Skip and Loafer – 08 – Clout Chaser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skip and Loafer – 07 – Usurpers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Oshi no Ko – 05 – My Love With a Star Begins Now

Ruby and Kana are like two cats who for whatever reason just don’t like each other. Yet Kana is Ruby’s best chance to become an idol ASAP, so Aqua agrees to help set up a meet. Kana’s preferred junk food comes in the form of positive online buzz. When she reads a comment that, like her, has all kinds of feelings about the creepy hot guy, she can’t help but blush,

Then she gets a text from that very guy, and it sounds like he wants to confess. Kana’s disappointment over it being a meeting for Ruby’s sake is overcome by her fascination with Ruby. Kana’s been around long enough to know when someone has “It” in the way Ai did, and Ruby has that same “It”. Remember that Kana has no idea Ruby and Aqua are Ai’s kids.

That promise she sees in Ruby, combined with Aqua reading her like an open book and picking the proper method to persuade her, results in Kana signing on the dotted line to become a Strawberry idol beside Ruby. With that settled, Kana at least looks forward to having more opportunities to see and work with Aqua. Then she asks Ruby what Aqua is up to.

Ruby pulls up the reality dating show bearing the title of this article, and features six gorgeous entertainers looking for love. The Aqua who appears and introduces himself bears no resemblance to the boy Ruby and Kana know, but as Miyako points out, he’s putting on the performance he needs to in order to make the show a success.

Ruby and Kana’s reactions to Aqua flirting with other pretty girls are fun, but Miyako snaps them out of their initial resentment and gets them to remember it’s all an act. But even if that’s the case, Kana is disheartened by the prospect of Aqua actually ending up in a relationship with one of those girls…even kissing her.

But as Miyako says, that comes with the territory. Aqua is doing this for vital intel on Ai’s male companions he can’t obtain by any other means, so he’s going to give it his absolute all. Even if the bubbly YouTuber Mem-Cho is a tremendous bore, he’s going to smile feign interest.

It’s when he ends up beside the pretty first-year model Sumi Yuki that a bit of small talk ends up becoming a conversation about the complicated love he’s “trying to get over”. Sumi is intrigued and digs deeper, eventually drawing in close to say they’ll just have to get him over that old love.

It’s just ambiguous enough whether Sumi is putting on a show for the cameras she only later reveals to Aqua (a rare case of not minding his surroundings brought on by her charm), or she’s being genuinely open and friendly. It’s probably a bit of both truth and lies, like so many real interactions! In any case, Aqua scoffs internally at her self-professed timidity.

Back home, Ruby tells Aqua she’ll be choosing the girl he should go out with, and ends up picking Sumi. What a coinky-dink! As for her nascent idol group, they don’t have any songs or even a name, but Miyako jump-starts their notoriety by having them collaborate with Strawberry Productions’ top earner: a muscle man in a chick mask named Pieyon who is super popular with the kids.

I shared Kana’s bewilderment with what young people are into these days and how that reflects on how warped society has become, but when Pieyon tells her how much he rakes in a year, she immediately apologizes for negging him. Pieyon offers pointers on quick ways to gain lots of subscribers, like having him pull a prank on them. But Ruby wants their very first gig to be bereft of lies.

While she’ll soon learn that always being honest in show business is literally impossible, she and Kana do a fine job keeping up with Pieyon’s hour-long workout dance. He was fully prepared to edit the video to make it seem like they danced for the full hour, but between Kana being a regular runner and Kana being full of youth and determination, there’s no need for movie magic.

Then the big moment comes when they get to remove their chick masks and reveal true faces and names. Ruby gives the camera the old Hoshino charm, while Kana is a little more self-conscious, which is actually fine: demonstrating different personalities will help them cast a wider net of fans, the first group of which will come from Pieyon’s followers.

When Pieyon asks what the name of their unit is, Kana leaves it to Ruby, who goes with the nostalgic choice of B-Komachi. That’s right, from these humble, goofy, swole beginnings, Ruby aims resurrect her mom’s legendary group, for which Strawberry retains the rights.

Skip and Loafer – 06 – Every Now and Then

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oshi no Ko – 04 – Big in Little Circles

Unlike the lead of the TV drama, Aqua prepares diligently for his time in the spotlight, and while he admits he only has a fraction of Ai’s talent and charisma, he’ll still utilize any and all tools at his disposal to put on a good performance.

This includes sidling up to the lead and calling him ugly, which actually provokes him into a better performance. Aqua sets the stage for Kana to flip on the waterworks and perfectly perform the most important scene in the manga; the one that people couldn’t stop crying over.

The sleep-deprived mangaka who created the source material tells her assistants that she didn’t expect a perfect adaptation, as she’d been warned by other creators not to get her hopes up. The assistants almost feel bad for her continuing to watch the series to the end.

But then the final episode airs, and it makes the creator cry, and feel grateful that her work was adapted. At the afterparty, she makes sure to tell Arima that her performance carried the show to a strong ending. It doesn’t go viral, but everyone who stuck around praise the last episode online to everyone they can.

Arima also not-so-subtly asks Aqua if he has a girlfriend, then looks at him and makes a little interested noise. Unfortunately nothing more comes of that, as the producer of the show chats with Aqua about his interest in appearing in a reality dating show.

Aqua will be fine doing this, as in return the producer will feed him gossip on the people Ai hung out with. The DNA test ruled the producer out as Aqua and Ruby’s father, but now he’s a useful ally in his investigation. I just hope he can fit some dates with Kana in amongst all the sleuthing!

On their first day at Youtou High, Kana appoints herself their unofficial guide, and reminds them that while this is basically a normal high school, it’s overwhelmingly packed with entertainers who are used to the spotlight one form or another.

Despite having Ai’s genes and the resulting good looks, Ruby is nervous. I think part of that stems from how isolated she was in her previous life, but also because she’s not quite an idol yet. The first person she interacts with is Kotobuki Minami, who sports a thick Kansai accent that’s, as she says, “just, uh…a vibe?”

Minami is a well-endowed gravure model, but while Ruby was staring at her chest, she was admiring Ruby’s gorgeous face. Not long after agreeing to become friends, Ruby introduces Minami to Aqua and asks if he’s made any friends. He hasn’t, and he didn’t come here to make friends, but he also tells her she doesn’t have to worry about him being some kind of antisocial loner.

Another one of Ruby’s classmates arrives late because she was doing a live TV promo. That girl is none other than Shiranui Frill, who sports cat-like lemon-lime eyes and is a popular triple threat (singing, danging, acting) and Ruby’s current #1 Fave.

Aqua tells her to just approach her naturally as a classmate, not a fan, then he proceeds to do just that, and learns that not only has Frill seen him in Sweet Today, but she liked it. She also recognizes Minami from a magazine, then turns to Ruby … who has no answer when Frill asks “What is it you do?”

Later at the Strawberry office, Ruby begs Miyako to hurry up and make her an idol, but Miyako tells her it’s not a quick or simple process. She still needs to hire a scout, and is having trouble finding cute and motivated girls who are not already affiliated with other agencies.

That leads Aqua to recommend Kana, whom he knows to be freelance and in need of gigs … and has a cute face. I hasten to note that his recommending Kana has nothing to do with his big revenge plan. He’s just doing it out of fondness and respect for his charming, talented friend and colleague. Our starry-eyed boy may not be so cold and hopeless after all!

Skip and Loafer – 05 – Digging Deep

It’s Sports Day, and while Mitsumi believes it’s some kind of big dark secret that she sucks at sports, everyone is already aware. She needs a coach for her class’ volleyball match against the other classes, and picks Mika, who is adept at the sport.

Mika partially agrees because it means more time with Sousuke. The more time she spends with both him and Mitsumi, the more she realizes he’s a genuinely good person and not just putting on an act, or using Mitsumi in some way.

I love how Mitsumi so earnestly wants to get better, but her small town sensibility shows once again when she offers a bag full of fattening treats and sweets as thanks for coaching her. Mika refuses all but the healthiest item in the bag.

Mitsumi notes how dainty and girly Mika’s lunches are, blissfully unaware that Mika was once chubby and gains weight easily, so she can’t just eat whatever she wants, even if she wants to. It’s another example of the well-meaning Mitsumi inadvertently causing friction with Mika.

When they go to the gym to practice, there are third-year boys in there, even though it’s the first-years’ day to use the gym. Mika tells Mitsumi to ignore them, but Mika ends up getting bumped into by one of the hulking lads. Mitsumi puts on the bravest face she can (which is hilarious) and confronts them.

When they ignore Mitsumi saying it’s the first-year’s gym today, it makes Mika feel like she used to feel all the time when she was younger and heavier: ignored, looked over or through. Mika puts the two boys on her internal shit-list, but Mitsumi notes the name another third-year boy who tells the other boys to beat it.

Faced with a stunning beauty in Yuzuki on one side and a pure, straightforward person in Mitsumi leaves Mika feeling lost: why would anyone choose her, who is neither of those things? What is all the effort she puts into her appearance and outward personality for?

She asks Mitsumi why she chose her as her coach, she suspects it’s because Mitsumi is “getting back at her” for being nasty to her. But Mitsumi’s answer surprises her. She chose her because she wouldn’t sugarcoat things, and because it’s clear to her she worked her ass off to get as good as she is at volleyball.

This re-energizes Mika, and by now Yuzu and Makoto are also there, so she goes into full Drill Sergeant Mode to motivate everyone to play to win. Sousuke appears behind her, and she’s mortified he heard her shouting, bue she shouldn’t be. He’s probably delighted to have seen a different, more candid side of her.

On the day of the class matches, Yuzu gives Makoto a cute fishtail braid for her table tennis match, while Mika fixes Mitsumi’s hair with some pins. The volleyball team plays well and makes it to the knockout round. In between matches they have lunch and also check out the boys’ basketball match.

Mitsumi always knew that Sousuke was “hot” and popular with the girls, but didn’t quite appreciate the scale of that popularity until a day like this came about. He’s surrounded by fawning girls of all three years, to the point even someone as inexperienced in such situations as Mitsumi realizes she can’t just walk up to him and give him some of the pickled vegetables she made.

To do so would place several dozen targets on her back. So instead of approaching him, she leaves the gym. Sousuke, towering over his admirers, watches her go, and seems crestfallen. He’d rather she watched him and talked to him than all these randos!

The volleyball team makes it to the final, where they’re up against a particularly tough team featuring actual players from the volleyball team. Mitsumi thinks about how much of a bother she must’ve been to Sousuke on her first day…and yet he still reached out to be friends even after she became known as “the Puker”.

While the other team’s captain delivered a vicious serve that bruised her arm, Mitsumi snaps out of her thoughts long enough to bear down and successfully dig out the next sere, which Mika leaps for and spikes for a point. It’s not just a beautiful culmination of the training Mika instilled in Mitsumi, but an example of what can happen when two very different kinds of people cooperate.

The more talented team ends up beating them, but after resting with the team, Mitsumi decides to run to the basketball final by herself so she can cheer for Sousuke, something she wants to do more than she fears the potential consequences. As Mika watches her run off, she’s a little envious Mitsumi could make that choice.

But at this point, Mika is seeing Mitsumi less as a rival to be defeated or stepped over, but something like a friend she can support, and who can maybe support her with what she lacks. That lacking something is key: having watched Mitsumi with Sousuke, she believes that Mitsumi provides something that he lacks, and vice-versa.

That explains their effortless chemistry, while also hinting at the beginnings of love, not “just friends” vibes. Sousuke is much happier hearing Mitsumi cheer him on than anyone else. She’s special to him, and he to her. I can’t wait to see where that goes as the school year progresses.

Oshi no Ko – 03 – Struggling Out Here

The moment Arima Kana saw Aqua, he should have known he’d be going down the path of acting, regardless of whether he’ll be studying it in school. She’s just so goddamn charismatic, and she also cares deeply about the art of acting, to the extent that she just wouldn’t allow someone with Aqua’s talent to sit on the sidelines.

Due to her celebrity, they can’t just meet up anywhere, so Aqua takes her to Taichi’s house, where she reunites with the director she worked with a decade ago and gets a home-cooked meal from that director’s mom. Kana tells him about an streaming TV drama she’s the lead in, an adaptation of a popular shoujo manga.

What ultimately gets Aqua to relent and agree to act in the drama as Kana desires is a name: Kaburagi Masaya. Aqua first learned that name when he unlocked Ai’s third and oldest cell phone, which took over four years and well over forty thousand attempts. Kaburagi was among the contacts on that phone, and this acting gig is an opportunity for him to investigate him.

When Ruby hears from Miyako that Aqua is going back into acting, she’s legitimately touched, since now both she and her brother are going to be an idol and an actor like their mother intended. But unlike Ruby, fulfilling his mom’s dream isn’t Aqua’s primary motivating factor. There’s also the matter of the show Kana is in and Aqua is about to appear in…kinda sucking?

The fact of the matter is, the tv drama is being produced as glorified promotional material for a number of attractive male models who are on the rise. Kana has herself wrapped up in a frikkin’ Zoolander joint! As really, really, ridiculously good-looking as her co-stars are, they suck at acting, and she’s holding back her true powers lest she make them look even worse.

That adaptability and pragmatism is why Kana is still in the business at all, as she admits she had an extended rough patch after her peak child actor years. She’s been in this industry long enough to know that good acting and making a good show are two different things. But she’s going to make the most of this opportunity, even if she has to do “lousy” acting.

When she was little, she flaunted her talent and was branded a difficult prima donna, and gigs gradually dried up. She was down, but she’s far from out. The hunger to perform and appear on camera and move people is still there, and having Aqua acting by her side again—lousily or not—means everything to her.

Having heard Kana’s genuinely heartfelt appeal, Aqua re-watches the show thus far and gains a greater appreciation for the aspects of the production that make the show look much better than it should considering the pitiful acting abilities of all the model bros. He also holds Kana in the highest regard when it comes to acting talent, to the point he’s actually pumped up about performing, even if his primary goal is to score some of Kaburagi’s DNA.

The day of his shoot arrives, and the male lead doesn’t even bother properly introducing himself, which Kana says is typical of young rising stars. We get a detailed primer on the usual shooting process for a show, and the accelerated and abridge version being done by this show on a shoestring budget and narrow schedule.

The bottom line is, now that Aqua is on set, he’s fully committed to putting in the maximum effort. That professionalism isn’t just a result of him being mentally much older than he really is, but Ai’s upbringing, and a desire not to cause any more trouble than Kana already has.

There’s a dark irony to the fact he’s portraying a stalker villain not too dissimilar to the man who murdered Ai, but he does his job when called upon, and in between shooting Kana tells him his acting feels like he put a lot of preparation into it. Like her, she can tell he’s put his ego aside and thrown himself into the story. Kana is energized from the realization that in this “world of darkness” there was someone other than her struggling.

She may not know the precise source of Aqua’s struggle, but is perceptive enough to sense that he is struggling. As their relationship progresses, it will be interesting to see if Aqua considers truly “letting her in”, even as he overhears the producer and director talking about how they couldn’t care less about acting and they only snagged Kana because she’s a dirt-cheap freelancer with a recognizable name and face.

Suffice it to say, I love Arima Kana to death. Han Megumi’s voice performance and Kana’s body language and expressions are phenomenal, and both her arc and her chemistry with Aqua are effortlessly compelling. While she’s not quite Hoshino Ai, in just one episode Kana has managed to vault herself near to the top of my very favorite characters of the spring.

Skip and Loafer – 04 – Stop and Smell the Gyoza

Kanechika-senpai shows Mitsumi some episodes of a TV show Shima acted in when he was a kid, and gets her to agree to talk to Shima about joining the drama club. Kanechika notes that Mitsumi as an extreme pushover, but this is too important to go easy on her.

The thing is, saddling her with this task ends up distracting Mitsumi so completely that she utterly fails at every other task on what was to be a perfect day of school. She spaces out during a 15-minute quiz and ends up getting a volleyball to the face in P.E.

Shima spots her in the nurse’s office window and the two have a nice easy chat together, demonstrating once more how effortless their chemistry is. Mitsumi is able to talk about her “mission” to Shima, which lessens her mental load, and Shima is able to explain that acting isn’t his passion, it’s just something he did to make his mom happy.

He then steers their talk to Mitsumi, because he’s genuinely interested in her and her dreams. When she speaks about how underpopulated her home is and how she wanted to come to Tokyo to attack the problem at its core. When she laughs if off, he tells her she doesn’t need to, because it’s an admirable goal.

That said, Shima admits he’s not sure he’d be able to deal with all the hopes and expectations that come with such a lofty goal, all but admitting he believes Mitsumi is far more amazing than him. She goes on to say she wouldn’t be in Tokyo if it weren’t for her best friend Fumi.

When Mitsumi studied so hard for entrance exams she forgot to sleep or eat, Fumi was there to watch over her and make sure she actually did get some food in her belly. She also promised that pass or fail, they’d go out for gyoza again. Mitsumi tells Shima if he ever finds a new goal for himself, they’ll do the same and go out to eat, succeed or fail. They pinky promise, and Mitsumi’s pinky tingles even afterwards, as sign that it’s a real one.

In the second half, Mitsumi meets with Hanazono-sensei (her homeroom teacher upon whom she barfed on her first day) in the faculty lounge, worried about “losing control” of herself now that she’s in high school. Hanazono listens, but inside she’s thinking how big of a square this girl is. Her grades are excellent for someone who doesn’t go to cram school.

That said, if Mitsumi wants to know how she can develop more discipline, Hanazono points her in the direction of Takamine-senpai, the student council treasurer. Mitsumi is in awe of Takamine’s strict daily schedule and complete lack of wasted time and energy.

But like everyone on Skip & Loafer, Takamine is hardly a one-note character. To Mitsumi she may seem perfect; a badass CEO-type who is headed nowhere but up. But internally, Takamine is a surging ball of anxiety. Her intricately-detailed schedule book can be a millstone around her neck. One missed train or bus means an entire day of productivity is ruined.

It’s only when Takamine spends and afternoon with Mitsumi that Takamine begins to question whether she’s really doing things in a proper, balanced way. Mitsumi injects some much needed spaciness to Takamine’s day, such that when things go wrong or there’s a lapse in focus, it’s mitigated by something worthwhile, like a cute cat, or a gorgeous sunset.

Takamine probably often suffered from dreams in which she’s always chasing buses she’s late for, but the night after hanging out with Mitsumi, she meets a fuzzy black cat in her dream, and another bus arrives immediately, one that takes her up into the dazzling starry sky.

In addition to being particularly Ghibli-esque, it’s so lovely to see such a normally stressed out Takamine enjoying herself in her dream, embracing the “space”, i.e. spaceiness of taking the time to smell the roses or gaze at the stars.

Takamine’s dream, and Mitsumi’s example, inspire her to loosen her grip on her oppressive schedule and negelect to check her wristwatch every five minutes. When an ornery soccer club president presents his report to her, she accepts it with a warm smile that causes him to flee lest she see him blushing.

Takamine also makes sure to tell Mitsumi not to follow her example to the letter, but determine her own pace and style and way of doing things. That’s definitely something Shima wants her to do, since Mitsumi stayed up all night preparing her own oppressive schedule and has the eye bags and yawns to prove it.

She assures Shima that such condition is temporary and she’ll “get used to it”, but Takamine gives her permission not to force herself too hard. After all, days where a little time is wasted aren’t too bad in moderation.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Oshi no Ko – 02 – Dreams and Nightmares

About ten years after their mother was murdered by a stalker, Aquamarine and Ruby Hoshino have gone in different directions. Ruby is determined to follow her mom into the industry and become an idol, in keeping with her past self Sarina’s dreams. Aqua, on the other hand, is stuck in the past, dedicating the remainder of his life to tracking down his father and making him suffer before he dies.

He works under the table as an apprentice for the film director Gotanda, and he and Ruby are about to take high school entrance exams. Having already been rejected in an audition two years ago, Ruby applies once more, and once more gets a call that she isn’t one of the chosen few. She’s devastated, but what’s even more devastating is that the call came from Aqua posing as the agency. He won’t let Ruby go down the same road Ai did, period.

While this feels like a horrible betrayal, it’s understandable, because we watched the film-length first episode and know who Aqua is and what he’s been through. Of course, that Ruby went through the exact same stuff (and worse, when you consider she died so young and in pain), so I pumped my fist when Aqua’s plan is stymied by Ruby being scouted on the street, just as their mother was.

That said, she shows Aqua the business card of the agency, which allows him to demonstrate his skills as both an actor and a private investigator, using his good looks and charm to invite another idol from that agency to Strawberry Productions. She is all too open and honest in her assessment of her current situation: lousy pay, huge expenses, favoritism, their manager dating one of the group, terrible chemistry, etc.

Both Aqua and Miyako agree it doesn’t sound like the kind of agency Ruby should be getting into. Aqua suggests Miyako (the new director of Strawberry with Ichigo blowing town) hire the idol they just interviewed, but Miyako doesn’t like how she badmouthed her co-workers, showing she has a keen eye not just for the talent but the quality of people.

The next day when Ruby has dolled herself up for her audition with this sketchy agency, she’s confronted by Miyako and Aqua: is this really what she wants, even though she knows what the industry did to Ai? Even if it means she’ll be miserable and exhausted and possibly fall victim to stalking?

She says she is, and knowing who Ruby is (and who Sarina was) I don’t doubt her resolve. So Miyako tells her not to join that agency. Ruby is about to get upset, but Miyako continues by asking her to sign with Strawberry instead. That’s right: the agency will be managing idols for the first time in a decade, and Ruby is their first signing.

It’s ultimately a compromise Aqua accepts (for now) since he’s smart enough to know Ruby isn’t going to stop until she’s an idol, so better that she be managed by a family-run business. While at Director Gotanda’s house, which is really his parents’ house—because why move out of a spacious family home in the middle of the city?—editing film, Aqua tells Gotanda that he’s fine working towards a modest production job in the industry rather than pursuing acting.

This isn’t just because he has an equally good chance of meeting his target no matter what job he has in the industry as long as it has access to talent. It’s because he doesn’t believe he has any talent for acting. We know this not to be true, not just because of the different people he’s pretended to be in this very episode, but because a film director hand-picked him to act in his films. Heck, unbeknownst to him, he famous child actress Arima “Tears in 10 Minutes Flat” Kana cry for real.

In between hilarious interruptions from his mom announcing dinner is ready, Taishi tells Aqua that he’s at least twenty years too young to be giving up on making it in acting, when he can tell the boy truly does care about it. Sure, he doesn’t know he’s actually talking to a boy with the mind of a doctor about his age who is channeling all of his energy into vendetta and revenge. But that isn’t all Aqua is. It’s just what he feels like he needs to be.

At the entrance interviews, both Aqua and Ruby excel in the general education and performing arts departments, respectively. As they chat in the hall, Ruby makes light of Aqua’s ostentatious name (he too joked it would be the only reason he’s not accepted), and someone overhears it.

Not just someone, but Arima Kana! Just as the Hoshinos have stars in their eyes, when she turns we see entire galaxies reflected in hers. When Aqua confirms he is indeed Aqua Hoshino, Kana embraces him with joy and relief. She’d feared he’d given up on acting, and is looking forward to being in the performing arts department with him. Then he drops the hammer…he’s just in gen ed. Kana is aghast…as she should be!

I’m not going to sit here and say Aqua is squandering his talents and his mother’s legacy by refusing to pursue acting. People are free to do whatever they want, regardless of what they’re good at. And Aqua is good at much more than acting. But I will most definitely say its wrong for him to waste his life on a revenge plot that likely won’t go the way he plans, may cost far more than he hoped, and certainly won’t give him and peace or solace.

So if even a little part of him dreams of acting as Ruby dreams of being an idol, I’d prefer if he’d get into that. Also, selfishly, I just want to see him and Kana acting together again, because Kana is great!

Skip and Loafer – 03 – Camp Salted Caramel

Mitsumi considers every turn along her walk to the student council office to be momentous, as she envisions herself as a venerable lion of politics appearing on her favorite news program in the future. It all starts here…only someone is already at the door, having had the same idea.

That someone is Kurume Makoto, a reserved and introverted classmate who is considering joining the council but doesn’t want to be a bother, and jumps twenty feet when Mitsumi sidles up to her. As far as Kurume knows, Mitsumi is the rumored “secret boss” of the school, public vomiting aside.

Kurume is even more bewildered to see Mitsumi being followed by the “flashy gal” Yuzuki and “himbo” Sousuke, both of whom seem to be chummy with the secret boss. All Kurume has is labels and feels rather indimidated by these personalities, but she harbors a lingering curiosity nonetheless.

Both Mitsumia and Kurume look set up for heartbreak when the council president informs them they don’t recruit members. However, Mitsumi’s dejected visage brightens when she learns she can join the Tsubame Society, the council’s support group for events and such.

She’s then bathed in the warm light of Takamine, one of the council treasurers, when she talks about how the added council works causes time constraints, but she apportions out her day by the minute and essentially game-ifies her days, and says it’s all worthwhile time spent.

Mitsumi is excited to join the Tsubame group, but isn’t sure if Kurume feels the same way. Mitsumi runs her down and gives her another start in the hall, and before Kurume knows it, she’s in a “Starmax” cafe with Mitsumi and Sousuke, having ordered the same goofy boba drink as Mitsumi.

Both Sousuke and Kurume experience vicarious joy in watching Mitsumi’s Starmax and boba debuts. Kurume also comments on how well Mitsumi and Sousuke get along despite being so different. Sousuke’s thoughtful answer surprises her, as he says it’s more about the little things, like when food tastes better with a person.

Kurume then joins Mitsumi and Sousuke in a commemorative selfie. She has to admit she would have never ordered such a weird drink but for Mitsumi, and that it actually does taste better when she’s drinking it with her and Sousuke. I love how Sousuke wordlessly gestures for Mitsumi to get Kurume’s contact info. They make such a great team!

Mitsumi again demonstrates how lucky she is to have a stylish aunt in Nao-chan, who doesn’t let her leave wearing all of her extra clothes and accessories. The reason she’s getting dolled up is that Kurume was bold enough to invite her to go see a movie that’s adapted from a book they’re reading in class.

Of course, since Mitsumi is a shining sun surrounded by planets of every shape and size, their two-girl movie trip becomes an eight-person group, which includes Mika, who is glad Mitsumi and Kurume are so plain, only for Yuzuki to show up and dazzle everyone with her effortless glamour.

Mika at least gets to sit next to Sousuke at the restaurant prior to the movie, but the more she looks at Yuzuki, the more self-conscious and depressed she gets. Sousuke, continuing to show he possesses a great deal of emotional intelligence by complimenting how stylish Mika is. Even then, Mika regards Sousuke as a mystery.

Yuzuki, meanwhile, tries to be friendly with Kurume, but more than once her attempts fail miserably when a flustered Kurume is unable to engage with her. After the restaurant, Yuzuki is upfront with her, saying if she doesn’t like “people like her” she doesn’t have to force herself to talk to her.

Mitsumi watches, senses something is amiss between the two, and blames herself for getting such a big group together without considering the potential for clashing personalities. As class leader she feels obligated to fix things, but isn’t sure how, and simply finds herself sitting between them.

That’s when she gets a taste of salted and caramel popcorn at the same time, and realizes that two distinct flavors can be combined to make a new, even better flavor. She didn’t know until now because she’d never tried the two simultaneously. That reminds Kurume how how it was that same adventurousness and vulnerability that not only got her to drink that weird Starmax drink, but become friends with Mitsumi.

So she sends texts to Yuzuki admitting she typically doesn’t like “people like her”, but wants to change that, and wants to get to know Yuzuki better. When Yuzuki looks over at Kurume, the latter straightens her glasses and looks straight ahead, but also blushes a bit. Both are clearly happy to have mended fences and excited to be friends.

After the movie, everyone goes their separate ways, but with new bonds forged, and existing bonds strengthened. Mitsumi proves herself to be someone that puts everyone at ease and enables new connections to be made and new instances of fun and happiness to be shared.

As she watches a stylishly-dressed and exceedingly handsome Sousuke glide along the streets with Shibuya as a backdrop, Mitsumi also realizes she will surely come to love this strange, loud, busy new place.

Skip to Loafer, then, is the quintessential Tuesday feel-good anime. Its characters that feel like real, imperfect people who are learning that they complement one another in surprising ways. It’s lovely and charming and heartwarming, and I’m glad it’s in my life.

Skip and Loafer – 02 – Hitting It Off

On the train to school, Mitsumi tells Nao-chan about self-intros, which explains her sleepless eyes. Nao-chan squishes her niece’s face and tells her to smile. She get the attention of other passengers, who notice her height, wrist and Adam’s apple.

Mitsumi’s aunt is a trans woman, but it’s clear that doesn’t matter in the slightest to Mitsumi. You get the feeling Nao-chan can feel the eyes of others—probably nothing new—but Mitsumi takes her hand and re-centers her attention where it belongs: on her adorable niece.

Mitsumi’s self-intro goes well until she tries to tell a joke about being a natural born leader, the reaction to which is colder than Wisconsin in February. Sousuke has her back, saying in his intro that he’d like to work for her one day, which gets the laughs she was going for. When the two are picked to be the class reps, the girls see the instant easy chemistry they have and wonder whether they might’ve made a huge mistake.

Among them is Egashira Mika, whom we saw only became friends with Mitsumi when she learned she and Sousuke were close. She takes Mitsumi aside and tells her not to take everything Sousuke tells her at face value. She explains that due to his looks he’s nice to everyone so it doesn’t cause any trouble. Mitsumi thanks Mika for the “advice” but wishes she never heard it, because it has her suddenly questioning what everyone is saying.

Mitsumi’s country upbringing can’t prepare her for the sheer chaos and din of after-school karaoke, but when she heads to the bathroom, she’s stopped by the cool beauty Murashige Yuzuki, who tells her Mika is using her to get to Shima, and if she wants to bounce, she’ll accompany her. When Mitsumi peeks into the booth, she sees Mika chatting and laughing with Sousuke.

This is all a lot more complicated and confusing than Mitsumi had hoped, and she hesitates going back in when she gets a call from her best friend Fumi, who may as well be a serene Buddha on that grassy beach. Despite Mitsumi saying otherwise, Fumi can tell Mitsumi is down, simply because they’ve known each other so long. She urges Mitsumi not to overthink things. After all, in Kindergarten Fumi thought Mitsumi was scary, but in time realized she was actually sweet.

Mitsumi gets back in the booth, heartily sings a childhood song everyone knows and is charmed by, and basically stops overanalyzing everyone. Before everyone splits, Yuzuki exchanges her contact info with Mitsumi, while Mika keeps chatting with Sousuke, not-so-subtly asking if he has a girlfriend. Sousuke shuts her down rather bluntly before joining Mitsumi on her walk home.

Mitsumi accidentally called him “Sou-chan” since he’s similar in name and appearance to her family dog. But the next morning Sousuke runs with it, calling her Mitsumi-chan where everyone can hear. Mitsumi is courted by all of the brainy clubs, culminating in the second-year president of the drama club personally inviting her to watch a play and giving her roses in hopes that she’ll join.

Mitsumi remains undecided about clubs all day, and asks Sousuke how he usually makes such choices. Looking a bit distant and distracted ever since the drama club prez showed up, he tells her that he tries to consider that anything he’s undecided on was “never that important”.

For what it’s worth, he’s very much not undecided on wanting to be friends with Mitsumi, but when the drama club prez flags him down and tells him he recognizes him as “Kanade-kun” from television, Sousuke is even more blunt with him as he was with Mika: he does not want to talk about it.

Mitsumi accepts that she can’t tell what anyone is thinking (only Fumi can), but she’ll try harder to understand her complicated new friends little by little. She is also perceptive enough to know that while Sousuke is so bright and cheerful and kind to everyone, he also seems to be masking a sadness.

That night, Mitsumi tells Nao-chan that she’s decided to join the student council. In addition to helping prepare her for a future as a government official and leader, it will allow her the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of her peers, which helps her overall mission to understand others better. Going from a class of eight to a school of hundreds is a hell of a change, but Mitsumi is determined to handle it in stride.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Skip and Loafer – 01 (First Impressions) – Entrance Ceremony

Iwakura Mitsumi (Kurosawa Tomoyo) is the pride and joy of the tiny rural seaside village from whence she comes; a whale in a kiddy pool. In Tokyo, where she’ll be attending high school, she’s a guppy in a lake, and the lake is full of sharks. But Mitsumi can’t know that until she actually experiences the big city for the first time.

After a gorgeous transition from the village to Tokyo that flips the camera up into a sky that joins them, she is bursting with confidence as she prepares to head to the school’s entrance ceremony. But then our POV switches to a blonde young man who is late for that ceremony…and he finds her stuck to a wall.

But while all the tunnels and halls and signs made her lost and the crowds made her nauseous (since she’s just never been around so many people before), this country bumpkin is blessed with terrific fortune, as she comes upon a gorgeous prince in shining armor—which is the same sharp blue uniform she’s wearing.

He’ll lead her to school, but he’s in no hurry himself. When he tells her it’s “just an entrance ceremony”, Mitsumi snaps at him, saying that’s something only he can say. But she immediately regrets that, and wonders if Tokyo brought out her “true colors” as a bad person. Of course that’s not the case, it’s just that she’s not used to the pace and the sheer volume of the city.

When she and the lad make a run for the school from the station those impostor syndrome thoughts begin to amass, until she regains her nerve, gets up, slips off her loafers and socks, and runs the rest of the way barefoot. The blonde guy, enchanted by Mitsumi’s moxie, finds his pace quickening, to catch up to her.

Mitsumi makes it just on time, thanks to the principal giving a longer-than-scheduled speech. There’s that fortune again! Then the blonde guy receives a shock: this absolute chaotic mess of a girl is actually top of their class, and even though she leaves her written speech in her luggage, she still delivers a perfect and stirring address…from memory.

It’s a stunning scene when she snaps into focus and makes a strong first impression in front of the entire school. Thanks to tradition, they can’t see her hauntingly gaunt face, only the principal can, and he’s disturbed by her lack of blinking. Mitsumi is at the end of her rope, and ends up hurling onto her homeroom teacher’s favorite blouse and pricey suit…in front of the whole school.

Rising from potentially the very top of her class in social stature to the bottom and gaining the nickname “the Puker” on the first day, is enough of a roller coaster to make anyone nauseous. But Mitsumi isn’t one to be discouraged by some early errors, forced or unforced.

She’s determined to have a perfect high school life, so step one is to make friends. When the girl at the desk behind her blows her off when she introduces herself, Mitsumi is once again discouraged, but then the blonde guy, who is in her class and is named Shima Sousuke, walks right up to her desk, says they should be friends, and exchanges contact info.

Immediately, that same girl who blew her off decides she wants to be Mitsumi’s friend after all. What’s funny is that this sudden change of heart, isn’t played as comically opportunistic as I thought, but instead played fairly straight. I’m going to give Egashira Mika a pass for being initially a bit treacherous to Mitsumi. After all, it’s the first day of school!

Mitsumi finishes her day by unpacking and speaking to her best friend back home, assuring her that her first day of school in Tokyo went absolutely swimmingly. She doesn’t bother her friend with any details of the myriad mishaps that befell her, and there’s a good reason for that: talking to her friend is talking to her family and the village. She doesn’t want to worry them.

They have no reason to worry. Mitsumi may still be trying to keep up with the blistering speed of city life, but she’s ambitious, dogged, and perseverant, and even if she never fully figures it all out, the key is she’ll have friends who’ll help her, just as she’ll help them with what she’s good at.

That brings us to Shima. He’s still in touch with what are presumably his friends from middle school who all ended up at different high schools. Or maybe just childhood friends? I like how their relationship isn’t overly explained, it’s clear this is where Shima feels most himself and comfortable.

But he sheepishly reports that he’s made a friend, and there’s something about her that made him run after her. This shocks his friends, who know how lazy he is, but when they ask if it’s a girl, he makes a quick exit. He’s not yet ready to share all of what he’s feeling right now, he wants to savor it for himself.

With self-introductions tomorrow, Mitsumi wants to repair the reputation she built with her entrance address.  I love how the Tokyo night lights are so eerily bright to her. It’s perhaps those lights lurking just behind her blinds that keep her awake long enough that her brain kicks into speechwriting gear.

She doesn’t just write one; but several, depending on the “mood of the class.” She does this instead of, ya know, sleeping. And so when she arrives at the breakfast table she’s positively ghoulish from the all-nighter. No matter. I get the feeling she’s going to do great when it matters.

As she did with Kumiko in Euphonium and Phos in Land of the Lustrous, Kurosawa Tomoyo absolutely kills it as the voice of Mitsumi. She has such a unique-sounding yet natural voice, and a lot of range to boot. Kudos also to P.A. Works for a stunningly gorgeous presentation that looked and felt cinematic more often than not.

I won’t lie—there are times when this show gets almost too sweet and sugary. But as a student of both Disney and Studio Ghibli I’m no stranger to that. There’s the same sweet charm of Whisper of the Heart here, mixed with shades of warmth with the sharper bite of the classic Kare Kano. This is a no-doubter for spring.

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