Yuru Camp△ 2 – 08 – Wabi-Sabi Worrywart

Chiaki, Aoi, and Ena take the episode off this week, as aside from a sprinkling of Sakura it’s a totally Nadeshiko & Rin show, and every moment of it is superbly sublime. It may be my imagination, but this is also an episode that gets a little more creative with camera angles and techniques.

We start with a very cinematic opening shot of Nadeshiko walking through a tunnel. It almost appears like Nadeshiko is walking down the tunnel to enter a Space Shuttle, but the drama is nicely subverted by her singing to herself about towns and the foods they’re known for.

In the middle of her uphill trudge, she stops to soak up the gorgeous view, only to stop herself lest she spoil the view from the campsite. Once she’s arrives, she revels in the wide open space, inspects the clean facilities, and says hi to a camping dad and his two kids.

Nadeshiko gets swept off her feet while laying out her ground cover, and bends one of her tent pegs (just like Rin did once), but is otherwise able to get her tent up without any trouble. She then breaks out all the groceries she bought and prepares for some culinary experimentation. The older of the two camping kids is bemused by this “loner girl”.

Meanwhile, Rin fakes out the audience by first lamenting another path closed for the winter (with another cool camera angle), but it’s a tunnel she already knew would be closed, which coincidentally leads to the Yashajin Pass, where she met the tea shop lady. After arriving in famously scenic Hayakawa and attempting to cross the suspension bridge over the lake, she continues on the Rindou Ikawa Amehata Line to the hot springs.

This also marks the first time a character in the show has uttered the term wabi-sabi, an aesthetic philosophy centered around the “acceptance of and appreciation for transience, imperfection, and incompletion”. In its depictions of Japan’s infrastructure and nature, Yuru Camp and its characters have been uniformly enthusiastic devotees of this worldview.

We get a Sakura sighting as she’s at a store that sells wild game considering whether to buy some deer or some bear paw, but after a quick Googling reveals a far-too-laborious process for cooking said paws, she goes for the easier deer. The final shot in the store is a novel fish-eye surveillance camera filming her from behind and at a distance.

After soaking in the pleasantly not-too-hot spring, Rin enjoys a spell in a massage chair, which must feel especially heavenly after all those hours in the moped saddle. She notices that Nadeshiko hasn’t texted her anything since the photo of her at the Tomato Mart, and decides to give her a call, only to get an automated “phone turned off or out of range” message.

That would be that, except that Rin is both a caring friend and feels responsible for Nadeshiko’s safety after getting her so interested in solo camping. Try as she might to put worries out of her mind, she instead envisions how she’d worry about her at various stages of her own camping trip.

She decides the only way to allay those fears is to take a slight detour and go check on her. Sakura seems to be on the same wavelength as Rin, as she uses the Find My Family app to discern Nadeshiko’s precise location.

Nadeshiko is actually doing just fine, having wrapped all of her veggies in foil and roasted them in a campfire she made inside the cooking pavilion. But when the two camping kids go to the pavilion to heat up their konbini dinners, again the older sister is bemused and a bit weary. Nadeshiko breaks out a little old country granny, further adding to the witch-like aura.

The little brother is the first to approach her, and learns that if she is a witch, she’s a good and kind witch, and one that’s great at outdoor cooking! She roasts a little bit of everything, with the tomato, potato, eggplant and sweet potatoes being particularly successful, the avocado less so, and the carrot gets over-charred.

Nadeshiko not only makes friends of the family, but also inspires the kids to cook next time they go camping, after finding out how easy it can be—literally just wrap a cheap sweet potato in foil, toss it into the flame, and wait! As they part ways, Rin arrives at the campsite to find that Nadeshiko is find, and cell phones just get spotty reception.

When she returns to the parking lot she encounters two glowing eyes and is scared shitless, but it’s just fellow worrywart Sakura, secretly checking in on her sister. The two decide, while they’re there, they might as well go up to the top to see the famously awesome nightscape. I mean, it’s a nightscape!

They do so—and the view is indeed awesome—but are almost caught but for the fact they could hear Nadeshiko coming from her singing to herself. They dash into the tall grass as Nadeshiko beholds the nightscape, takes a selfie, and then wanders around the area trying to find a bar with which to send it.

Rin and Sakura make it out of there without being seen, and as they drive off together, Sakura gets the selfie from Nadeshiko and has Rin stop so she can see it too, then offers to buy her dinner in town. As for Nadeshiko, she sets herself up in her cozy, toasty caterpillar-like sleeping bag on a bench overlooking the nightscape.

I for one am glad she didn’t spot Rin or Sakura, as it preserves the spirit, if not the letter, of the “solo-ness” of her trip, since she didn’t actually ask anyone to stop by and check on her, and there was no need to do so as she was perfectly fine on her own. That said, I’m sure she would have felt good knowing her friend and sister wouldn’t hesitate to do so, even if it diverted them from their own plans. That’s love, baby!

Yuru Camp△ 2 – 07 – Going Solo

Chiaki, Aoi, and Ena were a lot of fun these past two episodes, but by the end of their Lake Yamanaka trip I was ready for some Rin and Nadeshiko time, and that’s what we get here! After Ena shows Chiaki some photos from their almost-ill-fated trip, it finally happens: Rin’s little grill is used as an offertory box, as they drop a coin in and praise their mutual savior. Rin’s deadpan reply is simple and perfect: “No worshipping.”

Ena splits, enabling Nadeshiko to talk solo camping with Rin. Rin’s a little surprised someone as gregarious as Nadeshiko has taken an interest in it, but is happy to offer all the advice she can. In what seems like an intentional contrast to Chiaki mostly winging it, relying on luck, and paying the price, Nadeshiko is determined to plan her first trip The Right Way, and not bite off more than she can chew.

Rin’s insights and advice prove indispensable as Nadeshiko makes a master list of things to do. First, she tells her family she’s going solo, and Sakura quickly and clandestinely downloads a GPS app so they’ll know where she is—a move that’s as wise as Nadeshiko’s curious “What are you doing?” is hilarious.

She finds a spot that won’t be too cold that’s within walking distance of a train station (and in cellular range), checks the weather and in particular the day-to-night changes in temperature, and makes a list of things to do while she’s there so she doesn’t get bored. The big day arrives, and after sliding all of her gear onto her back with a “hup”, she’s off to Fujikawa by way of Fujinomiya.

Rin, who also has the weekend off, decides to take a solo trip of her own, this time heading to Lake Amehata in picturesque Hayakawa, first stopping at a super-cozy home café in Akasawa for mamemochi and amazake (with barley tea on the house).

Nadeshiko reports via photo of her arrival in Fujinomiya, and after praying at the temple there for a safe and fun solo camping trip, she stays the growling of her stomach as she passes restaurants on the way to the yakisoba place her sister recommended.

Sakura, who is also getting her sister’s photo updates, is driving … somewhere. Where precisely, we’re not told, but it looks for all the world like she’s trailing Nadeshiko like an overprotective parent, even though that seems like overkill. Nadeshiko even senses she’s being followed and looks behind her several times.

Rin leaves Akasawa and visits the Giant Cedar of Yushima. All the gorgeous scenery she rides and walks through really gives you the warm exciting feeling of exploring new and unfamiliar places. And then, as she pulls into a café near the Lake Narada Hot Springs, the Sakura mystery is solved, with Rin finding her car parked in the lot.

As Rin spots Sakura and starts to follow her, Nadeshiko finally gets a spot in the yakisoba place, and once seated, she quickly learns she’d better shout out her order when requested or she’ll be passed up. Trusting in her fellow orderers, she gets a gomoku shigure-yaki, a thoroughly rib-sticking local specialty of okonomiyaki and Fujinomiya yakisoba.

Due to the set up, we’re able to watch along with Nadeshiko every step of the way as her food comes together, and the opposite is true as well: the cook is able to see Nadeshiko’s patented “This is Super Tasty” Face. She snaps a pic for Rin, who is viewing it just as Sakura walks up to her.

Her “cover” blown, Rin decides to have some tea with Sakura, and while initially finds their silence awkward due to Nadeshiko not being there, Sakura is always ready to talk Moped Stories, the show Rin watched with the others during Christmas Camping. Rin also learns that Sakura is a fellow solo-er, taking a drive once a month or so to places featured on travel shows.

When talk turns to Nadeshiko, Rin can tell Sakura is worried, but right on cue Nadeshiko texts both of them a photo of her superbly round and jolly face standing outside the Tomato Food Market, where she’ll shop for dinner supplies before heading to the campsite.

Sakura heads to the hot spring, Rin continues on to her campsite, and Nadeshiko arrives in Fujikawa. She’s only a 5.5km (around 3.4 miles) walk from the “Fujikawa Healthy Greenspace Campsite”, the fictional version of Nodayama Health Ryokuchi Park. Thanks to the physical conditioning her sister forced upon her, it should indeed be a walk in the park!

Bakuon!! – 08

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Its christmas on Bakoun is a remarkably bike-lite affair. Sure, the girls ride everywhere from start to finish, but the motorcycle-splanation is mostly contained by the first act, where Hijiri gets her first taste of non-sidecar cycling.

And honestly, focusing on the girls and their warm friendships during the cold winter season sits just fine with me. In many ways, underplaying the bikes and over playing how unnecessary they are — how unpleasant it is to start them in the cold or to ride them in cold wind — only emphasized how close our 4 ladies (and 1 ghost) have become over the last 8 episodes.

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In act 1, Hijiri puts her life on the line to ride the world’s best selling bike, a simple Honda. It’s a slow, simple and rugged bike that gives workers the world over the affordable flexibly to move people and material. And since Hijiri is so green (she doesn’t even ride bicycles!) the little Honda’s durability is put to the test, crash after crash after crash.

At one point, Hijiri is so angry she gets a giant sledgehammer and goes to town, only to have the bike start anyway. It’s a cute scene, and I took it as a play on the reliability of friendship central to the riding club.

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Act 2 happens around the club’s christmas party/gift exchange. Rin and Hane take center stage, with Rin being called away by her pizza delivery work and Hane being the glue of the club dressing up as santa to deliver Rin a present. Jesus also makes an appearance.

Act 3 pushes new years into the mix and ends with a frozen dash to see the first sunrise. It too is Hane focused, but this time her luck is all wrong: she’s cold and the hand warmer has failed and she lags behind the pack.

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Verdict: I smiled at the puns, I basked in the friendship, I enjoyed the monster skull on Hijiri’s silly bike. Nothing spectacular happened but it was a solid, pleasant romp with the girls — and there was no exploitation to be seen.

Having gone back and rewatched the last 2 weeks that I missed, I have to say if you missed them, you didn’t miss much. (it was a 2 part school festival arc focused on the club’s costumed bike race) By far, this was much worthier of my time.

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Bakuon!! – 05

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This week’s Bakoun is simple enough – the girls come to the northern end of Hokkaido and accidentally meet their recently-dumped sensei, who tries to commit suicide and, failing that, rape them. Later, the girls ride back to the ferry and lament their time on the island is over.

Along the way, Rin shows us that she is pure of heart and won’t run over the red foxes, even if they deserve it. Also, Frizzy-chan is remarkably insightful, even if her lines are corny.

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Then the girls put on bikinis and sexy-wash their bikes for the episode’s final five minutes in the most WTF pandering moment imaginable. Roll Credits…

If you can pretend the final scene didn’t happen, episode 5 has a lot of heart. Rin hanging back to balls-out test her max speed, only to be thwarted by the foxes in the road, only to be reminded of her humanity by Jesus’ holy cup, all had an honest feel to it. Almost a moral message, even.

But that final scene…what the heck? Watching Hane sploosh soap on her breasts so she can deep grind her bike clean, foam billowing up her crotch – and then having Rin do the same? Really??

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Sure, It was funny in a totally awkward way but man, following such a sweet, heartfelt story about girls on the road, the ending cheapens the whole thing. Roll in the totally weird attempted rape scene by their teacher halfway through and I don’t know what to think.

Yeesh Bakoun, you can be really funny without sexualizing your characters, you know? smh

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Bakuon!! – 04

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For summer break, the girls decide to tour Hokkaido. Why Hokkaido? Well… Rin was there a long time ago with her dad and had quite an experience. They wrecked while trying to avoid foxes on the road, her dad got parasites from the foxes and she was sent home alone on a train.

For some reason this realization doesn’t dissuade Bakuon’s girls and so they set in for a long ride and a string of misadventures. By the end, their relationships are a bit closer. Also, Hane finds Jesus.

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This week’s theme is fathers. Sorta. Rin’s father obviously features heavily and his hilariously terrible parenting is repeatedly on display. In addition to their terrible Hokkaido trip of old, we later learn that he jack-knifed Rin into the air and she landed on the hood of a car… only to be BRANDED with a Sazuki logo on her butt.

Speaking of butts, Hijiri’s butler is like a father too. He gives her sage (and wacky) advice about Ducati bikes having souls, which apparently makes them terrible self-destructive things. They also share a tender moment where he fears his days are coming to an end — that they will end when his bike next breaks down — only for it to immediately break down. Continuing to smile, they wait for the family’s ever present helicopter to fly in a replacement and act as if nothing has happened.

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And father of all fathers, a Jesus of sorts makes an appearance. While Onsa and Rin leave Hane behind, and her gas tank is nearly empty, there he is by the road. She shares what little gas she has and they creep to a gas station and he tells her about Bikes in the old testament.

Then he teleports her ahead of the other girls. A ferry ride to Hokkaido finally ensues and the adventure ends with a glorious dip in hot springs. Roll credits!

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This was, by far, the funniest episode so far. The details were great: Rin’s uniquely terrible life shames, the fact the Suzuki logo was put on the car backwards, Lime wearing a helmet in the bath, the weird ‘masks’ the various NPCs wear for no reason, the X-Ray to reveal a bike under an old painting, and the reveal of the fox parasites!

More than funny though, the episode had heart. The various relationships, be it rivalry or love, all grew and they all had fun in the process.

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Bakuon!! – 03

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Now that she has a license, Hane needs a bike—and she knows what she wants: A Honda Su-Four. Despite Onsa warning her that owning a Honda is like being with one man for life (which Hane doesn’t see a problem with), it’s the bike she learned on, and it’s what she wants. And since it’s her yen, and the dealership has a nice pink one, a Honda Su-Four is what she gets!

The twist is that the dealership Hane visits first happens to be run by Onsa’s father. It’s not exactly above-board, what with drowned bikes and reset odometers, but Onsa is determined not to let her dad shove a lemon on her friend, so she does the servicing herself under Lime’s watchful eye.

The beautiful moment Hane mounts her lovely pink steed, the world goes all black-and-white and she is compelled to hit that tasty looking road. Unfortunately, there’s almost no gas in that steed and she ends up stranded. But still, that first ride looked really fun.

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Now that Hane has her license and bike, she starts going on rides with the rest of the bike club, which for now is just her, Onsa, Lime and Hijiri (and her chauffeur). They make it easier to communicate with headsets Hijiri installs in their helmets. But Rin snatches her helmet away before Hijiri can finish, so she can only send, not receive.

This results in a hilarious scene where Rin, understandably thinking no one is listening because she’s riding alone, starts singing a girly Katana song, and when she spots Onsa, launches missiles at her (i.e. flashes her headlight).

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Surrounding this episode is Rin’s reluctance to join the bike club, even though, let’s be honest, she really wants to. Her and Onsa have some complex moments, first with Onsa in tears of shame at the state of her father’s place of business (while conceding it’s put food in her and her brothers’ mouths), and here with her headset leverage over Rin.

But while they go at each other consistently, there’s still an underlying warmth, and obviously their shared passion for riding that links them, which is why Rin agrees to pose in a group photo—as long as her Katana is center stage.

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The final third deals with the fact the faculty of the school has found out about an unofficial, illegal bike club (though girls riding bikes, or helicopters in Hijiri’s case) aren’t prohibited. This leads to a stunning reveal when the principal meets with Lime and calls her senpai—clearly Lime is not a high schooler and hasn’t been for some time.

We flash back to when the Bike Club was official and the principal was one of the mechanics working on Lime’s bike in a race. One of her friends forgot a screw, so Lime’s bike blew up before the finish line, teaching the future principal a valuable lesson: don’t employ high school girls as motorcycle race mechanics. That being said, when Lime wordlessly (natch) promises to keep the girls safe, she gives her approval for the bike club to be reborn.

I was preparing to pull the plug on watching and reviewing this show after three eps, since it’s pretty one-note, and I’m probably going to stick to that position, despite this being a pretty strong episode. It all comes down to not having to many shows and casts to keep track of and making my mind a muddle. It’s got its charms, and the bike angle is unique, but the fact is it’s the weakest of the Spring shows I’m watching, so it gets the hook.

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Bakuon!! – 02

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Week two of Bakuon!!starts by delving into the past of Suzunoki Rin, whose father instilled in her a passion for motorcycles and in particular Suzukis. One Suzuki he always coveted was a Yoshimura-tuned 1135R Katana, but after he breaks many bones in an accident, the dream seems distant…until Rin writes the necessary essay extolling her passion for the bike and ended up getting it for her dad.

Meanwhile, in the present, Rin has her license and is about to take her dad’s old 400cc Katana for her first official ride, and her dad has the temerity to poo-poo the very bike he once rode, even as he’s riding a bike he wouldn’t have without his daughter. What a jerk! But hey, at least he didn’t die in that accident. That would have been a bit too dark… :/

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Speaking of dark, the dark, frizzy-haired Onsa just can’t seem to get alone with Rin, and Suzukis are at the core of their conflict. Rin is already satisfied that Onsa is an “anti-Suzuki Fascist”, and while Onsa wants to at least cultivate the fiction that she likes Suzukis (so Rin will join the club), far too often her big mouth gets her in trouble when she reveals her true feelings within earshot of Rin.

Of course, we can’t just have Onsa and Rin going at it every episode as Hane referees and Lime…just stands around not talking. Enter Minowa Hijiri, a rich girl who is obsessed with experiencing what it is to be bad; and what better way than to join a bike club?

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Hijiri makes an immediate impact on said club, suggesting that rather than bicker in the club room or thumb wrestle, they determine who is the most courageous, and thus forge bonds of shared danger, by playing chicken with their motorcycles, a la Rebel Without a Cause.

Of course, being a rich girl, she doesn’t actually pilot said bike (she’s unlicensed, besides); that task falls to her butler, Hayakawa, who sees these girls, particularly Lime, mean business and gives the challenge his all. Onsa and Rin break at the same time very early, showing how alike they are despite their different make preferences.

As for Hayakawa, he simply doesn’t break at all, plunging his Ducati 750SS Imola Replica and Hijiri-occupying sidecar into the river. But it’s all good, becaue Hijiri feels like a true delinquent.

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In “part three” of the episode, Hane completes her training and testing phase, despite the fact the school switched out older Hondas like Baita for newer model that won’t talk to her. Baita also reveals she used to be a man, but was “neutered” and thus became a woman when prepared for lower-performance school duty.

Hane’s four friends watch wearily as Hane seems destined to fail her exam, forgetting everything Baita taught her and being over-distracted by the silence of her new ride, but Hijiri devises the plan to cheer for Hane from a high vantage point, forcing her to keep her head up. It works, and Hane manages to pass, meaning next week she gets to ride. But what (Honda) will she choose?

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Nazo no Kanojo X – 11

Tsubaki attends Hayakawa’s school festival pretending to be her boyfriend, but is quickly spotted by Oka, who is there with Ueno. She follows them to an unused classroom where Hayakawa gives Tsubaki leave to hug her and taste her drool. He hesitates, and Urabe arrives wearing a cardboard robot suit and nothing else. She proposes a rock-paper-scissors duel, which she wins, so Tsubaki tastes her drool first and has a nosebleed. Hayakawa strips down, but tears well up before she gives Tsubaki her drool, indicating her heart is wavering. Urabe tastes her drool instead, and tells her she’ll find someone eventually. Urabe forgives a contrite Tsubaki.

All’s well  that ends well in Tsubaki’s Hayakawa Adventure Part 2, as he and Urabe clear another hurdle in a relationship that’s still full of firsts. This constituted his first – and hopefully last – big deception. To his credit, when the time comes to remember his loyalty, he stands his ground against Hayakawa’s advances. He also proves through and through that he is an incurable Guy; someone who can’t fight off a big gaping grin at the sudden sight of two naked girls before him, or the  thought of a first kiss with Urabe, or for that matter, allowing himself to be led along by a former unrequited crush, almost to his doom.

Of course, this episode wasn’t perfect. We have no problems with sustained nudity, but felt there was too much of it on a show that isn’t allowed to show it. They had to compromise with goofy, awkward shadows that made no sense from a lighting perspective. Oka’s presence wasn’t all that consequential, as Urabe was tailing Hayakawa and Tsubaki all along. We’re also not quite sure why Hayakawa invited Urabe at all – all she did was increase the chances of her gambit with Tsubaki being interrupted or foiled by 100%. In the end though, Urabe’s forgiveness makes sense and fits her character – now there’s no doubt that next time Tsubaki has the choice to do something that may hurt her, he’ll think about how he’d feel if she did that  to him.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. In their Rock-Paper-Scissors game, Urabe amazingly doesn’t choose Scissors…you’d think she’d ALWAYS choose Scissors!

Nazo no Kanojo X – 06

Oka bumps into Tsubaki downtown, and they discuss first names over ice cream. Oka mentions it to Urabe, who blushingly tells her it’s not her business. While taking a break in a park, Tsubaki tries it out, calling Urabe “Mikoto” in her ear while she’s dozing; she wakes up blushing again and smiling. Tsubaki hesitates when trying to call her Mikoto while she’s awake. Tsubaki dreams of snapping picture of her smiling, but the next day, though she agrees to having her picture taken, she won’t give him a fake smile.

While Tsubaki is waiting for a late Urabe, his junior high crush Hayakawa passes by, and invites him to have coffee with her. He politely declines, and after she leaves, discovers Urabe was hiding behind a column. When he asks her if she’d be angry if he’d ditched her to have coffee, she gives him saliva that makes him shed tears, indicating she’d be sad, not angry. Tsubaki promises that while Hayakawa’s offer was tempting, Urabe is who he likes now. That makes her smile again, but when Tsubaki whips out the camera, she sticks out her tongue instead. He says he’ll treasure the photo anyway, making her even happier.

There are many mysterious things about Urabe Mikoto, but one thing that’s no mystery is that she’s about as shy and innocent as they come. Oh sure, she’ll flash you with her panties, but that’s only a physical symptom of her elaborate scissors-wielding routine. She’ll also say with certainty that Tsubaki Akira is the first guy she’s going to have sex with…but provide no further information about how and when that’s going to happen. Her role has been the passive one, while Tsubaki has been responsible for every step forward, starting with tasting her drool in the beginning. That she’s passive doesn’t mean she’s not interested pursuing a relationship and progressing in it; it’s just that for the most part she’s left Tsubaki in charge of how and when things happen.

In doing so, each step has been a lesson and a test for Tsubaki, most recently his being faced with the girl whose picture he tore up. Rather than show up and create a confrontation, Urabe hides and observes. And like the time she disrobed in front of him while his eyes stayed closed, he performs admirably, like a loyal boyfriend should. Tsubaki knows an old crush could never compare to what he has here and now: a cute, sweet, innocent, and eccentric girl who likes him as much as he likes her, if not more. The adorable Oka’s interventions in their relationship deserves mention too; she’s proving an interesting supporting character.


Rating: 9 (Superior)