More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 09 – Not like that other summer

Summer Break has arrived, and Kamo has lined up a 3-day live-in beach resort job, both for himself and for Jirou. Jirou is not enthusiastic until he learns that Shiori will also be working there with Mei, and then he’s on board 100%. When Jirou comes home, Akari shows him her new skimpy, strappy bikini and revel in his embarrassment.

Talk of summer break feels kind of lonely to Akari (as she wears his sweatshirt), but when Akari hesitates to say he’ll be lonely without her, she starts to feel lonely herself, and pulls herself into an embrace to “recharge her batteries.” It’s yet another “couch event” that pits her longstanding desire to date Minami and her growing feelings for Jirou.

But as it turns out, they won’t be apart at all: she, along with Sachi and Natsumi, will also be working at the beach resort. So we end up with Jirou, Kamo, Minami, Shuu, Akari, Shiori, Mei, Natsumi, and Sachi all under the same roof for three days (albeit separated by gender).

Shiori is determined to make some progress this summer, and while Mei blushes at Shiori’s complements of her uncharacteristically cute waitstaff outfit, she also encourages Shiori to be more aggressive in pursuing Jirou. This results in her approaching Jirou, asking him where he’ll be working, and deciding on the spot she’ll be working there too.

That turns out to be the kitchen, where Mei sets up a situation for Jirou to grab something from a high shelf for Shiori, and then Shiori guides Jirou in the proper way to apply whipped cream to a parfait. This results in Shiori saying a lot of sexy-sounding double-entendres, and then Jirou squirting whipped cream all over his and Shiori’s faces.

When Shiori feels the warmth of Jirou’s hands on her face as he cleans her up, the two draw closer and closer into an imminent kiss—which is then rudely interrupted by Sachi and Natsumi. They get what they came to the kitchen for and then depart, telling the two they’re free to go back to their fun.

They don’t, which might be a mistake. Both of them think “there’s plenty of time”, but there really isn’t! They get three days, and then they’ll be with their parents the rest of the summer, unless they’re proactive about hanging out over that time (fat chance).

Despite the fact Akari and Shiori continue to be extremely cute together, and are making a little progress just enjoying each other’s company, it remains unlikely Jirou will end up with his childhood friend; that’s just not how these shows work!

I just hope that even if Shiori may never return Mei’s romantic feelings, Mei will still be there for her when Shiori’s heart is broken. It’s also unclear if, in a situation where Akari and Jirou are a couple, Shiori even wants anything to do with him anymore, or if they can make it work as friends.

We only have three episodes left, so this episode, in which the summer job everyone was hired for and the live-in scenario is established, is mere setup for (hopefully) bigger things to transpire. When Jirou spots Akari on the beach in her other swimsuit, he realizes she wasn’t joking when she said she was saving the racy one just for him. Could Akari be using this trip to confirm that her feelings for Minami have cooled and that Jirou is the one for her?

I’m almost certain Shiori wasn’t pointing at the love hotel perched above the beach like Jirou and Kamo excitedly believe. But we’ll have to wait until next week to see how that misunderstanding is corrected, and if this summer live-in job scenario will pay any dividends for its participants.

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 08 – Lost in the forest of decision

This week was difficult at times, but also necessary in a satisfying way. We start with Shiori, Mei, Jirou, and Akari all alone, wondering how long things will stay “this way”, in a state of confusion, frustration, and longing. Not forever, surely!

Even Jirou’s video game is asking him to make a choice between two princesses, warning him the wrong one would “destroy the kingdom”. That’s not far off! Suffice it to say, the current state of things is becoming untenable for everyone.

When the new monthly rankings come out, Jirou and Akari only make it to thirteenth place, which means they still lack the mechanism to enact a decision regarding whom they wish to truly be with. Even so, the marriage practical is a false obstacle. They really don’t need to make it to the Top 10 to sort this out!

In the meantime, Jirou and Akari’s marriage continues apace. Akari’s arachnophobia supplants any modesty about running in on Jirou when he’s nakked in the bath, and in her state of fear and vulnerability she’s never squeezed him tighter. Since the 2mm spider has disappeared, Akari insists on Jirou staying by her side all day, even as she does her nails.

Jirou can shrug off all this sudden intimacy with Akari as a product of her fear of spiders and need for someone by her side to protect her, not necessarily a romantic partner. Since they’re still playing the marriage game to make the Top 10 and swap for their crushes, he remains convinced Akari isn’t interested in him in any other way.

Of course, she is, and she wouldn’t bring up “what ifs” like asking what would’ve happened if they’d met outside the bounds of the compulsory marriage practical. Nor would she ask if they should try dating, like the fifth-ranked couple apparently has started to do. She only says “just kidding” because the silence grows too long, while Jirou wonders why he thought seriously about it for a second. Dude, because she was serious.

This is not the first, nor will it be the last time Akari says something straight-up only to amend it or dismiss it as messing around. The beautifully staged and lit overhead shot of the two alone in their bed that night says still more than her overt words. That thick, dark wall is doing a lot of work, visually and thematically.

Over at Casa de Sakurazawa-Tenjin, Minami can tell something’s troubling Shiori and offers to help, even if he’s not confident he’ll be able to. Shiori confides in him her “friend’s” situation, in which she’s kissed the person they like and now can’t think of anything else. Minami picks up pretty easily that Shiori is talking about herself, but steadfastly doesn’t break the charade.

We finally learn something interesting about Minami in that he apparently missed his chance to confess to the person he loved, and urges Shiori’s “friend” to have confidence and keep trying if there’s a possibility it will work out. We knew that he and Shiori had nothing going on romantically, but this proves it. Also, pretty rich telling her to be confident when he apparently has so little of his own!

As for the true third vertex in the Shiori-Jirou love triangle, Hamano Mei and Shiori have a deeply romantic little scene in the classroom after school, even if Shiori isn’t at all aware of  how her compliments truly affect Mei. Even Mei’s husband Shuu is aware of how much she loves Shiori, and arranges to go out with Minami on a karaoke all-nighter so the two girls can have a sleepover.

Shuu learns another nugget about Minami when he hangs out with him and their café boss that night: Minami has an older brother, and their boss says since it’s a family of “ikemen” even siblings are rivals. Sounds like his bro might’ve stolen his true love? As for the boss, he’s Sadaharu’s older brother.

When Shiori and Mei are planning sleeping arrangements, talk turns to looking at old photos. Mei looks forward to seeing lil’ Shiori … right up until Shiori bashfully says most of the photos contain Jirou as well. Mei checks her phone and heads off on a family errand, abandoning the sleepover plan because she knows who Shiori really loves.

Sadaharu ends up at a restaurant with Jirou, and despite not drinking like his big bro, comes up with the hair-brained idea that he needs to bring his new accidentally lecherous friend back down to his level … by kissing him. While he’s leaning in for that smooch, Shiori, now alone, just happens to pass by, and seemingly gets a look at them, and walks off with no reaction.

Jirou chases after her to explain things, but as she didn’t actually see him and Sadaharu, she assumes he’s talking about their accidental kiss. She was looking at the restaurant sign that contained the symbol for “kiss”. When they thankfully clear up this misunderstanding, they each take one of the handles of the bag and walk together.

When conversation turns back to their kiss, Shiori insists that Jirou hear her out. He doesn’t have to apologize for the kiss, because she asked him to kiss her for practice, and she admits she learned a lot, so she earnestly thanks him. Jirou is confused, since he still thinks she wants to be “friends (and only friends) forever”, but he can’t deny that she sets up another potential kiss for them right then and there.

Sadly, when two cats interrupt their moment Shiori quickly shifts to small talk, but hey, at least these two are talking again, and Jirou understands that Shiori doesn’t feel bad about their kiss.

Jirou’s video game princess warned that the kingdom will be destroyed if he makes the wrong choice. The “kingdom” in this case could be his friendship with Shiori, whether they take it to the next level or if he chooses Akari. The same scenarios apply to Mei: confessing to Shiori means possibly abandoning regular friendship in the future.

In either case, the old has to be torn down before something new can be built in its place. The fear and hesitance of doing so is all too understandable and relatable—as is the result of not making choices: the aforementioned increasingly untenable purgatory. Something’s gotta give, and hopefully something will!

I’ve watched many a frustrating-as-hell rom-rom in which characters didn’t make what I felt to be the obvious, easy choice. This show is doing a great job really putting us in each character’s shoes and explaining why they’re having so much difficulty, and making clear that there are no easy choices.

Urusei Yatsura – 04 – As the Crow Flies

Ataru and Lum are playing Shinobu and Mendou in a spirited game of doubles tennis, and Lum ignores pleas not to cheat by flying. Her resulting point soars so far it smacks one of the tengu crows carrying a capsule containing a slumbering space princess. It slides down the hill and flattens Mendou, and Ataru pounces on it as soon as he sees the face of the occupant.

The crow attendants are impressed not with Ataru, but with Mendou’s “slicked-back” good looks. They believe he’ll be the perfect mate for their Princess Kurama to engage in “amorous congress” with. They urge Mendou to kiss her so she’ll awaken and get down to business.

Naturally, Mendou is a little hesitant, but Ataru isn’t, and steals the kiss. Lum immediately zaps him into the stratosphere, so the first thing Kurama sees is Mendou’s handsome mug, and assumes he’s The Guy.

The four crow attendants are fine with this, but their elder is against it. Tradition dictates that the one who awakened her with a kiss become her mate, and that’s the Ataru clown.

The others want to keep that a secret, and so does Lum, who agrees to help them ensure the princess ends up with Mendou. Kurama then arrives in class and is all over Mendou, causing a huge uproar among his many admirers. Both Ataru and Shinobu try to tell her the truth, but are tied up by the crows and Lum.

Lum and the crows then set to work building an impromptu “love nest” right in the schoolyard, into which Kurama drags a still-hesitant Mendou. While he recognizes her beauty, he still feels things are going way too fast. That’s when Ataru drops in, still tied up, to tell Kurama the truth: he kissed her.

The elder crow backs this up and says tradition must be adhered to. But when Kurama asks specifically why that is and what the consequences are, he has no idea. So the crows set up a device so he can confer with the past elders of the past of their homeworld.

The elder ends up going back to the very first elder, who admits to having created the tradition from whole cloth simply because it was the way he met his own bride after a long and exciting adventure.

At the news of this, Kurama smashes the miraculous device and says to hell with such a sappy, meaningly tradition. She storms back into her nest, and Mendou follows her in to commit himself to her as her groom.

That’s when Ataru puts a big ‘ol record scratch on their moment by dropping a giant temple bell on top of Mendou, sending him into his darkness basketcase raving mode. Kurama is instantly put off by such a pathetic display and leaves.

Freed from what ended up to be a capricious and arbitrary tradition, she’s raised her standards for who should be her husband, and sets out to find someone who “checks all the boxes”, marked by an inspiring postcard memory.

Princess Kurama is another fun new character with a cool, striking design and voiced with exquisite haughtiness by Mizuki Nana. I also enjoyed her crew of adorable doting crow tengu. While I salute her for washing her hands of Mendou and Ataru, the fact she’s just as shallow as they are suggests she won’t enjoy the best luck in her pursuit of the perfect man.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Urusei Yatsura – 03 – In Flies Another Hassle

It’s just another day in Ataru’s class with Lum hanging off of him and Shinobu throwing chairs and desks at him in, but then the mega-rich transfer student Mendou Shuutarou leaps out of one of his family’s fleet of private helicopters and is hit by one of the desks Shinobu throws. Shinobu approaches him to apologize and is immediately smitten with Mendou … giving a concerned Ataru a foot to the face.

Ataru doesn’t have to worry … much, as the moment Mendou spots Lum floating around class, he loses all interest in Shinobu. Unfortunately for him, Lum only cares about her Darling, Ataru. Mendou arrives on the day of the election for class president, but worried his administration will be too punitive towards his fellow male students, the lads nominate Ataru to run against him.

When the two tie (Ataru getting all the boys’ votes, Mendou getting all the girls’), Mendou challenges Ataru to a traditional Mendou family duel: a William Tell routine, but with cannon instead of pistols. In order to commence the duel Mendou has to throw a glove at Ataru, but finds it impossible due to Ataru’s ninja-like elusiveness. He ends up hitting Lum with his duel glove instead, and she zaps him for his trouble.

Despite the principal insisting students aren’t allowed to parachute into school, Mendou arrives the same way as his first day, only this time Lum runs into him instead of a desk, and the two get tangled in his parachute. Lum was searching for her Darling, who slipped away to have a private chat with Shinobu.

To Ataru’s dismay, Shinobu plainly admits she has the hots for Mendou and sees no reason why it’s any of his lecherous, cheating-ass’s business. Just then, the parachute falls, and Mendou ends up on top of Shinobu, who is as elated by the experience as Ataru is mortified.

When the class goes on a team-building trip to the woods, we see Lum in human clothes for the first time, and it’s clear she’s got fine fashion sense. As usual, Ataru would prefer to be alone with Shinobu than her, so when Mendou asks Lum if she’ll accompany him to explore a nearby limestone cave, Ataru invites Shinobu.

All four know that a cave means the potential for scary darkness and clinging to the one you like. The only problem is, everyone likes someone who doesn’t like them: Lum wants Ataru, Ataru wants Shinobu, Shinobu wants Mendou, and Mendou wants Lum. It’s a perfect romantic Ouroboros!

As expected, Ataru never ends up with his preferred clingmate, despite conspiring with Mendou to turn out their flashlights simultaneously. He first ends up with Lum while Shinobu gets Mendou. The next time they try it, the two boys end up with each other.

That’s when Ataru learns that Mendou becomes terrified to the point of tears and raving when he’s in a confined dark space … but only when girls aren’t looking at him. As in, even if Lum and Shinobu are right there with him, he wails like a baby when Ataru covers the girls’ eyes.

If it wasn’t clear from our previous dealings with Mendou, he’s just as much a lady-obsessed chowderhead as Ataru, only richer. He’s also voiced by fellow comedy vet Miyano Mamoru, one of the few seiyuu of his generation who can go toe-to-toe with Kamiya Hiroshi.

When the flashlights crap out for real, Lum is fed up and uses her electrical powers to light the way. But by doing so, she activates some kind of alien spaceship that was embedded in the rock, causing it to launch and create a huge hole in the caverns.

Everyone’s safe and sound, with the boys and girls embracing one another this time, but the ship attains Earth orbit and its passenger looks poised to awaken at any time … let’s hope next week. The more zany characters the merrier!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 01 (First Impressions) – Mismatch

Fuukoi, as it is also known, begins with the two female leads meeting at a shrine. The “plain” but cute Sakurazaka Shiori stumbles on the stairs and into the stylush gyaru Watanabe Akari, asking if she’s also there to pray for good luck with their forthcoming “marriage practical”.

What is a marriage practical, you say? An extremely weird and far-fetched means of the country trying to up its birth rate (?), I guess, and by far the weakest part of this debut episode. Male and female students are paired up and must live like a married couple in a Big Brother-style apartment, but are pointedly not allowed to sleep in the same bedroom. This system also apparently makes no accommodations for same-sex couples.

Our drab protagonist Yakuin Jirou, another weak point (never a good thing) wants to be paired with his childhood friend Shiori, while Akari wants to be paired with the equally stylish, blonde (and genuine Nice Guy) Tenjin Minami. So naturally, Jirou and Akari end up paired together, while his and Akari’s preferred matches end up paired up.

Neither Jirou nor Akari are happy about this, but it is what it is, but the good news is there’s a way to exchange partners: score enough points as a couple to make the A-Rank by the end of the month. Akari suggests they take the relationship lemons they’ve been given and make lemonade, but this is all A Lot for Jirou, considering the “love experience gap” between them.

Of course, Jirou’s wrong about this: Akari is just as chaste as he is, and all this as new to her as it is him. It’s too bad then, that she never tells him this to reduce the tension; call it pride and an unwillingness to admit they’re on the same level in that arena.

When Jirou goes to get them drinks and spots Shiroi with Minami, he gets even more depressed, but Akari tells him, and is right, that being mopey and indecisive won’t get him anywhere. They’ve got work to do scoring enough points to get the partners they want. So when Jirou’s annoying nerdy friend Sadaharu comes by to hang out, she asks for a goodbye kiss.

Caught between Akari and his insistent friend, Jirou kisses her without thinking … on the lips. It’s his kiss, but little does he know it’s also hers. The next day, Jirou wakes up on the couch, having apparently spent the night there (a little odd, considering I doubt he and Sadaharu got blackout drunk), and Akari urging him to get up and pull his weight.

A week passes, and Jirou and Akari make no progress. Shiroi and Minami, on the other hand, look like two peas in a pod, further frustrating and depressing Jirou. Their teacher asks him and Akari to come to the faculty office after school for a check-up. When Jirou tells Akari, she’s already off to karaoke with Minami, and tells him to do it solo.

He calls this his “worst day ever”, but Sadaharu says he’s got “a flower in each hand”—Shiroi the lily, Akari the rose. With no umbrella, he waits for the rain to subside, and then chance smile upon him when Shiori appears, having also forgotten hers.

As they talk, Shiori suddenly clutches him, because she thought she saw a bug (it was just a comical doodle of one). Turns out that’s why she clung to Minami earlier in the day—completely innocent, as expected. Shiori also objects to Jirou, her childhood friend, calling her “Sakurazaka” instead of her first name, which makes her feel lonely.

Jirou is taken aback by this, wondering if Shiori has the same feelings for him after all, but before he can say “Shiori” properly, Minami appears with her umbrella, and the two take off.

On the other side of the wall, Akari stands and waits a few beats, then approaches Jirou with an umbrella that they share on the walk home. She tells him how he struck out on trying to make something happen vis-a-vis Shiori. Indeed, by saying goodbye by calling her Sakurazaka, he actually left things worse off than they were before.

Yet again, it’s up to Akari to grab the mopey Jirou by the cheek and tell him to cheer up and focus his energy on the goal they agreed upon. It’s unfortunate Akari has to carry the mental load of her own issues while also trying to prop Jirou up. Dude needs to get his shit together because he’s quite unlikeable at the moment, whereas I like Akari a lot.

There’s another reason to like her when they come home, as she prepares perfect omurice for dinner, and even writes “love” on top in ketchup (while spouting quite a few double entendres). Jirou can’t deny it tastes amazing, and for once takes the initiative and offers to feed Akari with his spoon. After briefly hesitating, she takes the bite, leaving their faces oh-so-close together.

The moment is interrupted by a call form Sadaharu (silence your phone at dinner, dude!), for which Jirou is extremely relieved. But both their hearts are left pounding, which of course sets up the most likely endgame of shows like this with mismatched opposites gradually becoming closer and possibly eventually choosing one other over their original crushes.

The forced big brother scenario is dumb and troublesome to be sure, and Jirou needs a lot of work (obviously he’s supposed to be pathetic at this point) while, Akari has some great Kitagawa Marin vibes (albeit not nearly as honest with herself) and her and Shiori’s character designs are solid.

Aside from Akari, the main draw is the general look of the show: the scenery and colors are gorgeous and bold, making the darker rainy scenes feel that much more morose. It’s just so nice to look at, lacking the modeling or animation flaws of lesser productions.

ANN’s writers all hate this show, and I won’t argue with their reasons why. But for me, for now, the show’s pros are outweighing the cons. Sometimes you just need a bright, shiny, slightly horny show with a super-dumb premise. I had fun watching it.

Engage Kiss – 07 – Fullmetal Exorcist

While Shuu and Ayano were small fry to Sharon, being cornered by both Kisara, Ayano, and armored AAA units proves enough to force her to retreat, but only for the time being. Kisara and Ayano’s next priority is Shuu.

Kisara’s first instinct is to kiss him, but before their lips meet Ayano yanks her away by her hair. It’s the first indication this will be one of the hornier episodes of Engage Kiss, and I don’t mean demon horns.

While watching over a still-unconscious Shuu at the hospital, Kisara fills Ayano in on her and Shuu’s history with Sharon—using a great number of double entendres. Shuu seduced and teamed up with Sharon in order to find Kisara, but while Sharon wanted her dead, Shuu wanted her alive so he could use her power. When Shuu decided to run away with Kisara, he poisoned Sharon with a neurotoxin—through intercourse.

Sharon may say this is strictly Abbey business, but the fact we know the means by which Shuu scorned her means I’m not surprised there’s a personal element mixed in there. Of course, were their roles reversed, Sharon would have certainly done the same thing; she was just momentarily distracted by, well, sex.

The horniness continues as the detectives investigate a cargo ship that was robbed of “mechanical parts”, which we know to be a mech suit that contains demon flesh. In order to put it on, Sharon naturally has to strip in the moonlight, then allow the demon flesh tentacles to envelop her and pull her in, which results in a combination of pain and pleasure. This is pretty high-level shameless ecchi raunchiness, but it totally works.

It’s with this demon tentacle mech suit that our sexy scorned blonde battle nun intends to fight Kisara on equal terms. Kisara happily responds to Kisara’s text invitation to an abandoned warehouse for the duel. Kisara comes in her normal schoolgirl form with her sword, which is just what Sharon was hoping for.

She continues to exploit Kisara’s confidence by only showing off the suit’s conventional lead-bullet gun and tough demon sword-blocking armor, then whips out the demon flesh, which creates lasting wounds on Kisara’s body that slow her down and sap her energy.

When Kisara is impaled in the midsection by a demon tentacle, it’s looking like an upset victory for Sharon (who maintains her only objective is eliminating demons), but then Shuu manages to get Kisara away to a secluded hallway of the warehouse.

When Kisara comes to, she maintains her pouty face over what down with Shuu and Ayano—which, as we know, Shuu knows nothing about. We also know he doesn’t remember being lovers with Sharon. Kisara doesn’t want his apologies, he wants to know what she is to him.

After she rejects his request to table the issue for now, he assures her that if it wasn’t her, he’d never even think about kissing another demon. Yes, he’s deceiving and using her, but it doesn’t matter; his simple sentiment is enough to motivate her to keep fighting beside him.

After they make out, Kisara engages her Hot Topic form, which proves too much for a mere human in a suit, demon tentacles or no. As with all battles in Engage Kiss this one is thoroughly fun and, well, engaging, and you can really feel the momentum shift when Kisara ups the speed and power of her attacks.

Sharon ends up beaten unconscious at the bottom of several stories worth of warehouse rubble. She’s found by the police with her mech suit half-melted off, revealing half her naked body, because of course it does.

Shuu and Kisara end up making up, with the latter suggesting they hit up the diner without even changing her blood-soaked uniform. Ayano shows up half a beat too late with coffees, irritated that the rift between Kisara and Shuu didn’t last.

Finally, a captive (and fully clothed) Sharon tells Mikami that Celestial Abbey isn’t done in Bayron City. There’s an even larger Demon Hazard than Kisara that’s coming, and if eliminating it means destroying the city, so be it.

On paper, Bayron lacks the strength to oppose an ancient international organization of exorcists—including eleven other “Living Relics” like Sharon. They still have Kisara on their side, but will she, and what’s left of Shuu’s memories, really be enough? Also, how many other women was Shuu involved with, about whom Kisara wiped all memory?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Couple of Cuckoos – 01 (First Impressions) – Family Knots

Umino Nagi is a straight-A student at a good school who spends most of his time studying and battling his academic rival. He was also accidentally switched at birth. Now that he’s sixteen, he’s going to meet his birth parents. While his sister Sachi, who has been his sister for those sixteen years, decries her brother as an egg-headed loner, her tough act quickly falls when faced with the possibility of losing her brother.

Nagi pats her head and assures Sachi he has no intention of changing his family this late in the game. On his way to the meeting, he encounters a beautiful young woman with twin tails in a frilly dress, seemingly about to jump to her death. Nagi leaps into action, but inadvertently gropes the girl while trying to keep her from jumping. And she wasn’t going to really jump, she was just recording something for her Insta.

While not the most auspicious (or original) manner of meeting, the two soon bond over a common problem: family issues. The girl, one Amano Erika, is trying to start drama in order to convince her mom that she’s not getting married, while Nagi is a mix-up baby. When he learns what school he attends, she decides that he will be her fake boyfriend so she can gt the wedding called off.

When Nagi bristles at this plan and tries to walk away, she holds up very crisp 8K video of him groping her. While I wish there had been one of those *ding-dong* sounds accompanied by a PSA saying “Let’s not blackmail people”, this puts Nagi in a bind, and surrenders. The speed with which Erika resorts to an underhanded tactic is later revealed to be a clue about who she really is and where she comes from.

Despite having the wherewithal to blackmail and mocking Nagi for having never dated anyone, Erika has to google what boyfriends and girlfriends do. Both agree “doin’ it” isn’t a viable option, so she settles for photos of her with her bae. She gets it in her head that if they wear matching badass outfits and he looks tough, her parents will be more inclined to back down. Thus in the middle of this fake boyfriend ploy, they have a dress-up date.

Despite Erika blowing over $3,800 (on her limitless credit card, confirming she’s a rich girl in net worth) none of the photos they take look genuine, but rather look exactly like what they are: staged. Erika ends up going with their first photo, which was taken on accident and thus totally candid and natural, giving you “a sense of the air of the moment,” as she rather poetically put it. Alas, it doesn’t work, and her parents urge her to stop messing around and head home before curfew.

Before she can, Nagi enters another very well-worn but in this case nicely-executed trope of accidental romance anime: revealing surprising toughness when the girl is threatened by three stalkers. This happens very suddenly after an episode that had a nice steady flow, and I feel like another comic disclaimer not to commit assault should have popped up, but I still like how it revealed a new side to Erika: that Nagi’s former delinquent parents brought him up to win any fight he found himself in.

Erika genuinely appreciates his chivalrous behavior, and when her car shows up to take her home, lets him know she’ll delete the blackmail video, something I appreciated being resolved here and now rather than continue to loom over Nagi. Erika reveals that because she’s “like this” she has no friends, but that she and Nagi felt like friends for a day and it was fun. She also says, claiming to be joking later, that if it were him she had to marry, she might not have as much of a problem with it.

Naturally, when Nagi arrives to meet his birth parents, he learns both they and his own parents have arranged for their two kids to marry, so that they can all be one happy family. They just assumed the photo meant they’d already met and were dating!

Tha means his birth parents’ kid, the one he was switched with, is Erika, which explains why she has more of a delinquent streak in her (and sense of street fashion!) than a hoity-toity rich princess. In keeping with the nature she inherited form her birth parents, she follows through on her promise to punch her fiancé the way Nagi punched those punks.

That is one hell of a conceit, and once you suspend your disbelief such a ridiculous arrangement would ever be made between two very different pairs of parents without any input from their children, it looks to be an extremely fun one too. A Couple of Cuckoos arrives fashionably late but looks great and has a goofy but engaging concept, while the 24-episode run means we’ll have ample time to dig into who Nagi and Erika are and how they handle this arrangement.

The two cours also means there’ll be ample time to tell three parallel relationships: between Nagi and Erika, the kids switched at birth, between Nagi and Sachi, siblings not related by blood, and finally the surprise reveal of Nagi’s aforementioned academic rival, who is also his crush, Segawa Hiro (Touyama Nao), whom he’s vowed to confess to once he’s usurped her class ranking throne. Did I mention she can’t remember his name? It’s all a big, beautiful mess!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bokutachi no Remake – 07 – Noncommittal by Necessity

Rather than being a fifth wheel, Sayuri clings to Tsurayuki during her extended visit while both Shinoaki and Nanako start clinging to Kyouya, no doubt feeding off Sayuri’s romantic vibes. Sayuri doting on Tsurayuki gives them license to dote on Kyouya. But both we and Kyouya soon learn that Tsurayuki just…doesn’t love Sayuri that way.

When not trying to feed Kyouya, Shinoaki is showing him stills of sex scenes then kneeling between his legs to sketch his crotch. When Nanako emerges from her room whining, Kyouya goes in and assures her the digital music she composed will do just fine, and she “recharges” by hugging him tight from behind, not letting him go.

While Kyouya is being an supportive emotional rock to his dormmates, while Sayuri ups her efforts to return home with Tsurayuki in hand by trying to seduce him in a see-through nightie, Kyouya himself finds support and comfort in his café sessions with Eiko.

She must confess she’s impressed not only by the progress he’s made with the game, but in so easily getting Tsurayuki and Shinoaki to change their styles to something more commercial.

But as the game progresses, Kyouya has a very date-like Christmas Eve out in the city with Shinoaki, and the four make a New Years shrine visit where both Aki and Nanako most certainly hope for more progress with Kyouya. Their implicit trust in his producing abilities is turning into a full-on love triangle, with neither girl prepared to lose to the other.

But, again, as Kyouya makes clear to, who else, Eiko: he doesn’t like either of them that way. And that’s okay! Forget about the fact he’s mentally much older than either. Kyouya didn’t get into this to become either Aki or Nanako’s boyfriend; he did it to remake his life.

Even though this past Eiko doesn’t yet have the history and heartbreak they shared in the future, you can just tell by the way she’s his confidant and emotional rock that these two are the superior couple in the long run.

While Eiko would normally call someone being as wishy-washy as Kyouya a scumbag, she sees why he’s doing it, and it’s not just because he’s scared of hurting them. He’s scared of poisoning the group dynamic and ruining the game they’re working so hard to complete by April 29. Eiko’s advice to him is to continue to feign obliviousness…but considering how bold tAki and Nanako are getting, he probably can’t get away with that much longer.

On top of that love triangle, we have Sayuri continuing to disrupt Tsurayuki’s creative flow, her own goal of returning him to the home and life she believes to be good and right for him clashing not only against Kyouya’s goals, but Tsurayuki’s own dreams.

After Tsurayuki finally blows up at Sayuri and she doesn’t come back, she rolls up in her family’s classy Toyota Century (with its towering, intimidating chauffeur), takes him on a ride to the docks, where Kyouya starts getting unhappy mob vibes. Fortunately, Sayuri isn’t there to threaten him.

However, Sayuri has come to suspect that she’s lost her hold on Tsurayuki due to him being in an emotional and physical relationship with Kyouya. Kyouya denies vociferously, but her suspicions aren’t that out of whack. What she’s wrong about is that Kyouya and the others are leading Tsurayuki down a risky path.

Kyouya maks sure Sayuri understands that Tsurayuki is going down his own path, knew the risks from the start, and is doing it anyway. If she sees Kyouya supporting his friend as he walks that path as unwanted encouragement, fine; but Tsurayuki isn’t being manipulated by anyone. He’s doing what he wants to do, and he’s happy.

Thankfully, Sayuri is a grown-up about this and doesn’t force the issue—though she does leave Kyouya stranded at the docks! She bows and asks Kyouya to continue helping Tsu-kun “find happiness”, which is a heartbreaking thing to hear Tsu’s betrothed to say…but again, Tsurayuki never chose Sayuri, she was chosen for him.

By the same token, Kyouya never chose to be caught between Shinoaki and Nanako, while in their own subtle gradual way he and Eiko seem to be choosing one another. The question is, can he stave off the potentially inevitable destruction-by-drama of his group long enough to finish the game? After that, will Kyouya end up losing both Aki and Nanako after making his feelings clear?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Osamake DROPPED

It was a real struggle to get through this episode. As soon as Momo proposes a contest to see who can make the better sports drink commercial—a bunch of high school kids or a professional agency—complete with all kinds of rules and small print and secret conditions and hidden motives…I was pretty much checked out.

The completely irrational amounts of plot layered on top of plot absolutely suffocated the outing, and that’s before we get into Kuro’s half-assed fake amnesia, or Momo and Tetsuhiko’s convoluted plots, or the fact Shun is Tetsuhiko’s father, or Momo’s inevitable transfer to Haru’s class.

There was a time I was enjoying a show that promised in the title that the childhood friend would win. But as the show completely lost interest in its characters and tangled them up in a grotesque mess of plot points and twisted motivations, I’m afraid that time has now passed.

Osamake – 05 – Making a Comeback

While it’s no match for Super Cub in my book, Osamake takes itself out of last week’s tailspin by getting back to what it does best: illustrating the enduring relationships between Sueharu and the people closest to him. When Kuro’s sisters Midori, Akane and Aoi inform him that Kuro has lost all memories after he rejected her confession, it’s because they consider him their big brother, and only he can make things right.

It’s fun to see three different aspects of Kuro reflected in her little sisters, from Midori’s frankness and assertiveness and Akane’s affinity for analysis and logic, to Aoi’s pure virtuous femininity. They’re not just there to ask Haru to help; they’re there to remind him why he should want to help; Kuro is too precious to him to leave alone.

The youngest sister Akane says it best when she says if he returns to show business she’ll be “proud, but also sad”. She just insists that whatever choice he makes, he makes it from a positive mindset, and not “run away from love.”

As her sisters indicated, Kuro meets  Haru outside his front door the next day, ready to apologize for who from her perspective is her future self she has no memory of. She can’t fathom why she’d reject Haru when she loves him so much (it’s a boon to this series that this fact is never in doubt), and wonders if he still likes her even after she did something so awful to him.

When he recoils from her, she realizes how much that other Kuro fucked up, but she desperately wants him to trust her again. She feels they simply “started buttoning up from the wrong hole”, which is a hell of a metaphor! She wants to start over form the first, correct button-hole, It’s another boon to the series that Haru’s affection for Kuro hasn’t lessened in the least, as he asks her to stay by his side.

Haru and Kuro may have messed up a lot to this point, but they’re still too close and care about each other too much to let everything that’s happened ruin their close, deep relationship. It’s gratifying to see them make up like this, even if it’s marred by Shiro showing up in her car. Her intentions are at least somewhat altruistic, as she came to take Haru to school by car to avoid the press. And yet, she also believes Kuro doesn’t really have amnesia.

Haru decides to test this the best way he knows how: by attempting to feed Kuro a food she knows had traumatized her in the past: octopus weiners! When she eventually lets him feed her one and she doesn’t react as she should, he concludes she must have some amnesia.

And yet, the fact she doesn’t remember encouraging him to do his best for his cultural festival performance brings tears to his eyes, because he wouldn’t have been able to achieved what he did without her. She may not remember that particular instance of supporting him, but she still knows when her childhood friend is troubled and crying for her, so she embraces him warmly in thanks, and tells him she’ll keep supporting him in whatever he decides to do.

Turns out all of this was recorded by Shiro, who busts in to break up the love-in. But Tetsu is there too, and he wants to come up with a way to satisfy all parties. If Shiro wants Haru back in action, he suggests they work through his entertainment club to produce WeTube videos that will surely be popular because they’ll star Haru and will be written by Shiro, the person who can bring out the best in him.

Tetsu personally thinks that Haru can always get back into big-time show business as an adult, but should really enjoy his high school years while he can, because they’ll never come again. It’s actually a pretty well though-out compromise and Haru is definitely intrigued. He’s still going to talk to the agency, but recognizes he’ll have a hard choice to make.

The next day, Haru arrives at the agency where Maria is waiting for him, and we get a nice, efficient little scene that accentuates the bond these two have for each other. When they first met, Maria wouldn’t give him the time of day, and always thought him boring. But when she watched him act, she was captivated by his pure talent for entertaining people.

The only problem is, the agent Haru deals with while Kuro, Shiro, Maria, and Tetsu in tow is…a bit of a dick. He tries to entice both Haru and Kuro with lofty amounts of money he guarantees they’ll make if they sign with him. But when Haru firmly declines multiple times, and the agent mocks her for possibly not being raised right, Haru pours his expensive red wine on his head.

With that, it seems he’s made his choice: performing in videos written by Shiro, possibly co-starring Kuro, for Tetsu’s entertainment Club. I for one am with Tetsu: you’re only a high schooler once. Spend the time having fun with the people you care about, not putting your nose to the show business grindstone. Money can’t buy happiness!

I must mention: at times, probably most times, this episode looked like absolute crap. However, I still consider it a comeback from last week because it got back to why I liked the show in the first place: the chemistry between Haru and Kuro—which even a bout of amnesia couldn’t dull—as well as an enticing way forward for our once and future acting king.

Osamake – 04 – Piling On

Osamake reiterates the fine mess that has been made as each vertex of the Shiro-Haru-Kuro love triangle wallows in misery in their dark bedrooms. Haru blames himself, Kuro blames Haru, and Shiro blames Kuro for the mess, but they’re all pretty much equally responsible.

Tetsu doesn’t make things easier for any of them the next day at school when he announces that his video of the whole horrific fiasco was watched by over a million people on “WeTube”, though his primary goal wasn’t to humiliate anyone but promote Haru’s potential comeback.

The video has the unexpected effect of attracting another woman from Haru’s acting past: the now famous and beloved star Momosaka Maria, who stakes out her territory immediately by coming into Haru’s class and glomming onto him. When Shiro and Kuro try to complain, she dismisses them as, respectively, the woman he used to like and the woman who rejected him about as publically as anyone could reject someone.

Bottom line, Momo-chan considers them to be in Haru’s rearview mirror, while she represents his future. Haru was this little sister figure’s first love, and she’s determined to hitch her star to his wagon, so to speak. After she departs for the time being, Tetsu treats Haru to an apology pizza, only to reveal it was procured by his “jack-of-all-trades” fixer, Asagi Rena, who smells “good money” on a Haru comeback.

But Rena’s intro is interrupted by Shiro, who with her friend Meiko’s help invites Haru to come to her house sometime, ostensibly to meet with her father again. When Kuro tries to intervene, the mere sight of her triggers Haru’s trauma over being rejected and he literally turns into a tiny monkey hiding behind Shiro, who lets Kuro have it on his behalf.

Haru doesn’t like how things ended with Kuro there, but he’s more distressed about the mess he helped make as a result of not fully understanding how Kuro felt despite being so close to her for so long. He talks with Tetsu on the phone about it, unaware that Tetsu has him on speaker and Kuro is listening. Tetsu asks what Kuro is going to do, but she doesn’t respond.

Meanwhile, Momo continues her campaign to conquer Haru and cut the other two out of his life by letting herself into his house and cooking him all his favorite dishes, which she learned of from his late mother way back when. Haru realizes that the press crush and online calming must’ve been Momo’s doing, while Momo admits that the video was the trigger to finally approach him about rejoining the agency where they first met, now run by Shun Hardy, son of its former boss, “Auntie Nina.”

She has two cards: one for Haru and one for Kuro, but then this development is interrupted by another: Kuro’s three sisters are at Haru’s door to report that…Kuro has developed amnesia. As sudden bouts of amnesia (especially those unexplained by an accident or other physical trauma) are my least favorite anime plot device, I sincerely hope this is another ruse. But even if it is a ruse, it’s simply one too many things going on. The gorgeous mess has become an ugly one.

Shiro’s continuing attempts to make Haru fall for him again, the viral video kickstarting Haru’s acting career, the sudden appearance of Momo and Rena, whatever Tetsu still may be planning, and now Kuro apparently has freakin’ amnesia? It’s needlessly, discouragingly too damn much. Combined with the increasingly apparent meh production values, the shine is starting to wear off Osamake. I’m morbidly curious to see what becomes of this amnesia issue, but the show needs to settle down and focus soon, or I’m out.

Those Snow White Notes – 04 – New Guide, New Goal, New Sound

It’s all thanks to Sakura’s onigiri. When she greets Setsu and he enters the boarding house without responding, she can tell he’s out of sorts, and the only thing for that is food. When she delivers it, he’s on the phone with Wakana, and she gets the idea he’s talking about a girl he likes.

Setsu is terrified of not being able to live up to Shuri’s grandmother’s memory of gramps’ magnum opus, “Shungyou (Spring Dawn)”. But Wakana reminds him that Shuri didn’t know Gramps, and Setsu doesn’t know her grandmother. It’s impossible to try to exactly copy what she heard so many years ago, so he suggests Setsu rewrite her memory, using his own song.

Kamiki calls Mai to tell her he heard Setsu play, and while he clearly couldn’t show him his “sound”, he still heard the dizzying potential Mai always believed to be there, and so desperately wants to do battle with. Setsu gets a recording of “Shungyou”, but it’s on an ancient cassette tape. No problem; Kaito’s a vintage audiophile!

When Kaito asks why they can’t just play the tape for Shuri’s gram, Setsu says there’s no comparison between a taped performance and a live one. That makes it all the more impressive that even a cassette recording of Setsu’s gramps playing is able to fully transport both him and Kaito into the story of the song, ending with the titular and redemptive spring dawn.

Even a layman like Kaito can tell how God-level Setsu’s gramps was, and Setsu acknowledges he simply doesn’t have hands quick enough to match the picking at the climax of the piece. While he tries to play it, a passing young man declares Setsu’s sound “pinched and sharp”, i.e. frustrated and confined. He hands him a handmade Tamapiyo chick: something simple anyone can make, yet still causes peoples’ hearts to skip a beat.

Speaking of skipping a beat, Shuri’s heart does so as she watches the stream of Setsu playing that Yui first saw. When Kaito learns she had been keeping it from Shuri, he gets angry at Yui, provoking her into kicking him, saying “Shuri’s all you think about!” and storming off, blushing and mad. Clearly there’s a love triangle in play here, and the addition of Setsu makes it a rhombus.

Sakura forms still another vertex, as she welcomes the acerbic young man who told Setsu to simplify. He learns his name is Rai, he plays hosozao shamisen, and is the son of a rakugo performer. They’re also neighbors! Setsu followed his advice and thanks Rai for giving it.

The day arrives, and Setsu is clearly nervous because when he first meets Shuri’s grandmother he asks if she’s dead, then warns her not to die before he finishes playing. That’s gotta be nerves! But then he sits down, begins playing a sparser, more stripped down “Shungyou” that he can actually play, thus demonstrating his own new sound based upon his gramps but no longer an attempted perfect facsimile.

The sound transports Shuri’s grandma back to when she was a six-year-old evacuee shunned by those who took her in. She met a poor and starving boy slightly older than her, and she gave him her ration of potato to play something for her. That boy, Setsu’s grandfather, wept after playing, because he ate a starving girl’s potato. When she says it’s okay for her to die because her parent is dead, he said no, you have to keep living.

As Setsu’s streamlined performance moves everyone to tears, especially Shuri, who witnesses her gran smile for the first time in a long while. Setsu and Kaito saw the Spring Dawn over the mountains that turned a new page in the life of the unnamed subject of the piece—who could be anyone.

Gran’s eyes are also dazzled here by the rising sun over deep blue waves and a purple sky, the night dissolving into darkness. The image of her sitting and listening to Setsu’s gramps playing Shamisen is etched in her mind. It’s a cot-damn tearjerker, I tellsya; a new high watermark for the series in terms of emotional impact.


When it’s over, Shuri’s gran says it sounded different. That’s because the sound she heard back in the day was a very humble sound on a shabby shamisen, and yet it gave her the courage to live. She describes Setsu’s sound as a gentle sound that can heal pain, as it healed hers. She declares that she’ll be able to sleep again without becoming lost in colorless, soundless painful memories.

Setsu’s performance was a great success, and Shuri reminds him, Yui, and Kaito that they’re all in her Shamisen Club going forward. Setsu’s mom, being massaged and pampered by an army of servants, gets word from “the unit keeping an eye on Setsu” that he’s joined the club, and she takes the liberty of entering him into the National High School Tsugaru Shamisen Koshien—the Matsugurou Cup! Looks like Mai might just get her wish of going up against Setsu…

GODDAMN TEARJERKER™ CERTIFIED

This is a re-post from last week’s episode. Episode 5 review coming soon.

Osamake – 03 – Flipping a Switch

The day of the cultural festival and its all-important confession session have arrived, and Sueharu is ready to do battle with Mitsuru for Kachi’s heart. But just as Sueharu is causing Kuro to blush by complimenting her cute café outfit, he gets an unexpected visitor: Shirou, the kid he hung out with when he was little.

Of course, we know it’s just Kachi, with her seiyu Sakura Ayane only making her voice a little more boyish. To her surprise and delight, not only does Sueharu remember who she is, but remembers the promise he made to appear in something she wrote. Shirou reveals she is and was Kachi all along, and asks that he call her Shiro, and she’ll start calling him Su-chan again.

Kuro overhears this all, and isn’t ready to give Sueharu up just yet. Sueharu may not have known until now that Shirou was Kachi, but he knows Kuro well enough to know when she’s seeking attention, since she goes off on frustrated rants to him and only him. Everytime Kuro and Sueharu share the screen, you know you’re in for some wonderful character work.

Unfortunately their time together leading up to his big performance ends on a bitter note, as Kuro decides it’s necessary to “hit the reset button” on her and Sueharu’s relationship. She commemorates the moment with a slap, saying whatever he does with Kachi isn’t her concern. Though she runs off, she can’t help but turn back when Sueharu calls her name, and gives him just the saddest, loneliest smile as she wishes him luck on stage.

With that, the confession festival begins, and by God what a cur-sed exercise. Sure, it works out for one guy confessing his love to a girl who feels the same way, but seriously, if this is a real thing in schools these days I’m glad I’m not in high school anymore. I’ll confess to someone in private, thaaaaaanks.

The resulting song-and-dance-off between Mitsuru and Sueharu is suitably anticlimactic. I’m no dance instructor, but it looks like they’re both dancing like Elaine from Seinfeld, and their mouths rarely, if ever, move while they’re supposedly singing. Still, the scene is notable for not going the way I thought, with Sueharu suffering a sudden bout of stage fright and ruining his big chance, as several flags set earlier suggested.

I made special mention of Kuro’s parting smile immediately before his performance because that’s what I believe caused Sueharu to flip a switch of his own, and I’m not talking about going into stage mode. While he woke up that morning intending to confess to Shiro, his interactions with Kuro before and since have finally gelled into the realization that she is the one most important to him.

When Sueharu confesses to Kuro instead of Shiro, it’s a tremendous shock for both girls. Shiro is shook, while Kuro is caught so off guard she impulsively and very publically turns him down, still sore from when he turned her down.

As we learn in the aftermath of this total romantic fiasco when he and Tetsuhiko do the postgame show, Mitsuru wasn’t an asshole after all! Shiro was never dating him; he simply went along with it when she lied and then was too proud to take it back. Mitsuru intentionally chose a song that Sueharu was far better at performing, because he selfishly wanted to see Mitsuru back on stage.

Both Mitsuru and Tetsuhiko did all they could for Shiro and Sueharu, respectively. But when Sueharu changed on a dime who he’d be confessing to, he sealed his fate; Haru was under no obligation to say yes, due to a part of her wanting revenge against him for taking her for granted and pining for Shiro. Shiro, in turn, could have gotten Sueharu if she hadn’t lied about Mitsuru, which caused him and Haru to plot revenge against her.

Finally, Kuro played herself, because in hindsight the satisfaction she got from rejecting Sueharu simply wasn’t worth it. Now she regrets rejecting him, just as Shiro did after learning him quitting acting wasn’t his fault. The timing of all three sucked, resulting in all of them being alone and miserable.

And as complicated as this whole business felt, this is the last time it’s just Sueharu, Kuro, and Shiro, as a third girl is introduced post-credits, discovering her “Onii-chan” has returned to the stage. The messiness has just begun!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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