A Couple of Cuckoos – 17 – Camp Confession

When Nagi and Erika inform Sachi that she’s invited to their study training camp, she’s super stoked and can’t wait to start preparing for it. But when the group arrives at Erika’s opulent lakeside vacation home in Karuizawa, Sachi isn’t there; she’s ruled out by a sudden fever. In her place is Asuma Shion, AKA Matuoka Yoshitsugu’s Energetic High School Chum #1,478. 

When I first learned of this, and how he weaseled his way into tagging along (why wouldn’t they have been able to go with no one replacing Sachi?) I let out a loud, drawn-out sigh. But Shion rather than Sachi being on this trip was actually a blessing in disguise. Instead of three girls vying for Nagi’s attention, Shion is vying for Erika’s while Nagi is stoked about being there with Hiro.

Nagi provisionally agrees to cooperate with Shion such that he lets him  be Erika’s buddy for grocery shopping. At first Hiro thinks they should study while the other two are out, but the lake and crisp air of the countryside call to her. She parks herself out at the pier and does a magazine-worthy pose, telling Nagi straight-up she came because she knew he’d be there.

At the supermarket it becomes abundantly clear Erika has no idea what to buy, so she just buys whatever. Nevertheless, Shion praises her for having it together, and when she drops something, he swoops in to catch it, and his fingers meet hers. After flirting with Nagi, Hiro heads to the bath.

When Erika and Shion return home, the groceries they bought are nowhere in sight, but Shion claims to have confessed to Erika. When he actually tells Nagi that all he did was thank her for letting him come on the trip, Nagi tells him that’s not a confession. Then he tells Shion that he did confess to Hiro, and about the academic prerequisites for dating her.

Shion is impressed, calling Nagi “next-level” (the kid throws around a lot of pseudo(?) Gen-Z slang). When Erika rushes to the bath to talk to Hiro, it’s not about Shion at all (which is pretty funny) but the fact she forgot to pack underwear…or even a change of clothes. Honestly, between that and not bringing any food, you’d think Nagi would have noticed how light they were packing and prepared accordingly. Perhaps he wanted to give Erika the chance to do those things, since she’s trying to be more independent.

In any case, there’s no further mention of whatever food she and Shion bought, and we go straight to a nighttime test of courage. Hiro and Nagi are all set to be paired up again while Shion wants to go with Erika, but Erika suddenly declares she wants to be with Nagi, grabs him by the arm, and whisks him into the night, saying she needs to tell him “something”—probably about the family photo she hid when they first stepped into the house (likely the one that shows Erika and Nagi together as little tykes).

That leaves Hiro and Shion together, and it’s wonderfully awkward. Shion tries to help his buddy Nagi out by suggesting that Hiro doesn’t have to take the top spot in class every time, but Hiro immediately shuts him down, and changes the subject to Shion, whom she knows is trying to confess to Erika…and is willing to help him out.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 16 – Full Throttle Sachi

Sachi wants to know more about this Segawa Hiro girl her dear brother loves so much he’s willing to date her even while engaged to Erika. Rather than talk to Hiro, she ropes Erika into a day of stalking. Once it’s determined that Hiro is a perfect superhuman (who even delivers a 100-yen-coin she found on the street to a police box) she confronts Nagi about it, telling him he’s too good for her.

I’m not sure how Sachi’s inner logic works, but by saying this to Nagi she’s implying that she’s not too good for him. At the same time, she decides she’s going to attend the same high school as Nagi, Erika, and Hiro, presumably to become closer to her brother’s ideal of Hiro. Naturally when she shows up in her sailor uniform she creates as big a stir as Erika’s arrival.

While Hiro gives Sachi a tour of the school, Nagi and Erika follow and try to listen in. When the our ends and Sachi’s first question is about how Hiro feels about Nagi, he can sense something’s up and runs to confront them both. Only neither of them have anything to say, because apparently they’ve become friends with a shared like of…him.

Nagi, Erika, Sachi and Hiro then have lunch together, making Nagi’s friends going all meta by drawing up the diagram of relationships in their imaginations that’s pretty much spot on with that of the show, including their conclusion that Nagi isn’t exactly living an easy carefree life.

It’s one thing to want to go to Nagi’s expensive college prep school, but quite another for their family of modest means to afford for both her and Nagi to attend. Nagi and Erika accompany her to the Umino diner as moral support, but their parents are surprisingly fine with it. They’ll be able to afford for Sachi to go to Nagi’s school…if they sell the diner.

Sachi protests along with Nagi; this parent martyrdom won’t stand. Sachi and her mom then get fired up, and the men of the family back off. It ends up being the third woman in the family, Erika, who is able to quench the flames and suggest a third way: Sachi will work hard to get accepted to Nagi’s school, while the folks’ll come up with a way to pay without selling the diner.

Saying they’ll just “figure it out” seems like a cheat, especially when it’s suggested from Erika, whose monthly cosplay wardrobe probably exceeds what the entire Umino clan spends in a month. But that’s not the biggest problem with the episode, which is its central figure: Sachi.

Sachi is two basic things: a brother complex in human form, and a serial copycat. She follows through whatever she sets out to do, but has no hopes or dreams of her own. She only wants to do what her brother has done, following but never leading. It was like that when he won at swimming, reading, and running, and now she’s doing it with school.

Sachi is cute, but she’s a painfully dull and shallow character, her hot-and-cold attitude towards her brother is rote and tiresome, and there’s zero change she wins the Nagi sweepstakes. That makes any episode that focuses on her to this extent feel like a slog.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 03 – Lettuce and Cheese

Yume looks back with no small degree of unfondness upon her “old” self—from six whopping whole months ago—as an “exceptionally introverted” girl who would save everything Mizuto gave her in a small lockable treasure box. And yet here she is in the present, with Mizuto’s boxers in her hands, and she can’t help but smell them.

Knowing that if he ever caught wind of this he’d make her submit to being his little sister, she waits until the wee hours of the night for him to go to bed so she can return the drawers. But before she can open his door, he opens it…holding her bra. Looks like she wasn’t the only one charmed by the distant past.

To their credit, Yume and Mizuto have a seat in the living room and discuss things logically. They both have the exact same excuse for how they came upon each other’s undergarments, but also both agree that absconding with underwear no matter the circumstances, isn’t appropriate sibling behavior. As such, they agree that each of them gets a free demand of the other—within social norms.

Mizuto declares that within their home they’re to be perfect brother and sister, but outside said walls, they can do whatever they plase. Yume soon learns what he means when he spots him at a MgRonald chatting with a cute girl with black hair and black-framed glasses—virtually the “old her”! She goes to Akatsuki with this information, who can’t deny that Mizuto might just have what it takes to sweep a shy girl off her feet.

The plot thickens when Yume comes home to find a pair of girl’s loafers in the genkan. Assuming the girl is with Mizuto in his room, Yume calls him to ask him to run an errand—”get lettuce and cheese”—and hears footsteps leaving the house. But when she approaches his door, he’s in his room, and doesn’t know of any girl.

…Except he does. One day he was approached in the library by the black-haired girl, who immediately asked him out with the ultimate goal of marriage. She then reveals she’s actually Akatsuki in disguise, and that she wants to marry Mizuto primarily so she can become Yume’s sister, and do sisterly things with her … like bathe her and apply lotion to her body.

Honestly I had no idea Akatsuki had this in her, but when Mizuto calls her childhood friend Kawanami, he is told that this is how Akatsuki is: once she’s infatuated with something she won’t let it go. I agree with Mizuto that Kawanami saying Akatsuki doted so intensely on a previous boyfriend in middle school that he ended up hospitalized is far-fetched, the bottom line is that Mizuto doesn’t like hassles.

He wants to make it as clear as possible as soon as possible to Akatsuki that he’s not interested in marriage. To that end, he decides to cash in his demand of Yume, and asks her to accompany her on a date tomorrow. Yume is no doubt both surprised and flattered. After all, Mizuto is an idiot but he’s her idiot, and seeing him with fake old her was a blow that this invitation helps to mitigate.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 02 – Youthful Indiscretion

This week our step-couple encounter their first friends, who come to them completely unbidden. Mizuto immediately pegs Kawanami Kogure as a player just trying to use him to get to Yume, but Kawanami assures him he just wants a mate. Minami Akatsuki approaches Yume during physical tests and spends perhaps too much time comparing bust sizes.

Despite being even littler than Yume, Minami is a decent athlete, which only prompts the “reinvented” Yume to try even harder at the various athletic tests. She ends up wearing herself out, but before she falls Mizuto is right there to catch her. In the nurse’s office, Yume comes clean about not being the most athletic person, and Minami is actually a little relieved, as Yume isn’t as perfect and unapproachable as she feared.

The second half of the episode is Yume’s Dizzy Fever Day, and Minami insists on visiting her new friend at her house to make some rice porridge, escorted, of course, by Mizuto. Apparently, when Yume has a fever she “travels to the past”, since she calls Mizuto “Irido-kun” and tells him she felt lonely when he left her side.

As Mizuto and Minami cook in the kitchen, Minami lets on that she knows Mizuto had a girlfriend, despite his aloof attitude, and may even have deduced that Yume was his girlfriend. As such, she asks him what would happen if he got another girlfriend.

After Minami feeds Yume in bed, possibly fulfilling a number of lifelong dreams, she then departs, leaving Mizuto and Minami alone together. Yume’s first comments upon his return are “look at you, in the kitchen with Minami”, but he says Minami is just outgoing, able to get along with anyone, even the likes of him.

Yume brings up a time when they dated when he let go of her hand while she was sick in bed, and wants to hold Mizuto’s hand again. In her feverish, vulnerable state, it’s only natural to want to embrace the familiar and nostalgic. She even gets Mizuto to provide a monologue about the time between the seventh and eighth grades when they dated, ending when “trivial disagreements piled up”.

I have to say, that doesn’t sound like the kind of horrible rancor that would keep these two apart forevermore, especially when Yume pretends to still have a fever long after it’s passed so Mizuto will keep pampering her (which is extremely cute). Even when he finds out and feigns anger, he lets it slide.

More than anything, Yume doesn’t want Mizuto to “leave her behind”. He assures her he’ll “stick around” since they’re siblings now, but as Minami gleaned, they’re more than just that. With their history, they can’t not be.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 01 (First Impressions) – Old Habits Die Hard

Irido Yume and Irido Mizuto dated in junior high, and apparently had a pretty rough breakup. Now, due to their mom and dad marrying one another, they are now stepsiblings. Naturally, their folks don’t know about their history, so Yume and Mizuto have to hide how much they loathe each other, and settle for trading barbs outside of said folks’ earshot. Already, I love it. It’s so awkward, and somewhat tawdry. I wouldn’t wish this fate on anyone!

But here’s what really makes Tsurekano interesting: as they spend more and more time together—and they can’t not, as they not only live under the same roof, but are in the same class at the same school—they both learn in just this first episode that those old feelings they once had for one another don’t take much to resurface. Yume claims the class rep mantle and gains a lot of friends fast (never her forte in the past), but it backfires when guys try to befriend Mizuto to use him as a stepping stone to ask her out.

Back home, Mizuto doesn’t let Yume express any pity for him, or even say what’s on her mind, but it’s clear it bothers her that what she did might’ve ended up hurting him. Just because you’re exes doesn’t mean you automatically stop having feelings for each other, even a sense of wanting to protect the other. She overcompensates the next day by clinging to Mizuto and saying she has a brother complex, and after Mizuto makes them supper when their folks are out, she remembers the feel of his shoulder and tries to deflect by demanding he forget.

Frustrated by how passive he’s being (and has always been), Yume finally decides to get a literal rise out of him by striding into the living room in a tiny, tightly-wrapped towel and nothing else. While he is indeed initially flustered, her victory is brief, as the towel starts to loosen. Rather than do anything brazen, he covers her up with his hoodie, knowing she didn’t think this plan through. He just knows her too well. They both know each other too well.

And because both Yume and Mizuto are in a rom-com anime, it was inevitable that one of them would slip and fall towards the other, leading to a compromising—but also familiar—position. Mizuto even calls Yume by her old name, Ayai, as he brushes her bangs back in preparation for a kiss that is really only interrupted by the sudden arrival of their parents. Yume’s lucky there’s storage in the couch they were on.

But let’s assume these two are done and done for good because they are now stepsiblings. The show has many places to go with this, from exploring how they’ll no doubt stumble and fall again into old patterns from when they dated, to how they’ll try to counter that by entering hostility-regret-truce spirals, to the underlying mystery of why they broke up.

I also loved the detail that they were both shy “nerds” who still have rooms packed with books, and are both at the top of their class. Oh, and most important: while there are times that I’m on Team No One, at the end of the day both Yume and Mizuto want to make sure their parents are happy. They’re good kids, and I look forward to watching them navigate this strange new normal.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Love After World Domination – 09 – Become Strong, Then Fall in Love

One minute you’re alone with your girlfriend in her dorm, the next, you’re staring down her eccentric, fanatical father and taciturn yet hostile little sister. The latter, Magahara Urami, is basically the protagonist of this episode, and she’s in crisis.

This…man, who is dressed as a common Gekko foot solider, seems to have turned her invincible sister into a weak, girly softie. The main flaw with Urami’s position is that she couldn’t be more wrong, but she has to learn that the hard way.

When Fudou, who makes up the fake name Mudou, assures Desumi’s dad that she only turned down the monster promotion after careful consideration, then insists he allow Desumi to attend college, both Urami and Pops are furious that an “outsider” is interfering in family matters.

Pops even starts a fight with Fudou, and demonstrates his carefully-honed “Art of Defeat”; i.e. the most stylish way of taking a hit. Pops leaves impressed with Fudou’s devotion to a cause and will table the university discussion, and Desumi sees him off with a smile.

Urami spends the night, presumably hiding in the closet from a big sister she no longer recognizes, thanks to “Mudou” “ruining” her. Growing up, Urami’s problems with communicating and resting emo face made her an easy target for bullies, all of whom were obliterated by Desumi. It’s no surprise Urami developed a sister complex.

When the sisters visit Gekko’s HQ and Desumi receives a royal greeting befitting her rank, Urami briefly believes that the badass sister she knows is still in there…only for Desumi to scold the foot soldiers for going out of their way, and get upset they don’t notice her new (adorable) hairdo. Urami is in awe of HQ and particularly Desumi’s co-workers and superiors, but Desumi would rather go shopping with her in Harajuku.

Urami is beside herself with frustration…how could the sister she loved and idolize become thus? She storms off in a huff and sulks in a dark alley, where she’s cornered by three lunkheads who aren’t at all concerned with age limits. She’s about to clobber them, but when they call her an “emo kid” like the bullies of her past and present, she freezes up.

That’s when Desumi appears, two delectable crepes in hand, and ignores the dopes entirely. When they warn her that they’re “bad guys”, Desumi puts on her game face and ethers all three of them so easily the show doesn’t bother showing the carnage, only the aftermath. Urami may think Desumi has “gone soft”, but the fact of the matter is she’s as strong as she’s ever been.

She realizes she once told Urami that one must become strong to survive, but now that she’s older she knows that’s not enough. If you want to survive and thrive, you have to fall in love. Urami returns home wearing the hairband her sister bought her. She hated the new version of her big sister at first, but having seen that she dole out carnage and be cute at the same time, maybe this new Desumi isn’t so bad after all.

“Mudou”, on the other hand, will be the first to be purged when she rises up in Gekko.

Love After World Domination – 08 – The Heat Is On

Fudou and Desumi have a problem: someone not named Haru knows about them and, unlike Haru, is not rooting for them. I thought that someone might be Misaki, judging from that tiny glimpse last week. But when we’re introduced to Desumi’s gyaru classmate Houjou, it’s clear who the true culprit is.

Fudou meets her at the park, where Houjou proceeds to try and utterly fail to blackmail him in various ways. She threatens to make the photo public; he’s fine with that as long as she blacks out Desumi’s face. She tells him to break up with her; he refuses. She tells him to say he loves her; he won’t. She tries to get him to kiss his hand, only to pull it back, unable to go through with it herself.

At their next clandestine meet-up, Fudou tells Desumi the situation, and while her first impulse is to “silence” the girl “permanently”, she thinks she knows what’s going on: this girl must be in love. Fudou promises Desumi that she doesn’t have to worry, and that he’ll handle it.

At their next meeting, Fudou politely but firmly acknowledges the girl’s feelings for him and expresses his gratitude for them, but before he can turn her down, she clears up a misunderstanding: she’s in love with Desumi, not him.

Ostracized at school for her personal style and a false rep for looseness, Desumi was the only one to approach and befriend her. Houjou inspired Desumi to do her nails. Oh yeah, and she’s been under Desumi’s nose all along as Gekko’s own Princess Heat!

Houjou Anna is a solid addition to the quirky cast and Sakura Ayane brings plenty of sassy vim and vigor to the role. It’s a shame she’s not in the remainder of the episode, but in her place is Haru, whom we learn isn’t the best at school and needs help studying for the finals. Desumi also confesses to being bad at studies, so the two of them and Fudou decide to have a study session.

The smart and obvious choice of venue for said session would be a neutral location, such as a library, but instead Desumi has Fudou and Haru dress up like Gekko minions (who all have an identical build) and sneak into her room. But once there, Fudou and Haru soon discover Desumi’s perfect test scores. Turns out Desumi isn’t bad at school and just didn’t want to be left out.

One would think that having two school-smart people tutor her would be a boon for Haru, but it turns out both Fudou and Desumi suck at teaching in different ways. Haru tries to put everything in the context of musculature, while Desumi is all about meaningless motivational slogans. Haru takes her leave, confident that studying alone would serve her better than remaining with these two kooky lovebirds.

Haru leaving means Fudou is alone in his girlfriend’s bedroom for the first time, and I love how he just lets it wash over him. Desumi, on the other hand, is distracted by Haru mentioning universities. Fudou tells Desumi his goal is to go on to university and study education so he can teach elementary school.

Desumi has no such long term goals other than wanting to remain by Fudou’s side…even if her dad expects her to work at Gekko full time after high school. Speaking of Desumi’s dad, both he and Desumi’s little sister arrive at her door quite unexpectedly, leaving Fudou trapped and with very few viable hiding spots, considering his build. Will next week be a “meet her family” scenario?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Heroines Run the Show – 01 – (First Impressions) – Clearing Every Hurdle

Who doesn’t love can-do country bumpkins? I for one can’t help but be endlessly charmed by them as I vicariously watch them navigate the Big City for the first time, full of gumption and moxie. Suzumi Hiyori is a bushy-eybrowed ball of energy brought to life by the ubiquitous Minase Inori (though if you’re not a fan of her louder, higher-pitched characters, you probably won’t enjoy this).

Her little hometown high school doesn’t have a track team, but Hiyori wants to one day be a national finalist, so to Tokyo she goes, with the full support of her huge and adorable family. Little did she know that she’d end up seated between the two ruinously popular male idols Shibasaki Aizou and Someya Yuujirou. Most of the other girls in her class swoon over them, but she experiences them with their nice faces off, and is t barely-concealed concept for each other.

While searching for the front gate of her massive (for her) new school, she overhears a heated argument, and finds Aizou taking Yuujirou by the scruff. She tries to play peacemaker, but only ends up soaking the three of them by stepping on a high-pressure hose. She says classmates shouldn’t fight; they tell her to stay away from her…but she sits between them, she she can’t!

Fortunately, Hiyori makes fast friends with two other girls in her class: the slightly gyaru-y Hattori Juri (Sakura Ayane) and the more reserved, bespectacled Nakamura Chizuru (Hayami Saori). Together, these three are among my favorite seiyuu, and combined with Uchiyama Kouki and Shimazaki Nobunaga, we’ve got ourselves an all-star cast.

In one of the more touching scenes of the episode, Hiyori is on the call with her mom, and learns her dad, a fisherman, hurt his back and may be laid up for a bit. With four younger siblings, she worries she’s being a financial burden for her family by going to school in Tokyo. Her mom says it will be fine, but Hiyori takes another bold step into adulthood by deciding to get a part-time job to pay her living expenses.

Her first round of interviews don’t go well, as her already busy high school and track schedule simply does not mesh with your typical restaurant or café work schedule. But she ends up hitting paydirt with a 1500 yen/hr (or $12/hr, not chump change for a high schooler) opportunity, and after some early nerves, manages to make a strong case for herself as someone who will overcome any obstacle and get the job done.

While Hiyori is one of dozens of applicants, the clincher for her recruiter Uchida (not Maaya) is that she’s in the same class as the idol duo LIPxLIP, AKA Aizou and Yuujirou, which makes her the perfect fitr for their new rookie manager-in-training. Both she and the boys are taken completely by surprise with this development, and I doubt any of them are happy with it.

But hey, Hiyori did say she’d leap over any hurdle to service of her dream, didn’t she? She’ll never make the nationals if the hurdles are only a foot tall! Uchida did her a big favor, giving her a foot in the door of a hugely popular enterprise and giving her a personal and professional challenge. If she’s to be their manager, they’ll all have to get to know and learn to trust each other. I can’t wait to see how it goes.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Komi Can’t Communicate – 06 – First Strike

This week Komi’s Got Jokes! Unfortunately, they’re dad jokes, delivered by writing them down on paper. Scurrying away to call Tadano and sheepishly recite such jokes doesn’t improve matters. But what she lacks in comedic ability she makes up for in pure adorability. I’m surprised Tadano couldn’t at least…humor her!

The next segment is Komi’s very first shopping trip with friends, as well as the first time buying her own clothes (something usually left to her mom). Najimi makes it a competition—possibly just so they can see Komi in a cheongsam—but the one who wins with all “10” scores is Tadano, who chooses a simple light summer dress and cute sandals. Despite having never picked out clothes for a girl, he knows what suits Komi best.

Following her new threads, Komi works up the courage to go to the salon to get a haircut. The salon’s newest employee Arai almost  but is understandably in awe of both Komi and her boss Karisu’s beauty. It isn’t until Komi has Arai keep the change as a tip and points at the word “thank you” in a magazine that Arai understands Komi didn’t dislike her at all, but simply doesn’t like chatting at the salon.

Exams are almost here, which means it’s time to hit the library and study. Agari warns Tadano, Najimi, and Komi that if the burly quietude monitor Gorimi-senpai hits any of them with a paper fan three times, they’re ejected from the library. Najimi is obviously the first to be tossed; their third strike coming when the trio’s Jenga tower collapses. Even so, Komi is happy to have played another game and received her “first strike”—as is Tadano.

Finally, with exams out of the way it’s time for summer break. We see Komi bored and desperately wanting to call Tadano to hang out, but just can’t hit the “Call” button, and when she finally works up the courage to do so, quickly panics and hits “End Call” as soon as he answers.

Tadano, by the way, is equally hesitant to call Komi even though he perfectly diagnoses her situation. Fortunately Najimi cleans everything up by arranging for the three to hang out, and both Komi and Tadano are elated to be scoring some summer time together. Maybe she’ll don the outfit he chose for her!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Komi Can’t Communicate – 05 – Ramen, Chuunibyou and Other Inclusions

Summer uniforms are here, and so are fitness tests. After her “tie” last time, Yadano is eager to defeat her rival Komi. Alas, she can’t even manufacture a tie this time, as Komi wins seven out of seven “events”, despite knowing of no rivalry whatsoever.

Yadano holds out her hand to congratulate Komi on a great challenge. But when Komi doesn’t take her hand, Yadano sees it as a rebuke to Yadano giving up. Instead, Yadano “accepts” Komi’s “offer” to continue their “rivalry”. Those quotation marks are doing a lot of work!

Thanks to their pushy presumptuousness, Najimi invites themselves to Komi’s house with Tadano, and they meet Komi’s mom Suko. Initially she looks like a cool quiet, slightly intimidating lady. Then she reveals she communicates just fine. In fact, she’s proud of how she looks “forever seventeen” and her kiddy enthusiasm mortifies her silent daughter.

Najimi tries to find secrets in Komi’s room, but instead finds books on communication (with both humans and cats!) then leaves the room to watch Komi and Tadano alone in the room. For fifteen minutes, the two sit in silence, frustrating Najimi, but it’s never awkward. Komi and Tadano could sit quietly together for hours. Najimi snaps a candid shot, and Komi is so happy with it she ask her mom if she can buy a picture frame.

When Komi meekly expresses her wish to go out for ramen, Agari, a ramen expert, takes charge. When talking about food, Agari becomes a much more confident and talkative person (until people look at her), and obviously knows her stuff, listing off the various “ramen commandments” one must follow. Komi is able to communicate what she wants to the brawny but similarly tiny-voiced ramen chief, and proves a ramen master, waiting patiently and quietly (natch) and finishing and leaving promptly.

A new friend is introduced in the chuunibyou girl Nakanaka Omoharu, who wants to be Komi’s friend but assigns labels that confuse Komi, which cause Nakanaka to get the wrong idea that Komi isn’t interested in being friends. Just as Tadano is a great Komi translator, he is also well-versed in the chuunibyou/”cringe” lifestyle, having lived it himself in junior high, only to swear it off when his crush rejected him for it.

When everybody is trying to be Komi’s partner for stretching, Nakanaka watches everyone else pair up and sits in on the floor alone and morose. She’s startled but ultimately delighted when she notices Komi had declined all other potential partners to make a “blood pact” with her. Nakanaka may play it cool and say that the pact actually made Komi her “vassal”, but it’s just “friend” by any other name.

As for Tadano, Komi’s most “normal” friend (at least relative to the others), Komi finds excuses to spend time with him, even though they’re rarely apart. When Najimi steals Tadano’s umbrella and it rains after school, Komi is waiting for him with hers, and they end up sharing. It proves a bit too much for Tadano after grazing her shoulder, and offers to hold it between them—getting his shoulder wet, but keeping Komi dry.

Later at the konbini where Tadano buys another umbrella and towels for them to dry off, he asks if Komi saw Najimi’s note and chose to wait, rather than it being a coincidence of timing. To this, Komi simply looks on in silence, and her very aura parts the clouds. For all the various terms Komi’s friends use to describe their association, Komi is clearly Tadano’s sun—and vice versa!

Komi Can’t Communicate – 04 – Yamai Ren is Obsessed

This week’s first segment centers on Yadano Makeru, an extremely competitive girl who tries to “beat” Komi at the school physicals. She loses to Komi in height and vision tests, but wins in weight and “seated height”, which seems like an odd thing to measure, but whatever! In any case, Makeru’s mild eccentricity doesn’t prepares us for the horrors to come.

That’s because the rest of the episode is pretty much All Yamai Ren, All The Time. Ren doesn’t want to compete with Komi…she wants her. It’s all she can do to prevent herself from shouting in ecstacy as her body contorts in excitement at the mere sight of Komi walking down the hall. The girl is straight-up obsessed, wants to get closer, and will do so by any means necessary.

At first things seem innocent enough, as she makes too much Hamburg steak (albeit purposefully) as an excuse to share some with Komi at lunch time. Ren is sitting in Tadano’s seat when she asks Komi if she wants to eat with her, and Komi, seeing a vision of an encouraging miniature Tadano in his desk, gives the slightest of nods, and it’s off to the races, with Ren absolute heaven.

But this begs the question: Where is Tadano? Turns out Ren has taken him out of the picture, tying him to a chair with a lot of rope (her knot game is suspiciously elite) in her room, the walls of which are plastered with candid photos of Komi, some of them combined via collage with pictures of her in romantic (or lewd) positions.

Najimi, who is just trying to give Komi another nudge in her quest for 100 friends, invites themselves and Komi to Ren’s place, and Ren can’t resist the prospect of Komi rubbing her scent on her bed or leaving stray hairs around, so she agrees. She stuffs Tadano in her closet, promising she won’t bury him if he doesn’t scream, but eventually Najimi discovers him, and Ren drops the cute innocent act and goes Full Yandere.

It backfires spectacularly, as the moment Komi sees Tadano tied up, she’s ready to leave. She writes a polite “Thanks for having us” note, then leaves with Tadano. When Ren tells her that she was trying to do her a favor by getting rid of the trashboy so totally unworthy of her attention. Komi’s note in response is suitably devastating: “I choose my own friends.”

That said, the next day Komi is distraught and shaken by the experience, and asks Tadano to join her somewhere private to “talk”. She writes in her notebook how it might be best if they weren’t friends. Of course, this isn’t because she doesn’t like Tadano or thinks he’s beneath him; quite the contrary. She fears for his safety. What if something like yesterday happens again, and they don’t find him in time?

To this, Tadano responds that he also chooses his friends. Getting tied up and threatened by a yandere is a small price to pay for being Komi’s friend. Heartened by his response, as she definitely didn’t want their friendship to end, Komi voices it to him…literally…by saying she wants to be his friend in her teeny tiny adorable voice.

In the drama of Komi and Tadano leaving Ren’s, they left Najimi behind. Fortunately, Ren didn’t kill them, and instead Najimi assured her that if she apologized properly for what she did, Komi wouldn’t hate her. Ren does just that, apologizing to both Tadano and Komi for her actions (though as Tadano observes, she kinda sucks at apologies!)

Then Tadano and Najimi thoroughly explain how Komi is bad at communicating and wants to make 100 friends, and Ren is even more enamored of her, having now discovered her new cute quality. That’s how Ren becomes Komi’s fourth official—and most demented!—friend. Ren’s seiyu Hidaka Rina gets MVP honors this week for her deliciously shifty and layered performance.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Komi Can’t Communicate – 03 – God’s in Her Classroom, All’s Right in the World

When Agari Himiko, the shy school librarian who is afraid of being looked at, is stared at by Komi, who can’t communicate that she just wants to be friends, she jumps to the wrong conclusion and believes she either offended Komi in some way or is simply being messed with by the popular beauty for sport.

That said, Himiko’s fear of Komi staring at her helps her overcome her lesser fear of talking to the class, as she’s able to bravely relay to them where gym class is being held. She thanks Komi on the steps for scaring her into being brave. Tadano proposes the two become friends, but Himiko settles rather quickly for being Komi’s “dog.”

With Komi making friends left and right, she asks for and receives a cell phone from her folks—an old-style flip phone from simpler times. Now she can text her friends…if she had their number. She manages to get both Himiko and Najimi’s, but pointedly has them write them down on paper, because she wants to enter Tadano’s number first.

When it comes time to decide who will be class president, everyone nominates Komi, who seems poised for a position way beyond her current communication abilities. Najimi bails her out by opposing her, but when they’re surrounded by roughs, they declare that “president” is far too puny a title for someone like Komi! So everyone declares her Class God, and leave the thankless presidency to Tadano.

That night, Komi is giddily futzing around with her new phone when she accidentally calls Tadano (falling victim to a horrifying feature where simply putting your ear to the phone calls someone). As a result, both we and Tadano hear Komi talk more in a few moments than she has in the entire preivious two and three-fifths episodes. Koga Aoi, so expressive as Kaguya-sama, shows how much she can do with so little, from her little squeaks and screams to fractured sentences.

Finally, Komi is feeling bold, and wants to join the Cool Kids for some pre-class traditional games which go as completely over my head as they do her. Of course, I have an excuse having not grown up in Japan; Komi has never played any of the games the others grew up with because she could never communicate.

But that’s primed to change, as baby step by baby step she gets better at interacting with people and letting her will be known. The words will come in time…and even if they don’t, everyone will still worship her and the ground she stands on.

Komi Can’t Communicate – 02 – Everyone’s Old Friend

Komi is the kind of popular in her class where everyone will put her on a pedestal and admire her from afar (and snap photos), but are too much in awe of her to approach her. If she wants to make friends with any of them, she’ll either have to approach them, or Tadano will have to introduce her to some.

We soon learn this isn’t so easy, since Tadano himself is not exactly popular. In this school full of strong personalities, Tadano is an eyesore to some. Take the normally sweet and cheerful Yamai, who clutches Tadano’s shoulders when he approaches her and utters curses through his ears for daring to speak Komi’s name with his scummy mouth.

Tadano had hoped he didn’t have to resort to her, but he approaches his friend from middle school, Osana Najimi (a play on words, as osananajimi means “childhood friend”). Not only is Najimi of indeterminate gender (she typically goes by “she” but occasionally says she’s male), she’s also childhood friends with everyone. She’s voiced by Murakawa Rie, perhaps best known to me as the voice of Re:Zero’s Ram.

Everyone, that is, but Komi, whom she also knew from second grade. Najimi was always a gregarious sort, but when she first approached Komi, she took her lack of communication as ignoring what she was saying, or acting cold and aloof. Not being able to make friends with Komi actually traumatized Najimi, to the point she’s not sure she can be friends with her now.

Even so, Tadano’s Serious Look at Najimi convinces her to at least give it another shot for her old friend’s sake. So she and Komi walk home together. Komi’s usual nervousness and Najimi’s unusual nervousness make things awkward from the start.

We then get two different perspectives of the same interaction: first Najimi’s, then Tadano’s. To Najimi, Komi is doing all the same things that put her off trying to be friends with her years ago, while Tadano is able to interpret Komi’s reactions properly from his stalkery hiding spot.

Najimi is ready to throw in the towel when two more old friends of hers interrupt the experiment. The much larger, burlier of the two has come to ask her out, and even her saying she’s a guy doesn’t dissuade him. When he removes his jacket in a dramatic flourish, his house key flies out of a pocket. He grabs Najimi, not taking no for an answer, but Komi basically rescues her by approaching the brute with the key he dropped.

She actually talks to him, but so softly and in such broken rhythm, he thinks she’s saying she’s going to kill him with the key, which combined with her focused stare causes him to beat a hasty retreat with his toady. Najimi decides to befriend Komi on the spot, and Komi, adorable lass that she is, expresses her elation with a giddy bunny hop.

Najimi wants to help Komi communicate better, so sends her off on an errand, which is more of an ultimatum: Go to Starbucks Standbakes and order a Non-fat milk Pistachio Deep Mocha Dipped Cream Frappaccino with chocolate drizzle and lots of whipped cream…or they won’t be friends anymore. Terrified of losing her second-ever friend so soon, Komi gives it a college try, but is ultimately unable to speak to the barista.

The barista, an elite “Black Apron”, tries to divine from her silence exactly what she wants, but ends up making a Noir Fantastique Valencia Orange Bitter Chocolate Brownie with Nutty Flavor Pistachio Sauce on Walnut Chip Chocolate Chip Cookie Chip Soy Milk Creamy Frappaccino with lots of sauce and lots of whipped Cream and lots of chips…which is not right.

When she delivers the accursed drink, Najimi says it’s not right, and Komi starts to cry. Najimi realizes the difficulty level of her test was way too high (just ordering a coffee would have ben tough enough!), and she and Tadano prostrate themselves before her, then marvel at how cute Komi is when she’s mad.

While overly complex Starbucks drink jokes are a tad old-hat, I found Najimi immediately charming and likable, just like Komi and Tadano, only a completely different personality in terms of her immense popularity and tremendous knack for befriending. No doubt her skills and experience (combined with Tadano’s Komitranslation skills) should help Komi make 98 more friends.

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