Oshi no Ko – 07 – This Is Our Love Now

Turns out Aqua wasn’t the only one looking out for Akane: Mem-cho had been looking for her too. Not long after Aqua saves her, the two are confronted by a cop. Back at the agency office, Miyako, Kana, and Ruby discuss the abuse Akane is getting.

Kana tells Ruby that even she has days mentally when she thinks to herself “maybe I really will go and die,” so for someone with little to no tolerance, the abuse could be deadly, giving the illusion to the target that their life is over.

Miyako points out that over 50 actors in reality dating shows have taken their lives over the years, which Kana uses to estimate that ten times as many narrowly avoided that fate. Ruby hopes Aqua will be okay, but just then, Miyako gets a call from the police about him.

Of course, once she arrives and learns what happened, she’s proud of Aqua, even tussling his head like the mom she is. When Yuki and the other cast members arrive, they are unabashedly supportive of Akane. Sure, Yuki slaps her, but she then hugs her.

Aqua gets down to brass tacks: if Akane wants to quit, now is probably the time. Under the circumstances, the production company would probably be okay with letting her vacate her contract and walk away. A tearful Akane admits she’s scared, but she doesn’t want to quit. Aqua and the others respect her decision.

Aqua then pushes in his chips on what he sees as a good bet: leaking Akane’s suicide attempt to the press. He doesn’t just want to rehab Akane’s reputation, he wants to stick it to the production staff who put her in an almost deadly situation.

While the news causes she storm of Akane criticism to worsen, some people back down in light of what happened to her this is only phase one of Aqua’s plan. The other involves making use of all of the photos and videos Mem-cho has taken during production.

He intends to gather and edit these so they can tell their own, truthful version of Love Now, from their point of view. Mem-cho likes the idea, and is experienced enough with social media to know there’s a silent majority out there right now waiting for a reason to end their silence.

One key piece of candid footage is Yuki hugging Akane after getting slapped by her, which Yuki reveals was caught on one of the cameras (she even made sure she was at the perfect angle to be captured). I like how she can simultaneously be so professionally shrewd while also providing genuine comfort and affection to Akane.

The problem is, that and all the other B-roll footage is in the hands of the director, who tells Aqua flat-out he can’t give it up. He and the staff have a job to do, as did Akane. He essentially blames her for not speaking up when the show went in a direction she wasn’t ready for.

Aqua, who as we know is a lot older of mind than body, tells this 35-year-old director that Akane is only 17, and 17-year-olds are dumb kids always making mistakes. He then asks what kind of adult chooses not to protect a kid, and the director relents.

Aqua runs himself ragged compiling and editing the footage, with input from the other cast members and one of them even providing original music. When the homemade movie of their Love Now is ready to upload to Twitter, Mem-cho tries to manage expectations: they’ll know if it will generate sufficient buzz if it gets 100 retweets in the first minute

It hits that mark in just under a minute, causing the cast members to jump with joy and cheer. In the first day, it gets 74,000 retweets, not only rehabilitating Akane’s image and quelling the storm of hate, but also solidifying the popularity of Love Now, as it portrays all five of them as good kids.

Most importantly, when Akane watches it, she knows the others have her back, and her carved out heart is gradually filled back in by her colleague’s caring efforts. I love love love how they manage to go up against the cynicism of the industry and even manage to score a victory.

In light of the positive press, Akane prepares to make her triumphant return to the show. This time, Mem-cho suggests that Akane try playing a character, as a role separate from her true self will serve as a powerful armor against future hate, which will come as surely as the rising sun.

As Akane is a classically trained theater actor, Akane is open to this, but wonders what kind of character she should play. Mem-cho and Yuki turn to Aqua, the only guy in the room, and ask him what his ideal girl is. He goes on to list some very abstract yet specific characteristics. Mem-cho immediately pictures Ai from B Komachi.

Akane resolves to try being the kind of girl Aqua likes, not just for her own sake, but to repay him for looking for her in the storm and, well, literally saving her life. This is when we see Akane’s extremely detail-oriented, bordering on obsessive approach to character research, in which she extrapolates a frighteningly accurate study of Ai’s personality.

When Kana asks, Aqua tells her Akane has recovered from her ordeal and is poised to make her return to Love Now. Kana is glad Akane’s okay, but also a little disappointed she didn’t bow out, speaking strictly as a professional rival. Like Yuki, she checks herself for saying something that if typed into Twitter would have gotten her flamed.

On the first day of shooting with Akane back, she apologizes to the staff, who respond with applause, and Aqua walks ahead of her in preparation to begin the shoot. To his shock, Akane unveils the character she has spent her time away carefully crafting.

From the length of her stride and the curve of her smile to her suddenly confident yet bubbly voice (Iwami Manaka really changes it up) and her dazzling, suddenly starry eyes, Akane has transformed into Hoshino Ai Reborn, who I’ll henceforth refer to as Aikane. I can’t wait to see her light up the screen!

Oshi no Ko – 06 – Making Her Mark

It’s full speed ahead with My Love With a Star Begins Now, with Sumi Yuki immediately making a big impact by announcing to the others on camera that she’s considering leaving the show do to the teasing she’s enduring at school. But when the cameras are off, she’s on her phone checking the reactions.

It’s not that she’s just acting or lying. She is being teased, and she has considered quitting. She’s simply taking those kernels of truth and amplifying them for greater dramatic impact, for the good of the show and her own standing within it. It’s shrewd as hell, and you can tell Aqua admires it. But it’s also Yuki’s only play. She’s in a contract. If she quits, her agency will probably dump her.

He admits to Ruby that he knew nothing about reality dating shows, but now that he does, he’s surprised how much less fakery there is in it; not much more, in fact, than completely normal daily social interactions between peers.

Yuki is in it to win it, and quickly positions herself as the alpha girl, becoming the object of both Nobu and Kengo’s affections. As that love triangle captivates the audience and online buzz, Aqua is content to flit around the background until it’s over, while Mem-Cho is just in this to funnel more fans to her YouTube channel.

And then there’s Kurokawa Akane, perhaps the most kind, pure, eager, hardworking, and deeply naïve member of the cast. She’s always furiously jotting down notes and advice from the others, but while everyone else can “egosurf”, as Kana calls it, she ends up causing little to no impact. For her, there are no waves to egosurf. She’s completely becalmed.

Having overheard her agency boss chew out her manager, Akane shoulders the responsibility for standing out and making a mark on the show; she’s not just doing it for herself. A producer suggests she play the “bad girl” and try to steal one or both of Nobu and Kengo from Yuki, thus making more of an impact.

The thing is, despite working her ass off, Akane is very bad at this. She just doesn’t have the on-screen charisma or magnetism of Yuki. It’s almost more depressing that Yuki doesn’t take Akane’s efforts personally, because she simply doesn’t see Akane as a viable threat. While doing nail art for Akane, she makes clear she has no intention of giving up the spotlight.

When Akane is pleasantly chatting with Kengo and Yuki blatantly steals him away to look at a dog, Akane tries to stand up for herself. She rushes Yuki, slaps or grazes her face, and is about to give her a piece of her mind when she notices that the very nails Yuki made pretty for her have slashed Yuki’s face. The day before she has to do a magazine photoshoot.

The cameras stop and the crew surrounds Akane to deliver first aid, and Akane begins to withdraw into herself and straight up lose it. But then Yuki rushes over and gives her a hug. She wants Akane to know that it’s okay, she didn’t mean to scratch her, and it doesn’t matter. Yuki knows she’s working hard. Yuki likes her. They’re rivals on the screen, but it’s not personal.

It’s a beautiful moment of reconciliation, but the show uses the footage, and turns Akane into an online whipping girl for flamers. Worse still, when Akane inevitably “egosurfs”, it’s more like doom-scrolling. She carefully reads every nasty comment about her—something no one should ever do—and even posts a heartfelt apology—which Mem-Cho warned you should definitely never, ever do!

Even though she and Yuki are fine, the internet doesn’t let the incident go. Some want her kicked off the show. Some want her arrested for assault. Some want her to just disappear. To die. Akane tries not to let it get to her, but she’s only human. It gets to her. She finds it harder to sleep, to eat. She overhears classmates talking shit about her at school. She purges in the toilet.

It was at this point, having watched the first feature-length episode of Oshi no Ko, that this was rapidly heading to a very, very dark place. All Akane’s cast-mates muster are intermittent texts inquiring about her health. She’s nearly catatonic when one of those texts asks if she’s eating enough, and she realizes she doesn’t remember the last time she ate.

So she walks to the store…in the middle of a typhoon. On the way home, she slips, falls, and drops her groceries while on a bridge. She’s tired. She wants to stop thinking; to stop worrying about so much. She wants to pain and suffering to end. So she climbs onto the bridge railing, where cars are racing by below her, and even throws herself off. Her feet have left the railing…but she does not fall, because someone catches her.

The person who catches her is Aqua, who was a doctor in a previous life. As an OB-GYN he had experience detecting, preventing, and treating the mental heath issues associated with pregnancy, expertise he could apply to people in general, as well as the will to not just do no harm (his father excepted), but prevent harm from being done.

While the other cast members texted well wishes, Aqua did what you have to do when you suspect them of developing suicidal ideation: you keep a fucking eye on them. He must have been watching her intently, as even she didn’t initially intend to attempt to take her life when she left the house. She was just going to buy food. But circumstances aligned and an opportunity presented itself, and utterly defeated and ground down into dust, she took it.

Thank goodness she wasn’t successful. While Akane initially freaks out, when she realizes it’s Aqua who caught her and is cradling her in her arms, she calms down. Everything may not be okay at all, but it will be. It can be. This isn’t about Akane winning and the internet losing. It’s about Akane having everything to live for, and not dying needlessly.

Needless to say, was an incredibly rough watch. Watching someone kind and sweet and well-meaning and earnest suddenly descend into darkness is never easy, or fun. But it is important, and accurate to what the industry is like—Akane almost met the same fate as Terrace House’s Kimura Hana.

It sounds cliché to say it chews people up and spits them out, unless it happens to someone you know. After this episode, I felt like I knew Kurokawa Akane. I cared about her well-being and didn’t want her to die. Thanks to Aqua, she didn’t.


If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, confidential assistance is available 24/7.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
or Call/Text 988

Oshi no Ko – 05 – My Love With a Star Begins Now

Ruby and Kana are like two cats who for whatever reason just don’t like each other. Yet Kana is Ruby’s best chance to become an idol ASAP, so Aqua agrees to help set up a meet. Kana’s preferred junk food comes in the form of positive online buzz. When she reads a comment that, like her, has all kinds of feelings about the creepy hot guy, she can’t help but blush,

Then she gets a text from that very guy, and it sounds like he wants to confess. Kana’s disappointment over it being a meeting for Ruby’s sake is overcome by her fascination with Ruby. Kana’s been around long enough to know when someone has “It” in the way Ai did, and Ruby has that same “It”. Remember that Kana has no idea Ruby and Aqua are Ai’s kids.

That promise she sees in Ruby, combined with Aqua reading her like an open book and picking the proper method to persuade her, results in Kana signing on the dotted line to become a Strawberry idol beside Ruby. With that settled, Kana at least looks forward to having more opportunities to see and work with Aqua. Then she asks Ruby what Aqua is up to.

Ruby pulls up the reality dating show bearing the title of this article, and features six gorgeous entertainers looking for love. The Aqua who appears and introduces himself bears no resemblance to the boy Ruby and Kana know, but as Miyako points out, he’s putting on the performance he needs to in order to make the show a success.

Ruby and Kana’s reactions to Aqua flirting with other pretty girls are fun, but Miyako snaps them out of their initial resentment and gets them to remember it’s all an act. But even if that’s the case, Kana is disheartened by the prospect of Aqua actually ending up in a relationship with one of those girls…even kissing her.

But as Miyako says, that comes with the territory. Aqua is doing this for vital intel on Ai’s male companions he can’t obtain by any other means, so he’s going to give it his absolute all. Even if the bubbly YouTuber Mem-Cho is a tremendous bore, he’s going to smile feign interest.

It’s when he ends up beside the pretty first-year model Sumi Yuki that a bit of small talk ends up becoming a conversation about the complicated love he’s “trying to get over”. Sumi is intrigued and digs deeper, eventually drawing in close to say they’ll just have to get him over that old love.

It’s just ambiguous enough whether Sumi is putting on a show for the cameras she only later reveals to Aqua (a rare case of not minding his surroundings brought on by her charm), or she’s being genuinely open and friendly. It’s probably a bit of both truth and lies, like so many real interactions! In any case, Aqua scoffs internally at her self-professed timidity.

Back home, Ruby tells Aqua she’ll be choosing the girl he should go out with, and ends up picking Sumi. What a coinky-dink! As for her nascent idol group, they don’t have any songs or even a name, but Miyako jump-starts their notoriety by having them collaborate with Strawberry Productions’ top earner: a muscle man in a chick mask named Pieyon who is super popular with the kids.

I shared Kana’s bewilderment with what young people are into these days and how that reflects on how warped society has become, but when Pieyon tells her how much he rakes in a year, she immediately apologizes for negging him. Pieyon offers pointers on quick ways to gain lots of subscribers, like having him pull a prank on them. But Ruby wants their very first gig to be bereft of lies.

While she’ll soon learn that always being honest in show business is literally impossible, she and Kana do a fine job keeping up with Pieyon’s hour-long workout dance. He was fully prepared to edit the video to make it seem like they danced for the full hour, but between Kana being a regular runner and Kana being full of youth and determination, there’s no need for movie magic.

Then the big moment comes when they get to remove their chick masks and reveal true faces and names. Ruby gives the camera the old Hoshino charm, while Kana is a little more self-conscious, which is actually fine: demonstrating different personalities will help them cast a wider net of fans, the first group of which will come from Pieyon’s followers.

When Pieyon asks what the name of their unit is, Kana leaves it to Ruby, who goes with the nostalgic choice of B-Komachi. That’s right, from these humble, goofy, swole beginnings, Ruby aims resurrect her mom’s legendary group, for which Strawberry retains the rights.

Oshi no Ko – 01 (First Impressions) – Lies are Love

It’s late, and I just finished the epic, nearly 90-minute premiere of Oshi no Ko, and I’m convinced it’s probably one of the best works of anime I’ve ever watched. I laughed, I cried, I was lifted up and then utterly destroyed. My thoughts are similarly scattered, so let’s begin with the basics of the events of this feature-length episode.

Rural OB-GYN Dr. Amemiya Gorou is a huge fan of Hoshino Ai, transcendent center of the idol group B Komachi. He first heard about her through Sarina-chan, a terminal patient from earlier in his career. Sarina once wished she could be reborn as the child of an idol. So who should show up at his hospital but the 16-year-old Hoshino Ai herself—pregnant with twins, no less.

Despite her manager/guardian Saitou’s worries about it ruining her career (and his business), Ai is determined to carry her children to term and raise them while remaining an idol. As her physician (and biggest fan), Gorou is resolved to ensure he brings them into the world safe and healthy.

But the day she’s to give birth, Gorou is lured into the woods by Ai’s stalker and pushed off a cliff. He hears his phone ringing, calling him back to the hospital, but he dies in a pool of his own blood, having been dashed against the rock.

The next thing he knows, he’s reborn as Hoshino’s son, Aquamarine, beside his twin sister, Ruby. In order to keep her idol reputation pristine, Saitou crafts the cover story of the babes being his, and appoints his wife Miyako their mother, both in public and while Ai is working.

While just an infant, Aqua has retained his knowledge and memories of his previous life as an adult doctor. He soon learns that Ruby has as well, and concludes that she had a previous life as well. When the strain of caring for the kids gets to Miyako, she prepares to expose Ai’s secret to the world.

This is when Aqua and Ruby reveal to Miyako that they can talk and reason like much older humans, but play it as deities possessing their infant bodies. They warn Miyako not to stray from her “destiny” as their pretend mother and protecting Ai’s secret, lest she suffer “divine punishment”.

The ploy works, and henceforth Miyako isn’t weirded out by their ability to converse. The way Ruby acts and talks about Ai reminds him of Sarina, and he even uses that name to rouse her from sleep. Ruby, who actually is Sarina, dismisses it as mishearing, since there’s no way Aqua could know who she was.

As an idol suddenly going through teen motherhood, Ai notices the lightness of her monthly checks from idol work, but such is the nature of the modest agency for which she works. We get some salient details about the industry and how the profit margins are slim. Ai has to work hard just to get the $1500 a month she gets.

That includes little private shows for fans who won a lottery. Aqua and Ruby persuade Miyako to tempt fate and bring them along so they can watch their mother perform live for the first time. Ai is down in the dumps about seeing criticism online about her professional/fake smile, which is indeed a carefully calculated artifice.

That said, when Ai spots her kids in the crowd doing a coordinated idol dance with lightbars (they couldn’t help themselves), it puts a genuine smile on her face that gets her even more noticed, leading to more work. The kids also go viral online.

A year passes, and Ai has obtained an acting gig on a school drama. In the studio, the director immediately recognizes that the precocious Aqua has something and is eager to use him in a future production. He also acknowledges that despite being a sink-or-swim newcomer on set, Ai is talented and knows how to perform in front of the camera.

Alas, the realities of cold, hard business rear their ugly heads when Ai’s show airs and she’s barely in it. Aqua calls the director to complain, but his hands were tied; the higher-ups caught flak from their lead star’s people because Ai was making more of an impact. They couldn’t have that, and they’re the bigger fish in the pond, so Ai was almost entirely edited out.

That said, the director agrees to have Ai star in a small-budget film he’s writing/producing/directing … provided Aqua agree to be in it too. Aqua is paired up with one Arima Kana, a famous child actor who is not resurrected (as far as we know). She’s also a real piece of work, immediately getting on Aqua and Ruby’s nerves.

That said, it doesn’t take much shooting for Aqua to learn that Kana has tremendous acting chops for her age. It’s just that when he then says his lines, not bothering to try to compete in acting ability but simply interpreting the director’s vision, he not only wows the director and Kana, but sends Kana into a self-conscious spiral.

The film is a critical success, and it propels Ai to even greater stardom (and more work). When Aqua and Ruby are three, Ai enrolls them at preschool, where Aqua shocks the faculty by reading extremely thick, small-print literature. The kids are also tasked with putting on a dance performance for their parents.

This is where Ruby gets depressed. In her past life as Sarina, she lived most of her short life in hospitals, her frail body rarely did what she wanted, and she suffered falls and bitter frustration even as she dreamed of moving like Hoshino Ai. Even in her new, healthy body, Ruby fears she’s not coordinated enough to dance.

Ai has Ruby join her in her studio to practice dance moves, and tells her that if she’s afraid of falling she’s just going to keep falling. By standing up straight and having confidence in herself, Ruby is able to dance beautifully right beside her mom. Even Aqua notes that Ruby excels at both acting and dancing, still unaware that she was once the Sarina-chan he knew.

As Ai’s star continues to rise, she overhears her kids talking about their dad, and decides to call him to arrange to meet them, not wanting them to be in the dark about him forever. She also moves into a fancy new digs in downtown Tokyo, and celebrates with her kids, her manager, and Miyako.

As they all watch her popular TV drama, we get some internal monologue from Ai this time. She suffers impostor syndrome, because she feels she has no idea what capital-L Love really is. Her kind of “love” has always been an artfully-constructed tapestry of lies, ever since she was abandoned by her mother and put in a home.

But when she was first scouted by Saitou (and had no interest in being an idol), he told her it was okay to lie. Even if she considered herself a people-hating lier, he believed she still truly wanted to learn how to love, and so singing and dancing, pretending to love her fans and being loved by them, could help her with that.

After so many years of performing, it’s become nearly impossible for her to distinguish her lies from the truth of how she feels. So at this point, she hasn’t once told Aqua and Ruby that she loves them, because she’s terrified that it might sound like another lie. It’s a heartbreaking prospect.

Ai finally achieves the holy grail of idoldom: getting a dome show. But on the day of the show the doorbell rings, she answers the door, and the stalker is there. We had been shown the stalker still obsessing with her even after he’d killed Gorou, so in a way we I had been prepared for the other shoe to dorp, especially when Ai brought up someday possibly “paying for” all the lies she’d told throughout career.

But even though I knew the good times would not go on forever, there was simply no way to not be absolutely devastated by the sharp cut to the stalker plunging a knife in Ai’s chest, or the sheer amount of blood from her ruptured abdominal aorta, or that she’d forgive her stalker and attacker and even remember his name from handshake events (even though she’s terrible with names).

Or, of course, how she ended up saying goodbye to her children—Aqua in her blood-soaked arms and Ruby separated on the other side of the frosted glass foyer door. She’s finally able to tell them she loves them, and it’s the truth. I kept waiting for the paramedics to come and possibly save her life, but Aqua having been a doctor, I followed his lead in thinking she wouldn’t make it … goddamn it.

I was still blotting my eyes with Kleenex when the aftermath of Ai’s murder was described by Aqua. The culprit, thoroughly chastened and shamed by Ai’s heartfelt appeal to him even after he stabbed her, attempted suicide and died in the hospital. A huge outpouring of grief followed, but eventually dissipated, and within three short days, Ai’s tragic story had been buried in the news cycle by a sudden bout of unseasonable snow.

Naturally, Aqua and Ruby are absolutely ruined by the loss of the woman who wasn’t just their beloved mother, but their beloved idol. Ai’s manager and his wife Miyako adopt them, and the scandal of her having kids never comes to light. Ruby seems determined to fulfill the potential her mother believed she had to become an idol in her own right, despite knowing full well what a treacherous road she’ll walk by doing so.

As for Aqua, he determines that the stalker couldn’t have been a good enough detective to not only find his hospital and kill him, but also find Ai’s new home and kill her. Going down the list of people who could have possibly fed him this information, he determines the most logical culprit to be his and Ruby’s father, whose identity remains a mystery.

In the back of that funeral limo, just as Ruby resolves to become an idol, Aqua resolves to find and kill their father.

Fast forward about a decade or so, and Aqua and Ruby are now in high (or possibly middle) school. Her dream to become an idol is still alive, as is his determination to find their father. Ruby cheerfully tells their mom (in a photo of the three of them) that they’re heading off. In a post-credits home movie she recorded, Ai tells them her greatest wish is that they grow up happy and healthy. They both seem healthy. As for the rest … we’ll have to see.

This may have just been an extended prologue, but could easily have served as a wholly complete, joy-evoking, core-shaking, utterly heartbreaking feature film. Takahashi Rie gives the best voice acting performance of her career. It also had the look and feel of a high-budget anime film, setting a lofty standard I’m hoping Doga Kobo can maintain in the episodes to come.

My only worry, aside from the aforementioned fear of production quality dropping, is that the void left by Hoshino Ai will prove too large to fill, or the “revenge play” that follows won’t be able to match the emotional resonance. But for now, suffice it to say this is easily the anime of the season, the year, and possibly the decade, and absolute appointment viewing. That’s no lie.


The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie – His and Her and Their Circumstances

In the prologue, Uesugi Fuutarou is in a wedding tux, summoned by the bride, only to find five identical brides: the Nakano quintuplets. Polygamy is as illegal in Japan as it is in the states, so what exactly is up here? Rewind to the eve of Fuu and the Quints’ final school festival. Fuu gathers them in a classroom and tells them he likes…all of them. However, he realizes he owes one of them an answer, and she’ll get that answer, at the end of the festival.

From there the narrative takes a non-linear approach, starting by showing each of the five sisters alone at the end of the third day, followed by an account of the festival from each of their points of view. Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba, and Itsuki all get some quality time with Fuu, and all of them (except Itsuki) manage to steal a kiss from him. During the festival, each sister steps forward.

Ichika with her acting career; Nino with her resentment of their distant doctor dad;  Miku learns to be confident and assertive and mend fences between boy and girl classmates, and vows to go to cooking school; Yotsuba learns that sometimes she can be the one being helped rather than always helping; Itsuki rejects their asshole biological father who can’t even tell them apart, and embraces her dream of becoming a teacher like her mother.

Each of these segments represent both a summing-up and resolution to each of the girls’ arcs and points them forward. Indeed, each could have been its own episode in a third season. But when we come to the end of the third day and the movie throws every misdirection it can on who Fuu will go to, he ends up choosing…Yotsuba.

Yotsuba was “Reina”, the first sister Fuu met, and together they shared one of the happiest and most fun days of their young lives. But Yotsuba initially rejects Fuu, and it’s not him, it’s her who feels unworthy. The movie digs deep into Yotsuba’s past as the maverick of the quintet, the first one to differentiate her hairstyle with her green rabbit ribbon.

Yotsuba wanted to stand out from the crowd and be useful; this we know. But in trying to do so by joining (and excelling) at every club at school, she ended up flunking her exams, having to repeat her grade. When her father told her she’d be transferring to another school, the other four sisters said in no uncertain terms where she goes, they go.

Yotsuba runs from Fuu and his confession because she doesn’t feel she deserves to be “the special one” after trying to be just that in the past caused so many problems for her family. And yet, Yotsuba’s independent spirit was bolster by her meeting with Fuu, who like her wanted to work hard to become someone who was needed.

Even after calling herself “the best of the sisters”, the others had her back when she thought she’d cast away to be alone. When Fuu stumbles and falls and grabs Yotsuba’s ankle when he turns around to check on him, he tells her how much that day with her shaped him into the Fuutarou he is today. He chose her, he loves her, because she is special in that way to him. And when he asks directly, she can’t lie, she loves him too. She always has.

But just because Fuutarou loves Yotsuba and Yotsuba loves Fuutarou doesn’t mean they’re on easy street. Each of her four sisters reacts to it in different ways that suit their personalities. Ichika accepts her loss to Yotsuba, and now knows how Nino felt when she said she’d support her sister even if Fuu chose someone else.

Miku sings karaoke with Yotsuba all night, admits it’s hard to let go of Fuu, but ultimately gives her her blessing. Nino is the toughest, as one would expect. Always regarded as the strongest and sternest sister, the one who cared for everyone, even her older sister Ichika. She initially feels betrayed by Yotsuba for hiding how she felt until Fuu made a choice.

As Fuutarou and Itsuki are talking in a dark classroom, they have to hide when Nino and Yotsuba walk in to hash it all out. Ultimately, Yotsuba accepts that Nino can’t accept matters, at least not yet. But Yotsuba also assures Nino she won’t lose. In this context, Nino tells both her and Fuu to be on their guards; she’ll be watching, and if there’s any sign their love is false, she’ll swoop in and steal Fuu away.

A litte bit later, Yotsuba and Fuutarou have their first official date together, and it’s as adorably awkward and sweet as you’d expect. Fuutarou puts a lot of thought into the structure of the date, first taking her to a family restaurant where his family went, then to a library where he always studies, and finally to the playground where the two of them had a happy memory.

After Yotsuba takes a huge leap off the swing, Fuu attempts the same and ends up breaking the chain and falling on his face. But he rises to one knee and pledges to become a man worthy of standing beside her, and proposes marriage without a ring…on their first date.

Yotsuba points out he’s skipped a lot of steps, and warns that just about any other woman would probably hit the road…except her. By proposing to her, Fuu helped her remember another dream of hers: to become a bride. So while they can’t get married right away, she accepts his proposal.

Five years later, Ichika arrives back in Japan from her new home in America, Nino and Miku run their own café, and Itsuki is a schoolteacher. Yotsuba meets her sisters there and is all sweaty from riding the bike, even though the marriage ceremony is later that day. Their bridal gift to her is their mother’s diamond earrings, but they have to pierce Yotsuba’s ears so she can wear them.

The earrings are a sign of their collective love for her and blessing for her marriage. The momentary pain of the piercings are a reminder of the initial collective pain they felt when Fuutarou chose Yotsuba over them. With time, that pain has subsided. In the end, the quintuplets stuck together.

This brings us to the prologue of the film, in which Fuutarou is faced with five identical brides. Only unlike their asshole biological dad, and like their real date (Dr. Nakano), Fuutarou has long since been able to tell the five sisters apart. Fuu correctly identifying the sisters one by one is intercut with Yotsuba’s reception speech, where she thanks the sisters she loves so much for helping her become the woman she is.

Fuutarou then walks down the aisle with Yotsuba and puts a ring on her finger, and hey presto, a question two seasons and a movie in the making is finally answered. It was Yotsuba all along; the one who wrongly felt least deserving or worthy of Fuutarou’s love and favor. I for one couldn’t be happier.

And when it comes time for the honeymoon, naturally Yotsuba’s four sisters decide they’re coming along (though hopefully in separate, non-adjacent rooms). The only question is where they should go. On the count of three, the five girls point to five different spots on the map, just as they did years ago for their graduation trip. For all the ways they’ve changed and grown, they remain quintessentially quintuplets, and I loved each and every one of them.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

In / Spectre – 16 – Honeymoon Period

Kotoko tells Masayuki and Yuki-onna that she knows precisely who the culprit is, and furthermore, that the police aren’t really seriously suspecting him at the moment, which explains why they haven’t been hounding him of late.

The reason? Evidence indicates that the victim Mahiru didn’t have any of her effects taken, and there’s every indication that she and the murderer had time to converse. In that time, she would have surely warned the murderer about the formal accusation she’d written up beforehand.

After all, Mahiru wasn’t trying to be killed, and would do everything she could to avoid that outcome. And if Masayuki killed Mahiru, he would have taken steps to obscure her identity and/or the location of her body. And the cops already all but ruled Masayuki out as a serious suspect after he was wishy-washy about his alibi, and unprepared to defend himself from the facts they’d collected thus far.

As for why it looked like Mahiru was trying to write Masayuki’s name on her hand? That was written by the true murderer after killing her. Before Kotoko says the name of the murder—Iizuka Nagisa—the name already pops up in Masayuki’s name as the only possible culprit.

Iizuka was the only one who sided with him when he was forced out of his company. She loved him, and murdered Mahiru and framed Masayuki so that he’d have no choice but to go to her for support. Sure enough, as Kotoko discuss this, Iizuka calls Masayuki, but he doesn’t answer.

Kotoko reveals that she didn’t deduce this from the mere facts of the case as they stand, but from the eyewitness ghosts who were at the scene of the crime when it occurred. They identified a woman that matched Iizuka’s description. If that’s “cheating”, Masayuki can hardly complain, as the information Kotoko gathered from the ghosts categorically clears his name.

With Masayuki’s name sure to be cleared and only a matter of time before Mahiru is arrested, Kotoko gives him and Yuki-onna her blessing—as long as they use protection! Kurou shows up shortly thereafter, terrifying Yuki-onna (as he tends to do). Kotoko then tells Masayuki and Yuki-onna to get lost and bone already, since they’re now in “the optimal mood.” Yuki-onna  scoops Masayuki up and flies them back home.

While riding a flying yokai home, Kotoko and Kurou talk about the case a bit more. Kotoko explains further how Mahiru had overplayed her hand. She wanted a suspected Masayuki in the palm of her hand, but ultimately didn’t go any further lest the consequences of framing him cause him distress. The two conclude that Masayuki has and may well continue to have horrible luck with women.

Even Yuki-onna, who has been good to and for him thus far, is still a thoroughly volatile yokai who could one day freeze him to death for a slight real or imagined. Kurou likens Masayuki’s plight with his own, not just where his ex and Rikka are concerned but with Kotoko. Kotoko is not amused by this remark!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Urusei Yatsura – 15 – Airing of Grievances

In an effort to woo Rei, Ran buys a giant bag of bean-filled taiyaki and dresses in her best Barbarella outfit. It seems to work when Rei thanks her for the food by planting a tender kiss on her cheek. Ran declares it the happiest moment of her life.

She invites Lum to her place to gloat about it celebrate her newfound happiness. Considering Ran’s personality changes at the drop of a hat, Lum is initially unsure why she’s there, as more often than not Ran treats her like an enemy these days. But when she hears about the kiss she gives Ran and Rei her blessing.

It’s odd, then, when she returns to Ataru’s house, Rei is there waiting for her. Ran also shows up for more girl talk, and finds Lum in Rei’s arms. When the giant cat (who is also there for some reason) gives Ran a commiseratory taiyaki, she scarfs it down…and Rei kisses her again. Turns out he’s eating the bean crumbs off her face. Classic Rei.

Another day, Ran invites Lum out for coffee and pudding, declaring that Lum will be treating her. She unleashes a litany of events from her past, giving us adorable Lil’ Lum and Lil’ Ran. From pinning the blame on Ran when Lum wet the bed during sleepovers, to Lum being a lousy liar when trying to cover for her, Ran blames Lum for causing her to develop her current volatile personality—though her intense mom probably deserves more blame.

Lum doesn’t remember these events in quite the way Ran does, though why would she, when Ran casts her as the bad guy in every one? Even so, when Ran completes her exhaustive rundown, Lum can’t help but feel somewhat responsible. Ran has given her a lot to think about…and she thinks about it so strongly, she ends up leaving the café before Ran, thus leaving her with the bill! I guess there’s no changing this frenemyship dynamic…

The final segment involves Lum and Shinobu spotting Sakura roasting a newt. When Sakura lists all the traditional medicines it’s used for, they lose interest and start to walk away…until she mentions love potion. Sakura, who swears she’s never used it herself, nevertheless agrees to whip up a batch for Lum (for use on Ataru) and Shinobu (Mendou).

Ataru is the first guinea pig, and while he initially starts behaving affectionately (and monogamously) towards Lum, much to her delight, as soon as they interact with other people he starts spouting blatant, elaborate lies. Then he spots Shinobu and starts acting like she’s the only one in his heart. Clearly something is off about the love potion, and they head back to Sakura.

Sure enough, she made the “loud” potion, the recipe for which is right next to the love potion, and causes those who take it to lie, loudly. That certainly doesn’t bode well for Lum or Shinobu, but in particular it’s a step backwards in Lum and Ataru’s relationship. But just like Ran, and Rei, and Lum, Ataru is a creature of habit—in his case being an unrepentant horndog lothario. No potion can cure him of that, only time patience, and luck.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

In / Spectre – 15 – So Generous, It’s Creepy

This episode was an emotional roller coaster! It begins by rewinding from Yuki-onna’s request to Kotoko to the police detectives questioning Masayuki. Their reasons for suspecting him of murdering his ex-wife are numerous: Mahiru left a note accusing him should she die suspiciously; the beginning of his name scrawled on her hand; and camera footage of Masayuki with a woman that looks just like her.

The police have reasonable cause to suspect, but not arrest Masayuki, and his failure to definitively state he had no alibi doesn’t help his case. But what choice does he have? He can’t tell the police he was having tempura and drinks with a yuki-onna on the night of Mahiru’s murder. Why, they’d think he was nuts…even though it’s the truth! Days pass and the police don’t bother Masayuki again, but it’s still looknig bad.

Then Yuki-onna, who was present in rabbit form for the entire talk with the police, asks him if she looks like his ex-wife, and he admits that she does, so it was Yuki-onna in the camera photo. Hers was the face of the one person in his life who didn’t betray him, but he admits he felt bad for marrying for whom he was otherwise unsuited.

Masayuki decides he’ll head out and try to find the real culprit, but Yuki-onna tells him to wait, and when he keeps going with a full head of steam,. she freezes him in his tracks—literally! 

Yuki-onna correctly diagnoses this as Masayuki being impatient and restless and wanting to prove his innocence at any cost, but with no leads and nothing to go on, the best move is to stay put, eat some food, get some rest. Then she remembers that her Ladyship, the Goddess of Wisdom, is just the person to solve this case, so she reaches out to her.

Yuki-onna flies Masayuki deep into the mountains to a cave where Kotoko is waiting. Rather than her going right into the particulars of the case, Masayuki gets a better taste of who Kotoko is, namely someone still quintessentially human despite her status as a goddess to supernatural beings near and far. That’s because Kotoko is upset that Kurou blew her off and she had to get cold pork cutlet from the local konbini.

I was so happy to see my favorite goddess of wisdom meeting my new favorite human-yokai couple, about to dish out the solution to their problems. But that’s where the roller coaster starts hurtling down to the earth, as Kotoko points out that not only does Yuki-onna’s wishy-washy sense of human time make her a poor alibi, but Masayuki might have capitalized on that poor sense to manipulate her into trusting him implicitly.

With Yuki-onna’s unwavering trust, Masayuki could kill his ex-wife one night, have tempura with Yuki-onna, and say they were doing the latter on the night of the murder, thus making him look innocent in her eyes and persecuted by the police. He could even convince her to kill the business partners who betrayed him.

Kotoko is so precise (as always) in laying out this theory that it even had me questioning if Masayuki really did have such a diabolical plot in motion, and had pulled the wool over Yuki-onna’s eyes with food, drink, and companionship. But you know who didn’t suspect Masayuki, even after hearing all this? Yuki-onna herself. She prostrates herself, says Masayuki has a truly kind heart, and demands that her Ladyship reconsider her stance.

Kotoko responds to Yuki-onna’s display by making it clear she’s all too aware that Masayuki isn’t the culprit, and that everything she uttered about otherwise was a lie. Among the reasons she trusts Masayuki? He’s been refusing Yuki-onna’s sexual advances! If he’d wanted to gain her trust quickly, he’d have swept her off her feet.

While Kotoko’s theory of Masayuki being a yokai-manipulating criminal mastermind was harsh and at times cruel, it was still crucial for her to say what she said, so she could enlighten Masayuki to the fact that Yuki-onna trusted him so much, she was even willing to defy her goddess for his sake.

By underscoring the courage Yuki-onna demonstrated for him, Kotoko hopes Masayuki will make the effort to regain some of his own courage. Even if this criminal investigation is all tied up with a neat bow and he gets off scot-free (as he should), Kotoko suspects that won’t be the end of Masayuki’s troubles.

A new start is in order. Masayuki owns up to being terrified of interacting with people—that lack of interaction is why he doesn’t have a human alibi—and tenderly gathers Yuki-onna’s cold white hand into his to thank her for going to bat for him. As for the true culprit of his ex-wife’s murder? Naturally, Kotoko already knows that too!

In / Spectre – 14 – Youkai Alibi

In/Spectre can really spin a good yarn. This week we meet Muroi Masayuki, who is pushed off a mountain by his best friend. As he lays contemplating his imminent death, a spunky yuki-onna (Yuuki Aoi) pays him a visit. She’s not there to kill him, though she does think long and hard about it when he knocks her looks!

Yuki-onna subverts Masayuki’s idea of her kind by building an conjuring an igloo around him so he’ll last the night, then flying him down the mountain in a princess carry, all for half of the cash he’s carrying. Once back in town, he’s able to walk in on his former friend lying about what happened and finger him for attempted murder.

Eleven years pass, and Masayuki moves back to the town by the mountain where he met the Yuki-onna. As luck would have it, he doesn’t need to search far for her, as she’s enjoying soft serve in human form. When he tells her about the time he met a yuki-onna she’s initially furious he broke his vow of silence, but he’s sure she’s the same person, so he technically isn’t.

Masayuki is coming off a divorce from a woman who cheated on him and tried to kill him, as well as the hostile takeover of his company by another former friend. Understandably distrustful of future human interactions, he sought her out. Yuki-onna is eminently interested in human food and drink (and cars!), so he agrees to buy her booze and cook for her at his bachelor pad.

An adorable, mutually beneficial friendship ensues. The connection to the In/Spectre we know finally comes when Yuki-onna speaks glowingly about her lady and Goddess of Wisdom, Kotoko. Yuki-onna cleared befriending Masayuki with Kotoko, and even got approval for sexual relations with him should things go that way (as long as they use protection!)

The good vibes suddenly sour when detectives come to Masayuki’s door to inform him that his ex-wife has been murdered, but that’s where Kotoko comes in. Yuki-onna reports that she knows for a fact Masayuki wasn’t the culprit because she was with him at the time of the murder. The problem is she can’t go to the cops and Masayuki can’t say the source of his alibi is a yokai.

It looks to be a fascinating case, and one that has a lot more resonance now that I’ve come to know and become quite fond both Yuki-onna and Masayuki. They make a surpassingly cute and charming couple whose playful banter and cozy chemistry rivals Kotoko and Kurou, and if anyone can get this out of this legal dilemma, it’s the Goddess of Wisdom.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

In / Spectre – 13 – Things That Go Thump in the Night

When In/Spectre last aired, I said I’d hope we’d get more of the adorable duo of Kotoko and Kurou as they investigate and resolve more supernatural cases. Thirty-three months later here we are. There’s a lot of expository dialogue between a ghost and two youkai that bring us back up to speed on what this show is about, and Kotoko and Kuro’s abilities.

This is the same old In/Spectre, which means it is absolutely packed with scenes of people doing nothing but sitting or standing and talking. If that was fine with you in the first season, it will be fine here, as it is with me. There are three things that makes this not only tolerable but enjoyable for me, and that’s Kotoko’s magnetic charm, Kitou Akari’s firm yet affable voice, and Manabe Akihiro’s beautiful accompanying score.

The spook-of-the-week initially seems to be artificial, Kotoko tells the ghost and youkai discussing it that the scary thumping in the night wasn’t a supernatural phenomenon, but the sounds of an escaped monitor lizard illegally owned by the building manager. The truth is that an ancien cursed sumo doll was making the sounds.

Kotoko not only works out a deal with the manager that gets Kurou a cheap new place for them to live, but she and Kurou take the doll out to the isolated woods. There, she instructs Kurou to fight with the four-armed, horned sumo demon that manifests. This doesn’t go well at first, with Kurou suffering a number of gruesome deaths.

Of course thanks to eating of both mermaid and kudan flesh, Kurou is immortal and can see and choose the future. In between death and revival, the future he picks involves basically pinning the sumo down, exposing his back and enabling Kotoko to stab him through the throat with her cane.

It’s a victory, but not an ideal one for Kurou, who had hoped Kotoko could have been kept out of harm’s way. But Kotoko remains steadfastly unafraid of dangerous situations, and knew she could score an easy blow against a being that would not attack her due to her goddess status.

All of the various supernatural beings that dwell in the woods come out not just to gaze upon their kawaii Goddess of Wisdom, but thank her for dealing with the sumo doll. They all still consider Kurou a terrifying monster, but as long as he’s by Kotoko’s side and she’s vouching for him, they’ll accept him.

As for me, I’ve long since accepted that this is one of the talkier anime out there, and that more often then not that’s an asset and not a liability. And with all the reintroduction out of the way, next week’s dialogue will be less about what we already know and more about what we don’t.

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 22 – More than a Lie

Kazuya probably feels like Ruka’s kiss, complete with tongue and the requisite saliva strings, lasted the entire week between the last episode and this one. But Ruka felt threatened by Chizuru and didn’t want to lose, so she marked her man. She also hastens to notify Kazuya that it was her first kiss, and despite the saying that the first taste like strawberries or lemons, hers just tasted like booze.

A frankly obscene amount of Kazuya inner dialogue ensues as he tries to deal with having been wall-slammed and made out with by Ruka only to have to return to the table with his mom, grandma, and Chizuru, who can all tell something’s off about both of them. Gran then produces her gift to Chizuru: her heirloom engagement ring. Chizuru says she couldn’t possibly accept it, as one does, but Gran and Kazuya’s mom insist.

Having seen how backed in a corner and desperate Ruka is and seeing Chizuru struggle, Kazuya decides he’s going to come clean, right then and there, or at least say what needs to be said to shatter the charade. Both Ruka and Chizuru can tell he’s about to say something to the effect of “Chizuru and I broke up”, but before he can get the works out, Chizuru gets a call…from the hospital.

Her gran is unconscious, so she, Kazuya, and Kazuya’s gran take a taxi to the hospital, where they find Chizuru’s gran not unconscious, and her usual tough, cheerful self. The grans have fun talking about their young grandkids, and when the doctor asks Chizuru to come with him to talk, she leaves them in Kazuya’s care in a very relationship-y way.

After torturing Kazuya a bit, the grans send him to a konbini for snacks, and he meets Chizuru in the dark corridor, where she tells him that things aren’t great, and despite her smiles and laughs she doesn’t have much time left. Kazuya asks if she’s okay, and she puts on a brave front. When he heads to the hospital room to finish coming clean and making things right, Chizuru grabs his sleeve and tells him not to.

She knows her gran is worried about her being along when she’s gone, so telling her she and Kazuya broke up on her deathbed simply isn’t something she’s willing to do.  I don’t think she’s using this as a pretense to remain in…whatever it is she and Kazuya have.

But when she says that whatever is now “more than a lie”, it feels like she’s saying that more for just her gran’s sake. She and Kazuya head home and go their separate ways, and Kazuya curses himself for not being able to do more for her, while also finding himself in a spot where revealing the truth will cause more harm than good.

That said, the lie is still doing harm to Ruka, but when she and Kazuya go on a grammable pancake date, she shows genuine empathy when she asks about Chizuru and her gran. She also decides to call a truce, as with Chizuru’s family situation it’s just not an appropriate time to continue her “offensive”.

That said, she’s now convinced that now that they’ve had their first kiss, they can now kiss whenever. Kazuya’s not so sure about that. He’s also even more flummoxed that not only Chizuru but also Ruka have decided that the status quo should be maintained until further notice. And that’s even before he’s aware of whatever it is best girl Sumi is planning to celebrate his birthday…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Engage Kiss – 02 – Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You

Demonstrating her competence but also her codependence, Kisara wastes no time using her newly acquired spare key to at least try to get Shuu’s home and business in some kind of discernable order. That means meals composed entirely of bean sprouts. Kisara’s classmates, who clearly aren’t aware she’s a demon, are worried about her boyfriend…and bandages.

There’s also their senpai Mikhail, who is the mayor’s son and claims to be the next mayor. Despite being handsome and rich, no one can stand him for more than 30 seconds, and we also learn his claims are false; he has two older half-sisters clearly jockeying for their father’s job.

Realizing he and Kisara will legit starve if he doesn’t do something, Shuu visits Ayano at the gym with hat in hand. Ayano, a pushover and enabler of the highest order, gets him a job with AAA as a subcontractor, even though she sees Kisara’s photo in bed with him.

The job in question involves running security for a gala celebrating the 25th anniversary of Bayron’s founding. There’s no auction because there’s no confirmed Demon Hazard, but the deputy mayors are fine with having security who can deal with demons if necessary, especially as there’s threat of a radicalized citizen seeking to assassinate their dad.

While Ayano complains about how hard it is to move in her fancy dress and an adorable Kisara trying to get some of the buffet food into tupperware and avoid Mikhail, Shuu runs into Miles, a cop and old acquaintance whom we learn Shuu lived with for a year after his parents were killed by a demon.

During the mayor’s speech, which is filled with political platitudes, hypocrisy, and outright lies, the demon terrorists pops out of the wall to strike…but Kisara is right there to stop him.

She pulls the demon out of the auditorium and into a quiet hall where they can minimize collateral damage (though with the tallest skyscraper on the island now a teetering ruin, you’d think the damage has been done!). Ayano joins her with her troops, and when she trips on her dress she shoots it so it’s shorter and ditches the heels.

With Kisara, Ayano, and Shuu working with a measure of coordination, it isn’t long until the perp is cornered, with neither French kissing nor Kisara transforming into Demon Mode remotely necessary. That’s for the best, as Shuu and Kisara learn from their boss that the suspect is to be taken alive.

Here’s where the true demon of the on-the-fly logistics and financial sensibility of Shuu rear their ugly heads. With no non-lethal capturing gear, he orders it online at great expense—100% of the $3K they stood to make on this job. To add insult to injury, the delivery van arrives so promptly it does the job of pacifying the low-level demon, rendering the purchase (which is no doubt non-refundable) completely unnecessary.

But before that fun and creative set-piece where the Amazon of this city wins the day, the baddie tries and fails to say his piece and try to get Shuu of all people on board. It’s amusing that Kisara and Shuu are too busy bickering over finances to listen to him, but after the job is complete they confirm they did hear a bit of what he sad about the governments lies and secrets, which led to the loss of Shuu’s parents.

Shuu’s response is that he has no choice. He tried going independent, but it’s a dog-eat-dog floating island, and the very government that messed up his life by keeping the existence of demons secret is the same one he works for in order to eat. He doesn’t like it, but it is what it is. The question is, how long will that remain so?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 04 – The Eyes that Propelled Him


No sooner is Yuu shooting death lasers at Kashiwagi and her bae once they leave the office and talking about how students should be focused on their studies (stated while playing video games) than he’s melting into a puddle of goo when his crush, third-year Koyasu Tsubame stops by to drop off some foreshadowing…er, an application for the upcoming cultural festival.

I’m pleased as punch Tsubame is back, she and Yuu had great chemistry, and it was only near the end of that momentous sports fest arc that we even saw her eyes. But is Yuu simply infatuated with her because she’s nice to him, or does he have an actual chance? Ever the pessimist, he’s certain it’s the latter.

Kaguya won’t suffer Yuu’s moping about what can and can’t be done; she’s been in a slog of a romantic stalemate with her crush for over two damn cours, it’s as much sage advice as a warning that it’s best to come out and confess sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, Yuu’s “innate creepiness” has him imagining a flower-a-day at Tsubame’s desk or an album of himself with a note are good ways to do it.

Kaguya, as inept as she’d been with her own romance, continues to prove her value as an advisor to Yuu, steering him away from certain disaster and putting him on a long but doable path to not only making his feelings known to Tsubame, but realizing his potential to be someone Tsubame likes.

Since Yuu is neither strong, rich, or popular, Kaguya sends him on the path of academic achievement, assisting him in studying for the lofty goal of scoring in the top 50 of his grade in the upcoming exams. The next segment is tied to the first, as each of the other four StuCo members agree with Miyuki’s suggestion that they go on hiatus so that everyone can study from home.

Everyone is hiding ulterior motives (and A-1 faces): Miyuki can’t study in the office because he’s too distracted by Kaguya’s beauty; Kaguya can’t study at home because she’s too distracted by her new smartphone; Iino, like Miyuki, wants to keep her #1 ranking, and Chika…Chika already gets double allowance so she stands to lose the least here.

As for Yuu? No lies and no face; he’s already hard at work studying at home. But when the exams come and go and the rankings are posted, he doesn’t make it to the Top 50. Kaguya suspects he rose about 20 spots from his  previous position near the bottom of his class. A tremendous improvement, but also a crushing defeat too.

Yuu pretends he’s not bitter about it to Kaguya and shuffles off to the boy’s room to stew in abject bitterness. Fortunately, Kaguya didn’t buy his act, and brazenly violates the bathroom rule to confirm that, indeed, Yuu is super pissed-off, and that he’ll take this small step forward as merely the loss of a battle for which expectations were naturally high. If love is war, losing this first battle can, and must, motivate him to keep fighting on.

Super Butler Herthaka-kun

With the show showering so much darma and character love on Yuu, who now has two potential love interests (like Miyuki with Kaguya and Ai), Chika is now, by default, the least developed and most mysterious member of the StuCo. Maybe that’s on purpose due to her simplistic nature, but one wonders if there will be room for her to have a major character-defining arc this season.

For now, she presents an open dinner invitation to Kaguya, Miyuki, and Kei in appreciation for their help and friendship. With exams out of the way, Kaguya is pumped up for a dinner party and sleepover, if for no other reason than the opportunity for Miyuki to nod off on her shoulder. She wants to do it that night, but Chika’s dad is out of town.

Chika suggests an alternate site for the sleepover: Kaguya’s place! There, Chika is met by “Herthaka-kun”, Ai’s…(deep breath) gay-male-crybaby-war orphan-Harvard graduate butler persona. While Kaguya scolds Ai for weaving such rococo lies, Chika simply stands in awe of “Super Butler Herthaka-kun”…yet another potentially awesome Kaguya spin-off.

Kaguya and Chika proceed to have a lovely girls night together, and while Miyuki and Kei can’t make it to the sleepover, they are offered a window into it when Chika calls him up. She’s able to do this not only without Kaguya’s objection but her encouragement because Kaguya rarely stays up past 11, and Chika’s prattle has now kept her up past midnight.

This has the effect of rendering Kaguya into a state not dissimilar from drunkenness, where her usual inhibitions drop and her judgment is compromised. She’s in full Go-with-the-Flow Mode, so Chika FaceTimes Miyuki and asks him straight-up if he’s in love with someone.

Kei happens to be in the room when Miyuki receives the call, and becomes fully engaged in the conversation when she spots Kaguya and Chika-nee on his screen. After adorably picking up the place even though they’re not there, Kei confirms to Chika that her brother is definitely in love, because he’s always LINEing with “someone named “Herthaka.”

When Chika hears this name, and she turns to face Herthaka-kun the butler, who is presently texting, her nose bleeds and she excuses herself from the segment.

That leaves Kaguya and Miyuki on the call together. Kaguya sleepily declares her furiousness at him right now for sending texts to someone else, but says she’ll forgive him if he tells her who he’s in love with. When he hesitates, she says she’ll go first…only to fall asleep before saying the name.

Miyuki is left with female Herthaka on his screen telling him Kaguya is asleep and she’s hanging up, but not before Kei gets a good look at the girl her bro is apparently courting. Kaguya wins the round because despite her fatigue she doesn’t let slip who she loves, but in my book both she and Miyuki lose the round because they’re still stuck in an endless slog.

Maybe the cultural festival will progress things further. I’m not saying I need a confession from either or both of them for this season to be a success—it’s the ride, not the destination that counts, and this is the Rolls-Royce of rides—but it would be nice for these two to join Takagi and Nishikata in the “Official-At-Last” corner.

%d bloggers like this: