Holmes of Kyoto – 06 – Oh No They Cela-Didn’t

At school we see Aoi has remained in touch with Kaori. Aoi has been invited to the Owner’s 77th birthday party, which is apparently quite a bash. Aoi learns quite a bit of new things the day of the party.

First, Holmes has a kind of male version of her in Takiyama Rikyu, a kid whose 40-ish mom (who looks half her age) is the Owner’s girlfriend, Yoshie. When Aoi finds she’s under-dressed for the occasion, Yoshie hooks her up.

The “mystery”, which is a bit contrived almost to the point of exhibition (though I guess that was true of last week with the monk too) involves the Owner’s most valuable antique—a Chinese Celadon vase—that for some reason is not encased in glass like the rest of the less valuable vases. That was weird for a start. Even weirder is that Holmes has the key to the hall of antiques, and leaves that key in Aoi’s possession. To which I say…why?

The story about the two proteges of a famous magician exacting revenge on the owner by pretending to break the vase by switching it out for a shattered fake, getting everyone to look up at what would have been an obviously visible chandelier, and using some kind of portable speaker to make the shattering noise…again, it’s all very strained and artificial.

Unlike previous “cases” I couldn’t help but ask questions the show wasn’t interested in addressing like “why aren’t there servants in such a big house?”, or “how did Owner make so much money?”, or “why was the vase out in the open like that for anyone to knock over?”

Elsewhere, Aoi’s nebulous/intermittent interest in Holmes is starting to wear thin, as is Holmes’ seeming omniscience with the cards. And don’t get me started on the show’s looks…it doesn’t have any. But I’m probably being too granular and harsh on a show that’s just trying to tell a series of fun little mysteries.

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Holmes of Kyoto – 05 – The Forger of Nanzenji

Aoi mostly sits this one out, with her brief appearances book-ending the episode. Instead, it’s Akihito accompanying Holmes on his latest mission, with the added objective of giving the actor some pointers for a Kyoto-based TV role. Despite Holmes still being weary of Akihito, he does admit his true nature regarding women (he’s through with long/deep relationships, but would be open to flings).

In another example of the “culprit” showing their face almost immediately, the monk Ensho is their guide as they tour Nanzenji Temple, which is full of several magnificent works of art…and one that is merely “impressive.” Holmes’ suspicions about the scroll in the entryway are confirmed when the vice abbot informs him that Nanzenji’s “dragon” has indeed been stolen as the note indicates. To be more precise, it was swapped.

It turns out Ensho is the forger, and he’s a very good one, but not good enough to get past Holmes. While Holmes didn’t sense the “malice” and desire to deceive in the fake dragon scroll, it still lacked the aura of the genuine article, and Ensho was walking, talking, and breathing strangely when the scroll caught Holmes’ attention. And make no mistake; while the fake was impressive, Holmes does not consider it art; he’s even pissed enough about it to lapse into his drawl.

There’s likely a part of Ensho that’s glad he was acknowledged, but he’s determined to evade Holmes’ sharp appraising eye, as well as justice. Since he has shinobi training, he won’t be easily caught, but in the meantime Holmes can commit himself to exposing every fake work of art Ensho tries to pass off as real. Now that he knows so much about the forger, his task shouldn’t be beyond his abilities.

Holmes of Kyoto – 04 – The Sashimo Grass on Mount Ibuki

Aoi keeps having a dream where her boyfriend and best friend keep pairing off the moment she leaves for Kyoto. But in the waking world it’s time for the Gion Festival, which means both Holmes and Aoi don yukatas while at work. Akihito, the brother from last week’s case, stops by to properly thank Holmes, who is quick to stop him from sexually harassing an unwitting Aoi, who suddenly finds herself in the midst of two very handsome young men.

It’s a week of running into exes, apparently, because not only does Holme’s ex Izumi stop by to have a dish appraised (and vents about how she’s not so sure about her new husband, who sounds like a dick!), but Aoi’s friends arrive for the festival, with her ex-boyfriend and best friend in tow. Her friends praise her for how good she looks in her yukata, but it’s soon clear what their true motives are.

Sanae and Katsumi know what they did was shitty, and they’re seeking forgiveness, using their mutual friends (who simply want an end to the conflict and the awkwardness that comes with it) as cover. Aoi is about to let everyone off the hook, but internally, she’s about to lose it. So it’s a good thing Holmes shows up, not only to raise her spirits, but to make her ex jealous enough to protest, leading his new girlfriend to slap him.

Aoi no doubt felt unbearably alone, especially considering she had figured out the message Izumi was trying to send to Holmes through the mugwort-patterned bowl she made on Mt. Ibuki. It’s a nice synthesis of pottery and poetry that also demonstrates that Aoi’s also a smart cookie when it comes to connecting artistic dots.

The thing is, Holmes is done with Izumi. She may now have some regrets about the choice she made, but he’s not about to bail her out. Instead, he comes to Aoi’s rescue in a time of dire need, when her supposed friends all had her backed into a corner.

I’m really enjoying the subtle courtship between these two, who were after all only brought together after each of them was betrayed by the ones they loved. So far, their dynamic, and the show’s highbrow bookish demeanor, are enough for me to overlook how freakin’ awful the show looks.

Holmes of Kyoto – 03 – Mystery at Mount Kurama

This week’s whodunit sends Holmes and Aoi to Mount Kurama, where they have a nice date-by-any-other name before visiting the villa of their client. While at a particularly cool restaurant, Holmes reveals that he lost his girlfriend in much the same way she lost her boyfriend. His ex has since married the “arrogant and overbearing Osakan”, but he took that as destiny telling him it was right for them to part.

The case involves three brothers who were instructed by their late author father’s will to be at the villa at a specific time to be given three scrolls that turned out to be worthless reproductions, suggesting they had some other meaning besides assets to distribute. However, the scrolls were burned in the incinerator on the villa grounds. Someone currently in the villa burned them…but who?

Holmes all but dispenses with manners (particularly the second son, who reminds him of the Osakan who wooed away his girlfriend) and works quickly, and because of his near-encyclopedic knowledge of classic art, it doesn’t take him long to deduce what the three pieces were.

Both the first and second sons’ scrolls were works that carried symbolic messages; in both cases, an urging to seek greater heights in the things they’ve decided to do with their lives. But before Holmes can describe the third son’s scroll, the mother breaks down and confesses to burning them—which was fairly obvious in the opening moments of the episode.

She claims to have done it out of anger for not even being mentioned in the second will, and with the mystery solved, Holmes departs with Aoi. Before he does, the brothers insist he tell them about the third son’s scroll, and he acquiesces.

The message of the third scroll is that the third son’s true father was actually the author’s secretary, who was once in a bike gang(!) but saved their father’s life and apparently gave the mother support and comfort as her husband recovered.

It explains the timing of the distribution of the scrolls—just as the third son came of age—as well as the mother’s true motive for burning them—that they’d learn the truth. However, the fact her husband left her an aquamarine ring (symbolizing freedom) indicated he wanted her to be free to live her life, and also free of any guilt she might have felt over what happened.

And there you have it: another reasonably-well-off family with problems has their little personal mystery solved by Holmes, and he and Aoi are driven to the station by the second son (who is an awful driver) where they’ll return home to await the next case.

This episode dragged a bit in the middle as Holmes interrogated everyone, and the animation was pretty damn rough (how I wish these stories were in the hands of someone with some visual flair) but the case was clever enough, and despite his flaws Holmes remains a charming young scamp.

Holmes of Kyoto – 02 – Pretty, Fairly Well-Off People with Problems

Miyashita Saori has been named Saio-dai, the centerpiece of the Aoi Festival chosen for her wisdom, grace, and social standing, and a tremendous honor for a woman in Kyoto to boot. But she’s received threatening letters warning her to bow out, and Holmes-san is the man you come to when you have a little mystery to solve.

Saori has a little sister Kaori, who attends the same school as Aoi, but I suspected her almost immediately of being the culprit. To put on my own deerstalker cap, it wasn’t just her beads of sweat or the camera seeming to linger on her; it was the mere fact Kaori was present to begin with. Surely Saori and her mother would’ve sufficed for the visit to see Holmes.

It takes Holmes a little longer than me to figure this out; or if he also figured it out immediately, he goes through more trouble to confirm it, attending Saori’s flower arranging class’s exhibit, then having Aoi discretely pump Saori’s jealous classmates for info. I never saw them as culprits; they were red herrings!

Seeing two vastly different flower arrangements purportedly by Saori get Holmes thinking about the two similarly different threatening letters. Eventually he gets Kaori and Saori to admit they wrote the first and second letters, respectively.

The first, because Kaori worried about the costs of Saio-dai preparation their struggling family business would strain to bear. Saori wrote the second one, hoping her mother would pull her out of the running so that her former friends would become friends with her again. (I also like how her Kansai “twang” came out when she was caught and flustered.)

Kaori had somewhat good intentions, but Saori was just being overly deferential to people she doesn’t really need as friends. Saori goes through with the Aoi Festival, as resplendent as expected, while Aoi becomes friends with Kaori.

And there you have it: Holmes not only spots counterfeit antiques, but solves the mysteries of non-poor people (with awesome Kansai accents) bored enough to create make ’em. Nothin’ wrong with that!

Holmes of Kyoto – 01 (First Impressions) – The Game’s Afoot

After Mashiro Aoi broke up with her boyfriend in Saitama, he immediately started dating someone I presume to be her best friend. Betrayed, angry, and generally very down in the dumps, Aoi wants to book a train there to give them a piece of her mind. In other words, while she may be justified in seeking vengeance, there are better ways she could be directing her energy.

Aoi also doesn’t have the money for the train, so she snatches some valuable drawings from her late grandfather’s house and visits an antique shop in Kyoto’s Teramachi Sanjou district to have them appraised. There, she meets the young Yagashira Kiyotaka, AKA Holmes, who is as exceedingly apt at appraising people and intent as he is appraising antiquities.

The story of her fateful first day at the shop is framed as a reminiscence between Aoi and Holmes two weeks after he hires her as a part-time assistant, in order to pay for her ticket—if she still feels the need to go to Saitama once she’s made enough.

Holmes can’t buy antiques from those under 20, but even if she was old enough, he uses the particular pieces she chose to try to sell to basically teach her a lesson about turning the other cheek. Even the famous artist Hakuin couldn’t escape scandal, even if he was the victim of a false accusation.

At the end of the day the infant he was left with made a strong impression on the artist, and the love he had for said infant is captured in the drawing. Because Aoi has a good head on her shoulders, she realizes the error of her ways and is ashamed—unlike one of the counterfeit sellers who visits the shop.

Aoi doesn’t turn down his offer of a part-time job, especially if it means working with such a bright, charming, attractive fellow. She may have entered the shop with her head hanging low, but she leaves feeling lighter than air, twirling past the same riverbank of couples she cursed earlier.

Holmes of Kyoto, as Aoi’s voiceover puts it, is a “quiet and beautiful story of the cases we solved in Kyoto,” which is an apt description. I’m liking the simplicity and focus of just two people in the small, simple yet potential-filled setting of a shop, and Aoi’s seiyu Tomita Miyu (Riko from Abyss) is always a welcome inclusion to any cast. In all, a strong start. I want to see more cases!

Citrus – 12 (Fin)

The Citrus finale ends predictably, but starts with a bit of a surprise: Nina’s brute strength is all but neutralized by Yuzu’s sheer force of will. Nina realizes she can’t hold Yuzu back from doing something she may regret the rest of her life. But that doesn’t mean she won’t tag along when Sara summons Yuzu.

Nina has always seen her sister as someone who will put her own happiness last, and when she and Yuzu arrive, Sara appears to be doing just that by giving Yuzu a chance to confess to Mei. But letting Mei go and supporting Yuzu does make Sara happy. She can tell they’re a better match; they just need to work harder at understanding each other.

Sara is also happy because she has a little sister who cares about and protects her so much. And she has no intention of ceasing to be friends with either Yuzu or Mei. When you put it all together, Sara gained more than she lost.

As Yuzu takes the long walk to the shrine where Mei is waiting, her friends give her a wide berth. Matsuri wanted to inject herself into Yuzu’s trip, but resists the urge to bother her.

Harumin and Himeko spot Yuzu running like a bat out of hell, and both admit that her whirlwind nature is what draws them to her. Harumin has never minded supporting Yuzu as much as she has because she has so much fun watching her figure things out (that, and she’s a natural mama bird).

Night has fallen by the time Yuzu finds Mei on one of those bridges where confessions usually happen, but Mei is not in a receptive mood, and bolts when Yuzu tries to press the issue. Not quite sure if the ensuing chase was absolutely necessary, but it does add to the dramatic mood, especially when it ends with an accidental full-body tackle by Yuzu.

By the time Yuzu has Mei down by contact, she’s said a lot of the things she hadn’t said before but needed to, like admitting a lot of what Mei says and does just doesn’t make any damn sense to her, but also knows Mei feels the same way about her. She goes through the times Mei tried to reach out with her feelings when Yuzu was only thinking about her own.

Yuzu regrets putting Mei through those things, but it doesn’t change the fact she loves her and wants to do better, so if Mei loves her too, she should give her a kiss. Suddenly too bashful to do so, Mei has her mini teddy bear kiss Yuzu instead. Yuzu, in turn, gives Mei a kiss.

After much groping (literal and figurative) in the dark, the sisters are finally sure about one thing, even if Mei says she needs to date Yuzu to find out for sure. With that, they hook back up with Sara and Nina, Nina gives Mei and Yuzu her blessing and tells Mei to try to be more selfish at times, and they part ways with a promise to take a trip to Kyoto again, just the four of them.

Sara also said she’d “forgive” Mei for choosing Yuzu if Mei held Yuzu’s hand as they headed back to the hotel. On another cold night, Yuzu is thankful for Mei’s warm touch, leading to them sharing another kiss on another romantic bridge.

Back at school, Mei, Yuzu, Harumin and Himeko make a fine quartet, and Mei shows how much Yuzu’s confession meant by holding hands with her, even there on school grounds. Whatever the future holds for Yuzu and Mei, they’re going to enjoy their present.

That’s nice! I’m glad the stepsisters aren’t on tenterhooks and are moving forward with an attitude of honesty, openness, and a desire to understand each other more. With friends like Harumin, Himeko, and Sara (and…okay, fine, Nina too) supporting them, who at times threatened to steal the show away from the core couple, they’ll be just fine.

Citrus – 11

Best Girl Harumin always has a way of coming in at the perfect time in this ridiculous show about sisters loving other sisters who love their sisters to splash water on the whole affair. She makes a down-in-the-dumps (and at this point disgustingly self-involved) Yuzu pay dearly for her negative aura in the form of a ruthless tickling.

I love how quickly and casually Harumin moves on to reveal yet another thing to love about her—she’s a history buff! But also, she’s just got other things going on…unlike Yuzu, who has let this Mei situation consume nearly every waking moment.

The next day, the class trip visits a “relationship-forming shrine”, a decision made at Himeko’s urging, still fighting to get closer to Mei. Sara’s sister Nina gets wind of this, and despite knowing Mei and Yuzu are “already invovled”, as a fiercely loyal sister, she’s committed to doing all she can to help Sara.

That also means bringing Sara to the same shrine. It also means keeping Sara in the dark about Yuzu and Mei, something I see coming to bite her later.

Both Yuzu and Himeko are enthusiastic about visiting the shrine and offering their very long prayers that make Harumin wait. Once the three are back together, it’s not five seconds until Sara appears, to Yuzu’s surprise. Since neither is aware they’re in love with the same girl, they each offer one another their blessings and hope to hear of their success later. Oh dear.

On a brighter note, Himeko’s underlying good-girl nature meshes well with Harumin’s innate maternal aura, as the two conspire to offer Yuzu charms to aid her future beauty and luck and success in love. Harumin also hilariously shuts down Himeko’s tsundere act – Himeko cares about Yuzu as a friend.

If only Yuzu pulled her weight, especially in her friendship with Harumin. Any way you look at it, Harumin gives and gives while Yuzu simply takes and takes. But the thing is, if Harumin didn’t want to be friends with someone like Yuzu, she wouldn’t be. So I’ll respect her choice.

When the weather turns, Nina makes sure she’s in the same place as Mei. She informs Mei of her sister Sara’s affection for her, and asks whether she’d consider entering into a relationship with her. Mei declines, but Nina asks her to think it over.

Clearly, Nina did not intend for Mei to have more than a minute or so to think it over, because it isn’t long after she leaves that Sara appears. Determined not to let her chance slip by, Sara confesses her love. When Mei asks if Sara would “need” her, Sara answers of course she would; she loves her, after all.

It’s a directness Mei wanted from Yuzu, but didn’t get, and doesn’t get even later that evening when Yuzu confronts Mei once more and can’t get the words out. Mei interrupts her to say she was already confessed to that very day, and decided to start dating that person.

Having reached a new low, Yuzu get’s “sauced” on orange soda and rants to herself in the hotel lobby, making a big scene. Her shot, it would seem, was at the end of last week. She blew it, and left the opening for someone else (who she still doesn’t know is Sara).

Nina isn’t about to tell her…at least not until she gets an ironclad promise from Yuzu that she’ll support Sara in her love, no matter what. She secures that promise when Yuzu is at her most miserable and vulnerable. I tellya, this Nina is one cool operator.

After another unpleasant run-in with Mei over hitting up the bath too late— breaking both school and hotel rules, *gasp*—Yuzu ends up encountering Sara in the bath. A very happy, if nervous Sara. Yuzu is happy for Sara, but when she reports her own failure, Sara urges her not to give up. Even if she’s dating someone else, Sara believes Yuzu has to tell her how she feels.

Yuzu tries to do just that, waiting until Mei’s roommate Himeko leaves to sneak in and talk. Mei isn’t having it, but when Himeko suddenly returns, she turns out the lights and pulls Yuzu under the covers with her, literally covering for her.

This time, Yuzu doesn’t squander her chance, embracing Mei, blowing on her neck, and preparing to kiss her, perhaps in hope her actions will speak louder than her thus-far lack of words. Mei stops her and orders her to leave, but the experience emboldens Yuzu. The time wasn’t right to say what she wanted to say, but now she’s committed to finding that time.

Yuzu was hoping that would be the next day, but Mei has already gone off on a date. Yuzu rushes to the location of that date and tries to determine where Mei might be, but she’s intercepted by Nina, who finally tells her the truth: Mei is Sara’s girlfriend, and she’s going to keep it that way.

Nina’s statuesque physique was played for laughs last week, but both when she squeezed a promise from “drunk” Yuzu (hugging her just a bit too hard) and when she’s backing her into a railing here, Nina’s size becomes a threatening proposition—one Yuzu simply never saw coming.

Meanwhile, atop an observation tower, Mei spaces out. Last night after the bath, Sara found Yuzu’s dropped student ID, saw the same last name as Mei’s, and remembered Yuzu saying she was in love with her stepsister. Even so, she can’t deny her heart, which is telling her she wants to kiss Mei.

With Sara wanting to go all in,  Mei simply wanting someone to need her for who she is, and Yuzu cowering in a tight corner, everything seems to be coming up Nina…except of course if the ultimate truth is that Nina harbors an unrequited love for Sara.

The stigma of incest combined with Sara falling for someone else seem to have helped Nina decide to give up on Sara for herself and instead use every resource at her disposal to ensure her sister’s happiness, even at the cost of her own.

I appreciated the added layers given to both Tachibana twins. Like Yuzu, Sara is the purer of the two sisters, more easily manipulated for good and ill, while Nina, due in part to the world denying her the love she chose, is the more cynical sister who doesn’t believe in fate, only will and effort. She may be hurting Yuzu deeply, but better Yuzu than Sara.

We should be in for quite a finale.

Citrus – 10

Mei unblinkingly offers Yuzu her body with open arms, ostensibly out of gratitude for how Yuzu helped her with her grandfather and father. But when Yuzu finally has the object of her infatuation in her arms…she just can’t do it.

Emphasis on she; Mei looked ready to go all the way, and from the look of her reaction to Yuzu’s declining, isn’t cool with being turned down. That feeling lasts the length of the month of January, with the two stepsisters rarely talking.

When Matsuri hears the two didn’t do it on Christmas after all, she mocks Yuzu for wanting her romance to be perfect like the shoujo-ai manga she hides in her bookshelf. She also scolds Yuzu for not properly considering Mei’s feelings. Even if that’s a bit rich coming from her, she’s not wrong. Mei opened up, and Yuzu ran.

When Yuzu oversleeps the morning of their class trip to Kyoto, Mei leaves without her, and Yuzu misses her class’s train. As it would happen, another big sister from another school ends up missing her train and separated from her little sister.

That sister is Tachibana Sara, and she and Yuzu end up meeting and getting on the next train headed to Kyoto, and from there, the coincidences keep piling up. Yuzu and Sara set out to find their respective classes and learn they each have virtually the same schedule and are even staying at the same hotel.

In the process, Yuzu and Sara become friends, which I knew would make things interesting when Sara learns that the nice girl she fell for (and mentions to her sister Nina earlier in the ep) is Yuzu’s stepsister, whom Yuzu told her she fell for and is currently unable to reconcile with.

Sara and Nina reunite, and Yuzu learns Sara’s “little” sister is huge, and a gyaru to boot! But Himeko catches Yuzu and gives her the third degree, even interrupting Yuzu’s attempt to get Mei to talk.

They eventually do meet, later that night, but Mei is not in a patient mood, and when she asks Yuzu “What do you think of me?”, Yuzu has nothing but shallow answers, even if they’re the best she can come up with on short notice. Mei isn’t moved, and tells Yuzu to forget Christmas night.

In one final coincidence, Nina happens to overhear this conversation between Sara’s new friend Yuzu and the black-haired girl Nina knows her sister likes.

A coincidence or two can be perfectly fine, but when there are this many it can make the resulting drama a bit manufactured and thus less satisfying. And while I knew the Tachibana twins were coming from the promo art, and they weren’t nearly as grating as Matsuri, they were also just a bit dull.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 07

It ain’t just the game of thrones—in the game of love, you win or you die…romantically speaking. It’s take no prisoners; shit or get off the pot; even moreso when you’re young and just figuring this stuff out.

With the Dome City amusement park as the setting for this outstanding episode, Akane, Kotarou, Chinatsu and Hira all learn harsh lessons about the game they’re all playing, the risks and rewards of being passive or active, and how being on the winning side can be fleeting. It’s a side that must be defended.

I honestly can’t stop snickering at Kotarou’s face while on the roller coaster. That is the face of someone very unhappy he didn’t decline Chinatsu’s suggestion they sit together. He might as well be shouting over the roar of the coaster ‘I’VE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE!’

Because he’s next to Chinatsu, Akane is next to Hira, and because she doesn’t handle coasters so hot, it’s Hira, not Chinatsu, who serves as her support during and after the ride. It doesn’t help Kotarou that the majority of the rest of the group is shipping Akane and Hira (except Roman, who we learn has had his suspicions about Kotarou and Akane before Kotarou confirms it).

Kotarou and Akane simply start out the trip all wrong, due to their general passivity in a scenario that requires activity. Akane ends up with Hira a lot of the time, but did nothing to prevent it; Kotarou ends up with a super-aggressive Chinatsu, who understands she’s got to hustle to have any chance over Akane…and may even be moving so fast and forcefully because she already knows she has no chance.

In either case, after Kotarou sees Akane with Hira, Akane sees Kotarou with Chinatsu, and after some time passes, Kotarou sees Akane with Hira AGAIN, Kotarou has finally had it; he’s groaned his last ineffectual groan. Time for some muthafuckin’ ACTION!

He calls out to Akane, then tells Hira he’s in a relationship with her, which she backs up. He then takes her by the hand and they walk off, just in time for Chinatsu to spot them together. As her tears start to fall on the souvenir photo of her and Kotarou on the coaster, I can’t help but feel for her. She got off to a good start, but ends up running out of steam.

After a great series of reactions from the group after Roman confirms Kotarou and Akane are going out (which NO one else saw coming), the happy new couple finally has their precious time alone. What had felt like such a delicate bond strengthens with each activity they do together.

I appreciate how they mirrored my own glee over the whole situation with lots of beaming and giddy laughter, neither of them able to contain their elation at being able to hang out together.

After eating together for the first time, going on various rides and to a haunted house, the two close in closer and closer for a couple selfie, and their bubbly contentment only intensifies when they see how much like a couple they look in the photo.

Meanwhile, Chinatsu returns to the group, her eyes raw from crying, and her girl-friends get the bad news that Kotarou chose Akane over her. Chinatsu might’ve stolen Akane for the coaster and gotten temporarily “lost” with him, Akane ends up stealing him back, though mostly thanks to Kotarou taking action.

No matter; it’s the action Akane wanted to be taken. She’ll be the proactive one next time. As the fireworks explode across the night sky, Kotarou takes her hands in his and leans in for a kiss, and Akane leans in right back.

A nosy little shrimp interrupts them (where are your damn parents, kid?), but they get so goshdarned close to kissing, I’m going to go ahead and call it a kiss, even if it isn’t officially their first kiss. Neither of them bailed out; it was a matter of being surprised by an outside stimulus. Close enough, I say!

Chinatsu…she was never that close, because Kotarou simply isn’t interested in her the way he is in Akane, just as Akane isn’t into Hira that way. At the end of the night, Akane and Kotarou are exactly where they should be, where they want to be.

hen Chinatsu texts Akane that she couldn’t confess, Akane says “Sorry” to herself. I’ve no doubt she feels bad about Chinatsu getting hurt. Chinatsu was the one who chose to keep going even though she knew Akane was with Kotarou, but Akane could have been more forceful in discouraging her.

But at the end of the day, when made to choose between her happiness and Chinatsu’s, there is no choice. It’s shitty not being the one chosen, but that’s life. Akane and Kotarou won the game today. They deserved to savor their victory. Here’s hoping the wins keep coming. They must be vigilant.

P.S. Attention, Show: You have extinguished your allotment of near-kisses. Next kiss better not be interrupted. You have been warned!

Tsuki ga Kirei – 06

Uh-oh…the dreaded Pinky Promise, long the bane of many a budding middle school relationship. Tsuki ga Kire’s couple makes theirs after Kotarou gets a call from a publisher in the city and Akane prepares for her big meet, and the two are determined to achieve their dreams.

No matter how much Kotarou’s mom worries about his future, or how much Akane’s family gawks at her upon figuring out she’s dating someone, they like having each other around, supporting each other both in person and on LINE.

Both are drawing strength and ever-so-gradually becoming bolder, braver people, as demonstrated when Akane texted Kotarou that she wanted to discuss something with him (namely, the Chinatsu situation). But they’re in such high spirits after the pinky promise, Akane leaves it for another day…The worst possible day she could leave it for, the day of the big track meet.

She manages to get out to Chinatsu that she’s already in a relationship with Kotarou, which is good, but the timing couldn’t be worse in terms of the emotional toll it takes on her. Chinatsu, for her part, already knew—they’re friends, after all—but when the time comes to race, Akane is so weighted down by complex, conflicting emotions, she ends up with a terrible time and is eliminated, while Chinatsu has a personal best and advances. Ouch.

Akane isn’t the only one to take an L, mind you: when Kotarou sneaks out to make the long trip to the publisher, he’s full of cautious optimism, determined to fulfill his promise to Akane and to himself, eager to take the first step towards joining the ranks of his beloved highbrow authors…only to be crushed like a bug under a different weight than the one that slowed Akane: literary reality.

The publisher minces no words: Kotarou is not cut out for the kind of literature he attempted and submitted, but he may just have a knack for “light novel type stuff”, which Kotarou is clearly not into.

So after pumping each other up so much and pounding the pavement with confidence and gusto, secure in knowing the other is trying their best right beside them, Akane and Kotarou end up having the worst day. And I’ll tell you, I felt every ounce of their combined…er…worstitude; I really did.

I felt Akane’s exasperation over her best friend’s crush on Kotarou, which just so happens to be mercilessly translated into a literal footrace with her friend-and-now-rival. I felt Kotarou’s crushing disappointment that his odyssey to the city was all for naught.

And I definitely felt the both of them not feeling the slightest bit better once they return to their homes. Akane’s parents are warm enough and tell her there’ll be other races, while her sister tells her it’s going to be very hard to remain friends with someone still actively after her boyfriend.

Kotarou’s mom lets him have it as soon as he comes in the door, telling him no good will come of the thing he’s most passionate about doing (though is dad is more sympathetic). Dayum.

Sometimes family helps you recharge and heal from the stress and wounds of the world out there, but sometimes they contribute to it. Which is why I was so glad that after so much mutual moping about, in the middle of the night, by the light of her phone, Akane finally gets a message on a screen still mockingly displaying the optimism they expressed before the day began.

Just three simple words: I miss you. Akane only needs two: Me too. The two meet up in the library the next morning, cheered a little by their mere presence, and cheered more by their shared determination not to give up on track or writing, to work even harder so awful days like yesterday won’t become a common occurrence. They reaffirm their still-active pinky promise, to which they wisely did not assign a deadline.

And yet their struggles are far from over. When Akane meets with Chinatsu on a beautiful tree-wreathed path bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun, there’s a friendly, conciliatory mood to the proceedings: Akane apologizes for not telling Chinatsu sooner; Chinatsu apologizes for falling for Kotarou.

That mood is upturned by one last, frankly cheeky request by Chinatsu: that she be allowed to confess to Kotarou, for “closure.” And herein lies the danger about which Akane’s big sister warned her: neither confrontation with Chinatsu over Kotarou resulted in closure. Chinatsu, fresh of her big track win, is feeling more confident than ever, while Akane has never felt less, despite the fact she has the guy.

But it doesn’t matter if Kotarou immediately says no. Putting Akane in such a position at all is a clown move by Chinatsu, straight up, as is pretending it’s not a big deal. It’s also a possible prelude to war, a war for Kotarou’s heart. And when friends go to war, they tend not to stay friends.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 05

Kotarou and Akane are officially dating now…but neither are quite sure what dating entails. They’re also keeping it a secret from their respective circles of friends, so they’re still not comfortable talking to each other at school, which gets old for them fast.

They need guidance on how to proceed, and both end up relying on a combination of advice from their elders (Kotarou’s senpai Daisuke and Akane’s big sis Ayane) and the interwebs. The next time they message each other, they’re on the same page about meeting up in the libarary, but the rendezvous is broken up by Chinatsu, who is clearly taking a shine to “Curly-kun.”

Akane is understandably upset, and this results in both her and Kotarou ending up with the wrong person at the wrong time: Akane with Hira-kun after track, and Kotarou with Chinatsu after cram school. It also doesn’t help that due in no small part to the emotional weight of their relationship, Kotarou is doing worse with his academics while Akane is slipping in athletics.

No matter: they want to meet, and Kotarou finds a way, as Daisuke lets him use his shop as a meeting place where they won’t be bothered by classmates (who are always portrayed as an irritant, heightened by the couple’s desire to simply be alone together).

Here, they do indeed finally get to be alone together, and revel in it, clearing the air, and even holding hands. But the bliss is all too brief; interrupted once more by an outside force: a text from Chinatsu to Akane announcing she may have a crush on Kotarou. This isn’t an out-of-nowhere twist for twists’ sake, because we’ve seen firsthand the easy chemistry of Chinatsu and Kotarou.

As Kotarou’s favorite writer says, humans are the only creatures who harbor secrets, and it’s a double-edged sword. Their secret relationship is exciting, but neglecting to tell Chinatsu before means that telling her now will end up stinging that much more. Hang in there, guys!

There’s a reason I watched and reviewed this before Saekano: At the moment, I’m simply more engaged and invested in Kotarou and Akane figuring out how to date than Tomoya & Co.’s amorphous dating sim struggles. It’s a straightforward narrative with a reliably steady progression and an appealing aesthetic (which would more appealing still if the CG NPCs were a little less zombie-like in their movements). It ain’t flashy, but it’s solid.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 04

It’s the School Trip episode, and there’s a sense of adventure to the proceedings, as the whole amassed class boards the Shinkansen and arrives in a bustling Kyoto. It’s just the start of a dense, lush, richly-detailed episode that nevertheless has a light touch due to the elegant plot.

You see, amidst this big trip, all Kotarou really wants is to know Akane’s answer to whether she’ll go out with him; the sooner the better. Because cell phones are officially forbidden, he has to hide his and hope it’s not confiscated; otherwise he’s doomed.

And I’m not kidding when I say Kyoto is bustling; the scenes of throngs of tourists milling around are pretty impressive, even if the CGI models are a little stiff, it’s better than panning stills; not to mention the accurate-to-Kyoto environs look great.

The fact that Kotarou and Akane have to contend not only with their nosy classmates, but also the vast space and volume of humanity Kyoto throws at them, really heightens the tension. Will they be able to meet on this trip?

C’mon, haven’t we all been there at some point: staring at our phone, the only light in the room at night, willing that next text to come in from the person you like? Even if you haven’t, the tension is thick enough to cut through with a knife.

The show does an excellent job thrusting us into the shoes of both Kotarou and Akane, making their various friends, nice that they are, feel like hovering irritants. They want to reach out to each other, but they’re mired in their respective circles.

Kotarou finally gathers the courage to send Akane a place and a time to meet…only for his phone to be confiscated by a (drunk) teacher at the worst possible time.

From there, it’s a textbook “missed/lost connection” scenario, as Akane sent a text asking Kotarou to elaborate on what he meant by the time and place…and she waits and waits, to no avail. So much must fly through her head: did he lose his phone, or is he intentionally ignoring her replies?

The beauty of this particular situation is that it simply unfolds before us without undue explanation, exposition, and precious little inner dialogue, really giving the increasingly awful-feeling situation room to breathe without undue verbal interference.

Kotarou has to muster courage once more, in order to borrow Chinatsu’s phone to call Akane. And Akane is rightly pissed, though neither she nor Kotarou should place so much hope in the reliability of cell phones. That’ll lead them to ruin!

All’s well that ends well, thankfully, and the tension is released when, after voicing her frustration with her ordeal and with their inability to clearly communicate thus far, Akane is the one who musters the courage to say something: that she wants to talk with Kotarou more.

That’s her answer, all but eliminating the ambiguity her fortune said would lead to calamity. Sure enough, the pouring rain ceases and the clouds part to reveal the beautiful blue sky. Now let’s hope these two crazy kids didn’t catch colds!