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.

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 08 – Stroke of Noon

Izumi learns a lot of new things about his library buddy Kamiya during their quiet library rest area shifts…except what she’s thinking the whole time. That she’s an idiot for “waiting around” and not taking the initiative when he was still single; that she’s a bad person for having such feelings for someone whose heart belongs to another.

When Nekozaki asks if they can trade numbers, Kamiya does so with her usual quiet smile, but holds on just a little bit before letting it go: a wonderfully animated moment. Shikimori notices that hesitation, and also a measure of the pain hiding behind Kaimya’s smile. Kamiya’s face does a lot of heavy lifting this week.

Kamiya puts her hair up returns to her fawning fans, but soon the din of praise and speculation about her grows deafening, and she just can’t be there anymore. The cool beauty is overheating in that gaggle, and especially doesn’t want to hear people praise her when she feels like the biggest, worst loser ever.

Kamiya is soon joined on the roof, under a cloudy sky that matches her mood, by Shikimori, who offers back the number along with an apology. Now that she knows how Kamiya feels, trading with her feels cruel, and she doesn’t want to be cruel to anyone who likes Izumi, because no one who likes who she likes could ever be bad.

We’ve seen jealous Shikimori before, but Empathetic Shikimori is a far superior mode. While admitting she might seem “high and mighty”, she owns that 100% and assures Kamiya that nothing of what she’s feeling is wrong, and she shouldn’t feel compelled to bottle it up or throw it away for her sake.

Suddenly faced with the second person not to put her on a pedestal but simply let her be her (after Izumi, a large part of his appeal for her), Kamiya is overcome and lets those feelings flow out, sobbing uncontrollably. Shikimori does what you’d expect her to: draw the taller Kamiya into a warm, supportive hug.

Kamiya walks away from the experience glad that Izumi is with someone like Shikimori, and ready to move forward not in denial but in full acknowledgement of her feelings for him. But later that night, after the after-party when Izumi gives Shikimori a birthday/anniversary present, Shikimori feels weary.

She’s not weary specifically of Kamiya, but she’s a symptom of a larger problem on the horizon that she fears: that so many people will see what she’s seen in him all along, he’ll drift further and further away from her. She doesn’t want him to change, but she’s worrying too much.

Izumi credits much of his change for the better to Shikimori, and he’s not done changing and getting stronger she she can smile and relax and not worry about a grand piano falling out of the sky and onto her boyfriend. Hearing that he wants the exact same she does makes her start bawling like a baby.

One might think this means Izumi is singularly capable of tearing down Shikimori’s badass poise, but they’d be wrong. Shikimori is cool precisely because she’s not afraid to cry big sloppy tears over her love of Izumi. It’s a new high point for this pair of splendidly sweet, honest lovebirds.

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 07 – Kamiya-san Is Curious

The studio had an Izumi-style run of luck, enduring a Covid outbreak that delayed the episode, but Shikimori picks up without missing a beat, as the school culture fest commences. Last year Izumi and Shikimori had the same duties, but this time they’re separated as their class runs an animal-themed café.

Still, it doesn’t take long for them to come together as Izumi inevitably slips on a napkin and the Shikimori the bunny has to save Izumi the lion. While walking home after a busy first day, the two commit to spending the afternoon of the second day together.

It has to be the afternoon because both of them are busy in the morning: Shikimori with the café, and Izumi on library duty. He’s relieved to learn that his partner isn’t a stranger, but Kamiya, who has always been friendly and kind to him in their past library duty interactions.

As we enter the cultural festival stage of many anime series this season, Kamiya seems aware of the “magic” that leads to a surge of new couples. She’s uncharacteristically restless, and even delivers a wall slam to Izumi as she brings up his girlfriend Shikimori and wants to know how they met.

Izumi, who quite incorrectly assumes Kamiya likes Shikimori, obliges, telling her they got together thanks to that same culture fest magic. Last year, the numbers they got at the entrance matched, which was a rare fortunate moment for Izumi, as he had planned to ask her out during the festival.

After walking around and enjoying the festival in the clouds, when the time comes to take their photo (which legend has it bonds the matched couples together forever) Izumi loses his number. But Shikimori won’t let him give up, so they look for it. They come up empty, but put up a passionate united front in insisting the president let them have their picture taken anyway. The Prez can tell these two are keepers, and gives an exception.

The rest is history: Izumi asks Shikimori out behind the gym, and Shikimori’s response is a gorgeous, passionate embrace. Back in the library, Izumi apologizes for rambling on, but Kamiya is well and truly moved, striking an elegant pose that conceals what must be pained eyes.

While we’ve seen very little Kamiya so far, it’s been clear through her subtle glances at Izumi that she likes the guy, always has, and rues the fact she missed her chance. As amazing as Kamiya acknowledges Shikimori to be, she’s clearly frustrated Shikimori beat her to the punch.

It helps that Kamiya is an instantly likeable character, statuesque and noble and popular with both guys and girls, but not afraid to show another side to Izumi. Fukuhara Ayaka also lends her a wonderfully husky voice that’s lower than Izumi’s. We’ll see where this triangle goes as the festival continues.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 07 – Pumped Up for Peace and Quiet

Most anything short of officially dating could have topped last week’s on-stage confession, but if Takagi is anything, she’s patient, so this week is a return to slow, steady, and cozy. Soft and fluffy too, thanks to a dog Takagi is walking for someone. She knows Nishikata will come running when given the opportunity to walk a dog, while Takagi is fine simply walking beside Nishikata, dog or no dog!

After snapping a pic of Nishikata going all gooey over the fluffy good boy, the next segment involves him having to backtrack to school to get his homework. Naturally Takagi tags along, and Nishikata learns that the after-school scene is all about couples. He has absolutely no chance against the assumptions of other couple—like Nakai and Mano—that he and Takagi are one of them—another couple.

The brief but cute segment with Mina, Yukari, and Sanae underscores how the rest of the class views our two lovebirds, as we get a Yukari’s-eye-view of the two in their natural habitat. Sanae heard word they’re not actually dating—yet—but Yukari is 100% right in saying “they might as well be…just look at them!” Also, Mina still believes in Santa, bless her!

In the last segment, Takagi psyches herself up over library duty with Nishikata, and can you blame her? Hanging out with the boy she likes is hardly “duty”. Nishikata, who has already long since been duly impressed by Takagi’ repertoire, discovers she’s also a knitter. She says a slow one, but looks pretty fast to me! (Also, the knitting action and accompanying foley is wonderful low-key sakuga).

Nishikata accepts a brief knitting lesson—backing out when she guides his hands with her own—then feels pangs of jealousy when she hears she’s knitting something for “a 15-year-old boy”. Sensing he’s troubled, she offers him a release valve in the form of a photo of said boy—and he’s a good boy—an old, shivery Chihuahua!

Takagi and Nishikata don’t seem like the couple to attack mountain ranges or hit up raves or ragers once they start “officially dating” (whatever the heck that means). Netflix-and-chilling, or knitting-and-reading, is much more their speed. Fitting, considering no couple makes me more excited about peace and quiet!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. it has come to my attention that Takagi was crocheting, not knitting. Nevertheless!

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 02 – He Can’t Win…He’s Won

The Blue Marble

For its opening salvo, Takagi-san goes part-Charlie Chaplin, part-Looney Tunes, ditching all dialogue for a full orchestra. Takagi’s instrumentation is predominantly flutes and strings, while Nishikata’s is very horn-forward. It’s PERFECT. But what warrants this sudden change in style? Nothing more than a different take on the pair’s routine walk to school, which is more than worthy!

Takagi is feeling playful and decides to tail Nishikata without being spotted. That said, his “Takagi-Meter” goes off multiple times, turning this into a kind of Sly Cooper sneaking game. The music and silent body language kept me utterly enthralled, while the silent version of Nishikata imagining Takagi losing his “guess what I found on the ground” game contrasts perfectly with the reality that she knows it’s a blue marble, leaving him to ponder whether Takagi has ESP.

“You Didn’t Scare Me, Ma’am”

After the three girls have a little silent segment of their own, we return to Takagi and Nishikata on classroom cleaning duty. Takagi mentions that a  desk check is coming up, and suggests they do a dry run together. This means the two playing the roles of teacher and student.

Naturally, Nishikata is nervous despite having no contraband, while Takagi is cool as a cucumber when they switch roles…only revealing after the check that she did have a manga hidden under her gym clothes…the one he lent her. There wasn’t even going to be a desk check; Takagi just wanted to roleplay and return his book in the most adorable way possible!

“Dinosaurs!!”

Fortune continues to smile on these two, giving them multiple chances to be alone together even during school hours. To whit: library duty. Takagi suggests they pass the time by reading books they choose for each other. She saw how excited Nishikata got about a dinosaur picture book, so picks that out for him. No doubt she genuinely likes that cute childish side of his.

Nishikata accepts it despite his embarrassment, because he really does love dinosaurs. He just picked a random novel for Takagi, but it’s precisely because of that she can blurt out “I love you” and immediately pass it off as a line from the book, when it’s actually another confession. It’s the latest in a series of tentative lines Takagi has cast. Fishing is all about patience, and Takagi seems to have plenty…for now.

Takagi Sweat

The concluding segment begins with Takagi and Nishikata again running into each other by chance; the former is on an afternoon jog, the latter running errands. They chat about his informal jogging regimen, and he can’t help but boast that he once made it all the way to the beach one time.

The problem is, he reads Takagi’s reactions as skeptical rather than impressed—precisely how she intends—and the two part. Nishikata was near the end of his jog, but he’s determined to “defeat” Takagi by impressing her for real. So he fights his fatigue and groaning muscles and jogs all the way to the beach, fueled by the future sight of Takagi in genuine awe of his accomplishment.

I fully expected him to make it to the beach only to realize he hadn’t taken his phone with him to snap the all-important evidence. But that would have been too obvious, and the show knew that. Instead, he takes a photo of the sunset on the water, sends it to Takagi, and gets a sweet response back: “The sunset looks so pretty. Thank you.”

Then, in a beautiful piece of both romantic timing and camera framing, Takagi appears behind Nishikata. She raced to the beach on her bike after finishing her errands, because she knew with certainty Nishikata would go there to prove it to her. She hands him a bottle of Pokari Sweat—a reward for his hard work for her sake—and sits beside him on the sand.

Takagi says it was “so worth it” chasing after him so the two of them could watch the sunset together. Hearing this, and seeing Takagi’s face in the dramatic light and her hair gently flowing in the wind, Nishikata’s face turns red as said sunset, unable to accept that Takagi is being dead serious about all of this.

Then they sit in silence, calling back to earlier silent sessions in the episode. It’s established that once Nishikata calms down and quiets his mind, he can relax and simply exist together with Takagi, without any talking or teasing. Nishikata keeps trying to win in stupid ways, but he’s already long since won what truly matters: Takagi’s heart.

I maintain hope that one day—maybe this season—he’ll accept that win for what it is, and dismiss his lingering doubts for what they are: weak and pathetic excuses.

Komi Can’t Communicate – 07 – Pool Girl

Most of this episode is made up of a pool episode, chronicling Komi’s very first trip day at the pool with friends. Unfortunately, it’s a bit crowded: Originally it was just going to be Komi, Tadano, Najimi, and Agari, but Ren invited herself and five of her friends, since she’d been stalking Ren and learned of the plan. Problematic! Still, it’s Ren who makes sure Komi buys a proper bikini rather than using her school swimsuit.

After the lads give scores for the girls (all the girls get 10s, except Komi who gets 100 million, school suit or no) it’s off to the water slide (which Komi wants to go on multiple times with Tadano), then a breath-holding contest that nets Komi nine cans of soda, since everyone else goes up for air after seeing her face underwater. Komi is so excited, she runs near the pool, slips, and scrapes her knee.

While I personally wouldn’t let a little scrape keep me out of the pool (the chlorine might sting but it’s disinfecting!) in this scenario, Komi becomes the equivalent of the pool leper. Najimi insists everyone else have fun without her, lest she feel bad for ruining the mood. But Tadano sits beside Komi and assures her she didn’t ruin anything for everyone, and she doesn’t have to worry about her friends “hating” her.

Najimi and the others end up bringing the fun to Komi in the form of a water gun battle royale. Komi gets to have a blast without worrying about getting her knee infected, and ends up nodding off on the evening train ride home, which is always a surefire sign you had a great time.

Following the pool antics, the remainder of the episode is a sequence of shorter skits, starting with Komi being escorted to the library by her similarly taciturn (and good-looking) dad. The two stop in for some shaved ice, but the dad just wants to know she’s doing well at school. Komi momentarily pretends it’s hell before softening her demeanor, and her relieved dad tousles her hair. Minimalist communication at its best!

At the library, Komi finds a book she likes but is unable to check it out since she feels the awestruck gazes of many fellow readers locked onto her inadvertent radiance. When a little baby nearby starts crying, she first silences it with what is meant to be a kind smile but looks like a murderous glare to the kid. Komi mixes it up by using her fingers to pull the ends of her mouth out, and the baby becomes transfixed. Tadano, returning books, just happens to watch the “precious event”, forgetting to return his books.

Finally, after the library Komi walks by a playground and decides to use it for what it’s for: playing. From the too-small swing and slide to the surprisingly high jungle gym and surprisingly tiring monkey bars, Komi has a great time all by her sweet, adorable self. When she works up a thirst, she makes use of the public fountain. Tadano witnesses this second “precious event”, forgetting to return his books again.

So while not without its cute and even moving moments, they don’t make up for the fact that the pool segment was too crowded with ill-defined tertiary characters and Ren is still a creep, which makes this the first sub-9 episode of Komi Can’t Communicate.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Komi Can’t Communicate – 06 – First Strike

This week Komi’s Got Jokes! Unfortunately, they’re dad jokes, delivered by writing them down on paper. Scurrying away to call Tadano and sheepishly recite such jokes doesn’t improve matters. But what she lacks in comedic ability she makes up for in pure adorability. I’m surprised Tadano couldn’t at least…humor her!

The next segment is Komi’s very first shopping trip with friends, as well as the first time buying her own clothes (something usually left to her mom). Najimi makes it a competition—possibly just so they can see Komi in a cheongsam—but the one who wins with all “10” scores is Tadano, who chooses a simple light summer dress and cute sandals. Despite having never picked out clothes for a girl, he knows what suits Komi best.

Following her new threads, Komi works up the courage to go to the salon to get a haircut. The salon’s newest employee Arai almost  but is understandably in awe of both Komi and her boss Karisu’s beauty. It isn’t until Komi has Arai keep the change as a tip and points at the word “thank you” in a magazine that Arai understands Komi didn’t dislike her at all, but simply doesn’t like chatting at the salon.

Exams are almost here, which means it’s time to hit the library and study. Agari warns Tadano, Najimi, and Komi that if the burly quietude monitor Gorimi-senpai hits any of them with a paper fan three times, they’re ejected from the library. Najimi is obviously the first to be tossed; their third strike coming when the trio’s Jenga tower collapses. Even so, Komi is happy to have played another game and received her “first strike”—as is Tadano.

Finally, with exams out of the way it’s time for summer break. We see Komi bored and desperately wanting to call Tadano to hang out, but just can’t hit the “Call” button, and when she finally works up the courage to do so, quickly panics and hits “End Call” as soon as he answers.

Tadano, by the way, is equally hesitant to call Komi even though he perfectly diagnoses her situation. Fortunately Najimi cleans everything up by arranging for the three to hang out, and both Komi and Tadano are elated to be scoring some summer time together. Maybe she’ll don the outfit he chose for her!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent – 03 – The Ice Knight Melteth

It’s a hot one at the research institute, so Sei dips her feet in some cold water, only to be visited by her present semi-crush, Albert Hawke. Once she’s decent, he asks if she’d like to join him on a trip into town on her day off, and she accepts. Between helping her out of the carriage, buying her a snack, using his ice magic to chill her drink, and holding her hand virtually the whole time, Al is a perfect gentleman.

When Al asks Sei if she wants anything at a jewelry store, she declines. On the carriage ride home, she falls asleep on his shoulder. Then before they part he presents her with a gift from the store anyway: a lovely hair ornament with jewels the color of his eyes. Sei had a wonderful time and wouldn’t mind doing it again. But due to her lack of a love life in her previous life, she doesn’t realize she was on a date until Johan breaks it to her the next day.

Liz too is proud of Sei for successfully melting the heart of the infamously cold Ice Knight (whom we learned is also a rare ice mage). Sei then ends up doing some work with the Royal Magi Assembly enchanting “foci”—essentially small gems and baubles—with magical properties and affinities. Casting these enchantments comes as easily to her as walking or talking, which isn’t surprising…she is a Saint, after all.

Rumors leak of her adeptness with enchantments, and the First Order of Knights puts in an order with the Assembly for more enchanted foci. Its silver-haired director beseeches Sei to assist them with a bit of a rush order for which she’ll be compensated, and she completes the work so quickly and successfully, she manages to squeeze a rare smile out of the guy.

Sei is given one of the buffing foci she enchanted as payment, which she then has embedded in a charm necklace which she presents to Al in his office. He thanks her by kissing her hand, only adding more fuel to the fire of their budding romance. To which I say: Good for you, girl!

With Ishikawa Yui voicing Sei, I can’t help but want her to be happy…especially after Eren did Mikasa so dirty in Attack on Titan! Otherwise, this is a pleasant if somewhat inconsequential series I’ll probably be sticking with for Yui and the comfort food factor.

The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent – 02 – Exhausted…In a Good Way

When the Research Institute is rewarded for their diligent work healing the knights’ wounds after the salamander incident, Johan asks Sei if there’s anything she wants, and the result is a brand new kitchen. While contractors in this new world are unreal, the cooking apparently sucks, at least when judged by Sei’s palate.

Johan informs her that chefs will be hired, but Sei actually enjoys cooking. When she presents him with a simple yet savory herb-crusted chicken, he’s bowled over. I find it beyond charming that in this series, the OPed MC makes the best-tasting food anyone’s ever eaten, not just because of her magical power, but because no one in this world has ever tasted food from hers.

Another day, Johan introduces Sei to Albert Hawke, the knight commander whose life she saved with her high-level potion. Sei is not only amazed how perfectly he healed after being on death’s door, but he just happens to be her type, standing out in a world full of handsome men.

It’s Sei’s lucky day, then, when Johan tells her Hawke is going to the southern forest with his knights for a hunt, and she’s welcome to join for a medicinal herb-gathering mission. She also prepares lunch for everyone, and Albert makes it a point to sit close to her as he praises her luxurious cuisine. Sei returns home to her room exhausted, but in a good way—not in the way that eventually did her in in her old world.

The next morning, Sei discovers that the lotion she crafted for her face and skin has also somehow corrected her eyesight, eliminating the need to wear glasses anymore. She also learns from Johan that the meals she’s been preparing have resulted in attribute boosts. If her ability got out it could cause chaos, so he gives her the day off.

Given a surprise vacation day for being too good at what she does, a bored Sei discovers the huge and inviting Beauty and the Beast-style library at the royal palace, and meets one Elizabeth Ashley, a noblewoman who looks like a porcelain doll. Before she sets off back to the institute, Albert offers her a ride on his horse. When she says she’s never ridden, he simply rides home with her in a princess lift.


Sei soon befriends “Liz” Ashley, who informs her of a beautifukl new girl at the academy who grew close with several already-betrothed male classmates, leading one of their fiancées to stop coming to class due to her acne. Liz believes this girl’s confidence would return if her skin condition were resolved, and is cetain Sei is the one to resolve it.

Liz introduces the girl, Nicole Adler, to Sei, who offers her a bottle of lotion she crafted. Nicole is dubious until Liz dabs a bit of it on her own skin, which instantly polishes it to a glorious shine. Nicole’s eyes emerge from her long bangs, and she gives a heartfelt thanks to Sei. Later, she writes her to say the lotion worked wonderfully, and invites her to dinner sometime.

So yeah, it’s all coming up Sei. After all of her hard work in her old world led to her demise, here her hard work has wonderous, even miraculous results that make her the toast of the research institute and royal palace alike. But she’s not totally bereft of problems, as Liz reports fresh rumors involving Sei and a certain “Ice Knight” whose heart she’s apparently thawed with her beauty…

Yuru Camp△ – 06 – Girls with Grills

Rin should close up the library, but the heater is so nice she’s hesitant to leave. She realizes she has a package in her bag, and opens it to reveal a collapsible compact portable grill, which is a pretty nifty bit of kit. She also has yet to bump into Nadeshiko in order to give her her gift of chocolate buns from Nagano, but as she tells Ena, she just “can’t get used to the vibe” in the Outclub room.

Rin’s reluctance will soften at some point, what with the opening scene of the series showing both Rin and Ena camping with the Outclub. And her gateway drug to the Outclub is Nadeshiko, whom Rin finds sleeping in the stacks, also enjoying the library heat. Rin can’t help but smile watching Nadeshiko quickly house the chocolate buns.

Knowing that watching Nadeshiko eat something makes that thing look at least twice as delicious, she agrees to go with her on a camping trip, which will also be an opportunity to put her new portable grill—which both Ena and Nadeshiko initially mistake for a metal offertory box—through its paces.

After five episodes of beating around the bush, it’s finally happening: Rin and Nadeshiko are officially taking camping trip together. It was nice to see Sakura, apparently the only fam Nadeshiko has, meeting Rin’s mom, who may be Rin’s only fam. Rin is also struck by Sakura’s beauty, especially in contrast to her “blah” kid sister!

Sakura has agreed to drive them to the Lake Shibire Campgrounds, a little-known spot among the five lakes recommended by Chiaki for their autumnal splendor. Rin and Nadeshiko hit up the supermarket first, and while they’re initially crestfallen by the lack of pork jowl, horumon (offal), skirt, tongue, and ribeye, they do find some convenient and tasty pork and chicken skewers, while Nadeshiko plans to make a mini hot-pot as well.

Their feast thus purchased (and rung up by none other than Aoi, who just so happened to get a job at that particular supermarket), Sakura drives them the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Chiaki is already scouting out another campground for the Outclub’s next excursion, and meets one classy grandpa living his best life in the woods with a single pole tent and a big steak cooking on a cast-iron skillet.

Rin and Nadeshiko arrive and soak in the lovely foliage, then head to the other side of the lake where their campsite is located. Sakura orders a hot chai and takes in the scenery on her own before heading back, planning to return tomorrow at noon. Nadeshiko insists her big sis loves driving—and with that ultra-cool Rasheen, I can’t blame her!—but I felt she put out kind of a lonely vibe this week.

Maybe I’m just misreading her neutral expression. At any rate, I’m super-excited for Rin and Nadeshiko’s first official camping trip. Nadeshiko may crumple at the mere mention of ghosts, such as that of a cow believed to haunt the lake, but with someone as tough as Rin as her campmate, she has nothing to worry about. If anything, that ghost cow should worry about being turned into ghost barbecue!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Cardcaptor Sakura – 19 – Last of the Summer Swine

Sakura has procrastinated all Summer, and now on August 31 she has to do all of her homework. Thanks to her dad’s weather gizmo she can fill in her diary, while Touya exchanges five chores in exchange for building her birdhouse. Kero-chan offers to do her math homework in exchange for sweet potato sticks from Kumuya, but he doesn’t do it properly so that particular deal is off.

That just leaves her book report, something I myself used to dread for some reason during summer break. While at the library with Tomoyo, Sakura encounters Syaoran trying to use the same study space, but as his daily fortune said he’d have trouble with women today, he soon withdraws.

Turns out Syaoran has the last copy of Piglet Story, the thinnest book on the summer reading list, but it then falls into the hands of the very mischievous Move Clow Card. Sakura, Tomoyo, and Syaoran run all over the library chasing after the book (as quietly as possible), but it always slips away at the last second.

When the book starts to move outdoors, Kero-chan has Sakura close her eyes and concentrate so she can sense the card’s aura and anticipate its next move. The approach works, but Sakura is so occupied locating and sealing the card, she doesn’t realize she’s about to fall into the drink! Syaoran, being a chivalrous lad, grabs her hand, but to much of her momentum is already headed to the water and takes him with her.

That drenching would seem to be the “trouble with women” Syaoran feared, but it’s only the beginning. When he kindly offers Sakura to dry off and change at his place so she can also borrow the piglet book, Syaoran’s relative from Hong Kong, Meiling, makes her first appearance on the show, arriving quite by surprise, and at the worst time for Syaoran.

Characters who were overly violent to the boys they liked were kind of a thing in the 90s (see also Souma Kagura, whose character has eventually evolved in the 2019 reboot) and judging from her reaction to seeing Sakura in the T-shirt she bought for Syaoran, Meiling looks to be one of those types, at least at first. But like Sakura (and Syaoran himself), it’s just fun to see another character just starting out. Not to mention she’s positively stylin’ in those Chinese duds!

Hamefura – 08 – Pages of Desire

All Mary Hunt wants is to study alone with her one true love Catarina. Unfortunately, the object of her affection is also the object of everyone else’s, so the study group in the library consists of…everyone. Alas, while taking a break Catarina notices a flashing book on the shelf, and when she opens it, she and everyone except Mary and Maria are sucked inside!

It’s a high concept Hamefura this week, as one by one everyone in the book lives out their deepest desire, as interpreted and amplified by the magic of the book itself. Gerald, for one, reveals some of his sadist qualities in his wedding night desire, or Keith revealing his steamier side in his. Before anything can “happen” between Catarina or anyone, Mary slams the book shut in disgust.

The desire I enjoyed most was Catarina in Sophia’s private library, in which Sophia delivers an epic wall slam to Catarina like she’s the guy in a shoujo manga and declares her love. It’s just a shame nothing more comes of our discovery that Sophia may be the reincarnation of Acchan.

Mary and Maria endure all these desires until they finally come to Catarina, which involves finding an entire house made of sweets, only because the sweets are fictional no matter how much she eats she’s never satisfied. This seems to break the logic of the book, which explodes in a cloud of sweets and the trapped people. All’s well that ends well!

We end with a post-credits scene I found a bit puzzling: Catarina, with no inner monologue at all, ends up barefoot and up a tree with Alan during a gorgeous sunset. Mary spots them and moves to intercept. It’s a pretty scene, but Catarina feels out of character here; certainly have an inner council meeting or two before getting so friendly with Alan…

Somali and the Forest Spirit – 08 – Two Hearts at a Time

Thanks to Praline’s library guide and the Head Librarian’s own voice, Golem and Somali are able to locate Isolde Nebsolv, who not only was the last person to check out Chronicles of Haraiso, but actually wrote it. One of her head guards, Leigle, is suspicious of the intruders, but Isolde is glad to see them and all too happy to tell them the story from the now-destroyed book, the events of which took place many centuries ago.

Isolde’s ancestor Feodora was flying on her broom and got caught by dragon twister winds that blew her off course and wrecked her on an island. She’d later learn that Haraiso is not only the name of the island, but its “god”, a skinless golem. The rest of the island’s population are humans, who distrust all other “grotesques” except Haraiso.

Knowing this, and knowing of humans’ nature to fear the unknown and exterminate anything that is too different, Haraiso assures them the witch Feodora is actually a human and they have nothing to fear. Feodora quickly befriends Miya, the little girl who rescued her, and the rest of the villagers, as she slides into a pleasant, idyllic daily life.

The golem Haraiso eventually determines that Feodora will be able to fly home by riding the dragon twisters as they circle north to her home, but she’s hesitant to leave such a lovely place full of such kind people, and Miya doesn’t want her to go either. That’s when a “grotesque” appears: a large, two-headed beast that insists he has no quarrel with them.

The humans don’t believe or listen to their pleas for mercy, and they tie up, stone, beat, and cut the beast to death without mercy as Feodora watches. Even Miya tosses a stone. It’s clear now that her secret is a knife at her throat; she has to get out of here before she ends up like the beast.

But the morning of the day she’s to cast off, the villagers go looking for her, and Miya knows she’ll be at their spot: the bluff under the tree. When the winds pick up and toss Miya off the cliff and into some brittle branches, Feodora has no choice but to use her broom to swoop down and save her before she’s dashed on the rocks below.

All this happens in full sight of the villagers, who quickly ignore her heroics and start to call for her execution. Haraiso intervenes in time, pardoning Feodora for saving Miya but banishing her from the island. Feodora flies off, and only Miya bids her farewell. In the end, Feodora got through to Miya, and the friendship they shared overwrote her prejudice and fear.

Feodora shared her story with others, but considering how starkly it laid out how far apart humans and other clans were, it was decided not to write about it for a thousand years. Isolde wrote the book earlier than that, and for that, blames herself for the humans being wiped out. Still, Golem only sees it as a string of coincidences. Bottom line; humans and monsters were going to clash with or without this tale as ammo for the latter.

Before Isolde passes away in a cloud of butterflies, she considers herself fortunate to have not only met a human in Somali, but one who has friends among non-humans. It means perhaps she wasn’t wrong to write a book that, for all of the ways it depicted the humans as utterly incompatible, was at its core about two people: Feodora and Miya, who were able to reach an understanding and a bond.

There’s still hope for Somali, even after Golem dies, because of the friends she’s made. But it looks like Golem is still determined to find her fellow humans at the ends of the earth…just in case.

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