Renai Boukun – 09

Not long after the ordeal with Akane and Yuzu’s mothers, Akane and Guri are still going at it, with Guri pushing Akane’s buttons and Akane never failing to fall for the goading. Making matters worse, the mothers have charged Shikimi with monitoring Akane and Seiji, so she transfers to their school, just in time for the cultural festival. Holy anime cliches, Batman!

The love polygon Guri originally wrought continues to cause problems for Yuzu, who has always conditioned herself to love Akane and only Akane but clearly has feelings for Seiji as well; she just doesn’t know how/isn’t ready to deal with them. When opportunity knocks, she kisses Seiji in hopes of confirming she feels nothing, but can’t stop her heart from racing.

The class casts Akane and Guri as love rivals…for the heart of the “princess” played by Shikimi (Seiji plays a tree…which is actually very Seiji). The play is an absolute farce, descending into relationship drama between Akane, Guri, and Yuzu, but with Akane trying to be on her best behavior, since Seiji promised he’d kiss her if she got along with Guri.

At the end of the play, Akane has assured Yuzu that it’s okay to have feelings for others, though doesn’t linger on the fact that her sister’s object of affection is Seiji. Seeing Yuzu give an “I detest you but don’t hate you” spech to Seiji while Seiji is still a tree is a pleasant enough visual gag.

The manic energy is present throughout the episode, but my interest in the multi-sided love polygon, and all the “serious vibes” that come with it, is starting to flag, as it dulls the zany comedy that brought me to the show. Guri’s dilemma in particular, and Shikimi’s attempts to drive a wedge between the girls, just isn’t my thing. Still, with just three episodes left, I’ll power through.

Renai Boukun – 08

Yuzu and Guri mount a daring rescue of Akane (armed with cosplay and retro dramatic music), only to find she doesn’t want to be rescued… naturally. The story is very standard issue, and on paper sounds like dozens of such rescue episodes. What makes Renai Boukun’s take on it fresh and watchable (if not outstanding) is its commitment to inserting punchy, often self-referential comedy wherever it can.

As the subtitle above demonstrates, Renai Boukun will often go to the trouble of pointing out the cliches it’s using, because characters like Guri are themselves knowledgable students of anime like the one they’re in. Guri’s status as a cupid, with her “love detection” ability, easily cuts through the stoic masks both Akane and her mother are wearing.

Akane’s mom may not ever break her stern, Vulcan calm, but when Akane herself has her blade pressed to Seiji’s neck, and he tells her he’d never be able to hate her no matter what, her eye highlights come back, and then some: shimmer, tears; the lot!

Renai is also shameless in its portrayal of Akane and Yuzu’s moms as aged-up versions of their daughters: they loved the same man, bearing the girls who now both love Seiji. Akane’s mom left her dad when her family calling beckoned, but she has to deal with the fact her daughter might not go down that very same path.

The moms are also even more powerful than their daughters, and their unhinged battle on the roof of Akane’s house surprises Seiji, even though at this point he’s used to getting stabbed (but likes the pain from Akane’s stabbing more than Shikimi’s).

As expected, by the end of the episode everything is back to the way it was, relationship-wise, only now Akane has the implicit approval to “do as she likes”, which is to keep loving Seiji. Seiji also feels closer to her now that he knows the whole truth about Akane and Yuzu’s family.

Akua got to fight some goons in suits. Coraly got to scare Akua shitless. Shikimi got to stab Seiji a bunch. Everybody’s happy! Well, until the very end, when Guri sees how close Seiji and Akane have grown, and no doubt ponders what, if anything, she can do to get Seiji to look at her the way he looks at Akane.

Renai Boukun – 07

After establishing its kooky cast, Love Tyrant has proceeded to explore more and more serious dramatic stuff with the trappings of a quirky comedy. Guri first attempts to test out Akane’s “heartache” theory about love by stabbing herself with one of Akane’s kukris.

But after her desire to go to the festival is rebuffed by Seiji, who already has plans with Akane, she goes off on her own and is approached by The Perfect Guy, who is kind, patient, and respects her interests—the opposite of Seiji, leading her to question whether Seiji’s even worth her time.

A lovely festival date with Mystery Guy leads to a romantic setting in which he leans in for the kiss, only to have his eyes shoved into his brain by Guri; a reflex, she says contritely. Nice Guy is nice, but isn’t Seiji, and kissing him feels wrong.

So when she happens to bump into Seiji, who came to festival as per her original wishes anyway, she kisses him, it feels right, and she proclaims that while Seiji may have his issues—not handsome, stubborn, quick to anger, boring, insensitive—but she doesn’t hate him after all.

It’s good to see Guri and the show point out Seiji’s flaws, but also demonstrate how love is more than an equation of pros and cons. As for Perfect Guy, he was under a spell from Maou as part of his larger plan to recruit Guri, which, sure, fine.

Someone else who loves Seiji deeply in spite of his flaws is Akane, but unlike the cupid Guri, she’s supposed to have no need for love. In fact, giving her heart to Seiji is a serious crime against her family, and her mother Suo soon has her captured and bound, and gives her an ultimatum: break up with Seiji, or else.

What ‘or else’ means, precisely, I don’t know, as Akane is technically immortal. As is Seiji, as demonstrated when a group of thugs try to kill him in broad daylight in the park. He’s rescued by his tough little sister Akua, who is then totally freaked out by Coraly, because who wouldn’t be?

(I for one actually have a soft spot for Coraly because my roommate’s cat looks just like him…without the human face of course.)

Shikimi arrives to tell Seiji and Akua what Suo has done with Akane.  In solitary confinement, Akane remembers not giving a hoot about anyone’s feelings and keeping her heart to herself, as her mother wanted. Until she met Seiji by chance in an alley, and for some reason when he says she’s kind, it resonates, and whether she liked it or not, she fell for him right then and there.

Though it definitely weighs down what had been a lightweight rom-com, I appreciate the show elaborating on Akane’s feelings and showing their origins and how she must choose between love and family. I also like Seiji (and Akua!) teaming up with Shikimi to rescue Akane (even though Shikimi is clearly up to something).

Meanwhile Guri and Yuzu don’t have much time together in the second half but they make the most of it, first with Yuzu’s takedown of the cat maid cafe Guri brought them to, then in planning a sleepover, then ditching that plan to join the fight to save Akane.

Renai Boukun – 06

It’s a half-beach, half test-of-courage episode, with Akane trying to befriend Seiji’s sister Akua in the former and warning Guri to stay away from Seiji in the latter, all while Guri goofs off as usual in both and Yuzu always finds herself closer to Seiji than her beloved Akane.

After he rejects her advances, Shikimi notifies Seiji what was hinted at last week; that Akane and Yuzu’s families serve as swords and shields, respectively, with her role as a branch family member being support of the other two.

Meanwhile Akua remains cold to Akane until she’s attacked by the rabid demon penguin Stolas, then rescued largely thanks to Akane’s brute strength. She concedes that her brother likes strong women, so she’s at least a good match in that regard, if no other.

The beach was little more than a fresh setting for the Akane’s violent lunacy, which is less instrumental in the second segment, in which a Ghostbuster-cosplaying Guri leads everyone on a test of courage through the school at the behest of a couple who wants her to make them a couple forever.

The lunacy here lies in the fast-paced gauntlet of all the typical things you worry about running into at school after dark, from the spirits of dead students to self-playing pianos, moving stone busts, and the ever-present anatomical model. There’s no shortage of energy, at least for a few bursts.

But both during and after the test, at the end of which it’s revealed the couple were dead to begin with and needed a little help passing on to the hereafter, Akane makes it clear to Guri that she’s only going to tolerate this lovey-dovey harem thing for so long, so if she wants to remain friends, she’d better stay away from Seiji.

As if to underscore her seriousness, Akane doesn’t whip out her knives to threaten Guri. She also tells the very naive cupid that love, happy or sad, causes one’s heart to ache, and if that’s not happening with Guri, maybe she should reconsider being her rival.

I knew things were eventually going to get more serious, but I’m still not convinced that’s the best move for a show that doesn’t have a lot going for it besides its rapid-fire comedy.

Renai Boukun – 05

As expected, the pink-haired sadist doesn’t get to torture Seiji for long, as Akane arrives to rescue him, We learn she’s Shiramine Shikimi, cousin to Akane and Yuzu, who loves receiving pain as much as she loves doling it out. She also likes stealing things, particularly from Akane, and Seiji is one such thing.

A fight ensues, and Shikimi is able to repel Akane’s attacks and restrain her, then scolding her for becoming weaker and being a sorry excuse for a “weapon princess”. She’s more impressed with Yuzu’s shield. This is all to imply that Akane and Yuzu have never been ordinary high school students, but some higher calling they’ve yet to share with Seiji.

This is where Renai Boukun ditches the comedy altogether and gets a lot more serious, especially with the newly-arrived Guri telling Shikimi she can’t make her a part of the harem because there’s no real love inside of her.

Your mileage may vary on whether this show needs to be this serious or dramatic; I’m not the biggest fan of it. In any case, all the excitement leaves Seiji knocked out, and he then dies. Not even a fifteen-minute kiss from Akane can bring him back, Sleeping Beauty-style.

His death segues into the episode’s second segment, in which he meets Guri’s father Kami and his…er…neighbor Tiara? Coraly is also there. “Heaven” is little more than an ordinary Japanese living room.

There, Kami (‘God’) tells him he’s killed him “for the time being” so he could meet the one his daughter has latched herself onto. He wants her to one day succeed him as Kami-sama, so he wants Seiji to teach her about love, something she’s not made much progress with despite being assigned cupid duty.

Maou (‘the devil’) also stops by, wanting to convert Guri to demonhood, but as these are not humans, they don’t have a specific deadline in place for either thing to happen. Seiji can’t promise anything, because as Kami is well aware, Guri is a free spirit who will do what she wants when she wants to, which is rarely the same thing for long periods.

Seiji returns to the world of the living, where Akane is chasing Guri with her knives and Yuzu was about to kiss him as well, only for her and Seiji to knock heads. Seiji asks why Guri never let on about her father or the succession; Guri simply explains that stuff is boring and she doesn’t want to waste time talking about it. Fair enough!

Last week ever-darker elements of violence and sexual deprivation were introduced; this week there’s a lot more character drama and a general plot course is set, with various parties vying for Guri’s future just as the girls vie for Seiji. That’s all well and good, but it was also IMO the least funny, and least surprising, episode of Love Tyrant yet.

Renai Boukun – 04

“There are piranhas in that pond.”

The Gist: Yuzu-chan takes center stage this week, with a silly backstory that explains her love for her sister Akane and establishes that Yuzu has always been a tripping-prone klutz for…some reason. We also learn that Yuzu doesn’t actually attend Akane/Aino’s school but, instead, an all-girls school in which she uses male body-doubles in drag to fill her place.

Back in the present, Shiramine Shikimi shows up and is clearly just pretending to be a meek girl in need of help. (She’s obviously the mean pink haired girl from Akane x Yuzu’s past) After getting Aino to follow her to an abandoned hospital, she traps him with magic gum and begins to torture him with nails and BDSM.

Fear not! While it ends to be continued, Guri x Yuzu x Akane are on their way and at least 2/3 of those characters have an idea what is going on…

Cell phones occupied much of the humor this week. The biggest player being Guri’s new smartphone, which is full of romance-specific apps as well as a weather report for the afterlife. However, Aino’s flip phone makes an appearance to deliver a gag that Guri has sent him undressing pics of Akane with the subject line “Present for your personal pleasure.”

Otherwise, much of the humor focuses on Yuzu’s foolish personality and the phone’s “Compatibility Barometer” which shows the various one-sided romances in the four way couple. Unsurprisingly, from a humor stand point, Yuzu and Aino would make the strongest couple, even though neither would be happy to admit that…

The Gist: Renai Boukun is all about great gags and subtle details. Yuzu’s family fountain is full of Piranhas, the unexplained app icons on the phone featuring art for each of the show’s characters, rescuing Yuzu from an extremely shallow stream, great audio cues and timing like Yuzu’s rejection noise and face — it’s all hilarious!

Renai Boukun also took a risk this week. Going dark with Shikimi — really dark with a sadist dry humping a torture victim — spins our soft and care-free expectations of the show on their head. It says boldly that anything can happen. Except, that’s not really want anyone should want from a well timed comedy is it?

Renai Boukun – 03

The Gist: Akua meets Guri officially, Akua and Aino work out their troubles, Guri’s love note book gets burned up, everyone is worried their relationships have fallen apart, Tiara-san is introduced, the trouble with the notebook is resolved, everyone is happy ever after. (sorta)

So much wacky goodness happens this week and basically none of it matters in detail. Sure, Akua is chased by a rapacious demonic penguin that cemented her relationship with her brother long ago in their childhood. Sure, Guri’s notebook is burned during a hilarious gender-role-reverse-expetation fight between a bad boy and a squad of scorned ladies. Sure, Tiara-san is one trashy former cupid that god knocked up and her phone has now replaced Guri’s book as the prop of the show.

But the joy of Renai Boukun is just in the timing of all these absurd happenings. The penguin could have been pedo-bear or an 8 bit character or anything random as long as the joke remained that it talked with its eyes. Guri could have lost the notebook in any number of ways — or the relationships could have become at risk through any number of megufins — as long as she basically showed no concern while all the other characters freaked out. Tiara-san didn’t even have to exist — they could just have written ‘love note’ on a new book and had everything else play out the same.

But, despite the lack of importance to any detail, all the precision in how those details play out in sound, framing, gesture and timing works very very well. Giggle on the floor blade sticking out of your head wonderfully well.

“It’s okay! There’s steam and mysterious lights. So people can see anything important.” – Guri, nude in the bathroom

The Verdict: Love Tyrant is almost the complete opposite of QZGS in so far as Love Tyrant doesn’t look special at all and doesn’t try to be cool either. In fact, if the comedy were not so tightly orchestrated, I wouldn’t even think it was trying hard to do that.

In short, Love Tyrant doesn’t take anything seriously in it’s search of fun. Laugh with it as it laughs at anime in general, and the romance genre specifically. Laugh until you puke. And love it!

Renai Boukun – 02

The Gist: Aino’s sister Akua has come home early and she clearly is frustrated with her brother. However, the real meat of the show is Guri and Akane’s sister getting into weird antics to fulfill their roles as cupids.

Ultimately, they stumble on a sensei and class rep who they want to put together. On the surface, the class rep doesn’t appear to be a willing participant (treating the sensei like he’s her younger brother in need of constant help and scolding).

However, after the class rep (and Guri) are taken hostage during a bank robbery gone wrong (which just so happens to line up with Guri’s plan to take the class rep hostage anyway) it’s revealed that the love is mutual. The class rep had always planned on waiting until after she graduated to let him confess and accept him.

Of course the bank robbers are completely embarrassed and infuriated by how calm everyone is and how much they are being ignored. They even shoot at Akane’s sister and Aino takes the bullet in her defense…not that any of them can die due to being angels now.

Regardless, Akane goes full yandere upon arrival and the police watch on in terror. All is well with the happy ending, though Akua watches on unobserved (and frustrated) at the fringe…

The Verdict: Love Tyrant has a Master Level-sense of timing and breaking our expectations and being sly while doing it. The class rep just oozes a malicious grin at the end of all this, since she’s known more or less all along what’s going on and what she wants.

But there’s also a lot of heart right along side that comedy. The class rep truly wants to experience the ‘work’ of being in love, and not just the realization. It’s a charming sentiment that plays off against the silliness around it. It also makes for a good contrast to the hot (and somewhat automatic) love that’s going on among the love rectangle. Sure, Aino ‘saved’ Akane’s sister, and Akane saved the day herself, but it’s all so jump-first and think later teenager love that you can imagine it all burning out and/or stumbling over itself as different parts of the rectangle fall in and out of love with other parts.

Over all, it didn’t quite hit the same level of surprise as last week, but how could it? The humor is still there though, and it works great. The accidental real hostage situation, the interrogation in the announcement room, and the requited love reveal at the end all worked great. Neat! Go watch it now!

Renai Boukun – 01 (First IMpressions)

The Gist: A mysterious girl appears on Aino Seiji’s doorstep with warnings of his impending doom…unless he kisses someone in the next 24 hours. Magic is involved, as are the heavens, but the only girl Aino has an interest in is Hiyama Akane, the most popular girl in school, who probably doesn’t know he even exists…

Stop reading this review right now and go watch Renai Boukun because it’s fast, clever and expertly timed comedy. It pokes fun at conventions left and right and it’s utterly hilarious. But you have to watch it right now because the humor relies on unexpected twists and complications and almost any forewarning will ruin it.

The Verdict: While RB is a subpar looking show, from the terrifying human-faced house cat, to the fate of Aino’s parents, to the recurring gag about cosplay, the sheer joy of its antics quickly won my heart. Go watch it now—and I promise to talk about it in greater detail next week!

Kiznaiver – 10

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After the seven Kiznaivers recovered from their collective “overload”, they decided to stay away from each other for the rest of the Summer. When they return to school, no longer bearing Kizna scars and no longer connected, Yamada seems to rub salt in the wound by describing all the crazy experiences they had over the Summer, even if things got a little too intense at the end.

Hisomu isn’t able to stay away from Katsuhiro, rightly worried he won’t properly feed himself (not that Hisomu does either, with those cans), and despite everything that’s happened—nay, because of it all—Nico still loves everyone and wants to stay connected. The pure joy she exhibits upon taking the hands of Hisomu and Kacchon, spinning around giddily, was infectious.

These three can be friends again without major issues. But what about the others? Harder to say. Tenga hopes that if Chidori gives him a strong, unambiguous rejection, she’ll feel better…but she knows she won’t. We barely see Yuta and Honoka, as the latter won’t talk or listen to the former.

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Then there’s Sonozaki. The mayor informs her of an imminent investigation, and in the meantime, the Kizuna Experiment is being shut down, meaning everything she’s worked for in her life is about to go down the drain into a sea of futility. She can’t bear that outcome, and so races to the nearest ledge, and as she seemingly falls, Kacchon feels her pain in his newly-appeared chest scar, as strong and horrible as ever.

His desire to find and help her leads him to the secret subway station to the school, where he finds an Urushii who, perhaps feeling a bit of guilt right about now, is receptive to giving him, along with Hisomu and Nico, more answers about what exactly they were a part of.

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This project isn’t just about pride for Sonozaki; it’s about her life, and the lives of those she lived with. Once she was connected to eighteen other kids, including Kacchon, she began to feel all of their combined pain as well as her own, multiplied nineteen times. Only with the use of harsh drugs that dull all her senses allow her to function.

Worse still, her body never returned any of the sensations she absorbed form the others, leaving some the ones who are still alive as serene mannequins, unable to function at all. Once Kacchon hears they’re still alive, is allowed to meet with them, and sees the hollow husks they’ve become, he breaks down and cries, as if Sonozaki’s hold on his emotions was weakened or suspended.

Kacchon clearly wants what Sonozaki wants: to undo what’s been done to their friends, as well as to end her suffering. The Kizuna System, it would seem, was always critically flawed and untenable. But maybe there’s hope for the unfortunate souls involved.

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Kiznaiver – 09

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What started this spiraling closed loop of intense pain that took down six of the seven Kiznaivers, leaving them writhing in the rain? Kacchon left Chidori. He left her at a critical time; when she was oh-so-close to telling him her past love for him is still present.

Worse, Kacchon left her to go after Noriko, whom she always suspected was a rival but now has to deal with the devastating reality that he chose Noriko, not her. He did it without even knowing what it would do to Chidori.

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Yamada twists the knife by getting the other six Kiznaivers into an A/W room and playing a live feed of Kacchon’s talk with Noriko, as they discuss whether he likes her. He’s not sure, but he can’t stop thinking about her, and the little girl in the dream he has has become clearer since he was Kizna’d. He knows it’s her now.

It’s too much for Chidori to watch, and seeing her so hurt makes Tenga pained and angry. Nico, in turn, is pained and angry by Tenga’s concern for Chidori and not her. But both Tenga and Nico decide to go to that gym, Tenga hoping something can be done, Nico so she can “get hurt properly.”

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Some shit is going down in that gym. The closer Kacchon gets to Nori, the more memories come flowing to the surface; the names of the other child subjects—those who weren’t so lucky—combine with Noriko’s rhythmic ball-bouncing that is a kind of heartbeat to transport Kacchon to that time.

A second Kizna scar, on his chest, glows just like the one on Noriko’s neck. These two are connected; they always were; long before the other connections. As his dream promised, Kacchon wonders if he’s finally getting his pain back. In any case, he can’t stop holding Noriko.

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At this point, the others arrive, and it goes about as well as you’d expect. Chidori runs off; Tenga sucks it up and tells Kacchon to go after her; Nico runs off; Yuta tells Tenga to go after her; and Tenga learns for the first time Nico loves him. It’s a mess, and it’s wonderful how quickly a couple of initially cute love polygon vertices start to fray at the edges and become twisted into something far darker.

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Urushii can tell this isn’t going to end well, but Yamada insists the experiment continue, seemingly unconcerned with whether the subjects undergo full mental breaks. Thankfully, Urushii remembers a man’s weak spot and heads out.

She might be too late; the damage is done in the soupy, pounding rain tinged with industrial light; a striking venue for the things that transpire. At this point the Kizna scars turn blood red, and everyone can start hearing each others’ hearts. Chidori tells Kacchon to let go, but her heart wants him to hold her.

He listens to her heart, but that only makes things worse, since she knows he’s not doing it sincerely as with Noriko. Tenga, rather than go after a distraught Nico, starts beating the crap out of Kacchon. Nico and everyone else shows up, and the combined emotional pain starts coming in intolerable waves.

It’s even enough for Maki to reconsider getting any closer to anyone…and who can blame her, under such extreme, torturous circumstances? But what’s so sad is that Maki things this is what will always happen if people try to grow closer and closer.

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She forgets that they’re all young people, and what seems like world-ending emotional distress can be seen as frivolous to an adult, like, say, Yamada. How many teenagers have screamed through their parents’ hallway, before slamming the door to their room, something along the lines of “MY LIFE IS OVER”?

Even so…this situation looks pretty damn bad, no matter what your age. It’s interesting, though, that Kacchon outlasts everyone in staying upright. Is his pain lessened by the fact he’s also connected to Noriko, and has been already through something similar to this for years?

All I know is, our would-be friends came face-to-face with more secrets about who has feelings for who, things have gotten very weird and dark, and I would hope, with three episodes left, this is rock bottom. As to how things get better or how they’ll wear the wounds they sustained this week, I can only conjecture.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 14

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Shirayuki knows this visit to Tanbarun is a little suspicious, and so does everyone around her. Like Obi, who splits his time looking for the bishounen Kazuki and observing how Shirayuki is taking her sudden orders.

Naturally, she’s working as hard as she can to learn enough about dancing, etiquette, and comportment in order to not bring shame upon Clarines during her visit. Whatever plot, if any, has been hatched, it’s starting with a gentle whisper, rather than a bang, which if anything, is more unsettling, considering how many times Shirayuki has found herself captured by someone.

But maybe there isn’t a plot…right? (No, there definitely is.) But theoretically, if there weren’t one, Shirayuki wants to take advantage of this opportunity anyway. She’s also heard Raj is a “new man”; and I’m as curious as she is to see if that’s true.

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As for Zen, well, he’s pretty sore about the whole thing, but like Shirayuki, keeps himself busy with palace and state matters, and whenever he’s not, he’s sparring with himself, in order to vent his frustration. I enjoy watching his entourage watch and comment on their master, who is more than just their master.

More and more since he became a permanent member of the posse, Obi seems like he’s cultivating a little bit of a crush on Shirayuki, or otherwise wants to be close to and protect her. That would make his master his rival for her affections.

Even if he suspects he has little chance against what the two lovebirds have, he’ll do what he can, like beat Zen in a match (proving how tough he is even unarmed), and granting his permission to accompany Shirayuki instead of Mitsuhide.

And I like this development. Mitsuhide, bless him, is too stiff for this trip. Shirayuki and Obi’s chemistry, while perhaps not as magnetic as her and Zen, has its own strange-but not-in-bad-way energy; not to mention the show is pushing the suspicion that Obi likes her, not Mitsu.

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If Obi had been peeping in the windows of the palace wing where Shirayuki is boarding, he might’ve seen just how steep a hill he’d have to climb to change Shirayuki’s heart. For the first time in this second season, Shirayuki and Zen get to share some quality time, be calmed and reassured by each others’ presence.

Zen’s last-minute hug-from-behind may not have been steamy, but it was so warm and sweet and lovely, as the atmosphere tends to be when these two are alone. But lest we forget, this is a farewell, for perhaps up to a month, even if all goes smoothly. So the encounter’s sweetness is tinged with the bitter truth that they’ll be apart, something neither of them want but are strong enough to accept.

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Loved the very sudden surprise appearance by Lord Haruka, Eternal Stodgy Sourpuss, only this time he’s fully accepted Shirayuki’s right to be at court. Of course he doesn’t miss out on the chance to remind her not to return in disgrace. Shirayuki very adorably asks for a trinket of Zen’s to keep with her, and he gives her his pocket watch, which she promises to give back upon her return. Even Prince Izana, the apparent mastermind in this dastardly scheme, shows up to see Shirayuki off.

As for Izana’s reasons for doing this, I can think of three: he wants to make sure Prince Zen can still function as a Prince of Clarines when his girlfriend isn’t constantly by his side; he wants Shirayuki to learn more about court life, in preparation for her to one day become Zen’s consort; and finally, to give Shirayuki the opportunity to spend some time outside of Wistal Castle and return to her home; offering her a good look at other potential paths, to ensure she’s on the right one.

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And Shirayuki will definitely see other things and people on her journey, from an Obi who acts a specific way around her (and knows how to clean up and speak pretty when he needs to); and a Prince Raj who upon welcoming her (back) to his kingdom seems to have changed somewhat for the better…only to revert back to his old goofy, wishy-washy self once they’re in the throne room.

I actually thought the transition was too quick; I kinda wanted to see Raj on his best behavior a little longer. Nevertheless, he seems shocked and a little overwhelmed that the girl he tried to forceably marry not long ago is actually there. Maybe he has changed, in that he realizes how badly he acted, and acknowledges he owes her a debt to her from his last stop in Clarines. Time will tell, but for now, all eyes are on Shirayuki–and not just for that dazzling apple-red hair.

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Oregairu 2 – 12

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Haruno gets the ball rolling from the get-go this week, calling into question Hikki’s efforts so far to find that mythical “real thing” he spoke of tearfully to reconcile with Yukino and Yui after his fake confession to Hina.

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Things seem back to normal for the three, but a tension remains, one that’s probably intensified by the presence of, say, Iroha, who is now all but an unofficial member of the club, while the balance between Hikki, Yukino, and Yui, was delicate before she showed up.

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The normalcy with a film of tension continues when the club gets Yumiko and Saki as clients, both wishing to make chocolate for the impending Valentine’s Day, a day when people typically give chocolate either out of obligation or affection to the recipient.

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Iroha uses her resources and the other school they worked with before to share resources and organize a big chocolate-making workshop. The girls cook with varying degrees of success while the guys taste.

Here, after a previous incident in the episode where Iroha seemed flattered Hikki didn’t consider her younger than him, Iroha seems similarly flattered when he praises her cooking skills, but hides it with another rapid-fire rejection before shoving a spoon in his mouth. Their push-pull, along with Kaori’s promise to make Hikki chocolate this year (likely out of obligation), paint the picture of a Hikki who’s more popular than ever.

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Then there’s Yukino, who seems increasingly nervous and flustered around Hikki, and both panic when they both touch the same bowl. Their behavior is plain to see, especially to Yui, who can’t mask her discomfort with the moment of closeness between the other two.

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Things get increasingly awkward throughout the workshop, especially when Haruno further stirs the shit, Orihara Izaya-style. The elder Yukinoshita bemoans the fact the three youngins before her are “boring”, and questions both the existence of the “real thing”, and calling into question Hikki’s resolve to achieve it.

As he eloquently puts it, Haruno is always there to remind him of things he’d rather not think of, just as another older mentor in Shizuka is less aggressive and cynical in her meddling. The olds are sitting around watching the youngs, and they want something to happen. I can relate!

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The cake is taken when Yukino’s snooty mom shows up in her Toyota Century in traditional clothing to scold Yukino for being out so late doing who-knows-what and expressing her fear her daughter’s on the “wrong path” to the future.

She claims to want Yukino to live her life, but maybe that’s something she told herself before Yukino got to the point where she actually would, a time that’s is already here. She can’t help but want to set her straight, no matter how intrusive it looks.

That puts Yukino on edge, and also increases the awkwardness between the trio, all three of whom, we must remember, are still, with just one episode left, trying to figure out who they’re supposed to be, and what happiness is supposed to be…and still struggling mightily.

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