Tokyo Ghoul:re – 09 – Awful Superheroes

Tsukiyama Shuu……is BACK, YA’LL! He knows Kaneki Ken when he sees him…and “Sasaki Haise” IS Kaneki Ken and Shuu will have him. He’ll chase him round the Moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames before he gives him up!

Even if he doesn’t know who he is. That means striding right up to the pack of young Doves that surrounds him…and having to be scooped up and whisked away by Kanae. No matter; it’s great to see the Gourmet has his appetite and vigor back…all thanks to Hori Chie (Kanae seemed particularly clueless about how to quell their master’s slump).

The Quinx are in that ward because Kan…er, Sasaki wants to have them all fitted for masks at Uta’s shop, so they can infiltrate ghouls. Uta is glad to be of service, and has a high opinion of every Quinx member. Kori officially denies Sasaki’s request to go forward on such a plan, but cannot deny it’s a good idea considering how similar the Quinx are to Ghouls.

Meanwhile, creepy-looking Kijima has released a gruesome video of him torturing a member of Shuu’s household staff, presumably out securing food for him. Kijima is dangling his captive as bait, no doubt hoping to snag more important Ghouls. Not the most pleasant methods!

Within a day or so, Shuu’s Kaneki-fueled recovery is complete. The kid’s alive, and so he can keep on living. The hard part will be to get someone who’s forgotten who they are to remember who he is.

Shuu arranges for a number of “chance encounters”, but if we’re generous, he’s basically just stalking Sasaki, and coming to the same roadblock every time: the pesky Quinx kids that keep him from being alone with Kaneki.

Kanae hires a team from Aogiri Tree, including Torso, to eliminate the Quinx Squad so her master can have what he wants (Kanae also gives Shuu a second photo, at which point a much more lucid Shuu realizes his little friend Hori is supplying the pics for his benefit).

Quinx ends up scattered, with Sasaki taking on the bulk of the Ghouls in a parking lot; Tooru and Saiko go one way, while Urie and Shirazu go another. Among the mercs is the “Grave Robber”, who is a fan of burgundy nail polish and, presumably, stealing quinques from the Doves she’s killed.

When up against Kanae, Shirazu’s kagune is damaged and he has to use Nutcracker…but he just can’t. He’s still not okay with how things went down, and especially not okay with using what amounts to her corpse as a weapon. Luckily, a stronger Urie is up to the task of forcing Kanae to retreat, and then intervenes in the battle between Tooru and Grave Robber.

Saiko, who was told to hide, is found by…someone, who proceeds to try to choke her out until she’s saved by…someone else. So many new (or old?) faces to keep up with! Her vague description of her savior causes Sasaki stare into space thoughtfully, as Eto, who we know wants Kaneki to get his memories back, perches atop a building not far away.

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Koi wa Ameagari no You ni – 04

Akira’s straightforward, iron persistence wears Kondou down almost immediately, and he promises they’ll go on a date. This fills Akira with joy, but she tries to hide it in the restaurant, with good reason; in the wrong hands, the knowledge she’s into the manager and that he’s indulging her desire to date him could be bad, bad news.

So naturally that information falls into the hands of Kase, one of the kitchen staff, and he’s definitely the wrong hands. Not about to let Old Man Kondou get one over on him, Kase uses Akira’s secret to leverage a date of his own with her. It’s flat-out despicable conduct, perpetrated against someone who clearly has no romantic interest in him whatsoever. He doesn’t care. She’s hot, and he has dirt.

Akira, clearly not wanting things with Kondou blown up before they’ve even begun, quickly accepts his proposal: a date for his silence. All because she drew a cute little drawing depicting her love for Kondou, and let Kase get his grubby mitts on it. But just because Akira slipped up early and badly doesn’t mean she deserves the trying farce Kase puts her through.

She throws something on, an immediate signal she doesn’t give a shit about this date (though still manages to look stylish, btw). She sits through a bad movie, and afterward, when she voices her intent to leave after paying him back, he grabs her arm and pulls her into a cafe for tea.

He presumes to have her all figured out: She’s fallen in love with someone because she can’t be on the track team anymore. Then he says it’s “creepy” that that someone is 45. The irony of someone who just forcefully extended his “date” with a girl against her will calling someone else creepy…the irony is too much.

He grabs her again when she tries to leave again, just as Kondou is calling, and Akira has to wrench herself loose. Words can’t express how goddamn worried I was when, in her haste to talk to Kondou (who grudgingly agrees to pick someplace for their date), she wanders into a dark and isolated place; perfect for an ambush.

Because Kase is an utter piece of shit, of course he kept following her, and watched her very private moment of giddiness. This is a man who is not happy, and so will not let anyone else be happy, or even safe. He assures her it won’t work out with Kondou, and that she’s better off with him, leaning in for an unwanted kiss and telling her this isn’t over before finally fucking off.

Calling Kase scum would be an insult to scum, but it’s a testament to Akira’s toughness that she’s able to so quickly shake off the unpleasantness of her forced date, but I’m still gravely worried. After all, Kase made it clear he’s by no means done harassing her.

The logistics of her date with Kondou are all but identical to those with Kase—same meeting spot, same movie, same cafe—but the fact she’s on a date with someone she actually likes, who would never pull the shit Kase pulled, makes all the difference in the world.

Akira dresses to the nines and does her hair all fancy, and while the date doesn’t seem to be the best ever or anything, that doesn’t matter in the slightest because all she really wants is to spend time with him. Kondou, meanwhile, can’t see any way that this girl is enjoying herself, and when he sees how young everyone is in the cafe, he freaks and bolts.

Akira stays with him, even when he has a lengthy phone call on a bridge at sunset—bad form, but then this guy hasn’t dated in decades—and he spots her waiting patiently as the light catches her just right (such a beautiful sight), and he’s not so much ashamed to be on a date with someone so young and innocent, but ashamed and depressed because he’s so old and worn out and pathetic.

Of course, that’s just, like, his opinion, man, because Akira enjoyed her date quite a lot. She even fantasizes about running to the turnstile where Kondou is departing and kissing him on the cheek from behind, but does not do so. Again, we have a stark contrast between how Akira, as the instigator of the date, treats Kondou, and how Kase treated her.

When Akira gets home to find her mother didn’t throw out the movie pamphlet from her date with Kase, and mixed it with the identical pamphlet with Kondou, her mom doesn’t understand why she’s so furious; they’re the same, what does it matter?

But it does matter; the two dates she had were the difference between night and day. I earnestly hope there’s more day to come, while being very cognizant of the fact there’s the night of Kase lurking nearby. Of course, it’s ultimately not as simple as night and day, or black and white.

In Kase we clearly have a guy who has demonstrated he is not at all a good guy, while Kondou has given us no reason to doubt he’s anything but the kind, self-effacing man he appears to be. Indeed, we see he’s scared of getting close to anyone, regardless of age, because he doesn’t want to get hurt again.

On the other hand, assholishness aside, Kase does have a point regarding Akira suddenly crushing on someone virtually the moment she loses her place on the track team. I just wish he didn’t have to deliver that point while on a date into which he blackmailed her.

But the questions remain: how sustainable is her crush? How long can she divert all of her energies to thinking of Kondou? How much is Kondou willing to indulge her? Is she in love with Kondou, or the idea of Kondou in her head?

Koi wa Ameagari no You ni – 03

Quite disappointed the words she worked so hard to say to Kondou didn’t give her the response she wanted, Akira becomes so preoccupied by Kondou and her feelings for him she seems to float above everything else with little interest.

She reconsiders asking her classmates for advice, and we kinda see them through her eyes. She knows how they’d respond if she mentions someone she likes, and especially if she tells them his age. So she doesn’t bother. When two track kohais lure her back to the track to watch and offer tips, it feels like a gross imposition, and an insensitive one at that.

Upon watching one set a new personal record, she regrets having been lured. When she goes, the girls consider going to her restaurant, she snaps: “DON’T!” That place is her world. Hers…and the manager’s.

As if mimicking Akira’s darkened mood, the heavens open up and a steady rain falls. Akira has no umbrella or coat, so she get soaked. She doesn’t care; she’s too lost in thought.

This rain reminds her of the day she injured her ankle, having felt something but simply taped it up and practiced in the rain anyway. We see everything from the injury, the doctor visit, and the isolation she felt upon being knocked out of action…and it’s frikkin’ heartbreaking!

Mind you, all of that ends with her getting a free cup of joe from Kondou and BOOM, it’s gone from the rain to…After the Rain. Great title, that. When she arrives at the restaurant in the present, soaked head to toe, she meets Kondou there, having a smoke.

He beckons to her to get inside, but she isn’t there for a shift. She’s there to repeat her words, and phrase it so there’s no mistake: I like you. Then she leaves. Kondou, bless him, gets the message, and it causes him to space out at a green light. Was Akira’s confession just a dream; a mirage in the rain?

After it rattles around his aged cranium, Kondou determines that it is not a dream, but a prank Akira and the other young staff members are pulling on him, because there’s no way she’d seriously be into him. He’s SO SURE of that he curses himself for almost falling for the prank!

But as he’s an adult, he doesn’t make a big deal of it. Kids will be kids, and sometimes kids are awful, both to each other and to their elders. He shrugs it off, though not because he isn’t irritated. Those punks!

Akira’s behavior upon returning to work seems to back up his theory, at least for a time. But when her casual talk immediately turns to I’ve told you how I feel; what’s your response, all hope that this was something “shrug-off-able” disintegrates.

Kondou is very careful with how he proceeds. He offers Akira a ride home, since it’s still wet out and she’s still recovering from her ankle tweak. He’s direct about his response: he can’t give her a proper one, because he’s 45 and she’s 17.

Akira immediately disputes the relevance of their age gap, and when Kondou persists, she repeats her confession so loudly and strongly he puts the car in a skid. This isn’t something he can shoo away with what he thought was common sense and social conventions. She’s resolute!

Sensing both of them could use some air (and that continuing to operate a motor vehicle could be hazardous at the moment), the two go to a park. Kondou follows a respectable distance behind Akira, who surely wishes he’d walk beside her. They come to a tree where there’s shelter from the stray raindrops that linger.

He asks her why she likes him, of all people. We already know she has plenty of reasons, and isn’t just interested in him because he “saved” her when she was at her lowest—when the proverbial rain was at its harshest. She’s come to like him even more since getting to know him more. He’s hard-working, honest, kind, fair, and a good father.

And he makes her laugh; indeed, when he insists she reconsider, as he’s a 45-year-old boy with no hopes or dreams, that right there makes her smile and laugh in a way he’d never seen, because she’s hearing him talk in a way she’s never heard him talk before.

Akira doesn’t care that he’s 45, or that she’s 17, or how low an opinion he may have of himself, and she doesn’t list any of the reasons I mentioned above. Instead, she questions the very notion of liking someone requiring a reason at all. And she’s right; you can cherry-pick whatever reasons you happen to brainstorm when explaining why you like or love someone.

But the reality is perhaps closer to Akira’s particular philosophy at this time: that love is ultimately a mystery. You may never know for sure why you feel it for someone; but you can never let that lack of answers frustrate or discourage you.

Being pursued in this way is a strange feeling for Kondou, and a nostalgic one, since it’s been decades since he’s felt it. But he has felt it, so he knows what it’s like better than most. He remembers being Akira’s age, and for a second, we see him like that.

When Kondou jokingly challenges Akira to go on a date him, and find out just how short a time it would take until she finds it creepy, Akira takes it to mean We’re going on a date? We’re going on a date! Kondou dare not correct her, at least not then and there. So, at least for now, on a date they shall go.

Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 06

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It’s Summertime on Y7, and Miyamura, Urara and Itou waste no time hitting the beach, but Yamada can’t go because he has supplemental lessons. Urara in her generosity lets Yamada switch bodies for her so he can soak in the rays. Itou seems miffed by Miyamura’s assertion Urara thinks it’s boring without Yamada with them, but Urara has kinda always liked Yamada above them.

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While in Yamada’s body, Urara is suddenly confronted by the green-haired Otsuka Meika, one of Yamada’s fellow summer school buddies, who ends up kissing him as a “gesture of their new friendship.” This makes Urara suspect Otsuka is a witch, but she doesn’t know her power, as nothing happens during the kiss.

The next day, after Otsuka accuses Yamada (who is really Yamada now) of being a different person (causing her a nosebleed and such), and Yamada returns to the dorms to find Nene and Ushio have joined them on their…er, witchhunt. The only problem is, the “volume two” notebook they seek is in a locked classroom, and the one with the keys is running Yamada’s class. To get access, the class will have to pass the exam and end the supplementary lessons.

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To that end, Urara switches with Yamada manages to convince Otsuka to kiss Yamada one more time, while she tasks Yamada with giving her a bath. This results in Nene getting all close and personal with Urara, unaware it’s Yamada until it’s too late. I love how these powers encroach on all of the characters’ boundaries of privacy and modesty, a free and uninhibited dynamic rare in a genre where even calling someone you like by their first name is a big step.

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Urara succeeds, and Otsuka wearily kisses Yamada again, and then Yamada kisses everyone else…and nothing happens. The boys all meekly decide to wait it out in the girls’ room, but Nene and Itou break their resolve and they all go to sleep. Yamada is then woken up by a loud, brash female voice, which turns out to be Otsuka’s; her power is telepathy. Neato!

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The next morning Yamada undergoes telepathy training with Otsuka, whose inner voice is far more forceful and domineering than her regular voice. In fact, there’s a flame-wreathed drill sergeant who won’t suffer any sass. She’s already passed her telepathy on to the others in their class, and now Yamada is a member of their little outfit. Together they’ll collaborate on passing the test, which is what everyone wants.

The problem is, witnessing Urara in Yamada’s body gave them the mistaken impression Yamada is smart and has all the answers. He doesn’t, but they’re depending on him anyway, so he must send the questions to Miyamura for Urara to solve. Then Urara will send the answers via Miyamoto to Yamada, who’ll distribute them to the others.

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It’s a lot of complicated telepathy to ask of a novice, but he works hard and everyone passes the test. And to the episode’s credit, it doesn’t get bogged down in showing a lot of the process, which probably would’ve just made my head hurt! Yet even though the classroom is unlocked it has been cleared out, allegedly by the president. Still, they’ve discovered a new witch, and the whole big group celebrates by enjoying the rest of their Summer vacation at the beach.

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On the last night, as the others light fireworks, Yamada and Urara have a bit of alone time, during which he reports that he may have figured out why the three witches he knows have their powers: they wished for them: Urara, who didn’t like her situation, gained the power to switch bodies; Nene, who wanted to be president, gained the power to charm; and Otsuka, who couldn’t talk to people, gained the power to communicate.

That means there must be a reason Yamada, while not technically a witch himself, gained the power to copy powers. It’s a mystery he believes will be solved when they discover the remaining four witches, something they’ll have to do without the benefit of the second volume notebook.

One could say he shares the same insecurities as the three witches he’s ID’ed so far, being a recovering delinquent, and his life has grown richer and happier with each ID. So maybe it would behoove him to look within himself to find the other four, since they’ll inevitably have the same problems he wrestles with.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 05

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I had my doubts about what would happen to my lovely body-swapping comedy when more of the titular seven witches entered the fray: would the balance be upset? Would the extra characters just make things more muddled and unfocused, killing the crispness I’ve enjoyed so much? Well, if Odagiri Nene is any indicator, my reservations were unnecessary. Nene is far more than a school villain, Y7 is about far more than body-swapping, and it knows exactly what it’s doing.

It’s just Ryuu’s luck that Urara wants to kiss him just when he’s off to go see Nene to resolve his current “charming” problem. Urara is the last person he wants to fall in love with him through some kind of kissing spell because, well, he’s falling in love with her for real, and wants the real thing in return. So he tries to keep his problem a secret from Urara.

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That doesn’t last long, however, as he’s unable to find Nene and the time he agreed to kiss Yamada comes and goes. Where a lesser show wouldn’t have him telling Urara the truth until the very end of the episode, Y7 has a lot more ground to cover, and covers it deftly and efficiently.

And it’s actually good for Yamada to tell Urara wha’ts happened, because now they’ve determined that body-swapping isn’t Yamada’s power, but Urara’s; Yamada’s power is copying others’ powers, while making his host susceptible to their own. The body-swapping Urara swaps bodies…and Nene has fallen in love with Yamada.

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As it happens, as Yamada and Urara kiss and figure this out, Nene is watching from the bushes with her lieutenant, Igarashi Ushio (Ono Daisuke), who is upset that Nene has been overcome by unrequited love for Yamada, because, well, it’s pretty obvious that he likes Nene.

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At first, Ushio lashes out at Yamada with a vicious kick. We learn that the two were old friends and fellow n’er-do-wells who sought the same thing by transferring to Suzaku High: fresh starts. But neither of them were able to find any guys they could tolerate, let alone befriend. But an incident caused them to drift apart, leaving Yamada essentially alone until he met (or rather fell on) Urara.

Ushio calms himself and takes a more contrite attitude, getting on his knees, promising he’ll destroy the incriminating photos of Yamada and even make Nene drop out of the election, if only he’ll change Nene, the person most important to him, back to normal.

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Yamada refuses, but Urara agrees on his behalf. This angers him, but in a moment of emphatic (and admirable) assertiveness, Urara gives him a sharp, brutal SLAP and orders him to knock it off. Just as he did with his predicament and the start of this episode, he’s being stubborn and holding back information form her that could help her understand his situation better. They’ve switched bodies numerous times; this is not the time to be tight-lipped, especially when Urara assumed from his standoffishness that he’d gotten sick of her, which is so not the case.

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Grudgingly, Yamada agrees to kiss Nene, satisfying Ushio. When Yamada asks him if he kissed Nene, he says he did, but he likes the person he became because of it. We learn why when Yamada gives Urara the rest of their story. While in an alley they came upon some roughs picking on a girl from their school. Ushio instigates a brawl and the girl is able to run off, and Yamada backs him up, because he’s not about to watch his friend take on four guys by himself. It’s good to see Yamada in Full Delinquent Mode, even if it’s a flashback.

Back at school though, Ushio throws Yamada under the bus. Not only does he get suspended for a week, but the entire school becomes afraid of him, the very thing he hoped to avoid by transferring there in the first place. Ushio, meanwhile, washes his hands of Yamada and takes his place beside the classmate they rescued from the roughs: Nene.

Had Ushio met Nene before, kissed her, and become infatuated to the point of not only starting a fight for her, but framing Yamada so he took the heat? Or had Ushio and Nene never met, and it was Nene who kissed Ushio out of appreciation for saving her? The possibilities are intriguing.

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In any case, Ushio’s betrayal was the reason Yamada hesitated in turning Nene back to normal. But when he meets Nene in private at her hideout in the old school building, he gets fresh insight into her power, and why he can’t possibly allow Nene to stay in a state of unrequited love forever.

Nene seems eager to get this whole thing over with when everyone else is around, but when they leave the two alone, she asks him not to kiss her. You see, she never knew how happy her power could make people until she herself experienced it, something Yamada made possible. And whatever else being in love with Yamada is—unintended, artificial, futile—it isn’t BORING. As we saw with Ito and Miyamura last week after Yamada kissed them, being in love is awesome.

Yamada now understands why Ushio doesn’t mind being under Nene’s spell. But Ushio has a shot at Nene; Yamada makes it clear he’d never fall for Nene, either naturally (as Ushio might have with her) or due to her power (which is reflected by his copying power). Urara is right; Yamada can’t let Nene pine for him forever, and at the end of the day Nene isn’t of sound mind. So he kisses her.

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As if the resolution of this situation wasn’t enough, Ushio produces an incomplete journal from a past Supernatural Studies Club, documenting the Seven “Witches”, or girls with supernatural powers, who attend Sazaku High. Two have now been identified by the club: Urara and Nene, but the other five are a mystery, and the new club is going to find them, because Urara, being one herself, is confident that they want to be found.

Yamada is their Witch Detector, and so grudgingly goes along with this plan. And he can’t really complain, as both he and Ushio got what they wanted: new and exciting school lives that aren’t defined by their violent pasts, and interesting friends. I look forward to new witches being discovered and even more tantalizingly complex character dynamics to sprout up.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 04

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What keeps every minute of Yamada 7 compelling is the cast’s ability to not simply explore and investigate Yamada’s strange power, but also use it to their advantage. Urara has been the most stealthy yet most prolific in that regard, especially this week, when she swaps bodies with Yamada just before going on a school onsen trip.

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In this case, swapping bodies isn’t about experimenting on the nature of the power. Urara is ostensibly using it so she can study as Yamada while Yamada mingles with the other girls. But because he’s doing it in Urara’s body, he’s able to effect a change in how they regard her; that is, as one of their own rather than an outsider.

Yamada storms into Urara’s room demanding his body back out of exhaustion from spending all day and potentially all night with the super-hyper girls, but it’s also an opportunity for Urara to admit she’s left too much to him, so it’s her turn to take over in her own body. Their perpendicular kiss, followed by a shot of Urara from Yamada’s POV, is pretty darned sexy, to boot.

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But Urara was reckless, and went through her own belongings—including admiring her own panties—while in Yamada’s body, and Vice President Odagiri Nene snaps incriminating pictures. Now, we know from the OP that Nene is most likely one of the seven witches (along with Urara herself), so we know she’s aware of what really happened in those photos. But she wants the presidency, and if Urara skips out on a mock exam, it will hurt Miyamura’s chances and help her own.

A flustered Yamada seeks counsel from Itou and Miyamura, who are more interested in playing cards; this is their first of several great exchanges for what’s turning out to be an awesome supporting duo. They’re not cool with him using Urara to explain away the photos, as it would hurt her reputation. As for switching bodies with Nene, they’re not sure he’s thought it all through.

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Still, he has little other options, so he calls Salia Nene out later that night in her jammies and kisses her—or rather, she kisses him…which is an important distinction, because not only do they fail to switch bodies, but when Miyamura and Itou kiss him, he fails to switch bodies with them as well, meaning his ability is gone.

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Everyone agrees the best thing to do is sleep on it—Yamada’s had a long, exhausting day—but the next day at the barbecue Urara makes him yakisoba in gratitude for helping her get along with the other girls, who all love her. She also wants to go on a trip over Summer break with the Supernatural Club. As Yamada is a member of said club, and he likes Urara, this is an enticing prospect.

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Which gives him a quandary: Urara joined the club so she could switch bodies with Yamada in a safe, private place. If he doesn’t have that ability anymore, will she leave the club, and abandon him? I doubt it, but Yamada has bigger problems upon returning to school: Itou and Miyamura are infatuated with him.

This is a bold move for Y7, having not even fully explored all the possibilities of his body-swapping abilities, to give him the power to make whoever he kisses fall in love with him. Not only that, when he kisses them again to take away the love, they still feel a sense of loss, and only want to get that feeling back.

Masuda Toshiki and Uchida Maaya put on a comic clinic portraying Miyamura and Itou as not only all hot and bothered and competitive with each other while under the spell, to their excitement and desire about being put back under the spell when they’re not on it.

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My theory for what’s going on? Urara and Nene are two of the Seven Witches. When Yamada kisses Urara, he gains the power to swap bodies. When he kisses Nene, he gains the power to charm others. Worried about what Urara would do if she found out he lost the former power, he tries to keep it a secret from her as he heads to Nenes’ to “resolve everything”…but Urara’s right outside the door.

Would kissing Nene or Urara get him his body-swapping power back? What powers do the other five witches have in store? And who’s aware that they’re a witch and who isn’t—I’d guess Urara’s the former and Nene’s the latter, but who knows? All I know is, this is some entertaining supernatural romantic comedy right here.

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Ao Haru Ride – 06

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When Futaba learned that Yuuri liked Kou, it could have been a simple matter of her telling her she likes him too, so of course Futaba lies and says she doesn’t, and everything Yuuri says and does thereafter makes it that much harder for her to recant her statement. Yuuri trusted her, so now the truth will hurt Yuuri and damage that trust, instead of just the former.

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But by lying to Yuuri, Futaba is lying to herself too; something she realizes by the episode’s highly charged ending. Futaba decided to consider whether she actually loved Kou, or was simply charmed by his sparingly-used nice side. She strives to devalue her feelings for Kou compared to Yuuri’s, even though it’s far more likely the opposite is true. It seems to me that Yuuri is the one letting one instance of Kou being nice balloon into infatuation.

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Futaba’s doubts are supported when she has trouble with Kou trivia, but Yuuri knows even less about him, and has no history with him. Not to devalue the strength of Yuuri’s feelings, but from our perspective, Futaba was first, and has just as much right to love Kou as she does. We also don’t see Kou choosing Yuuri over Futaba…not even as a cruel joke.

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Of course, I’m talking about sense and logic, concepts unknown to teenagers with love on the brain. Futaba wants to love Kou, but it makes her feel like crap because of Yuuri. It’s an unenviable position, and she tries to let fate and circumstance choose for her, with Kou himself as the game piece. The result is satisfying because as inevitable as the couple seems, in this instance it really could have gone either way.

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Kou surprises her when he sticks around after she turns in the paperwork, and even when she takes the ridiculous step of deciding to give up on Kou if he doesn’t get out of the train and not giving up if he does, Kou stays right there, by her side, a fairly arbitrary test! Yet, it’s as if he’s just naturally drawn to her, and picking up on what he said, it would be “unnatural” for them to be apart. At the end of the day, she wanted him to step out of that train—to pick her—and he did. So, as Futaba says in her head: Sorry, Yuuri.

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Ao Haru Ride – 04

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The leadership training retreat turns out to be something of a comedy of errors right from the start, but leaving her bag at his place and getting on the wrong train does result in Futaba and Kou spending more time alone together than they otherwise might have. Futaba also gets to see (and feel) Kou shirtless. But they end up being so late to the retreat that they have to write formal apologies.

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They also end up alienating two-thirds of the other three members of their group. Murao and Kou do not get along in their first encounter, Kominato takes her side and leaves with her, but not before taking Yuuri’s cupcake, revealing her dark side. The group is in tatters, which doesn’t speak well for the leadership skills of the reps. Then again, this is training; you don’t just hop on a bike and start riding; you have to skin a couple of knees.

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The thing is, Kou and Futaba are generally quite nice to one another throughout the episode, culminating in a very nicely-staged scene at night where Kou puts his head down on the table opposite Futaba’s, and they both end up turning to face one another. This is while Kou is, in spite of the devil-may-care attitude he tries to maintain, going out of his way to say nice things about her.

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They’ve rarely if ever been as close as they are here, but as lovely a moment it is while it lasts, it’s a bit premature, as Kou isn’t ready to admit how he feels about Futaba; not ready enough to be at the point where she’s nuzzling up to him. It’s panic and his long-honed defenses kicking in at the worst moment; he throws barbs her way, and she gets pissed. It’s a lasting pissed-ness, one the others can’t help but notice.

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Futaba and Kou act very much like an old couple locked into a familiar battle. Futaba snaps out of the funk on her own, realizing that it isn’t that she doesn’t love the New Kou, it’s that she still has a lot of work to do in getting to know him, as well as continuing to improve herself. Which is why it almost seems like we’re going to be subjected to a cliched gut-punch when she goes to make up with Kou and spots him smiling at a girl apparently confessing to him.

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That doesn’t happen, thankfully. Instead, there’s a twist: Futaba somehow thought two third-year boys were trees or something, and ended up clinging to them long enough that they thought she wanted to confess to them. But yet again, Kou steps up to rescue her, even going so far as to tell them she’s his girlfriend. She also starts to suspect that she may love Kou after all, since whatever he says to her affects her deeply and lastingly. He’s under her skin, and she’s pretty much under his too—why else would he keep finding ways to be with her?

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It’s weird watching a rom-com that satirizes shoujo (GSNK) right beside the very kind shoujo anime it enjoys satirizing. Ao Haru Ride has its share of funny moments, but they’re never ironic commentary on the genre the show inhabits. It’s playing things straight and sticking with the fundamentals, which is fine with me.

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Stray Observations:

ahr46Part of Murao’s hostility towards Kou stems from the fact she’s infatuated with his older brother, whom she gets alone and tries to make a move on but is rejected, not for the first time. Falling for a teacher who isn’t going to cross that line…not a pleasant position to be in.