Talentless Nana – 05 – Photo Finish

As evidenced when he immediately blackmails Nana into being his girlfriend, Hatadaira Tsunekichi is clearly a scumbag, and thus not really worthy of any sympathy. Of her victims so far, he’s the one least interested in being a hero. But he’s also a big ol’ weirdo!

Perhaps due to a life lived knowing what the future holds via photography, he’s adopted a habit of having dialogues with himself as he holds up his two hands. It’s not his scumbaggery, but his mental instability that makes him such a wild card for Nana’s plans.

Nana could have reasonably expected Tsunekichi to try to make an unsolicited move on her their “first night” together. Instead, he’s primarily concerned with keeping her holed up until the time of the damning P.E. shed photo arrives. Since he’s still alive in the photo, he feels untouchable enough to fall asleep with Nana in his room.

That’s when Nana watches his precog photography in action—it happens when he’s asleep—and one of them in particular makes her do a double take. She seemingly hides that photo but Tsunekichi finds it on her person. And as soon as I saw it—depicting her being strangled—I assumed she staged it so he’d believe he’d turned the tables in their future scuffle.

But even with such a predictable development, thinks don’t go exactly as planned for Nana in that P.E. shed. That boils down to her not being certain that the fate of the photos is inescapable. Tsunekichi can only take five future photos at a time, so who’s to say there isn’t another limit he hasn’t revealed? Nana changes the time on his watch to make him ten minutes late for the fated encounter, but he manages to free himself from her jump rope hold.

It turns out he’s “hyper-aware” of time and knew she changed his watch, but he assumed he’d was the one to pill her top off based on the photo of her being choked. Sure enough, it was a selfie she staged, and Tsunekichi didn’t notice it wasn’t one of his. Due to her her position on the floor, she was able to grab a poison needle that was out of reach when he first entered—and stick him with it, killing him.

But what of the real fifth photo she replaced with her selfie—the one that gave her a double take? As Nana says, that’s where “the real ordeal begins.” It’s a photo of Kyouya and Michiru entering the shed and discovering her with Tsunekichi on the ground. Naturally, Nana plays the victim, using school scuttlebutt that day about Tsunekichi calling her his girlfriend.

When Michiru is unable to find a wound or heal Tsunekichi , Nana details his attempted blackmail of her with what she says were nude photos of her. With a reliable ally (and surrogate to the rest of the class) in Michiru beside her, Kyouya’s alternative theories can only go so far, not matter how close they are to the reality of what happened.

Even so, Nana is sloppy, returning to Tsunekichi’s dorm and being caught there by Kyouya. Fortunately, at no point does he see the incriminating photos, but as we learn from both his and Nana’s inner monologue, he’s sharp enough to latch on to even her smallest mistakes.

Under the circumstances, it’s impossible for her to be perfect, but going forward she has to be as close to perfect as possible if she’s to succeed in the mission. Before she commits to doing so, another imperfection reveals itself: she only has four of Tsunekichi’s five genuine precog photos…the fifth one—the one we saw last week in the cafeteria—is missing.

It’s the photo of Nana pushing Nanao off the cliff, and it’s not in Tsunekichi’s dorm, nor did Kyouya find it. Nope, it’s kind, trusting Michuru who finds it on Tsunekichi’s person while trying in vain to heal him! I was expecting her to find the puncture wound and extract the poison, but it looks like the book on Tsunekichi is closed.

Finding the photo now puts Michuru square in the crosshairs…unless Nana can somehow convince her to keep quiet about it. Considering how sinister Nana’s aura is when she walks into the shed, you could assume Michiru’s time on this world grows short—especially considering she’d already fulfilled her task of compiling a list of the other students’ Talents.

Will Nana have to get rid of Michuru earlier than scheduled—or will she find another way to spin straw into gold? As always, I’m eager to find out!

Talentless Nana – 04 – A Useful Idiot

Nana contemplates her next target when the two class Gals pick on Inukai Michiru, the meekest, most guileless member of the class, with a love letter Nana knows is just a fake. Michuru spots a scrape on Nana’s leg and proceeds to reveal her Talent: a tongue that heals all wounds. It’s a scene that happens so suddenly you almost overlook the yuri/BDSM subtext.

Nana also determines that Michiru could cause the deaths of 150k (still not sure how that algorithm works), and thus as good a next target as any. The only problem is, Kyouya is still breathing down her neck. Nana decides she’ll play her part, first in informing poor Michuru that her after-school rendezvous will be a bust (the love letter was fake), then cheer her up with some lunch.

That night, Nana arms herself with an icepick to do the deed, but finds Kyouya sitting right outside her door, “guarding”, i.e. watching her out of “concern”, i.e. suspicion. She then proceeds to play loud music and sneak out her window—which she should have done in the first place! It appears as though Nana is going to stab Michiru in the back, and Kyouya hears a scream from Michiru’s dorm…but when he arrives, it is Nana on the floor with a stab wound.

She claims she heard the Enemy’s inner-voice and raced to save its target, Michiru. Detective Kyouya can use this latest incident and connect it to past info however he wishes, but everyone else in the girl’s dorm is immediately united behind Nana when they see what she did for Michiru.

Kyouya later considers that Nana could have stabbed herself—which of course she did—but Nana presents to him and everyone else a lie (an invisible monster) more feasible than the truth.

Kyouya’s lack of concrete evidence to support his accurate suspicions to a class now fully trusting of Nana essentially paralyzes him. His theories remain in his brain, harmless to her efforts. She’s even able to get Ice Prince and Fire Thug to agree on something: that SHE should be their new leader in Nanao’s stead. Since her self-inflicted attack is accepted as an attack by an invisible Enemy of Humanity, she can use them as cover for all subsequent killings. Nana is flying high—ultimately too high.

Her arrogance gets the better of her when she instructs an enthusiastically willing Michiru to talk with all of the other students and record their Talents in a book. This would seem to be a no-brainer considering what a Chatty Kathy Michiru is (and she can be offed when no longer useful), but the benefits are quickly nullified by an unexpected setback: Michiru’s probing tips off Hatadaira Tsunekichi, a psychic photographer who has acquired a photo of her killing him in the future.

Whelp, there’s the concrete evidence Kyouya needs so desperately to prove his suspicions! Thankfully for Nana, Tsunekichi comes to her first. He demonstrates with devastating accuracy that every photo he takes ends up happening without fail. Even when Nana changes her order, she ends up with a face-full of soba. Then he pulls out one more dagger: a photo of her shoving Nanao off the cliff.

This would put Nana in check, but for the fact that, as far as we know, only she and Tsunekichi have seen these photos. Tsunekichi also seems to have doomed himself: If there’s a photo of him being killed, and everything in his photos happens, then he must be resigned to die. So, will Nana succeed in killing him before anyone else sees the photos? Or will they be leaked, forcing her to use all her leader capital to defend herself?

It’s definitely a tricky new corner she’s been pushed into. Like Michiru, Nana considers Tsunekichi an imbecile, and I definitely can’t rule out her managing to outwit him and turn him into another victim of the Enemy. But his power exposes a huge flaw in her execution of this mission: Why the heck did she start killing anyone before she learned the powers of everyone? Assuming she gets out of this fix, what other surprise Talents could compromise her, all because she killed too fast?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Talentless Nana – 03 – What’s This F-Boy’s Deal?!

With two enemies of humanity eliminated in short order, Nana knows she must be careful not to incite panic or draw suspicion upon herself. But that’s hard when Onodera Kyouya is snooping around, especially when he’s almost if not as good as her at deduction, as evidenced by how he knows the Ice Prince is dating.

She can’t have this guy breathing down her neck, so she makes him her next target, and begins the process of learning his talent and weakness. But following him leads her to discover he’s the kind of guy who goes out of his way to give warm milk to a stray cat.

As Nana tries to figure Kyouya out, he invites her into his dorm, which is a bit of a mess, but is also full of potentially useful clues. She seems to spot them, but she’s also consistently kept off balance by Kyouya, even going so far as to call him a “low-level f-boy”.

What’s fun about these two interacting when we only have access to Nana’s thoughts is that we’re not sure if Kyouya is putting on a big act for Nana, just as she’s putting on an act for him. This is only heightened when Kyouya produces an issue of the manga Humanity’s Girl, which is obviously Nana’s favorite, because she considers herself humanity’s savior.

Kyouya also pulls the power move where Nana thinks she’s about to leave scot-free, only for him to say “Oh, one last thing…” and then whipping out Nanao’s fancy Rolex. Nana can’t hide her true shock at seeing the Velben good in Kyouya’s hand, since it means Kyouya has been busy.

He also tells her about how it’s strange that the government set up a “training” facility where very little structured training goes on. Since agents like Nana are the Talentless’ last chance to get rid of the Talented, any Talented as curious and suspicious as Kyouya have to go.

Just to confirm her suspicions, we finally hear Kyouya’s inner voice. In a way, that’s a shame, since now we know for sure he’s not already 100% on to her. But he’s definitely getting there!

The next day, Nana sets a clever trap based on Kyouya’s weakness, gleaned by observing his dorm: he’s an anosmiac. That means the next time he heats up the milk in the abandoned janitor’s shed, he doesn’t detect the gas leak, or the closed window, until it’s too late. BOOM.

Bye-bye  Kyouya, right? Wrong. He may have no sense of smell, but that’s not a weakness one can use to kill him, due to his Talent: he’s freakin’ invincible. The explosion covers his body in burns, but he quickly heals, and when Nana runs to the wreckage, she all but confirms to him that she was the one who caused the explosion. Who else knew he was here but Nana, who mentioned the cat earlier?

Even so, Kyouya isn’t totally convinced, and so doesn’t retaliate against Nana…yet. After all, he can’t discount the fact she knew he was in the fire because she read his mind. His parting words to her—“I’m so glad we’re friends.”—is a clear threat. It’s almost like he could out her now if he wanted, but would prefer to keep their cat-and-mouse game going.

Now we know for certain that Kyouya isn’t a fellow Talented hunter like Nana. And Nana definitely has no taste for games; she’s here to do a job as quickly and efficiently as possible. The question is, how is she going to find his real weakness and kill him now that his defenses are up?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Talentless Nana – 02 – A Matter of Time

Talentless Nana let the cat out of the bag in its first episode, and while that was an excellent twist, it also made it much harder for subsequent episodes to deliver the same impact. We’re told about the history of the Talented in an infodump, and it’s not pretty: after a five year war that the Non-Talented won, remaining Talented were basically isolated on islands. Missing from this story is exactly HOW they won against an army of superheroes. Sheer numbers? Kryptonite?

Hiiragi Nana stood before a dark and foreboding Talentless government entity, and given the directive to eliminate the Talented on the island, and threatened with serious consequences if she failed. Not explained: That said, she chose to take the mission and is determined to carry it out. What we don’t quite know yet is why her and only her. Did Supes Talented kill her family?

I mention “Supes” because Nana is giving me some Hughie vibes from Amazon’s The Boys: an unpowered individual seeking to bring down the superpowered despite being at a overwhelming disadvantage. The difference is the Supes in The Boys are almost all horrible people; the kids at the school are arrogant but are ultimately innocent.

They could go bad when they grow up, like their forbears back during the war, but preemptively eliminating them before they’ve done anything wrong is ethnic cleansing, at best! That creates a conflict when it comes to routing for Nana, especially since we don’t know of any motivation she has besides a sense of loyalty duty to the Non-Talented race.

At any rate, the moment Nana pushed Nanao off a cliff, the show transformed completely. Right now, it’s about Nana identifying the most powerful Talented and rubbing them out one by one (though she’d probably take a twofer if conditions were right!) At first her next target would seem to be the Ice Prince, but Shibusawa Youhei is even more dangerous, since he can manipulate time.

Nana does the same thing she did to Nanao and gets friendly and bubbly with Shibusawa. The difference is, this week we get her full internal monologue. While I’m not opposed to this shift in the way the story is told, she withdraws into her thoughts a lot, and often what she has to say is obvious or redundant, like Icy Prince’s tell, or the threat Shubusawa represents.

Still, Nana is good at her job or she wouldn’t be alive, and manages to not only wrest the true nature of Shibusawa’s ability: he can only go back in time. But she soon attracts the attention of the ever aloof and suspicious Onodera Kyouya. He knows Nanao has disappeared because their dorms are adjacent and he never returned home, and he believes Nana was the last person who saw him.

Nana would seem to be in a bind when Kyouya asks Shibusawa if he could investigate Nanao’s disappearance by going back in time. But even as Kyouya caresses her pigtails, she manages to regain control of the narrative by delicately turning suspicions onto Kyouya. He even seems to realize what she’s done and makes a tactical withdrawal, but his business with her isn’t over.

For now, Nana has two objectives: prevent Shibusawa from discovering she killed Nanao, and eliminating him. Pretending to cooperate with his investigation, she learns more about his abilities. He becomes fatigued and short of breath whenever he jumps, and the further back in time he goes, the more pronounced the side effects. More than twelve hours makes him vomit.

Ultimately, Nana can’t stop Shibusawa from going back to the time when she and Nanao were on the cliff. Indeed, last week someone was hiding behind a tree nearby; now we know it was him. But there’s one other key limitation to his time traveling: if anyone from that time spots him, he’s automatically sent back to the present.

Nana can’t warn her past self, she can only trust that she’ll be diligent and observant regardless of the situation. Nanao may have been an easy win for her, but she still followed the best practices of all assassins, namely to make sure you’re not being watched when you do the deed. Sure enough, Shibusawa returns automatically; Nana noticed him after she held hands with Nanao, but before she let go and shoved him to his death.

Still, considering how Shibusawa initially harbored suspicions of Nana since she was the last one with Nanao, it’s odd how he all but drops those suspicions simply because he saw them lovey-dovey together. His abrupt exit from that scene before he saw it play out would seem to be a gaping hole Nana’s testimony—and that’s before considering questions like why he can’t go back again and again, in the off-chance past Nana doesn’t spot him.

Instead, Shibusawa’s satisfied she had nothing to do with Nanao’s disappearance and they call it a night, making it certain too much time will pass by morning for him to go back again. But of course, that’s only one of Nana’s two objectives is complete. To kill him, she devises a dastardly plot that utilizes everything she’s learned about him.

Later that night, Nana goes to Shibusawa’s dorm to tell him the full story: after visiting the cliffs, she and Nanao were ambushed by an Enemy of Humanity, and it ate him. She rushes out to show him where it happened so he can jump back in time to save Nanao, and Shibusawa, with his strong sense of justice, follows her…to the precise spot she prepared.

When he time jumps at that spot, too much time passes and he doesn’t come back, indicating he won’t be coming back. That’s because the spot is really a section of the lake Kori Seiya had frozen Nana covered with earth earlier in the night. She recalled that Shibusawa couldn’t swim, which combined with his shortness of breath after jumping, resulted in him drowning in the past, unfrozen lake, and his body was then entombed within the ice.

It’s an clever, elegant, poetic, and utterly diabolical assassination—and Nana’s superiors estimate she saved 800,000 lives by getting rid of Mr. Time Travel. I still have reservations about whether either Nana or TA can keep this up before things get truly ridiculous, but if they keep delivering fun yarns like this, I’ll keep coming back for more!

O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 01 (First Impressions) – Crazy Train

Onodera Kazusa is an almost aggressively normal high school girl. She doesn’t really stand out anywhere, and is part of a literature club whose members include both a budding author, a glasses-wearing prudish type, and a serene senpai who is perfectly comfortable reciting very steamy sex scenes in the book they’re all reading.

Kazusa has a best friend in fellow lit club member Sudou Momoko, and she has a childhood friend in the train-loving Norimoto Izumi. She and Momoko are each other’s main source of verbal and emotional support in these trying adolescent times. She and Izumi were once as close as brother and sister, but have drawn further apart due to his increasing popularity—particularly with other girls.

Kazusa is voiced by relative newcomer Kono Hiyori, who does a splendid job modulating her voice for Kazusa’s vulnerable and frustrated inner monologues. It also helps that she closely resembles Shizuku from Whisper of the Heart, a rare Ghibli film grounded in contemporary life and one of my favorite anime works.

It helps because Shizuku never strayed past the “pure and innocent” phase of her romance with Seiji; the film ended (spoilers!) with her suddenly proposing marriage after they bike up the highest points in West Tokyo and watch the sun rise on the city. It’s beautiful, and it marks a major milestone in their trudge toward adulthood…but it’s incomplete.

O Maidens in Your Savage Season (written by the great Okada Mari) is not incomplete. It reveals all of the insecurities and worries and downright dilemmas far beyond simply developing feelings for someone and being frustrated by one’s comparative lack of accomplishment. By the end, we have a nearly complete picture of who Kazusa is (just a kid), what she is gradually becoming mentally and physically (an adult) and how she feels about that (not so great so far!)

When Kazusa’s mom—whom she says many describe as “child-like” even though she’s most definitely not a virgin due to Kazusa’s existence—asks her to take some food to Izumi’s next door, the comfort of their familiarity is evident, but so is a growing awkwardness punctuated when Izumi asks if he should talk to her around other people.

Kazusa’s wishy-washy reply (depends on who and where) doesn’t help matters. Talking about their issues clearly would be optimal, but again…these are kids. She’s aware enough to know she didn’t handle her interaction with Izumi in a satisfying way, leaving so much up in the air and unclear, but she doesn’t yet possess the tools to do so, hence her frustration and very Shizuku-like private mope on Izumi’s front stoop.

Back in lit club, Sugawara Niina, with her confident stride, ever-calm tone, and shorter skirt, all indicate she’s more mature than the other four members. To put it far more harshly, some boys consider her a diamond atop a pile of dung. But when a story with the premise of “doing something before you die” comes up, she blurts out “have sex,” because as mature as she looks and sounds, she’s still a virgin—still in the bubble with the rest of them. Despite all the classy smut they’ve read, it’s still a totally unknown world.

But her stated desire to have sex before death brings that subject too the forefront, like poking at the bubble until it bursts. Now sex is the first thing on the minds of the four other girls, from Rika (glasses) telling some gals to shut up about sex and being verbally abused by some classmates and then complimented by another; to Kazusa overhearing two of the girls who like Izumi talk very openly about wanting to take his virginity.

The more Kazusa hears about Izumi and sex, the more those two seem like something possible and thus terrifying—a far cry from the little boy with which she used to run around, fall over, and wade in the kiddy pool. The boy who’s crazy about trains. With the bubble of obliviousness popped by Niina, Kazusa finds herself on the deep end, her surroundings growing darker and more morose. But she has to kick and swim and breathe, or she’ll drown.

Things already feel like they’re starting to spiral out of all control for Kazusa, who asserts that she doesn’t like this and isn’t ready for it at all, but she has no idea what’s coming down the track to knock her off the rails of innocence for good, where she was once only teetering and threatening to fall. In an absolutely stunning sequence that plays like, well, a train wreck, Kazusa hears music inside Izumi’s, and so enters through the unlocked front door.

She makes her way up the stairs to Izumi’s room, where the door is cracked but not closed, and lets herself in without knocking. Izumi is inside, his pants down and his feet on the desk, masturbating to porn on the internet. The director lets the two just sit there in the moment of horror, completely silent but for the (likely fake) orgasmic screams of the woman on the laptop. Izumi gives a half-hearted “Hey,” then asks if she’ll keep this a secret. Pretty smooth, considering one of every guy’s worst nightmares just came true.

Kazusa…snaps. She bolts out of the house screaming and just…keeps running and screaming (the action animation is superb) through a market district. Naturally, every food sign is a double entendre, lending credence to her lament that there’s just too much god damn sex in the world.

Worse, her pure, innocent Izumi has changed forever. The boy is dead; a man has taken his place. The last time he saw her penis it was tiny and harmless. Now, not so much. As she stops on a bridge over a train track to catch her breath, she tearfully declares out loud that “that won’t fit in there!” Then, in a moment perhaps almost too on the nose but also pretty damn effective, a train passes beneath her, lining right up between her legs, and enters a very tight tunnel. “It fit,” she says, relieved, but she soon collapses back into a heap of adolescent frustration.

O Maidens is a refreshingly bold, sincere, brutally frank depiction of sexual awakening and its maaaany pitfalls. So far the experience is largely horrifying, terrifying, and overwhelming for Kazusa, and it’s sure to continue to be so. But the show balances the drama and comedy, never letting you forget these are human beings with human being minds and parts, all of which are in a state of open rebellion, but all of which are also very complicated.

The stakes for Kazusa and her friends are far higher than looking fit in a bikini for the summer. This is for all the marbles. All we as viewers can do is ball our fists and hope she hangs on for dear life to this train ride that can’t be stopped, until the ride becomes at least little smoother, if not joyful. I’ll be in the cafe car, quietly cheering on these maidens in their savage season.

Ao-chan Can’t Study! – 12 (Fin) – Virgin Saints to Kissing Experts

After consulting with Miyabi on kissing (who is just as much a novice as she is and thus no help), Ao realizes that in all of her scenarios in which she and Kijima do it, she overlooked the fact that a first kiss should happen first. But who should initiate? She’s confident that “Virgin Saint” Kijima won’t, so she resolves to be a saint herself and not expect anything.

That all goes out the window virtually the next time they see each other. Kijima meets Ao in an empty classroom at sunset, he calls her beautiful, she brings up kissing, and when he gives her an opening, she moves with the sudden gust of wind and takes it. Apologizing for breaking their promise, Kijima kisses her right back, twice, so that both of them have broken it and can now start fresh.

That creates a new problem, as even after her first kiss(es) with Kijima, Ao becomes fixated on his previous kisses, when she hears classmates talk about him being “good at it.” Kijima doesn’t know what they’re talking about, as Ao is not only the first girl he kissed, but he practiced with a pillow (as many do). Still, she lets out one last “I’m done!” and scurries away in outrage.

Later, when she realizes she overreacted and really just wants to see Kijima’s face, there he is, at the same bookstore she’s at, and they leave hand in hand. Kijima, after consulting his friends, decides to be as honest as he dares—admitting his first kiss was with Ao (though he doesn’t mention the pillow). They realize neither of them is a “natural” at kissing, but they liked their kiss because they like each other.

Unfortunately for Ao, the title of this show ends up being on point: due to her preoccupation with Kijima and kissing, she does horribly on her mock exams. Even so, thanks to Kijima she learned something very valuable: Never underestimate how much your ideas about love have been warped by your erotic novelist Pops!

Ao-chan Can’t Study! – 11 – Takumi Can’t Get the Picture!

Takumi suggests he and Ao study together some time, but Ao is against it because she knows what such things can lead to. However, Takumi says “pretty please,” so she grudgingly agrees, and orders her first pair of silky panties so that if and when Takumi makes his move, she’ll be prepared.

Then she goes to Takumi’s and they’re both alone together, and there’s never an if or when. One, two hours pass, and Takumi only seems interested in…studying. Even when they make a wager for the loser to do whatever the winner wants, he just wants her to make her lunch again.

This steams Ao’s beans, because she went out of her way to wear sexy panties for the occasion, and Takumi is so pure and dense he can’t take the hint that it’s okay for him to make a move. It either never occurs to Ao that SHE should make the first move instead, or she, like Takumi, is too inexperienced and timid and afraid of coming on to strong.

So Takumi fails to resemble anything like the crazed sex beast of her imagination, and ends up a lot more like…well, like her. Only he likely wore comfortable boxers with the knowledge she’d never see them, while she ends up with a stomachache due to being unaccustomed to low-riding underwear. If she wants…that from Takumi, simply waiting isn’t going to cut it. She’s going to have to say or do something, and deal however he ends up responding.

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 02 – Born to Run

I’m glad there’s an anime that shares the irreverence and absurdity of Hinamatsuri to dig into this Summer. Miyamo Chio is an ideal lens through which to provide all kinds of social commentary, while her insistence she is “below average” in society couldn’t be more wrong.

Consider when she comes afoul of a bike gang member fresh off a ride. She and a salaryman (a grunt she incorrectly pegs for a section chief) must slide through the narrow space between the bike and the wall, and she gets burned by the exhaust. The biker takes offense, grabs Chio by the scruff…and gets knocked out by a lucky Chio elbow.

Chio appeals to her better self by attempting to move the bike out of the way lest others get burned, but ends up knocking it over. Feeling she’s toast either way, she decides to draw from her badass video game world and talk a hell of good game.

Standing over the bike imperiously like it’s trash, “Bloody Butterfly” urges the biker to give up the life, lest she cease “going easy” on him. And he gives in! He only asks that she accompany him on one last ride, which ends up being a schoool run; Chio manages to sufficiently disguise herself from her peers.

As MEH as Chio might consider herself, her actions with the biker were anything but. But while she can fake being a badass, there’s no denying she and her friend Manana have zero romantic experience; though there is an absurd impressiveness to Chio’s diagram of the ideal below-average high school life, which happens to match up perfectly with a diagram of the tastiest part of the tuna!

Chio and Manana scornfully watch couples walk past them left and right, but they become enamored with Hosokawa and the basketball captain as they dart into an alley. Expecting “sexy times” to be afoot, they are surprised to learn the guy only sought a safe place to ask Hosokawa out. She respectfully declines (she’s focusing on running) and they continue being friends like nothing happened.

Chio and Manana are all caught spying, but pretend to be making out while hiding their faces until the other couple leaves. Thus the two love noobs come millimeters from sharing their first kiss…with each other.

The next day, Chio finds Manana already with Hosokawa, both waiting for her. Suddenly Chio finds herself in the perfect society of three, picturing herself as King, Manana as pauper, and Hosokawa as butler. Only Manana only used Chio as a stepping stone to climb the social ladder with Hosokawa. In any relationship between two people on a lower rung, the temptation will always be there for such stone-stepping.

Of course, Manana promptly recieves her comeuppance when she learns Hosokawa will friendily chat up anyone, including a “company president” she met while on a run, and has been informally coaching ever since. She and the old dude leave Manana in the dust, just feet from where she left Chio in the dust.

Chio and Manana may know jack about romance, but they can be keen observers of human behavior. To whit, they realize well before the kind, pure Hosokawa that the old guy obviously exaggerated his importance due to being flustered by a cute girl suddenly approaching him with running advice.

They’re right—they guy is just a grunt and lied about everything—except his love of running. And that’s why Hosokawa immediately forgives him; after all, even she sometimes acts like she’s not feeling well at meets. What’s important is the run. With that, the quartet frolick all the way to school, so joyfully that their joyless teacher can’t bear to stop them…though he does wonder who the hell the old guy is!

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 01 (First Impressions) – It’s All in the Journey

Sometimes Miyamo Chio is late for school. Sometimes she’s early. The reasons for either are many: staying up late playing video games, for instance. The point is, while on her route to school, something always happens.

That could be something small, like a closed road, that then turns into something much bigger, like a rooftop adventure with old man toothpaste spit, stepping on a rich guy’s alligator suitcase, or walking boldly out of a love hotel parking garage.

Miyamo Chio is, on the outside, a fairly average, unassuming high school girl who doesn’t like standing out. But inside is a seething cauldron of emotions that conspire to create a far more over-the-top dramatic event than one would think. She even has an assassin alter-ego based on her video game chracter.

Be it one, two, or more trips per episode, Chio-Chan no Tsuugakuro isn’t about school. It’s about getting to school, and everything that happens while attempting to do so. And thanks to some diverse and vibrant voice work from Oozora Naomi and nicely animated bursts of action, the journey is probably more fun than the destination anyway.

Tsurezure Children – 11

There’s a lovely momentum to this week’s quartet of stories, befitting what may be the second-to-last episode (though I wouldn’t mind a second cour) – things seem right on the cusp of coming together for some of the more stubborn pairs, thanks in part to third parties.

Take Chizuru, who learns through Ayaka’s now active and thriving relationship, what it actually means and how it feels to be in love. There are too many coincidences for her to merely shrug this off, and too many who have heard the rumor Sugawara likes her.

As for what I consider the most emotionally close (if physically furthest away) relationship, Kana ignores Chiaki after the first kiss incident, and he thinks he’s been dumped. Kana’s friend tells her breaking up is a bit much for a muffed first kiss, and she knows that. It gets to the point where she thinks she’s ignored him enough, and starts to worry that he might hate her.

The two are so in sync, Chiaki decides to send one last message just as Kana decides to accept one last message, if he apologizes. Everything’s looking good…until she drops her phone in the tub! I’m not too too worried, though; if these two really love each other, they’re not going to let technological snafus keep them apart.

Still reeling from their technological snafu, Takase and Kanda are both still interested, but weary of making the first move, even to the point of asking for/offering pencil leads for final exams. Enter Minagawa, the third party, to tell Kanda to get them from Takase as a means to get closer.

She chickens out, but Takase, who has the easier job here, thankfully doesn’t. When Kanda runs out of lead, he tosses her more, and after the exams they’re on friendly speaking terms again; which is what they both want.

The third party in Ryouko’s case is the entire rest of her class. As she crams for the exam after so many months of slacking off like a yankee should, she gets super-self-conscious about how that class sees her, worried they’re all better than her because they studied more or something.

Akagi wants to offer support while she’s studying in class, but won’t (and orders the Prince kid to hit him if he does), since Ryouko will be alone for the actual exam, after all. We’ve seen precious little of Akagi without Ryouko around, and it’s nice to see his hands shaking in anxiety because he’s worried about his girlfriend.

Ryouko doesn’t have what you’d call a fun time during exams, but who does? When she drops her eraser, she’s even too self-conscious to raise her hand. Her classmate Patricia Shibasaki picks it up for her, and adds that she’s rooting for her. Her nerve restored, Ryouko can continue.

Tsurezure Children – 10

Motoyama has to endure the extreme wussitude of his friend Yamane Kurihara, the girl who likes him. She made pudding for him, so asks him behind the school, but Yamane take Motoyama along, and once he’s there, Kurihara doesn’t want him to leave either!

When he finally does, Kurihara simply hands the pudding over to Yamane and the two depart just moments later. An exercise in futility, as long as Yamane continues being so low on himself.

Kamine and Gouda are faring much better, but there are still things Kamine wishes her boyfriend would improve upon, like not being so sudden, calling her by her first name, and not holding hands with other girls—even if it’s to arm wrestle with the foreigner Patricia. (Opening bottles is okay, but if he’s nice to another girl he has to be nicer to her).

Gouda takes all of this in stride, not minding at all that she’s being a little needy and selfish because, well, he likes her, and thinks she’s only gotten cuter since they became a couple.

When a passing Kana and Chiaki spot the happy couple doing things they never imagined Kamine or Gouda would do (especially in public), you could say they are inspired, and try to have their first kiss right there.

Unfortunately, it is interrupted by…Kamine and Gouda, and the two couples exchange ‘what are you doings’ with ‘aw nothings’ and that’s that. Only Kana and Chiaki actually did nothing.

So it was exciting to see the show stay with Kana and Chiaki for the final segment, though in hindsight I might be sorry I wanted such a continuation. Chiaki invites Kana to his otherwise empty house with the express intention of kissing her before she has to be home by 8.

After a lot of awkward interactions, he decides to do a skit—one in which he pretends to be drunk. Chiaki assumes he drank something, and would rather their first kiss be something they can remember with fondness, even if it isn’t a big deal.

Then Chiaki reveals he’s just acting and surprise-kisses Kana, then invites her to ‘play along’ as if it were another one of their skits…and she is NOT into it. In fact, she storms out in tears, declaring their duo over. Is it really over? I hope not, but Chiaki had better apologize!

Tsurezure Children – 09

This show, and this episode in particular, is brimming with wrong assumptions made in the heads of the young and in love. Those assumptions make progress slower than it would be if they could only properly communicate with the ones they like.

But again, these are kids, and it’s their first love, so rookie mistakes are to be expected. It’s those tiny steps in the right direction that make me not only stay invested in all these various couples, but gives me hope that some day they’ll figure it out.

Sugawara and Takano’s eyes meet so many times, both wrongly assume they’re bothering one another…but a tiny bit of progress is made when Sugawara tells her he was, in fact, looking at her. Takano said she was looking at him too…now she just has to say it to the correct person, not Gouda!

Few couples got off to a worse start than Kanda and Takase, but neither likes the distance that has grown between them, and so they make up. That they both wrongly assume the best they can get out of the other is friendzoned is a concern, but they are talking to each other again. Progress!

I’m on record in older reviews of her work as saying Ogura Yui’s trademark syrupy-sweet voice sometimes sounds like nails on a chalkboard, but I’m enjoying her work as Kamine, who is the most aggressive of the characters this week.

Unfortunately the body language she exhibits while struggling with the fact she “blew” her first kiss with Gouda is being wrongly interpreted by Gouda as having gone too far in kissing her. Kamine tries to force the issue by pretending to fall asleep on his lap, but for her trouble, Gouda nods off for real and they nearly touch faces.

Finally Furuya is sick of dragging things out, and wants to properly, seriously give Minagawa an answer. But he wrongly assumes that all of her different kinds of “likes” she throws at him (kudos to Hana-Kana here) is all part of an extended teasing regimen, when in reality, teasing is what gives Minagawa the courage to say the things she does.

When she says that none of the ways she says she likes him are adequate, she has Furuya close his eyes and…well, does she kiss him? Sure looked like it to me, but then she had those fingers up. Minagawa thinks Furuya should know whether her lips met his…and she’s right! Lips and fingers don’t feel the same!

Tsurezure Children – 08

Kamine and Gouda make more progress by learning that both are okay with the other being clingy and even a little possessive; everything in moderation. To that end, Kamine draws closer, cuddles, and holds hands with Gouda, who decides to surprise her by giving her her first kiss in the middle of which she unfortunately coughs.

But hey, it’s a kiss, out in public, which is more than Kana and Chiaki can manage. They try to work through the problem through the excessive use of soccer metaphors, and even when Chiaki thinks he’s angered Kana to the point she won’t speak, she still offers him “stoppage time” in order to kiss her. Unfortunately, she moves her head at just the wrong moment, and all he gets is her nose; a second attempt is thwarted by onlookers.

Meanwhile, Masafumi and Ryouko are one of the most comfortable couples, and even have to go to the library because they’re fooling around too much at home. But Masa still likes to keep Ryouko on her toes, asking if it’s okay to touch her boobs. His persistence eventually bears fruit (no pun intended), but he doesn’t go through with the feeling-up; he just wanted her to know that he’s holding back.

Finally, Kazuko once again comes upon Shinichi, who is battered and bruised after a fight with…someone; possibly (but probably not) the “god of romance.” Kazuko wants dearly to be his, and he hers, even whipping out her own ultra-speed moves to counter his. Shinichi is definitely the weirdest of the guys we’ve seen, but he seems to have found someone just as weird.