Chainsaw Man – 05 – Don’t Die on Me

Well, color me surprised: Denji doesn’t chicken out. When Power sits there waiting for him to obtain his reward, after some hesitation and heavy breathing, he places his hands on her chest and gives them a squeeze. When he does, foam pads drop from under her shirt. Without skipping a beat Power asks him to go in for seconds, then thirds. And just like that, it’s all over.

Power heads to bed with Meowy, and Denji stands paralyzed in the toilet wondering … Was that IT? Achieving his dream was far more underwhelming than he expected, and it sends him into a haze of confusion, as he’s now suddenly utterly bereft of his primary source of motivation. It might’ve been better to never cop a feel at all than to have copped a feel and felt so … so little.

While perhaps Power’s smaller-than-advertised bust size was probably one factor in his disappointment, the fact is touching a boob is an incredibly small dream to base your life off of, just like wanting a soft bed or a warm meal. When Makima sees something’s up and asks him, and he pretty eloquently verbalizes what’s up, she takes swift action to re-motivate her favorite new tool.

Makima tells Denji that sex and the contact that leads up to it feels better when you truly understand the other person. Makima then demonstrates this by sensually caressing Denji’s hand (phenomenal animation, that), giving one of his fingers a nibble, then showing him that not all boob grabs are created equal. Then she offers to make any dream of his come true—and that means anything—if he can defeat the Gun Devil.

The Gun Devil is no bat or leech, but an uber-devil created on this world’s equivalent of 9/11. Once it appeared, the Gun Devil killed millions, including Aki’s mother, father, and a sickly little brother with whom he was only starting to get along. The flashback switches gears from family warmth to utter destruction so fast we’re left in as much horrified shock as young Aki.

The key to finding the Gun Devil is to use pieces of its flesh it has dropped, which are drawn to it like magnets. Aki leads a six-person team of Denji, Power, and himself along with his senpai Himeno and two rookies, Kobeni and Arai, and the flesh leads them to a hotel. When Himeno tries to offer a kiss to whomever gets the Gun Devil, Denji parrots some of Makima’s words, only for Himeno to up her offer to a French kiss.

Himeno’s informal, happy-go-lucky attitude belies her past, as Aki is her sixth partner. She makes sure to clarify that the other five didn’t die because of anything she did or didn’t do, but because they were all useless. Himeno alone senses the first devil they encounter: a head that moves with a hand and foot that leaps at Kobeni, but is held in place by Himeno, allowing Power to slash it in two.

When Power, who as always yearns for blood, casually threatens to kill Kobeni, Himeno demonstrates her ability on her, specifically her throat. Himeno contracted with a Ghost Devil and is able to control a ghost hand (that is, an invisible hand Power cannot touch). Lesson learned: Let’s all get along!

Teamwork will indeed be needed for the coming trials, as the group suddenly finds themselves in a M.C. Escher-style loop, ending up on the same floor they killed the Head Devil even though they went up a flight of steps. Going down a flight gets Arai nowhere. Looks like we’re dealing with a Devil that can either morph reality or morph others’ perception of it. Pretty wicked.

Chainsaw Man – 04 – Three Squeezes

As Power reflects on her life as a feral devil in human form living meal to meal, she wonders why, when Meowy was taken, did she not only run after him but work with humans to try to save him?

It all comes down to the warmth of Meowy, like the warmth of blood, being like nothing else. The calls it a “foolish reason”, but one moment she’s in the stomach of the Bat Devil with Meowy, and the next, they’re both back in the sunlight—and in Denji’s arms.

Power’s first question is, no unreasonably, “Why” he saved her. His answer is simple, and just as “foolish” as her desire for Meowy’s warmth: he wants to cop a feel. Considering he repaid her deception by saving her and Meowy, she’s fine with him doing so.

But Denji dithers, and as he raises his arm in celebration, it’s swiftly chopped off by an even nastier devil than the bat. She’s “Batty’s” woman, but finds Denji cute enough that she’ll spare him if he flees. But the girl and cat? They die.

Power can’t move yet and Meowy is helpless in a cage, so it’s up to Denji to protect them, but he’s low on the blood that fuels the chainsaws, and only a single tiny Pochita-like blade emerges from his forehead when he rips his cord. No matter; he puts up his remaining duke and fights the giant leech monster with everything he’s got.

He drops potshots and makes spinning slashes while dodging the leech’s punishing blows. Eventually the Leech stops messing around and impales him with her tongue, but with one hand signal and one word from Hayakawa Aki, a giant fox demon appears and glomps the Leech stright back to hell.

Aki finds Denji’s arm and he makes a full recovery. When he wakes up, Aki is there, with perfect little apple bunnies he’s not ready to relinquish until Denji answers some questions. Having found a fellow pet-lover who, more importantly, will let him fondle her chest, Denji sticks to his guns and covers for Power.

Since no one died (and quite a few bystanders told him to thank Denji on their behalf), he lets it slide, and so does Makina when he makes his report. I love the way he neatens himself before entering her office, dude’s got it bad for the boss.

Aki lets everything slide on one condition: Denji has to do what he says. Makima also lets everything slide, but then has Power join him and Denji in his cramped but tidy apartment, which becomes far more cramped and less tidy.

The wordless sequence of Makima’s morning ritual and balcony serenity before all hell breaks loose was a thing of beauty, and while power wears clothes now, she’s still quite feral by human standards, and in dire need of domestic training.

But if her hygiene and diet leave much to be desired, her memory works just fine, as well as the importance of her word. She told Denji he could feel her up, but the Leech Devil interrupted them. Now that they’re living together, she wastes no time giving him the opportunity to collect his reward.

Shutting them in the bathroom, she allows him three squeezes: one for saving Meowy, a second for slaying Bat Devil, and a third for protecting her from “Topknot”. Power is a picture of cuteness and badassdom as she awaits Denji’s hand. The question is, now that he’s so close to his dream, will he actually be able to execute?

Love Flops Dropped

The third and final episode of Love Flops I watched focused on Amelia Irving, who starts the episode under Asahi’s covers trying to put his toeprints on a wedding license. Why yes, she’s not wearing pants. Her obsessively hypercompetitive personality hits a snag when a kanji test looms. She starts to learn, but only the symbols she finds in pornographic literature. Asahi helps tutor her, and her test scores improve drastically.

While Amelia is the most interesting character by dint of having an episode centered around her, and I heart her seiyu Taketatsu Ayana always and forever (and appreciate that she needs to pay the bills), I’m content with just three episodes of this mostly dumb mess and calling it a day. If I need tutoring rom-com, I’ll wait for We Never Learn S3.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 04 – New Friends from the Third Rock

Suletta responds to Guel’s proposal, on which he immediately tries to backpedal, as you’d expect: running back into her Gundam and booking it out of there. The next day she arrives at class in the standard Asticassia uniform, but Miorine quickly changes it to her white Holder uni; she should proudly wear it, along with the title of holder and her groom.

After duels and legal hearings, it’s finally time for Suletta to participate in actual practical exams, one of which involves traversing terrain and avoiding simulated mines. Chuatury Panlunch, the giant pink pom-pom-haired Earthian, is sabotaged by slow-acting blackout spray, underscoring the oppression and discrimination of her people by the Spacians.

As for Suletta, she fails before she even starts, because she has neither a mechanic or a spotter to assist her with the exam. When she asks around, she finds no one will help her lest they get on the Jeturks’ bad side. Nika can’t help her either since she already has to assist Chuatury, AKA Chuchu, but introduces her to her Earth house and to other mechanics who can help.

Following Nika’s lead, the other Earthians are nice to her, but when Chuchu arrives she flies into a rage at having a “Spacian turd” in her house, Suletta is forced to flee. Elan later offers to help Suletta, but Miorine arrives and warns her that he’s bad news: just another corporate executive’s son trying to win her hand (which he denies).

Still, Miorine won’t hear of Suletta availing herself of Elan’s assistance; not when she has her. To Suletta’s surprise, Miorine is both willing and able to perform both mechanic and spotter roles, as she’s read the necessary manuals. To get their ducks in a row, Miorine invites Suletta to her makeshift apartment, which was once her dad’s office.

While it’s obvious that Miorine is a bit of a slob (she no doubt grew up with servants cleaning up after her), inviting Suletta to her home is a lowkey gesture of trust and intimacy. But she can see her groom has a lot of studying to do if she’s going to make it. That night, we also see another side of Chuchu, as she contacts her family and friends back home. They’re being cracked down on by the Spacians, but they urge her to worry about her studies and leave those Earthly troubles to them.

Also that night, Miorine wakes up to find Suletta still hard at work studying, and asks her why she’s working so hard. Suletta says she has a dream to start a school on Mercury that will bring more offworlders there. She also mentions how her friends and family there are all counting on her to succeed. Miorine doesn’t see why Suletta doesn’t just live for herself, but Suletta insists she wants to “carry the burden” for her Mercurian people.

The big day of Suletta’s make-up exam comes, and we see that the same two girls who blacked out Chuchu’s windshield do the same thing to Suletta. Chuchu calls Miorine and Suletta “Spacian turds” again but Miorine tells her she’s no different than Spacians who discriminate against Earthians if she’s prejudiced against two people she doesn’t even know.

The examiners don’t allow the exam to be suspended since exterior inspection is part of the exam, so when Suletta’s screens go black Miorine has to be her eyes, upping the difficulty level significantly. She can re-try the exam as many times as she wants, but after failing five straight times, Suletta has a crisis of confidence and bursts into tears.

When Miorine tries to coax Suletta into trying again, she appeals to her obligation to her fellow Mercurians back home, and Chuchu hears this while she watches the two saboteur girls yukking it up. While Suletta may have been the enemy that morning, now she’s someone Chuchu will throw hands for, sucker punching one of the girls and starting a huge fight.

Suletta and Nika break up the fight, and the end result is simply that Suletta and Chuchu will have to take another make-up exam. Chuchu says Suletta’s the reason for her failure, but when Nika officially invites Suletta to join their Earth house, Chuchu doesn’t stand in the way—as long as Suletta calls her senpai.

Suletta is such a kind and gentle soul it was only a matter of time before she met similarly-minded folks at school who wanted to be friends with her. Chuchu definitely has a chip on her shoulder, but sees that with Suletta not all Spacians are turds; some are just like her: someone into whom a lot of people back home placed their earnest hopes.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Love Flops – 02 – Menage a Cinq

Asahi is so distracted by Aoi’s, er, display, he completely misinterprets her confession to him as a confession to going commando. When she asks him what he thinks and he says he might give it a try and isn’t one to judge others for their preferences, Aoi gets embarrassed and runs off. Not five minutes later Ilya confesses to him, Mongfa runs off and gives him hickeys when two men in black come by, and both Karin and Amelia try to ambush him with a spontaneous wedding.

After a day of absolute madness, Asahi is glad to be home…only to find it full of the mad ones. There they are, all lined up to welcome him home as if they were his five wives. His annoying robot plays a message from his father, who arranged all of this and is hoping Asahi ends up picking one of the girls (or the guy) to marry for real.

The audacity of having his house doubled in size in the few hours he was away from it is weird enough, but now we learn that his dad is undoubtedly someone of considerable means. We also learn that all five of his would-be brides (and one groom) are way too enthusiastic about asserting themselves.

They’re all over him and won’t leave him alone, and while this is clearly a fantasy for some, the episode does a good job heightening the sheer anxiety of dealing with five caffeinated wannabe waifus in a relatively small space. When Asahi escapes to the quiet blue night, it’s as much a relief for me as him!

Aoi ends up finding him at a shrine, and tells him how all of them are simply excited to finally meet their potential future husband, and it resulted in them being a little too overeager to please. With her gentle touch she’s able to convince him to come home and give this thing a try, while she and the others will “do their utmost” to tone it down a bit. Somehow I doubt that!

With that, Asahi’s wacky new home life begins. I’m honestly still not sure what to make of this, and will take at least one more episode to determine if it’s something I’ll watch to the end. So far it’s like train wreck from which I can’t quite look away!

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.

Lycoris Recoil – 06 – Striking a Balance

“You come at the [Lycoris Queen], you best not miss.”—Omar, Probably

When LycoReco learns that the DA’s Lycoris are being targeted by a terrorist, Takina is immediately on the phone with Chisato as she heads to her place. Takina tells Chisato they’ll be living together and switching off nights for security reasons until further notice. Chisato is not just fine with that, she’s delighted she and Takina get to work and live under one roof together, and that it was Takina’s idea.

When Takina sees the state of the place and sets up a chore chart, Chisato inceptions the idea to decide who does what with rock-paper-scisssors. Chisato proceeds to kick her ass at it and Takina gets all the chores. Takina should have known her friend’s preternatural instincts are put to use even in non-bullet-dodging scenarios.

As for Majima, whom ANN’s reviewer has called “Joker” due to his green hair, he’s not satisfied with the progress of eliminating Lycoris. He wants to bring DA down, he wants Robota to find their HQ, and isn’t above using threats and violence against the hacker to make him hack harder.

The thing is, Robota has two masters right now: Majima, and the Alan Institute, with whom he communicates with Shinji’s secretary. He tries to get Majima interested in Chisato as the “chief Lycoris”, but Majima doesn’t care about pawns. Unlike the Joker, he’s not a big fan of chaos either, but wants balance, which to him means terrorists able to operate without being disappeared by the DA.

When Robota gets help from a fellow hacker, that hacker is quickly found out and arrested for being so blatant and reckless. Robota then sends two goons to break into Chisato’s apartment, but they’re not aware she lives below the apparent apartment in a safe house, and when they trip her silent alarm, she dispatches them with ease. All is not lost though, Robota uses footage of Chisato going wild to convince a fed-up Majima she’s worth targeting.

When Kurumi suggests that the terrorists are able to target Lycoris due to their distinctive uniforms, Chisato disguises herself with a huge yellow poncho and believes she’s safe enough to do a solo LycoReco delivery job.

It isn’t until she’s off on her own that Kurumi discovers that the terrorists targeting Lycoris—who got their guns from the deal that Takina got fired—also have footage showing the faces of the Lycoris they assassinated…as well as Chisato’s.

The fact that Kurumi (as Walnut) was hired to hack the DA that day is set aside for now, as the more pressing matter is Chisato’s safety. Takina calls her just in time for Chisato to get hit by Majima’s yellow Nissan GT-R and then menacingly surrounded by his underlings.

Fortunately, Chisato’s injured state is only an act, and she plays possum right up until Majima gets in her face, whereupon she unloads with her non-lethal gun. The rubber bullets actually put her at a severe tactical disadvantage, extending the fight far longer than if she’d used lethal ammo.

Nevertheless, principles are principles, and Chisato tries her darndest to escape her attackers, and even though she’s on foot and they’re in vans chasing her, she manages to even the odds by shooting the drivers and causing them to crash, and sending Majima flying.

Majima must’ve done work as a stuntman, since he’s able to shake off getting thrown from a car and shot in the face with rubber bullets. She turns the tables on Chisato (who again screws up by getting too close to her opponent; a clear act of arrogance on her part) by spitting either blood or liquified rubber bullet (or both) in her faces, rendering those special eyes usesless.

Majima proceeds to beat the stuffing out of Chisato as his underlings circle them and cheer, and while Majima admits that Chisato is “interesting”, he still seems pretty ready to shoot her…until his gun is shot out of his hand by  Takina, who has arrived just in time (thanks to Kurumi locating Chisato with her drone) and neutralizes all of the baddies.

Mizuki and Mika arrive at the scene in the escape car, and Chisato and Takina pile in. There’s still the matter of Robota chasing them in a remotely-controlled car, but Mizuki’s driving prowess is able to shake it off. The baddies’ last gasp is an RPG, but Kurumi is able to slam her drone into the guy at the last minute.

While the RPG fires, the grenade hits not the LycoReco car, but the car Robota hacked and Majima was about to comandeer. Somewhat unplausibly, the grenade blast doesn’t kill Majima, but throws him into the nearby water. Seriously…is this guy a Terminator? If Takina were to chop him up with a sword, would the pieces just turn into little Majima clones?

That said, with the assassination of Chisato thwarted, attention turns to Kurumi, who did hack the DA the day of the arms deal, but was ignorant to the arms deal itself (I wonder if it was Shinji who hired her to hack the DA). She prostrates herself and apologizes to Takina, but Takina doesn’t blame her for getting her thrown out of the DA…she blames her own actions.

Also, if Kurumi is indirectly responsible for the arms falling into terrorists’ hands, she’s equally responsible for Takina finding a new home, new family, and growing so close to Chisato. As for whether the two girls continue living together, Takina says they’ll settle that with one more game of rock-paper-scissors.

This time, Takina takes Mika and Mizuki’s advice and skips the “rock first” part of the game. When she finally beats Chisato for the first time, her elation and giddy little celebration was one of the highlights of an episode that struck just the right balance between over-the-top cinematic spy action and cute girls with guns having each other’s backs and bums.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 04 – Sister Act

Within the two weeks he and Erika are living together, Nagi apparently is able to study enough to ace the exams and conquer the legend that is Segawa Hiro. Both the nerds and normies salute him following through on his boasts. When Hiro again invites him to the rooftop, he should have known beating her at one exam wasn’t going to cut it as far as winning her over.

As far as she’s concerned, she’s still beating him in exams, 10-1, so his confession “will not be processed”. When she declares all the other ways she surpasses him when it comes to both studies and life, the two end up chasing each other around the school and messing up a classroom and panting on the ground. Hiro had fun, but she makes it clear there’s no way she and Nagi can go out. You see, she’s engaged too!

He has had so much fun, in fact, he’s surprised to learn that his time playing Erika has already come to an end. He says he appreciated having a place to “let off steam” and how it was fun overall; Erika said it was the worst, but he can probably tell she’s not being entirely sincere. But once he packs up his stuff and bows to the house, suddenly it’s all over, and they go their separate ways…

…Except Nagi returns home to find it dark and locked; turns out his family is temporarily staying at an inn while the plumbing is fixed. There’s no room for him at said inn, so it’s back to his birth father’s house…where Erika is still making herself at home. Turns out she wanted to have a go at living on her own without help. Nagi is surprised she wants to improve herself, and vows to help her become a “professionally independent person” like him.

When Sachi comes by to drop off some of Nagi’s stuff, she finally gets to meet her biological big sister, something both she and Erika are understandably nervous about. Despite Nagi saying how friendly Sachi is and how easily she warms up to people, their first encounter is extremely stif and awkward. Sachi later confides in Nagi that she’d looked up Erika on IG before, and finding out she’s even cuter in person threw her off.

Nagi commences “Operation Sister Besties” by getting the two to cook some karaage together. While Erika is a nightmare chopping cabbage, she gets to see Nagi and Sachi interact like a real brother and sister that they are, while Nagi gets to see Sachi and Erika very much acting similar…they even eat the same way. When he points this out, they protest his assertion…by heaping praise on one another.

Erika decides to interrupt dinner by having Sachi try on some of her clothes. With Nagi not around, Erika makes clear she has no intention of marrying Sachi’s brother, something that seems like a load of Sachi’s mind. They also exchange contact info. Back home, Sachi’s folks are irked that she went and hung out with Erika. This is rich for people who went behind both Nagi and Erika’s backs to set them up to be married!

Whatever Hiro’s deal is with her engagement, it seems like a hard stop in Nagi’s quest to win her heart. Nagi and Erika are living together again, this time indefinitely. Sachi has finally met her sister and Nagi’s fiancée and can’t help but like her, but how long these good vibes last is anyone’s guess. I’m surprised how much has happened just four episodes into a twenty-four episode series. Things have moved very swiftly, but there’s clearly a lot more in store for our cuckoos.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 03 – Too Close to the Sun on Wings of Okonomiyaki

Just like that, Erika and Nagi are living alone together under the same roof. A text from Nagi’s mom and birth dad seals their fate: they’re stuck here for two weeks. They also both acknowledge that if they don’t go on defense, they’re going to end up married before they know it. So before heading to their separate rooms, they agree not to interact with each other in any way for  the duration of their stay.

AS. FRIKKIN’. IF. Moments after waking up later than he ever has (a product of not being slapped awake by his mom or Sachi) he hears a scream and comes to Erika’s rescue, only to get even more freaked out by the gecko in the bath than she is. A scenario like this begs for a bathroom walk-in, and while switching the roles would have been more refreshing, the execution get is both funny and tasteful.

Their pact last night has Nagi excited for a weekend of uninterrupted studying in his room, but he is betrayed by the nature of his arrival here: he doesn’t have his charger or textbooks. When they’re delivered, Erika takes delivery, and won’t give them up unless Nagi helps her with her Insta photo shoot of the day. This, in turn, leads to him tripping and falling into another romantic pose on her bed that’s caught on camera.

Erika doesn’t know what it is, but her pics just come out better when Nagi takes them, so she borrows him for the rest of the day, which leads to a water fight. While Nagi just wants to study, and Erika just wants to go viral, those more cynical motivations get pushed to the background as the two simply have a fun day in each other’s company. They’re in violation of their pact, but neither of them does anything about it.

Instead, Erika finds herself wanting to know more about Nagi, like why he loves studying so much. It’s a fair question from someone who is already financially set for life, and Nagi’s answer, while only a half-truth, about wanting to provide for his family of modest means gets through to her.

Erika’s reason for wanting to be popular on SM goes beyond “just ’cause” and into her desire to connect with “someone” out there—whether this someone is literal or figurative remains to be seen.

As for the other, and arguable more immediately important half of Nagi’s motivation, the challenge he issued to Segawa Hiro the other day has circled the school several times and he receives the expected extra attention and ribbing.

I like how Nagi’s a tough kid and doesn’t let any of this get him down, and even mistakes three guy’s genuine desire for him to win for teasing (if only because they’re betting on him…26-to-1 odds!). He gets it from the normies and the nerds, one of whom declares him Icarus and Hiro the sun. Nagi’s response to this guy is perfect: “Who the hell was that?”

Nagi gets a rooftop invite from Hiro that he’s sure is a prank, but when he learns that he, not her, is currently the top-ranked student prior to the upcoming waves of exams, he realizes it’s genuine. Sure enough, Hiro meets him on the rooftop, but not to confess her love to him, but to declare to him that she won’t lose to him…not in exams, class ranking, sports, cleaning and eating speed…she won’t give up a millimeter of ground anything.

This is a side of Hiro Nagi has never seen, and it only endears her to him more, and now both of them are each other’s prime motivating factors for pursuing greatness. We’ll see if one’s bitter rival really makes for a better match than a fiancée raised by your birth parents. I also imagine Hiro will cross Erika’s path eventually, and the two will have some thoughts about things.

But first things first: Nagi really does need to study. Unfortunately, not only did hanging out with Erika cost him the weekend, but the water fight gives him a cold. Erika dresses up like a nurse to take care of him, but he tries to power through, and ends up passing out. Erika, in turn, cancels her plans for the day to tend to him, and when he comes to, admits she’s duly impressed by how hard he works to achieve his goals.

This doesn’t just affect Nagi because a cutey is saying it, but because literally no one has ever said they’re impressed with his academic work ethic. His birth parents might’ve had they raised him, so it’s apropos that Erika, who was raised by them, is the first to do so.

It’s the kind of unforced gesture that should sow doubt in Nagi’s mind that he should choose Hiro (who let’s not forget could well reject him anyway) over Erika. Unless he and Hiro hang out more, that soil of doubt will only grow more fertile as he and Erika continue to interact and learn about each other. Those parents might’ve been on to something.

Three episodes in, A Couple of Cuckoos is a solid textbook rom-com that succeeds in making all parties (save Sachi) dynamic and likeable—not just cogs—while finding ways to ground the chaotic premise. This is not the car wreck in slow motion I thought it’d be. It’s just a good, fun, and engaging show, full-stop.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Couple of Cuckoos – 02 – A Princess in a Doghouse

At the breakfast table, Nagi is adamant that he’s not going through with the marriage, but his parents, who very much still possess delinquent streak, will book no insolence. His mom asks if there’s any reason he can’t marry Erika, but Nagi can’t exactly tell her he’s in love with someone who doesn’t know his name! Sachi, meanwhile, wants nothing to do with this whole situation, even though Erika is her big sister…and soon to be sister-in-law.

Nagi’s folks head off to work, telling him to keep Erika company when she visits. He cleans up the place, but when she’s an hour late he looks outside the door to see she’s been sitting there the whole time, apparently unaware of doorbells. She also finds his modest Japanese home confusing, what with its tiny size and lack of chairs. She actually assumed they were in a tool shed!

After Nagi gives her a grudging tour of the house (which doesn’t take long), Erika takes him on a tour of her palatial mansion, where the damn doghouse is larger and fancier than Nagi’s whole house. The thing is, there isn’t the slightest inkling that Erika is showing off…this is just how her life is. Nagi, who wanted to tell her he has feelings for someone else, now sees that even if he wanted to marry her, reconciling their wildly different lifestyles seems impossible.

So it comes as a shock to him when Erika interrupts him to say she won’t be marrying him, which is exactly what he wanted to tell her but couldn’t find the right time. Like him, it simply comes down to her wanting to choose who she marries. She can tell Nagi is a nice guy, just like he can tell she’s a nice gal, but they’re also modern young people who don’t like things being arrange.

She didn’t even go to Nagi’s to see him, but to talk about this with his…with her birth parents. When Nagi says they’re working at the family diner until midnight, Erika has him take her there. While at first things are cordial, the Umino in Erika comes out as she gets into a heated standoff with Nagi’s folks. Hikasa Youko and Kimura Ryuuhei are pitch-perfect in their respective Delinquent Modes, telling Erika she’ll do what they say and like it, damn it!

But once everyone’s hackles are lowered and hot tempers cool, Nagi’s parents boast to a couple of regulars that the beauty before tham is Nagi’s fiancée. Then they whip up their special ginger pork, which Erika has never had before but loves instantly, then her biological folks get in close and start comparing her face and hair to their own and Sachi’s. They invite her to spend the night, and Nagi’s mom wants to have a bath with her. Nagi has the feeling his folks are manhandling a bomb that’s about to go off.

Instead, she suddenly excuses herself and runs out of the diner. Nagi gives chase, and learns he grossly misunderstood her feelings at the time. She wasn’t a bomb about to explode…she was simply overwhelmed by how warm and welcoming her birth parents were, and overcome by apprehension over whether they’d like her if she stuck around. She wants nothing more than to be closer to them, but doesn’t know how to tell them that. Nagi assures her no such formalities are necessary.

His folks are “really dense” former delinquents, and thus she doesn’t have to be so considerate with them. It’s enough to just be there and be herself, and they’ll love her all the same. Sure enough, when Nagi and Erika return to the diner, his mom gives Erika a big hug, while his dad wipes away a tear reacting to the heartfelt reunion. They have a big meal together, but Erika takes a raincheck on a sleepover.

While Nagi walks her to the main streets, Erika tells him she had fun and was glad she got to get closer to her birth parents. Sachi, who still has complicated feelings about all this, is left unmentioned. Erika also asks what Nagi was so anxious to talk to her about all day, and Nagi can’t say it. He thought it would get easier with time to say he loved someone else, but instead it got harder.

It gets harder still when Erika’s dad rolls up in his Lexus. He reveals that he knew they weren’t really dating (a dude that rich has a head on his shoulders), and also gives them both a ride…to a large house set up specifically for them to live in together as a couple. Their names are even on the engraved doorplate.

If Nagi’s folks knew about this, they kept it to themselves. But hey, this premise is already freakin’ absurd, so I am completely on board with this escalation. Domestic bliss awaits our beloved cuckoos!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shin no Nakama – 05 – For Their Own Sake

Red and Rit are leisurely preparing to open the shop for the day when a brace of bigwigs from different guilds arrive unannounced, demanding to see Rit. Red says “Uh, no, you can see her when we open”. Realizing there’s nothing else they can do, they agree to wait. I love this. After years of carrying the weight of a party and a kingdom, respectively, Red and Rit aren’t here for anyone but each other.

Rit eventually goes out to speak with the bigwigs, who want her to go back to adventuring, but she tells them she’s signed a lifetime employment contract with Red’s apothecary. He overhears this, and figures it’s the perfect time to give her a gift: an amber bracelet.

This is after a Thieves Guild rep offers him a valuable Elven coin in exchange for Rit, which he obviously refuses. When he asks what her favorite gemstone is, she basically says whatever gemstone he gives her. Fool, you wanna be putting a ring on it!

While minding the store, Rit just revels in the fact she had no idea she’d be working there and living with Red, whom she once knew as Gideon. That takes us to another flashback to when she first met his very good friend—his very tall, very pretty good friend—Yalandrala, and is threatened by her flirting with Gideon as they traverse a forbidden forest they can only cross with Yal and the blessing that allows her to speak to the plants.

Yal can tell what’s going on even before Rit starts with the tsundereing, so she takes her aside to a crisp, cool forest spring for some bathing and a heart-to-heart. There, Yal tells Rit that because she’s a high elf who will live a much longer life, she’s decided not to fall for any humans (a mistake she already said she made once). But it’s clear to her that Rit is crazy about Gideon, and Yal cares about him too, so she’s glad such a nice person has fallen for him.

Even then, Yalandrala wanted Gideon to live his life for his own sake, knowing as only she, Rit, and few others know how far his power goes beyond his blessing and skills. And make no mistake, he’s fully in charge of the party, how it’s going to do things and when.

Ruti may have final sway as the Hero, but she also understands her brother’s power and defers to him. And though Gideon has Rit accompany her to fight the goblins, Ruti quickly demonstrates that in such a situation she’s all she’s got, she’s all she needs.

When the party is reunited, Ruti is the first one to hug Gideon, and Rit decides that she doesn’t want to take him away from her, seeing as how she’s the Hero they’re all depending on. But as fortune would have it, Ares kicked him out of the party, which has led to her and now-Red living and working together in pure bliss.

When a sketchy adventurer who thinks he knows her “weakness” threatens to tell Loggervia she’s in this village slacking off, she basically shrugs and says “go ahead.” She doesn’t care about her social standing in Loggervia. She’s where she wants to be, doing what she wants. This guy can’t touch her.

Because she’s happy here, with Red, each living for their own and each other’s sakes. They’ve earned it! I’m happy for them, and even happier they’re able to swat away possible wrenches in their works so easily this week. That said, we get a flashback to when Ruti learned that her brother had left the party. She learns this from Ares, who intends to take Gideon’s place.

When Ruti suspects that Ares did something to Gideon to make him leave, she puts her arm through his chest, killing him in a spray of blood and gore. Of course, since she’s the Hero, she can revive him in a second, but I’d like to think this was the moment Ares realized he was way out of his depth. Not only because he’s not half the adventurer Red is, but because he tried to play fast and loose with the goddamn Hero. 

The greatest threat to Red and Rit’s blissful quiet life isn’t threats or blackmail from random adventurers or thieves, but the possibility his sister can’t be the Hero she needs to be without him in the party.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shin no Nakama – 04 – No Mead to Be Shy

Rit and Red sleep in the same room, and even if Rit isn’t letting her bust pop out on purpose, she certainly doesn’t mind if Red sees it. We’re talking about someone who is probably still a bit disappointed he didn’t go for a double bed! Running an apothecary shop and living with a princess isn’t remotely the life Red thought he’d be living, but he’s pretty satisfied.

One day, Zoltan’s adventuring party stops by, shocked and appalled that Rit is working there. While she goes out to buy mead, which she was simply craving, the toughest of those adventurers shows up, the B-ranked Albert. Al suspects Red killed the owlbear with his bronze sword, and wanted to ask him to join his party. But soon after he draws his sword Rit bursts in, shatters his sword with one strike, and is fully ready to kill him, were it not for Red telling her to stop.

After seeing just how ready, willing, and able Rit is of protecting Red (even though he probably doesn’t need it, as he’d just prefer to hide his true ability) it’s nice to see the two kick back and have a simple supper that goes well with mead. That’s right, before all that Jack Daniels Honey nonsense, people made wine out of honey. Still do…and it’s delicious! In any case, this episode is full of wonderful relaxing cozy slice-of-life-ness.

After talk of installing a bathtub big enough for two, Red invites Rit to his go-to sauna, which we learn is in trouble after a big fancy public bathhouse was built further in town. Red, Gonze, Nao, and Storm, not to mention Rit, love the place, so Red devises a feature that will draw more customers: a potpourri bag that infuses the steam with therapeutic vapors. His reward for his ingenuity? Getting to share the sauna with Rit and Nao, the latter of whom laughs out loud at how bashful Red and Rit are.

After saying goodbye to their elven friends, Red and Rit stroll around in the lovely sunset. Rit tells Red why she wanted mead; because it’s tradition in her homeland for a married couple to take time off and spend it together doing nothing but drinking mead (and presumably consummating the marriage). Red and Rit may not be officially married, but they make a hell of a good match, both feel fulfilled in their lives, and both are crazy about each other. So it’s near as makes no difference!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shin no Nakama – 03 – Off the Path of Blood, On the Path of…COOKIEEES!!!

This week’s Shin no Nakama takes place entirely in the present day, but it doesn’t get off to a strong start when Red (and the camera) gazes a bit too long on Rit’s bazongas spilling forth from her ‘jammies. I mean for real, I thought my player had frozen! Fortunately, the rest of the episode is a lot less leery.

I have a bit of a problem with how easily Red ended up living with a literal warrior princess who has basically already made it quite clear she loves the guy. Heck, you can love whoever you want for whatever reason, but Red didn’t really do anything to engender such undying love from Rit. The flashback ep help explain their friendship, but not their sudden fauxmance.

Despite this, I can’t help but love watching these too together. Whether Red is helping Tanta’s friend Al after a bullying incident, to simple scenes of Red and Rit having meals or enjoying his new nutritional biscuits, the two just work well together. There’s a difference between their mutual bashfulness around each other and outright pretending they don’t feel something for one another. Shin no Nakama exploits that intermediate space with aplomb.

Other than the morning pop-out, the episode doesn’t go in lame or predictable directions like Rit being awful at tending a shop (or cooking), or Red being pervy. Instead, when he lifts Rit up and spins her around, there’s a genuine innocence to it, along with unbridled joy. And Rit is just as happy to be spun as Red is to spin her. No sudden pull-back shots of the exterior where we hear a scream and a slap!

Also interesting is the brief but increasingly consequential cutaways to the Hero’s Party. As I suspected, the big dude and the knight dudette aren’t happy Ares unilaterally banished Gideon, and when the big dude decides he’s going to go off to find Gideon, he gets Ruti’s blessing. I’m glad the party isn’t just falling into lockstep behind Ares’ conniving, but I also don’t need Red returning to the party. I’m here for the slow life!

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