Chainsaw Man – 07 – Loosening the Screws

When Kobeni accidentally stabbed Aki, Himeno started to lose it, because she felt like she was going to lose the latest in a long line of unfortunate partners. But while she despaired, Denji scoffed. He didn’t ask Aki to save him, and is done owing anybody anything, so he happily dives into the fell eldritch mass that is the Eternity Devil and pulls his ripcord.

It doesn’t take long for Denji to start losing some serious blood, but once he starts drinking the devil’s blood, he basically becomes a self-healing “perpetual motion machine”, boasting that he, not Power, will be the one to win that Nobel Prize.

In a flashback, Himeno visits her parents’ graves with her master; like Aki, she lost them to the Gun Devil, which is why she joined the force. But her master warns that a devil hunter cannot be too earnest straight-laced—devils know exactly how to fuck with and kill those kinds of people. All of Himeno’s previous partners died because they were too sane, and feared the devils, and devils love fear.

Her master “loosened the screws” by drinking heavily on occasion. Knowing that Aki is another upstanding lad, she tried to get him to quit the force and follow her into the safer private sector, but he refused. But as she watches Denji, Himeno sees what the ideal devil hunter is like: window-lickingly insane, unpredictable, and immune to the devil’s mind games.

When Denji’s motor cuts out, Himeno uses her ghost arm to pull his cord, and for three days he tears at the Eternity Devil until he finally reaches its core. By then, it is pleading for its life, but Denji slices it in two. Just like that, the hunters are off the eighth floor and out of the hotel.

No sooner do they leave the hotel than Denji passes out, but Himeno is there to carry him on her back to the hospital. Later, during a mission with Aki, Himeno proposes the whole squad go out for drinks to break the ice … to loosen the screws. Also, bury the hatchet vis-a-vis everyone trying to kill Denji.

Leave it to Chainsaw Man to make the izakaya where the 4th division meets up look like just the place I want to be on a Friday night. The beers are tall, cold, and frosty, and the snacks look delectable (so much so that Power systematically hoards them).

We meet a couple other division members, one of whom recently lost his rookie subordinate, just like that. A haunted look washes over Kobeni as she reckons with the fact that people in their line of work live short lives.

Denji brings up the kiss Himeno promised, but she tells him she needs to drink more first. Things get complicated for Denji when Makima arrives fashionably late wondering what all this talk of kissing is about.

When Aki asks Makima straight-up why she’s so interested in Denji, she says she’ll answer, but only if he can outdrink her. As expected, he can’t, as both he and Himeno fall to her indomitable tolerance. At this point, Himeno’s screws have been sufficiently loosened that she decides to bestow her promised kiss upon Denji’s lips.

It’s his first kiss, with tongue … and also with Himeno’s vomit. Turns out she loosened the screws a bit too much. Denji swallows some of it and gets ruinously drunk (it shocks everyone to learn he’s only 16). He and Arai have a bonding moment when he helps Denji boot—Arai having experience helping his alcoholic mom.

With the hour growing late and everyone sufficiently lubricated, the 4th division departs from the izakaya. Himeno manages to sneak of with Denji, and when he comes to, it’s on her bed, underneath her. She gives him another kiss—this time of beer, not barf—and proposes that they bone. Denji is growing up fast in the 4th Division.

The soft bluish-purple light, Himeno’s fluid movements, and her seiyu Ise Mariya’s gently seductive voice lend an almost sacred beauty to an otherwise profane scene. But it’s also a sad one, because Himeno is clearly compensating for her crippling grief and loneliness, not to mention her part-familial, part-romantic feelings for an Aki who only has eyes for Miss Makima.

Then again, maybe Himeno just figures she could die tomorrow—or later that night—such is the fate of all devil hunters. That being the case, one must take their fun when and where they can get it.

P.S. Every episode of Chainsaw Man has a unique ED and theme, and this one might’ve been my favorite, as it’s a 4:3 standard-def retro-gasm. Reminded me of one of the best OPs of all time, the retro Koimonogatari OP “Kogarashi Sentiment”.

Chainsaw Man – 06 – Endless Eight

After battles that took place in spacious warehouses and the open city streets, Chainsaw Man shifts to an initially innocuous but increasingly menacing and claustrophobic hotel floor. All stairs, windows, and floors lead to the same place: where they are.

Kobeni loses it almost immediately, convinced they’re all going to starve and die in this closed, timeless place. When she falls to pieces saying how the 4th Division wasn’t her choice (apparently it was this or sex work), Power laughs it up, because human fear fuels devils.

Himeno is a lot more calm and collected, as this isn’t her first rodeo. Also, she has cigarettes. But as she lights up her last one, she tells Denji how she “taught Aki the taste” of cigarettes, being intentionally suggestive with the phrasing.

When the family member of one of her past partners took it out on her by slapping her, Aki followed the person and stuck gum to their clothes as payback. From that point on Himeno knew she had someone special. She finally got Aki to smoke a cigarette, which he said would be his first and last, but as we see in the present, that’s far from the case.

Himeno’s point was that no Devil Hunter lives a long life, so you might as well enjoy the little pleasures like cigarettes. But Aki doesn’t intend to die anytime soon, which comforts Himeno. Their host, the “Eternity Devil”, appears in the form of a horrific mass of faces and limbs, and offers the hunters a deal.

If they give it Denji, dead or alive, it will let everyone go. Kobeni, whom Himeno had knocked out when she tried drinking toilet water, comes to just in time to hear this, and rushes Denji with a knife. To his surprise, Aki stands in front of him and kicks the knife out of her hand. As far as he’s concerned, no one’s killing Denji. Himeno has his back.

But time passes, and Power eats all of the food they’d scavenged from the abandoned rooms. When Himeno tries her ghost limbs she’s able to injure the Eternity Devil, but it simply grows larger and then chases them through the halls, making the spaces they occupy even smaller.

Finally, the angles of the hallways (which are really the walls of the devil’s stomach) start to shift, adding to the increasing sense of disorientation and dread. With the devil closing in, it’s time to either give it Denji or die. There is another option: the sword on Aki’s back. But when he goes for it, Himeno paralyzes him with her ghosts.

Her reason is that using the sword shortens Aki’s life, and he has “too much to live for”. Also, Himeno clearly cares for (if not outright loves) Aki and doesn’t want to outlive yet another partner. But her plan backfires, as Aki manages to overpower the ghosts and takes Kobani’s knife to the ribs to protect Denji. His reason is that he can’t kill the Gun Devil without people like Denji.

As he starts bleeding out, Himeno finally loses it, making Aki, Denji, and Power the only ones with their heads on their shoulders. Power uses her blood manipulation power to try to keep Aki alive (even though she’s best at controlling her own), while a panicked Himeno asks Aki what the plan is.

Finally Denji, who never asked Aki to take a knife for him, decides to bite the bullet and jump into the devil’s gullet. Only once he’s in he’ll break out his chainsaws. He figures the one thing the devil is scared of most is him, which is why it wanted the others to kill him first. That ain’t happening; Denji’s going in on his own terms, and I like his odds.

This dark and nervy Chainsaw Man really showed how a hopeless situation can bring out the devil in anyone. Kobeni is probably a nice enough girl, but in a situation like this has no qualms about murdering another to save her own skin. Even Himeno abandons the tenets of her profession due to her personal affection for Aki. Aki keeps his composure, but he’s fueled by vengeance. But as horrible and nightmarish as this place is, it’s not that bad compared to what Denji’s already been through.

The beds in the hotel are so nice he curls up and naps in one like nothing’s the matter. All the talk of starvation must sound extremely quaint to someone who barely ever had enough to eat. Maybe that’s why Kobeni turned on him so fast: despite being a fellow human, his attitude was so different form hers in this situation that she became able to see him as an other, a devil to be sacrificed.

Chainsaw Man – 05 – Don’t Die on Me

Well, color me surprised: Denji doesn’t chicken out. When Power sits there waiting for him to obtain his reward, after some hesitation and heavy breathing, he places his hands on her chest and gives them a squeeze. When he does, foam pads drop from under her shirt. Without skipping a beat Power asks him to go in for seconds, then thirds. And just like that, it’s all over.

Power heads to bed with Meowy, and Denji stands paralyzed in the toilet wondering … Was that IT? Achieving his dream was far more underwhelming than he expected, and it sends him into a haze of confusion, as he’s now suddenly utterly bereft of his primary source of motivation. It might’ve been better to never cop a feel at all than to have copped a feel and felt so … so little.

While perhaps Power’s smaller-than-advertised bust size was probably one factor in his disappointment, the fact is touching a boob is an incredibly small dream to base your life off of, just like wanting a soft bed or a warm meal. When Makima sees something’s up and asks him, and he pretty eloquently verbalizes what’s up, she takes swift action to re-motivate her favorite new tool.

Makima tells Denji that sex and the contact that leads up to it feels better when you truly understand the other person. Makima then demonstrates this by sensually caressing Denji’s hand (phenomenal animation, that), giving one of his fingers a nibble, then showing him that not all boob grabs are created equal. Then she offers to make any dream of his come true—and that means anything—if he can defeat the Gun Devil.

The Gun Devil is no bat or leech, but an uber-devil created on this world’s equivalent of 9/11. Once it appeared, the Gun Devil killed millions, including Aki’s mother, father, and a sickly little brother with whom he was only starting to get along. The flashback switches gears from family warmth to utter destruction so fast we’re left in as much horrified shock as young Aki.

The key to finding the Gun Devil is to use pieces of its flesh it has dropped, which are drawn to it like magnets. Aki leads a six-person team of Denji, Power, and himself along with his senpai Himeno and two rookies, Kobeni and Arai, and the flesh leads them to a hotel. When Himeno tries to offer a kiss to whomever gets the Gun Devil, Denji parrots some of Makima’s words, only for Himeno to up her offer to a French kiss.

Himeno’s informal, happy-go-lucky attitude belies her past, as Aki is her sixth partner. She makes sure to clarify that the other five didn’t die because of anything she did or didn’t do, but because they were all useless. Himeno alone senses the first devil they encounter: a head that moves with a hand and foot that leaps at Kobeni, but is held in place by Himeno, allowing Power to slash it in two.

When Power, who as always yearns for blood, casually threatens to kill Kobeni, Himeno demonstrates her ability on her, specifically her throat. Himeno contracted with a Ghost Devil and is able to control a ghost hand (that is, an invisible hand Power cannot touch). Lesson learned: Let’s all get along!

Teamwork will indeed be needed for the coming trials, as the group suddenly finds themselves in a M.C. Escher-style loop, ending up on the same floor they killed the Head Devil even though they went up a flight of steps. Going down a flight gets Arai nowhere. Looks like we’re dealing with a Devil that can either morph reality or morph others’ perception of it. Pretty wicked.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 24 (Fin) – Kyoto Accords

When a despairing Miku is worried that she simply can’t compete with Nino or Ichika, Nino makes the observation that they’re all cute—they’re quintuplets—but Miku will never get her feelings through Fuutarou’s thick skull unless she tells him; telepathy sadly isn’t an option for the meekest quint. Nino also makes it clear she always considered Miku a legitimate rival and threat. Miku not even putting up a fight simply leaves a bad taste.

Meanwhile, Ichika asked Fuutarou in the hall to “hear Miku out”, only to disguise herself as Miku once more and take Fuu on the same walk he went on with Rena to jog his memory. After their day out, he recalls spending more time with Rena at the inn playing cards, but then asks if she’s done, removing her wig to reveal she’s Ichika.

He deduces she was the one in the hall, and when Ichika tries to redirect the conversation by saying she was the one he met that day, he tells her he can’t trust her anymore, and leaves her to cry in the pouring rain. All five quints agree that if this keeps up no one will be happy, including Fuu, so they’ll decide who’ll spend the last day with him by choosing each of the five elective field trips, leaving it up to chance.

Yet even here Ichika has a scheme afoot, only this time it’s to help Miku, not hurt her, even though she knows it’s not enough to excuse what she’s done so far. Having overheard which trip Fuu and his group would choose, Ichika switches hers with Miku so she ends up with him. Not only that, but Ichika, Nino, Yotsuba and Itsuki all decide independently to call in sick from their trips and instead follow Miku and Fuutarou to make sure their day goes well.

Thanks to impersonating Miku one more time, Ichika gets Miku to dress up period style along with Fuutarou, while Nino “deals” with the other guys—hopefully by drugging them and stuffing them somewhere, in keeping with her ruthless M.O.!

Seriously though, thanks to the efforts of her four sisters, Miku eventually stops running and starts talking normally and having fun with Fuutarou while they go on one of the more adorable dates in a show that’s been full of them, quasi-or-otherwise. The period environs and clothing suit the history buff Miku best anyway!

Not content to enjoy the date vicariously through Miku, Nino has a momentary lapse where she pushes herself into Fuutarou’s back, insisting she’s not simply going to let Miku have him. Fuutarou ends up bumping into Miku, who ends up in the drink. Soaked to her underwear, Itsuki sneaks the racy underwear she bought “in case of emergency”—call it Chekhov’s Thong—into Miku’s dressing room. Miku is mortified, but it’s better than going commando!

Miku and Fuu have a seat under an umbrella, and suddenly her croissants appear next to her, having been rushed there by the ever-athletic Yotsuba. Naturally, Fuu scarfs the croissants right down, and while he admits he may not have the most refined palate, he can appreciate how hard she worked to make them.

The four other sisters watch from inside the building behind them as Miku gets more and more comfortable talking with Fuutarou. She tells him how she wants to learn so much more about him, then starts to point out all the things around them she loves, ending by pointing at him and saying “I love you”, shocking her sisters.

Ichika breaks down, and we learn that Yotsuba was indeed “Rena” for most of the day, while Ichika was the one to play cards with him at the inn—she wasn’t lying! Still, through falling tears, Ichika resolves to be on better terms with her sisters from now on, especially since they now get to talk about something they all like for once.

However, Miku’s confession wasn’t what either they or Fuutarou thought: she was actually pointing at her sisters she could hear behind the wall when she said “I love you”. Fuutarou is flabberghasted by the fake-out, but Ichika is so happy she gives Miku a huge hug.

Fuutarou shuffles off, leaving the quintuplets alone together to share in the pain of falling in love, something they all now understand better having seen the various was they reacted to it (and yes, Itsuki admits she was trying to be alone with Fuu too). Ichika later catches up to Fuu to apologize, and he apologizes in turn. She teases him by saying “it’s all a lie” while kissing him on the cheek, a kiss he continues to feel on the train home.

It will not surprise you, then, to learn that we do not learn who Fuutarou ultimately ends up marrying quite yet. That final revelation will be saved for an already-announced sequel (though what form it takes—movie, OVA, third season—remains up in the air). But I’m not mad! In fact, I’m not even bothering with the rankings this week, just as I ended up juking the stats to make it a five-way tie at the end of last season.

Despite being a presumably zero-sum game, the journeys—all five of them—have continued to prove themselves far more important than the destination; i.e. who marries Fuutarou. The sisters called a cease-fire in Kyoto and more or less negotiated a pact in which they’ll all fight openly and honestly for Fuutarou’s heart from now on.

I’m not even mad Fuutarou is no closer to knowing who—if anyone—to choose above the others. It can be hard to choose from scene to scene! Perhaps the sequel will finally depict him earnestly wrestling with that choice, now that he has a good idea where most of the sisters stand. Until then!

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 23 – Give and Take Five

Yotsuba walks in on Itsuki just as she’s hiding the photo of Fuu with “Rena”. Commenting on how things aren’t so hot among the sisters, Yotsuba invites Itsuki out shopping, where they run into Fuu and Raiha, who is imparting on Fuu the importance of buying belated birthday gifts for the quints. Raiha also mentions “the photo”, and Yotsuba demands to know details. Raiha goes on to say the girl in the photo was her bro’s first love.

On the Shinkansen to Kyoto, Ichika, Nino, and Miku continue their war through spirited card games, while Itsuki joins in just for the card competition, while Yotsuba is a little intimidated by how heated things have gotten. She’s hoping this trip can be an opportunity for the five of them to make up…but also an opportunity for Miku to give Fuu her clandestinely-made baked goods.

Nino unilaterally decides to follow Fuutarou’s group up the temple steps, and while the others don’t have any objections, Yotsuba brandishes her card game victory on the train to insist that she and Miku go up the right steps while Ichika, Nino and Itsuki will go up the left steps. Some mild sniping between Ichika and Nino ensues, while Itsuki is left bemused.

When Itsuki and Nino use the restroom, Ichika abandons them and continues her descent, determined to see Fuu first and calculating she can beat the faster Yotsuba as Miku is surely slowing her down. Unwilling to take back the lie she’s already told Fuu, all Ichika thinks she can do to stay in the fighting is continue to lie and block Miku by posing as her.

But while she’s the first to reach the top, Fuu isn’t there. The next to arrive is Yotsuba, with Miku on her back, and they both see that Ichika is impersonating Miku. When asked for an explanation, Yotsuba says Ichika is trying to get in the way of Miku’s confession to Fuu. She says this just as Fuu makes it to the top, and hears what she said.

Miku runs off in tears as Nino and Itsuki arrive, and Nino has had it with Ichika’s bullshit now that she’s made someone cry. But Ichika doesn’t want to hear about it, considering how cutthroat Nino has been. It’s here where Nino admits she was being overly harsh, and that in reality she’d want to celebrate with whoever ended up “winning” because the bond between the five of them was just as important to her as Fuu.

Speaking of Fuu, he tries to lower the temperature, but it’s too late; Nino is already also crying, and orders him to chase after Miku. He’s unsuccessful, but Itsuki ran after her earlier and saw her get on a bus back to the hotel, so Fuu gets on the next bus, and Yotsuba joins him. She blames herself for making Miku cry, and may have created a monster by encouraging Ichika.

Fuu assures Yotsuba that he was already pretty sure of Miku’s feelings, such that the Fake Miku seemed fake even to him, “Uesugi the Dense.” He tells her she worries about the others too much, but Yotsuba still feels she owes them for making them follow her to another school when she was the only one to flunk out.

She wants to know how everyone can be happy, but Fuu tells her there’s only so far you can go; ultimately someone’s happiness must be gained by taking it from someone else. Like, say, when many girls like the same boy.

Back at the hotel during dinner, Nino informs Yotsuba and Itsuki that there’s a creep sneaking photos of them (as evidenced by the shutter sounds she’s heard behind her several times). When the three decide to go check on Miku and Ichika, Miku doesn’t answer the door, but they all hear another shutter and freak out.

Ichika, meanwhile, manages to bump into Fuu in the hall, and asks if he’s free tomorrow, because she needs to talk to him about something. Hopefully to come clean about impersonating Miku…but probably not! Meanwhile, Nino calls Miku to ask if she’s free to talk tomorrow.

The next day, Fuu ends up running into Itsuki and Yotsuba again, this time from the top of Kiyomizu Temple. Itsuki all of a sudden adopts a super-affectionate and clingy attitude, having Yotsuba snap a picture of them with the view as a backdrop. She’s hoping to jog his memory about another certain photo from six years ago.

Nino gets to stay at the hotel by impersonating Miku (which is apparently all the rage these days) and when Miku asks her what she wants, Nino jumps on top of her in order to rattle her cage. She says her rival “backed down by herself” on this class trip that should have been a golden opportunity for her to make progress. Now all she needs to do is defeat Ichika, that “sly fox”. Long story short: Nino is taking Fuu.

Miku may have fallen for him first, but as far as Nino’s concerned she loves him the most, even if it’s her first time in love and she’s not sure what’s right or wrong. To this, Miku voices her protest, insisting she’s not done fighting for him yet. It’s just…she’s scared. Scared that she’s not good enough; scared of fighting fair and square; more scared than she thought she’d be. But even if it’s scary, she’s not going to quit…not yet.

That’s good, because Itsuki knows for a fact that the sister who posed with Fuu in that six-year-old photo is none other than Yotsuba!

Episode Eleven Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Nino: Nino was busy this week! She was the sister who decided they were following Fuutarou’s group, setting some potentially cathartic scenes in motion. Calls out Ichika’s scheming, but also admits that she’s just as ruthless in trying to get what she wants. Most importantly, when Miku runs away crying, Nino puts the war on hold and sends Fuu after her. Finally, is the one to rattle Miku’s cage. Total Points: 43 (1st)
  2. Yotsuba: Turns in another strong showing by hanging with Fuu at the mall, serving as Miku’s emotional support, winning the card game so the sisters were forced to split up the way she dictated, literally carries Miku on her back, and has a solemn and frank convo with Fuu on the bus about the limits of happiness for all. Oh, and she’s the damn girl in the photo! Total Points: 34 (2nd)
  3. Ichika: Love or hate her, there’s no denying Ichika is a woman on a mission, and it’s take-no-prisoners. Her second use of the Miku disguise compounds the throne of lies upon which she sits, but when it backfires she doesn’t want to hear Nino scold her when Nino said she’d step over anyone who got between her and her man.  Total Points: 29 (Tied for 4th)
  4. Itsuki: There’s actual signs life in Camp Itsuki this week, as she plays big sister to Raiha at the mall. However, her cute photo moment with Fuu at the temple wasn’t self-serving so much as designed to get him to remember the Kyoto trip years ago. Total Points: 30 (3rd)
  5. Miku: While Ichika’s Fake Miku act didn’t work on Fuu, the fact Yotsuba blurted out her desire to confess sent her into a spiral of inadequacy, and she remained confined to her hotel room far too much to do anything. That said, she has nowhere to go but up! Total Points: 29 (4th)

Otherside Picnic – 07 – Queens of the Seaside

Those curious about what became of the American Marines get no answers this week, as the girls are on to their next adventure, this time on a beach. Sorao wakes up in a posh hotel room, having shared the bed with a naked Toriko. She can vaguely remember going shopping and bar hopping, and is proud of her drunk self for plugging in her phone.

While taking a taxi to the beach, both Sorao and Toriko nod off, and when they come to, the taxi is derelict and covered in plants and sand, as if it had been sitting there for years. It looks like they’re still in the Otherside, though with a very Spirited Away vibe with a lush blue and green palette.

The duo do a thorough search of a long-abandoned beach shop that, while creepy, contains no active threats, so on Toriko’s urging they change into the bikinis they bought yesterday(?) and proceed to have a fun time on the beach, drinking beer and practicing shooting. The Okinawan afterlife of Narai Kanai is also referenced as the two discuss the Alcatraz-like ruin on the horizon.

Sorao’s been letting her have her way so much, Toriko is worried Sorao could get sick of her, but that’s not the case. Indeed, Sorao again tries to bring up her feelings, only to miss her chance once again. Regardless, she’s happy to be having fun on the beach, a place she never felt was her scene. It’s also a welcome deviation from the standard Otherside aesthetic.

Their solitary fun is cut short when they hear odd noises and discover zombie-like punks beating up little kids. When Sorao and Toriko are rushed, Toriko freezes up, but Sorao shoots them all down before they can get to them. Toriko is impressed: Sorao can shoot and kill to protect herself and Toriko, but she credits Toriko with helping steel her resolve.

Sorao can also see with her eye that the punks weren’t human, but reanimated piles of washed-up beach detritus. Suddenly, the skies turn blue and brooding, which Sorao remembers the captive Toriko saying was the most dangerous time to be in the Otherside. A legion of creepy child-dolls bursts out of the beach shop while huge walrus-like beasts appear on the beach. The girls are well and truly freaked out.

They also don’t have enough ammo to deal with all of these creepy monsters great and small, so Sorao arranges for their exit, using her eye, Lady Hasshaku’s hat, and Toriko’s hand to open a portal. A great light flashes from the dissolving hat, turning all of the monsters back into garbage, and the girls fall through.

They emerge back in the normal world, apparently still on the beaches of a populated, non-ruined Okinawa, and perhaps where they had their day and night of shopping and drinking. Before the portal closes, Sorao spots a woman with flowing black hair. Could it be Uruma Satsuki, mentioned by one of the monster boys as part of the “Queen of the Beach” urban legend?

If it was, Toriko didn’t see her, and Sorao doesn’t bring it up. Instead, they have some beers and enjoy the fireworks, even though they’re broke and not sure how they’ll get home. As always, because they’re living in the moment together, nothing else seems to matter as much.

With its fun girls trip to the beach-turned-freaky seaside monster convention, Urasekai Picnic again scores high marks for its mastery of mood and atmosphere, and the cozily-infectious chemistry of Sorao and Toriko.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 16 – A Pretty Fun Hell

While Fuutarou, Itsuki and Ichika try to bail Yotsuba out of her track training camp, Miku stops by Nino’s for tea. She saw Nino stomp out of her previous hotel, and wonders what went on with Fuutarou. Nino is still fuming about Kintarou always being Fuu in disguise, but that’s tabled for now in favor of discussing Nino’s return home.

For all Nino thinks all of her sisters have changed, she’s changed too. They remain five sisters in completely different directions, but that just means they continue to complement each other by exposing them to things they normally wouldn’t…even something as mundane as the different teas they drink, which they learn come from the same leaf!

Operation Spring Yotsuba doesn’t get off to a great start, owing to how well the track captain knows Yotsuba, Itsuki’s less-than-stellar impression, and the simple fact her hair is too damn long! The real Yotsuba returns after having tackled the “groper” (a Fuutarou invention), but then it soon becomes obvious she isn’t Yotsuba either…she’s Nino!

That’s right, the scissors Nino produces at the end of her scene with Miku were meant for her own hair. Whether in order to confront the track people for Yotsuba’s sake, or because her heart was broken by a boy who never existed, or a little of both, Nino now sports the same cropped locks as Yotsuba, though she retains her signature butterfly ribbons and flat bangs.

With Yotsuba agreeing to help with the most recent meet and then quit the team—which is what she wants, but simply needed a nudge to do—Nino and Itsuki adorably make up, each apologizing for their role. Itsuki, the youngest of the quints, tears up despite having played the role of mom when she slapped Nino way too hard, and the fact they both buy tickets to the movie the other sister liked completes the reconciliation.

With the quints reunited, they soon complete their problem sets, and Fuutarou has them go over them again as they enter the home stretch till the exams. He shows deference to Nino by asking her if it’s okay to proceed in this manner…she can’t help but blush and fight back a smile at his polite attentiveness. The day of the exams arrives, and the quints stride confidently into the schook. Fuutarou hangs back, borrowing Itsuki’s phone to call his sister…but we see he was actually on the phone with the quints’ dad.

The exam scores come in, and out of 500 possible points from the five subjects tested, none of them scored higher than 206. While discouraged by these underwhelming results considering how hard they worked, the sisters actually seem to be looking forward to Fuutarou scolding them and pushing them to do better…which is why they’re shocked to learn from their father’s butler Ebata that Fuutarou has resigned as their tutor.

The sisters can’t even go to Fuutarou immediately, as Ebata has been ordered to tutor them on an interim basis. The problem sets Ebata gives them seem so easy, which they attribute to Fuutarou’s diligent tutoring. Then they break out the rolled crib notes he gave them in case of emergency and discover they don’t contain notes at all, but a message meant for all five sisters to read off in order.

It concludes, “I’m glad I finally done with this hell job…but it was a pretty fun hell. Later.” But the sisters are in agreement: they want Fuutarou to continue tutoring them. So they devise a plan. On Christmas Eve, while Fuu is acting as a crier for a cake shop, the five sisters approach him and ask if he’ll deliver a cake to their place. His clearly awesome boss lets him off work early, urging him to have a Merry Christmas.

When they ask him back, he says he already blew his second chance, and now believes it was only his “selfish ends” that held them back, to which he can no longer in good conscience subject them. The newly short-haired Nino gets in Fuu’s face, telling him they’ve only made it this far because of that selfishness, and he can’t stop being selfish now.

When he reminds them that their father has forbidden him from entering their house again, they direct his gaze to the building behind them: with Ichika’s new acting salary, they’ve rented a new place where he’ll always be welcome. Yotsuba inexplicably tosses the five keycards into the air, and in trying to catch them, Fuu slips and falls into the water. To his shock, all five quints jump in after him. All for one and one for all, to be sure!

After surfacing, he spots the rolled fortune Rena gave him, to open once he “learned to accept himself”. But at the same time, Nino cramps up and can’t swim, and Fuutarou abandons the fortune to rescue her, obviously. But maybe he never needed to read the fortune, because when everyone is out of the river, he rips up the résumé of his replacement and decides he’ll stay on as their tutor after all. As for Nino, her heart is beating like a jackrabbit and it may well have less to do with almost drowning and more to do with who saved her.

QQ started out totally scattering the quints, but it’s clear that besides the fact they complement each other and make up for their shortcomings, the one thing that brings them back together this week is the desire to keep Fuutarou in their life, as the one who will help them realize their best selves.

While him calling their dad was an obvious clue, his sudden resignation still felt abrupt, and hit me as hard as the sisters, so I tip my cap to the show for keeping me off balance. It was also a wonderfully brisk affair, with resolutions to this arc coming fast and furious without feeling rushed or inorganic (though part of me was hoping they’d address the whole “jumping into freezing water” thing). I’m looking forward to their next tutoring session in their new, less snazzy digs!

Episode Four Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Nino: Between her lovely sisterly tea time with Miku, to her portrayal of “Cranky Yotsuba”; from making up with Itsuki to her efforts to get Fuu back; from being the only quint who Fuu needed to rescue to her cute new ‘do, it’s another easy win for Best Girl Nino.  Total Points: 19 (1st)
  2. Itsuki: No Itsuki-at-the-Uesugis this week, but she was as wonderful in her making-up scene with Nino as she was wonderfully terrible at impersonating Yotsuba. She also had a moment where she channeled Fuutarou. She and Nino are pulling away from the pack. Total Points: 16 (2nd)
  3. Miku: Came close to tying Itsuki this week. She was so damn cool in that tea scene, describing to Nino why they belong together. She also had the highest test scores of all the quints! Total Points: 9 (3rd)
  4. Yotsuba: Glad her track crisis didn’t drag on any longer, as it felt like a rehash of something not that engaging to begin with. Nice tackle of that creepy groper, but otherwise didn’t distinguish herself. Total Points: 8 (Tied for 4th)
  5. Ichika: I hate to rank her last when she’s footing the bulk of the rent for the quints’ new place, but yeah…she didn’t do much this week! Total Points: 8 (5rd)

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 15 – Leaving the Nest

Nino insists Fuutarou take a shower to thoroughly wash off the river, but mostly wanted someone to talk to and break the monotony of her solitary hotel life…plus she felt bad that he looked so depressed! She gets Fuutarou to tell the full story of his encounter with Kyoto Mystery Girl…which lasted far longer than I had originally thought!

Sleep-deprived or not, there’s virtually no way “Rena” was a hallucination, yet remains an baffling enigma. She asks him to tell her about the students he’s tutoring as if she’s not one of them, but then why does she not only look just like one of them, but blushes when he describes them one by one with perfect accuracy?

Rena tells Fuutarou he seems like someone who is “needed” now, and takes her leave, returning his student ID but keeping the photo of them, because, as she says, “they’ll never meet again.” She tosses him a rolled fortune and tells him to open it when he’s learned to “accept” himself. When he tries to follow her, he falls out of the boat and into the river.

The story moves Nino to tears, and she assures him “at least one person on this planet” would fall for an “insensitive guy” like him. Right on cue, she notices he’s wearing nothing but a tiny towel and is scandalized…yet can’t help peer through her fingers! Fuu learns she taped his study packet back together and has been working on it.

She apologizes to Fuu for her behavior, but won’t go home and make up with Itsuki, who had never slapped her before. Itsuki, meanwhile, has become way too comfortable at the Uesugi residence for Fuu’s taste. The next day, Fuu shows up at Nino’s hotel again, and she tells him about how she feels like her four sisters flew away from their nest, leaving only her behind—it’s why she keeps her hair the same length it was five years ago.

Fuu tells Nino that you can’t change how people change, but have to accept that change and whatever it brings. One part of Nino’s past she isn’t ready to forget is her brief time with Fuu’s cousin “Kintarou,” so she changes gears by having Fuu arrange for them to meet again.

A classic sitcom scenario then plays out, with Fuu having to spend the day with Nino as Kintarou and answering her phone calls for advice about his “cousin”. He slips up more than once, calling Nino by her first name, letting slip he knows she’s a good cook, then finally telling her he doesn’t care about their exams, but just wants the five of them back together.

Nino doesn’t ever let on that she knows Kintarou is Fuu in disguise until he’s ready to confess. She claims to Fuu at the first-floor café that she thinks Kintarou was about to ask her out. She then holds out her hand to give him a handshake of gratitude, only to pull up his sleeve to reveal the bracelet she just returned to Kintarou.

Whether Nino thinks the previous Kintarou she met was the real one, or she knew Fuu was Kintarou all along isn’t 100% clear, but what is clear as day is her expression of hurt and disappointment, which is the last thing Fuu sees before succumbing to the drug she slipped in his iced coffee. While it was played for laughs when she drugged him in the first season, it hits different here, especially after the heart-to-hearts they’ve had since then.

It’s an abrupt end to the Nino storyline, as she ends up checking out of the hotel, leaving Fuu in the lurch. I do wish he had had the chance to make clear there never was any Kintarou and properly ask for forgiveness, but Nino seems to have made her own ruling on the matter, and so we move on to the other sisters.

After forcing Itsuki to wake up on time (she forgets where she is and thinks Nino is trying waking her), the two of them try to get a bead on Yotsuba’s situation with the track team. Her coach doesn’t care about exams, and is willing to use Yotsuba as long as she lets herself be used…which is always.

Fuu has to resort to running with Yotsuba while quizzing her, ultimately resulting in him tripping over his own feat and into Yotsuba’s caring arms. She uses that as an excuse to get him to stop running. Then we learn Ichika also wants to help her little sister, even going so far as to brush her teeth like she used to do when they were little.

Ichika makes it clear that as the eldest, she wants to be there for Yotsuba and the others, and furthermore, tells Yotsuba it’s okay to quit if she wants. Yotsuba seems to want to quit, but doesn’t think she can, because it would mean causing trouble for the team.

Little does Yotsuba know that Ichika has been on the phone with Fuu and Itsuki throughout their conversation. She tells them she’ll be meeting with the track coach tomorrow. Hopefully the three of them working together can help “free” Yotsuba from a prison of obligation.

As for Miku, she arrives at Nino’s new hotel, having worn Nino’s spare butterfly ribbons to pass as her sister. Fuu had his change to try to bring Nino back into the fold and only got her angry by pretending to be someone he wasn’t. Now it’s time for Miku to have a go!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Three Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Nino: Not much of a contest here. Nino totally ruled the roost this week. We got Caring Nino, Sensitive Nino, Real-Talk-with-Fuu Nino, Crushing-on-Kintarou Nino, and, most controversially, the return of Criminal Nino. Don’t drug people! Total Points: 14 (1st)
  2. Itsuki: Total Points: 12 (2nd) Not as much screentime as last week, but it’s clear she’s become a capable, productive surrogate member of the Uesugi family, yet is also capable of faces like this upon waking up:
  3. Yotsuba: Nice to see number four again! Unfortunately, she’s pretty one-note, with her usual conflict of trying to please too many people. Total Points: 6 (Tied for 4th)
  4. Ichika: That was the most, uh, interesting toothbrushing scene since Nisemonogatari. Glad to see Ichika actively trying to help Yotsuba rather than continuing to float above everything. Total Points: 7 (3rd)
  5. Miku: Yout can’t score points if you don’t show up! Total Points: 6 (Tied for 4th)

Rena (Unranked): The show wants me to think she’s a sixth and separate person, but I still don’t know what to think. I was intrigued by the fact Nino is the only quint to retain her original hair length from five years ago. Could Rena be Nino in disguise, getting back at Fuu for his Kintarou deception? To be continued…

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 14 – Scattered to the Five Winds

While his family sleeps, Fuutarou is hard at work hand-writing comprehensive problem sets to ensure the quints pass the exam coming up in seven days. As usual, his burning of the candle at all five ends results in him collapsing into a “death-like” sleep before he can reach the door of their apartment.

Itsuki, frustrated that he’s late, finds him out in the hall, and her annoyance immediately shifts to genuine concern, then genuine gratitude to see how hard he worked for her and everyone’s sakes. It’s no surprise she’d react this way, considering she was the first to originally seek Fuu’s help…but it’s still lovely to see her smile behind his back.

Fuutarou is happy that all five sisters are present for the session, but things go off the rails shockingly fast due to the persistently butting of heads of Nino and Miku. First, it’s little things like Miku borrowing Nino’s eraser or Nino drinking out of Miku’s can (though joke’s on her, it’s matcha soda!) Fuu’s attempts to get them to get along fail miserably.

Then Nino, regarded as the most sensitive (as well as prickliest!) sister, gets fed up and heads to her room to study alone. When Fuu tries to stop her, she tells him to butt out of family business. When Miku hands her her copy of the problem set, she slaps it out of her hand. Then Itsuki gets involved, slapping Nino and ordering her to apologize, showing Nino how Fuu handwrote all those papers.

Nino is clearly contrite, but also doesn’t want to lose face (as she sees it). Above all else, she’s hurt, angry and disgusted that her four sisters have turned against her and fallen for all of Fuutarou’s “slick talk”. She then decides to double down on her stubbornness and move out.

When she accuses Itsuki of being a “domestic violence meat monster”, Itsuki decides to move out too. It’s a disaster! The next day (with only six days before the exam) Miku joins Fuutarou to search for her missing sisters; Ichika and Yotsuba are apparently busy with other stuff.

Then Miku asks a crowd if anyone’s seen someone who “looks like this” (referring to herself, not a photo), and they locate Nino at a luxury hotel, to which Miku is able to gain access by simply pretending to be Nino. Fuutarou pleads with Nino through the door to remember how she’s always been the one who cared the most about her sisters and their home, but that doesn’t work.

Any time Fuu, an “outsider” to Nino, tries to act like he knows them, it only makes her more resentful. However, she does notice the bracelet Fuu was wearing when she mistook him for “Rintarou” (and basically fell for him), and takes it off his wrist before slamming the door. As for Itsuki, well…as soon as Miku mentioned she ran out without her purse, I had a pretty good idea where she ended up: Fuutarou’s place!

She’s already having a second helping of Raiha’s curry when Fuu comes home, seems to borrow Fuu’s gym clothes to sleep in, and along with Fuu make an adorable Raiha futon sandwich at night. Basically every second of Itsuki at Fuu’s place is a gift, with her seiyu Minase Inori delivering a wonderfully warm and subtle performance. While on a moonlit walk, Fuu protests Itsuki continuing to crash at his place, saying a “well-off girl” won’t be able to survive.

Itsuki corrects him: only a few years ago (and likely around the time Fuu met Mystery Quint(s) in Kyoto), she and her sisters lived in poverty, due to her mother having to raise five kids all at once. When mom fell ill and passed, Itsuki took it upon herself to “guide the others” in her stead, which for Fuu explains why she slapped Nino. But Itsuki laments that she seems to have failed.

The next day, Fuu conronts Yotsuba, who has apparently joined the track team. She apparently couldn’t say no to the captain, and he’s unable to get her to quit. He tries to reason with Nino, but can’t get past hotel security. With all the quints separated, his prospects of helping them pass the next exam are in dire straits—especially with Nino saying she doesn’t care whether she passes.

With only four days until those exams, Fuutarou considers trying to drown himself in the river, thinking it might unite the girls, before immediately checking his suddenly dangerous thoughts. He then comes around to thinking Nino was right; he should have never come into his lives, which seemingly caused all this discord.

Of course, they came into each others‘ lives years ago, as the arrival of a grown-up version of the Mystery Quint appears before him, leading him to jump into the river after all. What the hell was that? A hallucination? Our boy’s been pretty sleep-deprived. Ichika in a wig, dressed for an acting gig? A sixth sister? (No, probably not that.) Who knows, but she’s gone when Fuu climbs out of the drink. I would think if she were actually there, she’d have expressed concern about him falling in!

That said, Yotsuba runs past the soaked Fuu but doesn’t stop, as she’s practicing for track (I alsonoted that her shoes match the one that snapped a twig while Fuu and Itsuki were on their walk. Not sure what to make of that except…is Yotsuba doing track to stay out of the way vis-a-vis Fuu and the other sisters? At any rate, dunking himself apparently washed away his discouragement, and he heads back to Nino’s hotel, where again he’s stopped by guards.

But when Nino spots him, part of her admires his dogged perseverance, part of her feels bad for how wet he is, and part of her doesn’t want the other hotel guests to be subjected to him, so she invites him up to her place. Maybe she’s cooled down enough to hear him out…or maybe she just wants to ask how he came to possess Rintarou’s bracelet!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Two Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Itsuki: The classic and presumptive Best Quint on most lists, here she really earns that top spot with the lion’s share of screen time. She showed all the sides: the eager student, the strict mom, the freeloader, the clear-eyed reminiscer, the moonlit walk companion…just a very strong overall showing. Total Points: 8 (2nd)
  2. Nino: Yes, she’s a huge pain in the ass, but also yes I love her very much and just want her to go home! Getting that super-expensive hotel suite is so Nino, who’d never. She’s also wonderfully dense about the Fuutarou-Rintarou connection. Total Points: 9 (1st)
  3. Miku: Good to see her standing up to the seemingly stronger-willed yet also more sensitive Nino, and defending Fuu’s hard work beside Itsuki. Total Points: 5 (Tied for 3rd)
  4. Yotsuba: Second straight ep where there’s just not much of her, to the point I’m wondering if she’s avoiding Fuu on purpose. Total Points: 3 (5th)
  5. Ichika: Ichiwho? A near no-show this week, though like Yotsuba there may be a reason: despite being the eldest, Ichika tends to fade into the background when sister conflicts rage. Total Points: 5 (Tied for 3rd)

Akudama Drive – 02 – 1.5 Meters for a Billion

With all the players introduced, the robotic Black Cat reveals she’s the mastermind who had them all collared as an insurance policy. The mission to rescue Cutthroat was a test they all passed. Unfortunately for the lower-level Akudama Hoodlum and non-Akudama Ordinary Girl, the fact they’re still alive and played a role means they could prove useful, so they’re not allowed to walk away.

The cat suggests a change of venue to discuss their next job, which will pay a cool billion (100 million is already in everyone’s accounts, indicating the cat isn’t altogether untrustworthy. Brawler secures them some transport by hijacking a bus (all of which fly here) and Hacker handles the piloting. Their trip across town is just the latest in a nearly constant feast for the eyes. There’s too much detail to catch it all in one viewing.

The airbus trip also allows our colorful characters to interact a bit. Hoodlum and Brawler become fast friends, Courier and Doctor don’t, and Cutthroat is enamored of Ordinary Girl’s pink eyes, hair highlights, and clothes. Though pink isn’t as good as (blood) red, and his fixation on that color leads him to hit all the red buttons on the bus, resulting in the activation of its emergency afterburners.

After a quick history lesson with stick puppets about Kanto and Kansai (the former bombed and then totally rebuilt the latter), the gang emerges from the airbus, which has crashed into the upper level of a seven-star hotel. After disposing of all the human and robotic guards, they all gather in a suite so the cat can brief them on their next mission.

They are to infiltrate the Shinkansen, the only way to travel to Kanto from Kansai, and revered by most of the latter’s inhabitants as a “sacred entity”. There’s a 1.5-meter vault containing cargo the cat wants, but won’t disclose exactly what that cargo is. A successful attack of the Shinkansen has never been accomplished, but everyone gets $9 million if they can pull it off.

Their briefing is interrupted by the arrival of a pair of Executioners: a male Master and female Pupil who have a License to Kill Akudama. The Pupil takes the lead and goes after Brawler, and the suite’s trippy mood lighting is accidentally activated, making their brawl even more cool and stylish. Pupil proves at least an equal fighter to Brawler, and cuts Doctor’s throat, while Hacker and the cat escape.

Before Pupil or Master can determine why an Ordinary Person with no criminal record and a four-year Hoodlum are hanging out with a bunch of elite Akudama, Courier remotely calls in his bike, which flies up to the suite, crashes through the window, and fires its railgun at the Executioners. In the ensuing explosion, the Girl and Akudama get away, and Master and Pupil vow to get them next time.

We end up in an abandoned warehouse—what was to be the original site of the briefing before Cutthroat caused a detour to the hotel. Everyone is fine, even Doctor, who stitched up her own throat. All that’s left is to await the Shinkansen’s next stop in Kansai. They’ll only have twenty minutes until it starts back up for Kanto, so they should at least go in with a plan…even if the more chaotic members of the gang inevitably mess that plan up.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Golden Kamuy – 11 – And Now, Some Light Eyeball Licking

It all starts with a coincidence, as Sugimoto, Asirpa, Shiraishi and Kiroranke decide to spend the night at the Sapporo World Hotel, where Ushiyama also happens to check in. Both Ushiyama and Shiraishi are immediately smitten with the comely proprietess Ienaga Kano; unbeknownst to them, she’s running a murder hotel.

Ienaga takes an interest in Ushiyama due to his superhuman strength, and so dangles him along as she settles Sugimoto & Co into their room. While pursuing Ienaga, Siraishi almost crosses paths with Ushiyama, but doesn’t, thanks to a trap door that leads to Ienaga’s torture and dismemberment chamber.

More importantly, the Immortal Sugimoto and Undefeated Ushiyama finally meet, and test one anothers’ prowess with Judo, leading to this hilarous quote from Ushi: “At this rate, we’ll end up killing each other…I like you. Drinks are on me.” With that, Ushiyama treats Sugimoto, Asirpa, and Kiroranke to drinks and dinner, including a dish Asirpa believes to be poop, leading to another one of her priceless faces.

They all get ruinously drunk; Asirpa and Kuroranke pass out, but fortunately Sugimoto can hold his alcohol enough to stop Ienaga when she starts licking Asirpa’s eyes. Shiraishi remembers who “Ienaga Kano” really is: a fellow prisoner from Abashiri, a mad doctor who believed he could achieve perfection by taking the best parts from others.

It’s left up in the air is whether Ienaga is simply posing as a woman or has actually completed full gender reassignment as a result of their quest for perfection. One thing’s for sure, Ushiyama doesn’t care who Ienaga was or is; he’s just committed to screwing them.

That doesn’t happen, as Ienaga triggers the hotel self-destruct system, blowing the whole place to kingdom come. Sugimoto, Asirpa, Shiraishi and Kuroranke escape in one piece (albeit lightly singed) and decide to continue their journey to Abashiri to meet Nopperabo.

They assume they lost not one but two tattooed prisoners in Ushiyama and Ienaga in the blast, but after the credits Ushiyama emerges with an apparently alive (or at least intact) Ienaga, which means Team Hijikata just became one tattoo closer to completing the map.

This episode managed to move the overarching story forward while confined within one crazy kooky hotel and threw together a lot of strong personalities to see how they’d mingle. And it was an absolute riot.

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – 01 – Meet Cutes and Coincidences (First Impressions)

“Oh Hai! I’m not weirded out by you taking my picture AT ALL!”

There are three basic kinds of anime rom-coms: those that do something totally unique and/or unexpected, those that hew close to the well-worn conventions of the genre, and those that stride the two extremes. From the moment Tada Mitsuyoshi catches his love interest Teresa Wagner in his viewfinder, it’s clear we’re dealing with the well-worn variety.

That means it’s up to things like the execution of the romance, the quality of the comedy, the likability of the characters, and the technical aspects that determine whether I’ll watch it. And if I do, I’m still looking for surprises somewhere to liven up an otherwise boilerplate affair. So let’s see what TKS has going for it, and what it doesn’t.

“We meet AGAIN? It’s almost like we’re supposed to be in the same anime!”

Regarding execution of romance, the title says it all: “Tada doesn’t fall in love.” That doesn’t mean he shouldn’tcan’t, or won’t, mind you; it just means he usually/typically/classically…doesn’t. But it’s almost immediately clear from the Imperial Palace Sakura Photo Meet Cute that Mitsuyoshi is struck by Teresa’s beauty, if nothing else. First impressions matter, and can make the difference between “doesn’t” and “could.”

Mitsuyoshi is most likely someone who has never fallen in love because a.) he’s young,  b.) hasn’t found the right person, and/or c.) he’s focused on photography and school. I’m glad he doesn’t fall head-over-heels for Teresa from the start—he knows next to nothing about her—but at the very least, the air-headed foreigner is an intriguing  new presence in his life.

Alec kicks the overcaffeinated sidekick (THANK you…)

As coincidences continue to pile up that bring the two together, Mitsuyoshi brings Teresa before his whole family, consisting of his cafe-running grandfather (who likes the same old samurai tv show as Teresa) and little sister/waitress Yui (obligatory Minasi Inori presence). The shrine in the Tada residence indicates the loss of one or both Tada parents, one of whom was a photog like Mitsuyoshi.

Before long, Mitsu’s best mate and self-professed “Adonis” Ijuuin Kaoru shows up and tries to put the moves on Teresa as soon as Mitsu tells him she’s not his gf, but he’s quickly thwarted, not just from the cafe cat Nyanko Big (who amusingly resembles a friend’s cat), but by Teresa’s traveling companion, Alexandra “Alec” Magritte, who assumes Kaoru is attacking Teresa and swiftly deploys her itchy trigger leg.

Alec and Kaoru look like a dead ringer for the “opposites attract” trope, but while I appreciate what Miyano Mamoru does with his voice at times, his performance as Kaoru feels a few notches too extreme for this milieu (which is probably intentional).

If you were surprised by this development, you don’t watch many anime rom-coms

Why, do you ask, do two Luxembourgish women in Teresa and Alec have perfect command of Japanese? I imagine it’s the same reason Teresa almost gives another surname other than “Wagner”, and why Alec is so well-versed in martial arts and is protective of Teresa: it’s likely she’s royalty, and Alec is her bodyguard/valet.

She’s come to Japan, likely her favorite foreign country, to soak it all in. That means transferring to Mitsu and Kaoru’s school, and even their class. Ye gods, the coincidences…

Of course, they don’t want to broadcast that fact, but it will be interesting if a.) I’m right about this and b.) it creates a conflict with Mitsu, because at this point, there are no conflicts beyond Mitsu’s general normalness and heretofore non-existent love drive. Maybe she has a betrothed? In any case, this was an establish and introduce episode, and for the most part I’m on board.

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho – 06

With Megumi’s breakup of Mari duly rejected, the quartet endures the harsh stare of a customs official and heads to Singapore by A380, where they’ll spend a few days before the next flight to Fremantle.

I enjoyed the fact it was Shirase’s first fight (Mari’s too, I believe), and how the flight scenes accurately portrayed the intermittent fun, wonder, and boredom of a long flight. I also liked the girls’ culture shock of seeing so much more English everywhere and shamelessly tourist-ing out (Merlion! Merlion!).

Mari’s more sensitive side comes out when she waxes poetic about how amazing it is that people go on with their lives in far-off places they’ve never seen—and it is amazing!—but the fun and excitement of the trip hits a major snag when Hinata’s passport comes up missing.

Everything had been going so well for Shirase, and when the prospect of delaying their flight to accommodate the time required for Hinata to get a new passport from the Japanese embassy, she’s quietly but dreadfully worried that her chance to finally follow her mother might slip away.

That night, Yuzuki must deal with Mari the Bed-Sprawling Monster, who evokes murderous thoughts in her bedmate, but Yuzu actually has it easy compared to the other pair of Hinata and Shirase. Both are stubborn in their respective views: Shirase doesn’t want to leave anyone behind, despite her initial bristling at the prospect of a delay.

While flattered, Hinata says being “shown consideration” is disconcerting; it’s partly the reason she left high school. She understands it’s part of normal relationships, but she’s been burned by such consideration in the past and can’t not look upon it with suspicion. She doesn’t wish to bear the guilt of having inconvenienced everyone else.

Shirase goes to sleep abruptly, clearly done with debating the particulars of interpersonal behaviors, and the next morning we learn why: she had to get up before Hinata, turn off her alarm clock, and leave her at the hotel while she and the others go to the airport to get new tickets, against Hinata’s apparent wishes.

When Yuzuki says they can’t change their tickets on such short notice, it would seem the conflict between Hinata and Shirase is moot. However, while the two may both regard themselves as unusually stubborn individuals, Shirase has the edge in cash, plopping down her beloved Mwillion Yen to get everyone Business Class two days later.

When Hinata protests further, Shirase lets her have it with both barrels: This isn’t just about Hinata; it’s about Shirase not wanting to be the kind of shallow friend who just ditches another when they’re slightly inconvenienced, or doesn’t worry when she’s told not to worry, and doesn’t want to be a coward who gives up so easily. “I remain stubborn…because I’m right!”

The speech moves Hinata to tears, and she yields. But not long after she spent the sum total of her hard-earned Antarctica savings on expensive new tickets, Shirase spots Hinata’s passport in her purse; Hinata was tying her shoe and must’ve forgotten she handed it to Shirase, but Shirase forgot she had it.

Thanks to Yuzuki’s uncanny innate method of detecting when one of her comrades is hiding something, it isn’t long until Shirase’s little secret is exposed, but thankfully, the tickets could be cancelled and Shirase’s savings returned. Yuzuki and Mari punish Hinata and Shirase for their collective tomfoolery by insisting they try Durian fruit (which I for one find too foul-smelling to bring anywhere near my mouth).

When Mari befriended Hinata, a part of me was worried we’d lose some of the excellent dynamic between Mari and Shirase, or that Shirase might be marginalized in some way. But those worries have long since been allayed, as the dynamic between Hinata and Shirase is just as compelling, due in no small part to the wonderful script and the abundant talents of Mmes. Hanazawa et Iguchi.

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