Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 05

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RKC is full of surprises. I never thought I’d be awarding two nines in a row to it, but it showed this week, categorically, that the excellent handling of Stella and Ikki’s confession wasn’t a fluke; that wonderful romance is here to stay, and there’s lots of room to grow.

But there were sure to be bumps in the road, and the first is that they’ve been lovers for two weeks…but haven’t done anything. That seems to bother Stella more than Ikki, but as we eventually find out, that’s not the case at all. It’s another common romantic convention: both lovers waiting for the other to start something and getting frustrated by it. Yet it’s another convention RKC picks up and runs with, showing how potent and relatable idea it can be.

While they’ve been lovers doing nothing for two weeks, Ikki has only risen in school standing, no longer the Worst One, but “Another One” (that’s not really his nickname, is it?). The girls swarm around him wanting lessons in swordsmanship; a group of guys gets jealous, but he beats them so easily they become his loyal students, a nice change of pace from the typical “you’ll regret this!” storming off that even the reporter mentions.

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The group of students he’s teaching keep growing along with his popularity, and while Stella is probably proud of him and admiring of his generosity, there’s no doubt she’s getting nudged out of chunks of time he could be with her.

Also Shizuku, as it turns out, hasn’t quite given up on him, or at least intends to make life difficult for Stella if she fails to assert herself. I particularly liked Shizuku’s ear-to-ear grin as Stella must follow through and chug her two bottles of Pocari Sweat.

Another great moment was when Alice lent Stell a game whose protagonist looks and sounds very similar, if not identical, minus the glasses, to Ikki. Her “illicit” vicarious play hearkens back to that great scene where she can’t help but touch Ikki’s chest while he’s sleeping.

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When Ikki takes his class to the pool, he invites Stella along. When she angrily wonders why he doesn’t want to teach her, he gives a very good explanation that not only appeases but flatters her: her ability is beyond anything can teach her, that his style would undermine her strengths, and he wants her, over any other, to continue to go beyond his imagination.

But the fact of the matter is, nothing continues to happen, and Stella is forced into the background as he teaches the others. The reporter puts two and two together, threatens to ask Ikki out, then gets Stella to let slip they’re lovers going nowhere. The reporter’s advice is simple: be forceful and tell him what you want. But of course, it’s not that simple.

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The reporter’s talk with Stella mirrors Alice’s talk with Shizuku, and in this case Alice has valuable insight into the male mind, since he shares their biology, if not that identity. The episode cleverly cuts between the two discussions, Archer-style. It’s also notable that Alice, hardly a conservative, doesn’t think Shizuku’s love for her brother is necessarily wrong, and that she shouldn’t accept defeat just yet.

Still, that’s because Alice is rooting for her beloved friend and roommate. In reality, Ikki is very much in love with Stella, and vice-versa. When the two come together, Ikki starts to talk in a way that Stella interprets as a break-up. The two have their first lovers’ quarrel, and it’s a damn fine one, with the two of them belting out increasingly reasonable things even as they get unreasonably upset with one another.

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Brass tacks: Ikki didn’t make the first move because he was worried she’d think he was a dirty man; Stella didn’t because she was worried he’d think she was a slut. They’re both wrong; both want the other to make a move. So they agree to say the thing they want to do right there and then, and it’s the same thing: kiss. Ikki makes it clear he wants her to ask him for a kiss when she wants one; Stella lets him know she only likes it when one guy looks at her in a naughty way: him.

Having cleared a common hurdle at the start of relationships when the two parties are still feeling each other’s patterns and ways of doing things out, they confidently hold hands on the bus ride home, each knowing a lot more what the other expects, and likely feeling foolish for ever worrying about it. Some tough battles with the Evil Student Council executives lay ahead for both of these lovers, but they won’t have to worry about what the other wants anymore.

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Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 04

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Stella’s first battle is over before it begins, when her lower-ranked opponent forfeits out of a desire not to be hurt too badly. When she checks in on Ikki, he’s studying tape on his opponent, Kirihara Shizuya, and his “Area Invisible” technique that’s such a mismatch against Ikki’s swords skills. He seems focused and committed, and promises her he won’t lose. And Stella, having come off an easy victory, having lost to him herself, and used to Ikki acting tough and cool, believes him, without suspecting anything amiss.

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Alice is different. Her woman’s intuition, if you will, senses something is off with Ikki on this particular momentous, high-pressure occasion. She learns about how years ago there was a conspiracy to get Ikki expelled for some petty infraction, and how Shizuya attacked him brutally, but Ikki wouldn’t fight back no matter what, worried (rightly so) that he’d be kicked out for it.

Alice comes to the conclusion Ikki is so used to being downtrodden, both physically and mentally, by those who see themselves as better than him, that he’s developed a hard skin that prevents him from hearing the “screaming in his heart”—that release valve everyone has.

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Now that he has to either win the Seven Star Battle or be expelled, that pent-up anguish has a profound effect on Ikki, such that he does not strike the moment that gives him the best chance at victory: before Shizuya activates Area Invisible. He can’t, says Alice: he’s too damned nervous down there.

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And so, Shizuya, who is perfectly confident in his ability to hide and attack from the shadows like a hunter or assassin, has his way with Ikki, riddling him full of arrows. Ikki collapses in a pool of his own bloood, Shizuya mocks him, the crowd starts laughing and mocking and chanting “Worst One” and it’s almost a nightmare come true for Ikki, until a fed-up Stella stands up and tells the crowd to shut the hell up, and tells Ikki to stop looking pathetic and get up.

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So he gets up. He puts his cool face back on. He can, because Stella’s loud public words of encouragement wash away the nerves. He calms down, then uses his trump card and steals the “logic” of Shizuya’s ability, so he can see right through it every time. Shizuya is able to switch from tactic to tactic, but ultimately they’re all part-and-parcel of his ability, leaving nothing with which he can hold Ikki back other than cowering and crying “uncle.” Ikki spares his life (by one millimeter!) and wins. Then he passes out.

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When he comes to, he’s in the hospital, a dozing, drooling Stella by his bedside, his sister crying into Alice’s shoulder outside because it’s not to be for her. And since he has her alone, Ikki, who won his battle thanks to Stella, confesses to her, and expresses how important she is to him.

Her lovely dere response includes a closed-eyes first kiss and a small nod indicating she feels the same way about him. Then Ikki draws her into a big warm hug (bawww) and promises he’ll one she’ll face in the Seven Star final. You don’t get that a lot in anime these days: a couple working towards facing off against each other in the final battle. I like it!

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Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 03

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The Stella x Ikki romance is humming along so well, Stella judges it time to ask him out on a Saturday date. Unfortunately for her, Shizuku had the same exact idea at the same time, sending a text to her bro as Stella trying to get the words out, which Ikki responds to immediately.

When Shizuku brings her roommate “Alice” (a man who identifies as a maiden), it turns into a group date, with neither Stella nor Shizuku happy about the other being there. Alice briefly flirts with Ikki as a joke, but otherwise isn’t in the running.

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Typical harem date hijinx ensue, from Shizuku holding Ikki’s hand (“normal sibling behavior”), to Shizuku calling out Stella on her self-description as Ikki’s servant when she tries to get closer to him, to Ikki wiping cream off Shizuku’s cheek and eating it, then Stella covering the lower half of her face in cream in order to attract similar treatment (Ikki just gets a towel). From Shizuku’s reaction to Ikki’s cream swipe to Stella’s ham-handed counterattack, it’s clear these two are new to the seduction game. It’s a process!

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But thankfully, the whole episode isn’t just a lightweight date, when the mall they’re in gets taken over by gun-wielding, hostage-taking masked goons working for a Blazer named Bisho. It happens when Ikki and Alice are in the john, and Alice hides them in the shadows using his handy shadow-manipulating device, but Stella and Shizuku are among the hostages.

No matter, they put aside their rivalry and start working to resolve the situation. Shizuku needs Stella to stay put and stay off the radar, but when the tough guys start beating an insolent mother and son, she stands up and uses her power to protect them, blowing her cover.

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When Stella goes head-to-head against Bisho, his “Ring of Judgment” absorbs her strikes and fires them back at her with equal force. But he respects her courage and offers to spare the hostages if she supplicates herself…in the nude.

Not wanting any innocents hurt, she starts to strip, but before she can remove her bra, Shizuku springs into action, having prepared a water-based magical barrier that protects the hostages from bullets and allows Ikki and Alice to take out Bisho, while Stella takes out the henchmen in her undies.

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They do so, and Ikki overcome’s Bisho’s weapon by simply cutting his hand off, and all’s well that ends well, with a somewhat woozy-from-exertion Ikki running to embrace Stella (who is surprised by but also happy with such a affectionate gesture. And he doesn’t hug Shizuku!)

But there’s a baddie hiding amongst the hostages too: a woman who threatens to kill another woman nearby if they don’t stand down. Fortunatly for Ikki & Co., an “ally” appears out of nowhere and basically cleans up the mess they were in, saving everyone.

That “ally”, which I put in quotes because he’s someone who seems to do such things in order to get all the credit and groupies, is Kirihara Shizuya, someone with whom Ikki has a past. Specifically, Ikki “ran away like a coward” rather than do battle with him an unspecified time ago.

Ikki tries to be cordial, but Kirihara’s barbs annoy Stella to no end. Worse, Kirihara gets a new text message: the first opponent he’ll face will be Kirihara. I doubt Ikki will be running away this time, and will have a plan to beat him.

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