Horimiya – 12 – The Mantis

This week it’s Christmas in Horimiyaland, and everyone is figuring out how—and with whom—they want to spend their holiday. It’s just too perfect that Yuki fell in love with Tooru having absolutely no clue that the boy’s family was freakin’ loaded. Money can’t buy you love! If anything, it intimidates a girl of more modest means like Yuki.

At a time when everyone needs Christmas cake, Izumi is scheduled to work through the holidays at the bakery, meaning he won’t be able to join Kyouko and her family. While she’s understanding—her boy’s fam gotta earn, nothing you can do about it—her dad, mom, and Souta are less forgiving. Never mind if it’s Kyouko’s the one technically dating him. They want Izumi!

Shuu and Sengoku were both convinced Tooru and Yuki were already an item, but by saying he only “recently” harbored a crush on Kyouko, Tooru he reveals he’s still in a transitory place: not yet far enough removed from the pain of not having those feelings returned, and thus not quite ready to look for love elsewhere. Compounding matters is that he likely considers Yuki his best mates.

Why else would he so helplessly waver when she asks if she can come to his place to play video games? Or sneak in the house like something elicit is afoot? Or so determined to keep the family’s statuesque personal assistant Yashiro’s nose out of his business? Like his other friends, Tooru likely doesn’t want Yashiro or his family to get the wrong idea in the present—even if it may well turn out to be the right idea in the future.

After they both calm down after tea and cake (from Izumi’s bakery!) and fire up the video games, Tooru lets slip that he’s “happy with the way things are.” And honestly, I really don’t see Yuki disagreeing with that. As they watch that loading screen, they both seem content and comfortable. No need to rush things.

There’s a bit of drama at school when Sengoku doesn’t immediately agree to spend Christmas with Remi at Remi’s, and for a very bizarre reason: her dad is into catching bugs and putting them in boxes. When it’s trifling things like this that come between lovers, you know it’s true love. Sengoku simply has to grow a pair. The bugs are DEAD, dude!

When Kyouko shows her parents her superlative marks (all A’s save gym and art…kinda the opposite of me!) her mom remarks how there will only be one more report card, and then she’ll graduate. As her parents bicker and Souta asks her to look at his marks, Kyouko gets lost in thought: What will her life be like after graduation?

But before that, it’s Christmas, and the episode doesn’t want to leave anyone out as it checks in on just about everyone, starting with a contact-wearing Yanagi and Yuki’s big sister, who have a cute little exchange by a big outdoor Christmas tree. Tanihara and his brother wrestle over a clear view of the TV.

In what is a promising development, Yuki and Tooru are hanging out together for Christmas. I’m rooting for you two tentative bastards….take all the time you need!

Motoko is studying hard even the night before Christmas, but Shuu makes sure she takes a fried chicken and cake break. Sakura urges Sengoku to stop being a goddamn wimp and go hang out with his adorable girlfriend on one of (if not the) most important nights for couples both potential and extant. On the latter front, Shindou asks his girlfriend to wait one more year for him to graduate, and she agrees.

The entire Hori residence—including Souta’s cute friend Yura—is united in their elation when Izumi stops by to drop off their cake. When he says he can’t stay, Kyouko is again understanding, but her family won’t let him leave without a hot drink, eventually stealing a whole hour of his shift at the bakery.

When they finally allow him to leave, Kyouko walks him home, despite not being dressed for the chilly night; she’s in slippers, for goodness sake! But there’s something she wants to say to Izumi, and mercifully it’s not to ask him to berate or hit her; that particular pothole on their relationship road seems to have smoothed out off-camera…and that’s fine.

No, Kyouko tells him the same thing he told her back when they first started going out: she still doesn’t know very much about him. But due in part to that and other factors, she wants to be with him even after they graduate. Izumi goes quite a few steps beyond agreeing, and proposes marriage! Whoa, boy! Immediately embarrassed by blurting out what is surely deep-seated but still premature desire, he shuffles off.

But Kyouko promises she’ll “make him happy”, something Izumi says is usually what the guy is supposed to say in such a situation—which ironically is the kind of cisnormative comment you’d expect from Kyouko! She insists she should be the one to say it, as she admits she’s self-centered and “only good at studying and chores” though she’s selling herself short.

These two lovable dorks then bow to each other, expressing how they’re looking forward to their future together. All I can really say to that is BAAAAAWWWW.

After the credits, we fast-forward to New Year’s, which Kyouko and Izumi are spending together at a festival. They get their fortunes, but they hardly matter, since they both agree that as long as the other person is smiling, it’s all gravy. They grab some amazake and reflect how they were the last people they saw at the end of the previous year and the first people they saw at the beginning of the new one.

Izumi wants every year to be like that. Izumi walks Kyouko home hand-in-hand, assuring her that they can and will indeed be together forever. And damnit, I believe him. And like them, I’m happy just seeing the two smiling together, shrugging off the anxiety around what would happen after high school, laying out their future, and sharing in the warmth, relief, and elation of knowing graduation will only be the end of their beginning.

Horimiya – 11 – It’s Not Easy Being Green

Anyone expecting a segment or two focused on Kyouko and Izumi will be disappointed, but once I accepted that the show wanted to delve into other things, I relaxed and enjoyed the grab bag of character stories we did get.

Randomly enough, we start with talk of everyone’s siblings (or lack thereof), including the little sister of Iura Shuu, a character who has only ever appeared on the margins of the show until now. Shuu’s one character trait is that he’s loud and annoying, so Tooru was surprised how quiet and seemingly distant Shuu’s sister is by comparison.

We then shift from brothers to bros, with Izumi feeling a little threatened by Yanagi Akane’s seamless integration into the group. Yanagi ensures Izumi he won’t steal his buds, but Izumi still calls him a dummy and runs off in a huff like a tsundere. To see them stand side by side asking Sakura who is taller, Yanagi certainly comes off as an “alternate” Izumi.

Sawada Honoka returns, and we learn that thanks to Izumi, with whom she’s not only called a truce but seems quite close to now, she’s gradually attempting to get used to the other guys in Kyouko and Izumi’s circle. But one boy who seems to have no hope of ever getting along with Honoka is Shuu, because she just can’t handle his annoying boisterousness.

When Shuu comes down with a cold (as discovered by Kyouko and Yuki) and it hurts to talk, Honoka is thrown for a loop when, before heading home to rest, Shuu carries a box for her to the science lab without saying a word. She worries that he’s mad at her for being so hostile, but Sakura doubts Shuu can even get mad. Turns out Shuu’s voice has fully recovered, and when he’s a bit too zealous with his greeting Honoka flees once more.

The final segments deal with Shuu and his sister Motoko (voiced by Kanemoto Hisato), who we see in a black-and-white flashback being laughed at by her horrible teacher for saying she wants to try to get into East High, where her friends intend to go. When Motoko says she won’t be eating dinner, Shuu asks why. She tells him, and when he asks if her grades were laughable, she raises her hand to strike him.

Shuu knows from the condition of her textbooks and notebooks and all the hours she spends studying that it’s not a question of effort. Motoko is equally perplexed that despite trying, her grades just don’t improve. Calling her brother “onii-chan”, she tearfully asks Shuu what to do. Shuu starts by asking the name of that teacher so he can punch him in the face for her sake.

Then he says the uniforms at his high school are cuter than East High’s anyway, so she should just do her best—which is really all she can do—and whatever happens happens. He also insists she eats dinner; the brain needs food to work efficiently! He also asks Kyouko to tutor her and determine if she can get into East High, and Kyouko agrees, noting that Shuu “looked like a big brother” when he asked her.

Shuu and Motoko may not have been close before, but her academic troubles so close to transitioning to high school seems to be the catalyst they needed to grow a bit closer. Even so, they still worry that the other sibling hates them, even though the truth is they love and care for each other just fine!

Kyouko is on her very best behavior (and indeed is portrayed in her best light yet) as hostess and tutor, keeping things laid-back by saying they won’t even hit the books for this first session. Instead, she wants Motoko to be comfortable in a new place before they begin in earnest. And if Motoko wants more company, she can always bring in Souta and Izumi!

Meanwhile, Shuu visits a local shrine with Tooru and buys the most expensive charm for “Guaranteed Exam Success” for Motoko, and hoping she’ll accept it. I can’t tell you that I’ve been waiting ten weeks for a story about the loud green-haired kid and his sister, but after getting one, this real-life big brother isn’t complaining! As for Kyouko and Izumi, there are still two episodes left to check in on them.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun – 06 – The Second-Tallest Mountain

Hinami has a bold idea for Tomozaki’s next assignment. While she was going to make him her own campaign manager for the StuCo presidential election, but with Mimimi throwing her hat in the ring, Hinami believes Tomozaki will get more out of being Mimimi’s manager. Hinami makes clear this isn’t meant to be a form of electoral sabotage: Mimimi is important to her. But she’s as confident that no one—not even Mimimi—can beat her.

Hinami’s attitude towards Tomozaki is basically “You’re not going to win, but give it your best shot”. The question is, is Hinami really this arrogant about the certainty of her victory, or is she quietly hoping Tomozaki will help Mimimi supplant her? Absent other information, I proceeded thinking the former: Hinami wants to win, and she’s not orchestrating her own exit from the spotlight.

Just as she has every right to believe victory is in the bag, Tomozaki has every right to doubt his ability to manage Mimimi’s campaign. Heck, when they almost collide in the hall and he earnestly asks her, she turns him down flat, justifiably questioning his reliability. While in the library, he gets extra context from Fuuka for why Mimimi is even going after Hinami’s throne: she wants to change things, and herself. So does Fuuka, though she adorably tells Tomozaki not to tell anyone!

The next morning outside of school, Tomozaki witnesses Mimimi campaigning beside her kohai and handpicked manager Yumi. He also spots Hinami working the crowd with her manager Mizusawa (the undertones of those two being a couple go uncommented upon). Hinami makes personal appeals to everyone around her, having memorized virtually all of their club affiliations.

Tomozaki sees how formidable a boss Hinami is, and how it’s probably for the best Mimimi chose someone else as her manager. But that changes when they almost collide in the hall again, and Tomozaki can immediately tell Mimimi needs help with her list of campaign promises. Not with the content, mind you: with the layout. He revises it in the lab and wins her over, but for her, it begs the question: why is he so dead set on helping her?

Tomozaki is ready with an answer she can relate to: The uber-powerful Hinami is simply an irresistible challenge to go up against; he wants to take her on and win. What he doesn’t tell Mimimi is that he’s not currently leveled up enough to go toe-to-toe with Hinami in the game of life—she’d mop the floor with him in any theoretical “battle”. But he could gain crucial life XP by “summoning” the top-tier character Mimimi as his “champion”.

Hinami may be imposing in her ability to amass and win hearts and minds, but as he follows her around the school, Tomozaki is reminded how Mimimi is no slouch in that department. Foregoing a full-on frontal assault for a rearguard action, Mimimi targets specific school groups and negotiates bargains in exchange for their votes.

It starts in the gym, where Mimimi can’t help but stuff her head inside Hanabi’s shirt, but she also makes an appeal to her senpai, promising an electric pump for all of the ball clubs. Later that afternoon, Tomozaki and Mimimi rest a spell in a park, where he notices her “totes adorbs” new haniwa (traditionally a funerary object), and she provides further context for her quixotic run at Hinami.

Mimimi starts out with a very effective quiz for Tomozaki: He’s able to immediately answer what is Japan’s tallest mountain or America’s first president, but in the case of naming number two, he doesn’t know. Mimimi does, because she’s perpetually been number two at school, both in academics and sports. She wants to move out of the second place shadows, to better validate all of her hard work and be recognized for it.

Later, Tomozaki asks Hanabi for some help sound checking the gym for Mimimi’s campaign speech. Despite being shirted by Mimimi earlier, Hanabi agrees without hesitation, because it’s for her friend Mimimi’s sake. She just asks Tomozaki to look out for Mimimi, who is an “overdoer” despite her claims to the contrary.

Mimimi and her “Brain” stay in constant contact via LINE (at which Tomozaki has gotten much better) while at school, Tomozaki has grown accustomed to Mimimi’s bubbly enthusiasm and it’s even rubbed off on him a bit, which amuses her to no end. He’s even learned to dodge her back-slapping! The two are well and truly on the same wavelength. Hinami spots the two from her perch on the upper level of the cafeteria, initially looking concerned, but then with a proud smile.

Their physical positions in this scene are instructive. Tomozaki and Mimimi are doing everything they can to win this thing from the lower ground, even though Hinami, by all indications, is sitting pretty atop the high ground, and still not even considering the possibility of an upset loss to Mimimi. But ultimately, only one candidate can win.

Questions abound: Will the result profoundly affect their friendships, and if so, how? If Mimimi loses, can she take solace in knowing she did her very best with Tomozaki by her side? Could their time together lead to them…dating? Would Hinami handle defeat with grace, or with an identity crisis? With its intricate and fast-evolving relationships, Bottom-Tier Tomozaki has infused new life and intrigue in the well-worn school election scenario, and I can’t wait for the returns!

Ao-chan Can’t Study! – 02 – Kijima Wants to Study

“I have no time to concern myself with sexual desires,” Ao thinks to herself, but her curiosity about those desires, along with her ill-fated attempts to suppress them, only puts them even more at the forefront. Matters aren’t helped by class chatter about Kijima being big…down there, to the point where it’s not comfortable for a woman.

Ao goes to the vaunted authority on such things, her dad, who gives her the brass tacks about long shafts, so to speak. She’s understandably mortified about such a scenario, but decides to “confirm” whether Kijima is really that big before outright rejecting him. Considering how well her first knee-jerk rejection worked out, it’s unsurprising that her clumsy attempt to “touch” Kijima while he’s sleeping leads to her hands in his (and they are big hands).

He tells her didn’t confess on a whim, but because he wanted to give it his all and do things properly. And so far, he’s been nothing but a gentleman, despite Ao’s weird thoughts. He admits there’ll be times when he too will be uneasy about certain things if they go down that road, but that doesn’t make that road any less worth travelling.

Despite herself, Ao is touched (emotionally, dammit!), and returns to her dad for further advice. He understands how it must be tough to talk to him, but he wants to help, and so gives her a novel to read that also serves as a kind of “training manual.” Naturally the cover looks just like the cover of Kijima’s studying notes, and when the two come together in class the books get switched.

When Ao learns of the switch and reads Kijima’s apparent reactions to it, she gets extremely anxious, especially when he suggests they “do it” outside in the park, suggesting he’s into “public play.” Of course, Kijima hasn’t read the contents of Ao’s book, and so by “doing it” he’s only talking about studying together.

Bottom line, Ao’s belief that Kijima is some kind of crazed sexual animal is gradually eroding, and only her own dirty thoughts, obviously influenced by her illustrious father, only make things worse for her. This was a better episode than the first, but it’s still pretty inessential.

Ao-chan Can’t Study! – 01 (First Impressions) – Please Value Yourself More!

In this half-length rom-com, Love isn’t War, but it is an unknown concept to Horie Ao. She hates men, whom she views as rabid demon animals who will fill any hole, and needs neither friends nor her youth. She just wants to study hard enough to go to a university far away from home.

Why is she so uptight about guys and desperate to escape her family? Her (tiny!) father is renowned as the “Pleasure Master,” famous author of erotic fiction, and her home is known as the “House of Lewd”. I kinda feel bad for anyone who has to serve her dad pudding shaped and colored like a boob.

Ao’s classmate male Kijima keeps approaching her to talk, and seems friendly, but she suspects he’s just like the others, a rabid animal hiding their true slobbering face. But when she resolves to tell him she hates him and wants him to stop talking to her, she finds out that things aren’t so simple.

This results in a ridiculous scenario in which she is asked to deliver his uniform to the nurse’s office, and her dad somehow teleports in and lifts up her shirt with a fishing pole, which is pretty dumb! And since Dad’s so small Kijima doesn’t notice (?) and thinks Ao is throwing herself at him. He covers her up, telling her to value herself more, then confesses that he’s in love with her, leaving Ao stunned and with no idea how to begin to respond.

Ao’s dad may be a lecherous little creep, but she needs to learn that not every member of the opposite sex is quite that bad, and there is already evidence Kijima is nothing like the sex-crazed animal she imagined. Perhaps interacting with him on a more consistent basis is the first step towards a healthier approach to social interaction.

This isn’t nearly as sharp or sophisticated as Love is War, or as diverse and manic as Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro, or as weird and touching as Hinamatsuri or as warm and cozy as WotaKoi. In my advancing years I’ve apparently developed more stringent standards for my comedy and rom-coms. ACS isn’t exceptional in any way, and will have to work awfully hard to keep me interested, even as a guilty pleasure. At least it’s short.

Seiren – 03

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“Seiren” means “honest” in Japanese, and I said in my first review that it’s a pretty honest show. Sure weird things may happen like a soaked Hikari climbing into Shou’s window, but there’s a logical explanation for it, however far-fetched.

More importantly, the show is honest about how Shou, from whose POV we’re watching most of the time, has no idea what to make of Hikari. Does he like her, or is he just reacting as programmed due to her popular princess status at school? Does she like him, or is she just messing with him in lieu of any other suitable boy at the hotel?

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Shou’s only at the study camp at all because Hikari inspired him to improve himself. He finds it hard to balance the need to actually study with the nervous but exhilarating fun he has whenever Hikari is around, being so “provocative” at least for a conservative chap like him.

This week Hikari gets Shou to cut loose, wearing the wrap that came with her bikini as they sneak into the boy’s bath after hours for a dip. Here the honesty is carried through: they don’t get intimate or anything; Shou is nowhere near that stage. But he does find out exactly what it’s like to have an illicit bath with a pretty girl, and the resulting tent he pitches comes in handy when scaring off the teacher, saving Hikari from being discovered.

Be it studying in his room with Hikari on his bed, sneaking into the bath, or sharing a nice night outside (finally, they went outside!) by a drained pool, Shou stocks up on lots of nice memories with this girl he can’t quite figure out, but is trying to do so.

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He feels it’s the proper time to ask her why she lied about the mixer being a “family affair”, but she claims she wasn’t lying, as it could potentially lead to her making a family. He also learns the older man at the restaruant was never her boyfriend.

And while she had a fair amount of fun with Shou in the mountains, Hikari still seems sore about missing the mixer, particularly when her friend says “it wasn’t anything special” but is then seen back at school hanging off the arm of Araki.

Meanwhile, Hikari and Shou haven’t talked since that memorable night at the inn. He feels a rift of sorts was formed when he delved into her personal life, like he’s on the outside, looking in; unsure how to re-engage with her.

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Seiren – 02

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Despite entering his window soaking wet, it’s Hikari who continues to her merciless campaign of messing with Shouichi. She borrows his sweats, but being seen by him in her skimpier outfit leads to rumors throughout the inn, which Hikari feeds into, because she likes watching Shouichi squirm.

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She eventually ends up cooking a midnight snack of a Spanish omelette for Shouichi (along with Ikuo and Hikari’s friend Mako), which along with the laundry, reveals domestic skills Shouichi didn’t know she had. He also protectively gets her to agree not to try to run away from the inn again, in case there are more killer deer or other dangers out there.

Speaking of out there, for being set in the mountains it’s a pretty stuffy episode, with no scenes outdoors and full of drab, monotonous in rooms and halls. Everyone feels a little boxed in, and if the characters were fascinating that could make up for it.

Alas…Seiren doesn’t really excel at much of anything, and with the emergence of Kuzu no Honkai, it’s the show I’m most likely to drop to get down to five total for Winter ’17. I could retain it as a guilty pleasure, but Fuuka is kinda already serving that role.

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