Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro – 05 – Shaved Ice and a Haircut

While her feelings about Senpai have been abundantly clear, it’s still nice to get a look inside her head, this time courtesy of a dream she’s having while sleeping on her green sofa. She’s calling Senpai gross, but he’s suddenly stopped reacting. Then Gamo and Yosshi come in, shove her aside, and snatch him…and he’s fine with it!

She wakes up from this dream to a sign the real Senpai wouldn’t feel that way—he sweetly put a blanket over her so she wouldn’t catch cold! Still, it’s clear Nagatoro understands how far she can go without pushing Naoto away, and also genuinely fearful of her friends stealing him.

In the next segment, suddenly Nagatoro is less interested in not crossing lines, first by testing Senpai’s ticklishness, then once again stripping to reveal her swimsuit and inviting Senpai to tickle her if he dares. When it’s clear that he does and will dare, she aborts the bit. Something tells me she’s not ready for Senpai to hear how she sounds when tickled!

Nagatoro then reveals the intense satisfaction she gets from watching a video of a sheep being sheared, and wants to do the same with Senpai’s wooly hair, which is honestly in need of a cut. She whips out some electric clippers she borrowed from her bro, and gets those demonic eyes…but when Naoto makes clear he doesn’t want his hair shaved, she stands down.

What Naoto would be okay with, after he imagines it in his head, is for Nagatoro to give him a trim with scissors. Alas, before she can get started she gets an urgent call from Gamo and Yosshi about math notes. The fears expressed in Nagatoro’s dream are confirmed when it’s revealed Gamo and Yosshi were just trying to separate the lovebirds.

They grab the defenseless Naoto, hold him down, and prepare to shave him bald, but Nagatoro hears his cries and rescues him in the nick of time. Once again, rather than deal with a direct confrontation, Gamo and Yosshi run away. I’m guessing they know she can throw a kick when she needs to! With the interlopers gone, Senpai and Nagatoro settle into pure barber-ic bliss. When she’s done, Naoto is legit impressed how good it looks, and Nagatoro soaks up the praise.

As summer break approaches, the days become hotter and hotter. Nagatoro wants to take Senpai to a nice hole-in-the-wall shaved ice stand, only to find its popularity ballooned after it was featured on TV. Even so, Nagatoro most vociferously dismisses any suggestion of konbini ice cream, grabs Naoto’ arm and insist on waiting in the huge line as long as it takes, decalring it a battle of wills.

Surprisingly, the heat starts getting to Nagatoro before it gets to Naoto. When he spots two older guys leering at the back of her blouse, translucent with sweat and revealing her bra strap, he chivalrously blocks their view with his own person. When Nagatoro starts getting woozy and wobbly, it’s he who grabs her by the arm (for I believe the first time), finds a shady place for her to cool down, and buys her a sports drink to hydrate.

It’s the manliest he’s ever been, and Nagatoro doesn’t dislike it. She thanks him by going to the konbini and buys him a lemon Italian ice, surprising him by touching it to his neck, then offering him a bite from her spoon, which he refuses as it would comprise an indirect kiss.

Later, the two are walking together, and Nagatoro snatches his drink and drinks out of it, demonstrating she doesn’t mind an indirect kiss or two before handing it back to him. She mentions how most of her summer break will be taken up helping out with the swim club, but then asks for his contact info, which she claims is so she can send him a “Perv!” sticker in LINE whenever he’s thinking about something pervy. But we know better, and I think Naoto does too.

I mean, just look at her expression upon receiving his number! She wanted it so they can stay in touch, and so they can hang out when they’re both free, because they’re really no longer tormentor and tormented (or at least not just that). They’re two people who enjoy each other’s company and want to keep a good thing going. Hopefully they don’t spend the whole break apart.

Episode 5 “Senpai” Count: 25 (+1 “Paisen”)
Total: 192

Horimiya – 07 – Downpour

I. The Coffee Stain

Yuki would never say so, but Hori falling for Miyamura worked in her favor. It meant Tooru would have to give up on Hori and look for love elsewhere. Yuki makes an effort to hang out with Tooru more frequently, in hopes they’ll grow closer. She doesn’t let little opportunities like carrying the class trash out together slip away.

Unfortunately for Yuki, this backfires when, while she’s teasing Tooru, he bumps stright into Kouno Sakura, who is presently crushing on him hard. Coffee from the trash spills on Sakura’s top, and when Tooru runs off to grab his gym jacket for her to wear, Sakura asks Yuki if she and Tooru are dating. Yuki tells the truth: they’re not. But she also leaves out the truth: she’d like to.

Sakura takes Yuki’s reply as cause for relief. In the StuCo office she asks Kakeru about why he likes Remi. He gives a very heartfelt response about how despite him not being that strong, he feels compelled to protect Remi, which inspires him to become stronger, so Remi really protects him too…and Sakura.

Buoyed by these words of support, Sakura returns Tooru’s washed jacket and gives him a bag of homemade cookies. He genuinely loves them, especially the sakura colored ones, so Sakura gets him to repeat “I love Sakura”, which is wonderfully devious on her part!

II. Smiles and Cupcakes

Hori watches something play out in the bookstore that’s a microcosm of Yuki’s tendency to withhold how she really feels or what she wants: she reaches for the last issue of something just as someone else is, and lets that person take it. “The things she loves or wants tend to escape her.”

The more upset she is, the more she’ll smile to hide it. So Yuki is beaming when Tooru goes out to the hall to talk with Sakura, and smiles even wider when Sakua offers her cookies, after initially refusing them under her breath. The trash is right there in which to toss them, but they’re too damn good to waste.

Not wanting to give up on what—on who she wants, Yuki reaches out to Miyamura for cake-baking advice. He assures her he wasn’t born a baker, and nobody’s good at anything when they first start out. If she messes up, she should just give it another shot.

Yuki takes that advice to heart in both baking and Tooru. She has Horimiya try her first (failed) attempt, but to her horror Tooru joins them, eats an entire burnt cupcake, and smiles his big smile saying that while it was utter crap, he looks forward to the next batch. The Yuki-Tooru-Sakura love triangle is official!

III. FIVE DAYS

After two very strong segments focused on secondary characters, this felt like it would be an entire episode in which Horimiya’s romance would be placed on the back burner. O me of little faith! On the contrary, the latter two segments are all Horimiya, All the time, and greatly advance their relationship.

This segment is the epitome of the adage absence makes the heart grow fonder, as Hori and Miyamura are separated almost the whole time. Miyamura is away with family in Hokkaido for five days (a funeral from the looks of it). It’s he longest period they’ve been apart since they became a couple, and to make matters worse, Miyamura’s phone dies and he left his charger back home!

While those sound like the ingredients for another rom-com cliché, in which a lesser show would milk the misunderstanding around his lack of replies, by now we know better. Hori never feels like Miyamura is avoiding her, it just sucks ass that he’s away. She also carries out functions as if he were there, like getting him a drink at school or setting a place for him at the table at home. She counts the days off on her hand.

Five Days is a little masterpiece of brooding atmosphere and steady crescendo-ing anticipation of Horimiya’s eventual reunion; anyone who’s had to endure time alone with a new love knows full well what they’re feeling.

When Miyamura finally gets home and plugs his phone in. we don’t get to see the message that greets him, only his reaction: to run to Hori’s. Hori, meanwhile, can’t wait any longer, and rushes to Miyamura, and the two end up meeting in the elevator.

I breathed a sigh of relief, having been conditioned by countless other anime for the two to just miss one another another couple times. Hori’s tearful look of elation really is a sight to behold, and as she steps back to welcome him back, we see the message on Miyamura’s fallen phone: “Hurry up and get back here, dummy.”

IV. FEELING THE HEAT

That brings us to the final most stunning segment of the entire series. It starts out so simply, innocently, and comically, with Yuki, Sakura, and Remi taking Hori to task for loving horror and slasher movies and making Miyamura watch them. They insist that’s weird and could even push him away.

The next time Horimiya watch a scary movie, Hori tries to follow his friends’ advice, first by pretending to act scared as an excuse to draw closer, which scares the bijeezus out of him. Then she tries to surreptitiously take his hand, only causing him to recoil in terror. He apologetically goe off to be alone for a minute, and Hori retires to her room, devastated that what Yuki said has come true, and he wants nothing more to do with her.

Naturally, nothing could be further from the truth, and before long Miyamura joins Hori in her room where she’s sulking about “not being cute”, because she doesn’t and can’t get scared. Miyamura realizes she was doing that stuff for him, and reminds her he didn’t fall for a “normal girl”, but for “her”, just like she fell for him and all his quirks, among them his tendency to be a scaredy-cat.

Miyamura suggests they go back and watch the rest of the movie, but instead Hori calls him Izumi and slides off the bed and into his arms. She puts her ear to his chest to listen to his heart; he does the same. As the rain continues to fall in sheets outside, they move to the bed. Hori notes Miyamura’s cold ears and hands, says he can’t go home in such a downpour.

In her head Hori says “There was a heat within me, and I wanted Miyamura to feel it too.” And so Hori and Miyamura make love for the first time.

At some point after that, Miyamura has some real talk with Souta, who is worried about losing his big sister. Miyamura assures him he won’t take his big sister away, but asks if he can have Kyouko, to which Souta assents. Poor Souta! Still, he’s really not losing anyone; he’s gaining a big brother.

In a post-credit, post-coital sequence, the two are naked together and Hori proudly declares she’s bitten Miyamura on the neck, so he’d better grow his hair back to hide it. So there you have it! Going from a stolen candy kiss and a make-out session interrupted by Hori’s dad, to going all the way.

There’s no doubt that being apart for five days, and the joy they felt upon reuniting, was another milestone in their relationship, something they couldn’t reach without experiencing being apart. But it was also a matter of it simply happening—effortlessly, organically, just like so many other important moments in this series. Nothing is forced; everything just makes sense.

By being in Hori’s room they had the privacy; by reiterating that why they love each other has nothing to do with anyone else, they had the intimacy; and heck, the fact it was cold out, and there was the soothing sound of that rain…I can’t stress enough how simply, beautifully and tastefully this scene was composed. It’s rare for an anime to depict a loving couple earnestly taking the next step—one of the best, Kare Kano, is twenty-two years old—but if any contemporary series could do it, it’s Horimiya, and it did.

Horimiya – 06 – It’s Getting Hot in Here

It’s still rather cold in these parts, so it’s refreshing for this week’s Horimiya to take place in the middle of summer. But even if it didn’t, it still radiates warmth and good vibes from every angle. Hori’s dad sees Miyamura in his school look for the first time and momentarily wonders who the hell he is.

Once he realizes it’s Miyamura, he insists they take a bath together to wash off the day’s heat. Coincidentally, Hori is watching a TV show wherein a lecher is about to assault a young woman, only for that woman to reveal she’s a skilled MMA fighter and kicks his ass.

In addition to being an amusing prism to Miyamura and Kyosuke’s dynamic, it also foreshadows a number of wonderful subversions of typical high school rom-com clichés, which like the warm and cozy aura of its main couple has fast become Horimiya specialty.

After dinner and past 8:30, Miyamura assumes he’s “worn out his welcome”, but that’s not for him to decide. Hori’s suggests he spend the night, though it’s Hori’s dad he’ll be sleeping beside. Kyousuke doesn’t interrogate him that night, only asking what Miyamura likes about his daughter. His response: she doesn’t judge people by appearances.

While this is primarily the story of Hori and Miyamura’s understated yet potently blossoming love, it’s also the story of Miyamura being accepted for who he is by his new friends at school, as well as flat-out becoming a member of Hori’s family.

It’s in this scenario he gets to see something no one else could: Hori wearing her middle school gym uniform as pajamas (when she stomps on her father to open the blinds that morning). It’s also so goddamn lovely when Hori’s mom corrects him when he’s headed out the door. He’s family, not a guest, so he should say ittekimasu, not ojamashimashita. My heart just about burst right there, but Horimiya was just getting started!

Unfortunately, most of the kids at Miyamura’s school either don’t know what a sweet guy he is and are all too willing to judge him by his “emo” appearance. When a couple guys spot him leaving the same house with Hori, it sets off a torrent of rumors at school that they’re dating.

I like how we get a little shot of Tooru and Yuki legitimately upset by this development, with Yuki actually weeping at the prospect of things turning sour just when Miyamura and Hori got their act together. I like more how despite the unsolicited attention and rumor-mongering, Hori takes everything in perfect stride. By now she’s quite comfortable confirming that Miyamura is her boyfriend, and doesn’t need to explain that relationship to anyone.

Miyamura, however, doesn’t fare as well. A common refrain in the halls is “wait…that Miyamura?”, as Hori is both hugely popular and has rejected a number of more “conventional” suitors. So Miyamura apparently decides that if the school wants a prettier cover, they’ll get it: he arrives the next day having cut his hair short, revealing his piercings and eyelashes.

It’s an interesting and complex choice by Miyamura that instantly changes the conversation, as he becomes an immediate sensation with the ladies. Rather than do it because he’s worried about adversely affecting Hori’s reputation (though that could be part of it) it feels more like an act of empowerment. It indicates that Miyamura is well aware he’s got the goods, he’s just never flaunted them at school.

Rather than passively keeping his chin up or not listening to the murmurings, Miyamura took an active step in the realignment of the conversation around him and Hori. With his new ‘do and the striking beauty it reveals, “wait…that Miyamura?” turns to “oh, that Miyamura!”. 

As one would expect, Hori isn’t used to Miyamura getting the added attention and adoration, and her reaction is to create a cold enough atmosphere around her that it shoos away the newcomers. When a girl snaps candid pics of Miyamura with their phone (without asking him, WTF!), Hori gets right in his face with a DSLR!

Despite the increased liveliness at school, what I love more than anything about both the news of Horimiya dating and Miyamura’s new look is that it doesn’t really affect their core relationship. Hori doesn’t seem hurt that Miyamura cut his hair without consulting her, and seems content with his prefab excuse that it’s summer and long hair is hot.

Hori may grow possessive at school—Miyamura is her bf; so she has every right to be!—but not so much so that she makes a federal case out of his makeover. Hori has Miyamura, and vice versa, and it’s no longer important that no one knows he’s a hottie or that they’re dating.

Since they’re the usual Horimiya, Miyamura comes home with Hori as usual, and has the unlikely but hilarious distinction of having a third distinctive look in three straight encounters with Hori’s dad. Before long, they’re answering an invite from Shindo to come to his place and help him eat bizarrely flavored hard candy.

It’s here where Miyamura again demonstrates his whimsical timing with romantic gestures, as he asks Hori how her candy tastes, then leans in and steals it from out of her mouth. She sheepishly says “he stole my candy” the way Jujutsu Kaisen’s Kasumi sheepishly says Maki stole her sword, but what he really stole was their first kiss….just like that! For the record, that candy tasted like clay, which should make the kiss that much harder to forget!

Horimiya lets that kiss simmer on the back burner a bit as we return to school, where the novelty of Miyamura’s new look has thankfully worn off…with one exception: a diminutive girl with similarly black hair and similarly blue eyes seems to be watching, following, straight-up stalking Miyamura.

When Hori and Yuki encounter her in the hall, she asks if Hori and Miyamura are dating, Hori says yes, what of it?!, and the girl beats a hasty retreat, seemingly intimidated. Miyamura’s sudden popularity bounce perfectly sets up this latest high school rom-com cliché, the new love rival, second-year Sawada Honoka.

Before long, Sawada is striding up to Miyamura and flat-out telling him to break up with Hori already, in earshot of others. But in another excellent subversion, it’s not Miyamura Sawada likes…it’s Hori. Thanks to the rumors, she’s learned Miyamura stole a march on her. But she declares she liked Hori first, and won’t accept Miyamura dating her.

This turns into a physical tug-of-war between Sawada and Miyamura, with a flustered Hori as the rope. Tooru can only watch with other classmates in amusement at the spectacle before them, and even texts Yuki to hurry over to watch. Miyamura, clearly no longer hiding who he is at school, finally forcefully grabs Hori into his arms and declares “she’s mine!”, echoing her own words when Remi prodded her about him.

After school, Sawada seemingly follows Miyamura home, only for them to realize that not only are they both heading home in the same direction, they are goddamn next-door neighbors! This is the kind of twist a show that’s built up as much goodwill and credibility as Horimiya can get away with all day long, in my book.

It also marks a further expansion of Miyamura’s relationships, as it’s clear these two aren’t going to just ignore each other from here on out. Sawada forgot her key, so he does what any decent person would do and invites her over to sample some cake from his family’s bakery. Their ensuing conversation starts with, but is not dominated by, Hori, as Sawada learns Hori rarely visits Miyamura’s place since he always goes to her place.

Sawada also assumed that Miyamura had a little brother or sister, since he’s clearly good at taking care of people. Miyamura laughs at that comment, which reminds Sawada of the older brother she says she “had”—past tense—before laughing it off herself. She’s saved by the bell when her folks come home, so she heads out, but Miyamura says she’s always welcome to stop by for some cake.

Miyamura isn’t fooled by Sawada’s last-second fakeout. Sure enough, he learns from his mom that the Sawadas lost their eldest son some time last year, who attended a different school from Izumi but was “such a nice boy”.

At first I wondered why the character designer took such pains to make Sawada so closely resemble Miyamura—was she his long-lost little sister? When we learned she liked Hori, I abandoned that theory as a bridge too far for this show, but it isn’t lost on me how quickly and easily Miyamura is portrayed as a potential surrogate big bro.

Sure enough, the next day Sawada is hounded by three boys, and she retreats to Miyamura, digging her head in his back. It only takes a momentary glare from Miyamura to disperse the lads, but it can’t be understated how glad Sawada must’ve been to have him in that moment. Naturally, when Hori shows up they’re back to competing over who likes Hori more.

Finally, in another wonderful use of what Hori’s watching on TV as a reflection of what goes on in the Hori household, she is forcing both Miyamura and, more pointedly, her dad, to watch a horror movie in which a daughter kills her father. It underscores both Hori’s taste in cinema and the tactics she’ll use to try to get her dad to leave the room, which he eventually does.

Almost the moment her dad’s gone, Hori brushes her knees together and tries her hand at Miyamura’s patented casual romantic utterances, stating “you never make any moves on me, huh.” When Miyaura responds by asking “do you want me to?” she turns red with embarrassment, causing him to chuckle over how cute she looks. Then he asks what kind of moves she wants him to make, then leans in to kiss her.

Kyousuke barges back in asking for change to buy his smokes, and the two lovebirds immediately separate, invoking her dad’s cheeky suspicion, and causing Hori to attempt to reenact the dad-murdering scene from the movie. While I’d hoped they could have shared their first kiss in which both of them were aware a kiss was going to happen here and now, at least they didn’t chicken out; they were simply interrupted. They’ll soon learn to seek places with a bit more privacy!


The Quintessential Quintuplets – 16 – A Pretty Fun Hell

While Fuutarou, Itsuki and Ichika try to bail Yotsuba out of her track training camp, Miku stops by Nino’s for tea. She saw Nino stomp out of her previous hotel, and wonders what went on with Fuutarou. Nino is still fuming about Kintarou always being Fuu in disguise, but that’s tabled for now in favor of discussing Nino’s return home.

For all Nino thinks all of her sisters have changed, she’s changed too. They remain five sisters in completely different directions, but that just means they continue to complement each other by exposing them to things they normally wouldn’t…even something as mundane as the different teas they drink, which they learn come from the same leaf!

Operation Spring Yotsuba doesn’t get off to a great start, owing to how well the track captain knows Yotsuba, Itsuki’s less-than-stellar impression, and the simple fact her hair is too damn long! The real Yotsuba returns after having tackled the “groper” (a Fuutarou invention), but then it soon becomes obvious she isn’t Yotsuba either…she’s Nino!

That’s right, the scissors Nino produces at the end of her scene with Miku were meant for her own hair. Whether in order to confront the track people for Yotsuba’s sake, or because her heart was broken by a boy who never existed, or a little of both, Nino now sports the same cropped locks as Yotsuba, though she retains her signature butterfly ribbons and flat bangs.

With Yotsuba agreeing to help with the most recent meet and then quit the team—which is what she wants, but simply needed a nudge to do—Nino and Itsuki adorably make up, each apologizing for their role. Itsuki, the youngest of the quints, tears up despite having played the role of mom when she slapped Nino way too hard, and the fact they both buy tickets to the movie the other sister liked completes the reconciliation.

With the quints reunited, they soon complete their problem sets, and Fuutarou has them go over them again as they enter the home stretch till the exams. He shows deference to Nino by asking her if it’s okay to proceed in this manner…she can’t help but blush and fight back a smile at his polite attentiveness. The day of the exams arrives, and the quints stride confidently into the schook. Fuutarou hangs back, borrowing Itsuki’s phone to call his sister…but we see he was actually on the phone with the quints’ dad.

The exam scores come in, and out of 500 possible points from the five subjects tested, none of them scored higher than 206. While discouraged by these underwhelming results considering how hard they worked, the sisters actually seem to be looking forward to Fuutarou scolding them and pushing them to do better…which is why they’re shocked to learn from their father’s butler Ebata that Fuutarou has resigned as their tutor.

The sisters can’t even go to Fuutarou immediately, as Ebata has been ordered to tutor them on an interim basis. The problem sets Ebata gives them seem so easy, which they attribute to Fuutarou’s diligent tutoring. Then they break out the rolled crib notes he gave them in case of emergency and discover they don’t contain notes at all, but a message meant for all five sisters to read off in order.

It concludes, “I’m glad I finally done with this hell job…but it was a pretty fun hell. Later.” But the sisters are in agreement: they want Fuutarou to continue tutoring them. So they devise a plan. On Christmas Eve, while Fuu is acting as a crier for a cake shop, the five sisters approach him and ask if he’ll deliver a cake to their place. His clearly awesome boss lets him off work early, urging him to have a Merry Christmas.

When they ask him back, he says he already blew his second chance, and now believes it was only his “selfish ends” that held them back, to which he can no longer in good conscience subject them. The newly short-haired Nino gets in Fuu’s face, telling him they’ve only made it this far because of that selfishness, and he can’t stop being selfish now.

When he reminds them that their father has forbidden him from entering their house again, they direct his gaze to the building behind them: with Ichika’s new acting salary, they’ve rented a new place where he’ll always be welcome. Yotsuba inexplicably tosses the five keycards into the air, and in trying to catch them, Fuu slips and falls into the water. To his shock, all five quints jump in after him. All for one and one for all, to be sure!

After surfacing, he spots the rolled fortune Rena gave him, to open once he “learned to accept himself”. But at the same time, Nino cramps up and can’t swim, and Fuutarou abandons the fortune to rescue her, obviously. But maybe he never needed to read the fortune, because when everyone is out of the river, he rips up the résumé of his replacement and decides he’ll stay on as their tutor after all. As for Nino, her heart is beating like a jackrabbit and it may well have less to do with almost drowning and more to do with who saved her.

QQ started out totally scattering the quints, but it’s clear that besides the fact they complement each other and make up for their shortcomings, the one thing that brings them back together this week is the desire to keep Fuutarou in their life, as the one who will help them realize their best selves.

While him calling their dad was an obvious clue, his sudden resignation still felt abrupt, and hit me as hard as the sisters, so I tip my cap to the show for keeping me off balance. It was also a wonderfully brisk affair, with resolutions to this arc coming fast and furious without feeling rushed or inorganic (though part of me was hoping they’d address the whole “jumping into freezing water” thing). I’m looking forward to their next tutoring session in their new, less snazzy digs!

Episode Four Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Nino: Between her lovely sisterly tea time with Miku, to her portrayal of “Cranky Yotsuba”; from making up with Itsuki to her efforts to get Fuu back; from being the only quint who Fuu needed to rescue to her cute new ‘do, it’s another easy win for Best Girl Nino.  Total Points: 19 (1st)
  2. Itsuki: No Itsuki-at-the-Uesugis this week, but she was as wonderful in her making-up scene with Nino as she was wonderfully terrible at impersonating Yotsuba. She also had a moment where she channeled Fuutarou. She and Nino are pulling away from the pack. Total Points: 16 (2nd)
  3. Miku: Came close to tying Itsuki this week. She was so damn cool in that tea scene, describing to Nino why they belong together. She also had the highest test scores of all the quints! Total Points: 9 (3rd)
  4. Yotsuba: Glad her track crisis didn’t drag on any longer, as it felt like a rehash of something not that engaging to begin with. Nice tackle of that creepy groper, but otherwise didn’t distinguish herself. Total Points: 8 (Tied for 4th)
  5. Ichika: I hate to rank her last when she’s footing the bulk of the rent for the quints’ new place, but yeah…she didn’t do much this week! Total Points: 8 (5rd)

Hortensia Saga – 02 – The Girl Who Cried Werewolf

While Alfred is on monster patrol with Maurice, Marius is helping carry flowers for Nonnoria, who visits the Albert family grave to pay her respects to those who took her in when she was orphaned. Marius looks back four years ago to the dreadful night she lost everything she had, when Maurice told her she’d have to cut her hair and live under an assumed identity “until the time came” to reclaim her kingdom.

When talk of Magonia (complete with flying cities and fantastical beasts) comes up—specifically, a shapeshifting  monster that dwells in the nearby Tron Cavern—young Conny desperately wants to see and prove his skeptical big sis wrong. The next day, just after Alfred, Marius, and Maurice head to the cavern to investigate, Conny’s mom arrives at the Albert’s door. Sure enough, the little scamp went off on his own.

Even though help is on the way, Tron is a veritable labyrinth, so Nonnoria fills her knapsack with a ridiculous amount of supplies and heads out without a second thought with Qoo (basically a Moogle), showing what she’s truly made of even though she’s otherwise a complete space cadet. She finds Conny before the others, but they’re still lost, and then get chased by goblins.

Nonnoria huddles against the cavern wall with Conny and Qoo, hoping Alfred will make it in time to save them just as he saved her before from a wolf. He does, with Marius and Maurice close behind. Then they notice a blue light that leads them to a moonlit spring. There, the beast makes its appearance, in a form identical to the werewolf that killed both of their fathers.

Ever since hearing the Tron monster could take the form of a wolf, Marius has been uneasy, but once she sees it, she freezes in terror, as if being transported four years into the past to the night she could do nothing but watch in horror as her life was taken away.

As Alfred fights the werewolf, Marius retreats, slips, and falls into the spring, and she relives more memories of the night Maurice whisked her out of the capital to the Albert Dominion. Maurice is aided by an even grizzlier Sir Balthazar, who warns him the Pope may be in cahoots with Camelia to install Prince Charlot as a puppet king.

While Princess Mariel wants to stay and protect her little brother, the fact is neither she nor her remaining allies are strong enough to stop the coup that has unfolded. The only thing for it is to disappear until the time is right. When she arrives at Albert’s lands, she finds kinship in Alfred’s grief for his lost father. When she comes to in the cavern, Alfred has fished her out of the spring.

It turns out the “werewolf” was only an impostor, as the cavern monster takes the form of the thing you hate most. Alfred assumes he provided the werewolf template, and Marius isn’t able to tell him her father was killed by the same monster at nearly the same time.

They head home, Conny is reunited with his family, and Alfred scolds Nonnoria and Qoo for racing into danger. Marius’ last memory is of cutting her hair with a dagger, which not only marked a profound turning of a page in her life, but in the present represents her willingness to turn the page from those horrible memories and re-fix her gaze on the more important present and future.

I once again enjoyed this episode, which was absolutely fine, if not particularly original. In fact, I liked it a bit more than the premiere, which to its credit had more narrative lifting to do out of the gate. Conny requiring rescue was hilariously telegraphed from a country mile away, but Nonnoria going into Battle Maid Mode was unexpected, and I came away actually liking her in spite of her deeply annoying voice and extra-ness. If nothing else, she can really spin a knife.

As for the romance angle, Alfred had no idea he was carrying a girl on piggyback. Who knows when he’ll learn the truth, but I hope it’s sooner rather than later in the 12-episode run—and not because he walks in on her or something. If there’s anyone in the world she could trust to tell, it’s him.

Akudama Drive – 08 – Fly Me Almost to the Moon

Poor Swindler, who has possibly the worst luck of all the Akudama, not least because she really isn’t one. The old rocket runs out of fuel long before reaching the ruins of the moon, and she and Sister come crashing down in a field of sewage…not a soft field of green grass and flowers, which apparently doesn’t exist anymore.

Miraculously, Swindler survives a rocket crash thanks to pulling the emergency ejection lever, and Sister is fine because she’s invulnerable, but their troubles have only begun. They can’t stay put, because they made one hell of a conspicuous return to the earth. Absent any other ideas, they head back to Kansai.

Doctor, officially no longer an Akudama, is able to infiltrate a research lab and learn more about the blood of the Siblings. It’s clear she’s going to use her new freedom and wealth to do what she’s always done; play with the human bodies, both of others and herself.

As for Apprentice, her name is poised to change to Master (or at least Senpai) as Boss assigns her a eager new junior male partner. She wants none of this, and Boss can tell from Apprentice’s remaining good eye that she seeks death like her Master did.

Swindler and Sister return to the city and go to the takoyaki stall where her whole whirlwind adventure began, fulfilling a promise to Sister I never thought would be fulfilled so soon. Alas, as soon as she uses her seal, Wanted alerts pop up everywhere. The Internet of Things is terrifying.

As they try to outrun the fuzz, Hoodlum wallows on the seedier side of town, missing his kyoudai Brawler and not knowing what to do next. When he’s recognized as a wanted Akudama, his moments on the earth seem numbered…until Doctor appears. Hoodlum just happened to slip a tracker in Lil’ Brother’s charm, but the position of the charm isn’t Executioner HQ, which is intriguing to Doctor.

Swindler and Sister find shelter from the pelting rain in the office of a vast junkyard, and are finally able to fill their empty bellies with canned goods, bathe, and change their soiled clothes. Swindler seems to relish suddenly having a little sister to care for, while Sister mimics Swindler in everything, even burping after eating her fill. Swindler also snips off all her hair to appear less like her Wanted picture.

Unfortunately, their shelter is already claimed by three thugs, who arrive and immediately consider selling the Sister (who they hope is under ten) and Swindler (if she’s a virgin) into slavery or some such awfulness. Swindler, having clearly learned a few things besides swearing from her criminal comrades, bides her time, then stabs two of the thugs and shoots the other. When one of them gets back up, he’s taken back down…by Courier.

Overwhelmed by the violence she had to exact in order to survive and protect Sister, Swindler passes out, but when she comes to, she and Sister are safe. Turns out Courier only tracked them down to complete one last job given to him by Brother before his capture: deliver the charm to Sister. With that done, he’s ready to move on, but Swindler is able to convince him to help them rescue Brother. Not with her billion yen share (which he calls “chump change”) but with her desperate plea that “this is all she has left”.

Swindler can no longer be an Ordinary Person; the incident in the city proved that. No one will stand around, not kill her, and listen long enough for her to explain what happened to her, and in any case they would never believe her. She is Swindler now, and perhaps the only way she’ll ever be free from the pursuing Executioners is if the entire Executioner system oppressing her is taken down in its entirety.

Meanwhile, Cutthroat is still alive, searching for his Angel. With Doctor and Hoodlum headed towards the charm’s tracker signal, an Akudama reunion is in the cards. Will it be cordial, or will they be at each other’s throats? What was once a cohesive group has been ground down into the mud and blood. I don’t think any of them have a chance without each other.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 25 – Double Trouble

Sakura is grocery shopping for dinner, but once she’s bought everything she needs, she heads home…only for a second Sakura to appear, wearing a face that’s just…just wrong. It’s a sly smirk, an expression Sakura rarely wears. Kudos to the animators for making such a subtle change, and for the music to capture that strange otherness about her doppelganger.

Of course, Sakura doesn’t know there’s someone who looks just like her about to wreak havoc; she comes home to find Yukito cutting Touya’s hair. This is, by the way, an episode packed with so much Yukitouya shipping fuel you could circumnavigate the earth five times over!

As her doppel trashes retail displays (and her girlfriends, Syaoran and Meiling bear witness), Sakura is having a great day, having Yukito give her a trim, then helping him make dinner. I loved Meiling’s line about the possibility Sakura just suddenly decided to become a “bad girl”—even she doesn’t sound that confident about it!

At school, Sakura’s friends confront her about the girl they saw trashing stuff, but Sakura denies everything and they obviously believe her. Syaoran is ultimately saved by the school bell before he has to offer his two cents, but it’s clear he doubts the girl he saw was Sakura.

Desperate for answers, Sakura comes to Kero-chan, who teaches her how to do fortune telling with the Clow Cards. After arranging them just so and doing the special incantation, she determines the three cards she has that are closest to the card she seeks, and also senses that the card is after Touya.

Sure enough, the fake Sakura lures Touya into a wild goose chase for some unspoken missing item, while the real Sakura races to the area where she senses a Clow Card…only to lose the signal. Not sure where to search and becoming anxious about the possibility of her brother getting hurt, Sakura starts to lose heart. Thankfully, Syaoran arrives, having sensed a card himself.

The Clow Card Sakura ends up getting Touya to fall off a cliff and break his foot, but is surprised when he doesn’t give up, but tells her he’s determined to help her find what she’s looking for, if she would please stop impersonating his little sister! I assume he believes her to be a ghost who can’t ascend to heaven until she’s found that thing.

Thanks to Syaoran’s compass and Fly, he and Sakura find Touya, and Sakura confronts her double. When neither Windy or Watery work, Kero-chan concludes it’s a “special” card, which will only revert to its card state if it’s name is spoken.

Considering the three cards it was closest to are Watery, Shadow, and Illusion, and the fact the double starts mimicking her actions, Sakura deduces that her name is Mirror. Before being sealed, Mirror kisses the passed-out Touya and apologizes for the harm she caused.

Touya needs a cast and is laid up in bed for a while, but Sakura is dedicated to taking care of him, including cooking meals he ends up feeding to Yukito (more ship fuel, that). She apologizes to Touya, but when he asks what for she simply says never mind, just “sorry” all the same.

Mirror may have ended up being contrite for hurting Touya, but Sakura can’t rule out more unruly cards possibly hurting her family or friends, and she’s also weary of the “catastrophe” Kero brought up when she first became a Cardcaptor. He comforts her by saying that depending on the person it may not be a catastrophe at all, but privately he says it might be worse than the earth going “boom”.

In any case, Sakura resolves to collect all the cards before they can cause too much trouble…double or otherwise. The episode ends with a mysterious redheaded woman in sunglasses outside the Kinomoto residence…I wonder what she wants?

Elfen Lied – 11 – Doing Whatever You Can

This week we meet AKIRA Number 35, AKA Mariko, who beyond the massive steel shutters is merely a frail five-year-old girl. Only one person has ever interacted with her in her lifetime: a researcher named Saitou, who likens Mariko her daughter and is eager to see her for the first time. Shirakawa has no choice but to unleash Mariko in order to deal with Lucy, and Saitou is the only human Mariko will trust and listen to.

Uh…yeah…that doesn’t go so well.

In the very likely chance Saitou was disemboweled, de-spined, and de-kidneyed by Mariko—who after all correctly assessed Saitou was not her mother—Mariko has bombs placed within her body that can be detonated if she refuses to come to heel. I was sure Shirakawa was a goner too, but in a last-gasp gesture, it’s Saitou (or at least the top half of Saitou that clings to life for a minute or so) who presses the button that blows off Mariko’s arm.

It’s good that Spring 2020 has its share of feel-good shows (Arte and Princess Connect among them), otherwise I’m not sure I’d quite be able to endure the unrelenting pitch-black darkness of Elfen Lied. It loves to show us idyllic moments in Kouta’s house as his little family of misfits begins to gel, knowing much if not all of that family could soon end up as expressionist splatter on the fusuma.

Nevertheless, I’ll take the good times while there are still good times to be had. They include Kouta officially welcoming Nana to the household not as a guest, but a member, and leaves her chore training to Mayu. Seeming similar in age (and both haunted by unspeakable trauma) Mayu and Nana continue to develop a friendship closely bordering on sisterhood. Then there’s Nyu.

When Kouta shows Nana a photo of his dead sister Kanae, memories well up in Nyu, and in those moments, Nana senses Lucy. Nyu then chops her hair off to more closely resemble Kanae so she can forgive Kouta for being mean to her just before she died. It’s looking more and more like Lucy killed Kanae and Kouta repressed the memory.

Yuka comes home from the grocery store just as Kouta is embracing Nyu and telling her he “likes her too”, sending a heartbroken Yuka off to sulk. That’s when she discovers the entire area has been cordoned off by police in preparation for Mariko’s arrival on the mainland, now in a wheelchair and escorted by Shirakawa. Kurama, meanwhile, is off on his own, and conscripting Bando to hell him kill Lucy.

Nana can sense Mariko’s arrival, as well as her overwhelming murderous intent. In order to protect Mayu, Kouta, Yuka, and yes even Nyu (whom she hopes stays Nyu forever), she runs off to meet Mariko face-to-face. Unfortunately, Nana is woefully outmatched and uninformed; she isn’t even aware of just how many vectors Mariko has, nor how far they reach.

Mariko proceeds to “have fun” by toying with poor Nana like a cat with a freshly-caught mouse. As far as Shirakawa & Co. are concerned it’s all good…as long as 35 ends Lucy as well. Feel-good this show is not…but it is damned compelling.

Astra Lost in Space – 05 – The Kids Are Alright…Right??

Even after last week’s harrowing ordeal, the crew is not yet ready to pack up and leave Shummoor—not until they’ve gathered enough food. Thanks to a successful hunch from Charce, they learn that the pole trees, once their nemesis, are actually the yummiest food on the planet, and with the stores filled, the Astra departs from Planet #2.

The crew are also grateful to Yunhua, whose voice had both physical and psychological healing effects for all who were poisoned. That gratitude quickly shifts to straight-up admiration when they learn she’s the daughter of the superstar singer Lucy Lum. She then enlists Luca to give her a haircut, and Quitterie bristles as all the guys swoon.

Meanwhile, back home, Aries’ mom Emma listens to her daughter’s last video message to her, saying all is well—and probably isn’t watching it for the first time. It’s been over forty days since Team B5 was last seen on McPa, and Ulgar’s father has gathered all the other parents to decide whether to call off the search and declare their children permanently lost.

Emma is not ready to make that determination, and even correctly conjectures that the reason there’s neither remains nor luggage on McPa is because their kids are somewhere in space, still alive. But many of the parents are past the “denial” phase of loss (or don’t love their kids as much as her) and are ready to give up.

Meanwhile, at the very same time, many thousands of light years away, not only are their kids perfectly fine…they’re living it up on a tropical beach.

Planet #3 is Arispade – which is 99% water with one tiny islet that features a wealth of food and a sugar-white beach on which to break out and show off one’s swimsuit. It’s paradise. It’s so paradise, Quitterie almost loses it; after all they’ve been through, why are things suddenly so easy and comfortable that she can totally see herself living out the rest of her days on that beach?

Since this is, in fact, Kanata no Astra‘s beach episode, it wastes no time delivering the goods, as Quitterie insists on comparing boob sizes with Aries and Yunhua, and also assures Aries she’ll have no problem attracting Captain Kanata with her “spicy” bikini. The implication flusters Aries.

Back on the ship, there’s more good slice-of-life, with Quitterie pressing her attack upon Aries, urging her to go ask Kanata out, or at least find out if he already has a boyfriend. Aries actually musters the courage to ask him if he’s popular with girls (he says he’s popular with “all humans”) and then asks if he has a girlfriend (he says all girls are his friends). Neither Aries or Quitterie are happy with Kanata’s lame replies. Quitterie exacts swift punishment by sticking Kanata’s toothbrush up his nose; Aries goes to bed early; dejected.

Meanwhile, Luca thinks he’s making progress becoming friends with Ulgar, having fashioned a bow, arrow, and fishing poles for him to do what he apparently does best: shoot and hunt. Yet Ulgar remains aloof and hostile, and becomes…something else entirely when he learns that Luca’s last name is Esposito, and that he’s the son of a senator back home.

Ulgar’s reaction—like a switch had been flipped in his head, combined with the image of the gun we saw a couple weeks back, spell nothing but dread for the final scene of the episode, an otherwise placid sunset repast among the crew members, with only one person absent: Ulgar.

After waxing romantic about the time they have and how neither photos nor medically secured memories will ever adequately convey the emotions they’ve felt in the last fifty-or-so days, and Luca remarks that he doesn’t even believe there’s an enemy among them, that enemy finally reveals himself, and points his gun at Luca’s head, warning he’ll shoot if he moves.

And that my friends is how you go from a solid “8” episode that lacked any danger or difficulty for twenty-two minutes, to a solid “9” in the twenty-third. The good-old cliffhanger. It doesn’t even matter if the most likely of the crew to be the bad guy is the bad guy (unless he isn’t, and there are more twists afoot); that was marvelously done.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 02 – Breaking the Ice

It may be Summer IRL, but the days are getting colder in the world of Takagi-san, such that puddles made by rain a day ago are frozen solid the next morning. Takagi can tell Nishikata has an unbearable urge to pick that ice up, and so makes a contest out of it.

Naturally, despite Nishikata’s extensive activity in such training, she gets him to drop it by declaring whoever breaks their ice first loses, and has to warm the hands of the winner. He’s about to take her hand when she asks for the hand warmer he offered earlier. A reprieve!

Another morning, Nishikata believes he has a surefire way to get Takagi to lose, by telling her he changed something about his appearance and challenging her to correctly identify that change. This backfires spectacularly when Takagi gives him a thorough visual examination, even tickling his side and getting very close up to smell him.

In the end, Takagi correctly concludes he trimmed his hair, though whether she was going with the answer with the best odds is a mystery. Nishikata’s punishment is to try to guess how she’ll change her appearance tomorrow, knowing full well he’d never look her over as thoroughly as she just did.

After an in-between in which Mina laughs at Yukari’s bangs which she trimmed too far, Valentine’s Day arrives, and Nishikata, while telling himself he doesn’t expect any chocolate from Takagi or anyone else, is still expecting chocolate.

As Mina learns the hard way, Tanabe-sensei doesn’t tolerate the distribution of chocolate on his watch. Mano almost works up the courage to hand Nakai some non-obligatory chocolate, but his ever-present friends ruin her timing and she runs off.

Nakai may be dense but has the good sense to chase after Mano, who is able to successfully give him the chocolate (which he tells Tanabe-sensei is a book she borrowed). As for Nishikata, he goes the whole day without being given any chocolate, only to find a box in his shoe locker, obviously left there by Takagi, who tries to get him to identify her as the one who put it there.

Nishikata doesn’t give in, so Takagi keeps the mind games going by offering him a small piece of obligatory chocolate, while strongly implying that not all the chocolate she gave him is obligatory. Her status as giver of the shoe locker chocolate remains unsaid, but like many things between these two, it doesn’t really have to be said.

There’s no one else from which Nishikata would get non-obligatory chocolate, and there’s no one else to whom Takagi would give chocolate.

3-gatsu no Lion – 44 (Fin) – From Darkest Depths to Highest Heights

The eight minutes that kick off 3GL’s final episode (for a while at least), in which Rei visits the Kouda household, were some of the most hauntingly beautiful, unsettling, and emotionally gutting eight minutes I’ve ever seen. He is received only by the mother, who narrates the entire segment.

Rei was always capable—more capable than her children, which is why he had to go—but she finds him even more so now; he’s become an adult. Meanwhile, Kyouko and Ayumu (seen but never heard here) continue to flounder; they remain children, seeking immediate enjoyment.

Rei’s visit confirms to Mother Kouda that it was for the best for Rei to leave, and she is grateful that he did it of his own volition. Rei was such a genuinely good boy, it was a weight the rest of the family could not bear. When she dreams of Rei being her real son, he’s a sassy layabout like the others.

I was already in tears before the OP, but this episode wasn’t done, as Rei takes Takahashi and Rina out for monja to congratulate their graduation and bid farewell to the brawny baseball kid. Going pro is no longer a dream for him, it’s a goal, and leaving the home he loves was something he had to do to achieve it.

As they talk about how there won’t be monja where Takahashi is going, and that he’ll simply bring it with him to represent March Town, it dawns on Hina that while people may move away, they remain children of the town.

As the minutes and seconds left with Takahashi tick implacably down to zero, Hina savors those remaining moments with everything she has before saying goodbye. Again I held back tears…watching her hold back tears.

Takahashi leaves for his new school the day of the cherry blossom festival, which means he’ll miss it, but Hina doesn’t see him off. For one thing, the previous night’s farewell was just fine; for another, she’s got work to do, working at the Crescent Moon food stall.

She, Akari and Gramps clean up, capitalizing on the slight remnants of the winter chill by selling hot red bean soup and dumplings. Like so much with the Kawamotos, it’s warm, tasty, cozy, and fun.

And as Hina remembers a younger, smaller Takahashi sitting on the steps with an ice cream bar in his baseball uniform, she commits to doing her best where she is, just as he’ll be doing his best farther away.

Soon thereafter, just before she starts high school, Hina decides she’s going to get her hair cut. Privately (or rather in the presence of their aunt), Akari has bittersweet pangs about Hina’s choice to give her childhood self a “proper sendoff” and take a step forward as “the new me.” Akari is sad that one stage of her little sister’s life is ending, but excited and even a little envious of the next; Hina’s “springtime of life.”

However, that first step forward seems to go horribly awry when only an older hair stylist was at the salon. Hina asked for an “adult-like bob”, but once she get it, Akari can barely contain her shock, while Gramps, in his most hilarious reaction to date, thought on first glance that Hina was the household deity. Momo thinks she looks like a kokeshi doll, while Akari asks her to pose with a box of candy.

But when’s all said and done and we get a decent look at it (from numerous intimate close-up angles) I’m in agreement with Rei’s first impression: it’s nice. It’s a really nice new look! Despite the references made by her family, she looks a little more mature and serious, especially in her new high school uniform.

The more Rei looks at it, the more he likes it…and the more embarrassed Hina gets. But let’s not forget what’s happening: the two are walking to school together! This is huge. What will his classmates think? What will they say? How will Rei and Hina handle the fact that they look like one of history’s most perfect couples, straight out of the gate?

Unfortunately, all of that must be left up to my imagination, because 3-gatsu no Lion closes the book on the life of Rei, Hina, the Kawamotos, the Koudas, and all of the shogi folk. Hopefully it will be back, but if this is truly the end of the anime, it couldn’t have ended on a higher, brighter note, rising from the sullen depths of the Kouda household.

Koi wa Ameagari no You ni – 08

The opening moments of this week’s episode almost felt like a dreaded recap, but thankfully was just meant to establish the fact that Akira and Kondou are FRIENDS! Yes, JUST FRIENDS.

After that hug, the show—and Kondou!—wisely slows things way down while the episode spends a lot more time with the secondary characters that populate the couple’s life, to very pleasing effect. Also, Akira has a big pimple on her right cheek!

Take Yoshizawa: He’s spent many an episode trying to befriend Akira, to absolutely no avail. When Yoshizawa hears Kondou is friends with Akira he wants to be friends too, but Kondou sidesteps the issue by scolding his long bangs, threatening termination before they have a chance to be friends. It’s a joke, but Yoshizawa takes it seriously.

Enter Akira’s other co-worker of similar age, Nishida, who likes Yoshizawa and wants to get closer. She finds one in offering to cut his hair for him after work, which he’s a lot more enthusiastic about than she expected. After he leaves, she and Akira engage in “guy talk” for the first time, to the benefit of both.

Nishida stresses the importance of taking things step by step, which Akira needs to hear, while Akira tells Nishida that a friendship can turn romantic given enough chances for them to get to know one another and deem them more than friends. But there’s no rush!

What’s nice about this post-hug transition is that Kondou doesn’t avoid or ignore Akira; he’s not even bothered or uncomfortable by her presence. This is to be expected: we know, especially from last week, that Kondou is a decent sort, along with being, you know, a full-fledged adult.

As such, Akira uses his loud proclamation of their friendship to take a very logical step: she says “friends text each other”, and successfully acquires his contact info. A little step that brings them closer; now she can converse with him and learn from him even when he’s not around.

As she leaves work she’s practically floating on air, but so are Nishida and Yoshizawa, clearly hitting it off as he’s given a haircut. There’s just good vibes all ’round, and Akira finally gets to dance in giddy delight without being interrupted by a self-important Kase!

The second half expands the show’s horizons to a very satisfying scene between Haruka, arguably Akira’s best friend, and the recently-retired captain of the soccer team, Yamamoto. At first his presence displeases her, especially when he brings up Akira (imitating her almondlike eyes). But when she runs away, he follows, and he gets hurt.

Like Akira, Yamamoto had to leave the club because of a leg injury. Haruka wonders if Akira doesn’t love running anymore. Yamamoto asks if Akira said as much, and if she didn’t, it means that’s not the case. He considers Akira far more talented than him, so while both he and she might still want to play soccer or run, respectively, the high expectations the track star has from both within and without make her extra-cautious.

Yamamoto thinks Akira will be fine, especially when she has friends like Haruka who care about her. It’s just what Haruka needs to hear, and he manages to cheer her up considerably. Like Nishida and Yoshizawa hitting it off, Yamamoto and Haruka simply feel right together, showing that After the Rain isn’t just a one-couple pony!

From there we’re back in the office with Akira doing her homework. She’s unfortunate enough to be applying ointment to her pimple right as the manager comes in, but much more fortunate that the subject of her homework is in Modern Japanese, specifically Rashomon, which he’s recently read, and not for the first time.

I love how into it Kondou gets, calling the very question she’s stuck on a bad one, unless it doesn’t count towards her grade, because it’s a question with many answers depending on the individual. It’s almost fate that Akira has a pimple in the same place as the servant-thief of the story.

The end of the story—with the servant running into the RAIN towards a town to commit a robbery—finishes with the words “what happened to the lowly servant, no one knows,” which Akira believes is the perfect opportunity for a sequel, something Kondou had never considered.

Kondou also says that if he were the thief he’d likely stay under the rashomon, out of the RAIN, to avoid causing trouble, since he’s old and lives timidly. He also sees her pimple as a sign of youth, since he doesn’t get them anymore. It’s all him trying to maintain his stance that he’s not worth Akira’s affection, and that she’s better off with some guy who still gets pimples.

In any case, the discussion is cut short when, while flipping through her book, Kondou finds the same doodles that first got her in trouble with Kase, and the manager retreats. In the meantime, Nishida is on cloud nine and Yoshizawa gets the praise he so desperately wanted from the manager.

While watching a potential couple blossom before her, one of whom she can consider a new friend in Nishida, Akira looks at all the Summer Festival posters Kondou put up and thinks about her older friend Haruka. A couple taps on her phone, and the next we Akira she’s positively resplendent in her yukata, meeting up with an overjoyed Haruka and taking her hand.

Akira has apparently decided to take her time and trust the process vis-a-vis Kondou, having faith that in time a friendship can become more, but not to worry about it so much she can’t enjoy that friendship with him or anyone else. It’s very encouraging that she can contact and hang out with Haruka. Like Haruka, I was worried about her for a little bit there!

Just Because! – 09

Whew, there’s a lot to unpack this week. A lot happened!…or at least a lot seemed to happen. Morikawa’s new ‘do causes an unexpected sensation from just about everyone in her class, except for the one guy whose reaction mattered most to her—Souma, because he’s an idiot.

After her not-confession (which Izumi mutters to himself had the exact same effect as a not-not-confession), Komiya is awkward with him, and all the times they naturally bump into each other always end with her retreating wordlessly.

Souma and Natsume encounter one another at the shoe lockers justs as Morikawa starts to play her trumpet, which sounds like it’s beckoning Souma, particularly when Natsume tells him he should go to her. Souma doesn’t want to be a bother…but he is.

No matter, Natsume goes to Morikawa instead; she wants to know how she decided on her future. Morikawa answers earnestly as always, citing her devotion to her family and paying them back for their kindness, but also wanting to taste life on her own for a bit, hence a woman’s university.

Morikawa wonders if it’s just a matter of her not wanting to be an adult, but Natsume thinks Morikawa really has “her act together”, especially compared to her.

After some unintentional synchronization after school (after which she exclaims “this day sucks!” with a smile), the third time turns out to be the charm for Komiya, as she runs into Izumi again while he’s on a run. She runs into the konbini and buys him a cold tea; he goes in and buys her a hot one in return.

There’s a Valentine’s Day sign in sight, and Izumi tells Komiya it’s almost time for his least favorite time of the year. Komiya coyly replies that even if Natsume never got him chocolate, he should expect some this year. Did I mention how fun these two are to watch?

Before leaving hastily yet again, Komiya expresses hope they can “get along like this from here on out!”; after she leaves Izumi mutters that that’s impossible. I think Komiya kinda knows that; Natsume still probably enjoys a lead in Izumi’s heart, regardless of how few nice interactions they’ve had.

The next day, Morikawa’s brothers spot Souma on the baseball field and run out to meet him. Souma finally has the opportunity to compliment Morikawa, and while she seems grateful, there seems to be something on her mind.

That gets back to the continuation of her talk with Natsume, after she asked how Natsume if she had feelings for Souma. Natsume responds that she liked him, past-tense, in a one-sided middle school crush, but locked the feelings away, but they eventually dispersed naturally.

Natsume was satisfied with “nothing coming of it” and “not trying to let anything come of it.” She also says there’s someone else she likes anyway, and when on her way home, she can’t resist buying chocolates for that person…and has made the decision to change her university to Izumi’s recommended school.

That means, of course, Izumi’s now studying for enrollment to the wrong school! It’s an object lesson in why you should really be more open about their plans, especially with someone you has feelings for. It would have obviously been a nice surprise if Natsume had stayed put, but that’s no longer the case.

I definitely dig Natsume’s bold move in escaping her sister’s orbit, even if neither she nor Izumi are making it easy for each other to come together. Still, while I’ve instantly come to love the idea of Izumi and Komiya, that “impossible” from him certainly leads me to assume Natsume is the one he’ll choose, even if they attend different universities.

I’m okay with that; I like both girls but there has to be a winner and a loser. All I’m sure of is that the next two-three weeks are going to be a roller coaster.