More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 08 – Lost in the forest of decision

This week was difficult at times, but also necessary in a satisfying way. We start with Shiori, Mei, Jirou, and Akari all alone, wondering how long things will stay “this way”, in a state of confusion, frustration, and longing. Not forever, surely!

Even Jirou’s video game is asking him to make a choice between two princesses, warning him the wrong one would “destroy the kingdom”. That’s not far off! Suffice it to say, the current state of things is becoming untenable for everyone.

When the new monthly rankings come out, Jirou and Akari only make it to thirteenth place, which means they still lack the mechanism to enact a decision regarding whom they wish to truly be with. Even so, the marriage practical is a false obstacle. They really don’t need to make it to the Top 10 to sort this out!

In the meantime, Jirou and Akari’s marriage continues apace. Akari’s arachnophobia supplants any modesty about running in on Jirou when he’s nakked in the bath, and in her state of fear and vulnerability she’s never squeezed him tighter. Since the 2mm spider has disappeared, Akari insists on Jirou staying by her side all day, even as she does her nails.

Jirou can shrug off all this sudden intimacy with Akari as a product of her fear of spiders and need for someone by her side to protect her, not necessarily a romantic partner. Since they’re still playing the marriage game to make the Top 10 and swap for their crushes, he remains convinced Akari isn’t interested in him in any other way.

Of course, she is, and she wouldn’t bring up “what ifs” like asking what would’ve happened if they’d met outside the bounds of the compulsory marriage practical. Nor would she ask if they should try dating, like the fifth-ranked couple apparently has started to do. She only says “just kidding” because the silence grows too long, while Jirou wonders why he thought seriously about it for a second. Dude, because she was serious.

This is not the first, nor will it be the last time Akari says something straight-up only to amend it or dismiss it as messing around. The beautifully staged and lit overhead shot of the two alone in their bed that night says still more than her overt words. That thick, dark wall is doing a lot of work, visually and thematically.

Over at Casa de Sakurazawa-Tenjin, Minami can tell something’s troubling Shiori and offers to help, even if he’s not confident he’ll be able to. Shiori confides in him her “friend’s” situation, in which she’s kissed the person they like and now can’t think of anything else. Minami picks up pretty easily that Shiori is talking about herself, but steadfastly doesn’t break the charade.

We finally learn something interesting about Minami in that he apparently missed his chance to confess to the person he loved, and urges Shiori’s “friend” to have confidence and keep trying if there’s a possibility it will work out. We knew that he and Shiori had nothing going on romantically, but this proves it. Also, pretty rich telling her to be confident when he apparently has so little of his own!

As for the true third vertex in the Shiori-Jirou love triangle, Hamano Mei and Shiori have a deeply romantic little scene in the classroom after school, even if Shiori isn’t at all aware of  how her compliments truly affect Mei. Even Mei’s husband Shuu is aware of how much she loves Shiori, and arranges to go out with Minami on a karaoke all-nighter so the two girls can have a sleepover.

Shuu learns another nugget about Minami when he hangs out with him and their café boss that night: Minami has an older brother, and their boss says since it’s a family of “ikemen” even siblings are rivals. Sounds like his bro might’ve stolen his true love? As for the boss, he’s Sadaharu’s older brother.

When Shiori and Mei are planning sleeping arrangements, talk turns to looking at old photos. Mei looks forward to seeing lil’ Shiori … right up until Shiori bashfully says most of the photos contain Jirou as well. Mei checks her phone and heads off on a family errand, abandoning the sleepover plan because she knows who Shiori really loves.

Sadaharu ends up at a restaurant with Jirou, and despite not drinking like his big bro, comes up with the hair-brained idea that he needs to bring his new accidentally lecherous friend back down to his level … by kissing him. While he’s leaning in for that smooch, Shiori, now alone, just happens to pass by, and seemingly gets a look at them, and walks off with no reaction.

Jirou chases after her to explain things, but as she didn’t actually see him and Sadaharu, she assumes he’s talking about their accidental kiss. She was looking at the restaurant sign that contained the symbol for “kiss”. When they thankfully clear up this misunderstanding, they each take one of the handles of the bag and walk together.

When conversation turns back to their kiss, Shiori insists that Jirou hear her out. He doesn’t have to apologize for the kiss, because she asked him to kiss her for practice, and she admits she learned a lot, so she earnestly thanks him. Jirou is confused, since he still thinks she wants to be “friends (and only friends) forever”, but he can’t deny that she sets up another potential kiss for them right then and there.

Sadly, when two cats interrupt their moment Shiori quickly shifts to small talk, but hey, at least these two are talking again, and Jirou understands that Shiori doesn’t feel bad about their kiss.

Jirou’s video game princess warned that the kingdom will be destroyed if he makes the wrong choice. The “kingdom” in this case could be his friendship with Shiori, whether they take it to the next level or if he chooses Akari. The same scenarios apply to Mei: confessing to Shiori means possibly abandoning regular friendship in the future.

In either case, the old has to be torn down before something new can be built in its place. The fear and hesitance of doing so is all too understandable and relatable—as is the result of not making choices: the aforementioned increasingly untenable purgatory. Something’s gotta give, and hopefully something will!

I’ve watched many a frustrating-as-hell rom-rom in which characters didn’t make what I felt to be the obvious, easy choice. This show is doing a great job really putting us in each character’s shoes and explaining why they’re having so much difficulty, and making clear that there are no easy choices.

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 06 – Hearts Racing Together

One morning, Akari is acting like a caring, loving wife, the kind that is again propelling her and Jirou into the top of the practical rankings (which are a thing I find myself caring less and less about as the show goes on). The only thing that gives Jirou pause is the fact that Akari keeps calling him by his last name, even seemingly accentuating the “Yakuin”.

Jirou doesn’t know why, but it bothers him, and he even googles “why is a girlfriend suddenly calling you by your last name”. Seems like a step backwards, or some kind of message, right? Then Jirou and Sadaharu happen to witness Hamano Mei rejecting female kohai who just confessed her love for her.

Aside from it being a magnificently gay scene I was waiting for, Mei demonstrates that she’s very good at the gentle turn-down, and I have no reason to doubt she truly is happy that this girl fell for her, even if she can’t return the feelings. Mei also bears part of the burden for not “being mindful enough to notice” the girl’s feelings, then indulges her with a warm embrace and calls her by her first name.

Jirou wants to notice what’s causing Akari to use his last name, so that already shows he’s being mindful. He’s a good kid, thinking about how she feels! When he’s about to shower, Akari barges in with the rankings on her phone: they’re now in eighth place, and she hugs him while he’s shirtless, which is a first.

Later, she helps him dry his hair—which he washed with a shampoo she chose for both of them. When she hits the hair dryer, Jirou says her first name, then again. The third time he says it is when she switches it off, and she hears it, and calls him Jirou in turn. Now he gets it: she simply wanted him to call her Akari first. She says its for the benefit of their artificial marriage, but it’s clear him calling her Akari makes her blush every time.

While Jirou figured out this little mini-mystery of how he and Akari address one another, he’s still largely in the dark about Shiori’s true feelings. In that regard, his lack of mindfulness stems from her years-old friendzoning of him, which he felt at the time meant that was that and there were lines beyond childhood friendship she’d rather not cross.

But that was then, and Shiori regretted it then and has yet to resolve matters. In this, her best friend Mei most likely subordinated her own unrequited romantic feelings for Shiori in order to ensure she’s happy, by doing everything possible to bring her and Jirou together. She makes it clear if Shiori isn’t more aggressive in letting Jirou know her feelings, Akari (or some other girl) will beat her to the punch.

When Shiori gets hit in the head by an errant football, Mei sends her to the nurses office and promises to send Jirou there, where it’s clear she wants Shiori to do what she couldn’t do during their shared classroom duties. When Jirou hesitates, Mei verbally kicks him in the butt to get in there and see Shiori already.

But while Mei can’t understand why her Shiori loves a “coward” like Jirou, she’s missing the fact that Shiori’s been a coward too! Coward is probably too strong a term; more like stubborn in their shared belief that the other isn’t interested despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

When Jirou visits the nurse’s office to see Shiori, the two find themselves all alone in the dark. They exchange some awkward small talk, Jirou notices that Minami brought her a sandwich and sports drink before he did (though Mei gave him his). Shiori mentions how well Jirou and Akari are doing, he says they still fight a lot, and Shiori remarks how she’d like to see Jirou angry sometime. That is to say, she wants to know more about him beyond the childhood friend.

She also makes it clear when Jirou brings up making romantic progress that she and Minami have done no such thing, and that furthermore, even if it was with someone she liked, she’d worry about being too nervous and inexperienced. This must feel to Jirou like a comfortable mirror.

Shiori makes another blunder by saying she wants to “practice” kissing with Jirou, which suggests she’d rather kiss someone else “for real”, but Jirou, who had just gotten a talking-to from Mei to “go for it”, agrees and leans in to kiss Shiori.

At the very last second Shiori hesitates again, which happens before Akari’s gyaru-friend Sachi comes in to skip class, hears the bed creaking, and sees boy’s and girl’s shoes through the gap in the curtain. Sachi is scandalized and makes a quick exit, but her entrance caused Jirou to slip and fall … right onto Shiori and her lips.

Accident or not, the two have finally kissed, and it was so unexpected and so … so much for both of them they basically short-circuit in unison and agree to part ways for the time being. I feel so bad for both Mei and Akari, as these two are—and I can’t stress this enough—the fucking worst.

I mean everyone has their pace that they must follow (I think about Chuu2Koi handled this quite well). But you don’t have to jump each other’s bones; you can use their words and clear all this up! Say you like him! Say you like her! Boom! But they don’t.

All throughout this time, Akari has been trying to get ahold of Jirou, but he’s ignored her last four texts. Then Sachi shows up and tells her what went down in the nurse’s office, and right after hearing this Akari gets a text from Jirou saying he was in the nurse’s office. Naturally, her thoughts go straight to Shiori.

I continue to feel so bad for Akari. I’m sure Minami is a nice guy, but she doesn’t really know him. She does know Jirou a lot more, and is developing feelings for him that are quickly replacing the more shallow attraction nad idolization for Minami. Also, I doubt Minami is any more interested in her than he is Shiori.

And hey, what do you know, Akari is so preoccupied with Jirou that she doesn’t even notice Minami served her that drink! I am HERE for the Minami erasure. We’re in episode six. If we go another six without him so much as uttering a line, I’ll be perfectly content.

What we have here, then, is a love triangle. And with her assumption Jirou went and did something with Shiori in the nurse’s office, Akari is understandably lonely and depressed. It doesn’t help matters that her gyaru-friends stand her up at the café, though Minami gives her some free extra whipped cream and a note to cheer her up (though again, you get the impression he’d do this with anyone).

When she comes home late, Jirou is passed out on the couch. Akari sees the chocolates and deduces he waited for her. She doesn’t check her phone and see the text warning that the chocolates contained whiskey. She does unfold the couch (which of course becomes a bed), disrobe and curl up next to the dozing Jirou, asking him if this is what he did with Shiori, or did they take things even further.

What’s so heartbreaking is that Akari isn’t mad that Jirou might’ve slept with Shiori. After all, who wouldn’t want to have their first time be with someone so clearly important to them? Even more heartbreaking? Lines like “Did you go off and become an adult without me?” and “Don’t leave me behind,” and “I’ll cheer on in your love … but just for now, while I’m your wife, could you wait?” Just one dagger after the other.

Jirou regains consciousness from his inadvertent choco-bender very confused Akari is sleeping beside him in her underwear. When he asks what happened, Akari teases him for forgetting what happened … for forgetting what he did to her. She then asks “was last night your first time?” to which he answers yes, because he assumes she means the two of them.

When he proceeds to apologize if he didn’t perform to her standards and such, she admits she was lying, they didn’t do it. When Jirou is a bit too emphatic in his relief, since it means he’s still a virgin, Akari is miffed. I’m not sure he meant to imply he’s glad he didn’t lose it to her because he’d rather lose it to Shiori (I think he’s just glad he didn’t pop his cherry and not remember it)—but that’s how she interprets it.

It sucks that this is how the episode, and the first half of the season, wraps up: with another misunderstanding. But even if Jirou picks up on what Akari is mad and is able to smooth things over, the underlying triangle remains. While Shiori did stop them from kissing for real, they did lock lips, and once she and Jirou fully process that, that dance will continue. And this conflict will surely drive the second half.

Could Akari be clearer about how she’s acting toward Jirou is less about being a great pretend wife for the sake of getting Minami and more about legitimate feelings for him? Sure! Could Shiori, for the benefit of both Akari and the long-suffering Mei, please kindly shit or get off the pot? Perhaps! But Jirou can also keep being as mindful as he can be. As long as he’s wracking his brain, there’s potential for progress on all fronts. Whatever happens, I’m loving these characters, and this show.

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 05 – Sharing fabric softener

Akari’s crush continues to be supplanted by feelings for the mock husband right in front of her, and throughout the episode she expresses this though lots of teasing and physical contact, starting with a loving wife’s hug before Jirou heads off for school duties. Little does he know that Shiori has arranged to swap duties with her sporty pianist wife Hamano Mei so she can get some quality time with Jirou.

Before the arrangement, Mei is trying to get Shiori to do what needs to be done to get the man she wants—which may yet involve a giant Acme-brand mallet with which to smack him over the head. Shiori says “Jirou doesn’t think of me that way” but Mei knows better; Shiori just needs to make her feelings plain and obvious before Akari snatches him up. Akari’s galfriends only tease her about the prospect of falling for Jirou, but they’re on the right track!

Despite my increasing affinity for Akari and Akari x Jirou, being a sucker for childhood friends I relished the opportunity for Shiori and Jirou to hang out together without interruptions from Akari, Minami, or Sadaharu (who sits this episode out; I don’t mind the guy but appreciated a break from him).

The results are predictable: having class duties together reminds them of when they had them in middle school, and the two settle into that warm, happy nostalgia and familiarity. But when it comes time to leave the safety of the past and try to grasp the future with a solicited kiss, Akari thinks he’s dreaming, while Shiori withdraws at the last moment and must beat the shit out of the erasers in frustration with herself.

Unfortunately, this leaves Jirou with the same impression as the start of the day: that while there are occasional signs here and there, Shiori doesn’t like him “that way”. That leaves him gloomy on the balcony an otherwise dazzlingly starry night, and Akari joins him with mugs of hot milk in a genuinely heartwarming gesture of trying to cheer him up.

That inherent kindness in Akari’s character is at odds with a deep resentment that he’s feeling so down over another girl, which of course reflects how he feels whenever she gets riled up about Minami. Akari decides to press the teasing by insisting he start calling her by her name, and is shocked when he does it immediately, while explaining why he had trouble before.

Akari gets much more than she bargained for here, and has to retreat before Jirou sees her beet-red face and ears. Gathering her patio door curtain around her, she curses these confusing feelings. To this point she’s been in love with the idea of Minami, but that idea is losing ground to the reality of Jirou.

When their teacher announces that practical couples’ scores will be combined and everaged together, Jirou is anxious, as he’s not sure the extent of Akari’s academic prowess. But rather than simply presume she’s a dunce, he asks her about it, and her tone and body language make it clear she’s far from confident about it.

He asks her to cancel her karaoke plans so they can study together, but she says it’s “not so easy” to break said plans because she was invited by other guys, as opposed to her galfriends. To this, Akari says “I’m asking for you too here,” and she relents, but believes he’s only being this “desperate” for Shiori’s sake. Meanwhile, Mei continues to prove that she may just be the most deserving of Shiori’s hand in marriage. If nothing else, she’s trying her best to make Shiori happy and successful in love.

Jirou finds that while Akari picks things up fast, she hates the fundamental idea of studying. Her frustration from the assumption he’s only doing this for him and Shiori leads her to up her teasing and flirting game considerably, cozying up to Jirou and saying he can “do whatever he wants”.

Jirou averts his gaze, and ends up seeing that Akari figured did a challenging math problem correctly. The rest of the study session progresses and their couple score continues to go up. When they’re done, Akari isn’t ready to eat dinner yet, and would rather get Jirou to admit she makes his heart race.

She does this by jumping into his lap, but she grows more frustrated when he tries to ignore her, so she turns around so they’re front-to-front, and tells him he can look at her if he wants. When he still won’t, she grabs him even tighter, and he ends up flipping them over so she’s on her back.

At this point the two are in dangerous territory, and Akari can hear his heart pounding now. It’s here where Jirou starts to let his hormones take over, caressing her cheek. Akari says he can’t once, then twice, but then takes hold of his shoulder to pull him nearer, and closes her eyes to prepare for a kiss …

I knew amorous congress was going to be interrupted by something, be it doorbell, phone, or Sadaharu. This time, it’s Jirou’s nose, which suddenly starts bleeding. Though Jirou thanks his nose profusely for stopping him from doing something he’d regret. Once the bleeding is stemmed by a tissue, the two fold laundry together—the hot-and-heaviness replaced by a picture of domestic bliss.

Akari laughs at Jirou for getting a bloody nose in such a situation, but Jirou in turn asks her what is up with her pestering him so heavily all night. She brings up how she’s frustrated by how desperately he’s trying to prevent Shiori from leaving him behind. He, in turn, tells her he’s not just doing it for him and Shiori, but her and Minami, and further tells her he’s sure she’d reach A-rank with anyone, not just him. He simply hoped that after she’d gained so many points for them, he’d try to contribute by helping with her studies.

Jirou doesn’t know just how happy it makes Akari to hear that, because as far as he’s concerned she doesn’t feel anything serious for him, and her amorous actions have only been to tease him. But Akari is feeling less grateful that he’s doing this for her and Minami when it’s currently the two of them together that makes her heart race for real. She thinks about a future where they switch partners, and their clothes no longer smell like the same fabric softener, and … it’s not necessarily something she wants.

Fuukoi continues to do tremendous character work in the midst of what will always be a silly and contrived premise, and its deft “couch time” animation and Akari’s facial expressions in general continue to impress. There’s still a lot of confusion and awkwardness from all parties, but Shiori is gradually fumbling her way closer to Jirou, while dangerous couch session Akari’s true feelings may be coming into better focus.

Jirou’s self-loathing-fueled obliviousness can’t hold out forever. If it isn’t already, his confidence in Shiori being his one and only will surely start taking the same dents as Akari’s in Minami being hers.

Engage Kiss – 11 – Last Kiss Goodbye

When Kisara is stabbed with Demon Kanna’s spear and she touches it, she suddenly gets a rush of her memories, which include a young Shuu. Kisara tells Shuu to flee at once, Sharon grabs him and grabs hold of the runner of Ayano’s chopper to take them away.

Kisara charges at Kanna, but at the last minute is stopped dead by another memory of Kanna as an innocent child. In that instant of hesitation, Kanna strikes Kisara down and she falls into the sea. Kanna soon follows her down there when Mikhail fires the satellite beam at her twice.

Kanna is dormant on the sea floor, but could reawaken at any time. Meanwhile Kisara is in hospital and won’t wake up or heal at her usual speed. All Shuu and Ayano can do is sit there, wait, and contemplate what comes next. Sharon makes clear that as far as her bosses are concerned Kanna is an S-Class Demon that must be destroyed.

The problem is, none of the contractors in Bayron City are sure they can deal with an S-Class even with a united front, and instead place their hopes in Kisara, who they don’t know is in a bad way. While alone with Kisara that night, Shuu makes a heartfelt plea to her for what he should do, and she wakes up and kisses him.

Unlke previous kisses, this one seems to transfer Shuu’s memories back to him. Starting with his sudden breakup with Ayano and resignation from AAA, to teaming up with/seducing Sharon, to finding Kisara, whom we learn is a distant blood relative of his, thus making their contract possible.

Forming a more efficient and practical contact with Kisara involves a lot of trial-and-error, along with an actual paper contract that’s several hundred pages long. Before they make things official, Kisara reads the whole thing through and, unbeknownst to Shuu, makes a couple of changes.

For one, she makes a kiss the means by which the limits of her demonic power are unleashed. This wasn’t how the contract was initially written up, but the kissing gesture was inspired by how Shuu “formed contracts” (i.e., bedded) previous humans like Ayano and Sharon. And once she kisses him, there’s no going back.

That brings us to the other thing she changed: if they kiss while their hands are intertwined just so, their contract will be terminated. That’s what she seems to do in their present-day kiss in the hospital, and unless I’m totally misjudging things, this results in all of Shuu’s memories returning to him.

This also means all the memories leave Kisara (they were moved without being copied), so when their lips part and Shuu asks her what the hell she just did, her first words are “Who are you?” Kisara believes Shuu has fought enough and wants him to leave the island and live the rest of his life in peace.

Breaking their contract is how she believes that happens. How she’ll deal with Kanna without a contract remains to be seen. But if Shuu indeed has all his memories back, that means all the drive and motivation to carry out his original mission must have returned as well. In any case, I highly doubt he’s about to abandon Kisara, Ayano, and Bayron City.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 10 – Lapping the Competition

Yume and Mizuto are home alone in the middle of a typhoon, reading alone in their respective rooms, when Yume encounters a cockroach, which renders her room no longer habitable. The two top students in their grade, neither of whom are particular fans of bugs, decide the only option is to sleep together in his bed.

While they start out back-to-back, Yume eventually shifts positions in her sleep, and when Mizuto wakes up and rolls over, he finds himself closer to Yume’s face than he’s been in a long time (not counting that recent time on the couch). He rolls back over, saying he has no room for “lingering feelings” in their new life together.

The next morning, Yume and Mizuto unconsciously act like a couple going through a rough patch, leading their parents to make that observation. Yume’s mom also suggests Mizuto buy a swimsuit for the upcoming family trip to Mizuto’s dad’s riverside hometown.

For their parents’ sake, the former couple proceeds with the swimsuit-shopping trip, and while Yume tries to “disguise” herself with the same glasses she wore in middle school, the fact she’s wearing her new, more form-fitting style would certainly give her away to, say, Akatsuki.

Mizuto waits outside the changing area, somehow not expecting Yume to show him the cute frilly pink bikini she’s trying on…but she does. When he says it merely looks “good” on her, “he thinks”, she asks him to say something nicer, and so…he compliments her devotion to her family.

On their way home they pass by the very quiet side street where they kissed for the first time, at the very same time of day. When the wind knocks Yume’s hat off, Mizuto naturally lunges toward her, resulting in the two ending up in a very similar position to that magical day.

Yume even closes her eyes and prepares her lips for another kiss, seemingly overcome by the atmosphere…but Mizuto hesitates. Later at home, Mizuto and Yume converse awkwardly, trying to keep up appearances, leading their folks to remark how they’re like “a couple working up the nerve to pop the question”.

While it seems like their parents are oddly perceptive, the fact is neither Mizuto’s dad nor Yume’s mom have any idea about their real past. That’s probably for the best, as considering how nice they both seem, it would pain them to know end to know their marriage inadvertently put their kids in such a strange, even cruel situation.

Speaking of cruel, when Isana comes over for the umpeenth time during summer break to watch a movie with Mizuto, she reclines on the couch, rests her head in Mizuto’s lap as he strokes her hair. They’re a picture of a couple destined for a fifty year-plus marriage, so comfortable Isana thinks nothing of scratching around her bra area in his presence.

After the movie Isana gets up, but continues to monopolize Mizuto by engaging in a lively critical conversation in which Yume cannot hope to participate. When Mizuto asks for tea without saying please, Yume serves him some…in her mugwhich Isana immediately identifies as an indirect kiss.

The movie and discussion cause Mizuto to suddenly nod off, but rather than falling into Isana’s lap, his head falls into Yume’s. Isana briefly considers kissing him since the opportunity is there, but as it would be her first kiss and Yume is right there, she wisely thinks better of it. How horny is this girl?!

Looking down at the sleeping Mizuto in her lap, she realizes why he hesitated, both when they were in the same bed and when they almost kissed in their first kiss place: they both feel the same longing for the way things were, and wanting to go back to those times, but believing it not worth destroying the new life they have together.

Later, Yume’s mom wants details about what’s up with Mizuto and Isana (who earlier said she wouldn’t mind being fuck-buddies or FWB with him). Isana indulges her mom, who then tells Yume she can’t let Mizuto leave her behind; she needs to find a boyfriend for herself.

While lying in bed contemplating her mom’s words about getting a boyfriend, Yume says, out loud, that she doesn’t see herself with anyone but Mizuto, which surprises her. So far, the two have maintained the position that they can’t go back to the way things were, but that’s increasingly easier said than done.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 09 – Bittersweet Symphony

This episode, which finally fully chronicles the height and eventual fall of Mizuto and Yume, begins simply, with the two sharing a tender kiss without fanfare during the golden hour on a quiet street. The look they share after said kiss may just be the only time in the entire episode that they are truly on the same wavelength with one another.

When Yume is invited to Mizuto’s house, room, and bed (to sit on) when his parents aren’t home, she gets understandably excited, only for the two to spend hours reading a book together. It’s pleasant, but it’s less than Mizuto hoped for; she was ready to take the next step. So was Mizuto. But it just…didn’t happen. And it never would.

The first sign of the couple drifting apart is when they find themselves in separate classes for the third year of middle school. They still meet in their treasured library after school, and make a pinky promise to make wonderful memories for Christmas and Valentine’s. But then Yume gradually opens up and makes friends in her class.

Mizuto is irked by her newfound popularity, and when they are together, all she talks about is her friends this or her friends that. Feeling like they’re drifting away from each other hurts, so he hurts her back by snapping at her. He fully prepares to apologize the next day, but when Yume first sees him in the library, he’s chatting with another girl…in her chair.

His apology goes right through her, as she feels he betrayed her in the special place where they met and shared so many memories. And that bitter memory of seeing him with that other girl haunts him. It’s just a fight couples always have, but they let it fester and see less and less of each other.

When they finally encounter one another, it’s by chance at a bookstore, and Mizuto suggests, and Yume agrees, that they should make up and put the rancor behind them. But it’s just words. Mizuto is still hung up on being accused of cheating, while Yume is vexed by how far ahead he’s walking.

Once inseparable, the two fall completely out of sync, and their relationship falls off the rails. Yume thinks of inviting Mizuto to the festival where he found her, but fails to send the invite text and goes alone, hoping things will just work out like they did a year ago, even though she knows they won’t. Then their one-year anniversary comes and goes with nary a text from him.

The Christmas and Valentine’s memories they promised to share become exercises in bitter solitude, as both Mizuto and Yume remain incommunicado for those holidays. Finally, when graduation comes along, Mizuto quietly suggests, and Yume agrees, that they should break up.

At that point it felt less like and end and more like a “liberation.” He couldn’t deny his affection for Yume, but couldn’t deny the building resentment either. Little things turned into big things and finally the only thing: pain and anguish. The rest, we know: their parents get married a few months later, and they are introduced to each other as stepsiblings.

Fast-forward back to the present, where Yume is helping herself to one of Mizuto’s many many books, and happens to land on the same one they read together the first time she entered that room. The two reveal to one another in reminiscing that they both had the same intentions that day: to take their relationship to the next step.

You could say that day was really the beginning of the end, since it led to “aged plagued with regret” for Mizuto and “wasted time feeling she was undesirable” for Yume. And yet, thanks to their parents, a new beginning was written; one that allows them to reflect on their past missteps while seeing each other in a new light.

It was powerful and affecting watching their bittersweet first relationship crash and burn so utterly. From the cozy warmth of their (presumably) first kiss to the stark chill of their breakup scene, it was a harrowing roller coaster of a tale that added fresh context, richness, and gravitas to their present-day dynamic.

Call of the Night – 08 – Date Night

Kou’s comment about falling in love with Nazuna “no matter how many years it takes” is met with the reaction it is because there’s a rule he hasn’t been told about: once their blood is sucked, a human only has one year to become a vampire. If they can’t by then, they’ll never become one.

Nazuna cheekily pretends she forgot to tell Kou this, then conveniently remembers the debt she owes him for working on Kiyosumi, and kisses him right in front of the other vamps before flying off into the sky. Kou tells Nazuna that he realizes she’s weird even for a vampire, but he’s glad he met her first.

That said, this new time limit is concerning, and it takes Akira spelling it out that after that year is up and he’s not a vampire, he’ll be killed to protect their secrets. Later, at school, Akira comes across Seki Mahiru sleeping at the top of the steps, zonked out from being, you guessed it, out all night.

We learn that Mahiru, who befriended everyone, befriended Akira and Kou when they were all little. That said, neither Kou nor Akira realized that they were actually friends with him, due to his gregarious nature. Speaking of gregarious, Kikyou Seri greets Kou again one night, and while he tries to run, she promises she won’t kill him, and only wants to start off on the right foot.

When Kou demonstrates his middle school innocence regarding romance, she can’t help but serve as his love coach, and suggests he kickstart his relationship with Nazuna by taking her on a date. Naturally, when Kou proposes this, Nazuna isn’t interested, and continues playing her video games. But Kou switches her PSOne off and insists.

The date plan Seri drew up for him would probably work for most couples, but Kou and Nazuna aren’t most couples. Nazuna won’t even pretend to be able to stand the romcom movie they go to, while at the café Kou tries to start a conversation about the movie even though he knows she hated it.

Nazuna suspects someone put an idea in his head, and after reading Seri’s list she snatched from him, decides this is all lame and goes home. Kou lies in bed forlorn, but soon Nazuna taps on his window, not liking how the evening almost ended and suggesting they at least get that bite with a night view.

Naturally, that means one of their patented late night flights, and the “meal” ends up being one-sided, as she sinks her fangs into him in midair for the first time. Nazuna tells Kou that he doesn’t need to over-plan or overthink; they’ve already been going on dates, and she’s enjoyed them. Her attitude makes me encouraged that Kou can indeed become a vampire within the time limit.

Another night becomes a reunion of Kou, Mahiru and Akira when Mahiru spots Kou while hanging out late at night with other peeps. Kou is surprised Mahiru recognized him, but Mahiru says of course he did; they’re friends. The two proceed to get very corny about their feelings when Akira joins them and asks that they please stop. It’s a fun and wholesome all-human interaction.

Mahiru bids the other two farewell as he must meet someone he’s come to like. Nazuna, while looking for Kou, happens to spot him walking hand-in-hand with a lady, and when Kou arrives, she decides that they should hold hands too, with the practical excuse of not losing track of one another.

While Kou idolizes Mahiru as a “perfect” person (his family even owns a flower shop!), it’s Kou who encourages Mahiru to continue his nightly pursuit of love with the story of how he’s been hanging out with his own late night lass. I love how the episode ends with a super wide shot looking straight down at the two couples walking in opposite directions while both experiencing happiness.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 12 (Fin) – Happier Than Any Dream

Shikimori closes out its 12-episode run by pulling out all the adorable romantic stops en route to one of the sweetest, most heartwarming date episodes ever animated. It’s starts off with Shikimori revealing her very cool suit and coat she wears to the date, not wanting to be hampered by a skirt.

The two totally geek out over the Disneyland-style theme park, and while other people around them start to express their impatience over a 90-minute line for a ride, the two lovebirds pass the time effortlessly by just chatting and laughing with one another.

By the time they’re almost to the end of the Sleeping Beauty-themed ride, Izumi-hime nods off, and Shikimori-ouji leans in for the kiss to wake him. She’d have done it too, if not for a spot of Izumi-style bad luck where the exit doors open at precisely the wrong moment.

From there, Izumi suggests a shorter line next, to which Shikimori says she’ll wait in any line of any length, since being with him makes everything more fun. She takes his hand and runs to the next amusements, then he runs ahead and takes the lead, and the two just generally have the absolute time of their lives, firmly ensconced atop cloud nine.

When there’s a hiccup involving Izumi’s dinner reservation, the restaurant makes it up to them by giving them a choice table with a gorgeous view of the Venice-styled cityscape and a lavish multi-course meal complete with fancy redundant cutlery.

Izumi adorably orders an orange juice, while Shikimori gets a ginger ale, and looks at Izumi through it. She notes how everything around her looks prettier when she’s with him, and makes her wonder how beautiful the world is through Izumi’s eyes. The two hold hands and just gaze at each other as the waitress looks on, no doubt amused by how goshdarn cute these kids are.

While Izumi mistakes the “thing in the commercial” Shikimori wants them to do as escorting her, by the time they’re aboard a nighttime gondola ride together, Izumi realizes she meant smoochin’. Just before they take a photo together, the entire park goes dark from a freak power outage. Izumi curses his luck…but again, it works out to their advantage here.

With nothing but darkness around them and only the light of his phone, their situation is a distillation of how they already are: they have eyes for nothing and no one but each other. If this was a dream, Shikimori wouldn’t want to wake up. For a few glorious minutes the gondola becomes their entire world. There, Shikimori plants a princely kiss upon Izumi’s hand, and then Izumi one-ups her by delivering a peck on the cheek.

I hasten to add that all of these gestures, as the interactions and expressions between these two have been throughout the show’s run, are impeccably, lovingly lit and animated. The compositions, direction, and underlying feelings are enough to carry scenes like this, but the production values really propel them to another level.

Just before the lights come back on, Izumi gets the chance to look and sound cool as he brings up how worried she was about them drifting away a while ago, but he confidently re-confesses his love to her, and promises he’ll never leave her side. The power of Izumi’s cool face and cooler words is so much for Shikimori she has to melt into him for a little while, even after the lights come back on. Forget about dreams; what she’s feeling right here and now in reality is far better than any dream.

The episode could have ended right there and still been an easy five stars, but we get curtain calls for Shuu, Kyou, and Yui as they try to suss out of Izumi and Shikimori “what happened” on their date. Izumi twists himself into a work of modern art of embarrassment, whle Shikimori’s blushing over a kiss on the cheek is not the heavy details Inspectors Nekozaki and Hachimitsu were trying to get out of the pink-haired perp.

Still, as long as Shikimori and Izumi are happy—and they sure seem to be the happiest couple around—it doesn’t matter if a kiss on the actual lips is beyond their abilities. They have all the time in the world to take little or big steps forward in the future. The episode ends on a pitch-perfect note, reiterating how Shikimori is incredibly cute and cool by spin-kicking an errant can about to hit Izumi into a garbage can twenty feet away, then continuing on her way.

I’m honestly still pretty deep into the “warm and fuzzies” after this sweet and gooey masterpiece of a finale, but that’s what a great romantic anime does: it sweeps you up completely in the same kind of feelings of love and excitement its lead couple is experiencing. It’s a cozy, comforting blanket that, like the shoujo manga that changed Shikimori’s life, reminded you how amazing love is.

Engage Kiss – 01 (First Impressions) – A Spare Key for Victory

From the fact his apartment lacks gas and electric when his pink-haired companion lets herself in to try to make dinner, to the fact his ex-partner Ayano foots the bill for his first meal in three days, Ogata Shuu is what is known in Japan as binbou—destitute. Regardless, he seems adamant about living his own life his way, even if his new independent business is not off to a strong start.

His companion, Kisara waits for him in the dark back home, having prepared a pretty impressive feast despite the lack of utilities. When he says he already ate, and vaguely smells of another woman, Kisara goes down a spiral of self-deprecation until he eats the cold repast. When he asks Kisara for the last of her savings for a cash-on-delivery, she posts an Insta of the two of them about to send themselves to heaven with sleeping pills.

But all is not lost. Poor as he is, Shuu still has a seat at the table of companies who bid over contracts to rid their floating city (in the water, not air) spelled either Veyron or Bayron of “Demon Hazards.” There’s a mid-level one wreaking havoc in a central casino, and Shuu ends up with the lowest dollar amount by far (less than $40K, vs. the second-lowest being $112).

The other bidders leave the virtual meeting in disgust, but Ayano’s mom’s company agrees to support him (with Ayano herself) in exchange for a hefty share of the extermination fee. Shuu shows up late for his own operation, but Ayano and her soldiers are consummate professionals as they mow down the demon’s minions.

The demon turns out to be tougher than its estimated C-Class level, putting Shuu’s back against the wall, but then Kisara, having forgiven him, arrives by passing through the floor. The only problem is, while her sword packs a punch, she only gets one good swing, which is deflected by the demon.

Kisara tells Shuu she’s out of power, and needs to recharge. The way she does that is by making out with Shuu, something he both seems to find uncomfortable and enjoys, but also causes him to pass out due to the exchange of energy. During their kissing, Kisara not only shows tongue, but fangs.

If passing through floors wasn’t enough of a giveaway, Kisara isn’t human; she’s a demoness who happens to be a higher level than the opponent in the casino. But initially she’s angry at Ayano for being another woman that exists in Shuu’s world and the two constantly launch attacks at each other that only hit the demon’s multiplying minions.

Their battle is the best part of the episode, but Shuu gets between the two, and Kisara declares she’ll finish his job if Shuu gives her an important token of their contract: his spare key. It doesn’t matter if she can walk right through his door; she wants to be able to unlock and open it whenever she wants, as a sign of his love and his trust in her.

Shuu relents, and upon receipt of the key, Kisara’s attack power reaches 11. The two count down together from ten, with Kisara blasting through the demon hazard’s shields and Kisara delivering the final coup-de-grace with a shot from his pistol. Their mission accomplished, Kisara ends up on top of Shuu and leans in for a celebratory kiss…

But unfortunately both of them went a little too far with the power, compromising the structural integrity of the entire skyscraper, which is actually crucial to keeping the entire city afloat. While I’m sure Veyron City is in no danger of sinking, Kisara flies around the skyscraper, apparently trying to keep it level, while Ayano remarks that B-Class or C-Class, the Demon Hazard they fought never had a chance against Kisara, who is a Super A-Class who happens to be on their side, possibly only due to her liking Shuu.

Part badass demon-hunting, part workplace romantic comedy, and part abject lesson in proper budgeting, Engage Kiss’ first episode is nothing if not…ahem…engaging. Shuu comes off as a useless mooch most of the time but comes through when it matters, while Kisara and Ayano should prove to be strong clashing personalities for Shuu’s attention and the spoils of demon-hunting victory. All in all, a fun and energetic start, but we’ll see if it will make the final Summer cut.

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 13 (Final Hole) – Killing You, In Golf

As Birdie Wing outings go, this last one was a bit tame; I’d almost go so far as to say leisurely. But I went in almost certain the entire All-Japan Girl’s Tournament wouldn’t get wrapped up in one episode; if it had, it would have surely sucked.

While expectations were lower, I still looked forward to lots of Eve and Aoi flirting, and in this I was not disappointed. Eve even starts things off frisky by giving Aoi a Nafrecian peck on the cheek and then claiming Ichina as her personal body pillow for the night, while Coach Reiya rightfully shoots Kinue down.


It’s a good thing Ichina shared a room with Eve too, as neither Eve nor Aoi would have slept a wink and not been ready for the golf. That said, due to their high qualifying rank they get a fairly late tee time, giving them time to good off more.

As Kuyou and Kaoruko do battle against another pair, their coach Date gets trash-talked by Reiya, who is confident his two first years will win decisively, seeing as how Aoi is golf royalty and Eve is the apprentice of the legendary Leo Millafoden.

This wouldn’t be much fun if Eve and Aoi didn’t run into a little adversity, as Eve’s worst enemy turns out not to be Himekawa Mizuho, but her own over-aggressiveness. She puts a ball into the bunker, and Aoi, perhaps a little too wound up about getting to play beside Eve, misses getting the ball out. That said, the two win their first round comfortably.

The thing is, Eve wanted to defeat their opponents to a pulp—kill them, with golf—as funny a collection of four words as I’ve heard spoken in an anime (I particularly love that comma in there). Their win, while easy, is also much closer than either of their elite rival pairs from Kouran and Nada.

We also learn that while Aoi is the daughter of Hodaka Kazuhiko, Himeko seems to have inherited his brand of golf, so much so that Aoi recognizes it instantly. Himeko and Kaede destroy their opponents in their two rounds, an impressive response to Eve and Aoi’s superior score in the qualifiers.

Eve’s usual mind games won’t work on the Kouran or Nada girls, but Ichina feels it’s actually good for her to be experimenting with her aggressiveness in earlier matches where it’s safe to do so. Eve and Aoi will have to take every risk they can to defeat Kaoruko and Himeko, to say nothing of killing them, in golf.

Naturally, this ends before those key duels take place, and a second season of Birdie Wing in Winter 2023 has restored my faith in both anime and humanity. As far as I’m concerned, the golf flirting and murder can go on indefinitely; a veritable Hole in One Piece.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 12 (Fin) – Blossoms That Never Scatter

When Miyuki tells Kaguya how he’s been accepted to Harvard and will be gone this time next year, she pretty much turns to stone and then shatters into pieces. But she drags Ai out from whatever she’s doing to update her on where things stand. They both know that the basic plan hasn’t changed—confess to Miyuki—it’s just a matter of how.

Kaguya tries a number of methods, but all are pooh-poohed by Ai in various ways. That is, until Kaguya digs deep, describes all the unique ways she loves the president, including his drive to move forward, and starts to cry as she notes how cruel it would be to ask him not to go overseas. Ai, realizing she went too far, draws Kaguya into a hug and assures her that they’ll get her confession to Miyuki without fail.

In Yuu/Tsubame land, things seem to be going swimmingly. Yuu prepared a hella warm coat for Tsubame to wear when the evening chill came around, and even impresses her with his knowledge of flower language and a red cherry blossom tree in the spot where she wishes to give him an update on her answer to his confession.

Her answer, while not no, is that she doesn’t yet have an answer. That’s fair enough; Tsubame only just realized when Yuu gave her that heart how he truly feels about her, and she’s still getting used to seeing him like that. As for Yuu, he isn’t even aware he did confess with that heart until he watches her perform in the play about the Hoshin legend.

Thanks in part to Ai, Kaguya is poised to have a perfect opportunity to confess to Miyuki: when she’s resplendent in her archer’s garb and lit by the burning flame of her arrow, and Miyuki is completely captivated by her beauty. Unfortunately, Miyuki is nowhere to be found when the time comes to light the campfire!

Instead, shortly after the fire is lit, it suddenly rains cards signed by “Arsene”, the Phantom Thief Chika has been chasing throughout the festival. The jewel from the dragon’s mouth is also missing. Kaguya can’t believe her terrible luck; for all this nonsense to be happening when she’s supposed to be confessing. But the thing is, the Phantom Thief is none other than Miyuki.

When Chika runs off with Erika to further investigate, Kaguya already puts two and two and four together and realizes this is one big scheme by Miyuki, and that she’s going to catch him and then confess to him. That involves sipping canned coffee together, but the machine won’t accept the lowest-denomination bills she has (10,000 yen).

But hey, at least she has the heart trinket to give him, right? Well, no…she managed to lose that when she changed in and out of her archery garb. At the same time, the narrator explains how Miyuki, while initially in a kind of whimsical enthusiasm fugue state, is starting to come to his senses and feel embarrassment for his current situation (and goofy master thief getup).

As Kaguya ascends the clock tower to meet Miyuki, they both find themselves bereft of their usual arsenals of weapons in their long war game of love. There’s nothing left but their feelings, their words, and the months before Miyuki heads to California.

This would make for an infuriatingly frustrating end to the third season…if this were the final episode in its entirety. Thankfully, this is not the end, and as soon as I realized I’d only watched the first of a two-part double episode, I regained my composure and kept watching.

When Kaguya reaches the top, the narrator repeats his spiel from the very first episodes, about how love is war, those in love live in terror, etc. But Miyuki and Kaguya go on that they must convey their feelings for the one they love, even if it means they “lose”, or they’ll never move forward.

While donning his ridiculous top hat, Miyuki tells Kaguya having her beside him for this, his big final culture festival moment, and Kaguya goes through all the things in her head she should say to him out loud. That she wants him to stay by her side forever, and that even if she’s not sure he would ever like a “cold, hateful woman”, but if he confessed to her right then and there, she’d 100% accept it.

Miyuki doesn’t confess with words, but he does confess by unleashing the jewel of the dragon—which turned out to be a weather balloon—with an app, and has it drift over the campfire until it pops, revealing a massive swarm of heart-shaped balloons that float up to their vantage point atop the tower.

He and the narrator recount Miyuki’s efforts for the “Ultra Romantic Campaign” that culminated in this heart balloon blizzard; a plan he first set into motion the same day he applied to Stanford. He planned every last detail, including ensuring Chika, Yuu, and Miko didn’t interfere at the proper time.

Just like Kaguya, Miyuki launches into a self-deprecating inner monologue about how he worked his goddamn tail off to become her equal, and explains that if he overtly confessed or ask her out in words, he’d be confirming the fact they weren’t equals. No, he needed to do something that would make her confess to him.

But what’s most important to Miyuki isn’t that she confess, or that they go out…it’s that they are able to remain together. To that end, he got the principal to agree to write a second letter of recommendation for Kaguya, and atop that tower, as he holds a blue balloon heart and she holds a red one, he asks her to apply to Stanford and go with him to the U.S.

It’s not a confession, but despite what a shock it brings to Kaguya, she’s so happy to hear these words that she agrees on the spot, so quickly that it weird Miyuki out a little. And now that Miyuki has expressed how he feels and what he wants, Kaguya can do the same, and does so with a passionate kiss that is witnessed but notably and mercifully not interrupted by Chika’s Scooby Gang.

In between these stunningly epic scenes of some of the most gratifying payoffs in anime rom-comdom, the rest of the cast get their curtain calls for the season. Nagisa dances with Maki, assuring her that she likes her more than Tsubasa; Kobachi admits to her bae it’s time to stop being so overprotective of Miko; Yuu deems it unkind to steal Tsubame away from her adoring fans and classmates and instead tracks down Miko, shows her footage of the campfire she made happen, and tells her to go enjoy it already.

Later that night, Kaguya recounts her Ultra Romantic evening with the President to Ai in a voice best described as … “giddysmug”. She gleefully describes the kiss as tasting like ketchup (since Miyuki had just eaten a corn dog) and goes on to decribe how she used her tongue during the kiss, which we see made a lasting impact on Miyuki.

Mind you, neither Miyuki nor Kaguya actually verbally confessed … but c’maaaahn. Even these two clueless doofuses cannot deny what they are to one another, and while there’s certainly a lot to think about and plan (including how to get the other to verbally confess to them!), the fact that their future is secure together is a great weight lifted from their shoulders.

Student Council antics continue as usual, with Chika coming up with a game that will start some shit, and Yuu and Miko sparring like siblings. Kaguya and Miyuki look on with pride and contentment, the Miyuki’s desk hiding the fact that they’re holding hands. It was definitely touch-and-go throughout this stressful closing culture festival arc, but Love is War nailed the landing, and I never should have doubted it would.

If a fourth season comes around—and apparently there’s an enormous amount of source material left to adapt—it will be icing on an already perfect cake. But when we’re talking about icing this well made, there’s no such thing as too much. Keep making this show until these dweebs are old and gray with grandchildren running around in California; I wouldn’t need any other anime to sustain me!

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

 

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 10 – Reina’d-Back Camp

When Ishikawa and Satou suggests that their group of friends go on a camping trip, Reina is as excited-looking as Raidou can remember seeing her. Miyahara-sensei is happy to transport them to the campground and pick them up at the end of the trip, drifting her minivan along the way just for shits and giggles. Reina offered to bring all the ingredients for dinner and comes with an overstuffed backpack that turns out to contain no food.

No matter; the group fishes and forages for their supper, making sure to check with the campground manager that everything is safe to eat (nobody wants to go on a camping trip). Reina whips up a sumptuous feast that’s probably all the more satisfying because all of the ingredients were procured with their own hands. When Ooshiro turns in early, keeping to her sleep schedule, the others go on a bit of a test of courage.

Ishikawa and Satou, revealing that they are as invested in Aharen x Raidou as the audience, strategically withdraw to leave the lovebirds alone together. The two stargaze, and Reina is on the cusp of saying something important when a beast rushes them; it turns out to be Nui with the food she forgot.

Later that night Ooshiro wakes up to find Reina hasn’t slept a wink. Reina wants advice on how to tell Raidou how she feels without ruining what they have. Ooshiro has watched Reina and Raidou long enough to confidently assure her that everything will work out fine.

When Raidou emerges from his tent for some midnight ramen, Reina follows Ooshiro’s advice and joins him. After they split the cup ramen, Reina says…something that is obscured by a sudden breeze, which also keeps us from hearing Raidou’s response. All we see is Reina leaning in to kiss Raidou, her eyes filling with tears, and running back to her tent.

While we’re left to ponder what was said and the meaning of Reina’s tears, things more or less return to normal, which is probably what Ishikawa, Satou, and Ooshiro should have expected. These two have never made a big deal about being the couple they so clearly have been for some time; it stands to reason they wouldn’t make a big deal out of making it official (if that’s indeed what happened).

One thing’s for sure: the two are as close as ever, and possibly even closer, as observed by master esteem detector Toubaru-sensei, whose throes of esteem overload twist her into increasingly romantic positions with her friend and colleague Miyahara-sensei, further adding fuel to their side-ship. Will the remaining episodes address what was said under the stars that night, or the kiss and tears that followed? I sure hope so!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Spy x Family – 09 – Best Selves

When Loid moves in for that kiss to prove he and Yor are in love, both Yor and Yuri panic; Yor because she’s never been kissed, and Yuri because he always dreamed of marrying Yor and doesn’t want to see her kiss anyone else. Yor chugs the rest of the wine to build up the courage to kiss Loid.

The very moment she can’t go through with it is the same moment Yuri tries to stop her, resulting in Yor slapping the absolute shit out of Yuri. He flies right into his ridiculous bouquet, resulting in a cloud of rose petals that in any other situation would be romantic.

Yor helps Yuri up, Yuri helps Yor stay vertical, and Loid helps keep both of them vertical. He tells them what lovely siblings they are (even with Yuri bleeding profusely) and privately feels envy for their familial bond, as he’s never had that. Unaware that even 2D-chess eludes the Briars, he starts to suspect that Yor might’ve married him at Yuri’s behest to get closer to him.

Yuri is too goofy and his blind spot vis-a-vis Yor is too large for him to feel like any threat to the mission to me, but Twilight is a spy; it’s his job not to trust anyone, even Yor. At the same time, Yor’s inability to kiss Loid or cook has her worried she’s not acting like a proper wife should.

Anya, who slept through the excitement (and really wants to meet her secret police uncle) picks up on these bad vibes, but can’t reassure either parent as it might give away her ability. So as she boards the school bus, she simply tells them they “need to get along”. Loid chalks it up to how “curously observant” kids can be.

Then, he plants a damned bug on Yor in order to listen in on her day, and while she’s out on an errand for her boss, he and Franky stop her while disguised as Secret Police.

If it were anyone other than someone like Loid in the situation he’s in, I would call this obsessive behavior. But if his gut can’t 100% discount that Yor isn’t secretly working with her brother, this is all he can do to assuage his suspicions. Franky predictably buries himself in the part of bad cop, quickly accusing Yor of leaking state secrets.

Throughout her day to that point, Loid had listened in and gotten nothing, and even when Yor’s back is literally against the wall in front of two secret policemen, her “story” doesn’t change, because it isn’t a story: she’s a good citizen (other than the assassinations) who loves her family and country and would never engage in espionage.

When Frankie tries to touch her, Yor restrains him with ease and warns both him and Loid that she doesn’t care who they are or who they work for; she’ll show them no mercy if they hurt her family. Loid takes another look at the letter Yor was mailing and says they made a mistake, and let her go.

Loid won’t admit it, but his relief is soured by guilt he felt going to such lengths to try to catch Yor in a lie. Ironically, she’s able to successfully preserve the actual secret she’s been keeping from Loid all along (that she’s a ruthless super-assassin).

When he meets up with Yor later, she apologizes for not being a proper wife, but Loid comforts her by saying she’s fine the way she is, always striving to be her best self. Everyone puts on acts to some degree, and it grows tiring and eventually intolerable. Better to not put on an act when one is neither desired or needed.

They buy cake to celebrate a year of marriage, and when Anya comes home (her “I HAVE RETURNED” is a great kid greeting), reads their minds, and finds the bad vibes have vanished, her face brightens—Mama and Papa are getting along.

While I’m not the biggest fan of Yuri, I’m glad his antics indirectly led to Loid and Yor clearing the air and growing a little closer. Next week, we return to Eden, and Anya’s solemn mission to befriend a little jerk.

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