Sing “Yesterday” for Me – 07 – Video Games

Rikuo! Taking Haru Out! For DINNER! To celebrate his new job at a photography studio! Not just dismissing her as a convenience store clerk groupie in the alley, but treating her like…well, a lady! Hell, if I was Haru, I’d order a couple beers too, in hopes the universe wouldn’t card me.

With a third of the show in the books, we’re officially done with the introductions of the characters and their issues. The pieces are all arranged; all past and present love intersts accounted for…it’s officially time to play the game. And, well…as much as I love her, I fear it may be the beginning of Game Over for Haru…despite Rikuo’s newfound manners.

If Rikuo taking Haru out is meant to be both an olive branch after the business with his ex-girlfriend and a sign he’s finally taking her feelings seriously, an impatient Rou has decided to undermine Haru’s progress by essentially pushing Shinako closer to Rikuo.

Shinako has never had anything like boyfriend, but she knows she has no interest in Rou. She loved Yuu, but even that wasn’t necessarily romantic love. She loves Rou too, but as family member. Rou is simply barking up the wrong tree. He can wait and hope and try a “change of attitude” all he wants; Shinako ain’t interested!

It’s Rikuo Shinako goes to for council, wondering what she could or should be doing regarding Rou. Ironically, she states her believe Rou is “falling for an illusion”, while Haru has stated that all romantic love is is illusion (all while being hopelessly vulnerable to it all the same).

Rikuo’s advice doesn’t come from a place of moral superiority or jealousy or even lingering bitterness from being previously rejected by Shinako. He simply reminds Shinako that Rou isn’t a little kid anymore, that he knows life doesn’t always go the way you want, and if he wants to stress himself out, she should let him.

In not so many words, and regardless of whether it’s intentional, Rikuo is telling Shinako not to try to spare Rou the full force of Life Not Going Your Way. For whom does life always go right anyway? Rou has decided he’s rapidly approaching adulthood, and wants nothing else but to “catch up” to Shinako.

So Shinako tells him: she’s watching him; watching who he’ll become. It’s not a forceful rejection, but it still mostly sounds like one to Rou, who as Rikuo said is world-weary enough to read between the lines. Even so, it’s too gentle a gesture on Shinako’s part—as we’ll find out later.

Rikuo’s friend Fukuda visits him, and is happy to hear his progress in pursuing his interest in photography professionally. He even gives Rikuo a major boost by hiring him to photograph his upcoming nuptuals. Rikuo discusses it with a supervisor at lunch, and then after work, Haru is waiting outside the studio.

Haru wants to be someone Rikuo can confide his problems in and seek advice and help. At first Rikuo is dubious, but eventually comes out and remarks how it almost feels like the “universe is nagging” him, asking “what do you want to become?” after a period of not asking, and him not caring or trying. It’s kind of stressful, but Haru tells him to keep stressing out…”it’s how everyone gets to be who they are.” She’s such a gift…

Haru doesn’t realize the universe isn’t just nagging Rikuo about his career or calling. Fukuda knows how terrible Shinako is at dating and romance, and all but assures Rikuo that he can’t assume she’ll make the next move.

Fukuda’s wedding comes, and Rikuo snaps photos…including candids of Shinako, who was also invited after all. He tries to take both Fukuda and Haru’s advice, but chickens out at the last moment, using the need to return his boss’ camera to take his leave.

His hesitation doesn’t really matter, as without trying Rou once again causes memories of Yuu to surface in Shinako. She tries to leave his place, but he can sense the tears welling in her face before he sees it, and follows her as she flees. When he bared his arm in front of her, it looked just like Yuu when he’d receive shots. Shinako never looked away from Yuu’s arm, thinking if he was being so strong, she’d have to be strong too.

Rou takes this opportunity to wrap his arms around Shinako’s, but her impulse isn’t to sink into that embrace, but to ask—clearly and more than once—for him to let her go. Rou being “the only one who knows how important” his bro was to her isn’t the secret weapon he thinks it is. It is, in fact, anathema, as Rou is a constant reminder of that which Shinako knows she has to move past.

Shinako knows she’s being selfish and presumptuous, but waits for Rikuo anyway. After a calming soft drink at a family restaurant, he walks her home, but she’s frustrated that all they’re talking about is her and Rou, when the thing she can’t deal with she really wants to talk about goes unsaid. She proceeds to explain why she initially rejected him, citing an inability to forget Yuu and a fear of being alone.

Rikuo then reiterates that he was willing to wait for her, to which she replies that maybe she was waiting too. Maybe she can’t move on until somebody—somebody not Rou—pulls her. When they’re briefly interrupted by her neighbor, Rikuo suggests they find a place to talk more in private.

Then Shinako invites him into her apartment…“although it’s messy.” You got THAT right, Ako-chan!

P.S. There’s a new ED for Yesterday this week (with a new song by Sayuri) depicting an arcade game featuring an 8-bit Haru and her crow flying around town defeating enemies and launching relentless love attacks at Rikuo. It ends with Game Over, as Rikuo walks off-screen with Shinako while poor Haru is surrounded and pelted by foes. Yikes!

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 12 (Fin) – Team Effort

In an attempt to be fair, not equal, Miku cites a technicality in the Campfire Legend: the key is not dancing with Fuutarou, but holding his hand at the finale. Since Fuutarou has two hands, she proposes she and Ichika both be holding them at the proper time. Unfortunately Ichika was coughing and couldn’t hear what Miku proposed, and Miku can’t bring herself to repeat it.

That brings us to the more pressing matter: Itsuki has apparently vanished. Despite fading fast due to catching Raiha’s cold (getting wet last night couldn’t have helped) Fuutarou coordinates a search, bringing a masked Ichika (who apparently caught Raiha’s cold through him) along with him. However, whenever a quint is masked or their face otherwise concealed, one has to suspect something is up. Also, the normally lilac-topped “Ichika’s” hair looked a bit too deep red.

Sure enough, Fuutarou catches on that “Ichika” is really Itsuki in disguise, because back when they were skiing she called him “Uesugi-kun” instead of “Fuutarou-kun.”He waits until the two of them are up in a chair lift to say so.

Turns out Itsuki got separated and lost due to her poor eyesight. That begs the question Why not contacts? Nino wears ’em, and her vision is thoroughly impaired. In any case, Itsuki was apparently testing Fuutarou to see if he’d be able to tell them apart…because their father can’t, I guess?

Itsuki’s whole thing is a bit of a head-scratcher, so let’s move on, shall we? Fuutarou reaches his limit, and he reaches the point where he can’t seem to get rid of the five quints, when at the start they were running away from him. 

He somewhat coldly asks what purpose would be served by any of them staying with him, and the head teacher declares the room where he’s resting to be out-of-bounds, which all but ensures they’ll find a way to break in and be with him.

This is all happening during the campfire, which Nino stands beside all alone, dancing with no one. Fuutarou took her a aside earlier to tell her “Kintarou” couldn’t make it, which seems like a cowardly move on his part, especially after she explicitly asks if she can trust him. I know he’s trying to spare her feelings, but I reckon Nino would prefer honesty over fiction.

Meanwhile, Miku and Ichika have a nice sisterly moment where Miku does what Fuutarou couldn’t with Nino: she’s forthright and honest. She likes Fuutarou, so she’s going to do what she wants going forward, while accepting that the others can do what they wish too. Even Yotsuba has a rare subdued moment where she finds Fuutarou’s well-worn camp guide and kicks herself for pushing him so hard he got sick, when again it was likely Raiha who got him sick.

As the campfire (and, incidentally, the show) builds towards its finale, the five sisters are surprised to find all of them breaking into Fuutarou’s room at the same time, even going for the light switch in unison. They also each manage to grab one of his fingers the moment the campfire ends.

Flash forward to the future, when Raiha is now a high schooler, the morning of the day her brother is getting married. The bride we see could be any one of the quints we know, and indeed is depicted as more of an amalgam of the five than any individual quint.

It’s therefore an incomplete future; he may one day have to choose one and their identity may be revealed, but this season is not interested in answering the question of who quite yet. There’s more story to be told! Back at school, the five sisters are finally on the same page about studying with him, with the final holdout Nino tsundere-ly relenting to the majority. Ichika’s decision to quit or change schools for her acting career is left up in the air.

When a recovered Fuutarou warns them he’ll be working them hard in order to get their test scores up, they’re all unnerved and run away from him together, the way they used to when they first met him. The difference is, they’ll be back, for his tutoring, for his friendship, and maybe for more. They can’t not…after all, they were all held hands at the end of that campfire!

In the final ranking of the Quintuplets…Wait, what’s this? They all scored 100? It’s a five-way tie! What are the odds? Looks like the argument of “Who is the Best Quint?” will have to be resolved in Season 2, coming Winter 2021…

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 11 – Their Own Campfire

There are two distinct sensors that can’t be tripped when she and Fuutaoru are trapped in the storage shed, potentially overnight: the burglar sensor on the door to the shed, or the sensor in her heart. It’s a corny line, but it’s said internally, where as we all know all manner of corny things are said in the comfort of our own heads, so it’s fine. It’s also adorable, and another reason why Ichika has pulled away as my favorite of the five Nakano quintuplets. That, and amazing lines like “No enjoying my thighs!”

As Yotsuba, Miku and Itsuki notice that both Ichika and Fuutarou are missing, Ichika tries to pass the time chatting with Fuutarou, only for him to be preoccupied with making a fire. What finally gets his attention is her telling him she’s thinking of quitting school—something she couldn’t tell any of the sisters. To her surprise, he doesn’t judge or condemn her. Instead, he lauds her for finding something she wants to do, and envies her for having the requisite options.

Ichika needed someone to tell her it’s okay, and he does so, unaware of how significant it is coming from him. Then he successfully starts the fire, and Ichika assents to calling off their dance at the school campfire. However, that doesn’t preclude them having their own little campfire dance right then and there, and further driven by her heart, she holds out her hand with the brightest smile we’ve seen from any quint to date.

If that invitation to dance didn’t cause your eyes to shimmer at least a little, you might be a Grinch! But then Fuutarou brings up the campfire legend that Ichika did not know about, and she withdraws from him, overcome by guilt for inadvertently hurting Miku. In the process, she knocks over a big log, which almost falls on her before Fuutarou swoops in to rescue her, locking the two in a romantic dance-like pose.

When the log falls it damages the door, trips the alarm, and activates the sprinklers, but fortunately it’s switched off before security is called. Unfortunately for both Fuutarou and Ichika, Miku and Itsuki are the ones who deactivate the alarm and unlock the door, discovering Fuutarou and Big Sis in what could artfully described as in flagrante delicto, through no fault of their own.

The next day, both Ichika has caught cold (due to the sprinklers) but Fuutarou is yanked out of bed by Yotsuba to go skiing. When he meets Miku on the slopes she’s cold towards him, as neither she nor Itsuki 100% believed his and Ichika’s explanation of last night’s events. Mostly, Miku is frustrated with her predicament: if she and her four sisters are all “equal”, what is she supposed to do with her feelings for Fuutarou if Ichika has already taken steps?

Yotsuba proposes a game of ski-tag, Ichika eventually joins the others, and while she’s skiing beside Fuutarou makes sure he hasn’t/won’t tell anyone else what she told him about quitting school. Not knowing how to stop, Fuutarou crashes, and ends up in the vicinity of where Nino was snowboarding. When wiping his brow, the band-aid she put on “Kintarou’s” forehead comes off and she finds it.

Once again, I wish he’d simply reveal to Nino that Kintarou is an invention and that he’s the cool guy she likes, only with different hair. But at least when he hides from her (and Yotsuba, as the game of tag is still on), he ends up in the same igloo as Miku, and in the warmth of that space her frustration gradually fades. It’s a lovely, cozy, disarming scene between the two.

Miku proposes a handicap against Yotsuba, but he doesn’t want to ignore the work she put into being the most athletic quint. He wants to be “fair, not equal” in their treatment of her, and that’s when a light bulb blinks on in Miku’s head. She doesn’t have to feel restricted by the notion that she and her sisters are all equal. All is fair in love and war!

As Itsuki skis all by her lonesome, Miku gives Ichika a call. Hopefully some air can be cleared in the last episode of the season…and I’m not talking about ski jumps! Whatever happens, I’m just not ready to say goodbye to these characters.

As expected, Ichika’s extended time with Fuutarou gained her top ranking in the penultimate episode, giving her an insurmountable 11-point lead over Yotsuba going into the finale. Miku’s igloo scene gave her a boost this week. Yotsuba, Nino and Itsuki rounded out the episode ranking.

Sing “Yesterday” for Me – 06 – The Great Destroyer

“Why are you enjoying this so much?”
“Because it’s not my problem.”
—Rikuo and Kinoshita on why I love this show

Just as things were attaining a semblance of balance, enter Yuzuhara Chika, Rikuo’s high school ex-girlfriend, her hair now kissed by bottled fire and voiced by the often fiery Kitamura Eri. She’s behind on rent and happened to be passing by, and asks if she can crash at Rikuo’s until she’s back on her feet financially.

That’s right, YwU is not quite done introducing new characters at the expense of the core trio. That’s probably in part due to the fact we’re now only a third through an 18-episode series, not halfway through a 12-parter.

Kinoshita warns Rikuo that Chika is a serial destroyer of bands due to her penchant for ginning up relationshop drama among the members. There’s every indication Chika came to Rikuo because she tends to use usable people and he’s an easy mark, but she proves to be a model freeloader, cooking, cleaning, welcoming him home, all things he’s used to doing alone.

One day while readying dinner, Chika mistakes Rikuo collapsing from fever for a sexual advance, and her eyes narrow as she consents…only Rikuo isn’t propositioning, he’s ill. And so the time arrives when Rikuo is in need of being nursed back to health, and Haru is nowhere to be found, because Rikuo hasn’t told her about Chika.

When they find out from Kinoshita that Rikuo is sick, it’s because Minako accidentally wandered to the konbini after drinking with her friends (who wouldn’t leave her alone about not ever being in a relationship) while Haru is already loitering there.

Whether due to her guilt about him “setting up her wires—i.e. relying on him when it’s convenient—or because she’s knocked back a few, or both, she accompanies Haru, and they share in the utter shock of a third pretty woman at Rikuo’s apartment that late at night.

Haru is NOT okay with this—Rikuo is as good as a cheater in her book—but while Minako is also upset, she says she only has herself to blame for rejecting him. Hearts are fickle, and expecting Rikuo to keep standing still and waiting for her wasn’t realistic.

After being confronted by a steamed Haru (and saying precisely the right thing to have a milk crate thrown in his face), Rikuo stops by Minako, but the sight of her expression…frightens him (in a nice touch, we never see the face he sees). Minako is angry too.

During another homemade meal, Chika and Rikuo talk more about why things ended and who they are. Chika plays the piano for a living and was always good at it, but at first it was because she was forced to play. She’s always wanted to be liked, and saying no can make people not like you, even if she’s never fallen in love or been “deeply invested” in anything. Sound familiar?

She also breaks it to Rikuo that telling him he didn’t understand her was just an excuse she gave to break up with him so she could date a new guy she liked more. “Understanding” her more, then or now, wouldn’t have made any difference, so there’s nothing for him to regret regarding that. I’m not sure if he should feel better or worse about that!

Minako stops by Rikuo’s again, and Chika finally clears the air, assuring her that she simply asked for help from a guy she knew would help, and doesn’t want “things to get ruined” because of her (again, allegedly). Yet again, Minako feels bad, because she’s not actually Rikuo’s girlfriend, as Chika initially assumes.

Chika dated Rikuo for just four months in high school, but Minako straight up turned him down! I’m sure her relief Chika is not interested is mixed with guilt that she has some kind of claim on Rikuo. But, well, she clearly does, doesn’t she? She never dismissed Haru’s declaration of war, and Chika’s sudden appearance on the battlefield put things in perspective.

I can harp on precious little time spent on the Haru/Minako/Rikuo triangle so that a new player could take the stage, but honestly I found Chika’s brutal honesty with her feelings and motivations refreshing, right up to her polite goodbye-and-thanks note, prompting one more charge of selfishness from Rikuo.

She came and went like a storm, but before she left she looked out into the sunset while smoking on the balcony (in a beautifully drawn and lit scene), with what seemed to be an internal debate in her head.

Should she stay, keep enjoying cooking and eating with the nice guy she once dated at the risk of blowing something up that was there before? Or should she leave, and later on look back fondly on those few days when she played house with an old flame? She chose to leave, but I wouldn’t mind if she wasn’t gone for good.

Sing “Yesterday” for Me – 05 – Miss Never Number One

Rikuo ends up at a new part-time job at a photography gallery, only to encounter co-worker Minato Kouichi, who was in the same third-year class as Haru before she dropped out. He joins them for lunch and exhibits how pretentious he is about photography. Rikuo takes an instant dislike to him.

That leads to yet another coincidence in which Minato is walking Haru home at the same time Rikuo is walking a slightly tipsy Shinako home. Both Haru and Rikuo are irritated by what they see. Shinako tells Rikuo that she’s done walking in circles, while Minato not to subtly hints that he had a crush in Haru in high school, only for her to be completely oblivious.

Minato visits Haru as often at the bar at least as often as Haru visits Rikuo, and eventually asks if she’ll spend a day with him. He formally asks her out, and while she replies with a rant about how much of an asshole Rikuo is, she’s not ready to give up on him, even if she’s “just the backup”, or she’d be lying to herself. Minato expected a rejection, and reveals he dropped out of college to pursue a life of freelance photojournalism.

When Haru says of her pet crow “I kept feeding him, and he got attached to me,” I couldn’t help but notice how similar that is to her approach with Rikuo, intentional or not. Rikuo so often comes off as irritated or annoyed with her (or is so often spotted with Shinako after dark), Haru’s adopted the misconception that he doesn’t care how she feels.

In reality, her reliable and persistent “feeding” of her charming personality to him has made him attached to her, to the extent he’s jealous when he sees her with Minato and even gets into an artistic competition with him. It’s fitting that while Rikuo loses, it’s because Minato’s photo was simply more compelling.

The photo depicts Haru in high school, which stands in contrast to Minato’s earlier screed against portraiture as the photographer forcing his feelings on the viewer. Sure enough, Minato’s affection for the subject suffuses the image, and even Rikuo can’t resist the portrait’s candid beauty and longing. It’s a Haru Rikuo had never seen before, and can never unsee.

One could also look at this photo as a portent for Haru’s eventual dropping out. She looks restless, and her gaze is pointed elsewhere—somewhere more painful yet more rewarding, scarier yet inevitable: adulthood and independence.

Sing “Yesterday” for Me – 04 – His Lingering Shadow

After three episodes Hayakawa Rou is by far the weakest of the characters, but only because all we’ve known is that Shinako loved his late older brother Yuu, and Rou loves Shinako. She tries to be a good big sis to Rou by cooking him meals, but she can’t give him the one thing he wants from her most. In his frustration, he blames it not necessarily on his faults as a person, but because she can’t let go of a dead guy.

This week we learn why Rou is the way he is. This goes a long way towards making his character more sympathetic—even if he remains the least interesting of the four leads. Since Yuu was always the center of not just Shinako’s but everyone’s attention, Rou had to seek attention elsewhere: by being “the kid who can draw” in his class. Only now he’s in a tougher class in which everyone is that person.

Hell, I was that person in high school, then went to art college and got a rude awakening. It’s an understandable hit to the ego of someone who’d taken for granted one’s superiority in a smaller pool. Still, Rou worked hard to be as good at art as he is, so he’s going to rely on that work ethic to pull him through this phase.

One thing he wants to avoid at all costs is ending up like Rikuo, whom he still can’t believe Shinako even gave the time of day to. Worse, he learns of Haru and Rikuo’s “deal” rudely labeling her a “backup” when the two meet in context at the konbini. Kinoshita insists Rikuo help out in the back, so it falls to Rou to walk the young lady home.

Haru, who it must be said still sees love as in illusion, wonders what Shinako is doing so differently that she is so beloved by both Rou and Rikuo. Ruo rebuts by pointing out how not interested in him that way Shinako really is, but Haru doesn’t want Rou discouraged.

If Rou were to find a way to win Shinako’s heart, that frees Rikuo up for Haru, so she’s firmly on team Rou X Shinako, so gives him a supportive back on the back and runs off with her pet crow, which leads Rou to call her a weirdo.

Rou returns to find his dad and Shinako have already returned to Hanazawa. Once there, his dad informs Shinako that he’ll be renting out the house where they lived with Yuu, and presents her with a box of Yuu’s assembled belongings. In the room where she tended to him until the day he died, Shinako breaks down when she finds the eraser he lent her the first day they met, with the message “baka” concealed by its sleeve.

Outside cheery blossoms glow and she catches a glimpse of Yuu as a student, and she transforms into her younger self to approach him, only for him to disappear behind the tree. In a heartwrenching scene Shinako weeps bitter tears of loss, the shadow of Yuu still looming. It may be “okay to forget” as Yuu and Rou’s dad puts it, but Shinako can probably never fully erase Yuu’s shadow—nor would she want to.

Sing “Yesterday” for Me – 03 – No Demands? No, Demands!

Yesterday starts with Haru following Rikuo in the rain. He basically tells her she could do better than the likes of him. She tells him she has no particular hopes or demands about the likes of him anyway. She also feels like she’s playing catch-up to Shinako, but her war declaration freed her to act.

In the space of a few minutes, Rikuo suddenly knows a lot more about how Haru feels…but he still doesn’t know much about Haru the person, which she’s intentionally keeping vague as a long-established way to remain at enough of a distance to run away if things get too painful or messy.

As a result of their chat, Rikuo catches cold from the rain. Haru ends up with his phone number from Kinoshita unbidden, but she hesitates to call him (with her rotary telephone!), for the same reason she hesitates to reveal too much about herself. As a result, Shinako get the jump on her, as it were, by stopping by Rikuo’s to give him some hardy leftovers to keep up his strength.

When Rikuo is better and back to work, Haru invites him out to a monster movie on Sunday. Rikuo bites, and Haru is so happy a the prospect of a date she shares her happiness in the form of free coffee for Rou, whose change was eaten by the vending machine.

Haru also gets excited about looking her best for the date, after visiting her mom for the first time in three months (the two are cordial but hardly close) and stopping by the konbini to say hi to Rikuo and voice how much she’s looking forward tomorrow.

Haru’s anticipatory cuteness is particularly heartbreaking because I knew there was just  no way that movie date was going to unfold without a hitch. Sure enough, Rikuo learns Shinako has come down with her own fever while calling her about returning her Tupperware.

Rikuo proceeds to return the favor by taking care of her, and ends up falling asleep at her kitchen table. By the time he wakes up and realizes what’s happened, the rain clouds have returned (they really know when to show up for maximum effect) and Haru believes Rikuo either forgot, stood her up, or chose Shinako over her.

A contrite Rikuo eventually finds her soaking away in the rain and apologizes profusely, but is way too blunt about where he was, even if he insists it was all innocent. Because of the timing of his standing her up and the fact he didn’t have her contact info, even having cell phones wouldn’t have solved this matter.

Despite having clearly said she had “no demands”, Haru realizes later that she still had expectations with Rikuo. She then determines that if she stops going to the konbini, that will be the end of things. She has an exit ramp…right up until she yells out at a stop light and Rikuo hears her and comes over, blocking her escape.

Their exchange is tense at first, but Haru decides to drop the Mysterious Girl act and start over fresh with a proper introduction (including height and weight!). Rikuo reiterates his regret at standing her up, and Haru accepts his regrets, making him promise to take care of her should she ever come down with a fever, then immediately feigning one.

Miyamoto Yume’s performance in this scene (and just prior when she was alone on her bike), and the animation of Haru’s face, are the highlights of this episode. The murky muddy palette returned with a vengeance, but that only made the eventual reconciliation at the end, when the rain clouds had finally passed both literally and emotionally, that much more powerful. After so much darkness, some healing light.

At this point I don’t even care if Haru is a MPDG (and for the record I don’t think she is)—she’s winning my heart!

Sing “Yesterday” for Me – 02 – Switching Gears

When I first saw Shinako’s new shorter hairstyle, my mind momentarily went to competing with Haru, but that’s far to simplistic, and was immediately swatted down as a motivation when her silhouette in the barber’s chair is set against an austere blossoming cherry tree. There’s another reason, perhaps related to moving forward (or at least appearing to do so).

This week marks the introduction of the fourth member of the love polygon: Hayakawa Rou, who is in love with Shinako, his older childhood friend. Turns out he’s transferring to her school and may even end up in her class. Again, my immediate reaction was well, he and Haru are both high-school age, they’d be perfect together and the adults could go do their thing. But again, that’s making things way too easy for the parties involved!

It’s striking how much more vivid the colors are this week than last, but hey, trees blossoming in the spring will do that (indeed, it’s happening right outside my window and it’s wonderful!). It turns out Shinako doesn’t much like cherry blossoms. But after her post-graduation faculty after-party (she doesn’t attend he after-after party) she still takes some time to sit among the blossoms for a spell.

Her alone time is interrupted by Rikuo, and Shinako uses the opportunity to tell him she knows she’s asking a lot by wanting to remain just friends. But despite Rikuo’s belief she’s forward-thinking, Shinako reveals she’s nothing of the sort. If anything, she’s just good at making it look like she’s moving forward, when it’s more like walking in circles.

Then Haru walks by after her shift at the bar, assumes she interrupted something romantic, and runs off home in a mild huff. If that wasn’t enough, Rou also witnesses the tail end of Rikuo and Shinako’s talk. That’s…a lot of coincidences!

The next day, while Rikuo is discussing the potential difficulties of friendzoning with Kinoshita, Rou shows up and demands to know who Shinako is to Rikuo. At practically the same time, Haru shows up after school to have a chat with Shinako, offering dango as an olive branch.

Despite that olive branch, Haru is here to do battle, and not on an empty stomach. She wants to hear who Rikuo is to Shinako, and Shinako is quite clear that all they’ll ever be is good friends. Haru isn’t satisfied with this, because she doesn’t want to be a “compromise” Rikuo is nudged towards by Shinako.

When Shinako asks what exactly Haru likes about Rikuo, she doesn’t have a good answer beyond her belief that love is “a trick of the mind” that demands a beginning, a middle, and some kind of conclusion, be it good or bad. That’s when Shinako tells Haru she can’t be more than friends with Rikuo because there’s someone she already loves…or rather loved.

Rou mentions it to Rikuo as well: Shinako keeps a flame burning for his older brother, who died six years ago of a heart condition. Shinako took care of him until his death, which occurred during…the cherry blossoms. When most people see rebirth and the future in them, Shinako sees death and a past she can’t let go of.

Rou’s brother’s death wasn’t the “conclusion” Haru said is needed to stop that “trick of the mind” that is love. Shinako’s love endures, superceding any other opportunities (i.e. Rikuo). Even so, Haru still decides to declare war on Shinako, and will prepare for anything, including Shinako coming around with Rikuo. Having heard about Rou’s brother, Rikuo waits by Shinako’s place to talk to her, but can’t properly organize his thoughts and starts to walk away.

Shinako, for her part, is sorry she never brought the brother up, but didn’t want to use him as an excuse to reject him. Then the two decide it would be best if they weren’t friends anymore, due to the significant imbalance in effort. He’d rather wait than be friends, indicating he hasn’t given up on her (and why it was wise for Haru to declare war). Shinako is relieved…but hates that she is.

So far I’m liking this fairly brisk pace of events. Less wallowing and introspection, more communication and firm decisions. Rikuo is still being shamefully dense about Haru’s intentions—though he may yet be justified in doing so.

The progress made this week was worth the occasionally questionable coincidences. I also like how this takes place in the 90s, where the cassette is king and there are no cell phones, necessitating more face-to-face interaction. And both the animation and voice acting are terrific. It may not be the happiest story, but I’m in my happy place.

Fruits Basket – 25 (First Season Fin) – Fighting Their Way Forward

Kyou quickly came to love Kazuma not just as a foster parent or guardian or shishou, but as a father, but because of the stigma carried by his status as the Cat, he always felt he didn’t have the right to call him one. Kazuma took Kyou in in part as an act of penance after even he treated his kind grandfather with cruelty and revulsion, only to be forgiven with a smile.

Then Kazuma began to love Kyou like a son, but found himself never quite able to say so. Matters weren’t helped when Kyou would forcefully insist he was no son of his when he (often) got into trouble. Kazuma also feels it would be too selfish to continue to see Kyou as a son after forcing him to reveal his true form to Tooru, so he leaves without saying goodbye.

But Kyou is glad what happened last week happened, and it could not have happened without Kazuma…or Tooru. After years of sparring with his shishou, the two finally connect on an emotional level and acknowledge that they are, in every way that matters, father and son. Tooru is the bridge that makes that possible…and in a neat touch, that connection happens on a bridge!

While everything is peaches in Kyou-land, and he is committed to becoming more independent and tempering his fiery nature when needed, the rancor between him and Yuki has not ceased. Judging from Yuki’s body language, part of that may be due to Kyou’s recent “monopolization” of Tooru.

In this regard he’s going through something similar to Saki, who had to fight back the notion of Tooru spending less time with her and more with the Souma’s as something bad, since constant possession isn’t love. Heck, Kagura is experiencing the same thing, only with Kyou.

While Tooru’s attention—and her heart—is split among many different parties, she’s not alone in worrying about Yuki. Haruhatsu, one of the more emotionally intelligent Soumas, also notices something’s off, and so makes sure to remind Yuki that just because Tooru’s been busy with Kyou of late doesn’t mean she’s forgotten about him or worries about him any less.

Yuki then seeks Tooru out on the stairs, thanks her for her continued worrying, and commits to spend more time outside doing things with people this summer…and with Tooru in particular, even breaking out a modified wall slam in semi-jest!

It’s clear the second season will likely involve the continued push-pull of Tooru between Yuki and Kyou, but both have become categorically better people with her in their world, so it’s all good in the Soumahood.

While the show makes it clear that it will be far from smooth sailing all the time in the second season, those hoping for the first season to end on a hopeful positive note can breathe a sigh of relief. One after another Soumas gather at Shigure’s for a big celebratory meal with Tooru; the only major players missing being the two yet-to-be-introduced Zodiac animals, and Shigure, who is meeting with Akito.

Before joining the others, Hiro meets with Rin, perhaps one of those two  animals, while the other could be the faceless guy with the faceless female friend who spots Yuki at school. But there’s no devastating cliffhanger that upends everyone’s lives or threatens Tooru’s marvelous little world.

Instead, she’s looking forward to a fun-filled Summer with everyone. I hope, after all she and the Soumas have been through, they’ll be allowed at least some of such a Summer before the next storm(s) arrive. With quite a bit of source material yet to be adapted, we can reasonably expect plenty more of this wonderful show well into 2020 and beyond. I can’t wait!

BokuBen – 10 – A New Challenger Appears!

As thanks for his tutoring services, Nariyuki is able to attend classes at a prep school on the school’s dime. He incorrectly assumes his petite purple-haired desk-mate Kominami Asumi is a middle schooler, drawing her immediate ire. However, his nineteen-year-old pixie senpai actually has a kind heart, and shares her notes with Nariyuki when the teacher erases the board too fast.

After class, Nariyuki gets lost, but is picked up by a couple of heavies and tossed into a maid cafe…the very maid cafe where Kominami not only works, but is the star of the place. She makes her adorable entrance as “Pixie Maid Ashumi” before she notices, then excoriates the heavies (who look up to her as their big sis and boss) for bringing in another broke kid.

Howeva, the coincidence turns out to be a boon to “Ashumi.” While she may not admit it, when Nariyuki knocks her science mock exams over while getting up to leave, he learns that despite trying to get into med school, her science grades stink. Turns out she’s just like his other tutees: her passion doesn’t match her talent (in this case, for business and being a people person, as she cleans up doing the maid thing).

You can see where this is going: Nariyuki starts coming to the cafe to help tutor her, and she makes fast progress with her studying. Then she runs after Nariyuki with his bus pass he left behind to find that he’s collided with her father, who owns a clinic. Backed into a corner, Asumi blames her “boyfriend” Nariyuki’s “tastes” for her get-up.

Nariyuki salvages the encounter by telling Asumi’s father he’s confident she has what it takes do what she’s set out to do; that even if it seems like she can’t do it now doesn’t mean she’ll never do it. Asumi wants to take over the family clinic from her father some day; it’s not obligation, it’s what she wants!

Later, Asumi teases Nariyuki by suggesting they kiss as long as they’re pretending to be dating, but then pats his head and praises her kohai for helping her out. Another day they encounter one another at a family restaurant, where Nariyuki is with Uruka, Fumino and Rizu, all of whom are amazed by her beauty and petite-ness. She’s even smaller than Rizu!

To Nariyuki and Asumi’s surprise, the next time they’re at the prep school, the three girls have taken up supplemental classes, figuring they can’t rely exclusively on Nariyuki all the time. However, like Nariyuki they learn that prep school is no cakewalk. While Asumi finds these three girls annoying busybodies, she still helps them out by offering pointers.

Then it suddenly rains after class, and she invites them to her clinic to dry off. Super nice! Nariyuki even gets to see the bra he recommended for Uruka. She might not know it was him under that mascot costume, but the bra was bought with him in mind…not that she thought through how she’d get him to see it. Well, job done!

When Fumino hears that Asumi’s dad thinks Nariyuki is his daughter’s boyfriend, she pulls Nariyuki aside and thrusts her hand into his midsection, hard. On one level, she’s angry that Nariyuki might be off with some other girl while Uruka and Rizu continue to pine for him.

On another, and as Asumi herself brings up (after explaining the situation and clearing Nariyuki of wrongdoing), Fumino herself clearly has some kind of feelings she needs to work through.

While studying at the maid cafe, Asumi asks him who he’s crushing on. Nariyuki serves up the usual “no time for that before exams”, but Asumi follows that up with “what about after exams?” It’s a good question, and one I hold out hope will get answered, even if it probably won’t.

Asumi then serves him some omelette rice and provides some service by sitting quite close to him and adorning it with a ketchup message. Clearly already an expert in torturing the naive young scamp, and just as clearly enjoying it, she wonders what he’d do if she said their “lie” wasn’t a lie, before pointing down to the ketchup, which reads “YOU DAMN WOMANIZER.” Nice.

Kominami Asumi is certainly a latecomer to BokuBen—there are only three episodes remaining after this one—but she’s a welcome one, offering some notable and refreshing differences over the other “suitors” while effectively and efficiently positioning herself as a worthy one herself, including being the only one of them who at least jokes outwardly about being a couple. I don’t know how much of the remaining time we have will be spent on Asumi, but I liked what I saw.

BokuBen – 09 – Mr. Taro’s Neighborhood

Nariyuki’s penchant for getting himself in the most ridiculous situations with women seems to have no bounds, as demonstrated this week when he’s simply walking down the street when he’s suddenly snagged by Kurisu-sensei.

Apparently, her apartment is back to being a cesspool despite him “tutoring” her on how to clean it. But while there, a cockroach appears, and Nariyuki learns that Kurisu harbors a paralyzing fear of bugs.

The roach gets away when Kurisu can’t stop clinging to Nariyuki, but he continues on with the cleaning. But since the bug is still at large, Kurisu tells him she’ll “do anything” if he just stays with her. Pure, innocent Nariyuki asks her to help him study more. It gets late, and Kurisu orders food…from Rizu’s family’s restaurant.

When Rizu shows up with the delivery and sees Nariyuki at Kurisu’s house, well, her reaction is as predictable as it is understandable. What exactly is going on here? Rizu’s feelings for Nariyuki aside, she and Kurisu have a turbulent history. Nariyuki tries to break the ice with Rizu’s card game, but forgets Rizu sucks at it and Kurisu’s domination only makes things more awkward and tense.

While Kurisu is in the kitchen, Nariyuki tells Rizu that someone likes her more than she knows. He’s talking about Kurisu actually being kind and caring, but Rizu initially misinterprets it as Nariyuki confessing. Then a scream comes from the kitchen: the roach is back.

The moment Nariyuki enters, Kurisu gloms on him, and claims she’s paralyzed with fear, thus incapacitating him as the roach advances. They’re both saved by Rizu, daughter of a restaurateur, who shows no fear or hesitation in smashing what the business refers to as “Mr. Taro.”

While walking home, Rizu admits that in Kurisu’s fear of bugs she finally saw another side of her former tutor; one she not only never knew, but also never bothered to learn, since their past adversity closed her off to that. She thanks him, but he gains her ire once more when he gives the wrong answer to the somewhat dirty-sounding question of “If Mr. Taro comes to my house, will you come by to help?”

Fighting cockroaches with Rizu at Kurisu’s is pretty up there on the list of bizarre experiences Nariyuki finds himself in, but the second half’s scenario bests it in all attributes by a fair margin. To get to where ultimately ends up, Nariyuki’s mom has to get sick, he has to fill in for her at work not knowing what it is she actually does.

Turns out his mom works at a sexy lingerie shop. When his mom’s co-worker sees how embarrassed he is, she dresses him up as the mall mascot, then gets a call about her daughter and rushes off, leaving him in charge of the store when he can neither talk or remove the costume by himself. The second that costume went on, Nariyuki was doomed to experience trials he’s all too ill-equipped to deal with.

That’s because his first customers are Uruka and Rizu, the latter of whom needs a new, bigger bra due to her growing bust. When Nariyuki hesitates to measure Rizu, Uruka helps him, then presents him with either an elegant, frilly bra or a sleek, sexy one and asking which would be best to charm a third-year  boy (the answer, of course, being either).

If that’s not enough, Kurisu makes her second-straight appearance, this time having trouble with a bra that’s a bit too small, and requiring an attendant to help her unhook it. Since Nariyuki is the only attendant there, it’s up to him.

And that’s how he ends up removing the bra of a teacher from his school while dressed as a mascot filling in for his sick mom. There is a tide in the affairs of men…

Uruka and Rizu invited Fumino to join them, but she said she had other plans. Those plans turned out to be shopping for a bra alone, since that’s her preference, and because shopping for bras with the larger-breasted Uruka and Rizu isn’t her idea of a good time.

Poor Fumino: when she blurts out to the attendant that she is, indeed, a Size A,  Nariyuki’s mom’s co-worker has returned and removed the head of the mascot, reavealing to Fumino that Nariyuki was there all along, and leading to her declaring that “God is dead.”

Nariyuki treats her to a “crepe-pology” and properly explains why he was in a lingere store, and Fumino simply tells him he’s lucky she’s the one who found out and not the other two. He asks why, but she keeps it secret, as the “fifth exercise” in understanding a woman’s heart.

The thing is, I’m not entirely sure it’s any better for him that she found out, considering her conflicting feelings for the lad. Whoever ends up with this kid is simply going to have to be okay with the fact that he gets himself into the weirdest plights.

BokuBen – 08 – Bath Study, Seductive Ramen

Nariyuki presents his new smartphone, which his mother won and which the whole family shares. Turns out he has no idea how to use it and is easily frazzled when he tries, something Uruka finds cute. She shows him how to search for studying pointers, and ends up on an article extolling the virtues of studying in the bath, which everyone says is silly and that they’d never do it.

That night, while studying in the tub, Nariyuki tries to access his dictionary app, but ends up texting Fumino instead. She becomes very self-conscious about the fact that she’s texting him in the bath, even envisioning them sitting in it together, back-to-back, then apologizes to Ri and Uruka for having such unsavory thoughts.

His next attempt to access an app ends up calling Rizu, who after snatching her phone back from her protective dad, admits she’s in the bath and doesn’t get what the big deal is; sure, they’re both nude, but they can’t see each other. Then she closes her eyes, and when Nariyuki talks, it sounds like he could be in the bath with her.

Things escalate when an attempted voice command calls Uruka, who accidentally makes it a FaceTime call, revealing every bit of her untanned body usually covered by her swimsuit. For her part, Uruka gets a good look at Nariyuki’s torso. In the ensuing chaos, Nariyuki drops the phone in the bath. The next day at school, it’s understandably a bit awkward.

That the last person he calls in the bath is Uruka segues nicely to the episode’s second half, which is entirely devoted to Uruka, who again demonstrates not only that she’s the Best Girl of BokuBen, but of the entire Spring season.

Balancing the twin strenuous activities of studying and swimming takes its toll, and one morning Uruka collapses from exhaustion in the hallway. Fortunately, Nariyuki is there to help her to the infirmary. While waiting for the nurse, Nariyuki says out loud that whoever she likes is a lucky guy.

A very woozy Uruka, eyes still closed, pulls Nariyuki into an embrace, saying his name. Then her friends show up, and Nariyuki hides under the bed without thinking. There, he learns for the first time about the guy Uruka likes: according to one of her swim teammates, it’s him!

From the moment he hears this, Nariyuki can barely sleep. When he sees her next, he short circuits and walks into a street pole. When they touch elbows, it’s like an electric shock making his heart race. Fumino gives him the fourth lesson in understanding a woman’s heart: taking Uruka home, as she’s still recovering.

When Uruka thanks him and offers him a token of her gratitude, Nariyuki’s scrambled mind immediately looks to the nearby Mermaid Love Hotel…but Uruka meant she’d treat him to ramen at the shop next door. There, he can’t help but notice Uruka seems to be eating the ramen very seductively. But she’s not; he’s just seeing her in a new light; as a woman, not a mere childhood friend.

After ramen, they walk past a number of couples, and Uruka finally summons the courage to at least ask Nariyuki if he has someone “like that.” His quick and assertive “no” (he’s waiting until after entrance exams) makes her very happy. But then, he throws her for a loop, asking out of the blue if the boy she likes is him.

Now, while Uruka may be the Best Girl, her actions aren’t always the best—and in this case, they don’t help her cause in the slightest. She sabotages the entire moment by denying it with a dismissive laugh, which Nariyuki takes as settling the matter, and to curse himself for being so stupid. To which I say…DRAT!

At this point, Uruka is her own worst enemy. Later, in the bath again (though not studying), she curses herself for denying it so enthusiastically. But she doesn’t want to press matters, especially when she knows Nariyuki is focused on studying for exams, as she should be. And she’s scared of rejection, and of ruining the extremely solid friendship they currently enjoy.

That’s all well and good…if there was no competition, but Rizu, Fumino, and even Kurisu-sensei are in various stages of participation in the Yuiga Sweepstakes. Setting the record straight after exams might be too late. As for the friendship? Well, whether she asks him out and he says no, or someone else asks him out and says yes, that seems destined to change regardless!

Domestic na Kanojo – 09 – Cavalcade of Unpleasantness

Time to go on the record: I am not a fan of the Natsuo x Hina route. It made sense for Natsuo to be infatuated with his beautiful and kind teacher, and for those feelings to remain even after their parents married. But as for Hina returning those feelings? I’m just not buying it, and Natsuo isn’t doing himself any favors with his incessant brooding, whining, and stalker-ish behavior that blows past any and all decent boundaries.

He’s also apparently decided to utterly ignore and move past the fact Rui was coming to his room to make out, without considering why she may have been doing that. Rui is thankfully less concerned with Natsuo than with her big sister leaving the house right now, blaming her and Natsuo’s shenanigans for being the primary factor in her move.

A serendipitous encounter with Hina’s ex who we learn is underclassman of Kiriya-sensei (which…who cares?) properly apologizes to Rui (with a $45 parfait), and doubts Hina is moving because of Rui, but because she genuinely wants to strike out on her own. That night, Hina is surprised to find Rui in such distress, but her lap is there for Rui’s head, and she assures her she’ll visit home when she can. It’s a nice sisterly moment, but obviously fails to address the Natsuo-shaped rift between them.

It was disconcerting enough when Hina said her move would make “meeting” with Natsuo more convenient, but when she gives him a key to her new place, she’s truly playing with fire. As she’s been fond of saying, Natsuo is still a kid, which basically means he lacks experience, emotional maturity, and above all, self-control. Give a kid an inch, and they’ll take a mile.

Predictably, as soon as he is able (and after coldly rebuking Rui) he rushes his horny ass to the apartment she’s still moving into, lets himself in, then sits by her bed until she wakes up (she’s exhausted from unpacking). They make out a bit, but thank goodness Hina pumps the brakes, because Natsuo “isn’t sure he’d be able to stop himself” from going all the way. Ugh.

You can tell Hina is being torn apart by the opposing forces in her heart—she knows she should be a good adult, teacher, and older sister (and thinks she’s failing at all of those). For whatever reason, she loves Natsuo more than that, and wants him in a way normally impossible—and certainly problematic—for those other three roles. So she delays, telling Natsuo there’s no need to rush; they have all the time in the world to do…whatever it is they’re doing.

I must also go on record in voicing my extreme displeasure at the sudden and baffling introduction of Alex, perhaps the most annoying and cliched character of any of the shows I’m watching this Winter. Did the show forget about Natsuo’s actual best friend in whom both he and Rui confided and relied upon? Why are they wasting so much time with this…creature? Whatever they have planned for him can’t be good…unless they plan to shoot him out of a cannon!

That brings us to Natsuo’s worst moment of the episode, which is saying something: confronting Hina at school about how he felt she was being too distant towards him, at school. She takes his hand and leads him somewhere presumably more private, but it’s still a window-filled hallway, and the vice principal is not far away. She once again appeases him, and kisses him, I say again, AT SCHOOL.

Some words to the wise, Natsuo: Hina isn’t your property, and if you get her fired, she won’t be able to afford your lovenest. Shape the ef up my dude! And Hina: stop enabling the bastard!