A Couple of Cuckoos – 23 – Breaking Bad

Having come up with butkis in the search for Sousuke, it’s time for the crew to head home. But just as Erika and Sachi pile into their car, Hiro takes Nagi’s sleeve and declares that they’ll be taking the train home instead. On the ride home Erika tells Sachi about how Hiro said she wanted to “have” Nagi, and neither they nor their driver are convinced they’re not concerned.

As for Hiro, one reason for staying behind with Nagi is to visit a local shrine and collect another shrine stamp (naturally both these stamp nerds have their books on them). While Nagi prays for academic success with the occasional smidged of romance, Hiro admits to not praying for anything in particular, only expressing her gratitude that they made it there.

She could also be grateful for simply having Nagi to herself, a time that heavy winds and rain extend when the station is closed. With no buses home and a taxi too expensive, the two decide to spend the night in an inn. Sachi and Erika panic when they see Nagi’s text to this effect.

Nagi is a little out of his element too. It’s clear he and Hiro are being bad here, not just because they’re both engaged, but because they lie about being 22-year-old newlyweds (much to the delight of the inn staff). That said, youth is the time for being bad and testing boundaries.

This episode is replete with cute Hiro faces and poses, as she is in particularly playful mood, no doubt out of the aforementioned gratitude and contentment that comes with being all alone with the boy she likes. After the two bathe (in separate baths) and change into warm robes, they play the word chain.

Then a lizard (or gecko?) appears in their room and Nagi wigs out. Hiro moves towards it but trips on her robe, and the two end up in a very amorous position. Not only that, a flushed Hiro weaves her fingers into Nagi’s and asks him if, after a day of doing bad things, why shouldn’t they…keep going?

Nagi locks up, and Hiro then waves away the proposition by saying she wanted to go buy liquor, having placed a 1000-yen bill in Nagi’s hand. Nagi is scandalized, but understands Hiro’s desire to break free of her Model Student binds on occasion. That said, he’d rather they not get tore up. Hiro compromises and says she just wants sake.

Then a firm knock at the door comes, someone calls “POLICE!”, and Nagi indeed sees a Police badge through the peephole. Turns out it’s Erika and Sachi in sexy cop cosplay, complete with Sobasshi ID and pink cuffs. This is as Nagi was starting to change in preparation to make a run for it. I won’t linger on the questionable logistics of how the girls got there so damn fast.

Suffice it to say, their arrival prevented Nagi and Hiro from getting up to any more no good than they actually did, and on the ride home Nagi passes out after barely getting any sleep the night before. Erika asks Hiro what they did, and Hiro replies “just…stuff”, and cryptically declares that Nagi “really is a boy”.

Regardless of her lack of detail, Erika and Sachi now know Hiro is serious about Nagi. We’ll see if this spurs any action in them in the final episode, or if we’ll have to wait for another cour for any kind of break in the logjam.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Engage Kiss – 13 (Fin) – Bless This Mess

Shuu, Ayano and Sharon are fighting as a cohesive unit, but against Kanna the best they can do is maintain a stalemate. Enter Tabula Rasa Kisara, who despite having no memories decides on her own not to let what seem like nice people die in a battle with a not-so-nice person.

The addition of Kisara to the battle definitely gives Team Shuu an edge as Kanna starts to flounder a bit, but then she summons three powerful demons, which means all of the other demon hunting contractors spring into action, for the city that’s the only home they have, for honor and glory, and money too.

When even Kisara can’t quite get to Kanna’s heart to seal her, Shuu lends her power in the form of a kiss. Turns out their old contract terms work just fine, and the newly re-Hot Topic’d Kisara has a stiff second wind at her back. She keeps Kanna occupied enough for Shuu to fire his demonic bullet. Asmodeus flees from Kanna, and Kisara carves her into ribbons, sending her back to whence she came.

In the aftermath, while some demons made it to the city, there were no civilian casualties, so the contractors call it a victory. Sharon admits the Abbey will still be coming for Kisara, but at least today, Sharon won’t be the one to kill her. Wondering where a demon girl fits in a human world, Kisara gets a supportive hug from Ayano.

The Hachisukas continue their sibling rivalry for control of the city—and international coverup to maintain their autonomy. Sharon makes a joke to Ayano about spending the night with Shuu before boating off to face inquisition. Shuu visits his parents’ grave and promises his work isn’t done, but he’ll do it the right way this time.

As for Kisara, she wants Shuu to teach her all the memories she lost, which apparently includes fulfilling the role of his girlfriend. Things are about to get hot and heavy in his apartment when the lights come on to reveal Kanna gobbling up all the food in the place. While the authorities kept her restrained in the bowels of city hall, this is only the latest of several escapes.

Those escapes result not in her unleashing demons on the city or causing any damage, but inserting herself back into Shuu’s home and life and voicing her disapproval of Kisara. Now Kisara has in Kanna what Ayano has in her: a younger rival for Shuu’s attention.

With Kisara, Ayano, and now Kanna all pointing weapons at him and asking whose side he’s on, Shuu’s in the messiest mess yet. And frankly, that’s the best way for this series to end: never taking itself too seriously and gleefully embracing the mess.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Couple of Cuckoos – 22 – Shadows of Sousuke

At the end of Nagi and Hiro’s balcony convo, the subject of Sachi comes up; specifically, that Sachi’s a little odd, and seems to be in love with Nagi. To Sachi this feels like a betrayal, but I get it; Hiro is sick of the status quo and wants to move things along. Sachi, with her constant wavering, is an obstacle to that, so it figures she’d confront her here.

Nagi, who as we know was raised under modest circumstances, is anything but when confronted with that outdoor “bath”, meeting the Pacific Ocean with nothing but his birthday suit. Things suddenly get tense when Erika shows up, and the show even implies she’s naked as well (by covering her top and bottom with Sobasshi stickers.

Turns out she was fine getting in with Nagi because she’s wearing a swimsuit, like you’re supposed to in an outdoor hot tub, and didn’t realize Nagi didn’t get the memo. Still, up until then, she’s very happy to be sharing moments like relaxing in the hot tub with friends.

It isn’t until that night that Erika remembers there are only two double beds in the house. It seems unlikely this problem wouldn’t have come up earlier, and the need to draw straws to see who has to share a bed with Nagi seem particularly strained contrivance considering the gigantic sofa in the living room, and Nagi being worried about a spider should he sleep on it.

Nagi and Sachi end up having to share a bed, which Sachi splits 60-40 in her favor and will brook no trespassing. Erika and Hiro thus share the other bed, but preface bedtime with a spirited game of Twister followed by a bubble bath. Hiro confides in Erika that she’s never even met her fiancé but has no interest in him…and if Erika truly isn’t interested in her fiancé, Hiro asks if she can “have” Nagi…before falling asleep on the spot.

As with calling out Sachi’s feelings, it’s the most overt Hiro has been to Erika about her desire to be with Nagi, and for the other girls to shit or get off the pot. Hiro still seems to be the #1 Girl for Nagi, but between his hot tub time with Erika and the fact he suddenly can’t sleep a wink in a bed with Sachi, things remain complicated.

That brings us to the morning, when a knackered Nagi finds Erika staring at the Twister and bubble bath. The four conduct a search of the house and find all the other things that connect her and Sousuke, as they used to visit together as a family. When a video game they played has save data from just three days ago, Nagi runs out of the house, hoping to find Sousuke in town…for some reason???

I mean, three days is a lot, right? If Sousuke wasn’t staying at the house from the day Erika & the others arrived, why would he still be hanging out in town? That would mean he got a hotel or something there, but why, when he could stay free at this fam’s house? Erika chases after Nagi, suddenly scared to reunite with Sousuke even though her Insta efforts were primarily targeted at him.

Nagi takes her hand and assures her there’s nothing to fear; he’ll be right there with her when they meet Sousuke. Alas, he’s nowhere to be seen, and no one in town has seen him either. At this point I’m still not 100% convinced he even exists, or is another weird game Erika’s dad is playing; hotel magnates are capable of anything, after all.

There’s also the odd fact that Nagi and Erika just flat-out ditched Hiro and Sachi for the whole day. That ain’t right! So now we have just two episodes to go, and so much left up in the air, including whether Sousuke even exists, and if so how he’d react to reunion with Erika. While admittedly drowsy when she did so, Hiro did ask Erika if she could have Nagi, and that was just…left hanging. The last two eps have some heavy lifting to do!

Engage Kiss – 12 – Atomic Tantrum

Kanna awakens from her brief nap at the crack of dawn and announces her intentions by attacking Bayron City’s airport. The airport is virtually abandoned, and the Hachisukas order everyone within a several-mile radius to evacuate, but since all that happens off-camera the stakes are localized to Shuu and the women in his life: Ayano, Sharon, Kisara, and of course Kanna.

Kisara is a complete amnesiac after severing her contract, having even given Shuu her memories from before they met. He calls her an idiot, but he won’t listen to the Kisara before the memory transfer, who told him to run and save himself. After all she’s done for him, she’s going to protect her this time, sealing that promise with a kiss on her forehead.

Sharon pulls up in her motorcycle to say goodbye to Ayano, since a church battleship is on its way and it won’t be sparing Kanna’s life, so they’ll be enemies next time they meet. However, between Sharon getting a call and Shuu receiving a new delivery, a plan is afoot.

For now, AAA and Ayano throw everything they’ve got at the approaching Kanna, who seemingly starts to target Ayano personally. She almost blasts her into oblivion from point-blank range, but Ayano is saved at the last second by Shuu swooping in to princess carry her away on his Eureka Seven-style hoverboard; the next-minute delivery he charged to Mikhail.

Shuu confirms to Ayano that all his memories are back and more by scolding her for seducing him when she knew Kisara would take those memories. But while Ayano is embarrassed, she’s also clearly elated that the Shuu she knows and loves is back and of sound mind.

As for why Kanna is targeting her, Shuu says he and Kanna have been connected through dreams throughout these twelve years, so she’s had to witness all of his romantic exploits without being able to affect them. As a result, she’s still three years old emotionally and scarred by those dreams. Since Sharon is also a target, she decides to come back and fight alongside Shuu and Ayano since Shuu called and apologized for forgetting her.

Flanked by Ayano and her bazooka and Sharon and her mech suit, Shuu flies up to meet Kanna and tries to play things softly at first, trying to appeal to her brotherly love and actually getting her to stop dead in her tracks. Shuu declares to her that he’s going to save her without losing anything—not his memories, and not any of the other people he loves.

Since saving her involves sealing her, Kanna can’t have that, and fights back. Shuu, Ayano, and Sharon make a great team and the battle looks great, but at the end of the day she’s still an S-Class demon, and none of them are.

Not only that, she’s clearly trying to kill them, while Shuu is determined not to kill her. When he’s about to deal a crucial blow with Kisara’s sword, Kanna shrewdly breaks out the waterworks, which causes Shuu to hesitate for a moment. That’s all she needs to blast him into the tarmac.

This happens just as Kisara arrives on the scene with a slight limp, but after how Shuu treated her in her hospital bed, not to mention the note on her hand written by her past self that says “Believe in him and fight together”, it looks like she’s ready to contribute if she can. She may not have any memories, but she’s still a demon.

I’m pleased that Shuu is now in such an optimistic place with all his memories back that he no longer wants to throw anything away in a lonely struggle to save his sister. With Ayano, Sharon, some form of Kisara, and presumably those other contractors who feel bad about sitting out the fight so far, Kanna is now the lonely one backed into a corner, and he’s got a fighting chance to get her back with minimal loss…assuming he survived that last blow, of course.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Couple of Cuckoos – 21 – Phoenix Rising

This energetic episode of Couple of Cuckoos got a lot of previously stationary balls rolling just in time for the season’s final push and really brought the ensemble humming together for the first time. And it all comes down to scenes of directness and honesty. The first term ends with Nagi back in the #1 spot, which considering his fall to 13th (and all his life’s distractions since) is a truly impressive feat.

He not wrongly believes this feat to trigger a reassessment in Segawa Hiro’s “placing him on hold”, and sure enough, he gets that love note in his locker with her atrocious handwriting inviting him to the roof. After she uses the same “phoenix” analogy in his own head, he once again asks if she’ll go out with him. And while she once again doesn’t say no, her “yes” is filtered through a confession: she wishes she was engaged to him.

The runner’s high from exams turns into an even more potent lover’s high for Nagi, as he takes great pains to let Erika and Sachi know that Hiro confessed. While Sachi doesn’t see it as a real confession, Erika is at least well-versed enough in the language of love to know that Hiro would never just say that outright. She proposes the four of them go to her (private!) beach house to further investigate the intent of her words.

Hiro’s all in, but Sachi is out on supply shopping, so it’s Erika and Nagi this time. We missed this dynamic when Shion was the fifth wheel, but it’s another reminder of the infectious chemistry these two have, even if neither of them are comfortable seeing it as romantic affection. They’re just good buds who’ve greatly enjoyed spending time together…even on a cramped bus.

However, there is one big elephant in the room, and it’s that Hiro still doesn’t know they live together. Nagi doesn’t like the idea of keeping secrets from Hiro, but Erika thinks it could destroy their relationship with her…and also selfishly wants to have some secrets with Nagi, adding further texture to their complicated but compelling bond.

So both are saved a lot of trouble when they arrive home dressed in matching Hawaiian vacation wear to find Hiro tutoring Sachi. Also, Sachi told Hiro that Erika and Nagi (and Sachi) are living together. Hiro plays this cool in the moment, but you can tell there’s drama brewing beneath that easy smile.

Sure enough, when the four go on the trip (this time with no fifth wheel needed) there’s plenty of stuff to sift through. We naturally get to see the three girls in their swimsuits. You’d think Erika would buy Sachi a new one for the trip, but she has her school swimsuit, further increasing her kid sisterliness factor.

Erika continues to play her role as girl-pal to a T when she offers to talk to Hiro, who is clearly avoiding Nagi, on his behalf. Nagi thanks her, but knows this is something he has to talk with her about face-to-face.

The luxurious deck of Erika’s umpteenth vacation house serves as a dramatic substitute for their usual venue of real talk, the school roof. Hiro is intentionally coy, and then lays out all the ways Nagi fucked up. It’s not just that he kept a secret when they agreed not to. It’s all the opportunities he had both to tell her and to stop living there that he didn’t take.

It’s not that Nagi living with Erika is unacceptable to Hiro; it’s that he wasn’t honest about why. Hiro realizes this when the excuses about complicated family matters falls flat even as he says them. The truth is, he enjoys living there, which is why he’s stayed. And that’s fine! He just needed to tell Hiro rather than her having to infer it and Sachi confirming.

Of course, as we know, Hiro is immensely kind and magnanimous, so she forgives Nagi with a slap on the wrist…or rather, a pluck of his hair, playfully warning him she’ll use it put a curse on him should he do it again.

So finally, with what, two episodes left, everything (except the truth about Sosuke) is on the table, even Nagi being told by Hiro that Sachi has a crush on him. Again, this might not be something Sachi said to her, as she’s still figuring out her feelings, but like Nagi and Erika’s secret, it’s something Hiro inferred from Sachi’s words and actions. Let us not forget, Hiro is a smart one…but for Nagi, she’d be #1 in their grade!

Because Sachi isn’t ready for Nagi to say things like that about her, she devolves into kid-sister mode, putting him in an elaborate wrestling move. But I still feel that with all the real talk, revealing of secrets, and forgiveness in this episode, I feel like all the characters are finally ready for the cards of fate to start falling as they may.

Engage Kiss – 11 – Last Kiss Goodbye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Couple of Cuckoos – 20 – Nagi Be Shopping

If you want a perfect encapsulation of Nagi’s plight, look no further than when he comes home after a fruitless talk with his biological father, and Erika insists he snap pictures of her in a bikini…but scolds him for starting at her. Even though she told him to take photos of her in her bikini. Sachi joins in calling him a “pervert.” This guy can’t win!

Erika also basically tells him “I told you so” regarding how her dad was never going to be forthcoming with him. He’s still not even 100% sure Sosuke is a real person. This weighs on him, and Hiro can tell, so she invites him on a second date, which consists of a competitive bike ride. It’s a cute, fun outing, but IMO further shunts Hiro into the Friendzone as someone who will be there to help him unwind when he’s troubled.

Sachi ends up having a fancy sushi dinner with Mr. Amano, and learns that he’d be totally fine if she and Nagi got married. That makes things weird when Sachi comes home and Nagi is his usual big brother self. I guess he forgot that treating her like his little sister pisses her off? At any rate, the two go shopping for the first time in forever and make dinner together.

Then Sachi drops the question of whether he’d marry her if she asked. He blushes and asks her what their parents (the Uminos) would think about that, and ultimately Sachi gets the reaction she wanted, which was not outright refusal. I dunno…this episode had some pleasant moments, but it feels like we’re in a holding pattern with no real forward momentum in any direction.

Engage Kiss – 10 – Sister, Sister

Shuu, Kisara, Ayano, Akino, and a suit whose name escapes me meet with Sharon at the safe house where she’s wining and dining herself to go over the present situation. Essentially, Asmodeus is a demon that has existed in the human world for a good long time in various forms, and Miles’ memories confirm the Hive Three Mine incident was Asmodeus’ doing, not Shuu’s dad.

The various Demon Hazards around the city form the same shaped magical circle that circled Europe, and the location of the final ritual is far offshore to the northwest. Official maps say it’s just open ocean, but it’s likely not.

While Kisara and Sharon go on a boat trip to find the island where they believe Hive Three Mine and Kanna (Asmodeus’ gate to this world) to be located, Ayano takes a ride with Hachisuka Linfa to ask her about the secret location. Mikhail sends another group to stop and arrest both Ayano and Akino, but Shuu ruins his plans by borrowing an attack helicopter.

Linfa, proving she’s still a friend to Ayano, gives her the coordinates to the mine site, now shifted since Bayron City itself was moved away from said site 12 years ago. They arrive just as Kisara and Sharon locate Kanna, whom Kisara has to keep Sharon from killing on the spot.

Mikhail then decides to try out an old “Star Wars”-style satellite weapon to destroy the entire site before Asmodeus can pass through the gate, but he’s a bit too late. The weapon is ineffective, and Asmodeus’ colossal hand emerges from the island, and the wound to its palm quickly closes.

Kisara managed to escape the initial explosion along with Sharon, and while they try to fight the hand of Asmodeus (from which hundreds of other arms and hands branch off) Asmodeus summons of all its previous forms, only in stone, including that of Shuu and Kanna’s mother.

Shuu arrives at the scene and asks Kisara to take all of his remaining memories, if that’s what’s needed to get rid of Asmodeus. Kisara bursts into tears and hesitates, fearing Shuu won’t be Shuu anymore if she obeys him. Then she’s impaled through the chest from behind…by Kanna, or at least the Kanna who is serving as Asmodeus’ gate.

Assuming Shuu remembers his sister’s face (and we’ve seen he’s in such a bad way he barely remembers Ayano’s name), this has to be a major mind trip for Shuu, who will now almost certainly have to give up way more than he should to heal and power up Kisara. If Asmodeus succeeds, Bayron City and perhaps the world may be doomed. But stopping Asmodeus may mean killing Kanna. Not an enviable choice.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 11 – A Proper Woman

Sachi is out visiting her folks at the newly opened family diner, so when a storm causes a blackout, it’s just Nagi and Erika, who instinctually hold one another. Growing up loaded, Erika is so unaccustomed to outages she assumes the Martians are attacking.

Once she lights her aromatherapy candle, she and Nagi calm down, and have a cozy little conversation about how much fun they’re both having. Then Erika realizes there’s an emergency kit in the entry hall coat closet and has him go collect it.

While in the hall, Nagi finds a puddle, then trips and falls into who he thinks is Erika…but it’s actually Sachi, who just got home. When he falls into her, they lock lips, but he dismisses it as no big deal and returns to Erika, who is calling for him like a wife would.

But it is a big deal for Sachi, and there’s no way she can forget it! After hearing the exact same scenario play out on her and her friends’ favorite anime, she decides “Screw Onii” and avoids him for the next couple days, making the atmosphere at home awkward for everyone, including Erika.

When Nagi finally comes clean to Erika about what happened, Erika dons her sexy teacher cosplay and points out where Nagi erred. He may still see her as his brat of a kid sister, she’s close to marriageable age; a “proper woman”, and Nagi was insensitive.

When it’s just Nagi and Hiro at the next library study session, Hiro can tell something’s up and offers her services as spiritual counselor free of charge. She tells Nagi he can be insensitive, especially when he blew through her admitting she was engaged and publicly declared academic war against her. But she also likes how straightforward and direct he is, so she advises him to be that way here.

Thanks to the perspective and advice of two other people who care about both him and Sachi, Nagi arrives at Sachi’s door nervous but prepared to end this little row with honesty and contriteness.

He tells Sachi he’s sorry for hurting her and being so thoughtless, and declares his intention to no longer look at her or treat her as just his kid sister, but the proper woman she is fast becoming.

His words do the trick; we know that Sachi wanted this from Nagi, and hearing the words from his mouth without her having to beat him over the head with a baseball bat means the word to her.

Of course, Nagi remains blissfully unaware of the fact Sachi has feelings for him, but hey, at least they’re talking again. Erika is clearly relieved that the vibes will improve

I remain unenthused at the prospect of a Sachi Route, and their accidental kiss could reasonably be held in contempt of the laws of physics, but it was true that Nagi wasn’t being fair to Sachi, and his adjustment in thinking was both welcome and arrived upon thanks to the friendships he’s forged with Erika and Hiro.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 10 – Cup Ramen and Foie Gras

When Erika takes off to hang out with her mom (the one who raised her) Sachi doesn’t waste the sudden opportunity to hang out with her Onii. She ostensibly wants to buy a gift for their mom, but both of seem to agree their mom isn’t much of a gift receiver, so you have to think part of her just wants to see what it’s like to go on something like a date with Nagi.

The two settle on an apron (and sure enough, their mom could take or leave it) but when Sachi comes upon the idea, Nagi rewards her with a head pat, which pisses her off to no end. As much as she pretends not to stand him, Sachi wants Nagi to see her as a girl, not an imouto. Alas, he’s utterly oblivious. He just wants to study and win Hiro, which is why he’s probably none too pleased about suddenly being yanked out of the house by Erika.

Erika, who herself was blissfully reveling in her first cup ramen, got a text from her dad saying he’s coming—no discussion, not argument, he’s just coming and that’s that—so she ditches both wallet and phone, grabs Nagi, and heads out. Where doesn’t matter; that even she’s not sure is the point. No GPS or purchase history means even someone as rich and powerful as her dad can’t find her if she doesn’t want to see him.

Instead, Sachi is person who encounters her dad making himself at home in the house. She initially thinks he’s a burglar, but she should have called the cops anyway, considering he later lures her out and plys her with foie gras. I’m with the wait staff of his restaurant: it’s weird that he suddenly takes Sachi out to dinner.

Sachi is there for the foie gras, and also considers it equitable to tell Erika’s father about how she and Nagi are getting along. She probably doesn’t realize she’s being a snitch, because she’s distracted by the fact this is another opportunity for her: if she says they’re terrible together, she could potentially be able to swoop in and have Nagi to herself (again).

But Sachi is not a bad person, so she tells Erika’s father the truth: as mismatched as their personalities seem, Erika and Nagi definitely have a spark—je ne fois gras, if you will. Their chat is interposed between scenes of Nagi showing Erika a good time with zero yen thanks to a steep hill and a piece of cardboard.

As for Erika’s increasingly creepy dad, he heads into his office to admire a framed photo of him and Erika’s dad with Erika…and Nagi, looking like older toddlers. This is strange, as my understanding is they were separated at birth; this suggests they were reunited at some point. It also gives credence to the fact the “certain someone” Erika is trying to reach through SM is, in fact, Nagi, and the two of them simply somehow forgot they knew each other as kids.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 09 – Batting Off Steam

While informing Nagi the bath is free, Sachi’s towel slips off, but in a nice subversion of the trope, Nagi isn’t awake to see anything. Sachi, however, sees one of Hiro’s texts on his phone, referencing a d-d-d-date. The next morning, Erika finds Nagi all dressed up and ready to go. Nagi meets Hiro resplendent in comfy casual clothes, and is excited for their date, but also expects it to be another shrine stamp-collecting affair.

So he’s surprised to find Hiro has taken them to an amusement park. She usually goes alone, so it’s significant she’s bringing him along. Yes, she is doing it in part for the couples discount, but also because she believes Nagi can “keep up” with her. That proves mostly true, as Nagi accompanies her on every heart-racing ride again and again, and even accidentally kisses a reflection of her in the hall of mirrors.

Back home Erika finds Sachi texting curses to her brother and confirms that he’s on a date with a Hiro-chan, appreciating that Sachi feels like the other girl is taking her brother away. Sachi is also upset he’s out on a date when he’s engaged, calling it “indecent”—something Erika never considered as she never planned to actually marry the guy. No Nagi around affords the biological sisters another opportunity to hang out, as Erika tags along when Sachi goes on her usual de-stressing trip to the batting cages and public bath.

Nagi returns home having felt like his date with Hiro was a “disaster”, but he’s way overreacting. There’s nothing wrong with a girl saying she thinks you’re “cute”, and it’s obvious she had a lot of fun by the way she was humming when they parted ways. A few hours later, at three in he morning, Nagi and Sachi’s dad (and Erika’s biological dad) arrives at their door, saying they’re all going fishing.

Turns out this is a tradition for both Nagi and Nagi’s dad, though Nagi always gets seasick and always says he has a terrible time. His dad though, has always picked times when he knew Nagi was down, and there’s nothing like fishing to take you out of a bad place and into a better one. While Erika and Sachi compete for the biggest catch, Nagi admits to his dad that he “doesn’t hate” his life right now.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Couple of Cuckoos – 08 – Family’s Complicated

While Erika is out shopping, Nagi is preoccupied with her words on the beach about his “fate changing” if he knew who she was trying to reach through social media. That’s when Sachi shows up unannounced. With Erika out, she assumes Nagi messed things up, and gets him to reveal the issue.

Spending time with Sachi for the first time in a while gives him a taste of home, so he stops moping and remembers Umino family tradition to deal with things head-on. Only Sachi slips out while he’s making dinner and returns to the family’s tiny temporary rental, only to pack her things and head right back to Nagi and Erika’s.

Nagi, who gets a call from his mom saying Sachi has to come back tomorrow, tells Sachi she can’t stay, but it’s not just his call. It’s half Erika’s place too, and she doesn’t mind if her sister wants to stay. There’s also the matter of her needing help studying for entrance exams, and Erika dresses up like a stereotypical schoolteacher for that end.

That said, once she and Sachi are alone togeher, Erika manages to suss out the true reason her sister is there. When Erika suddenly showed up at her place, Sachi panicked. Would Nagi marry her and just be gone? She thought she had more time with her onii. She wanted more time. When they were little, they were very close. She pretends he’s a pain in the ass, but that clinginess still lingers.

The next morning Sachi earns her keep by making everyone a huge breakfast, then Erika takes her and Nagi out shopping for the things that will make Sachi more at home. In the process, the sister talk about how they’re always being flirted with and turning guys down.

Sure enough, they soon attract a crowd of onlookers while hanging out at a café. Nagi rushes to them, worried they got caught up in something, but trips and makes a fool of himself. That’s when both Erika and Sachi acknowledge him and suggest they get going, and it dawns on Nagi that his fiancée and sister are “kind of a big deal”.

The three have fun making a photo board, and christen it with a cute photo of the sisters and a very blurry Nagi rushing into the frame. But through all the eating and shopping and fun, he hasn’t been able to talk to Erika about what she said that day on the beach. So when she’s out of the bath, he’s kneeling in the hall, ready to talk.

He tells her he recognizes that everyone has their problems even if they don’t talk about him, and that he doesn’t just want to pry out of curiosity. But Erika said what she said, and Nagi heard her, and he doesn’t want to pretend that exchange didn’t happen. He may have been raised to face people head-on, but he admits to her he’s not ready for an answer that may “change his fate,” so he asks her to wait until he’s ready.

Erika’s serious look is soon replaced by a hearty laugh, but she agrees, and so her mystery remains intact. While this outing brought Sachi more to the forefront and made her more of, well, a character, I could never quite shake the feeling the episode was dragging its feet. The household has grown by one, but it feels like no one is taking the situation seriously yet; it’s just three people playing house. I wonder how long that status quo can hold.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 10 – He Carries All Our Hopes With Him

BINAURAL ASMR – 👻 Horror House Experience 👻 (Wear Headphones)

Before Yuu and Tsubame head to the Horror House, we get to experience it along with Kaguya, Maki, Nagisa and Tsubasa, and also found out how both Yuu and Miko contributed to making it the unique and terrifying success it clearly is.

Mind you in Miko’s case that success wasn’t intentional, but her classmate and president of Tabletop Game Club Makihara Kozue has a sadistic streak and pretty much tortures Miko with scissors, feathers, and even dang ear nibbling in order to record (with binaural mics in Miko’s ears) the perfect immersive experience for the house.

It looks like the perfect venue for Yuu and Tsubame to get a little closer; heck, even Kaguya and Maki hold hands for support in there! But when Miko finds Nagisa and Tsubasa making out in their locker, she decides visitors to the horror house shall forthwith be segregated by gender.

This, of course, ruins the whole purpose of Yuu taking Tsubame to a haunted house, since they won’t get to, ya know, experience it together. While a setback, it’s not a terminal one, and more importantly isn’t due to anything Yuu said or did.

Hell Is About to Start Now

Moving on, it’s always been clear Chika has no particular romantic designs or even prospects; I imagine her “type” is a man so beautiful and perfect that he might not exist, at least not at Shuchiin. He might be somewhere in Lichtenstein. Her lil’ sis Moeha, on the other hand? She has a crush on President Shirogane, specifically thanks to being friends with his sister Kei, and accurately interpreting her tsundere barbs towards him as the praise and admiration it actually is.

Chika tries to warn Moeha that Miyuki is not who she thinks he is, then proceeds to list off all the things he’s bad at. Of course, she has to include the disclaimers that Miyuki worked his ass off until he got the hang of those things, which endears him to Miyuki even more. Chika believes the only way to “cure” her sister of this curse is to allow her to witness Miyuki juggling.

Like a host of other skills requiring either talent or hard work, Chika assumes Miyuki will be terrible at it and turn Moeha off him like a cat on a hot tin roof. She assumed wrong; Miyuki is quite good at juggling, thanks to her grandma. He’s also good at cup-and-ball, top-spinning, and yo-yo. Chika breaks down in a floor kicking-and-pounding tantrum, while Moeha is as enamored of him as ever.

Of course, the real reason Chika should give for why Moeha shouldn’t be pursuing the President is because of the Vice President, i.e. Kaguya, who appears behind Moeha like a glowing specter in an unsettling jump cut. Moeha then proceeds to list all of the legitimate reasons she likes Miyuki, which are the same reasons Kaguya loves him, and the two bond over their shared subject of affection. Kaguya just loves that she can talk about Miyuki with someone who understands!

If He Goes Down, We Go Down

Back to Yuu and Tsubame, as Tsubame invites Yuu to her class presentation, a kind of festival games set-up. Yuu can feel the momentum in his favor, and while he’d shrink, hesitate, or turn tail in the past, here he rides that momentum like a wave.

He wins a giant heart-shaped cookie, then offers it to Tsubame in the middle of a crowded classroom where 90% of them know what that means. He then makes it clear to those who don’t: the gift is an expression of how he feels about her.

It is indeed a 100% Public Confession, and while Tsubame has a good reaction and does not summarily reject him, she does suddenly run off asking for “time to think about it”, leaving Yuu in an uncomfortable limbo.

As Yuu’s success hangs in the balance, Miyuki contemplates the cost of failure: blanket Self-Imposed Restraint on Romance. Like a stone in a pond, Tsubame’s rejection of Yuu will have ripple effects for all the other would-be couples in the blast radius. Miyuki and Kaguya would have to put their romantic plans on hold to comfort Yuu. A confession in such an atmosphere would be romantic suicide!

Miyuki (and Kaguya) are invested in Yuu’s success, because if he goes down, they go down, and with no time left before he heads to Stanford. He asks Chika if Yuu has a chance, but her answer is biased against both Yuu and Miyuki, whom she’s long thought of as garbage men (not sanitation engineers, mind you). 

Still, even Chika can admit that over time she’s come to find both guys as “pretty decent men”; high praise for someone with her standards. If Tsubame takes the “point-addition approach” with Yuu, the kid has a chance. The most and best they can do is watch over him.

Of course, the stakes are much higher for Miyuki. Will he be able to keep his hands off the scenario and let the cards fall where they may? Will a Yuu defeat really spell as much doom for him and Kaguya as he assumes? We’re close approaching the endgame here, folks. You can tell from the surging notes of some of the absolute best musical scoring in the business.

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