Just Because! – 07

Things really come together in the Natsume-Izumi-Komiya love triangle this week, as both girls start to realize the feelings they have, things long left unsaid are finally said, nudging the narrative forward in a satisfying way.

Komiya clutching Izumi’s back was certainly a provocative image to leave use with two weeks ago—particularly in making Natsume bear witness to the display. As it happens, the embrace was instigated by a jubilant Komiya. We get to see what led up to that hug-from-behind, with Izumi saving Komiya from a run-in with a scary dude who thought she was snapping pics of him without his permission.

She blames Izumi for not giving her permission, but more importantly, finally tells him why it’s so important he give it: the photography club is a place where she finally belonged; if it’s gone, she’ll have nowhere.

While that’s not strictly true, I’m sure Izumi can relate to not having a true place to belong after being uprooted from his school and friends years back. And like Komiya, he’s working to preserve such a place, by trying to get into the same university as Natsume.

Izumi tellingly gets no sleep at all; perhaps he recognized Natsume last night when Komiya was on his back; and when it snows the morning of her test, all forms of transportation are snagged and delayed. It’s a common scenario for Natsume, as Izumi sees it: she’s always getting the short end of the stick; one could also call it plain ol’ bad luck.

It enabled her to see Izumi with Komiya at the worst (and most misunderstandable) possible time; it also caused it to snow the day of her big test, and to slip and fall right before the PA warning about the slippery floor.

But Izumi is on it; he does what he’s always done with Natsume; try to make up for her bad luck by being there with her; to help bear some of her burdens. After seeing him with Komiya, Izumi helping her off the cold wet ground was probably the last thing Natsume expected…and yet here he is.

Izumi also shields her on a crowded train, making things as comfortable as possible before her test. When she worries she’s forgotten all she’s studied, he throws history questions at her, which she answers with ease; she’s alright after all. She asks him to keep quizzing her.

Neither mentions what was up with Komiya last night, he’s just there, in the there and now, to offer his support, and it seems to work: Natsume arrives at the test center with a spring in her step and has a defiant, confident look in the testing room.

That train scene is my favorite of the show between the two; there’s so much quiet, gentle mutual affection there; both look so cozy and content. And it almost instantly turns Komiya—whom I was damn near ready to ship with Izumi last week, but who sneaks up on Izumi in a bookstore—into an interloper. Izumi barely has the time of day for her.

At the same time, I feel sorry that the timing of her “queasiness” is coming at about the same time Natsume is starting to realize her feelings for Izumi. After the test, Natsume watches a middle school couple interact on the train, with the boy carrying the larger load for the girl’s sake, albeit somewhat grumpily.

The boy reminds Natsume of Izumi, clearly carrying something too heavy but willing to do it for her. In that flashback, Natsume’s fellow council members skipped out on her, in another instance of her getting the short end of the stick, but Natsume’s quite right that Izumi got an even shorter end when he suddenly had to move away.

But now Izumi is back, and he’s still willing to go the extra mile for Natsume. Indeed, she’s not yet aware he’s aiming to go to the same university as her. I wonder how she’ll take that when she does learn? I guess it depends on whether he tells her or if she finds out.

Komiya does know; she saw the books Izumi was reading at the store. As such, and with her “queasiness” in mind, Komiya wastes no time asking permission again, this time asking Natsume if she can ask Izumi out on a date.

In baseball speak, this question to Natsume could be considered “chin music”, a fastball high and inside, meant to back the batter off the plate. It’s an aggressive move by a girl who has made many an aggressive move to get what she wants, though in a more pragmatic than selfish or hostile way.

Everyone is looking for a place to belong, and in Komiya’s case, that place might just be by Izumi’s side. Natsume may have been super-passive up to this point, but her response to Komiya is a swift and decisive “no, you can’t”, spoken almost under her breath, but from a higher physical point than Komiya, underscoring her precedence.

Those three words indicate so much: No, you can’t swoop in and take what would already be mine, if I’d realized and/or acted sooner. No, you can’t steal a march on me. You may be working through things faster, but that doesn’t mean I have to match your speed. I’m going to sit down, figure things out and talk with Izumi, and then we’ll see what’s what. Until then, REQUEST DENIED.

It’s an admirable first step and line in the sand for Natsume. Here’s hoping she keeps it up and has a good, productive conversation with Izumi very soon.

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Just Because! – 06

Morikawa’s Sunday request to Souma for a chat goes unanswered into Wednesday. Why? Souma is weary of breaking the “stalemate,” unaware of what someone who outright rejected him could possibly want to talk about.

While that’s festering, Komiya continues her campaign to become Izumi’s friend, believing it will net her the benefit of him giving permission to use the photo. Rather than absense, she’s hoping her constant presence will make his heart grow stronger.

They have lunch in the depressing office where Izumi studies alone, and Souma catches him being fed by Komiya. “It’s not what it looks like!” Izumi protests. Maybe not, but things seem to be moving in that direction!

Souma and Izumi have a talk about Morikawa’s text, and Izumi suggests they settle it with baseball…again. If he hits a homer off Izumi, Souma must respond. If Izumi strikes him out, he’ll “be clear” with someone whose name he’d rather not say (though I’m assuming it’s Natsume; isn’t that why he’s studying; to get into a college near hers?)

Once more, Souma and Izumi’s two-man, one-out game becomes the focal point on which all others are focused, from Komiya (literally focused with her camera) and Natsume (who can tell Izumi’s doing his best) to Morikawa, who almost, almost breaks out her trumpet, remembering Souma liking it, even though she thinks she sucks.

The next day, Komiya gets some reasonable advice to back off from Izumi since getting closer isn’t working, but it becomes immediately clear Komiya isn’t capable of backing off in a realistic manner, and even if she did, it would have no effect on Izumi.

Natsume, inspired by both Izumi and Souma, gives Souma an eraser as thanks for him lending her one years ago. Souma is understandably confused, and unfortunately Natsume leaves it there without any further information, forcing Souma to, as Izumi says “figure it out for himself.”

Later, one of Natsume’s friends (one of three all rooting for her and Souma) asks straight-up if Natsume even likes Souma. Natsume doesn’t know anymore. She’s torn between the elation of that eraser lend in the past, and the presence of Morikawa in the present, and of course, the tests that will determine her future.

Souma, meanwhile, finally gets back to Morikawa, only for her to procrastinate over responding to him. These damn kids, I tellya! Fortunately, Inui kinda forces the issue by telling Souma where to find Morikawa, who is practicing trumpet by the river. She plays for him, and it only makes him repeat how much he likes her. Her playing! But her too.

Then Souma gets a victory (well, he’d call it that) he never saw coming: Morikawa wants more time to give him a final answer; he’s not rejected. His raw elation upon hearing this was palpable. They come to a detente; planning a celebration when Natsume’s tests are done. But they dare not hang out one-on-one…why, I don’t know.

Meanwhile, Izumi is jogging when he comes upon Komiya, who has been busted by the cops for taking photos of someone without permission. The sequence is chopped up a bit, but it’s apparent he came to her aid, and he offered to ride her home on her moped.

Natsume just happens to spot the two, looking every bit like a couple to the untrained eye, before they motor off. Could Izumi actually be warming to the more accessible girl? Or is he just being the good friend Komiya wanted him to be? Whatever the case, it’s pretty likely Natsume will see what anyone else would see: Izumi and Komiya looking very close.

Just Because! – 05

It’s a new year and a new semester; the last for all of our main characters (save Komiya). So why is everyone so bent out of shape (save Komiya)? Well, the events of last weeK—Natsume and Izumi having a fight and leaving on bad terms, and Morikawa shooting Souma down—had lasting repercussions.

Neither Izumi nor Souma want to go to school, and who can blame them? But now that Izumi and Natsume had time to cool down, both realize the error of their ways and wish to apologize to one another, because they really do care about each other. If anything, the fight demonstrated to both of them that they cared more than they knew.

Unfortunately, the reconciliation isn’t prompt; Natsume finally finds Izumi (who studies by himself in his own room…?), but Komiya is already there, monopolizing him, so Natsume bails with Morikawa and Noriko, and she ends up telling them what transpired with Izumi, and how she wants to fix it.

Morikawa also wants to fix things with Souma. Even if her rejection would ultimately stand (nothing’s 100% certain), in hindsight she believes she brought the hammer down too hard; it was her first confession, and one could say she panicked. It’s not that she dislikes Souma, she just doesn’t think she knows him well enough to start dating.

Natsume, putting Morikawa’s feelings ahead of her own in this matter, encourages her to talk it out with Souma; he’ll probably be happy for increased dialogue, and come to understand Morikawa’s position as more nuanced than “you’re trash.”

It’s not just Morikawa’s rejection that has Souma down in the dumps. This is his last semester, then it’s off to the factory, where he thinks he won’t be able to have fun anymore. A senpai invites him to a factory baseball game, and he’s shocked to see how into it the old fogies are.

Thanks to Izumi being in the right place at the right time, he’s able to produce the glove Souma tossed in the dumpster (the incorrect dumpster, mind you!), and Souma immediately makes an impact on the game that endears him to his future comrades.

On his way home, Souma runs into his mom, also on her way home. We see that Souma has been looked after by his grandparents, as his mom is really frikkin’ busy at work. But in a really sweet scene between the two, she tells him it’s worth it.

In a day’s time, Souma is feeling much better about himself, life, and the future…and that’s before Morikawa reaches out to him so they can talk more.

Having given Morikawa advice that talking things out properly is best, Natsume can’t very well not practice what she preaches! In a particularly romcom-ish coincidence, she and Izumi encounter each other at the monorail stop, and have the whole train to themselves.

Natsume tries to break the ice by joking about what book he bought (he says it’s manga, but it’s really a college prep book), but it backfires, so she says sorry, and then says she’s sorry about the other night as well. Izumi, in turn, apologizes back.

And while she says it’s not because of him or anything, she’s going to make a concerted effort to make her feelings clear to Souma, and face whatever’s to come after that. However, they part ways before it’s clear to Natsume why Izumi said what he said, nor is it clear to Izumi if Natsume realized how he actually felt about her.

There’s still lots of work to do…but everyone’s either talking again or about to talk again, so there’s hope that more will become clear in time.

ShoBitch ShoDropped

ShoBitch was never great, or even good. It was merely okay, and watchable in a nothing-else-is-on kinda way.

But after an episode that was less watchable—due to the addition of a sheltered rich girl with views on courtship every bit as quirky as Akiho’s and her mom’s—I’ve decided to cut bait.

Unlike Aho Girl, this is a full-length show, and despite decent voice work from Yuuki Aoi, the repetitive humor and predictable MC reactions just aren’t enough to keep me interested or coming back.

To even out the author responsibilities to four apiece, I’ll be taking over 3-gatsu no Lion reviews. Expect little change, as both Preston and I love the show—not to mention she initially took over the first season from me in a similar balancing maneuver.

Carry on, all!

Just Because! – 04

I’ve got some nice variety in my Fall watchlist. Food Wars is chugging along, with Souma scoring a big win thanks to his friends; MMO Junkie our elite NEET seems to be where she wants; and in ShoBitch we’ve had a steady, happy couple since the first episode, with all the comedy coming out of their mutual inexperience with being in a relationship.

That leaves Just Because!, the Fall show I’m watching in which people seem to suffer the most without much in the way of payoff. Just take Natsume’s interactions with Souma, trying to be a good friend by helping him get closer to Morikawa, despite the fact she still harbors feelings for him.

An experienced anime watcher it’s clear Natsume is in pain, but Souma’s your typical oblivious guy, and combined with Natsume’s silence on the matter and apparent interest in helping him with Morikawa, there’s really no way for him to question her smiles, even if she’s forcing them.

As a photog, Komiya knows all about smiles…and other expressions, like the one on Izumi’s face as he’s looking at Natsume in a candid photo Komiya took of them. Even after failing her last mission with Izumi (she brought a cat instead of a dog), she says she’ll delete the embarrassing shot if Izumi tells her something he likes about Natsume.

When she says “her awkwardness”, Komiya laughs, because it’s such an earnest, unflattering answer. It is itself an awkward answer, coming from someone just as awkward as Natsume (and, like her, unable to get his feelings to reach the one he likes).

Komiya then proposes another deal with Izumi: she’ll support him in trying to go out with the (former) president, and in exchange he’ll let her submit that photo she took of him, which she believes will win her a award and keep the photo club alive.

Of the five, Komiya is the hardest to read; she comes right out and says “I like you” to Izumi, throwing him off, before finishing with “…as a person”, inviting his ire. She’s clearly there to provide a yang counterbalance to Izumi’s yin main love interest and present multiple possible routes for the various characters.

When New Years comes around and it’s time for a shrine visit, Souma and Morikawa’s friends conspire to flake out on the visit, leaving the two alone. The two have a nice time, though Souma is often at a loss for words due to his stress over the task at hand.

That stress would seem to have been justified, for no sooner does he finally get the words “I like you” out and ask if Morikawa will go out with him, Morikawa…gravely declines. 

Ouch…that’s gotta be a fastball to the gut of Souma; all that preparation and anticipation, and at the end of the day, it wasn’t whether he could confess, but whether Morikawa would say yes, and she does not. Another sign Just Because! isn’t interested in doing things the easy way or taking the pressure off its characters.

After several instances of having someone—either Natsume’s plucky older sister or Yoriko—be a third wheel, Izumi and Natsume finally find themselves alone, and they continue to circle one another warily, putting on antagonistic airs to conceal the fact both of them have basically the same problem: their first choice likes someone else.

The fact that Souma was rejected is irrelevant here. Whether he wanted her to or not, Izumi is inspired enough by Komiya’s encouragement to at least broach the subject blocking any possible move in Natsume’s direction: her crush on Souma. She brings up exams again and again, which he calls nothing but an excuse.

That angers Natsume, who says the worst thing she can to Izumi in that moment: that it doesn’t involve him. That he doesn’t matter at all in this. Izumi sets the record straight: he’s always “cared about her”, so she can’t say it doesn’t involve him.

This may well be news to Natsume, and she’s definitely affected by the look on Izumi’s face as he passes her by to head home. Elsewhere, Souma also retreats following Morikawa’s rejection. Lots of emotions to sort through and pieces to pick up for everyone involved.

My Girlfriend Is ShoBitch – 03

Honestly, one of the worst things about ShoBitch is its title: it should actually be called Watashi no Kanojo wa Totemo Iidesu. (ほんとに私の彼女はとてもいいです。or My Girlfriend is Really Nice). Because Akiho is not a bitch! She just goes way beyond what is decent in normal daily conversation when it comes to analyzing her boyfriend’s sexual preferences.

Now we learn the reason she is the way she is: her mother Fuyumi gave her this “education.” Haruka learns this rather quickly upon meeting Akiho’s mom, while Akiho’s dad is essentially…Haruka, grown up. You can kinda see in his eyes that it’s been a lot of work living with Fuyumi, but the fact that every other aspect of her is perfect (like their daughter), he has no cause to complain.

In fact, Fuymi is almost too dutiful, to the point of making her husband feel like there’s no way he deserves someone so good. Then he remembers: not everyone could put up with all the innuendo…not to mention imbue their daughter with an almost identical attitude towards…that kinda stuff.

The day of Akiho and Haruka’s first date arrives, and Akiho predictably over-analyzes and over-prepares, to the point of deciding that 30 degrees is the ideal amount of head tilt to maximize her attractiveness to her man, which…yeah, Haruka doesn’t care about your head angle, especially when you’ve got such a cute outfit for the date!

Haruka runs into a bit of bad luck when across from him and Akiho is a real-life pervert with what looks like a blow-up doll-kinda thing(?), and Akiho takes comprehensive notes on both that and the movie they go to see, which is far raunchier than Haruka thought it would be.

That being said, Haruka, like Akiho’s father, is built for this kind of relationship, able to take any and all strange comments and requests, and only gently steer her back in the right direction of things veer off too far. Just being with her for the day made him happy, but that only makes Haruka feel bad for letting her research dominate the date.

Haruka says it’s no biggie; they can just go see the cherry blossoms on Sunday. The thought of another date so soon fills Akiho with joy, but she goes right back into her pattern of over-preparation, and she’s so anxious about the day she becomes sleep-deprived and even gets a fever.

After a trip to the (very inappropriate) nurse’s office and her mother picks her up, Akiho vows to get better for Sunday, and Haruka, not getting his hopes up, is shocked to discover on the day of their date her fever has disappeared. Let’s call it an efficient immune system, shall we?

Alas, most of the cherry blossoms already fell before they got there. Akiho is crestfallen, but again, Haruka reiterates that it’s no big deal (not a lot is  big deal to him, unless she’s on her knees before him in the school hall, speaking in a tone of voice that could be easily misinterpreted).

They can always come back next year, he tells her. Insinuating they’ll be together an entire year from now is awfully bold, but I don’t currently see anything getting in their way. I mean, look how happy Akiho is to hear that!

Speaking of ‘getting in the way’, I was glad none of the other girls in Haruka’s circle made an appearance this week; after the last episode I needed a break, and the show shines best when the lead couple is on screen. It was also neat to meet Akiho’s parents—It was essentially like looking into Akiho and Haruka’s future.

Just Because! – 03

Izumi’s entanglement with Komiya Ena proves all to brief, as she’s forgotten the photo that she wants permission to submit. Showing zero consideration for Izumi, she zooms off on her moped to grab it, and it’s no surprise when she returns, in the rain, to find he’s gone.

The next day is Christmas (?), and everyone seems a bit listless, mimicking the somewhat grayish day with their moods. Izumi and Natsume type messages into LINE, but delete them without sending, seemingly hesitant to make any forward motion that will evoke a response from the other. It’s a stalemate, I tellya!

Things are dreary at Casa Morikawa too, as Morikawa confides to Yoriko that her life plan after high school doesn’t include furthering her trumpet performance, but rather college, a job, and eventually taking over the family business. It’s all said with the enthusiasm of someone inspecting turnips.

Left unsaid is any discussion of starting her own family, and as Morikawa seems almost criminally oblivious to Souma’s feelings (mostly his fault, BTW), that’s not surprising.

When Komiya reaches out to Natsume for info on Souma, Natsume uses it as an excuse/opportunity to message and meet up with Izumi. When they meet up, they’re still very cold and distant to one another, and the energy completely changes when Komiya spots her elusive transfer student.

Komiya’s casual nature with Izumi doubtless irks Natsume even more, since neither she not Izumi know what the heck they’re doing or what they should do. And while Komiya’s mission to get Izumi’s permission or LINE ID fails, she doesn’t seem like the type to give up easily.

Meanwhile, Souma is invited by Yoriko to join her and Morikawa for a walk, and his resulting meandering bike ride to their location is a constant source of suspense…will he ever get to them?

He does, only to freak out when Morikawa’s dog barks at him, which he thinks is a deal-breaker where dating her is concerned. Frankly, he should be more worried about, you know, telling her how he feels about her and asking her out on a proper date…but who am I?

When Souma reports the dog incident to Izumi and begs him for help getting better with dogs, Izumi tells him he has no pets, but Komiya stealthily enters the frame and offers her help…in exchange for Izumi’s LINE ID, which he gives her.

Interestingly, Komiya makes it clear she’s “over” the fact Izumi didn’t give her permission to use the photo, but with his ID, maybe she’s playing a longer game. Heck, maybe she just likes the cut of Izumi’s jib and wants to be friends…or more, which would complicate the love polygon even further.

Speaking of complications, Souma, unaware of the deal Izumi struck with Komiya, messages Natsume about helping him with dogs, since she has one too. This basically puts Natsume in the friendzone area of helping her unrequited crush get along with his own crush.

Over the most mundane circumstances, and in the absence of direct, honest, face-to-face conversation regarding how people feel about one another, the web of conflicting or one-sided romantic interests grows ever more tangled.

My Girlfriend Is ShoBitch – 02

After Haruka learns Akiho is a lot less comfortable sharing an umbrella in the rain than walking in it and getting her shirt wet (revealing that she’s not nearly as raunchy as all the research she’s collected suggests), we spend a seemingly impossibly long time with Haruka’s moe sister Kana, who is really annoying.

She’s only a year younger than her brother, and learning he has a girlfriend is a shock. Thankfully, after meeting Akiho, Kana realizes it’s not the end of the world; indeed, after some posturing, the two get along swimmingly, much to Haruka’s relief (and after clearing up some misunderstandings)

Akiho is class rep, which means it’s her job to fire up the class to do a formal cleaning, which she does with a stirring speech that inspires the boys about not letting their rooms get so dirty their moms clean them and find their dirty mag stashes.

Akiho is very prone to misunderstandings, so when she hears two guys equate switching girlfriends to discarding trash, she gets very nervous. Luckily Haruka is a sentimental guy who doesn’t like to throw stuff out, but treasure his “personal belongings”, which she also takes as meaning she’s safe from being discarded.

After watching an anime perpetuating the girlfriend making lunch for her boy, Akiho exposes one of her weaknesses (besides taking almost everything anyone says or does the wrong way): she’s a bad cook. What a shocker! Interestingly, Haruka doesn’t even get to try the eldritch abomination; Akiho keeps it away.

Instead, after seeing how good Shizuku is, she begs her senpai to be her cooking master, and in between the inappropriate arrangement of vegetables and the use of many a double entendre, they whip up a mean pot of beef stew.

When Shi asks for Haruka’s banana for desert, he seemingly calls her bluff, making her flustered…but he’s really just giving her his banana (this was a stretch, as they’re in Shi’s house, so they’re her bananas, surely).

Haruka walks Akiho home, but it’s raining again. Both have their own umbrellas, but Akiho decides to take a little step forward by pretending she doesn’t, so she and Haruka have to share, and walk close together so as not to get wet.

ShoB***ch is the definition of pleasant, lightweight rom-com fare. I still found Kana and Shizuku a bit too intrusive this week, and I’m hardly optimistic about the prospect of still other girls entering Haruka’s orbit, gumming up the works. While they’re tolerable at the moment, the show shines when it’s just Haruka and Akiho, with Yuuki Aoi delivering a nice low-key performance with the occasional burst of passion.

3-gatsu no Lion – 23

In a relatively slow, uneventful, yet still thoroughly enjoyable episode, we revel along with Rei in the warm camaraderie and cool science of the Shogi Science club. By school club standards, it’s small, but packs a punch in terms of the transfer of knowledge and even life perspective.

His fellow club members, for instance, had no idea how nerve-wracking defeat could be, how bitter it tastes as opposed to sweet victory, and how those intense emotions never go away and indeed grow more intense still as one plays shogi professionally for years. Rei may look slight, but he’s actually a pretty tough young man.

After playing shogi, his clubmates and advisor join him in watching a very serious and intense televised match between Souya and Kamakura Kengo, and watching how they recharge their brains in-game with concentrated doses of glucose—Souya preferring soft glucose cubes with lemon in his tea; while Kamakura quickly houses three delicious-looking slices of cake. Neither takes their eyes of the board.

The use of glucose to recharge provides a nice segue for the club to move from shogi to science, as the mustachioed Noguchi shows Rei how to make ramune candy from scratch and invites him to make some of his own. Rei is over the moon, participating in club activities and interacting with other humans who aren’t professional shogi players.

As for the Sisters Kawamoto, like citric acid in the ramune, we only get a miniscule amount of them this week, but what little we do see of them is adorable as usual. There’s something so heartwarming about Rei leaving one rewarding social activity and then going straight to another one; he’s only alone in the opening moments of the episode, on his way to club, but he looks a lot more together and less depressing.

Rei looks well on the way to living a more balanced and happy life, and even if he can’t quickly answer whether he finds shogi fun, there is thankfully stuff in his life now he can quickly and categorically describe as fun.

Dies Irae – 01

There wasn’t much I liked about Die Irae’s episode 00, and not much reason to continue with it—other than the fact 00 was a prologue and the first “regular” episode might totally different, better, or more promising.

Well, this first episode certainly is different; totally different. We’re now in modern-day Japan, following Fujii Ren, a regular high school kid, around as he’s discharged from the hospital after a fight with his best friend Shirou, who then dropped out of school and ran away.

After almost dying in an epic rooftop fight, Ren’s friend Ayase Kasumi (who he calls BAkasumi) thinks he’d enjoy going to a sword exhibition, but then they come across a rusty guillotine that shouldn’t be there and both of them get freaked out. Ren, in particular, has a vision of a beautiful woman flying out of the guillotine.

He awakens in his room, which we learn Ayase can access at any time from a hole in the wall. Her room, Ren’s, and Shriou’s are connected this way. Ren has another vision in which the blonde woman sings a song about beheading people, then finds himself locked into a guillotine, and his head goes flying with a fountain of blood. When he wakes up screaming, sirens can he heard outside: someone has been murdered…by beheading.

His other female friend Himuro Rea spends a good deal of time teasing Ren before telling him she and someone named Sister Riza saw the body. She mostly wants to make sure Ren’s okay after leaving the hospital.

As much as he may want his high school life to go back to normal, Shirou’s absence, the physical and emotional scars he left, and these sudden visions and real-life murder all conspire to prevent that normalcy from returning, perhaps ever.

Finally tying this episode into the prologue, we begin seeing some of Heydrich’s supermen/women appearing in the city, apparently ready to sacrifice it for the sake of their lord, believing nothing they do, not matter how awful, will be seen as a sin in the eyes of that lord.

So yes, this episode was pretty different from the first. Was it better? Hard to say. It at least fleshed out its characters a little better, but Ren, Kasumi and Rea aren’t anyone we haven’t seen in anime a hundred times over; both girls laid on their shtick pretty thick.

It remains to be seen if impending doom makes them anyone we met this week more interesting. The bottom line is that more questions arose here than were answered. On one hand that’s frustrating; on the other, a part of me still wants to watch on to see what happens…time permitting.

Just Because! – 02

Izuki reacts the way he does to Souma’s text about Natsume being at the school because, as we learn in another flashback, he liked her in middle school. Unfortunately for him, Natsume liked Souma, something Souma never knew.

Back in the present, Izuki and Natsume reunite in a similar situation, with Souma nearby with another girl, this time Morikawa. He’s unable to properly confess his feelings to her, but instead manages to invite her, along with Izuki and Natsume to the aquarium on the weekend.

Morikawa accedes to the wishes of her two little brothers and brings them along, further muddying the “date” waters for Souma, but he comports himself well, even earning the brothers’ trust and showing Morikawa he’s good with kids, which is definitely something she’d look for in a man…were she looking.

It’s a pleasant, cozy trip to the aquarium, and by the end Morikawa and Souma are virtually exuding warmth. As for Izumi and Natsume, well…they’re less warm together, even if I got the sneaking suspicion that Izumi still likes Natsume despite his aloof manner with her.

Similarly, the more time she spends with Izumi, the more comfortable she seems interacting with him. It’s far from lovey-dovey, but it’s a nice low-key resumption of their relationship.

While Souma and Morikawa have a kind of “talent anchor” (baseball and trumpet, respectively), I appreciate how Izumi nor Natsume don’t really have those anchors, and are also alike in being on the wrong side of an unrequited love.

With the benefit of future episodes—as well as the flashbacks they’ll likely contain—we’re sure to learn more about these kids and who likes whom, and what Komiya plans to do with Izumi now that she literally has him in her grasp. I like that JB! is taking the time to flesh out the various characters and not rushing things.

My Girlfriend Is ShoBitch – 01 (First Impressions)

Shinozuki Haruka finally summons the guts to confess to the beautiful class rep Kousaka Akiho (an excellent Yuuki Aoi). To his surprise, Akiho immediately consents to be his girlfriend. So this is going to be one of those romantic comedies where the MCs are already a couple, not trying to be one.

Comedy, then, will arise out of the contrasts in how they view one another as people, as well what they each regard as a “normal” romantic relationship to be. It’s both their first romance, but while Haruka is fine with taking things nice and slow, Akiho…well, it’s not that she doesn’t as well, it’s just that she assumes that as her boyfriend Haruka will want more.

I mean, she’s not wrong: we’re introduced to Haruka fantasizing about Akiho lifting her skirt to reveal she’s going commando. It’s just that her matter-of-fact assertions of her awareness to Haruka’s more carnal nature subverts instilled romantic mores that promote a careful and deliberate courtship, thus delaying immediate carnal gratification.

It’s just that Kousaka Akiho has clearly taken to the role of girlfriend with the same care and fastidiousness that net her the class’s highest test scores. She’s done her homework…but her self-training needs to be adjusted from “TV-MA” to “TV-PG”.

That being said, I enjoyed her deadpan delivery of all sorts of sordid things—as well as Haruka’s reactions, which range from bashful to exasperated. The bits are quick come in quick succession in a satisfying rhythm, whether it’s between Haruka and Akiho, Haruka and his childhood friend and “big sis” Shizuku, or all three.

Shizuku has a lot of fun teasing Haruka by not leaving him alone, and one would that by getting himself a girlfriend he’d have to endure a little less of her teasing, but for the moment her primary goal is to get the two a little bit closer.

Unfortunately for Haruka, Shizuku only reinforces Akiho’s inaccurate assumption that she must be always think of ways to maker her and Haruka’s relationship more “extreme.” Haruka manages to get through her head that he’s not like that, and that the two of them get to choose the pace, not Shizuku.

That’s a triumphant moment, because it reveals (if it wasn’t already apparent) that Akiho herself would prefer a less “extreme” pace to their courtship—though she’s sure to keep surprising him with the things she’s researched about romance.

I’m not 100% sure what “ShoBitch” means, but it sounds like too harsh a term to describe the docile, intelligent, thoughtful Akiho. In keeping with its off-putting title, My Girlfriend is ShoBitch toes the line between charming and overly indulgent.

While unlikely, it’s not preposterous that a studious, socially awkward class rep like Akiho could develop an “advanced” (i.e. more adult) ideal of romance (to match her advanced academic facility), and the one guy bold enough to ask her out would be both rewarded and tested. This is worth another look.

Just Because! – 01 (First Impressions)

With a rookie director, two rookie seiyuus in the lead roles and a super-vague synopsis, I had no idea what to expect from Just Because! —all I had to work with was a script by the guy who wrote seven scripts for Gundam IBO. What I did know was that Just Because! is a pretty nifty title.

We begin with an extended introduction to the neck-of-the-woods where we’ll presumably be spending time, and the show seemingly blows its entire suspended monorail budget in those first few minutes. Still, it’s a nice slow, but not flashy, establishment of this world.

The slow unflashiness continues at school, where there seems to be a dreary atmosphere; a malaise waiting to be snuffed out. Like the transfer student we eventually meet, we’re thrust into this school without knowing quite who to follow or what to do. That lack of bearing is essential to putting us in the mindspace of the protagonist, before he’s even anywhere near the center of the frame.

I’ll admit, I was dubious when terms like “transfer student” and “disbanding tiny club” came up; I consider myself just about clubbed out (both dance clubs and tiny school clubs in anime) and combined with the leisurely pace, I was starting to get a bit bored and depressed with this place. Especially when there’s no one or two people in focus for most of the episode. Even the camera feels afraid of showing us the players in this story.

Then Izumi Eita and Souma Haruto unexpectedly reunite on a baseball field after not contacting each other for the better part of four years (after Izumi moved away). He’s back for one semester, and while he and Haruto are initially a bit cool to each other, they manage to reconnect via baseball, with Izumi pitching and Haruto eager to hit a home run (I speak literally here, not in sexual euphemisms, BTW).

As their pitch-and-hit session heats up (hehe), it gradually garners the attention of the three other protagonists: the girl who is angry the photo club could be disbanded (the fiery Komiya Ena), the girl who plays the trumpet (Morikawa Hatsuki, providing the incidental score to the final act), and the former student council president who seems both jealous and part okay with the fact her friends went off to have fun without her (Natsume Mio).

Izumi and Souma are the magnets that draw the others together, though their individual vantage points keep them from realizing they’re all watching the same thing. This drawing together of disparate gazes also brings the show into focus. Finally, at the very end, we see people having fun, smiling, and laughing, after three quarters of an episode of somberness and ennui approaching existential dread.

Having hit a home run like he intended (but never thought he’d actually do), Souma goes off to ask Morikawa out, but he and Izumi exchange texts, and Izumi learns that Natsume, whom he also knows from the past, is also attending this school. Neither Izumi nor Natsume seem particularly happy at the start of this episode, but perhaps that will change when they reunite.