Urusei Yatsura – 05 – Hand Over Fist

“A man gotta have a code.”—Omar Little

When Ataru spots Cherry parked outside school grilling fish, the little guy explains that he’s on chaperone duty for Sakura, who is the new school nurse. Ataru hears about this too late, as there’s already a long line of boys wanting to her to examine them (including Mendou), but he invokes their envy when she calls him by his name.

Sakura kicks all the lechers out (after hitting them with her shoe) and the gym teachers come in with a job for Sakura the shrine maiden: exorcising a pair of possessed gloves. One of those gloves ends up bopping a flying Lum in the head, and she takes it to Ataru, who promptly puts it on and find he can no longer control his right arm.

After embracing every cute girl in class (and getting slapped for it), the glove takes a liking to Mendou, who whips out his katana. Sakura arrives in maiden garb to take care of the glove, and when she watches Ataru take his own punch to protect Lum from getting hit, she gets an idea.

Ataru may seem like a chaotic lecher, but he has strict rules, and one of them is that he’d never, ever hit a girl. So Sakura puts him in a ring where he’ll float like a butterfly and sting like a bee … on himself, using his own face as Lum’s shield (something that moves Lum to tears). It works: he knocks himself out, and the gloves come off.

While that’s the end of the boxing glove hijinx, hands play an important role in the second segment. Lum witnesses other lovey-dovey couples holding hands, but Ataru gives her the cold shoulder in favor of Shinobu, who gives him the cold shoulder. If she has any feelings left for this guy she’s hiding them extraordinarily well.

When the other guys in class watch a procession of girls delivering love letters to Mendou, then see Lum glomming on Ataru, they see a couple of extremely lucky guys who need to be brought down a peg. So they write a fake love letter to Ataru by “Kumino Otoko”, an invented girl who insists Mendou is an uggo and a loser compared to her dear Ataru.

Ataru jumps on the hastily wrought fiction like stink on a skunk, and Mendou is also troubled, so he issues a challenge: if this Kumino Otoko is real, he’ll pay Ataru 10,000 yen. If she’s fake, Mendou takes over as class president. This is unexpected blowback for the guys, who do not want to live under an oppressive Mendou regime.

That said, the girl they paid 3,000 yen to play the role of Otoko spent all the cash on food and ends up staying home with a stomachache, so Ataru is doomed to be stood up by a girl who never existed. Lum, who has lately felt underappreciated and even claimed to be considering dumping Ataru and going to Mendou (though not really), is initially content to perch on an electrical pole and let the boy learn his lesson.

I say “initially”, because for whatever reason, Lum truly does love Ataru, and eventually grows worried about him being hurt and lonely. So, showing she’s the best alien waifu a guy could ask for, she walks into the cafe in disguise as “Kumino Otoko,” shocking all in attendance.

Ataru is the first (and only) guy there to notice Otoko is actually Lum, and almost gives up the ghost like a dope, but she draws near and tells him to play along, and so he does, though later still pines for a girl that never existed while one that does just saved his ass.

As they walk home, Lum isn’t happy with how unappreciative Ataru is, and even when she spots another laughing couple holding hands ahead of them, she prepares to fly off on her own. But Ataru, noticing in the dramatic light of the sunset how beautiful Lum is for the first time, reflexively reaches out and takes her hand.

Lum is surprised, but when Ataru asks if they can walk together a little while longer, her elated beaming face just melts Ataru’s heart, and the two walk along hand-in-hand. Lum laughs just like the other girls laugh, but when Ataru asks why she won’t say. If he doesn’t know why, nothing she says will change that, so she might as well just enjoy this moment. I know I did!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 23 – Super Sakurasawa Practice Partner Part III

All Hail Sumi, High Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar Rental Girlfriends. She has Chizuru ask Kazuya if he’ll spend another day with her under the pretense of a “practice date”. In truth, we know Sumi has big birthday plans for Kazuya, and this is a part of that. Also, she’s clearly crushing on the guy. She even wears a school uniform because she thinks he’s into that!

At first the date has an almost breathless pace to it, such that Kazuya and Sumi both are short on breath, but perhaps that’s Sumi’s way of making sure she stays ahead of her jackhammering heart. Unfortunately, watching Kazuya totally geek out over marine life is all too endearing for her.

When she miscalculates the distance to sit for the dolphin show and they get soaked, she feels down for failing as the guide on their date, but Kazuya sweetly lifts that burden by telling her he’s having fun and getting wet is part of the fun of a dolphin show. He also offers her his shirt, as her blouse has gone see-through.

Sumi simply brings out the best in everyone she’s around, Kazuya included. It’s easy to label her a cutie pie, but that label belies an iron strength of will that allows her to cut through her shyness and taciturnity and present her crush with a birthday gift: a hand-knit hat. That same willpower has her grasping Kazuya’s hand when she knows something’s troubling him and tells him he can tell her.

He does, and unloads about Chizuru (without using her name) and how he’s distraught that he can’t do anything about the pain she’s clearly in. It turns out to be a major cathartic moment for Kazuya, as both he and Sumi simply hold hands and cry it out at a spot in Odaiba with a view of Rainbow Bridge.

That extended cry is something he’s never shared with the other girls, and leads to him having a eureka moment at episode’s end about what to do for Chizuru. Naturally, I feel awful that Sumi’s feelings will ultimately be unrequited, and AS next week’s episode is the last, we might not see her at all. But like all good things, it’s best to just enjoy a Sumi date while it lasts. And hopefully it’s spurred Kazuya to finally take some decisive action.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Call of the Night – 08 – Date Night

Kou’s comment about falling in love with Nazuna “no matter how many years it takes” is met with the reaction it is because there’s a rule he hasn’t been told about: once their blood is sucked, a human only has one year to become a vampire. If they can’t by then, they’ll never become one.

Nazuna cheekily pretends she forgot to tell Kou this, then conveniently remembers the debt she owes him for working on Kiyosumi, and kisses him right in front of the other vamps before flying off into the sky. Kou tells Nazuna that he realizes she’s weird even for a vampire, but he’s glad he met her first.

That said, this new time limit is concerning, and it takes Akira spelling it out that after that year is up and he’s not a vampire, he’ll be killed to protect their secrets. Later, at school, Akira comes across Seki Mahiru sleeping at the top of the steps, zonked out from being, you guessed it, out all night.

We learn that Mahiru, who befriended everyone, befriended Akira and Kou when they were all little. That said, neither Kou nor Akira realized that they were actually friends with him, due to his gregarious nature. Speaking of gregarious, Kikyou Seri greets Kou again one night, and while he tries to run, she promises she won’t kill him, and only wants to start off on the right foot.

When Kou demonstrates his middle school innocence regarding romance, she can’t help but serve as his love coach, and suggests he kickstart his relationship with Nazuna by taking her on a date. Naturally, when Kou proposes this, Nazuna isn’t interested, and continues playing her video games. But Kou switches her PSOne off and insists.

The date plan Seri drew up for him would probably work for most couples, but Kou and Nazuna aren’t most couples. Nazuna won’t even pretend to be able to stand the romcom movie they go to, while at the café Kou tries to start a conversation about the movie even though he knows she hated it.

Nazuna suspects someone put an idea in his head, and after reading Seri’s list she snatched from him, decides this is all lame and goes home. Kou lies in bed forlorn, but soon Nazuna taps on his window, not liking how the evening almost ended and suggesting they at least get that bite with a night view.

Naturally, that means one of their patented late night flights, and the “meal” ends up being one-sided, as she sinks her fangs into him in midair for the first time. Nazuna tells Kou that he doesn’t need to over-plan or overthink; they’ve already been going on dates, and she’s enjoyed them. Her attitude makes me encouraged that Kou can indeed become a vampire within the time limit.

Another night becomes a reunion of Kou, Mahiru and Akira when Mahiru spots Kou while hanging out late at night with other peeps. Kou is surprised Mahiru recognized him, but Mahiru says of course he did; they’re friends. The two proceed to get very corny about their feelings when Akira joins them and asks that they please stop. It’s a fun and wholesome all-human interaction.

Mahiru bids the other two farewell as he must meet someone he’s come to like. Nazuna, while looking for Kou, happens to spot him walking hand-in-hand with a lady, and when Kou arrives, she decides that they should hold hands too, with the practical excuse of not losing track of one another.

While Kou idolizes Mahiru as a “perfect” person (his family even owns a flower shop!), it’s Kou who encourages Mahiru to continue his nightly pursuit of love with the story of how he’s been hanging out with his own late night lass. I love how the episode ends with a super wide shot looking straight down at the two couples walking in opposite directions while both experiencing happiness.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 20 – The Best Day Ever, Every Time

This episode begins, amazingly, with Kazuya talking on the phone with his actual ostensible girlfriend, Ruka, who is clearly loving every minute of their convo and would happily chat with him for hours. She also shows a bit of maturity by apologizing for her outburst towards Mami, whom we see is still trying to tweetstalk his gran.

When a day Chizuru is free for a date arrives, Kazuya decides to mix things up a bit and fulfill an adolescent dream of his: going on a date with a girl in their high school uniforms. Chizuru doesn’t know about this dream and so wonders why he’s wearing a uniform, but like so much with Kazuya, she rolls with it.

Since he insisted she act like herself for their dates, the ensuing date at TDC (Tokyo Dome City) feels considerably less forced and artificial. This is doubly true to to the fact it’s quite clear Chizuru enjoys being on a date with Kazuya under the guise of a professional transaction. It gives her cover from feelings she clearly harbors but isn’t ready to parse.

And that’s fine! After all, the guy she often finds herself blushing about is still in a state of denial himself. Such is his self-esteem, he is constantly holding Chizuru up on a pedestal she never asked for. Yes, she’s lovely, but his adoration goes way too far. Forget high school, he’s acting like a middle schooler most of the time.

Kazuya’s date plan of holding hands, sharing food, photo booth, and Ferris wheel all goes swimmingly. But he’s so worried about doing or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, he barely takes the time to simply exist and enjoy the time he’s actually having with this other human being.

As I said, besides the school uniforms, what makes this otherwise fairly rote date episode refreshing is how Chizuru isn’t being overly lovey-dovey or flowery. She knows she doesn’t need to be; that just being herself is fine with Kazuya, both as a rental customer…and as a friend. Indeed, he’s one of very few people in her life she can be herself with, and as such, his presence is comforting, even when he’s being a complete spazz.

Just as Kazuya and Ruka have some genuine conversation on the phone earlier in the episode, it’s also nice to see him and Chizuru just shooting the breeze about her job, and how she’s come to love the job she’s so good at. Since he knows about her dream of becoming an actor, she also tells him how she’s got a role in another play.

She’s clearly as happy to have someone to tell this as Kazuya is to hear it. He’s so happy for her and how her hard work is paying off, he briefly holds her hand a bit too tight. When booking the date, he discovered that Chizuru ranked up from Rookie to Regular, which not only cost more, but only increased his adoration of her.

But for as unattainable as he continues to believe her to be, and as loathsome as he considers himself to be, if I had to guess what Chizuru wanted, it isn’t someone who will worship the ground she walks on, but walks on that ground beside her as an equal. Heck, it’s pretty much what he already has with Sumi.

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.

Summertime Render – 12 – The Kitchen’s Closed

Tokiko reveals Hiruko no Mikoti, Mother of Shadows and God of Hitogashima, also known as Haine, the form of the first human Hiruko copied. To the outrage and disgust of her friends and brother alike, Toki also reveals her family’s solemn duty to feed Haine the bodies of the dead to restore her power.

When Sou bristles, Toki hits back, saying she had no choice; with Sou “being the way he is” he could never be told about the fam’s secret, while feeding Haine is the only way to keep their mother, now a Shadow, alive. As for Ushio, Toki says she got herself killed sticking her nose where it didn’t belong out of her own sense of justice.

Among the two bodies presented for Haine tonight by Nurse Negoro is Ushio’s original corpse; a double was cremated and the bones printed. When Ushio frees herself and snatches up her original body, she’s able to repair her arm and fight at full strength, which is good because Haine transforms Nurse Negoro into a musclebound monster.

Shinpei tries to take advantage of the chaos to shoot Haine with his nailgun, newly printed from Ushio’s hair, but before he can shoot both the gun and his fingers are sliced off by Haine’s Shadow bodyguard, who is holding an unconscious Mio by her head and threatens to crush her skull if anyone moves.

The bodyguard shoots at Tokiko, who was unaware that Haine plans to kill and eat everyone on the island, but Sou takes a bullet for his sister. It doesn’t matter; the bodyguard simply shoots her dead too, now that she and the Hishigatas have fulfilled their duties to Haine.

As Tetsu finally encounters the wounded Hizuru and agrees to carry her deeper into the cave, Haine decides not to kill Ushio, but reprogram her brain and use her as another tool. She also snatches Shin’s time-looping eye—the one in which he “renders” different realities—but it soon disappears from her hand and returns to his socket; not even a god can take away his power.

But what Haine and her hulking bodyguard can do is restrain him and keep him alive until her plans come to full fruition. The bodyguard kills Mio, and Shin’s last chance to be killed and loop seems to rest with Tetsu and Hizuru, who arrive just in time. Tetsu distracts the bad guys with his boobery, giving Hizuru a clean shot at both the bodyguard’s head and Shinpei.

Alas, the bodyguard shields Shinpei and kills Hizuru, so Shinpei uses his last resort: drinking an entire bottle of mercuric chloride from the abandoned clinic, which will most definitely kill him, albeit slowly and painfully. He uses time it takes for the poison to do him in to promise Haine that he’ll defeat her and save everyone. At the same time, Ushio’s powers have advanced to the point she can not only resist Haine’s corrosion, but reverse it and free herself.

Ushio’s final effort is to lunge to where Ushio is dying and take his hand, and she goes through the time loop with him. As long as they’re together, Ushio promises to go anywhere with him, as many times as it takes. But lest we forget, every time he returns to a new loop—this newest being the fifth—he starts a little later. He and Ushio arrive hand-in-hand just as he’s telling Hizuru and Nezu that he’s a time traveler, her book in his hand.

Shinpei now has a lot more information about the bad guys and their plans, but less time to act. The good news is Shadow Ushio is with him, along with all of the amassed memories of the previous loop. Her powers may also already surpass those of the weakened Haine. This episode at the series’ halfway point delves into the bloody depths of despair but ends on a note of hope and optimism that Shinpei and Ushio can turn this train wreck around.

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 08 – Esteem in the Bloodstream

Toubaru-sensei has taken note of the supreme squeeness of AhaRaidou and its deleterious effects on her health, which is why she’s made a habit of imagining the pair in all manner of adorable romantic situations while safe in her bed at night. Unfortunately, the real thing proves far more esteemed than she could imagine, as she watches the “nuclear esteemed family” dynamic of the two plus Ooshiro play out on the rooftop.

It is fortunate that Toubaru’s, or should I say Momo’s friend and fellow teacher Miyahara-sensei is well-equipped to deal with her reactions to the pure innocent romance she watches unfold. That night, she tries to imagine ever more ludicrous scenarios (with Aharen and Raidou’s characters changing completely) and almost bleeds to death in her sleep. Thankfully Miyahara had a spare key!

Ishikawa and Satou may not be the most dynamic side characters (honestly they’re bland as wallpaper paste, and probably intentionally so to serve as amiable straight men. But one thing they do do is give Aharen and Raidou an opportunity to go to a festival together, so they’re not all bad! Aharen looks appropriately angelic in her yukata.

She’s also appropriately ravenous, visiting every food stall and spending all her money before Raidou can finish explaining his grand strategic plan for “winning the festival”. Meanwhile, Toubaru and Miyahara-sensei also attend the festival, and Toubarou proceeds to lose a lot of blood for the second day in a row.

Otherwise it’s a perfect evening for our main couple, until it’s not; Raidou not only loses his phone, but Aharen, as Futaba ended up holding his hand believing him to be her dad. After taking Futaba to the lost child desk and reuniting her with said dad (after which she properly expresses her gratitude for once) the gods smile on our couple, as Aharen appears right beside him at that very lost child desk (naturally, the guy assigned to the desk assumes Raidou is her guardian.

Aharen is so happy and relieved to see Raidou, she sheds a tear. After all this dilly-dallying though, the two have to book it to get a good fireworks viewing spot. Ultimately, any spot is good for the nearly 2-meter-tall Raidou. When Aharen can’t see due to being small, he hoists her onto his shoulders, and she experiences a whole new world.

Later, after he daintily repairs her broken sandal strap, he offers his hand so they can go find the others. She hesitates, but ultimately takes it and proceeds to blush profusely. She’s grabbed him so many times, but in this time and place, it feels different. If the show is serious about progressing these feelings further, I’m looking forward to watching it happen…while making sure I’m more prepared than Toubaru-sensei was this week!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Love After World Domination – 04 – Can’t Take Me Home

This week showed that while many of the characters play rather cartoonish heroes or villains, at the end of the day everyone’s a normal human being. Desumi even attends high school and has normal friends while she’s not “at work”. But while hanging out after school, she spots Fudou with the new Pink Gelato, and her reaction—running away in tears—is as intense as her friends are confused.

Pink, AKA Haru, is also confused…by the photo of Fudou with what looks an awful lot like a girlfriend. She and Fudou aren’t on a date; she needs to ask him about the photo. But instead he intuits the reason for their meet-up is that she’s interested in upping her physical training regimen. Haru is helpless to stop him from going off on his favorite topic, and she ends up relieved, as there’s simply no way Fudou would have a girlfriend.

But he does, and she’s pissed. When Fudou and Haru’s coffee is interrupted by a call of duty, Fudou finds and engages with Desumi expecting them to go through their usual dance, only this time Desumi’s dropkick lands. He thinks it’s an accident, or they’re just a little out of sync today, but eventually he realizes Desumi is hitting him on purpose.

The two end up in a secluded warehouse, where Desumi admits that even though her brain didn’t really think Fudou was cheating on her, the sight of him with Haru sent her heart into such turmoil she didn’t know what to do with herself. In fact, she started to think maybe someone “girly” like Haru would be better for him than a jealous, violent, loathsome outcast like her.

Fudou is swift in both his comforting hug and his rebuttal: he will only love her, with everything he’s got, as long as he lives. With her totally undeserved self-loathing out of her system, she and Fudou simply exist together for a bit, hand in hand, planning an afterschool date in their school uniforms…when all of a sudden they notice that Pink Gelato is sitting right next to them.

Fudou and Desumi are certain they’re 100% busted and doomed. But the thing is…they aren’t, at least not for the time being. They both believe Haru is planning something, and simply biding her time before she drops the hammer. But Haru is conspicuous in not only not telling anyone what she saw, but acting like she never saw it; like everything’s normal.

That is, until Fudou and Desumi’s after-school date. After a civet(!)-based false alarm, Desumi realizes Haru is lying in wait, and sends Fudou off on an interminable and ultimately doomed Starbucks run. Haru doesn’t mince words, challenging Desumi to a duel. Despite her transforming into Pink Gelato, Desumi handles her easily even in her school uniform. After all, Pink’s only been at this six months; Desumi’s a veteran enemy commander.

Desumi puts the end to the fight by knocking Haru out, but Haru is shocked to find that when she wakes up, Desumi is still there beside her. She admits that she joined Gelato 5 because she was in love with Fudou. She always suspected someone so amazing would have a girlfriend, but never expected it to be someone else she knew. Turns out Desumi rescued her from some thugs in an alley…and inspired her to become stronger.

Haru heard everything Desumi said to Fudou in the warehouse about how “love was making her weak”, but after fighting her, Haru assures her she’s as strong as ever. As for why she didn’t snitch on them, well…as much as she wanted Fudou to be hers, it just wasn’t in her to steal happiness from Fudou or Desumi. When Haru says this her eyes well up with big soppy tears. Desumi can’t help but hug her, and then she starts crying too.

When a very confused Fudou sees Haru’s head in Desumi’s lap and asks what’s going on, Desumi simply shushes him; let Pink Gelato rest a little more. Once she’s awake and back in her uniform, the three walk a bit together. Having experienced a catharsis, Haru is now rooting for Fudou and Desumi…but playfully won’t rule out stealing Fudou if given the chance.

It’s amazing how quickly this love triangle came together this week, and how affecting it was throughout its progression. From Desumi’s early jealous spiraling and Fudou’s stalwart vow he’ll never leave her side, to Haru’s discovery of their tryst and how she handles it, this was Koiseka at its best and most heartwarming.

Love After World Domination – 03 – Never Want to Touch the Ground

There haven’t been any battles between Gelato 5 and Gecko for two weeks, and both Fudou and Desumi are missing each other something fierce. So when Gelato detects a new weapon at Gecko HQ, Fudou impresses both Misaki and the Professor by valiantly volunteering to undertake a potential suicide mission alone.

Naturally, his comrades are unaware he just needs to see Desumi really bad. Dropping in suddenly makes her happy, but she has to use her lightning speed on more than one occasion to keep him from being spotted by her comrades. This results in her sitting on his face, then getting smushed into her locker with him and her bras.

When Culverin Bear comes in her dressing room, it looks like the discovery of their secret forbidden love is imminent…until Desumi lashes out in embarrassment, sending Fudou flying out of the locker, knocking Bear unconscious and activating his new weapon, which then self-destructs. Fudou gives Desumi his phone number, only for her to learn it’s the land line of his family home.

Fudou’s drop-in is followed up by a meeting of colorful, eccentric Gecko baddies, naturally led by a boss named…Bosslar. The various villains try to come up with the manner and location of the next battle against Gelato, and all Desumi comes up with are fun date locations, because she wants to see Fudou again. Bear actually backs her on the suggestion of an amusement park.

Misaki, suspicious of Fudou’s new smartphone, decides to stalk Fudou when he heads to the amusement park, dragging Haru with her. While Misaki clearly has a tendency towards sisterly meddlesomeness, Haru is more trusting of Fudou, and also seems to be hiding a hidden crush on the big lug.

When Fudou and Desumi meet as planned and begin to grapple, they are both surprised by the sudden arrival of Yellow and Pink Gelato. No matter; they speed away to fight a duel as in previous battles, only here they change into street clothes and ride a series of fun amusement park rides. All the while, both Misaki and Haru are convinced that Fudou is just his usual good hero self and nothing is up.

Despite being a superhero, Fudou gets motion sickness form the rides, including the intimate Ferris Wheel. Desumi no doubt finds this cute about him, and is happy to learn something about her sweetheart she didn’t know. But she also uses it as an opportunity to take Fudou’s hand, which causes his sickness to subside, replaced by warm, happy vibes.

Those vibes may not last much longer, however, as Haru has a quick passing glance at photos of people on rides and spots Fudou riding a roller coaster with some woman. If we’re going by anime logic Haru can’t recognize the Reaper Princess unmasked, but the fact Fudou is with a girl at all is a huge shock for Haru, and will likely have far-reaching repercussions. One thing I’m sure of is that the added stakes won’t detract from the snappy comedy or the sweet romance.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Love After World Domination – 02 – We Are Who We Are

After showing us the current state of their relationship in the premiere, Koiseka takes us back six months ago to when Desumi and Fudou first met. Standing atop a building and looking down on him, backlit by a crescent moon, he found himself immediately captivated by her gleaming green eyes shining through her cartoon skull mask.

From there, we’re given more world-building through action as the Gelato 5 battle Gecko while “Hero TV” copters hover and record. Under the pretense of going somewhere to duel where collateral damage would be minimal, Desumi and Fudou are almost caught, but Desumi wisely plays dead as he and his comrade Misaki (Yellow Gelato) are interviewed by a reporter.

When they’re alone again, Desumi is feeling a little lonely since she just saw how popular Fudou is with the ladies. Then he asks how he can make it up to her, and she says she wants to go on an ordinary date. The only problem is, neither of them have ever been on a date, so Fudou relies first on Google and then a drunk Misaki to help him plan one.

The two meet on a lovely day in the park, with Fudou wearing glasses and his hair different as a “disguise”, and he marvels at how resplendent Desumi looks in normal clothes. However, under the assumption that the best date is one where they do something they both enjoy, Fudou has planned a date mostly of weight training and running.

By the time Fudou breaks out a backpack full of sugar-free protein bars, Desumi excuses herself to “go to the bathroom”, and it sure looks like she’s noped out on Fudou’s sorry excuse for a date. A sober Misaki calls him from a hot spring to tell him to ignore all the advice she gave him while drunk, then proceeds to tell him he’d better not do all the things he just did on his date.

Fudou, suddenly an emotional wreck, wanders the park looking in vain for Desumi, whom he’s sure took off because his date plan sucked, and just wishing with all his heart that she’d give him a second chance…and then he feels a cold drink on his temple, and Desumi is there, wondering why he’s acting so strange. When he tells her, she laughs. Of course she’s been having fun on their date, because she’s on a date with her sweetheart!

The two then hold hands and lean in for a kiss, but are rudely interrupted by their respective alarms calling them to duty. In the ensuing battle between Gelato and Gecko, both the Reaper Princess and Red Gelato are understandably out of it, still soaking up the pure bliss of their wonderful date…no doubt the first of many!

While a gold-standard series like Kaguya-sama blows Koiseka out of the water in both comedy chops and production values, Koiseka is by no means a slouch in either department. It looks as good as it needs to, and the chemistry and sweetness of its couple is impossible to resist. I also enjoyed the cute little post-credit segment introducing Desumi’s kitty Hellko, who is glad her mistress is smiling and laughing more.

Love After World Domination – 01 (First Impressions) – Opposite Factions Attract

Aikawa Fudou is Red Gelato, leader of the Freezing Sentai Gelato 5. Magahara Desumi is the Reaper Princess of Secret Society Gecko. They should be mortal enemies, but when we meet the two, they’re having an adorable third date together, and contemplating holding hands.

The prospect of holding hands seems far too advanced for these two romantically stunted people. But when Blue Gelato enters the frame, Fudou and Desumi have no trouble holding hands…as they grapple in a sudden struggle of life and death between hero and villainess. Or at least that is the illusion these two lovers must maintain.

Love After World Domination isn’t what I expected. I thought that Fudou and Desumi were simply actors in some kind of super sentai show. But there’s every indication the Gelato 5 are actual superheroes, while Desumi really is an actual villainess. They all may have their downtime in civilian clothes, but when it’s “showtime” they’re fighting an actual war against each other.

About a week before their third date, Fudou delegates the defeat of Gecko’s boss in bear form to the others Gelato rangers, while he takes on the Reaper Princess by himself. She’s impressed that he can keep up with her, while he’s astonished by her beauty, grace, and ability. In other words, it’s love at first sight for both of them, totally irrespective of their firmly opposite affiliations.

Professor Big Gelato, who is in charge of the Gelato 5, hears Fudou imply that heroes can’t fall in love and smacks him in the face, oficially ordering him to tell the woman he loves how he feels. Little doe Professor Big know that the woman in question is one of the Gelato 5’s greatest foes.

Meeting Desumi one-on-one in a particularly romantic moonlit setting, Fudou comes right out and tells her he loves her…in the first episode. Desumi tries to point out all the reasons why no one could ever love her, but Fudou is a regular on her social media accounts and thus has learned a great deal about her and has fallen for her. She’s not not open to the idea of dating, even if she knows nothing about dating.

Fortunately, Fudou knows fuck-all about dating too, which means they’ll be fumbling through it together, which will make it that much more fun to experience, as well as for us the viewers to watch. The premise of enemies falling for one another is a simple yet immensely powerful one, hearkening to Romeo & Juliet and before.

But integrating the quirky dynamics of sentai heroes vs. occult baddies is an inspired choice, and the execution is competent as it is cute. This episode got me thoroughly excited to see how far these two goofy lovebirds will go with their forbidden love.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 12 (Fin) – Nishikata’s Quest

For three seasons and dozens of vignettes, we’ve watched Nishikata undertake a gradual journey of enlightenment and awakening, from an origin point of modest, adolescent…dumbness. This season and this episode in particular, Nishikata’s brain has finally started to get wise to the fact that it has never been about winning or teasing with Takagi. It was more simply about being with him.

As these confusing feelings sprout up in his dinosaur-filled mind, Takagi must know that he’s distracted by the imminent coming of White Day, even if she doesn’t know that Hamaguchi urged him to confess to her on that day. Faced with such a monumental task, Nishikata retreats into the games, creating his most elaborate yet: Nishikata Quest, a series of boxes containing riddles leading to other riddles.

But when there are no more riddles, and he hopes Takagi to be at her most frustrated and defeated, that he’ll give her his White Day present In other words, when all is said and done he not only wants Takagi to be comforted, he wants to be the one to brighten her mood. Alas, his grand plan is dashed when Takagi is unable to make it to school on White Day due to strong winds delaying her ferry.

When he thinks she’ll only be gone for first period, Nishikata tries his best to take good notes that he’ll share with her. But when she texts him that she won’t be coming at all, he realizes how lonely he is without her sitting at the desk beside him…how things just feel “off”. After school, Hamaguchi gives Houjou some white chocolate, but just can’t manage to confess his love to her. But Houjou still looks happy he at least made the attempt.

When Mina finds the first of Nishikata’s boxes on the floor of the classroom (jostled off Takagi’s chair when Takao and Kimura are fighting), she leads Sanae and Yukari on his epic mind-bending quest. When they find the final box bearing Nishikata’s name, Yukari realizes this was all one big gesture of love for Takagi, and insists they put all the boxes back where they found them, lest they spoil loverboy’s efforts.

When Kimura kept Nishikata company during solo library duty, Nishikata noticed that Kimura was reading the same novel as Takagi when she said “I love you”. Kimura recommends the book and lends it to Nishikata, who reads it when he gets home and can’t find the “I love you” Takagi purportedly took from the page. It’s here where the dusty light bulb in his head finally switches on. That time she said “I love you”, like so many other times he remembers, were Takagi expressing her honest feelings.

For that reason, Nishikata can’t wait until tomorrow to see Takagi or give her her White Day gift. Heck, he can’t wait one more minute, running out the door, onto the bus, and running some more to the docks. When he spots Takagi getting into her car and driving off, he chases the car…on foot. Finally, fate smiles on him as Takagi’s car happens to turn at just such an angle that she spots him running behind, asks to stop the car, gets out, and runs to meet him.

In effect, it’s a romantic climax I’ve probably seen dozens of times both in anime and movies and other TV. But there’s something about the way it’s executed so beautifully, and with all the accumulated feelings and experiences these two have been through in three seasons, that elevates what could have felt clichéd in less skilled hands to truly epic status.

Even better, we don’t need the classic “I love you” confession; the fact Nishikata is there at all, chasing Takagi down, is all Takagi needs to know how he feels. And then he comes right out and says he’s there “because I wanted to see you.”

He may think he failed when his White Day gift got dropped and smashed by a car, but the gift doesn’t matter; she doesn’t even open it, instead taking his scuffed up hands into hers and saying he’s already given her the best gift she could have asked for: him, there, with her.

It’s pretty much the best ending a Takagi-san fan could ask for, made all the more satisfying because there’s an upcoming movie that could well elaborate on their new adorable normal. As we’ve come to the end of this season, there few things I’m looking more forward to than seeing these two on the screen again as soon as humanly possible.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – Sweet Dreams are Made of Tease

My dreams were answered: Master Teaser Takagi-san has returned for a third wonderfully warm, fuzzy season; the perfect balm for the bracing cold of a mid-Atlantic winter. After last season ended with Nishikata taking Takagi’s hand, this newest outing starts with them holding hands almost right away! After sensing she intended to beat him at the grip exercise tool, rather than hand it to him he took her hand instead.

Suddenly, Nishikata and Takagi are transported back to the steps of the shrine on that night. Then Takagi vanishes, and then he finds himself at the pool, with Takagi taking a dip. Then a number of his friends pretend to be Takagi. Then the main couple from their favorite manga/anime transfer to their class, and Takagi falls for the MC. Then Takagi in cowgirl cosplay shoots him with her six-gun. I believe she also appears in cow-full-stop cosplay, complete with moos.

Turns out the show was teasing us; it was all a dream. Nishikata hasn’t even been back to school since his festival date with Takagi; it’s still summer break. For a few moments, Nishikata panics: what if the festival, and with it all the good times he had with Takagi, was a dream too? He sees the robot mask he bought at one of the stalls and breathes a sigh of relief. It’s a welcome moment of honesty for Nishikata: He doesn’t want that night to be a dream. It happened, and he’s glad it did.

In the next segment, it’s the last day before school re-opens. Nishikata shows off the tan he got from going to the beach, remembering too late that his back was sunburnt and that Takagi would be quick to pat said back if she found out. Not only does she find out instantly, but challenges Nishikata to a guessing game: if he can tell her the reason she asked him to join her today, he wins. For each incorrect guess, he gets a pat on the back.

Nishikata eventually guesses that it was just so Takagi could tease him, but he’s only half-right. She gives him a telling hint: they’ve already been doing what she wanted to do. Even a simpleton like Nishikata can put two and two together: she just wanted to see him. But the challenge is to say the reason, and Nishikata is just too gosh-darn bashful to say it out loud, even if he’s secretly quite happy about it!

After an interstitial involving the trio of girls (who also got tanned and contemplate being three wrinkly grannies together due to the skin damage), the third segment announces itself as the first day of the new semester…yet both Nishikata and Takagi’s tans are gone, which I found odd. What isn’t odd is that Takagi is able to deduce that Nishikata wanted to spook her with a new dino-themed jack-in-the-box he meticulously hand-crafted rather than doing his summer homework.

When she finally opens it, she lets out a little yelp of surprise, thus handing Nishikata one of his only true wins against her! Then the two are transported onto a beach full of fireworks, and then to those same shrine stairs Nishikata dreamed of. Takagi holds out her hand, and as Nishikata reaches out to take it, they’re once more transported to a grove of cherry trees. Then Nishikata seemingly confesses to Takagi…and then she wakes up in her bed.

She throws open her window and basks in the morning sun and summer breeze, happy Nishikata said what he said in her dream, but also hopeful he’ll someday say it to her for real. I may have dreamed for a third season of the sweetest romance committed to television; little did I know dreams would play such a large role in the premiere.

Takagi and Nishikata are well and truly in each other’s heads, but I’m looking even more forward to watching their tender love continue to grow in the waking world in this season to come.

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