Call of the Night – 09 – Who’s the Real Draggo?

Seri is being overwhelmed by notifications on her phone when she spots Kou. She rushes to pounce on him affectionately, but she’s stopped by Nazuna’s granite knee. Kou tells her Seri wasn’t going to do anything, but Nazuna assures him it’s okay; vampires are tough (as evidenced when Seri slugs Nazuna and the two tussle in the street.

The two vamps are always going to be a bit on edge around each other—especially considering Nazuna’s bond with Kou—but it’s Kou who tracks down Seri and asks her what’s troubling her, as a friend would, because that’s the kind of good kid Kou is. Seri is surprised, but rather than venting to him, they go to karaoke instead.

When Seri warns Kou that she’s super popular and that it’s just gotten to be a big boring drag (she calls all the men she meets “draggos”), and Kou kinda gets it; expressing how he’s annoyed by people believing romance is the “essence of life”. While we don’t get to hear them sing, Kou and Seri have this wonderful natural rapport.

You can tell Seri likes how Kou acts around her, since every other guy acts like the one who starts banging on the door to their room and breathing on the window like a creepy stalker. When Seri makes light of all the draggos she’s had to deal with, Kou tries to get all serious and offer proper advice, when all she wants is for him to brush it off and enjoy hanging out with her—like he does with Nazuna.

When Mr. Draggo enters the room, Seri gets fed up and decides she’s going to kill him “before things get messy”, which is vampire reasoning if I’ve ever heard it. Kou tells her to stop, and Seri asks him to spare her the “killing is wrong spiel”, as human rules and laws don’t apply to vampires. Kou admits that there are times when a vampire might have to kill, but he insists that this isn’t one of them, and protects Mr. Draggo.

The two hide in a dark alley, where Mr. Draggo, AKA Akiyama, seems to snap out of the obsessive trance he was in while near Seri. Akiyama tells Kou how he and Seri met when he fell over while drunk and just hit it off, but he was never arrogant enough to think he ranked that high in her list of people she cared about (nor does he know she’s a vampire).

That soon changes when Seri spots them in the alley, tells Akiyama she’s a vampire, and that she’s going to kill him. Kou stands between Seri and Akiyama and says that’s not happening, but Seri charges anyway, which is when Nazuna, whom Kou summoned via transmitter watch, pancakes Seri into the pavement.

Nazuna is obviously here to keep Kou from harm, but even when Seri promises she won’t hurt Kou, Nazuna asks why she suddenly decided to kill “for once”, suggesting it’s not as common an occurrence as Seri let on. That’s when Akiyama asks Nazuna to lay off Seri, because he was the one who fell in love with her, even though he wasn’t supposed to.

Just as Nazuna has done with Kou so far, Seri never intended to turn Akiyama, but simply hung out with him because they enjoyed each other’s company. The grind of getting people infatuated with her so she could create offspring got boring, and Akiyama broke that monotony. But her unconscious vampiric knack for enrapturing people ended up happening even to him.

Kou stops her right there: if she enjoys having a friend and doesn’t want to ruin that relationship, why kill him? Why not talk through it him first, like the friends they clearly still are? Seri does just that, and when she talks about the fun she had hanging out with Akiyama as a friend, her eyes fill with tears, knowing they’ll never have that again.

Akiyama knows that too, as he’s now in love with her. But that being the case, rather than kill him, he asks her to make him her offspring instead, so they can still hang out and still have that friendly rapport. She does just that, turning him right there in the alley while Nazuna and Kou look on.

Kou can’t help but feel like the situation is a little unfair, seeing as how Seri and Akiyama have what he wants…and naturally, Nazuna senses that’s what he’s feeling, but says it’s fine to take their time for now. After Akiyama is turned (and his eyesight is improved; a nice detail) all four go back for some celebratory karaoke, and Kou notes that he’s having a great time.

This might’ve been my favorite Call of the Night yet. I continue to love how warm empathetic Kou is. Seri is always an absolute delight; I love how she can turn from affable to frightening and capricious to vulnerable on a dime. I fear I’ve fallen for her and become one more draggo, and it’s not for any one quality but because she possesses so many layers.

Akiyama, voiced by the great Yoshino Hiroyuki in a rare toned-down role, is a solid introduction and the show’s first male vampire, and therefore glimpse of what Kou ultimately hopes to become. Loved the stalker fakeout. And as always, both quiet scenes of talking and raucous, concussive action are exquisitely composed and directed. The show is running on all cylinders.

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 19 – Thing of the Past

Kazuya wakes up with the mother of all hangovers, but also an odd fuzzy memory of Chizuru having taken care of him last night. He’s not sure if it’s just a fantasy, but what is real is that he was invited to a chat group that includes Chizuru’s private contact (not the Rental GF one he has and cannot use when not renting her).

He stops himself from adding her as a friend as it would send her a notification, but fantasy and reality once again collide in his booze-addled brain when he finds an energy drink in his fridge with a hand-written note from Chizuru (reading “Drunkard!”) that proves she was indeed there. We also cut to Chizuru also contemplating hitting the “add a friend” button for Kazuya.

To me, all this means that Kazuya and Chizuru want to and probably should start acting like the neighbors and good friends they so clearly are, only their personal hangups and the fact Kazuya is always renting her services keep things cloudy and complicated. This week also reminds us that Ruka is technically his actual girlfriend, and at work she checks in with him on whether he’s ready to make them “official.”

Kazuya is saved by a customer arriving at the otherwise-deserted parlor, but that customer turns out to be Mami, who heard from Kibe that he was working here and decided to stop by and mess with him (she says she’s kidding, but she isn’t). Her plans are utterly stymied by the presence of Ruka.

After Kazuya tries to sidestep Mami’s and Ruka’s curiosity towards one another, Mami is simply too friendly to Kazuya for Ruka to remain silent and professional. She grabs Kazuya and makes it clear that they’re dating, then embellishes things by claiming they’ve gone all the way, and basically condemns Mami as his ex for coming by his work at all.

Mami has her knowledge of Chizuru as a rental girlfriend loaded, and decides to use it, but it misfires, as Ruka is not only aware but seemingly okay with it? Mami retreats for now, if not defeated, utterly bewildered by what the heck is going on with her ex. Ruka ends up in tears over the ordeal, and Kazuya can only sit and wait for her to cry it out.

Note, Kazuya is not to be sympathized with here—all of this is his doing, and if he were honest to Ruka about not having feelings for her, they wouldn’t be in this unsustainable “half-relationship” that is so easily threatened by a passing ex. If anything, I sympathize with Mami, who on one occasion asks herself why she’s wasting her time even thinking about Kazuya and his palace of lies.

The answer the show implies is that as much as she doesn’t want to admit it, she’s not over the guy. I prefer the interpretation that she’s infected by the same brain worms as Chizuru and Ruka, which beyond all logic and reason render Kazuya a halfway tolerable presence. (Sumi, the best girl, is either immune or not infected due to how rarely she and Kazuya interact.)

Speaking of Chizuru, she returns at the end of the episode boarding the same train as Mami, and a deeply awkward train ride ensues, with Mami being not subtle at all about the concept of obtaining items while they’re as new as possible lest they fall out of fashion. On the surface, she’s talking about Chizuru’s bag, which Mami identifies as having been in Kazuya’s apartment that one night.

Because Mami cannot for whatever reason stop thinking about Kazuya, the gears in her brain continue to churn late into the night, as she attempts, like a private eye, to piece together Kazuya’s intricate galaxy of stupidity. While Ruka’s account is locked, Mami finds Kazuya’s grandma, and decides to follow her in hopes of gathering more intel.

From Yuuki Aoi’s half-bored, half-threatening, alway mocking sing-song lilt to the design of her disheveled hair and dead eyes, Mami is always portrayed as a potential chaos-spreading force, and the show seems more often than not to side with Kazuya and the others over her, as if she were reaping what she sowed by dumping Kazuya before fully realizing how she felt about him.

But I don’t see Mami as a villain. What Kazuya is doing is far more villainous. Mami may be looking to score points or exact some kind of vengeance, but she’s also trying to get at the truth of matters, and the truth is Kazuya’s relationships with Chizuru and Ruka are fundamentally flawed and require serious work.

Kazuya should have dumped Ruka, confessed to Chizuru and been rejected, get over it, then asked out Sumi, with whom he is the best version of himself, long ago. The excuse of not wanting to disappoint his grandma has long since ceased holding water. If he insists on maintaining the status quo, stringing Ruka along while he and Chizuru push and pull towards and away from one another, I welcome Mami’s efforts to break that status quo.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 02 – Better to Not Put on an Act

The Ishigami-Iino Accords

Kaguya-sama is about far more than two goofs who won’t admit their love out of pride and fear. It has the ammo to provide a veritable kaleidoscope of spinoff stories about its other characters. Ishigami and Iino Don’t Get Along could not only be a decent series unto itself, but has an incredibly catchy English title!

That Ishi-Iino isn’t a spinoff from the Kaguya-sama: Love Is War Cinematic Universe is a shame, but it’s also the mark of a great series that it keeps you wanting to see more of its greatness. Also, it’s good enough that it doesn’t have to spin things off. Sometimes a small taste is enough.

So we’ve known for a while now that Ishigami and Iino hate each other…but do they? Sure, they seem to inhabit opposite ends of the Discipline-Rebellion Spectrum, but we know better. Ishigami has as strong a sense of justice as Iino, especially where Iino herself is concerned. He just chooses to conceal it behind an outer crust she loathes.

By the same token, Ishigami obviously respects Iino’s honesty and diligence, or he wouldn’t stand to defend her from embarrassment. The thing is, their practiced hostility has escalated to a level neither Miyuki nor Iino’s friend Osaragi can suffer. Hence, the Ishigami-Iino Friendship Plan.

After an exchange of compliments turns into a hatefest, ear-cleaning becomes awkward contortionism, and Pocky-eating leads to aggressively gnashing teeth, Osaragi ditches Miyuki’s plan and pulls out the big guns, telling the two what a good match they are, and how it’s “typical teen behavior” to not be able to stop yourself from being mean to the one you like.

Ishigami and Iino are so shocked by the checkmate they relent on the spot, then devolve into an automated, emotionless, auto-tuned exchange of Iino saying “I like you quite a lot” and Ishigami returning the sentiment. It’s very far from normal human interaction, but by the letter of what the segment victor Osaragi and Miyuki set out to do, it gets the job done.

Play Along, All Right?

Of course, simply getting the job done on paper is not Kaguya-sama’s M.O., as evidenced by the epic two-parter that closes the episode. This might also just be my favorite segment of all the shows two-plus seasons. After declining several times in the past, Miyuki finally accepts an invite from classmates to go out for karaoke and “networking” with kids from other schools, unaware that it’s really going to be a group date.

Hayasaka can’t help but point this out to Kaguya, but Hayasaka ends up being inconvenienced, as Kaguya orders her to attend the group date and make sure no girls get near the President. Hayasaka is so good at getting herself mixed up in Kaguya’s man mess that one frankly can’t rule out that she does it on purpose, for sport or personal achievement.

This scenario marks the return of Hayasaka’s alter-ego “Miss Herthaka”, and when Miyuki recognizes her, she’s grumpy enough with her plight that she decides to take the fact that he dumped her like a bag of sand when last they met and run with it like Marshawn Lynch in Beast Mode.

After making clear to Miyuki’s pals that he dumped her, she takes the stage and belts out a stirring, pitch-perfect rendition of “My Feelings” by Akasaka Saka/Giorgio Giorgio. If there’s such a thing as anime nirvana, it’s this.

What makes this performance so powerful is that it’s not played 100% as a joke. Hayasaka is legitimately frustrated both by her past failure to seduce Miyuki and Kaguya’s continued taking of the President for granted as someone who will always be available to her.

After the song, Hayasaka and Miyuki have a serious discussion about putting on acts. When she rants about her “little sister” forcing her to come to this to get over being dumped, he feels like he’s talking to the something like the “real her” … which of course she is, since she’s voicing real frustrations! Miyuki, always forthright in everything but his love of Kaguya, feels he can relate to her better, and you get the feeling he likes this “Herthaka” more than the obviously fake one from their first encounter.

Hayasaka then reveals her position on the matter, which is that “no one will ever love you unless you’re acting”, and that weakness and ugliness must be hidden by that acting. He then puts it to him whether he’s actually the real Shirogane Miyuki, or if he overreaches and bluffs. He thinks on this and decides it would probably be best to call it a night.

Hurt You Just a Little

When some rando tries to put the moves on Hayasaka the moment she’s alone, Miyuki returns, takes her by the hand, and leads her to safety, telling her to “play along”. She’s so moved by the gesture, she reserves a room just for her and Miyuki, where she plans to succeed in Kaguya’s dare for her to seduce him.

Hayasaka reports this to Kaguya via earpiece, who is in her covert ops outfit on a rooftop. And again, this is all played straight. We have a legit love triangle here! There’s a part of Hayasaka who likes Shirogane and a part of her that wants to win, and when opportunity like this knocks she’s not going to ignore it. What started as a playful dare is no longer just a game. When Hayasaka cuts off communication, Kaguya panics.

She knows that normally Hayasaka operates within the bounds of common sense. But she also knows that Hayasaka was furious for having to go to the group date to begin with, so who knows what she’s capable of. Kaguya finds the door of the booth where they are, but there she’s paralyzed from further action.

The window is covered by Hayasaka’s coat, rendering it a Schrödinger’s Shirogane scenario. Whatever is or isn’t happening in there, Kaguya’s imagining of what it might be is far worse. And she knows she can’t just barge in without “losing”, i.e. revealing she cares so much about Miyuki that she’ll stalk him when he’s hanging out with friends (which, yes, she does, and is!).

Her solution? Invite Chika to karaoke, being sure to give her the number of the booth. But before Chika can arrive to open the box, Kaguya starts hearing suggestive noises and a flurry of double entendres. When Miyuki exits the booth to go to the bathroom, Kaguya slips in and learns the truth: Hayasaka’s strange utterings were reactions to Miyuki’s rapping.

While I saw this coming, it’s still an excellent callback to Chika’s attempts to improve Miyuki’s vocal skills. But I don’t believe rapping lessons were part of her curriculum judging by the state of Hayasaka. When Chika finally arrives and hears Hayasaka describe what she heard, it immediately puts her off karaoke and the three take off, leaving Miyuki all alone.

On the ride home, Hayasaka admits to Kaguya that she had become somewhat jealous of how happy and carefree she’s been of late, and selfishly wanted to take her down a peg, or as she puts it wanted her to “hurt just a little.”

She accomplished that mission admirably thanks to her intimate knowledge of Kaguya, but Kaguya already knew it must’ve been something like that thanks to her intimate knowledge of Hayasaka; specifically, how twisted her personality is. Hayasaka shoots back that Kaguya’s no different than her, and Kaguya doesn’t argue that fact.

While Hayasaka might have started out as Kaguya’s maid and attendant, the fact of the matter is in the ensuing years they’ve grown into something far more like sisters. Siblings love each other, but they can also irritate or hurt each other like no one else. I really loved this sprawling segment’s ability to balance humor and character drama so perfectly.

Mind you, the credits could have rolled during this last exchange between Kaguya and Hayasaka, but that would simply be “getting the job done.” Instead, the end credits roll over an lovingly, amazingly detailed intro for a Starship Troopers anime adaptation, with Miyuki, Kaguya and Hayasaka reflecting that film’s triangle of Rico, Carmen, and Dizzy.

Again, this ED could be a whole show, and it would be incredible. But here it’s just a fun throwaway gag. We live in rare and tremendous times that anime like this is still made.

RWHL

Komi Can’t Communicate – 12 (Fin) – …But Not Because She Doesn’t Want To

The Maid Café (and Komi) are such a smashing success for Class 1-1 that Najimi can’t suppress their enterprising spirit. They start divining new and ever-more-pricey (and niche) services for the maids to perform for the customers…until the faculty advisors shut them down. Sufficiently chastened for the time being, Najimi instead markets the café by simply having Komi walk around the school.

With Maid!Tadano by her side, Komi navigates all of the different things to see and do at the festival, from a haunted house to rooftop confessions. She rejects Ren’s confession with silence, but her own confession she’s only able to get a tiny “meow” out, which most of the crowd indicates Komi is a cat maid. As usual, most of her peers don’t really “get” her, because in a communication vacuum they divine their own interpretations.

Fortunately, there are at least four peers who more-or-less “get” Komi: her first two friends Tadano and Najimi, along with newcomers Onemine and Kaede. As Komi dons a French bun and glasses for a more sophisticated maid look, she’s both a roving advertisement for the café and soaking up the festival. Having Onemine and Kaede but no Najimi in this walkabout gives it a much more casual vibe, which I think both Komi and Tadano appreciate.

Thanks to Najimi’s racketeering, Class 1-1 is disqualified from a slam-dunk Grand Prize win in the overall class contest. Najimi’s attempts to gloss over their role in the DSQ don’t go over well, but when Komi indicates via notebook that she had fun, everyone’s on board. At the after-festival dance, the torturously-dense Tadano goes out on what he thinks is a tenuous limb in asking if Komi wants to dance, even though dancing with him is the one thing Komi wants to do most.

Tadano’s translator still has its blind spots, but at the after-dance karaoke, even he can recognize his only fan—Komi with maracas—in a crowd of otherwise distracted friends and classmates. I like how we only get the first beat of the songs everyone sings, and that Komi doesn’t suddenly show off a beautiful singing voice…sometimes it’s not about the having, but the yearning, ya know? ;)

Speaking of yearning: throughout these whole twelve episodes Komi has struggled to form connections, but not because she didn’t want them. With help from Tadano, Najimi, and the others, she’s become ever more comfortable with social interactions and communicating her thoughts. As she prepares for a much-deserved post-festival rest, she writes the names of all of the friends she’s made, then cradles the notebook with great reverence.

Not surprisingly, we’ll be getting a second season. We’ll see if Komi starts speaking more (and giving Koga Aoi more to do), if Tadano ever realizes that Komi sees him as more than a friend, and which as-of-yet not formally introduced colorful characters she’ll befriend.

Bokutachi no Remake – 04 – A Talent that Shines

After filming on a beach specifically for purposes of fanservice, new member of Team Kitayama Plus Kawasegawa Eiko learns that Kyouya broke the rules a little in order to get the equipment they needed for longer than first years can check it out. Another senpai, the diminutive Tomioka Keiko, overhears this, but promises not to say anything…but now they owe her.

But thankfully this episode isn’t really about bikinis or lolis or…sigh…an impending arts festival. It’s about Kogure Nanako, and how she’s pursuing acting, something she’s not fully serious about, because she’s not passionate about it. Their team wins the competition with a better overall production, but everyone—including Nanako—agrees the acting in their competitor’s film was ten times better.

As the team celebrates their win, Eiko can tell Nanako is faking her cheer—even at that, she’s not the best actor—and Kyouya can’t disagree. But then Nanako is given a mic, everyone who isn’t Kyouya hears her powerful but tone-deaf singing for the first time and are kind of in awe of it. It even makes Eiko angry, because it’s clear to her Nanako’s true passion isn’t acting at all.

Eiko is so honest and forthright that she abandons all delicacy and tact and really lets poor Nanako have it. She says it’s a terrible waste of talent for Nanako not to take her vocal training more seriously and instead dither away in acting, afraid of failing at her true passion. Nanako, who only just manages to hold back a slap before running off, is so devastated by what Eiko says because it’s true.

The next day, Eiko prepares to resign from the team, but Kyouya won’t have it. While she could have broken it to Eiko more gently and at a later time, it’s clear she told Nanako something she needed to hear. She may still be depressed—devastated, even—but Kyouya admits that’s her problem to work out.

Eiko does actually feel bad about how she put it to Nanako, but when she saw how much Nanako shined when she was singing—even the raw, out-of-tune version of it she heard—yet pretend not to care about it simply made her too angry to stay quiet. Kyouya promises he’ll help pull Nanako out of the abyss, and while Eiko doesn’t have the empirical evidence she usually demands, there’s something about Kyouya’s words that make her believe him.

As for believing in himself…Kyouya’s not quite there yet. In a scene at the fine art club that goes on a bit too long (and introduces that damnable art festival), Keiko sneaks up on him and offers him a job directing a game for her doujin company. Just like that, he’s been given another opportunity to pursue his passion for video games.

But he respectfully declines, because he doesn’t believe he has what it takes. This is Kyouya reflecting on his future failures and acting in a less reckless way than someone his actual age might (though someone as old-souled as Eiko certainly would!) but it’s also Remake showing us that those failures are scars he still bears, and here they cause him to pass up a great opportunity.

Still, it’s not only because he feels he needs more directing experience before attempting to go pro (again); he does have a full plate. He promised Eiko he’d help Nanako, and it just so happens to be one of Keiko’s extremely well-produced doujin group’s games that gives him a “Eureka” moment.

Specifically, when hearing the quality singing in the game reminded him of how he had to stay up all night to digitally adjust the notes of a singer in one of his company’s games. Thus inspired, he approaches Nanako’s door, behind which she sulks in a monochromatic malaise…and plays her a recording of her voice…only in tune.

Kyouya didn’t have to do much—just tweak some of the tones—to let Nanako hear a taste of her potential through the door. That he had to do so little is a testament to her vocal power and talent, and he needed her to hear it before talking about how she has “nothing” and “everything’s been smashed completely.”

Nanako emerges from the room in tears of joy and a tentative smile—and really this whole episode has been a clinic of detailed facial expressions and animation, which combined with Terakawa Aimi’s vocal performance really lends an emotional kick to this scene. She always loved singing but hated how she sounded, but with his magical laptop Kyouya has opened her eyes to a new way forward.

When Kyouya takes her hands into his without thinking, Nanako blushes, but also doesn’t recoil. On the contrary, she leans forward with a hopeful smile as she declares she’s going to trust Kyouya. It’s starting to look like maybe he does have what it takes—at least in terms of production, direction, and encouraging and inspiring the creatives—who also happen to be his friends.

It’s extremely fun to watch Kyouya do his thing, and it helps that he’s a genuinely good, earnest person who isn’t imbued with snark for snark’s sake like so many MCs in similar scenarios.

Bokutachi no Remake – 03 – Getting Fired Up

BnR isn’t wasting any time, jumping from the realization Team Kitagawa only has a still camera to work with, to screening day. It was also somewhat disappointing that we didn’t get to see a moment of Eiko’s teams short, only the overwhelming positive reaction to it.

You could say this show isn’t about Eiko’s team or their short, and having them go first added tension to Kyouya’s screening. But jumping straight to judgment day only to rewind back to explain how Kyouya pulled it off feels a little awkward.

That said, I’m happy I was correct in my prediction they’d go with a photomontage style, which was the most logical thing to do, but also that nobody on Kyoya’s team knew what he was going to do. And it worked—even Eiko is impressed!

That said, Kyoya’s team only gets third place, while Eiko wins. Yet Eiko is just as angry as they are, because she thought Kyoya’s short was the best! Alas, it’s not just about artistic attributes; this is a class, and the short was an assignment.

The professor—who is Eiko’s big sis—could tell that Kyouya’s team didn’t think their project through due to some kind of logistical difficulty with production. But she was nevertheless impressed with Kyouya’s problem-solving skills, such that she assigns Eiko to work with Kyouya’s team in the future.

Kyouya may have been simply trying to prove to himself that he could take a different path than the one he took before, but in the process, he inadvertently put his teammates/roommates on notice. Seeing what Kyouya could pull off without a video camera makes them that much more eager to step up their respective games.

In Nanako’s case, she wants to show off her acting chops in an actual moving picture … but she also wants Kyouya by her side while she tries to improve her singing. Even before Kyouya knows what’s really going on, he can tell Nanako has volume and charisma…it’s just she’s quite tone deaf! There are romantic undertones throughout the karaoke session and their walk home.

Not to be outdone by Kyouya or Nanako, Shinoaki reveals to Kyouya that she knows he knows about her night drawing in secret. She tells him that while she knows she’s good enough at it to win some awards, that’s not enough to make a living, and she has zero confidence about it, to the point she’s considering quitting art school altogether!

This is when Kyouya, who knows the Shinoaki of the future will be a famous artist who will bring joy and comfort to millions, including himself, takes Shinoaki by her slender shoulders and tells her she can’t give up…because he loves her…art. Adding the “art” at the end kinda dulls what would have otherwise been a confession, but hearing those words brightens Shinoaki’s entire world, and puts a twinkle in her eyes.

She wants to know what kind of guy thinks such nice things about her, and what his goals might be. Kyouya’s not ready to tell her yet, but like Nanako and Tsurayuki, he’s lit a fire in her belly that she’s determined to feed by continuing to improve her craft.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Wonder Egg Priority – 13 (Fin) – Deus Eggs Machina

Instead of being represented by an angel and  a devil perched on her shoulders, Neiru works through her indecision by giving voices to her bunny slippers. She determines it’s time to be “selfish”. She encounters Ai, and they have a listless conversation about the weather before going their separate ways.

Ai returns home to find Neiru’s pet rat Adam by her door, and a text from Neiru asking her to take care of him. That’s all Ai gets; she calls and the phone rings and rings, but Neiru never answers. In a way, Ai is a good part of the audience of Wonder Egg Priority who waited three months for some kind of definitive conclusion.

Unfortunately, this is not really that. Oh, it takes a turn or two in new directions, but very few loose ends are tied up. Indeed, the first half of this special is a recap. Like Ai listening to those droning tones on the phone, we never should have expected answers would be forthcoming. Instead, we get more questions; fresh avenues for contemplation.

After the frankly obnoxious recap (the second, as the first was a necessary evil when the pandemic and time constrained production could not keep up with cruelly unrealistic deadlines), we learn that Ai and the others actually did bring their dead people back to life, only now they have no connections to them. Koito treats Ai coldly and even joins in bullying her.

Worse, when Ai calls Neiru’s office and meets her on the ground floor, Neiru tells her she won’t be her friend and walks away. Ai is so frustrated she tosses her phone, shattering the screen, and even buys a pack of cigarettes…though one sniff of one and she reconsiders actually smoking one.

It’s little moments like that, and all of the angst and depression and panic that sets in as Ai realizes the people closest to her have suddenly drifted away, that reminds me of the best this show could offer. Those painstakingly rendered quiet moments that really brought Ai, the others, and their world to vivid life. Ai decides to vent her frustrations into the mic, singing the ending theme (badly) at karaoke with Rika and Momo

Rika doesn’t like how Neiru just up and left, and suggests they return to the Accas to investigate. Momo doesn’t want to go. She, quite justifiably, doesn’t want to be hurt (anymore than she already has, of course). Rika calls her a coward, but Ai tells her how sad she’d be if Momo got hurt. Rika then says she’d just go and save her all over again.

It, and the scene of the three on the train, exemplifies the highs and lows of friendships. Sometimes we get on each others’ nerves, or have fundamental disagreements, but the bonds endure. Then Ai gets a call from Neiru’s secretary admitting that the cold, dismissive Neiru she encountered earlier wasn’t really Neiru, but Neiru’s sister Aira.

They are invited to Neiru’s house, which was once Kotobuki’s before she died…and becomes Kotobuki’s again when she is revived. Or, to be more precise, she and the other girls’ dead people aren’t the same people because they came from alternate timelines.

That whole can of worms has always been a hard pill of magical realism to swallow, and the more detail given to it, the more it starts to fall apart, so it’s to WEP’s credit they mostly wave their hands and say “it’s fine, just go with it.” Ditto Ai and Rika watching the last dream Neiru recorded, and essentially learning that Neiru…was never human, but an AI???

Rika, always quick to anger and saying things she might not mean, says she’s not willing to “risk her life for a machine.” But what is a sophisticated AI but an infinitely less complex version of the Real McCoy? We are just machines; machines we’ll probably never be able to perfectly replicate no matter how many shows and movies explore the possibility.

When Neiru does finally call Ai, Ai decides to be the one not to answer. She throws her phone over the balcony of her apartment building, then cries into her loving mother’s lap. Not all friendships are forever, and even when turning the page is in one’s best interest, it’s often far more difficult and painful than simply ripping a band-aid off of a hairy arm.

Time passes, and Ai not only leaves Neiru, but drifts away from Momo and Rika as well; sadly we don’t get to see them again. Ai changes schools, since Koito isn’t her Koito anymore, and seems to be adjusting and adapting just fine.

But then one day she walks past a familiar storefront with capsule dispensers, and suddenly all the memories of her friends and of Neiru rush into the foreground of her mind, and she decides to do what Rika wanted to do back at Karaoke: return to the Accas and get cracking. Not all friendships are forever, but not all friendships that end necessarily stay over forever.

Higehiro – 08 – Such Sticky Sweet Sorrow

In hindsight, it was already over for Sayu the moment Issa showed up at her workplace. A man of her brother’s means and drive surely wouldn’t rest until his little sister had been found. Even though Sayu knows this this, and understands this is probably It for her months-long excursion, she’s understandably shaken by the close call, and freezes up. Rather than take immediate action to soften the inevitable blow, Sayu retreats to her happy place: buying snacks for her and Yoshida, who will be at the office late.

But more to the point, Sayu once again places someone or something—in this case Yoshida’s work and her obligation to handle the chores—before herself, even though well within her rights to insist upon being the priority. Her brother finding her also affects Yoshida quite a bit, and in more ways than one—psychologically, legally, etc.—yet Sayu keeps quiet. She doesn’t bother Yoshida.

Thankfully, just as her brother and his employee are about to spot her, Sayu rings into Yuzuha, who, after hearing that Sayu doesnt want to be found, helps hide her. We learn she does this as much to help Sayu out as she does to take the temperature of Sayu and offer some unsolicited but very much needed advice; even some tough love.

In yet another example of how Sayu’s youth has not gone the way most kids her age have, Yuzuha learns Sayu can’t sing with her, because she doesn’t know any songs, because she never had any friends with whom to go to karaoke. Yuzuha surely sympathizes with Sayu, but she’s also more concerned with giving her a thorough reality check than sparing her feelings.

As such, she sits down next to Sayu and asks her, if her pursuers are already here, and she has so little time left, what is she doing shopping? I don’t think Yuzuha is right when she says Sayu “doesn’t get it”, but she is right that Sayu isn’t taking this as seriously as she should. Not just that people are looking for her, but that she and Yoshida seem to have become co-dependent.

One can argue as a practical matter whether Yuzuha the character has really spent enough time with the two of them to make that determination so confidently, but that doesn’t really matter to me, because as much or as little as Yuzuha is assuming, she’s absolutely correct that Yoshida and Sayu have become far too comfortable with their arrangement.

I gave Yuzuha grief in an earlier episode for essentially reading both Yoshida and Airi the riot act for the way they’re going about their lives, but while her little stalking incident is still a mark against her, I for one am glad Yuzuha is here as the voice of reason. Sure, she has a massive conflict of interest in being literally in love with Yoshida (which is its own can of worms), but Yuzuha is no kid.

At this point I trust her more than anyone else to see the forest for the trees. That’s why she can love Yoshida, see the way he looks at Sayu when he arrives, and stay behind in the karaoke room to cry her eyes out, while still being very much in the right about how tremendously unprepared either Yoshida or Sayu are for what isn’t coming down the pike—but has already freaking arrived!

The remainder of the episode sets to work painstakingly validating Yuzuha’s concerns. I can’t blame her taking a rain check considering her feelings for Yoshida, but it really would have been better if Yuzuha had joined them for dinner. At least then, she might’ve been able to steer Sayu towards telling Yoshida that she’s close to being found.

Instead, Sayu says nothing to Yoshida about her brother, choosing to ignore her fate. The two see a poster for the Summer Festival, and in one of the more awkward transitions of the show, the episode cuts from one night to the next night, with Sayu resplendent in her pink yukata,gold obi, and geta. 

Then they go on a date that would be adorable, except for the fact that it’s an indulgence neither of them can really afford at the moment. I can’t really blame Yoshida—he’s in the dark about Sayu’s brother and wants Sayu to have another “normal high school girl” experience.

At the same time, I can’t really blame Sayu for not suddenly turning to Yoshida and saying the jig is up. After all, she hasn’t been to a summer festival since she was a little girl, wasn’t allowed to eat cotton candy even once, and has never been as close to fireworks as she and Yoshida end up being.

The temptation to forget about her imminent doom for just one night proves too strong to resist, but like a yukata rental, the quickly-melting cotton candy, and the fleeting light from the fire fireworks, the trappings of normalcy in which she seeks refuge are all too temporary.

Their interactions throughout are charged with romantic tension. When he sheepishly compliments her yukata, she asks, just under her breath so he can’t quite hear, if it’s prettier than Gotou-san’s. She feeds him some of her cotton candy. When a kid bumps into her, of course Yoshida takes her hand to keep her from falling, and she decides they should keep holding hands throughout so they won’t get lost.

Yoshida knows that were it not for Sayu, he’d have never gone to the festival. Images of his past life without her flash by in his head; it’s a place he’s not ready to return to. When he exits those thoughts, Sayu is no longer holding his hand, and he calls out for her. She’s right behind him, and teases him for thinking she’d disappeared, but we cut to his five-o’clock shadow as he asks, also just under his breath, if she’s really going home.

Even after the fireworks are over, Sayu keeps looking up at the sky. She recalls how she gave all the other guys an alias, but when she met him, her real name just came out. The moment arrives that has arrived in so many romantic anime where there’s either a confession and/or kiss or a failed/thwarted attempt at either.

Instead of either, Yoshida wisely gives Sayu a nice, platonic head pat. Sayu looks disappointed, but quickly smiles. She knows, even if she wasn’t a teenager, Yoshida is sure would have taken her in…and just as sure they wouldn’t have had sex.

Of course, while she knows this, and Yuzuha and Airi and Asami know this, the person to which that very crucial distinction matters most does not know this, at least not yet. That means when Yoshida comes to the door in his pajamas and Sayu is standing behind her in hers, Issa has absolutely no way of knowing Yoshida wasn’t sleeping with his sister.

Even so, Ogiwara Issa’s entire character as we know him thus far is that he’s polite but determined to find her, and now he has. His brief smirk seems more out of relief to have succeeded than a reaction to just how screwed Yoshida is. But that smirk soon straightens into a more serious face as he announcesnot proposes—what’s going to happen. He’s taking Sayu home.

Yoshida may have something to say about that, and Issa may be open to hearing him out, but because this is there first interaction, depending on the level of assumptions Issa is willing to level against him, I can’t imagine anything Yoshida says will move him. I guess we’ll find out eventually, but with next week’s episode entitled “Past”, we may have to wait longer than we should.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Adachi & Shimamura – 04 – The Joy of Being Patted on the Head

Shimamura calls Adachi to ask if she can do a sit-up. It’s a weird and random conversation, but who cares? They’re enjoying talking on the phone together; the content doesn’t matter. Then Shimamura goes to the gym with her mom and encounters Adachi’s mom talking about her daughter.

Shimamura can’t stop herself from speaking up for her friend, questioning whether her mom really knows what she’s talking about. Mirroring her own mom’s tendency to act younger than she is, Shimamura ends up challenging Adachi to a sauna duel to determine who is right.

While Adachi’s mom is initially hostile, she admits she doesn’t know what’s going through her kid’s head. She just wishes she did. In this, the two are alike. When asked for suggestions on how to be a better mom, Shimamura says she should just be normal: have dinner with her once in a while.

Adachi’s mom ends up doing just that, which Shimamura learns as she’s resting her head in Adachi’s lap. Turns out this was odd enough behavior from her mom for Adachi to be too anxious to taste the food her mom made. Shimamura snuggles closer to Adachi, who is demure. Then they do sit-ups!

Shimamura reaches out to Adachi to hang out with her and her friends at karaoke. Shimamura’s mom raised her not to be a burden to others, but it’s Adachi who feels she’ll affect the “harmony” of Shimamura’s three-girl group. Shimamura insists that won’t be the case, and Adachi agrees to the date.

When Adachi arrives on her bike and spots Shimamura’s cute outfit, the two look like a perfect couple. Shimamura’s other two friends are warm and friendly to Adachi, but things still feel “off” to her. She senses that while Shimamura is better at social situations, she doesn’t like them anymore than Adachi.

The two sing a beautiful duet and then prepare to head home, but Adachi offers to give Shimamura a ride on her bike, and Shimamura accepts. Adachi is blushing the whole trip, completely on top of the world to have Shimamura behind her, her hands on her shoulders.

Shimamura suggests a detour to a nearby playground and buys them drinks. Earlier, while underwater in the pool, the vivid aqua color reminded Shimamura of Adachi’s favorite brand mineral water, but the machine closest to them didn’t sell it.

When Shimamura finally draws close and asks Adachi if she has something she wants to talk about, Adachi is initially silent. After all, there isn’t just something she wants to say; a great number of things have piled up inside her, but she’s held them all back for fear of making things “weird” between them. Even so, something comes out: “I want you to pat my head.”

Adachi thinks she’s totally blown it, but then Shimamura pats her head! She pats it slowly and gently, and Adachi has never been happier. Shimamura again notes that Adachi likes to be coddled, and while that’s true, her little request shouldn’t be taken to mean she wants a Big Sis. She wants to be someone special to Shimamura…even if it’s weird.

That head-pat all but clinches it for Adachi: she must like her. Rather than let Shimamura toss her empty off-brand drink can, Adachi keeps it as a memento of that moment of clarity. If Shimamura ever ends up in that room, maybe she’ll see it, and understand. And maybe laugh, too…but good-naturedly!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 12 (Fin) – The One He Wants

We’ve finally arrived at the end of one of the most frustrating, problematic rom-coms I’ve experienced in quite some time, and it ends pretty much how I expected: by not ending. But despite how hard it was to watch at times, I could never quite look away.

On not one but two occasions this week Kazuya shows signs of not only knowing what he must do but stepping up and doing or saying it, only to abandon the effort a half-step short of the finish line. First he does this with Ruka, realizing how lucky he is to have her and how unreasonable he is for feeling like she’s not enough.

He is right in the middle of telling her he’s ready to move past the “trial” period of their relationship and declare them “official”—only to be distracted by the arrival of Mizuhara and Mami at the karaoke parlor. It’s the first of two “showdown” scenes between the two women, and in this first one Mami has all the power and relishes wielding it.

Mami tells Mizuhara she didn’t book her to rag on her profession, but now that she knows she’s a rental, she couldn’t stay quiet. She doesn’t like the fact Mizuhara and Kazuya have had a fake relationship this long, and aside from deeming it bad for Kazuya, just watching it in practice pisses her off “a teensy bit.” None of her words are that harsh or cruel, but Yuuki Aoi’s expert delivery and Mami’s odd expressions make them feel like icy daggers.

Because this is a show where Everything is About Kazuya, Kazuya feels it’s his duty to not only eavesdrop on Mizuhara and Mami’s date, but pretend to be sick and excuse himself from work to follow them. Mizuhara rewarded him last time he did this, so why wouldn’t he do it again? He has an excuse ready to go: he doesn’t want Mizuhara to bear the brunt of Mami’s hate.

Meanwhile Ruka is left holding the bag, wondering if Kazuya was serious about making them official. Kazuya finds Mizuhara and Mami on a bridge about to wrap up the date, but not before a “rematch” of sorts, only this time with Mizuhara having a slight rhetorical edge.

Mizuhara asks Mami straight up how she feels about Kazuya, as she’s sure Mami still occupies a special place in the guy’s heart. Mami doesn’t take the bait, but tosses the question back to Mizuhara, suspicious that in a year of fake-dating, she’s fallen for Kazuya for real. Mizuhara simply states “He’s my boyfriend”, not adding the “rental” part because at this point, until the end of their contract, whether it’s a rental or not is irrelevant.

Mami considers that a dodging of the question and turns to leave, but Mizuhara grabs her hand and tells her they’re not done. As scenes of Kazuya crying about Mami flash by, Mizuhara tells Mami how being a rental girlfriend helped her realize the importance and difficulty of falling in love. She asks if Mami ever faced Kazuya’s feelings head on, in good faith, seriously engaged with his love, or considered that he may be the one to make her “happy for life”.

Mami tells her to buzz off under her breath, and states that all of that is between her and Kazuya. Fair enough, but Mizuhara wins this round. She knows Mami wouldn’t have bothered with this date if she didn’t care one way or another about Kazuya. Of the three lead women, Mami is the one most unready, unwilling, and unable to reckon with her feelings, preferring her cool, aloof, gives-no-fucks, bored-with-everything…facade.

That night, Kazuya is waiting by Mizuhara’s door when she comes home, confessing he saw and heart what she said to Mami, thanking her for having his back once again, and apologizing for not being able to do those things himself. Mizuhara then shocks Kazuya by apologizing in turn, for not being able to secure him a real girlfriend (apparently Ruka doesn’t count!).

As she’s suggesting he consider asking Mami out again, for closure if nothing else, Kazuya steps up to the plate, as he did with Ruka, and says something he should have said long ago: “You’re the one I want. It’s gotta be you.” At last, some progress! Only no, he immediately recants, saying he wants her “as a rental girlfriend”, before rushing into his apartment with a curt good night.

Yet another disappointing, immensely frustrating moment of failure for Kazuya, who comes away from the incident thinking it’s a sure thing that Mizuhara isn’t into him. Meanwhile, next door, a blushing Mizuhara wonders WTF just happened. I have no doubt if Kazuya had made it clear he truly did want her as a real girlfriend, it would have been better for both of them, whether Mizuhara accepted or rejected him.

Instead, as a closing montage indicates, it’s still very much anyone’s game when it comes to winning the Kazuya Sweepstakes. Sumi’s out there doing her job with renewed confidence, Ruka smiles at the phone background of her and Kazuya, Mami is utterly bored to death by her latest rich old dude, and Mizuhara is still showing up early for dates with Kazuya.

They’re still rental dates, and she’s still a rental girlfriend. I get it; that’s the name of the show. And the point of the show wasn’t really about Kazuya to end up with one girl over the others, but to explore the different ways in which we fall in love, now made more complex and at times strange via new technologies.

Kazuya was almost always abysmally hard to watch, but that was kind of the point too. What kept me coming back were Ruka, Mizuhara, Mami and Sumi—in that order—as much care was put into their voices, character designs, clothing, and personalities. They were the stars, while Kazuya was an unfortunate but necessary variable in the equation. If RaG were to return for a sequel, they’d be the ones who’d bring me back.

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 11 – The Inevitable Precipice

Following their Tottori trip (which goes completely unmentioned here), Uzaki and Sakurai continue to ride high as an item, with Uzaki coming over virtually every day and leaving her junk behind, a definite sign of intimacy. However, Sakurai’s a neat freak and when the junk piles up he makes Uzaki clean it up. However, when she cooks him dinner he apologizes for being so harsh, while Uzaki revels at how easy it is to calm him.

When he’s offered cooking duties at the cafe, Sakurai’s attempt at pasta it inedible, so he comes to Uzaki’s house to have a crash course in cooking. He finally meets Uzaki’s cats, but of course her mom overhears him talking about petting them and assumes he’s talking about her. It’s a rehash of a joke that wasn’t particularly funny the first time, but at least we get Hayami Saori “hoo-hoo-hoo” laugh out of it!

We then move on somewhat clunkily to a day of rock climbing, something that comes naturally to Sakurai but which exhausts Uzaki almost instantly. She has no choice but to accept defeat in this particular competition, and simply watches as her “himbo” climbs his heart out while barely breaking a sweat.

We cut awkwardly again to Sakurai doing solo karaoke, the rise of which is explained by a “wise narrator” type I don’t remember hearing much of before, but is only notable because it’s such a poor imitation of Kaguya-sama: Love is War—of which this show isn’t even a pale shadow of a pale shadow.

A tipsy Uzaki and Ami spot him and join in the fun, and due to their reduced inhibitions even dress up and crowd him with chinese dresses, a cop uniform, and a bunny girl suit, the latter of which an unguarded Sakurai declares to be his favorite.

Since this is apparently an episode full of sharp cuts to unrelated events, it ends in the same fashion. Suddenly it’s a dark and rainy day (or night), and Uzaki shows up at Sakurai’s door absolutely soaked…but won’t come in. She declares that she “can’t hang out” with Sakurai anymore, and tears fall down her cheeks.

I’m not sure what to make of this. It’s unusual for a rom-com couple to hit a “low point” or reach some kind of “precipice” before the big finale, but it’s all been goofy fun and games to this point with scarcely any drama aside from the high school swimming flashback.

While this is totally out of left field for the show, I’m still eager to learn why exactly their fun has to come to an end, and would welcome a measure of genuine drama. Was it because Sakurai said the bunny girl was best? Are she and her mom suddenly moving? It could be anything.

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 10 – Diving In

As a result of Shou confessing to Hitomi, she and Asagi find themselves “at odds”, as he puts it (naturally he has no idea why, the big dolt). But neither of them want to keep not talking to each other. So Hitomi doesn’t give up trying to reach out to Asagi, and the two end up making up pretty quickly and easily once Asagi works through her frustrations as more her own fault that Hitomi’s.

After all, someone who’s known Shou as long as she has should know full well how direct and clear she has to be, and she hasn’t been, leading to him seeking love elsewhere. No matter how obvious it may seem to her that she’s in love with Shou, it’s ultimately up to her to make it known to him beyond doubt. Besties once more, Asagi and Hitomi scarf down some healing parfaits and then partake in therapeutic karaoke with Kurumi and Kohaku.

The next day, Kohaku announces the magical presentation which will be her contribution to the club for the festival. She intends, with Hitomi’s help, to transport visitors into a drawing; specifically, one of Yuito’s fantastical pastels. But Kohaku makes it clear to Hitomi she can’t do it without her. Hitomi has a special ability to reach into the heart of the artist (in this case Yuito’s), and has faith she’ll be able to do it. All it will take is dedication to the goal, discipline, and practice, practice, practice.

First she sends one paper airplane into a Seurat painting on the computer. Then two, then five, then one for every member of the club, in under three minutes. Kohaku may have asked a lot of Hitomi, but she knows how powerful Hitomi’s magic is, as well as how it’s been dormant much of her life. It’s time to let it out to stretch its legs, and once Hitomi gets it, it’s as invigorating for her as it is exciting for her granny.

Yuito completes his drawing—one with a theme park aesthetic that combines all of the club members’ disparate requests—and Hitomi and Kohaku successfully transport everyone inside. For the first time, Hitomi and her friends can see the same colors at the same time.

It’s a glorious sequence, diving into the drawing, and reminded me more and more of the similarly trippy What Dreams May Come, which starts out all vivid and lush and slowly grows more dark and menacing as its protagonist descends into the bowels of the hereafter.

Hitomi and Yuito are enjoying a lovely stroll in the forest when he spots his neon fish and follows it into a dark corner of the painting. Before long, he finds a stone statue of a seated, forlorn Hitomi, then gets shut into an even deeper darker chamber where he finds a young and even more forlorn Hitomi drawing sad monochromatic pictures of a princess and queen seemingly perpetually separated by a deep black boundary.

No matter how hard Yuito tries to cheer up this illusory ‘lil Hitomi, she rejects his attempts as unwanted and futile. Nothing can cross that black boundary. She doesn’t know why; she just knows you…just can’t. When Yuito snaps back into reality with everyone else outside the picture, Hitomi finds herself suddenly crying.

Clearly, just as Hitomi was able to reach into Yuito’s heart and bring his drawing to life for everyone to share in, Yuito’s drawing drew out a part of Hitomi. Now that he’s seen it, he’s not just going to pretend he didn’t.

She and Yuito go to their vantage point and talk through it. Yuito brings uncomfortable things up Hitomi would rather be left unsaid, right up until she’s shouting for him to stop already, but she realizes he’s trying to help and so she talks, for the first time, about how things were.

Hitomi’s mother was the first Tsukishiro woman in a long, long time who had no magical ability, but Hitomi had plenty. She believes her having magic is the reason her mother suddenly left, and blames and curses herself for not calling out to her. Yuito rightly assures her that Hitomi shouldn’t feel responsible just because she had magic and her mother didn’t, and rather than shoulder all the blame, it’s okay for her to be angry.

Hitomi’s guilt over the abilities she was born with led to her hatred of, and turning of her back on, magic. Until now, of course. Even without her mother around, she’s not alone. She has friends who care about her and are amazed and moved and made happier by the magical gifts Kohaku is helping her hone. And perhaps that’s why her grandmother sent her to the past to begin with: to show her that her magic is a blessing, not a burden.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 10 – Love is Painful, but Also Fun

I’ll admit the title above isn’t a particularly original observation, but one thing it definitely is is true, as anyone who loves or has ever loved someone else can attest. When 3DK started I noted the balance in its core couple, and I stand by that assessment.

Whatever they may feel about their situation, the fact is both of them are at pretty much an equal disadvantage when it comes to matters of love and intimacy. Before falling for one another, neither had any experience with intimacy. Hikari had never liked or been liked by someone like Iroha, and Iroha had never liked or been liked by someone like Hikari.

Their mutual lack of experience has made for a bumpy road as their affection for one another intensifies, but it also leads to some novel strategies someone with more experience than Hikari might not attempt, such as having Iroha present for his gentle rejection of Ayado.

It wasn’t even a stone-cold rejection of Ayado, so much as a calm and measured affirmation that he’s simply already in love with Iroha. More importantly, he showed his work, explaining how he used to feel and how those feelings changed when he learned more about her, and when his preconceptions were replaced by truths.

Iroha, who only wanted to hear Hikari say the words “I love you”, wants to hear them again later, and Hikari knows not to refuse her. Ayado feels bad about being turned down, and both she and Hikari find themselves weighed down by their 3D problems in the immediate aftermath, but after that both are fine; Ayado is refreshed.

Itou knows now is not the time to confess his love for Ayado, nor is he sure such a time will ever come. When making up with Hikari after yelling at him by sleeping over, Itou reveals to Hikari that there’s a girl he likes, but believes he’s already been given his answer.

I wouldn’t be too sure about that; Ayado is coming off a rejection, but given time, she might be receptive to someone like Itou’s feelings provided, ya know, she is aware of them, and that’s up to Itou. It’s up to him whether he can get past the fact she once loved Hikari. In any case, as Itou says, it’s painful being in love, but also fun.

Hikari’s tale of romantic ineptitude is a simple one: he buried himself in games after he decided interacting with people was too hard and painful. It was Iroha who brought him back to the 3D world, and showed him how it wasn’t only pain that awaited him there, but a good deal of joy as well. He also learned how well-equipped he was to live in such a world, owing to his basic decency and kindness.

Iroha’s tale is one we hadn’t delved into, but I’m glad this episode finally does so. Iroha has a pretty face, and so she never wanted for the attentions of men of all ages, whether that attention was appropriate or not. When she pressed those who confessed to her what they liked, they gave only superficial answers.

What changed Iroha from an insular person not any more sure how to interact with people into someone approaching gregariousness was, apparently, a medical diagnosis. She decided she’d interact with as many people as she could, but she only managed to attract those like her; people only looked at the surface and never dug deeper.

In a way it’s hard to blame them, because like her it was all they knew. Then she met Hikari, someone who wasn’t simply looking to share in the kindred understanding of attractive people that your real self will always elude others. Hikari got past that, found the awkward person beneath the surface, and wanted to protect that person…and stuff.

Hikari is still nervous being alone with Iroha, particularly in his room, but after a day of karaoke and bowling during which Iroha discovers Hikari’s cool, intense side (going all out singing) as well as his delicate, nurturing side (clipping her nails when she breaks them while bowling), he comes to the realization he’s okay being with her.

When he and Iroha spotted his little brother holding hands with Takanashi’s little sister, Hikari lamented that he sometimes feels his life moves five times slower than average. But when you only have three months left with your girlfriend before she moves, he realizes that slowing of time is a good thing.

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