimori Face Game. Her spikes and volleys are things of beauty, and there’s no doubt that Shikimori is only playing at this high a level—and wins the match—primarily because Izumi is watching and cheering her on.

She won’t allow herself to let him down, and doesn’t. Even so, I could have totally seen an alternate scenario where her team came up short and she was distraught about failing, and Izumi would tell her the result didn’t matter. Just as she thinks he looks cool trying his best on the soccer pitch, she looks even cooler giving her all, win or lose.

Of course, Shikimori and her team do win (and beat that ace Kamiya, who was putting out strong “Izumi’s childhood friend/betrothed” vibes) and the whole school sees her cool side, once reserved only for Izumi. The next few days are a whirlwind, with hordes of fangirls lining up to shake her hand and get pictures.

Just like his cheers that inspired her to play harder and the potential for him to comfort her if she lost comprise the ways Izumi protects her, he is frustrated that he can’t literally protect her from her sudden and intense celebrity. (I also wanted to mention that when complimenting her Izumi says she “constantly radiates athleticism” and “you’re so cute” in the same breath, because those things aren’t mutually exclusive.)

The by-product of her new school hero status is that she and Izumi are isolated: her on an island and him behind an impenetrable wall of fans. This means her duties protecting him from projectiles and other pratfalls fall to his friend Izunuka.

When Shikimori flashes a look of unfiltered anger at the sight of Izumi helping Izunuka up after he caught a ball to the side of the head, the reasons are twofold: jealousy that Izunuka is protecting her bae instead of her, and anger at herself for not being there for Izumi.

This looks like a potential for a widening rift between the lovebirds, but by episode’s end everything is resolved in a way that is both beautifully presented, emotionally earned, and true to the characters. Izumi is seemingly on his way home alone, lamenting how others know of Shikimori’s cool side. When he inevitably almost falls down the steps, Shikimori catches him from behind and delivers the killer line “Who said you could go home alone?”

When Izumi tells her he didn’t want to get in the way of her newfound celebrity, she leans against the wall morosely and delivers another banger of a line: “You know you’re the only one I want to walk home with.” Izumi admits he wasn’t leaving, but was just going to wait by the front gate for her, since he’s been missing her too the last few days.

Upon hearing this, Shikimori’s face becomes a masterpiece of shifting expressions, one moment on the verge of tears, but with a smirk of relief and jubilation the next. Even if everyone knows Shikimori’s not just a cutie, there are still myriad sides only Izumi will ever see, and no fangirl army in the world can keep these two apart for long.

This spring keeps belting out one awesome rom-com episode after
another. I don’t know what’s going on, but I like it!

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