Call of the Night – 12 – Part of the Ordinary

Nothing like watching a starving vampire die with your friends to put a damper on your fun, huh? That tension pervades this episode as well. While Mahiru speaks alone with Anko in her very classic noir detective office, Kou twists and turns in bed, and when he goes to Nazunas and she prepares to feed, he finds himself pushing her away.

After talking things out (she promises him she’s in no danger of becoming like that starving teacher) they go on a walk, and Kou feels a little better, especially after Nazuna sucks his blood. He was suddenly confronted with the dark side of vampirism, but feels now that he’s identified that fear he can manage it.

I also like the subtle ways Nazuna’s new maid café pay allows her to buy a new top and shoes, switching up her usual all-black style. Switching up her wardrobe makes her feel more, well, human, and less of the evil villainous monsters Anko believes all vamps to be, who would of course always wear the same outfit.

Either later that night or on another night, Kou and Mahiru hang out, Kou finally meets Mahiru’s older friend, and Kou can’t take his eyes of her, despite her not being a vampire (as far as we know). But Mahiru’s true reason is to get Kou to reconsider becoming a vampire, asking him to at least explain why he needs to be one so bad.

Hearing his old friend say these things, and bring up the very frightening prospect of either him or Akira getting hurt, sends Kou’s anxiety and doubt rushing back. He’s so out of sorts, when he next visits Nazuna, he simply needs her to hold him quietly for a bit. Sensing a change of scenery might help, she invites herself to his house, where his mom is out (and his dad’s been gone).

As Nazuna performs at thorough porn search, Kou realizes she’s the first girl he’s had in his room and on his bed; Nazuna notes how the bed smells like him, adding to the raunchiness. But then they turn to real talk, and she tells him it’d be weird if he wasn’t unsure about being turned after what he witnessed.

Kou says he wants to become a vampire because he loves the night and all its freedom and strangeness. He also likes Nazuna, who acknowledges all his emotions and is at the end of the night a decent person, vampire or no. But he can’t discount the potential for hurting his friends, so he wavers. When he then adds that Nazuna is “that eager” to make him her offspring, her resulting expression makes it feel like an uncalled-for low blow.

Nazuna expands on Kou’s love of the night, believing he truly loves it because it’s out of the ordinary. She asks him to compare his first night out to his latest, and Kou can’t deny the excitement has waned some. Then she says that she’s lived for decades as a vampire and felt nothing but boredom (or to be more precise, ennui*).

Rather than try to convince him to be a vampire, Nazuna can’t help but discourage him, since in her experience it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. She tried to make things as fun and exciting for him because that’s how she wanted to be, and how she wanted him to think vampires were like.

These two are no longer strangers to setting jokes aside and  saying what’s in their heart, but in this case, the truth hurts. It’s also not altogether surprising; immortality is bound to get dull once you’ve seen and done everything and nothing is new or exciting; when everything becomes ordinary.

Just as Nazuna turns to leave, Kou trips on his chair, drops the remote to the light, and falls onto the bed, on top of her. The bleak light of his room becomes a deep, dark purplish blue, and motes of dust sparkle in the moonlight. Just one little stumble, and suddenly things are exciting and extraordinary again.

Nazuna rises as if to kiss him, but her lips pass his and go to his ear, asking if he thought she was going to kiss him, then licking his neck marks and disappearing through the window.

One night, Kou decides to meet with Anko, curious about how exactly she kills vampires and why, and to basically learn more about her. But Anko isn’t the kind of person who is easy to get a read on, especially if you’re a middle school boy. She batters him with faux flirting and deductive reasoning. She messes with him the way a cat messes with a mouse.

And like a cat, her end goal is to destroy: not Kou, but Kou’s designs on becoming a vampire. In the beige, drab night (I love how the environment changes when she’s around) she offers him a stark black and white choice: abandon his plans, or be killed by her hand as soon as he becomes one.

His attempts to counter her arguments by describing the vampires he’s met fall on deaf ears; Anko doesn’t want to hear it. Vampires are evil and shouldn’t exist, period, and any human traits or behavior they adopt is in the service of feeding on and killing humans.

When Kou asks how he’ll avoid being killed by the other vampires if he decides not to become one, Anko simply says she’ll kill every last one. It’s chilling to hear someone with such resolve speaking Nazuna’s name. When he refuses to choose, she simply plays dirty, calling the police and reporting a middle schooler hanging out late at night.

Kou runs from Anko, but it will be hard to run away from her will, and now the night is tinged with that fear he thought he could control: the fear of losing the night where he feels most free. When a cop car turns on its lights and sirens, bathing him in red light, the paranoia briefly takes over, and he seeks shelter in a playground slide.

It’s here, where he wants nothing more than to be with Nazuna, talking with her about nothing of import, where he’s approached by Suzushiro Hatsuka. Hatsuka doesn’t seem there to threaten or hurt him, but simply to talk, having possibly smelled Kou’s fear and/or anxiety.

Don’t get me wrong: vampires shouldn’t be allowed to go around murdering people, or drinking their blood without consent. But the world has more than enough people out there who would gladly offer their blood to vampires, as Kou does with Nazuna.

Dismissing peaceful coexistence while shrugging over the awful things humans do to each other seems not only reductive but hypocticial. Then again, she could simply be an anti-vamp zealot, perhaps after losing a loved one. In any case, she’s definitely got her hooks at least partially in Kou (not to mention Mahiru), and is unlikely to loosen her grip anytime soon.

Call of the Night – 11 – Here Comes the Morning

Nazuna has put her sudden influx of maid café income to good use, procuring a new bed, floor lamp, a shelf for things, and houseplants (hopefully of the kind that like shade). She hopes the bed in particular will help her cuddle buddy/massage gig. But in what is one of her more questionable requests of Kou, she sends him, a middle schooler, out into the night to find “tired-looking” new customers.

He finds a particularly tired-looking lady on a bridge. The de-saturated palette, trench coat, and smoking habit all point to her being a private eye. Her name is Uguiso Anko, and she’s willing to hear Kou’s sales pitch. They go to a café to chat, and Anko immediately creates an uneasy atmosphere by reciting verbatim the labor laws his boss is breaking, then asks about Akiyama Akihito, quite out of the blue (or in this case, taupe).

When Kou lies that he’s never heard of him, Anko slams on the table and draws in close, the line of smoke from her cigarette twisting in a threatening spiral. Clearly she can smell a lie (and see the bite marks on his neck). Needless to say, Kou is way out of his element here! Fortunately, she backs down and leaves, but also leaves him her card.

When Kou returns without a customer but having hung out with another woman in a cafe, Nazuna is cross, so he’s unable to tell her any details about who he met or who she was looking for. Another night, Mahiru leads Kou and Akira on a fun night out together as good friends, feeling like that hasn’t happened enough since they were all small.

The three sneak into the school and explore the “seven mysteries”, then decide to investigate an eighth, regarding a teacher who went missing ten years ago. Upon opening a classroom door on a lark, they actually find this missing teacher, who loooks haggard as hell and extremely volatile. Combined with the tension of Kou’s sit-down with Anko, this is already easily the least chill episode of Call of the Night.

Shit officially shifts into the horror genre when the teacher repeatedly curses the fact these kids showed up, states how he’s unable to “hold back” any longer, and then pounces on Akira. Mahiru tries to pull him off, and after freezing for way too long, Kou finally clobbers Akira’s attacker with a chair (and those school chairs hurt, lemme tell ya).

The ghoulish teacher is only stunned, however, and as the three ponder what to do in the hall, the vivid blues, pinks, and purples suddenly give way to the near-monochromatic palette that seems to emanate from Uguiso Anko, Private Detective. After lighting a cigarette, she beckons for the man, who is a vampire, to come at her.

But when he drinks her blood he finds it disgusting. Anko says her working theory is correct: this guy hasn’t drunk human blood for all his ten years as a vampire. The man says he was tricked into falling in love with one and then turned into one. Anko simply embraces him with empathy and understanding.

Then she places what looks like a silver ring in his hand, tells him not to let it go, and then dawn arrives, the setting sun causing him to crumble into dust. It’s the first death of a person—undead or not—that the three kids have ever seen, and as you’d expect, they’re in something of a state of shock. Not so for Anko who explains that some of her cases involve vampires.

When Kou asks her why he had to die, her answer is simple: why let a monster live? She then moves in close and grabs Kou by the scruff, warning him that she won’t let him achieve his “dream”, because he doesn’t have the slightest clue about vampires…not really. As the sun rose and the long-suffering, starving vampire fell, so too have the chill vibes.

Kou walks home not necessarily considering Anko an automatic enemy, but suddenly feeling crushed by the weight of what he doesn’t know. Of course, he’d been operating under the ludicrous assumption that everyone who is a vampire wanted to be one, because vampires are cool. It’s a splash of ice water to the face, for sure, and Anko is a formidable and fascinating antagonist, thanks in no small part to Sawashiro Miyuki’s powerful performance.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 14 – Thinking About Pi

Nagi agrees to help Erika study for her make-up exams as long as she stays focused, but let’s be honest: even he knew that wasn’t going to be easy. Erika cosplays in a military uniform (and dresses up Sachi too) and plays lip service to this studying “mission” to hold the “territory” of their house, but …she also just might have undiagnosed ADHD.

There’s also the matter of her previous rich girl’s school not being nearly as academically tough as Nagi’s, and even if it’s not Nagi’s fault her father enrolled her there, the fact it was done because they’re engaged lends him a measure of responsibility, so he tries to help her study, but she keeps getting hung up on things like why the symbol for Pi isn’t a cute emoji.

But after more than three hours of not getting through a single problem, Nagi is fed up, and reiterates that he needs to study too in order to beat Hiro. Hearing her brought up is the last straw for Erika, who gives up and skulks off to her room, apparently resigned to move back in with her parents. Nagi, too annoyed by the lack of progress, doesn’t stop her, and Sachi’s attempt at mediation fails.

Later that evening, Nagi realizes that he’s become accustomed to this place, and isn’t in a hurry to leave it, but that’s what will happen if Erika fails the make-ups. That would feel like moving backwards. When he goes downstairs for some coffee he sees Sachi crashing on the couch. She tells him that Erika is still studying, and he should help her.

When he enters her room (without knocking) Erika is sitting at her little desk lamp fighting back tears as she desperately tries to cram, so while Nagi’s sudden appearance is unexpected, it’s not unwelcome. When she asks why he’s helping her when he’s fine with her going home, he says her problems are his problems, because she’s his fiancée.

While Erika continues to prove a tough toutee, Nagi pulls two straight all-nighters with her, and he’s there in the classroom when she receives the result of their hard work and perseverance: her grade improved, and her dad calls off the summons. Erika and Nagi share both revel in their victory with wide smiles. Her text to her dad with the news, complete with eyelid-pull emoji, actually makes him happy.

As a reward for passing, Sachi invites Erika to the festival being held at the shopping district where the Uminos’ diner is. She’s late getting ready, and the folks wander off to mingle, so the family yakisoba stand is run by Nagi and Sachi. You can tell when Nagi catches her after she trips on her laces that Sachi is happy for some quality Onii time.

However, things get awkward with them again when Hiro shows up. Nagi introduces her, she remembers the text on Nagi’s phone about going on a date, and reacts coldly, turning her head and ignoring Nagi when he says she’s being rude. She’s also offended when Nagi so quickly agrees to walk around with Hiro later.

She assumed that Nagi would hang out with her and Erika, especially since this is in part a celebration of Erika passing her exams. It’s kind of cold and oblivious of Nagi too, considering Erika told him to think of Sachi as less of a little sister, and I thought it got through to him. Apparently not!

Naturally, before Nagi is done cleaning up the stand after they sell out of food, Erika arrives resplendent in a yukata lends one to Sachi, and the two head out without him and bump into Hiro, because of course they do! Not only that, Erika introduces Sachi as her sister, when Hiro had already heard that she was Hiro’s.

It’s weird to think that Hiro has never officially met Sachi, but then again she isn’t aware that Erika and Nagi (and Sachi) live in the same house, nor did she even know Nagi’s home was a diner. She and Nagi have been through a lot, but there’s still a lot she doesn’t know about him and Erika, and it looks like she’s going to learn more very soon.

Whether that new knowledge will change how she feels about Nagi “changing her fate”, or makes her feel betrayed and hurt, only time will tell. But I for one believe she’s been in the dark too long as Nagi’s “side girl”. It’s time for things to come to light and let the cards fall where they may.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 13 – It’s a New Morning

After Nagi’s realization sparked by dad that he harbors feelings for all three of Hiro, Erika, and Sachi, he realizes something else: he cannot think about anything else. This realization, combined with the reality that he hasn’t been studying nearly as much as he used to, comes crashing down on him in the middle of midterm exams. He ends up bombing, falling from first to thirteenth.

Nagi shambles home and holes up in his dark room, feeling like trash, since he believes his primary value to be studying and acing tests. Under the pretext of complaining about dinner not being ready (complete with growling stomach), Erika enters his room to tell him that’s simply not the case, and no matter his rank, he’s “just as valuable” to her.

It’s an extremely cute and bold move from Erika coming off her “not yet” amendment, and Nagi can’t help but smile when he realizes she’s both trying and succeeding to cheer him up.

Hiro is a slightly different story. Back at school, she starts blatantly avoiding him, but then leaves one of her signature not-love letters in his shoe locker. Erika suggests that Hiro feels betrayed because Nagi was on his high horse about beating her once only to fall so far on the next exam. But as we learn when Nagi meets Hiro at the beautifully lit basketball court after school, that’s only half of Hiro’s story.

After Nagi apologizes for letting his guard down and commits to doing better, Hiro passes him the rock, giving a playful rhythm to their make-up talk. But it wasn’t just her respect for him as an academic rival that made her upset; it was learning how quickly he cheered up without any input from her. She wanted to be the one to cheer him up first but Erika beat her to the punch.

Watching Hiro make a layup in dazzling slow motion, it occurs to Nagi that while things are a lot more complicated with regard to his romantic life, he still loves Hiro aplenty, and still wants to beat her enough times at exams so he can “change her fate” she’ll process his confession. But as we saw during times when he and Erika were having what amounted to lovers quarrels in earshot of both Hiro and Sachi, everyone coming out of this happy and satisfied is a tall ask.

I’m not surprised Nagi wants to try his best to simplify and work on things he knows he can by getting back to his intense studying regimen and climbing back to the top of the rankings. Even then, Erika makes it known she needs his help studying, or her folks will bring her back home.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 12 – Not Yet

With Nagi and Sachi successfully making up, Erika decides she wants to take Nagi shopping after school…only he already has “something important” to do. That consists of having a study session with Hiro at the library, where they spend most of the time exchanging notes.

After that, Nagi is concerned with where else they can study more, but Hiro wants to show him more about herself, so she takes him to a kickboxing studio. Nagi isn’t completely physically incompetent, and thus impresses with his punch. Erika happens to walk by and see how much fun he and Hiro are having.

The last few episodes, Erika has been pretty okay with Nagi doing his own thing, and even said she’d root for him and Hiro, whom she adores. But actually seeing the two together has an effect she didn’t anticipate. She tries to counter that effect by reasserting their technical status as fiancés by announcing they’re going on a date together.

Just as Hiro did at the theme park, Erika takes the lead, buying Nagi some expensive clothes, taking him to a pet store to hang out with some reptiles, and finally going on an exhausting evening run. After each leg of their date, she stares at Nagi and looks disappointed. She eventually tells him: she saw him smiling like a goofball with Hiro, but he never smiles at her!

Nagi takes Erika’s problem to its logical conclusion: she got jealous and pissed seeing him and Hiro together, which means she likes him. Pointing this out doesn’t help matters, but Erika doesn’t outright deny it, simply saying “It’s not that I like you!…Yet!” before storming off.

Nagi, however, remains on the park bench until well after sundown, contemplating how Erika feels and how he in turn feels about that. He can’t deny his heart is racing, which makes him wonder if he likes Erika, and whether what he’s feeling for Hiro is love.

Nagi resorts to googling “love” then going back home for the first time in forever to consult his mega dictionary, but ends up finding a box full of love letters from his dad to his mom. Like, all of them were from his dad.

The letters are dumb, sappy, embarrassing…but his dad kept writing them, and his mom kept accepting them, and eventually accepted and returned his feelings, despite being seemingly out of his league. Sensing his son is questioning his love, he tells him to close his eyes and “ask his heart”—the one he loves should show up in his mind’s eye.

Nagi does this, and for the first time, all three girls appear at the same time, albeit with Erika in the center. Naturally, this is extremely confusing for Nagi, who has operated the entire first half of this series under the impression he loved Hiro and only Hiro. But between Erika and him living together and being pretty goshdarn great together and his realignment of how he sees Sachi, Nagi is finally seeing the full, multi-girl picture.

Of course, this is just the initial awareness stage. It remains to be seen whether he accepts that he has feelings of various levels for Erika, Hiro, and Sachi, or that one day a choice will have to be made that might break two of their hearts (or all three). But it’s a satisfying development nonetheless, and I liked his text response to Erika: he doesn’t like her either…yet. For both of them, “yet” is a shield, but it’s also a kind of invitation.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 12 (Fin) – Happier Than Any Dream

Shikimori closes out its 12-episode run by pulling out all the adorable romantic stops en route to one of the sweetest, most heartwarming date episodes ever animated. It’s starts off with Shikimori revealing her very cool suit and coat she wears to the date, not wanting to be hampered by a skirt.

The two totally geek out over the Disneyland-style theme park, and while other people around them start to express their impatience over a 90-minute line for a ride, the two lovebirds pass the time effortlessly by just chatting and laughing with one another.

By the time they’re almost to the end of the Sleeping Beauty-themed ride, Izumi-hime nods off, and Shikimori-ouji leans in for the kiss to wake him. She’d have done it too, if not for a spot of Izumi-style bad luck where the exit doors open at precisely the wrong moment.

From there, Izumi suggests a shorter line next, to which Shikimori says she’ll wait in any line of any length, since being with him makes everything more fun. She takes his hand and runs to the next amusements, then he runs ahead and takes the lead, and the two just generally have the absolute time of their lives, firmly ensconced atop cloud nine.

When there’s a hiccup involving Izumi’s dinner reservation, the restaurant makes it up to them by giving them a choice table with a gorgeous view of the Venice-styled cityscape and a lavish multi-course meal complete with fancy redundant cutlery.

Izumi adorably orders an orange juice, while Shikimori gets a ginger ale, and looks at Izumi through it. She notes how everything around her looks prettier when she’s with him, and makes her wonder how beautiful the world is through Izumi’s eyes. The two hold hands and just gaze at each other as the waitress looks on, no doubt amused by how goshdarn cute these kids are.

While Izumi mistakes the “thing in the commercial” Shikimori wants them to do as escorting her, by the time they’re aboard a nighttime gondola ride together, Izumi realizes she meant smoochin’. Just before they take a photo together, the entire park goes dark from a freak power outage. Izumi curses his luck…but again, it works out to their advantage here.

With nothing but darkness around them and only the light of his phone, their situation is a distillation of how they already are: they have eyes for nothing and no one but each other. If this was a dream, Shikimori wouldn’t want to wake up. For a few glorious minutes the gondola becomes their entire world. There, Shikimori plants a princely kiss upon Izumi’s hand, and then Izumi one-ups her by delivering a peck on the cheek.

I hasten to add that all of these gestures, as the interactions and expressions between these two have been throughout the show’s run, are impeccably, lovingly lit and animated. The compositions, direction, and underlying feelings are enough to carry scenes like this, but the production values really propel them to another level.

Just before the lights come back on, Izumi gets the chance to look and sound cool as he brings up how worried she was about them drifting away a while ago, but he confidently re-confesses his love to her, and promises he’ll never leave her side. The power of Izumi’s cool face and cooler words is so much for Shikimori she has to melt into him for a little while, even after the lights come back on. Forget about dreams; what she’s feeling right here and now in reality is far better than any dream.

The episode could have ended right there and still been an easy five stars, but we get curtain calls for Shuu, Kyou, and Yui as they try to suss out of Izumi and Shikimori “what happened” on their date. Izumi twists himself into a work of modern art of embarrassment, whle Shikimori’s blushing over a kiss on the cheek is not the heavy details Inspectors Nekozaki and Hachimitsu were trying to get out of the pink-haired perp.

Still, as long as Shikimori and Izumi are happy—and they sure seem to be the happiest couple around—it doesn’t matter if a kiss on the actual lips is beyond their abilities. They have all the time in the world to take little or big steps forward in the future. The episode ends on a pitch-perfect note, reiterating how Shikimori is incredibly cute and cool by spin-kicking an errant can about to hit Izumi into a garbage can twenty feet away, then continuing on her way.

I’m honestly still pretty deep into the “warm and fuzzies” after this sweet and gooey masterpiece of a finale, but that’s what a great romantic anime does: it sweeps you up completely in the same kind of feelings of love and excitement its lead couple is experiencing. It’s a cozy, comforting blanket that, like the shoujo manga that changed Shikimori’s life, reminded you how amazing love is.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 11 – A Proper Woman

Sachi is out visiting her folks at the newly opened family diner, so when a storm causes a blackout, it’s just Nagi and Erika, who instinctually hold one another. Growing up loaded, Erika is so unaccustomed to outages she assumes the Martians are attacking.

Once she lights her aromatherapy candle, she and Nagi calm down, and have a cozy little conversation about how much fun they’re both having. Then Erika realizes there’s an emergency kit in the entry hall coat closet and has him go collect it.

While in the hall, Nagi finds a puddle, then trips and falls into who he thinks is Erika…but it’s actually Sachi, who just got home. When he falls into her, they lock lips, but he dismisses it as no big deal and returns to Erika, who is calling for him like a wife would.

But it is a big deal for Sachi, and there’s no way she can forget it! After hearing the exact same scenario play out on her and her friends’ favorite anime, she decides “Screw Onii” and avoids him for the next couple days, making the atmosphere at home awkward for everyone, including Erika.

When Nagi finally comes clean to Erika about what happened, Erika dons her sexy teacher cosplay and points out where Nagi erred. He may still see her as his brat of a kid sister, she’s close to marriageable age; a “proper woman”, and Nagi was insensitive.

When it’s just Nagi and Hiro at the next library study session, Hiro can tell something’s up and offers her services as spiritual counselor free of charge. She tells Nagi he can be insensitive, especially when he blew through her admitting she was engaged and publicly declared academic war against her. But she also likes how straightforward and direct he is, so she advises him to be that way here.

Thanks to the perspective and advice of two other people who care about both him and Sachi, Nagi arrives at Sachi’s door nervous but prepared to end this little row with honesty and contriteness.

He tells Sachi he’s sorry for hurting her and being so thoughtless, and declares his intention to no longer look at her or treat her as just his kid sister, but the proper woman she is fast becoming.

His words do the trick; we know that Sachi wanted this from Nagi, and hearing the words from his mouth without her having to beat him over the head with a baseball bat means the word to her.

Of course, Nagi remains blissfully unaware of the fact Sachi has feelings for him, but hey, at least they’re talking again. Erika is clearly relieved that the vibes will improve

I remain unenthused at the prospect of a Sachi Route, and their accidental kiss could reasonably be held in contempt of the laws of physics, but it was true that Nagi wasn’t being fair to Sachi, and his adjustment in thinking was both welcome and arrived upon thanks to the friendships he’s forged with Erika and Hiro.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 10 – Cup Ramen and Foie Gras

When Erika takes off to hang out with her mom (the one who raised her) Sachi doesn’t waste the sudden opportunity to hang out with her Onii. She ostensibly wants to buy a gift for their mom, but both of seem to agree their mom isn’t much of a gift receiver, so you have to think part of her just wants to see what it’s like to go on something like a date with Nagi.

The two settle on an apron (and sure enough, their mom could take or leave it) but when Sachi comes upon the idea, Nagi rewards her with a head pat, which pisses her off to no end. As much as she pretends not to stand him, Sachi wants Nagi to see her as a girl, not an imouto. Alas, he’s utterly oblivious. He just wants to study and win Hiro, which is why he’s probably none too pleased about suddenly being yanked out of the house by Erika.

Erika, who herself was blissfully reveling in her first cup ramen, got a text from her dad saying he’s coming—no discussion, not argument, he’s just coming and that’s that—so she ditches both wallet and phone, grabs Nagi, and heads out. Where doesn’t matter; that even she’s not sure is the point. No GPS or purchase history means even someone as rich and powerful as her dad can’t find her if she doesn’t want to see him.

Instead, Sachi is person who encounters her dad making himself at home in the house. She initially thinks he’s a burglar, but she should have called the cops anyway, considering he later lures her out and plys her with foie gras. I’m with the wait staff of his restaurant: it’s weird that he suddenly takes Sachi out to dinner.

Sachi is there for the foie gras, and also considers it equitable to tell Erika’s father about how she and Nagi are getting along. She probably doesn’t realize she’s being a snitch, because she’s distracted by the fact this is another opportunity for her: if she says they’re terrible together, she could potentially be able to swoop in and have Nagi to herself (again).

But Sachi is not a bad person, so she tells Erika’s father the truth: as mismatched as their personalities seem, Erika and Nagi definitely have a spark—je ne fois gras, if you will. Their chat is interposed between scenes of Nagi showing Erika a good time with zero yen thanks to a steep hill and a piece of cardboard.

As for Erika’s increasingly creepy dad, he heads into his office to admire a framed photo of him and Erika’s dad with Erika…and Nagi, looking like older toddlers. This is strange, as my understanding is they were separated at birth; this suggests they were reunited at some point. It also gives credence to the fact the “certain someone” Erika is trying to reach through SM is, in fact, Nagi, and the two of them simply somehow forgot they knew each other as kids.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 11 – Changing With the Colors of the Sky

It’s the final day of the festival, which means it’s the final day for Kaguya to tell the president how she feels and the final day for him to wait for her to tell him before he tells her how he feels. At first there’s that same old hesitation, as she visits Miyuki at his class’ balloon sculpture booth and wastes a perfectly good opportunity to swap hearts by meekly offering him cold hard cash for a balloon heart and running away. Frankly, it’s a wasted segment, as we knew there was no way there’d be a confession so early.

Since Yuu’s fate is so important for creating an atmosphere where romance is welcome rather than rejected (in favor of an atmosphere of commiseration should Tsubame outright reject him), not to mention this is the second-to-last episode, it’s important for this storyline to edge towards resolution. Tsubame is worried if she dates Yuu she’ll devote her entire self to him (as opposed to the countless suitors who want a casual but low-stakes good time).

When she reaches out to Kaguya for advice on how to say know, at first Kaguya gives her her boilerplate “wipe that lustful look of your face, you swine!” and tells her what won’t kill Yuu will make him stronger…but then like Miyuki last week realize the damage such a rejection would cause her chances with the president, so she backpedals, and they witness both Chika and Miko deal with offers from boys in their own ways.

Chika obviously challenges her would-be beau to a quiz and tells him she her love can’t be tied down. Miko is cornered by two dudes and seemingly gives in to their offer to hang out later before Yuu swoops in and rescues her from her own lack of composure. Tsubame watches this side of Yuu she hadn’t seen before and reconsiders an automatic rejection due simply to concerns she’ll neglect other parts of her life in favor of her boyfriend.

Finally, the time comes when Kaguya is hoping Miyuki will ask her to wander around the festival with him…and he does! So they do! And it’s adorable! She marvels at his composure while they stroll the hallways side by side, invoking awe from all their classmates, but she doesn’t know the weight of the bombshell he’s withholding from her (i.e., Stanford).

The two also take great pains to keep it together at the fortune teller as she tells them they’re basically the perfect couple for one another (and given training, could be great in bed as well). The teller calling Kaguya a “surface of pure water” influenced by changes in the color of the sky is not only a lovely way of describing her personality, but also tracks with the credit sequence where she is influenced by the evil aliens until Miyuki gets her back.

The rest of their date unfolds as you’d expect, and Kaguya is on cloud nine, the clear water glowing with happiness now that she’s finally experiencing what before she’d only been able to imagine. However, it all comes to an end when they return to the StuCo office and Miyuki presents her with his acceptance letter from Stanford, and his intent to skip a grade and study abroad there, making this his final festival at Shuchiin.

After delivering this information to Kaguya, the episode ends in dead silence, with Kaguya in shock and a note from “Arsene (Lupin)”, the “Phantom Thief” Chika has been chasing in the background, stating simply “To Be Continued.” But we still get the Starship Troopers-inspired credits, the meta-story of which is a reversal of the current situation: it’s Miyuki who is being borne to a far-flung land, and up to Kaguya to either convince him to stay or go after him and get him back.

Miyuki seems pretty intent on going through with this, and you can’t blame him with his and his family’s tenuous financial situation. People abandon their ideal romantic future for pragmatism’s sake all the time; I just hope that’s not what happens here. But now Kaguya knows what we’ve known. Miyuki was always going to present this future to her, and presumably still plans to confess if she doesn’t.

The festival is winding down, and there’s still a campfire to be lit. Perhaps that will be when something happens. It will have to be, since we’re just about out of season 3 episodes! I maintain, however, that if there’s nothing but loneliness and distance waiting for Kaguya and Miyuki, I maintain that will hate this series with the passion of a billion burning suns forevermore. That will categorically not stop me from watching that play out in a fourth season.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 11 – Polishing the Diamond

We check in on Aoi, who is finishing off a lauded competitor who couldn’t bring it in a practice match, and she’s looking forward to reuniting with her soul mate Eve when instead she’s summoned to her grandfather’s house. She’s only mad until he serves her her favorite cake from Hokkaido. The true purpose for the visit is so Gramps can find out who Coach Amuro is pairing Aoi up with.

Shinjou says without hesitation: Eve is the best replacement for the injured President Jinguuji. Back at Raiou, Amuro doesn’t bother putting Eve in the standard golf practices with the plebs; he knows he has a diamond in the rough on his hands, and when Jinguuji removes her arm sling and volunteers to polish her, he agrees. Ichina also tags along for the three-day retreat to the Athena Golf Resort, the better to build chemistry with Eve.

While Jinguuji wants Eve to learn about Japanese courses, Eve starts off their training sessions with her bullets. Jinguuji throws a wrench in her works by moving her balls into uncomfortable and difficult positions. Easy Mode is officially cancelled. Eve complains at first, but when Jinguuji assures her that she’ll have to master all kinds of unplanned shots to beat the best Japan has to offer, she rises to the challenge.

A nifty day-to-night training montage ensues, with Even getting the hang of Jinguuji’s coaching and actually seemingly learning something. Jinguuji also makes sure to run Eve ragged across their three days, so much so that Eve falls asleep in the hot spring and leans up against Ichina…something she’s lucky Aoi didn’t see.

Everyone, including Ichina, venerates President Jinguuji, but she claims to know the truth about herself: that she’s a “weed” who can grow to impressive height but can never reach the sun. In trying to become the golfer Amuro wanted her to be, she ruined her elbow, and it will never be the same. We see Jinguuji at her lowest moments, the imperious façade she shows Eve completely broken down.

Amuro, the asshole, actually seemingly engineered things so that Jinguuji would injure herself and make way for Eve, presumably after he saw her play on TV. That’s pretty shitty, and my skin crawled when he gave her a commiserating hug. After treating her like a tool and literally breaking her, now you treat her like a human being?

The next day, Amuro announces that Aoi and Eve will be the two Raiou representatives for the All-Japan Girls High School Doubles Championship—a tournament that, again, Aoi’s mom invented to serve as a spotlight and springboard for her daughter. Amuro wants to eliminate any doubts the other golfers might have about his choice.

What results is Aoi and Eve’s much-anticipated first golf date in way too long a time. Both of them remark how they’ve been disappearing from one another ever since Eve arrived, only to laugh it off and quite casually put on one hell of a show for their club-mates, both with their golf and their lovey-dovey interactions.

Here’s hoping Birdie Wing continues its brisk storytelling by covering the start (if not all) of the tournament in its final episode (or two). I’d hate to think the show is ending so soon with so many big golf names being introduced for Eve to challenge and defeat, and to not give this splendid series at least another cour (and ideally three or four more, a la Chihayafuru) would be criminal in my eyes.

Komi Can’t Communicate S2 – 10 – Tomo-Choco

The first day back from the school trip, everyone’s got a little Komi in them, as everyone tentatively approaches the new friends they made in Kyoto in the much more familiar setting of their classroom. Tadano can tell Komi wants to go talk to Mikuni, and watches her go from normal to negative to fired up to negative again. All she needs is a little push, which he literally gives her, enabling her an Mikuni to reconnect. Ayami soon joins them when she sees them talking.

We shift to a pair of Komi’s older friends when Onemine invites her and Kaede to her house to make chocolates for Valentines Day. Her many younger siblings are bemused by Komi, so beautiful yet so quiet. Once she does say something, they praise how lovely a voice it is. The three girls and Onemine’s fam exude warmth and good vibes, and that chocolate cake looked hella delicious.

The rubber meets the road the next day at school, when Valentines is in full swing. The three lads envision how different girls in their class would give them chocolate, but those are just delusions. Ren has to make things gross and weird, but Katai makes up for it by getting chocolate from Mikuni and then giving friendship chocolate to Tadano.

Little did Tadano know it would be the only chocolate he’d get that day. Komi was going to put some in his shoe locker, but he showed up before she could do so and she scurried away and things were awkward between them the rest of the day. It isn’t until he goes out on an errand for his sister and mom that he bonks Komi with his door.

They go to a park, where Komi reveals that the thing she brought for him was a printout for when he wasn’t in class. They part ways, but thankfully Komi summons some courage and runs back to Tadano’s place, even calling out his name with the loudest voice we’ve ever heard from her!

She almost punks out again when she says it’s just “friendship” chocolate as opposed to the other kind, then makes the caveat that she made sure Tadano got the best of the batch she made. I’m not sure why Tadano would ever think this girl hates him…She yelled for him, for goshsakes!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 10 – Every Shot’s a Gamble

Eve attracts a lot of attention at her knew fifties diner-looking fancypants school, and on her first day, she doesn’t really like it. She dresses and acts like a yankee or delinquent, because she’s not here to make friends. She’s here to fulfill her promise to Aoi, whom she longs to “play with” all day long, only for Shinjou to put the kibosh on an after-school game.

Aoi giving Eve blue-bullet-balls only makes her more pent-up and frustrated, but Aoi tells her they can play all the time if she joins the school’s Golf Club, so with Ichina in tow, that’s what she tries to do. Unfortunately, the coach, Amuro Reiya (voiced by the same seiyu as Amuro Rey of Gundam fame) only pisses her off more. Of course, that’s intentional on his part. He’s testing her.

Unaware of how much money Eve made in the previous arc, Ichina assumes Eve has nowhere to go after school, but Eve proves her wrong by sidling up to the first pair of admiring classmates, captivating them with her ladykiller skillz, and proceeding to have a grand night out of shopping and games. Eve demonstrates she’s not just good at golf.

When her new friends (whose names she probably won’t remember) head home just before their curfews, Eve reveals she’s known Ichina has been stalking her all along. Ichina doesn’t consider it stalking; she’s observing one of the best golfers she’s encountered, and wants to be her caddy so they can win together. When one Iseshiba Kuyou appears and challenges Eve to a game of mini golf, Eve is ready to do battle.

While Kuyou demonstrates sublime precision in her putting, both she and Ichina are equal parts shocked, outraged, and entranced by the unique way Eve plays, which involves jumps, bounces, and lots of ricochets. Every shot feels like a gamble, like Eve is walking a tightrope…and yet the balls keep going in all the same.

After witnessing a few of Eve’s holes, even an elite golfer like Kuyou is well and truly shook. Fortunately for her, her senpai and teammate, Iijima Kaoruko, is nearby and tags herself in, sensing Kuyou is about to miss a shot. Keenly aware of the psychological aspect of golf, Kaoruko proceeds to use her In the Zone skill to shut off the outside world until there’s only her, the ball, the hole, and the route to get there.

After Kaoruko sinks her hole with a wedge, Ichina stops Eve from taking her shot. Eve remembers that Ichina said she could help her win the all-girls tournament, she stops and listens to what her caddy has to say. Kaoruko set a trap with her wedge shot, denting the green right in front of the hole. Ichina proposes not avoiding that dent but using it to get the ball in the hole. Eve is able to do so, and learns the value of Ichina as her caddy.

Kaoruko learns that both Eve and Ichina aren’t as dumb or inept as they look, and cuts the match short for the time being. That said, Kaoruko fully expects to see Eve at the All-Japan Girls High School Golf Doubles Championship. She’ll most likely be paired with Kuyou, and gives Coach Amuro a call telling him it was cruel to use her kohai to a player like Eve.

Turns out both Kuyou and Kaoruko comprised the test Amuro laid out for Eve, and she passed it with flying colors. With his ace Jinguuji Kinue out of commission, he needs someone to replace her by Aoi’s side at the championship, and it’s looking like that person is Eve. She’s already shown she can take and benefit from advice from a caddy; perhaps her crazy style of play can find a home at Raiou.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Komi Can’t Communicate S2 – 09 – Just One of the Girls

On the second day of the school trip the groups can do what they please. The trio of Sasaki, Katou, and Komi is a little awkward at first, but once they get that Komi isn’t being rude or aloof but is simply a quiet, shy, and often adorable girl, the three girls get into a rhythm that carries them through Katou’s breathless sightseeing schedule.

Whether due to all the energy expended earlier or, more appealingly, the natural ups and downs of companionship, things get a little tense between Sasaki, who says the schedule was too brisk, and Katou, who resents being the only one who thought to make a plan and wanted to see more. Komi bridges the two clashing positions by showing them some photos she took on her phone demonstrating that they did, in fact, have a lot of fun.

Buoyed by Komi’s nice save, and relieved that she was able to repair the vibe just by being her cute guileless self, the three girls continue their tour, heading to a district where Komi gets to dress up like a Geisha, is mistaken for a princess by street performers, and gets rescued by Sasaki in a Hannya mask armed with her trusty…yo-yo?!

Sasaki and Katou came off as pleasantly dull background characters at first, but the more time we and Komi spend with them, they more they come into their own as distinct and appealing characters in their own right. In a cast chock full of sometimes absurd caricatures, their down-to-earthness almost feels exotic…it’s like having two female Tadanos around!

Yet, as we know, while relatively normal on the outside, Sasaki and Katou have super-specific passions: Sasaki for yo-yoing and Katou for shogi. Sasaki tries to hide her secret identity (she genuinely thought Komi was in danger) but Katou plays a shogi match of words. Ultimately Katou loves knowing extraordinary people, not matter what they’re extraordinary at.

That attitude convinces Katou that her talent is something to be flaunted, not embarrassed by…though she keeps the hannya mask on when she flashes her yo-yo for Sasaki and Komi in the hotel room. When the lights go out, the boy talk starts, and we learn Katou likes Katai, Sasaki is single, and the name of the boy Komi likes starts with an H (for Hitohito).

Sasaki and Katou are well aware of how close Komi and Tadano are, and would not be surprised if they’ve been dating for a while. When Komi claims not to know “what liking someone feels like”, they arrange things on the bullet train home so Tadano is sitting next to Komi while she’s sleeping, and her head eventually slides onto Tadano’s shoulder.

This was a lovely outing, with Komi making two new friends, and those friends seeing Komi in a new light not as someone to simply venerate, but someone you can have fun hanging out with. She even sleeps!

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