Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 08 – Sacrifice on Both Sides

Alice just continues to be the biggest badass in SAOA, as it should be, since her name’s in the title. Fresh off of obliterating a sizable chunk of the enemy’s forces, Alice comes down to earth exhausted, but there’s no rest for the weary as she gets right back up.

When the chief of the Ogres emerges from the carnage, Alice learns that she’s the primary target of Emperor Vecta before sending him to the grasslands to where he wants his people to return.

Meanwhile, Eldrie comes before her consumed with shame and self-pity for not being able to live up to the standards of her disciple, but she’s just happy he’s still alive.

After a brief war council, Alice proposes and Bercouli agrees to split up their forces. Being the “Goddess of Light” the Dark Emperor seeks, she’ll gain the attention of a sizable chunk of his remaining forces, evening the odds for the Human Empire. She’s essentially bait.

On the other side, a discouraged Dee Eye Ell gets her second wind when Vecta offers her the lives of the 3,000 orcs in order to provide the energy necessary for a large-scale counterattack.

Like the Ogre Chief who simply wanted his people to return home, the orcs are painted in a sympathetic light, and the show is unblinking in their suffering as they give up their lives for a larger cause than themselves.

Alice doesn’t see the attack coming until it’s too late, but Eldrie is there to divert and absorb it with his Recollection, resulting in severe injuries that ultimately claim his life. While Alice is beside herself and orders/begs him not to die and leave her, promising to do anything for him, Eldrie couldn’t ask for a happier death, in the arms of the mentor he protected, valued and loved above all else.

Thanks to Eldrie, Alice can fight on, decimating the Dark Mages to the point Dee Eye Ell just starts sacrificing her own underlings in order to stay alive. Dee dreams of becoming Empress, meaning at some point she’d have to betray Vecta.

But Alice intends to skip over her entirely and go after Vecta directly. She knows at some point she must reach the World’s End Altar, she just has more immediate matters to attend to—not to mention a full head of steam after losing Eldrie.

Asagao to Kase-san. (OVA) – The Sun is Always Shining Above the Clouds

Asagaro to Kase-san, an OVA released in the Summer of 2018, is a concise but solid piece of serious yuri storytelling in the vein of Aoi Hana, Sasameki Koto, and Sakura TrickIt strikes that delicate balance of covering a fair amount of material while never feeling like it’s trying to do too much. The stakes never stray from the future of a couple of young lovers who start dating in their final year of high school.

That they’re both girls, living in relatively conservative Japan, never comes up, because this isn’t about whether they can be together or not. It’s about their mutual love, plain and simple, and how they weather other challenges to remain together, a state neither of them at any point wish to leave.

Mild-mannered gardening fanatic Yamada Yui had never dated anyone before she and the athletic track star Kase Tomoka got together, but they’re together before the opening credits, which is a heck of a timesaver! Suffice it to say they liked each other to the extent they were equally enthusiastic about becoming a couple.

That mutual enthusiasm paid dividends, as before long the like turned to love. There’s never any doubt that Kase is as smitten with Yamada as vice-versa, even if the latter tends to feel inferior due to Kase’s social and literal stature at school. There are also times when she allows Kase to swept up by others, often interrupting potential time alone.

But while Yamada comes to realize she’ll have to be more assertive at times, the fact that Kase is so popular isn’t a problem for her; it serves to validate why she loves her so much in the first place: Kase’s a surpassingly kind and gregarious young woman.

In any case, in moments when Yamada might feel lonely due to indulging Kase’s natural gregariousness, Kase’s own desire to be alone with Yamada means it’s never that long before she seeks Yamada out, both grateful for her patience and relieved to have in her a kind of haven.

Time with Yamada is special to Kase; more special than time with anyone else. That’s whether they’re on an intimate nighttime phone call, alone together in Yamada’s room raising the temperature a bit, or on a beach in Okinawa making up and out after Yamada gets a bit too “surprised” seeing Kase nude.

The biggest threat to their relationship isn’t the fact that they’re both girls, which is refreshing. Instead, like any other relationship, it’s the unrelenting march of time and the changes it brings. Kase is on the fast track to Tokyo U on an athletic scholarship; Yamada’s inertia seems to be keeping her tethered to her hometown, commuting to the local college from home.

Especially when Kase calls to offer to turn down the scholarship and she essentially tells her not to, Yamada is on the cusp of relegating their relationship to a long-distance affair, with visits very few and far between. It’s only on the very day Kase leaves for Tokyo that Yamada wakes up and realizes she doesn’t want that at all. She wants as much Kase as she can get, and so she runs and keeps running until she’s in Kase’s arms aboard the Shinkansen.

How will Yamada manage to get into a Tokyo school? Ehh, she’ll figure it out! The most important thing is that they’re together, like they want to be. They’re also on the same wavelength; Kase really didn’t want to leave Yamada, but felt trapped by the circumstance of her athletic excellence. Fortunately for her, Yamada wasn’t going to let something like that cause what they had to fall apart.

Backed by gorgeous animation and superb voice work from Sakura Ayane and Takahashi Minami, Asagao to Kase-san delivers an elegant and captivating romance between two girls for whom simply no one else would do, and whose bond managed to withstand the winds of change. Give it a watch and your heart will grow at least three sizes!

HenSuki – 12 (Fin) – After Much Deliberation…

Keiki wakes up from a nightmare (in which he takes his new wife Sayuki out for a walk, like a dog) to find Mizuha in his bed, reiterating her love for him, kissing him, and essentially urging him to choose her among all his choices. Needless to say, she comes on too strong, and ends up pushing Keiki right out of the damn house.

He ignores Mizuha’s many calls and instead gets in touch with Shouma and Koharu, to tell him his situation and ask for a place to crash. Alas, Shouma’s house is full and he won’t allow Keiki to stay at Koharu’s. He also encounters Mao, fresh off a BL-writing all-nighter, who has bean cakes and milk at the ready for the hungry Keiki.

Mao only lends more evidence for her case as Best Girl by supporting Keiki without judging, while having her own thing going on separate from him. She may not be aware of Mizuha’s romantic love for him, and assumes they had a sibling spat, but she knows in the end the two of them will be fine. She even gets an accidental indirect kiss in!

The episode then widens into an extended montage with both Mizuha and Keiki attempting to text their feelings, but not actually sending any messages to each other. Keiki also called his dad, who confirmed that Mizuha was adopted, and Keiki warmly and immediately welcomed her into the family. It seems very odd he’d forget this.

In any case, even a single day away from home proves too much for Keiki, as he only just manages to get in the front door after getting caught in the rain before passing out, cold and feverish. Mizuha puts aside their present issue and takes care of her brother.

Mizuha calls Sayuki, who rushes to Keiki’s side and jumps in his bed to warm him. Sayuki also texts Yuika, reporting their boy is “defenseless,” but they ultimately can’t put their competition on hold long enough to calm down, so Mizuha kicks them both out so Keiki can get better in peace.

Keiki wakes up in the middle of the night, his condition improved, and once again walks in on a naked Mizuha in the bathroom. They stay on either side of the door trying to talk this thing out, and Mizuha mentions that her love for him began on that day when he welcomed her (which again, he forgot) and only grew from there. She lost her family in an accident, but gained a new one.

Still, Keiki had never viewed Mizuha as anything other than his little sister, and even though things will never quite be the same whether he accepts or rejects her love, he decides to remain that caring brother going forward. It’s a safe, sensible chocie that’s true to the character he’s been thus far.

That being said, he can’t weasel his way out of granting the command of the winner of the confession contest, and Mizuha wants him to be her boyfriend for a day. She concedes that going from brother to permanent boyfriend isn’t like flipping a switch, but seems determined to gradually change his mind.

It doesn’t help her case when he finds out her phone is full of selfies of her in various stages of undress. Turns out she’s a full-on exhibitionist! Looks like “normal” for Keiki was, is, and will always involve attracting women with particular tastes. A girl bereft of said tastes probably isn’t in the cards for him. Might as well go for Mao!

HenSuki – 11 – A Matter of Math

This week’s HenSuki is a pool episode, but the pool trip is only a means with which Keiki intends to expose and confront Cinderella once and for all. And hey, if he gets to see the girls in swimsuits, including one he brought for Mizuha (since the trip is a total surprise for her), that’s just a bonus as far as he’s concerned.

Sayuki and Yuika, whom he’s ruled out as the culprit, get up to their usual antics in fighting over him, while Mao keeps her tsundere schtick going when she gets him to herself. Amidst all the liveliness Mizuha is somewhat shuffled to the side, but Keiki tracks her down and carries her when she gets a cramp, like he used to do when they were both smaller (and about the same size).

When Koharu enlists the girls to participate in a girl confession competition with the audience as the judge, all four girls score 92 or higher, with Mizuha breaking the equipment with her very heartfelt confession of love for her brother.

All of these clues involving Mizuha add up to the revelation in the waiting area that she is Cinderella. Keiki arranged things so that she wouldn’t have a change of underwear except the pair that accompanied the love letter, which she reclaimed and kept in her bag at all times. Koharu’s photo also proves she was where Cinderella would have to be at the time the love letter was planet.

Mizuha accepts that she’s been caught, and appreciates that Keiki went so far to find out it was her, as it meant he had to obsess over her for the duration. That’s because she really is in love with him, and it’s not sibling love. When Keiki tells her he’s flattered but he’s not okay with a brother and sister having romantic feelings, she drops a bombshell: they’re not related by blood.

While it’s still somewhat dubious Keiki would be okay with suddenly regarding a girl he’d always treated like a sister (by blood or not) romantically, I’m more shocked that after all these years he never considered it odd that the two of them were only five months apart in age. Seems like a pretty big oversight!

With the central mystery solved and just one episode to go, Keiki has a choice to make: accept Mizuha’s feelings and adjust their relationship accordingly, or reject her and either choose one of the others or choose nobody. Decision time!

Sarazanmai – 10 – A Little Bit of Dishtory Repeating

Way back when, after the siege of Keppi’s castle, Otter saves Mabu’s live with a mechanical heart, but only if he makes a solemn promise. In the present, Reo reveals he’s a kappa too, once a vassal of Keppi’s along with Mabu. He shrink-wraps Keppi and demands the final dish of hope, but empathizes with Kazaki’s wish to save someone close to him, and so lets him tag along while he collects the other four dishes.

During the descent, Reo laughs at Kazuki’s earnest attempt to save his connection with Enta, and his jadedness is understandable; the Mabu they encounter is less his Mabu than ever; cold, distant, and in Reo’s words, nothing but a fake, half-baked doll. They descend further and find Dark Keppi, the half of Keppi created when he split his Shirikodama to escape capture by the Otters.

This otter demands the dishes, and also places Enta in “Enta’s World”, in which his desire—to be loved by Kazuki—is made real. But like Reo with the resurrected Mabu, it’s just not the same, and Enta escapes the fantasy. Reo has a key assist by shooting the head off the Otter and producing four of the five dishes needed, but just then Mabu jumps from a precipice and ends up transforming into a Zombie Kappa.

This means Reo has to be transformed by Keppi—like he and Mabu were in the old times—and go through the same (literal!) song and dance as Kazuki, Enta, and Toi. Even Miyano Mamoru’s casual singing voice is better than those of the other three, as he peers into Mabu’s Shirikodama and learns that in order to live and stay by Reo’s side, Mabu had to give up his connection with him.

That means when Mabu, who he only just freed from zombiehood, decides he can’t live on with that severed connection anymore. Pledging his everlasting love for Reo, his deal with Otter is broken, his mechanical heart stops, and he disappears. When the dust clears, Keppi creates a new fifth dish of hope (Kazuki broke one earlier) and Reo is beside himself with grief, unleashing it with his pistol in a destruction spree that ruins Asakusa’s bridges.

Then Reo forgets who Mabu ever was, and is then shot through the heart…by Toi, who has returned from the ferry. Kazuki thinks he’s changed his mind and come to rescue him and Enta, but Toi hesitates, wanting the five dishes to bring his brother back. Enta’s clock runs down to fifteen, ten, zero seconds…and Kazuki makes his  wish, even at gunpoint.

When Enta wakes up, Toi admits he probably would have saved Enta too…but now he’s as full of grief and rage and desire as Reo was before he shot him. That attracts Otter, who looks to bring him under his influence, using the spectre of his older brother to lure him in. Once Chikai appears, whispering in his ear, Toi lets go of Kazuki’s hand and walks into the darkness of his own volition.

With Kazuki, Enta, Haruka, Mabu and Reo’s stories largely complete, the final episode will seek to close the book on Toi, one way or another, who has only had to live in a world without his brother for a few hours (maybe less), and is thus all too easily manipulated by Otter. We’ll see how Keppi and the Golden Duo fare against that negative influence, and maybe get back to being three normal soccer-loving kids.

Sarazanmai – 04 – Only The Bad Ones Survive

That’s the mantra a younger Kuji Toi learns from his older brother Chikai at a seminal moment in his life, along with the lesson that those who can’t survive can only perish and be forgotten. It’s when Toi is thinking about these things that Enta calls him to meet. Enta wants him to give his Dish of Hope to Kazuki…again for Haruka’s sake.

We learn along with Enta that Toi’s relatives run a soba shop that used to be run by his and Chikai’s parents before they ran into debt and committed suicide. It’s from those shadows that Toi finds himself in the position to give someone some light: in Kazuki’s case that means kidnapping the real Sara Haruka is poised to meet so he’ll meet Kazuki instead, preserving his secret identity.

Kazuki is so dedicated to his Sara persona, Toi can’t help but blush when he watches him eat soba, even though he sucks at eating soba! Watching Kazuki work to protect his weaker brother dredges up more memories for Toi, even to when he and his brother were not on the best of terms.

Chikai joined a gang to make money, cursed their folks for offing themselves, and spitting on Toi’s quaint sentimentality. But he also takes care of Toi, even if Toi doesn’t think what he’s doing is good or right. He produced enough cash to prevent the soba shop from leaving the family, and put their relatives to work running it. It was as if Chikai was sacrificing his goodness for Toi’s sake.

Kazuki’s crazy Sara-kidnapping plan is sidelined by a Zombie Kappa alert, also soba-themed. Specifically, Sobatani, a soba shop owner who was charged with stealing bathwater from a female regular. The Flying Object of the Week is soba and soba dishes, drawn by the Zombie Kappa’s insatiable desire.

Since some of the soba he draws in comes from Toi’s relatives’ place he has a personal stake in defeating the Zombie Kappa, and so takes the lead, demanding Keppi transform him, then uncovering the truth after their song and dance: Sobatani wanted to make soba out of the bathwater. Weird!

With Sobatani’s secret out and Shirikodama extracted, Sarazanmai occurs, and Kazuki and Enta watch along with Toi as the missing pieces of his tragic flashback fall into place. When Toi learned that both his and Chikai’s lives were in danger after stealing the money to buy the soba shop, he takes the handgun he finds in a drawer and shoots Chikai’s gang senpai.

Chikai arrives on the scene, and puts too more bullets in the man, claiming he was the killer, not Toi. Even when Toi sought to share some of the burden of badness in order to survive, Chikai was there to cover for him; to, in a way, save his soul. If only the two of them knew the truth, no one in the world would ever suspect the little brother of murder.

But Toi still concedes he killed someone, his brother’s save aside. He claims not to be too haunted by it—it was a necessity to ensure both his and Chikai’s survival, in keeping with his bro’s mantra. But it’s still his secret, and he threatens Enta and Kazuki with deadly retribution if they ever spill the beans about what they’ve learned.

Having gained new insight into Toi’s upbringing and motivations, Kazuki decides to offer up his Dish of Hope to him, believing he’s more deserving of it than he. ‘But what about Haruka’, Enta protests? Well, for Kazuki, that’s why Toi is more deserving: Kazuki claims to hate Haruka.

Does he mean Kazuki finds looking out for him and doing these things for him a burden? A mere excuse to indulge his own desires? Or would he never kill, even for Haruka’s sake? It’s a declaration that seems to come out of left field, but I’m sure there’s more context to come.

BokuBen – 04 – Pudding x Squared

This week’s BokuBen is split relatively cleanly into three parts; one for each of the three tutees. First up is Fumino, who one day after a bath notices to her horror that she’s put on weight.

The next day at school it’s clear why that’s so—there’s no shortage of snacks in between meals from Uruka (who doesn’t put on weight no matter how much she eats) and udon from Rizu (for whom everything goes to her bust). Fumino resolves to not participate in the gorging, going on a diet.

When Yuiga mentions her lack of focus due to her fighting temptation, Fumino reveals the reason why, and even invites him to feel her stomach in order to confirm that it’s in danger of becoming a muffin top. But despite this invitation to perform what feels like a perverted act, Yuiga doesn’t believe whatever weight she perceives to have put on is of any consequence.

Her weight ends up returning to a level she can live with, with the abundant late-night snacks being a necessity for her as her brain requires a good deal of energy to operate when she’s studying.

The next segment focuses on Rizu, who learns she has a rival in math in science in the person of Sekijo Sawako. The perennial second-place finisher in math and science exams suspects Rizu is only getting into the humanities because she’s fallen in love with Yuiga, and intends to stay close to Rizu in order to confirm this.

That means joining Yuiga and Rizu at her family udon restaurant. Sawako attempts to flirt with Yuiga in an effort to get a reaction from Rizu, to no avail; nothing will keep her from her studying focus, while Yuiga gets the idea that he’s suddenly popular now.

The two make so much ruckus that Rizu kicks them out, but Sawako finally gets some evidence when she sees how Rizu reacts to Yuiga patting her on the head for a mock exam well done; it’s a reaction Rizu cannot hide.

This results in Sawako continuing to keep an eye on Rizu and Yuiga until she’s convinced that the humanities are the right path for her number one “rival.” Yuiga, meanwhile, tells Sawako that if she wants to be friends with Rizu, she should just be upfront and ask.

Finally, we have our #BestGirl, Uruka. Her situation this week is the simplest of all: in a morning fit of absent-mindedness, she forgot to put on a bra. This makes her super self-conscious, especially when she has to play basketball against Yuiga in gym class.

Her bashfulness totally throws her off her game, and Yuiga capitalizes without blinking an eye, stealing the ball right out of her hands and taking his team to a commanding 16-2 first-half lead. Her demeanor on the court is so unusual, he asks her if there’s anything wrong, to which she responds “we’re enemies right now!” but she twists his concern into a confession of love, motivating her to forget about her boobs and up her game.

Unfortunately, upping her game cooresponds with Yuiga’s inflated sense of athletic prowess, as he’s determined to block her shot, leading to the two coming together in the chestal area. In the ensuing chaos the clock runs out and Yuiga’s team wins, while Yuiga himself, having felt Uruka, remarks that she “felt like his sister,” who sometimes neglects to wear bras.

It’s probably the last thing Uruka wanted to hear in her already fragile state, while Yuiga’s sister makes him pay for bringing up the fact she’s wearing a bra. So then: while there was no marked progress this week on the three tutees’ efforts to excel in areas in which they are not strong, these were nevertheless three satisfying vignettes that enriched our understanding of the characters.

Sarazanmai – 03 – The Golden Duo

Kazuki wakes up, but is too out of it to notice that Enta was just kissing him. Enta is direct with the audience: he’s in love with Kazuki. He has been for a long time, ever since they were the unstoppable “Golden Duo” in soccer, complete with a signature pose. Enta has to contend with a lot of kissing the next day, as his big sister Otone is going on a fishing trip with her boyfriend.

The episode plays with the fact that kisu is not just how you say “kiss,” but the Japanese name for Sillago japonica, or Japanese whiting. The city idol declares it’s kisu day, and in lieu of someone to kiss (that he knows of), Kazuki tries in vain to go to a fishmonger for a “kisu selfie” for Haruka.

While playing cards with Haruka (who “Sara” texts to apologize for the selfie being late), Enta learns that Kazuki isn’t laughing around his little brother either ever since quitting soccer. Enta wants to use the wish from the next dish of hope to reunite the Golden Duo.

Enta even fantasizes about Kazuki coming around on his own and letting him tie the miçanga to his ankle – the symbol of their soccer brotherhood as well as a token of affection. But no—it’s just Otone, who runs off with the anklet for her date.

As Enta defends the spot by the river where he and Kazuki used to practice by getting into a fight with two other players, the two “Otter” cops create another Kappa Zombie, this one from Otone’s kisu-loving boyfriend. His head takes the form of a kisu, but he’s a Don Juan who has many women and many kisses, obsessed with quantity over quality.

Enta fantasizes again that Kazuki comes to rescue him, but it’s just Kuji, who doesn’t get why Enta got in a fight he had no chance of winning. Enta is committed to protecting the Golden Duo’s practice spot…in the off-chance Kazuki comes back to him.

The Kappa Zombie alert is then sounded (with Sara doing a wonderful homage to Castle in the Sky), and rather than cats last week the sky is full of brides, all of them drawn to the zombie, who turns them to kisu with a kiss. The three lads are transformed by Keppi, do their attack song and dance, and extract the zombie’s shirikodama.

All three parts of the ensuing sarazanmai are related to Enta’s long-standing secret crush on Kazuki. We see Enta smelling Kazuki’s clothes, playing his recorder (for an indirect kiss), and finally his more recent kiss with a sleeping Sara!Kazuki.

The zombie thus vanquished and its desire assimilated, Otone and all the other women wake up and completely forget Mr. Kisu…as if he had never existed. He even disappears from photos, Back to the Future-style! Enta confesses his love to Kazuki and just when they seem poised to kiss, it’s only another fantasy; “Kazuki” is just Keppi.

Thanks to Kazuki’s obliviousness and Kuji’s lack of really caring, Enta’s secret seems to be secure—or at least emotionally tabled—for now. The next time he’s with Haruka (who we see in a wheelchair for the first time), Enta declares he’s going to “give up” on trying to win Kazuki over.

Part of that is that he saw a random mouse making off with the miçanga meant for Kazuki as a sign that it’s not to be. But then Haruka produces Kazuki’s original miçanga, saved from the trash, and asks Enta to keep trying to get Kazuki back into soccer.

Meanwhile, the Otter Cops are scolded by their boss, who is “otterly” furious at their lack of progress due to kappa-related interference (I hope he’s just a giant talking otter, for the record). With his frustration in mind, I wonder how much longer the kappa zombie fights will remain as easy as they’ve been.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 18 – The Last Dominoes Left to Fall

With Hikari and Iroha in good shape, Hikari’s folks reconciled, and Ayado and Itou officially a couple, that leaves just one final pair of people left in the lurch: Ishino Arisa and Takanashi Mitsuya. Both are the purportedly “cool” people of their circle of friends (at least compared to the others), and yet here they are, standing around while the others pair off.

Takanashi can’t help but watch Ayado and Itou wistfully from afar. Ishino tries to hypnotize him, but when he rejects her in a roundabout then very direct fashion, she goes for sterner measures: slamming Takanashi against the wall; something the guy would normally do (though it’s not at all out of character for Ishino).

To Takanashi’s surprise, she gets serious; this push-and-pull of her expressing her interest in him and his constant shooting her down, combined with the two always seeming to end up in each other’s orbits…it’s wearing on her. She wants to know if and how she can ever get him to like her.

Takanashi deflects, and is then bailed out when two of Ayado’s classmates start mocking her new relationship, prompting Ishino to step in to scold them. When Ishino and one of the girls gets into it, Takanashi then has to break them up, despite just telling Ishino that her “meddling” is one of the reasons he doesn’t like her.

When Ayado and Itou thank the two from the bottom of their hearts (Itou was about to step to the girls when Ishino arrived; who knows how that would have gone), I’d like to think it shows Takanashi why Ishino “meddles”: it’s not random, it’s to help her friends, who appreciate her for doing it.

Later, when Ishino asks him what should he expect from a “girl with nothing better to do, who boys will never like,” he claims to have said no such thing, but he wants to cheer her up, so he takes her out for ramen again. Again, Ishino orders extra rice, which despite being something not usually done when on a date, she does because she feels comfortable with Takanashi, and their friendship is more than just physical attraction.

If that weren’t the case, Takanashi wouldn’t suggest what he does, which is to go on a real date. This plants the seed of my belief Takanashi hasn’t been super-honest with himself regarding Ishino. Then again, he’s a low-energy guy not particularly passionate about anything (not since middle school anyway) who seems to have a lot of time on his hands. Maybe he’s just being nice out of guilt for always rejecting Ishino yet still staying in proximity? I prefer the less cynical theory.

While on their date to the aquarium (during which Takanashi comes this close to blushing when Ishino takes his hand in hers), both we and Ishino learn in a hurry what his passion is: protecting his little sister. I didn’t know he wasn’t aware Hikari’s brother Kaoru was dating his sister Anzu, but now that he does, he reacts almost reflexively out of his misplaced contempt for Hikari. Trying to rip them apart is wrong anyway you look at it, there’s nothing untoward going on here. But when Ishino steps in to point that out, Takanashi accuses her of “meddling” in things that aren’t her business.

Ishino is proven right when Anzu, frightened of being separated from the boy she loves, grabs Kaoru and leaves Takanashi in the dust. When Ishino tells him to buzz off, you can tell he knows he was in the wrong; or at least taking things too far. While following an angry Ishino (they live in the same direction) he tells her he wants to make her feel better, and gives her a passionate hug.

Ishino isn’t buying it, and tears fill her eyes, not just because she’s convinced Takanashi thinks she’s an idiot, but because she thinks she is an idiot, having gone to so much trouble to make herself pretty for the date. He’s somewhat saved by the ring when his mom calls telling him Anzu said she’s running away from home with Kaoru.

Whatever Takanashi and Ishino are dealing with, that all goes on hold for both of them, as Ishino volunteers to help him look for them, no questions asked. She’s a friend Takanashi doesn’t deserve, at least not the way he’s treated her in return. Again, she’s not meddling for the sake of meddling, but because she cares about him, and his family. So he opens up more, explaining how with no dad in the house, he finds himself filling that role for Anzu.

I said nothing untoward was going on between Kaoru and Anzu, because despite acting very much like the kids they are, they’re also very good kids, and it isn’t long before they reconsider their rash decision to run away. Anzu is scared of never seeing Kaoru again, but Kaoru doesn’t want to do anything to hurt her brother or mom. So they’ll head home.

In a case of bad timing, that’s just when Takanashi and Ishino show up and pounce on the kids. Takanashi slaps Kaoru, who in return asks him to provide logical reasons why it’s wrong for him and Anzu to date, and why it matters that Hikari is his brother. Takanashi turns to Anzu, but Kaoru shields her and takes responsibility for keeping her out so late. This prompts Anzu to share in the responsibility. Takanashi realizes he was too harsh, and invites Kaoru to come over sometime to discuss things properly. See? These two kids will be fine.

After taking the kids home, Takanashi notices Ishino’s feet are probably in agony having to run so much in her heeled shoes. When she trips, he’s the one to take her hand, and she pushes through her joy over that fact by reminding herself she was mad at him, and decides they should part ways for today.

As she walks away, Takanashi suggests they go on another date, only this time he’ll ask her out. Again, is that future second date an apology for being a big dumb jerk, a thank-you for helping him find Anzu, or a sign that he’s starting to feel more comfortable seeing Ishino as something more than a friend? Gimme a little of all three, please…I’m just not sure, and that’s a testament to how well the show has handled Takanashi’s arc. He’s come a long way from macking on Iroha.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 17 – Breaking Out of Her Shell

Ayado and Itou’s tearful reunion is prefaced by a brief foray into Ayado’s past, when her first love was a manga character (and not even a main character!) and she became invisible to 3D guys, with tastes that didn’t jive with the other girls. With kind, no-nonsense civil servant parents who left her to her own devices, before she knew it Ayado found herself locked in a shell.

Her new friends helped her break through and emerge from that shell, but her crush on Hikari and his subsequent rejection of her was a roller coaster of pain and embarrassment made her afraid to ever stray towards “that territory” again. That is, until her fear of Itou leaving her was greater than her fear of said territory.

When Ayado tearfully asks to be part of Itou’s life again, Itou tears up too, requiring them to share the handkerchief she borrowed from him. Ayado then reports what’s happened to Hikari and Iroha, and the next day Hikari is ready with a congratulatory cake. Longtime “Ayatou”shippers, Hikari among them, can now let out a sigh of relief and shed a tear or two of joy.

Meanwhile, Iroha finally gets to visit Hikari’s house again, and just when she starts to kiss him, his mom barges in to announce udon is for dinner. Hikari is astounded how quickly and naturally Iroha slips into his family’s rhythm, as if she was always meant to be there; his dad thanks her for all her help, while even Kaoru asks if he can call her big sister.

It’s certainly nice for Hikari to be done with soap opera stuff for the time being, but while Itou and Ayado quickly agree to go to a movie for their first date, Ayado experiences what’s best described as “joy overload.” Simply being near Itou, having his attention, and feeling the warmth of his hand has her fantasizing about doing much more serious things with him.

Because this is Ayado and Itou we’re talking about, her self-consciousness leads to her acting strangely, which Itou misinterprets as her having second thoughts about dating. But unlike past Ayado and Itou miscommunications, Ayado clenches her fists and sets the record straight before the day (and episode) is out.

Realizing she hasn’t actually verbalized how she feels, she starts by telling Itou he’s got it all wrong; far from not wanting to date him, she’s ecstatic beyond belief at the very idea, because she loves him. Then she does what she wanted to do all day and kisses him, and he kisses her back.

From there, no longer confined by any shell, Ayado asks if Itou would mind if she “hit him with the full force of her desires,” to which he wisely suggests they take things slowly. They may be a couple, but they still have a lot of learning about each other—not to mention themselves—to do. It’s a process we’ve already seen unfold with Hikari and Iroha with mostly good results. And so now Ishino and Takanashi are the only remaining singles in the group of friends.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 16 – Stuck On You

Hikari has Iroha prepared for the worst—that he’d move to Hokkaido with his mom. Even though the two have progressed enough in their relationship for her to know and openly admit that she’s not helping matters, she still can’t help yelling at him and running off in a tizzy.

I mean, she wouldn’t do either if she didn’t truly care for and love Hikari. But she’s super-frustrated that neither of them can do anything about it…which is why it’s auspicious that while walking home she crosses paths with someone who can: Hikari’s father.

Iroha uses the opportunity to introduce herself as Hikari’s girlfriend, and Dad apologizes for indirectly disrupting her life as well, but assures her he’s working on a solution, and seems encouraged by Iroha’s devotion to his son for all the right reasons.

The same time Iroha goes to Hikari’s house to apologize for her outburst, Kono, the woman Hikari’s dad is seeing, also pays a visit. They whisk her away to a family restaurant, and Iroha proceeds to lays into her by saying nothing that isn’t true.

She admonishing the 24-year-old Kono for crying when it’s she and Hikari who should be crying about this situation. Iroha would hope someone of Kono’s age would know loving someone is no excuse for destroying the lives of others.

As Kono gets told the riot act, eventually confessing that she didn’t think going out for a couple dinners would be that bad, both Itou and Ayado think about the last time they interacted. She approached him to apologize for ignoring him, and he told her she didn’t have to talk to him anymore, and apologizes himself for not being able to be her friend (since he can’t help but want more).

Ayado ends up moping on the roof, but thankfully, she’s not stuck in that inactive funk for long, because Ishino Arisa is on the case. When Ayado explains how she felt she had no right to fall for someone else so soon after falling for Tsutsui, Ishino delivers a swift slap to the face. Of course she has a right to be happy, and she has to take every opportunity she’s got to do so! If Itou has the wrong idea, she has to correct him!

When Hikari and Iroha realize his dad and Kono never actually did it, but only had dinner a couple times, Iroha is embarrassed for taking things too far, but Hikari is even more angry at his dad for not being clearer about the extent of his betrayal of Mom.

Hikari and Iroha take his dad to the restaurant (I swear high schoolers shouldn’t be able to afford this many trips to the famures, unless Pops is paying the second time around) to talk it through, and he proceeds to tell them the story of how he and his wife, Hikari’s mom, Kie met.

It all started with an act of kindness (not surprising, coming from a Tsutsui male): when one of Kie’s shoes broke, he fixed it with some of the glue he always had on hand (“I’m not a shoemaker, I’m a gluemaker” is a great line that actually sounds better in English).

Kie takes him out to dinner to thank him, and wonders why he’s so quiet. When she brings up the subject of glue, he talks her ear off, then apologizes for being such a “lost cause.” But Kie isn’t impatient; she’s charmed by this kind, awkward guy, and laughs.

When Kie is out with her drunk boss and that boss propositions her, telling her she’s incompetent and only kept around the office because of him, Hikari’s dad (who happened to be there) is there to comfort her. Even though he couldn’t run out and slug her boss, he is able to fix her shoe (again), and comfort her in her moment of vulnerability. He confesses his love to her, and notes how absurd that is considering they hardly know each other…but Kie doesn’t mind. She wants to know him better.

The rest is history…or would be history if Hikari’s dad continued to sit on the sidelines and do and say nothing to stop his marriage and family from becoming destroyed. Hikari has him seek Kie out at the playground to try to work things out, and he’s ultimately successful by being honest, forthright, and kind, the qualities that made her fall for him in the first place. Kie forgives her husband his transgressions, as not only were they not as severe as she initially believed, and that they served to rekindle his love for her.

With that crisis averted, the episode closes with Ayado calling out to Itou, who seemingly ignores her and boards the bus. But he ends up approaching her and asking what’s the matter, like he doesn’t know…and Ayado throws herself at him and tells him what’s the matter: he ignored her, he told her she didn’t have to talk to him anymore…and she can’t think about anything but him. Really great work by Ueda Reina here, as usual, and encouraging news on all dramatic fronts!

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – 13 (Fin) – On Second Thought…Screw Duty!

Tada-kun never fell in love…until he did. And just his luck, it’s someone who is not only from very far away, but whose hand is promised to another. Against as a monumental, implacable an obstacle as Teresa’s stated duty to her country, he feels lost, defeated; like nothing matters anymore—even feelings that got him on a plane.

As Alec basically lets Teresa cry it out one more night (and cries right beside her, owing to her own unrequited love) Kaoru emerges from the sidelines to encourage Tada not to give in to despair or give up on saying what he came there to say to Teresa. While messing around, Kaoru accidentally lets the royal invite Rachel slipped in Tada’s bag.

That’s all the stimulus Tada needs to spring into action, retrieving the damp envelope at all costs. He’s regained the will and the imperative to see and speak with Teresa one last time…even if he’s being a bother.

Turns out Tada is far more of a bother to Charles and Alec than Teresa, but while Alec is quick to call for Tada to leave, Charles, who puts Teresa’s happiness before his own, lets her and Tada have some more time together. Nothing he says or does can change the fact Teresa simply doesn’t love him.

It sucks, but it’s not at all unexpected when two people are arranged, basically at birth, to marry one another. Love can certainly develop in such a scenario, but in my personal view it’s definitely putting the cart before the horse, and such arrangements aren’t a match for organically developing love such as Teresa and Tada’s.

When Tada finally confesses he’s loved Teresa since they met, she accuses him of being unfair. She left Japan so she could lock away all of her feelings deep inside for all time, but all it took was him following her to her home and saying a few words to break that lock.  There’s no “last day of crying” for Teresa, as long as she’s not in a situation where she can live with the one she loves.

As the credits roll, we return to Japan, where aside from Pin-senpai graduating, is more-or-less the status quo…with one very important development: Charles broke off his engagement to Teresa, rightfully acknowledging that it wouldn’t be fair for either of them to follow through with something that was not their choice.

In a bit of a surprise, Teresa not only seems happy to be free of her engagement to Charles, but took it further by “running after” Tada back to Japan, either delaying or outright cancelling her succession to the throne.

Tada is shocked that she would all but abdicate for him, but once they’re in each others arms, the whys, wherefores, and consequences melt away, and it’s just the two of them, Teresa, and Tada, no longer having never fallen in love. Is it a bit too neat and tidy of an ending? You bet…but who cares!

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – 12 (Not Fin) – It’s Not You, it’s the Royal We

First, I have to applaud TKnS for shedding its comfortable Japanese high school milieu for something completely different that expands the story’s boundaries a whole hemisphere’s width and lends it a sense of occasion.

Second, I applaud Mitsuyoshi for getting over his aviophobia to make the trip to Larsenburg, for he feared something far more than flying: not knowing why Teresa left, and not telling her how he truly felt about her. (Kaoru also cheers his friend on, but keeps his distance)

Larsenberg is gorgeous, as one would expect of a fictitious Germanic-sounding miniature kingdom. You can’t help but notice how different it is from the Japan he left, right down to the fact it’s now wintertime.

Mitsuyoshi arrives at the address his gramps stipulated as the place where he’d find Reiko, AKA Rachel, but has trouble gaining access, because it’s a goddamn palace, complete with a Royal Guard that won’t answer his questions…or speak at all.

Meanwhile, Teresa, Alec, and Charles are busy with the duties of a royal couple and their bodyguard…only with a little bit of palace drama mixed in. Alec reveals her lifelong love for Charles when Teresa walks into find her hugging his recently-worn jacket.

Teresa also picks up on Alec’s tell, a grabbing of the arm that signifies lying. Alec denies and denies, not because she doesn’t believe Teresa knows about her feelings (she does), but because she knows nothing good could come of her expressing her feelings for Charles; he’s supposed to marry Teresa, not her.

Before Teresa and Alec can continue their discussion, Mitsuyoshi pops in. He had the good fortune of being spotted outside the palace by Rachel, who invites him in and tells him how she used to work at his gramps’ cafe when she was in college, before moving to Larsenburg to serve the royal family.

Rachel and Charles present Mitsuyoshi to a very shocked Teresa. He apologizes for surprising her, but she knows she’s the one who needs to apologize and properly tell him what the dealio is. Their reunion came far later in the episode than I expected, and it’s almost painfully brief and cordial.

In a sumptuous gilded drawing room the two sit across from one another, Mitsuyoshi expresses his relief that she’s okay and relays Teresa the others’ regards. Then Teresa comes out with it: she’s the future queen of Larsenburg, and thus there is, in her mind, “no way she can live the life she wants”, i.e. either as an ordinary woman in Japan, or as queen, but getting to choose her man.

In the latter case, Teresa drops a second bombshell on Mitsuyoshi: her lifelong betrothal to none other than Charles. We never see if or how he reacts to this verbally after his initial pained look; we only see the aftermath, with neither Alec nor Charles able to approach a sobbing Teresa in her darkened chambers, while Kaoru finaly reveals he followed Mitsuyoshi here, only to watch his friend crying for the first time.

And it’s about here when I was wondering “Wait, really? You’re going to end it like this, show?” But the show didn’t. MAL misled me into thinking this was the last episode, but there’s one more. Thus, there’s hope everyone can walk away with some kind of closure!