Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 03 – Youthful Indiscretion

Naturally, Tomo is shocked and feels betrayed by the fact she’s only now hearing about Jun and Misuzu going out. Misuzu only kept it from her because she herself preferred if it never happened. Jun asked her out on a whim, and they dated for a grand total of three days. I’m also convinced Misuzu calls it “youthful indiscretion” since that was practically Hidaka Rina’s character Yume’s catchphrase in My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex.

We also learn that Jun avoided Tomo for the entire first year of middle school, and they didn’t reconnect as best buds until he’d dumped Misuzu. Like her, I don’t think that’s a coincidence. It’s likely that Jun asked Misuzu out because he was trying to avoid the fact that he had developed a thing for Tomo, and wasn’t ready to deal with that.

It’s become ever clearer that Tomo is not the best judge of whether Jun sees her as a girl, since the moment Jun learns that she’s in the boy’s karate club, he freaks out, and is particularly hostile towards Misaki. The two end up bonding (somewhat) on a bus ride when Jun admits that in a fight with rules like karate, he can’t beat Tomo either; she’s “too incredible”.

The next day after school, Jun asks if Tomo is free to hang, but she has plans with Misuzu and Carol to get tea. She runs into Ogawa and Mifune, who are harboring some very confusing feelings about Tomo and are so shocked by the sight of her in pants that they flee. Misuzu warns Tomo that she can’t keep blowing him off, and shouls arrange a date.

Tomo is dubious that Jun will be as pliant as Misuzu predicts, but when she does take the initiative and ask if he’ll hang, his reaction is just like that of a golden retriever who found out he’s going on walkies. Misuzu and Carol decide on the best outfit for Tomo, one that’s a bit girlier than her usual garb, but not so girly she’ll be too self-conscious.

The resulting white pullover, gaucho pants, and white sneakers ensemble really hit the mark, though Jun doesn’t let Tomo know how cute she looks, the swine. What he does do is let the two of them slide right back into their normal hangout routines: going to the batting cages and bowling. Each time, Tomo is certain she can’t hit a 160 kph fastball or roll a 16 pound ball, but in both cases, she’s still right on Jun’s level.

She then asks Jun if they can go to karaoke, and immediately acts like he said know when he actually said yes, leaving Tomo in a bit of a spot, as she hadn’t thought any further than “going to karaoke.” The place is a lot more intimate than she expected, and since the only songs she knows are children’s songs, that’s what she sings … and Jun records her.

The thing is, he’s not recording for blackmail purposes (though the minute Misuzu and Carol hear he has footage of her singing they want it). He was thrown off how…different Tomo was that day. But not thrown off in a bad way. Clearly it’s a side of Tomo he’d like to see a little more of.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 02 – Enemies Becoming Friends

When Tomo boards a bus with Jirou and sits right beside him, the closeness makes her heart race too much, so she stands, bitter that he doesn’t conside her a girl enough to be equally flusterd. However, he shows he’s very much aware she’s a girl when he spots a pervert groping her and puts a stop to it.

Unfortunately for Tomo, his solution is for her to stop wearing skirts, because they “look wrong” on her. What Jirou isn’t sharing with Tomo is that the reason it looks “wrong” is because Jirou is still uncomfortable with his “best bud” being a woman—especially one with legs to the damn moon!

After slugging Jirou, Tomo reports this injustice to Misuzu the next day. She determines that the problem isn’t the skirt, but the bike shorts underneath. She tells Tomo that the key to a skirt is basically the reality that there’s nothing but underwear underneath. In other words, no half-measures allowed.

Misuzu arranges for Tomo to walk home with Jirou (who is eager to make up), but without the bike shorts. Misuzu’s original observation that the skirt is simply too short to wear on its own without errant winds rendering her unmentionables visible. It’s doubly a shame this happens during an otherwise romantic sakura-strewn sunset stroll.

They later make up again, with Jirou rightfully apologizing for presuming he can tell Tomo what to wear. That said, he doesn’t think she should wear anything she doesn’t feel comfortable in. But as we see from his version of a blush, the main reason he’d rather Tomo wear slacks is because he’s just not ready for those endless gams.

The second part of the episode introduces Carol Olston, a blonde student from Britain. Half of the boys in class are in her thrall, while the other half prefer Misuzu’s cool beauty—we know Jirou is interested in neither. She’s also voiced by Sally Amaki, who is bilingual, so I was a little disappointed she didn’t have any English lines.

Carol is introduced to Tomo via Misaki, and Carol is quick to declare that she and Misaki are engaged and have in face already been married three times. Misaki clarifies that they’re childhood friends, hence all the weddings, but it’s clear Carol considers their engagement legally binding—and views Tomo as an enemy who might steal her Misaki away.

This is only half-true and half-nonsense; the latter because Tomo doesn’t like Misaki that way and has eyes only for Jirou, and the former because Misaki does seem to have a little thing for Tomo. In any case, Carol is sharper than her cotton candy looks and ditzy affectation suggest.

When Tomo reports her encounter with Misuzu, it’s plain as day to Misuzu why Carol keeps calling her a baaaka. Then Carol gathers intel on Tomo by speaking to both Misuzu and Jirou, demonstrating her genral oddness by sitting on Misuzu’s desk and hiding in Jirou’s locker.

Carol ends up hiring Jirou to help get her into shape “to defeat an enemy”, but on the surface, and unbeknownst to him, it totally looks like the two are going steady. Tomo is genuinely freaked out by this, and Misuzu, shit-stirrer that she is, sucks up all that sweet sweet energy.

Watching Carol utterly fail to run more than ten feet or do even one push-up or sit-up is amusing, but not as hilarious as a distracted Tomo unknowingly and lazily turning Misaki—who is likely no slouch, karate-wise—into a pretzel.

Misuzu egged Tomo on to confront Jirou and Carol partly for her own amusement, but also because she wants Tomo to display more urgency in trying to win Jirou over, which means defending her claim to him.

But when she does confront the two, it only takes a moment for Carol to read Tomo’s reactions and conclude that she is absolutely no threat to her vis-a-vis Misaki, as she’s only interested in Jirou.

That afternoon, Carol invites Misuzu out for coffee and cake in what Misuzu calls an “unnecessarily long car” as thanks for her advice. Carol confides that she doesn’t have a single friend, so Misuzu suggests she reach out to Tomo, who will surely be glad to have her as one.

The next day Carol thinks about all the times her open hand of friendship was rejected by those who thought she was too pretty, or too rich, or too weird. But just as Misuzu said, Tomo welcomes Carol’s friendship, and thus appears to her like an angel. Misuzu also agrees to be Carol’s friend, because Carol is loaded, and can likely also help her in even more complex and entertaining schemes to make Tomo and Jirou squirm!

Speaking of, the episode ends with Tomo learning for the first time that Jirou and Misuzu briefly dated years ago, which not only explains their cool-yet-close attitude towards one another, but also draws another parallel between Hidaka Rina’s Misuzu and her character Yume from My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bocchi the Rock! – 02 – Welcome to the Workforce

The stinger consists of Bocchi filling up the tub with ice and slipping in, which I initially took to mean she had just gone through some intense physical exertion. Rewind a few days to the band’s first meeting, and Bocchi is too scared to go inside alone. Nijika and Ryou eventually arrive, and they use a giant thrown die to pick conversation topics.

If the goal is to learn more about Bocchi, then mission accomplished, as each question offers her bandmates new insights into the depths of her social anxiety, from the tragic story of her school life to this point to avoiding music with lyrics that refer to happier school lives.

When the discussion shifts to the business side of things, Nijika concisely explains ticket quotas, and how they’ll have to pay Starry if they can’t meet said quotas. That’ll require cash, which means jobs. And people, Bocchi is not into a job. Not beause she’s lazy, but because it would just be too much.

Unfortunately, her anxiety is such that she’s unable to refuse (we also learn she considers Ryou a loner who likes being lonely while she’s lonely, and doesn’t) which brings us to the ice bath. She’s not icing her worn muscles, but intentionally trying to catch a cold.

Alas, her good health prevails so she heads to Starry after school. Again she’s paralyzed by the prospect of entering alone, but that’s how she meets Seika, the manager, whom she quickly labels as someone “scary” that she can’t deal with. She also forgot that Seika is Nijika’s big sister.

Nijika gives her a tour and quick overview of the process of serving drinks, and Bocchi, who has never had a job before, is quickly overwhelmed and whips out her Gibson to play a song with lyrics to remember everything. Seika notes that Bocchi is playing is much better than when she was in a box on stage, and it reminds her of someone (probably guitarhero).

Before Bocchi knows it, the doors are open and the customers start to flow in. She initially does not fare well, hiding under the counter and slapping drinks on it for customers to take without looking at her. This is obviously not optimal customer service!

But they get through the initial drink run, and when the band that’s playing takes the stage and starts their patter, Ryou takes a break from the ticket desk and joins Bocchi and Nijika to watch the band play … and learn from the experience.

When Bocchi sees how much both the band and the concertgoers are enjoying themselves once the music starts, and compares it to her first show, she resolves to put on a better performance, to honor both the venue and the people who paid money to see her.

When a girl orders an orange juice, Bocchi decides to start now, giving the customer eye contact and smiling (after a fashion). It’s a creepy smile, and Bocchi nearly passes out, but it’s undoubtedly progress, and Nijika gives her the praise she deserves.

She takes another important step forward when she says “see you tomorrow” to Nijika and Ryou when heading home, which she does at full speed and with a big smile on her face. Starry, a place that she was too scared to even enter on her own a few hours earlier, is now a place she can’t wait to get back to so she can continue with her progress in both working and performing.

So it’s legit heartbreaking that it’s only then that she comes down with a bad fever and has to skip her second day of work. But hey, that’s what comes of soaking in icy water for too long then sitting in front of fans. She’ll get better and go back to work, so that’s one hurdle out of the band’s way. The next one is finding a fourth member and vocalist, and the one we cut to doing karaoke looks to be the one.

Bocchi the Rock!’s magic formula so far is Bocchi’s inner turmoil, outer face game, and her friends’ reactions to it. My middle school life wasn’t as tragic but it was close, while it took me a while to find my people in high school. The show strikes the perfect balance of mining comedy from this scenario while giving us room to sympathize and empathize with Bocchi. It helps that it’s a great-looking show, too! Forget the 3-episode rule—I’m in now!

Bocchi the Rock! – 01 (First Impressions) – Guitar Heroine

I never did replace Renai Flops after dropping it, and I’ve heard and read good things about Bocchi the Rock!, so I thought better to check it out late than never! Reviews to come as I find time to watch back episodes.—Zane

First-year middle schooler Gotou Hitori describes herself as an “archetypal introvert”, but when she learns from TV that even introverts can become cool and popular if they join bands, she borrows her dad’s guitar and starts practicing, with the plan to create a band and perform at the cultural festival.

Those plans would prove … optimistic. Three years pass, and while she never puts the guitar down, gets quite good at it, and posts covers on YouTube and gets good feedback, she never made a band, never performed, and never even made a friend. She aims to change all that in her first year of high school.

But despite psyching herself up and decking herself out in Rocker Chick garb and accessories, no one approaches Hitori in the first month of the school year. Granted, she’s just passively waiting for people to approach her. She has social anxiety, stammers, and has trouble making eye contact.

But even if Hitori can’t communicate externally, her colorful, dynamic inner voice is a genuine delight. Props to Aoyama Yoshino for nailing both sides of Hitori, which make her an instantly likeable protagonist you want to see succeed.

Sure enough, when hanging out on a swing a girl with red boots and a blonde sidetail approaches her while yelling “Guitar!” Ijichi Nijika is her name, and a guitarist is what she needs for a show … today.

After a quick train to the stylish Shimo-Kitagawa district, Nijika leads Hitori to the basement club called Starry. Immediately Hitori is encouraged by the darkness and stuffiness, reminding her of the closet where she spent most of the last three years. She also meets Yamada Ryou, a cool beauty and bassist.

A quick scan of the sheet music for the set reveals nothing Hitori can’t handle musically, but after her first-ever practice with other human beings, they’re unable to hold back the hard honest truth: she sucks. Or, rather, she sucks staying in synch in a band. But that’s what you’d you expect … she’s never been in one!

After curling up into the fetal position, the “sub-water flea” Hitori jumps into a garbage can, and even considers committing guitar hara-kiri on stage. But Nijika and Ryou insist she’s being too hard on herself, and everything will be fine. When she mentions she uploads covers, she learns that not only to both girls know about her (through her YT handle “guitarhero”), but think she’s awesome.

While this revitalizes her, Hitori still has legitimate concerns about being able to stand on a stage and play (this is someone who only recently became capable of speaking to Nijika) so her bandmates produce a big mango box she can play inside. They immediately notice the change in her personality once she feels safe and secure.

Nijika and Ryou tell Hitori that their band is called Kessoku Band (as in zip-tie band), and then give her an appropriate nickname: “Bocchi”, as in hitoribocchi (“all alone”).

With that, it is time to rock, and while we don’t get to hear most of the set, all we need to know is that it wasn’t that great, at least by the standards the band is trying to meet. That’s not just on Hitori, mind you: Nijika and Ryou know they have flaws too. They’re grateful Bocchi was able to play with them, and look forward to playing with her again.

Nijika wants to take Bocchi out to celebrate her first ever set in her first ever band, but all this social interaction has exhausted Hitori to the point she simply has to head home for the night, so she takes a rain check (Ryou also falls asleep on her feet).

Honestly, I would have been disappointed if Bocchi and Kessoku Band kicked ass right out of the gate. Rather, it will be fun to watch Bocchi grow more comfortable talking to her new bandmates, meeting the fourth member who appears in both OP and ED, and watching the band learn from and get better together. It’s a very solid, fun start to a show I wish I’d picked up eight weeks ago!

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 02 – Youthful Indiscretion

This week our step-couple encounter their first friends, who come to them completely unbidden. Mizuto immediately pegs Kawanami Kogure as a player just trying to use him to get to Yume, but Kawanami assures him he just wants a mate. Minami Akatsuki approaches Yume during physical tests and spends perhaps too much time comparing bust sizes.

Despite being even littler than Yume, Minami is a decent athlete, which only prompts the “reinvented” Yume to try even harder at the various athletic tests. She ends up wearing herself out, but before she falls Mizuto is right there to catch her. In the nurse’s office, Yume comes clean about not being the most athletic person, and Minami is actually a little relieved, as Yume isn’t as perfect and unapproachable as she feared.

The second half of the episode is Yume’s Dizzy Fever Day, and Minami insists on visiting her new friend at her house to make some rice porridge, escorted, of course, by Mizuto. Apparently, when Yume has a fever she “travels to the past”, since she calls Mizuto “Irido-kun” and tells him she felt lonely when he left her side.

As Mizuto and Minami cook in the kitchen, Minami lets on that she knows Mizuto had a girlfriend, despite his aloof attitude, and may even have deduced that Yume was his girlfriend. As such, she asks him what would happen if he got another girlfriend.

After Minami feeds Yume in bed, possibly fulfilling a number of lifelong dreams, she then departs, leaving Mizuto and Minami alone together. Yume’s first comments upon his return are “look at you, in the kitchen with Minami”, but he says Minami is just outgoing, able to get along with anyone, even the likes of him.

Yume brings up a time when they dated when he let go of her hand while she was sick in bed, and wants to hold Mizuto’s hand again. In her feverish, vulnerable state, it’s only natural to want to embrace the familiar and nostalgic. She even gets Mizuto to provide a monologue about the time between the seventh and eighth grades when they dated, ending when “trivial disagreements piled up”.

I have to say, that doesn’t sound like the kind of horrible rancor that would keep these two apart forevermore, especially when Yume pretends to still have a fever long after it’s passed so Mizuto will keep pampering her (which is extremely cute). Even when he finds out and feigns anger, he lets it slide.

More than anything, Yume doesn’t want Mizuto to “leave her behind”. He assures her he’ll “stick around” since they’re siblings now, but as Minami gleaned, they’re more than just that. With their history, they can’t not be.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 01 (First Impressions) – Old Habits Die Hard

Irido Yume and Irido Mizuto dated in junior high, and apparently had a pretty rough breakup. Now, due to their mom and dad marrying one another, they are now stepsiblings. Naturally, their folks don’t know about their history, so Yume and Mizuto have to hide how much they loathe each other, and settle for trading barbs outside of said folks’ earshot. Already, I love it. It’s so awkward, and somewhat tawdry. I wouldn’t wish this fate on anyone!

But here’s what really makes Tsurekano interesting: as they spend more and more time together—and they can’t not, as they not only live under the same roof, but are in the same class at the same school—they both learn in just this first episode that those old feelings they once had for one another don’t take much to resurface. Yume claims the class rep mantle and gains a lot of friends fast (never her forte in the past), but it backfires when guys try to befriend Mizuto to use him as a stepping stone to ask her out.

Back home, Mizuto doesn’t let Yume express any pity for him, or even say what’s on her mind, but it’s clear it bothers her that what she did might’ve ended up hurting him. Just because you’re exes doesn’t mean you automatically stop having feelings for each other, even a sense of wanting to protect the other. She overcompensates the next day by clinging to Mizuto and saying she has a brother complex, and after Mizuto makes them supper when their folks are out, she remembers the feel of his shoulder and tries to deflect by demanding he forget.

Frustrated by how passive he’s being (and has always been), Yume finally decides to get a literal rise out of him by striding into the living room in a tiny, tightly-wrapped towel and nothing else. While he is indeed initially flustered, her victory is brief, as the towel starts to loosen. Rather than do anything brazen, he covers her up with his hoodie, knowing she didn’t think this plan through. He just knows her too well. They both know each other too well.

And because both Yume and Mizuto are in a rom-com anime, it was inevitable that one of them would slip and fall towards the other, leading to a compromising—but also familiar—position. Mizuto even calls Yume by her old name, Ayai, as he brushes her bangs back in preparation for a kiss that is really only interrupted by the sudden arrival of their parents. Yume’s lucky there’s storage in the couch they were on.

But let’s assume these two are done and done for good because they are now stepsiblings. The show has many places to go with this, from exploring how they’ll no doubt stumble and fall again into old patterns from when they dated, to how they’ll try to counter that by entering hostility-regret-truce spirals, to the underlying mystery of why they broke up.

I also loved the detail that they were both shy “nerds” who still have rooms packed with books, and are both at the top of their class. Oh, and most important: while there are times that I’m on Team No One, at the end of the day both Yume and Mizuto want to make sure their parents are happy. They’re good kids, and I look forward to watching them navigate this strange new normal.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Komi Can’t Communicate S2 – 12 (Fin) – Eraser War and Peace

It’s already March and White Day is upon him, but Tadano doesn’t know what to get Komi. Candy means you like someone, cookies mean they’re just a friend, but to him Komi is kinda-sorta both. What to do? Well, under the unconvincing guise that he’s getting a gift for Katai, he enlists the help of his sister Hitomi, who is excited about her big bro “gettin’ some”, in the parlance of our times.

White Day is actually Saturday, but everyone takes care of their business on Friday…except Tadano, who instead invites Katai to dinner. That only makes his task more difficult as he must go to Komi’s house the next day and brave her parents.

But he does make it, and delivers a very sweet and thoughtful gift of hand cream, along with a single candy. Just like she gave him the very best of the “friendship” chocolate she made, the single candy is an acknowledgement of something more than just friends, and it’s not lost on Komi.

Komi seems a little out of it to Tadano one day, but before he can ask her what’s up, Najimi goes and starts the eraser war to end all eraser wars. Much like the snowball fight with the kids, this takes an extremely mundane classroom activity to a ridiculous level of intensity that involves the entire class and ends with Komi claiming an easy, stylish victory.

Then the class clears out, leaving just Komi and Tadano together in the classroom as the rains fall outside. Komi, increasingly unafraid of speaking out loud to Tadano, tells him she feels lonely since the closing ceremony is upon them and they’ll be in a new class soon.

Tadano uses the rain as a metaphor to ensure her that things will be alright, and that they shouldn’t lament the end of one year, but celebrate how amazingly full and fun that year was, in which she made one friend, then two, then three, then, I dunno, something approaching twenty.

The first day of the new school year, there’s every indication Komi and Tadano ended up in the same class together again, and when he says good morning, she puts the notebook away and tells him she’s looking forward to another year with him. It’s Peak Sweet Komi, and a perfect way to close the curtain on the second—and most likely not final—season.

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 11 – Polishing the Diamond

We check in on Aoi, who is finishing off a lauded competitor who couldn’t bring it in a practice match, and she’s looking forward to reuniting with her soul mate Eve when instead she’s summoned to her grandfather’s house. She’s only mad until he serves her her favorite cake from Hokkaido. The true purpose for the visit is so Gramps can find out who Coach Amuro is pairing Aoi up with.

Shinjou says without hesitation: Eve is the best replacement for the injured President Jinguuji. Back at Raiou, Amuro doesn’t bother putting Eve in the standard golf practices with the plebs; he knows he has a diamond in the rough on his hands, and when Jinguuji removes her arm sling and volunteers to polish her, he agrees. Ichina also tags along for the three-day retreat to the Athena Golf Resort, the better to build chemistry with Eve.

While Jinguuji wants Eve to learn about Japanese courses, Eve starts off their training sessions with her bullets. Jinguuji throws a wrench in her works by moving her balls into uncomfortable and difficult positions. Easy Mode is officially cancelled. Eve complains at first, but when Jinguuji assures her that she’ll have to master all kinds of unplanned shots to beat the best Japan has to offer, she rises to the challenge.

A nifty day-to-night training montage ensues, with Even getting the hang of Jinguuji’s coaching and actually seemingly learning something. Jinguuji also makes sure to run Eve ragged across their three days, so much so that Eve falls asleep in the hot spring and leans up against Ichina…something she’s lucky Aoi didn’t see.

Everyone, including Ichina, venerates President Jinguuji, but she claims to know the truth about herself: that she’s a “weed” who can grow to impressive height but can never reach the sun. In trying to become the golfer Amuro wanted her to be, she ruined her elbow, and it will never be the same. We see Jinguuji at her lowest moments, the imperious façade she shows Eve completely broken down.

Amuro, the asshole, actually seemingly engineered things so that Jinguuji would injure herself and make way for Eve, presumably after he saw her play on TV. That’s pretty shitty, and my skin crawled when he gave her a commiserating hug. After treating her like a tool and literally breaking her, now you treat her like a human being?

The next day, Amuro announces that Aoi and Eve will be the two Raiou representatives for the All-Japan Girls High School Doubles Championship—a tournament that, again, Aoi’s mom invented to serve as a spotlight and springboard for her daughter. Amuro wants to eliminate any doubts the other golfers might have about his choice.

What results is Aoi and Eve’s much-anticipated first golf date in way too long a time. Both of them remark how they’ve been disappearing from one another ever since Eve arrived, only to laugh it off and quite casually put on one hell of a show for their club-mates, both with their golf and their lovey-dovey interactions.

Here’s hoping Birdie Wing continues its brisk storytelling by covering the start (if not all) of the tournament in its final episode (or two). I’d hate to think the show is ending so soon with so many big golf names being introduced for Eve to challenge and defeat, and to not give this splendid series at least another cour (and ideally three or four more, a la Chihayafuru) would be criminal in my eyes.

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 10 – Every Shot’s a Gamble

Eve attracts a lot of attention at her knew fifties diner-looking fancypants school, and on her first day, she doesn’t really like it. She dresses and acts like a yankee or delinquent, because she’s not here to make friends. She’s here to fulfill her promise to Aoi, whom she longs to “play with” all day long, only for Shinjou to put the kibosh on an after-school game.

Aoi giving Eve blue-bullet-balls only makes her more pent-up and frustrated, but Aoi tells her they can play all the time if she joins the school’s Golf Club, so with Ichina in tow, that’s what she tries to do. Unfortunately, the coach, Amuro Reiya (voiced by the same seiyu as Amuro Rey of Gundam fame) only pisses her off more. Of course, that’s intentional on his part. He’s testing her.

Unaware of how much money Eve made in the previous arc, Ichina assumes Eve has nowhere to go after school, but Eve proves her wrong by sidling up to the first pair of admiring classmates, captivating them with her ladykiller skillz, and proceeding to have a grand night out of shopping and games. Eve demonstrates she’s not just good at golf.

When her new friends (whose names she probably won’t remember) head home just before their curfews, Eve reveals she’s known Ichina has been stalking her all along. Ichina doesn’t consider it stalking; she’s observing one of the best golfers she’s encountered, and wants to be her caddy so they can win together. When one Iseshiba Kuyou appears and challenges Eve to a game of mini golf, Eve is ready to do battle.

While Kuyou demonstrates sublime precision in her putting, both she and Ichina are equal parts shocked, outraged, and entranced by the unique way Eve plays, which involves jumps, bounces, and lots of ricochets. Every shot feels like a gamble, like Eve is walking a tightrope…and yet the balls keep going in all the same.

After witnessing a few of Eve’s holes, even an elite golfer like Kuyou is well and truly shook. Fortunately for her, her senpai and teammate, Iijima Kaoruko, is nearby and tags herself in, sensing Kuyou is about to miss a shot. Keenly aware of the psychological aspect of golf, Kaoruko proceeds to use her In the Zone skill to shut off the outside world until there’s only her, the ball, the hole, and the route to get there.

After Kaoruko sinks her hole with a wedge, Ichina stops Eve from taking her shot. Eve remembers that Ichina said she could help her win the all-girls tournament, she stops and listens to what her caddy has to say. Kaoruko set a trap with her wedge shot, denting the green right in front of the hole. Ichina proposes not avoiding that dent but using it to get the ball in the hole. Eve is able to do so, and learns the value of Ichina as her caddy.

Kaoruko learns that both Eve and Ichina aren’t as dumb or inept as they look, and cuts the match short for the time being. That said, Kaoruko fully expects to see Eve at the All-Japan Girls High School Golf Doubles Championship. She’ll most likely be paired with Kuyou, and gives Coach Amuro a call telling him it was cruel to use her kohai to a player like Eve.

Turns out both Kuyou and Kaoruko comprised the test Amuro laid out for Eve, and she passed it with flying colors. With his ace Jinguuji Kinue out of commission, he needs someone to replace her by Aoi’s side at the championship, and it’s looking like that person is Eve. She’s already shown she can take and benefit from advice from a caddy; perhaps her crazy style of play can find a home at Raiou.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Spy x Family – 07 – Making It Work With Less Than Ideal

“I’m sorry I’m bad at school”, a still-drowsy Anya says to Loid and Yor. “The peace of the world rests on you making amends”, she hears Loid thinking. It’s a lot of pressure for a little girl on her second day of school, but she’s resolved to apologize to Damian. The problem is, both his toadies and her her rich girl friend Becky make that almost impossible.

Reading minds clearly takes a lot out of Anya, so between hearing the inner voices of all her classmates and probably not sleeping much last night, she nods off in first period. But when Loid sees Becky working against the apology plan, he starts disguising himself as school staff to make it clear to Anya that the apology must happen, the sooner the better.

It takes Loid calling Becky away on the PA for Anya to finally get her shot, and Damian’s toadies bully her so much in their minds they make her start bawling as she apologizes. As I’d suspected, Damian has confusing new feelings about Anya, the girl who was the first to “defy” him. When she sobs during her apology, making clear she only wanted to be friends, the resulting shot to his heart is so much he has no choice but to run away.

While Loid witnesses all this unfold and concludes that the Friendship Plan may be doomed, I’d say he’s making far too quick an assessment of the situation. Sure, on the surface Damian hates her, but he actually likes her; his behavior is the result of simply not knowing what to do about it. This is 100% classic little kid (and some times bigger kid) behavior.

That said, Loid is new to this, and Twilight didn’t get where he is by taking risks or operating under less-than-ideal circumstances. But there’s so much not in his control here and the circumstances couldn’t be less ideal, so he’s trying to overcompensate. Today Damian ran away from Anya, so he has to try to get her those eight Stella. That night Loid has an intense study session with Anya, but his anxious thoughts and calculations flood into her head and overwhelm her, and she runs into her room to sulk.

Here is where Yor’s lighter touch (if only where Anya is concerned) comes in. At first Yor feels she’s being presumptuous in offering Loid advice and insisting they not be to hard on themselves. But by doing so she reminds Loid that he’s not alone in this parenting business.

He and Yor are legally husband and wife and parents to Anya. They’re in this together, through thick and thin. They need to be patient, but also confident. All parents go through this; that this one was constructed for a spy mission doesn’t change that in the slightest.

I loved how much simpler and more macabre Yor’s inner thoughts are compared to Loid’s during the study session, but I also love how Anya truly wants to do her best, which is why Loid finds her asleep at her desk. She stopped sulking and started studying all on her own.

She’s a good girl, Yor’s a good mom, and he’s a good dad for caring about all of Anya—not just how she figures into the mission. They’ll get through this…even if Yor’s brother Yuri is only now finding out Yor has a husband and daughter.

Spy x Family – 06 – Smiling Doesn’t Help at All

At the fitting for her new Eden uniform, the seamstress warns both Anya and her parents of all of the pitfalls of student and parent life. There are all of these ongoing overlapping battles—between the richer kids and less rich kids, between children of Eden alumni and non-alumni, between boarders and commuters. Oh, and the kidnappers. Anya isn’t sure she wants to go to school anymore.

But the must, as she’s the lynchpin of Operation Strix. Loid visits a secret installation beneath a photo booth where his Handler gives him the details of Strix Phase Two. Anya simply attending Eden won’t be enough for Loid to get to Desmond, whose son is sure to be an honor student, called an Imperial Scholar. Students must earn eight “Stella” merits to become one. Alternatively, earning eight “Tonitrus Bolts” or demerits will result in immediate expulsion.

With the new information that Anya must not just be an Eden student but an elite one, Loid is no doubt headed to the drugstore to purchase a couple bottles of Mylanta to deal with his stress. Meanwhile while he’s out late for work, Yor takes Anya to get her newly-completed uniform, which she then shows off to everyone in the park.

When they go to the supermarket to buy stuff to cook (Yor wants to give cooking the old Eden college try), some n’er-do-wells attempt to kidnap Anya to extort Yor for cash, thinking she’s the maid. She puts them in her place, ruining the groceries, but Anya pats her head in praise. She likes her cool, strong mama, and asks her to train her so she can be strong and cool to. Despite believing otherwise, Yor is being a good mother to Anya.

Considering the cutthroat atmosphere of Eden College the next day, I would think that basic martial arts training would be a requisite of every new student. Yor also teaches Anya some important social skills, but one kid is so nasty, she eventually cant help but punch him using what she learned from mom.

The kid who gets punched just happens to be Damian, the second son of Donovan Desmond. But if she doesn’t get off on the right foot with befriending him, at least she earns a new best friend in Becky Blackbell.

Post-punch, Henderson has no choice but to give Anya at least one Tonitrus Bolt, though the usual punishment is three. There hasn’t been a single day of actual classes and already Anya is negative-one Stella star from being an Imperial Scholar and has made an enemy of the boy she was supposed to befriend.

It’s here where I must comment that Loid really did take a gamble simply throwing Anya into the fray having nothing but a little basic combat and social training from Yor. Granted he doesn’t know Yor is a socially awkward assassin, but he knows what he is: a master spy, and thus a master of human behavior.

I get he needed that briefing from Handler, but he should have taken the lead with teaching Anya more about how to act arond others and how to properly react to adversity. Her bolt is as much his fault as hers. Still, I’m not as pessimisstic as all three families look in the photo taken at the end of orientation.

For one thing, I suspect being punched by Anya might endear her to Damian, considering she did something no one ever did. For another, Anya’s ability to read the minds of her classmates can be an enormous boon…once she learns how to use use it properly.

Heroines Run the Show – 01 – (First Impressions) – Clearing Every Hurdle

Who doesn’t love can-do country bumpkins? I for one can’t help but be endlessly charmed by them as I vicariously watch them navigate the Big City for the first time, full of gumption and moxie. Suzumi Hiyori is a bushy-eybrowed ball of energy brought to life by the ubiquitous Minase Inori (though if you’re not a fan of her louder, higher-pitched characters, you probably won’t enjoy this).

Her little hometown high school doesn’t have a track team, but Hiyori wants to one day be a national finalist, so to Tokyo she goes, with the full support of her huge and adorable family. Little did she know that she’d end up seated between the two ruinously popular male idols Shibasaki Aizou and Someya Yuujirou. Most of the other girls in her class swoon over them, but she experiences them with their nice faces off, and is t barely-concealed concept for each other.

While searching for the front gate of her massive (for her) new school, she overhears a heated argument, and finds Aizou taking Yuujirou by the scruff. She tries to play peacemaker, but only ends up soaking the three of them by stepping on a high-pressure hose. She says classmates shouldn’t fight; they tell her to stay away from her…but she sits between them, she she can’t!

Fortunately, Hiyori makes fast friends with two other girls in her class: the slightly gyaru-y Hattori Juri (Sakura Ayane) and the more reserved, bespectacled Nakamura Chizuru (Hayami Saori). Together, these three are among my favorite seiyuu, and combined with Uchiyama Kouki and Shimazaki Nobunaga, we’ve got ourselves an all-star cast.

In one of the more touching scenes of the episode, Hiyori is on the call with her mom, and learns her dad, a fisherman, hurt his back and may be laid up for a bit. With four younger siblings, she worries she’s being a financial burden for her family by going to school in Tokyo. Her mom says it will be fine, but Hiyori takes another bold step into adulthood by deciding to get a part-time job to pay her living expenses.

Her first round of interviews don’t go well, as her already busy high school and track schedule simply does not mesh with your typical restaurant or café work schedule. But she ends up hitting paydirt with a 1500 yen/hr (or $12/hr, not chump change for a high schooler) opportunity, and after some early nerves, manages to make a strong case for herself as someone who will overcome any obstacle and get the job done.

While Hiyori is one of dozens of applicants, the clincher for her recruiter Uchida (not Maaya) is that she’s in the same class as the idol duo LIPxLIP, AKA Aizou and Yuujirou, which makes her the perfect fitr for their new rookie manager-in-training. Both she and the boys are taken completely by surprise with this development, and I doubt any of them are happy with it.

But hey, Hiyori did say she’d leap over any hurdle to service of her dream, didn’t she? She’ll never make the nationals if the hurdles are only a foot tall! Uchida did her a big favor, giving her a foot in the door of a hugely popular enterprise and giving her a personal and professional challenge. If she’s to be their manager, they’ll all have to get to know and learn to trust each other. I can’t wait to see how it goes.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform – 12 (Fin) – You’re Lithe in April

For its finale ASU takes a somewhat unique and refreshing approach to the sports festival formula: it starts at the end, with Akebi’s much-anticipated dance in front of the whole school. Before taking the stage she admits to Usagihara that she’s a little nervous.

Usagihara knows she’ll be fine, because there’s a surprise for Akebi: joining her on stage for accompaniment is Erika, who is clearly her best friend. Unsuccessfully holding back tears at this surprise, Akebi proceeds to do what she took the stage to do: dance her heart out. This is yet another opportunity for the production team to flex its animation muscles.

The dance is interspersed with scenes from the preceding festival, in which Akebi cheered on everyone in the crowd, while they cheered and supported her in her events, and now in the auditorium. It’s a nice way to break up the one weakness to the performance, which is a pretty but also somewhat bland and repetitive song, and also show all kinds of sports action.

A clever creative choice is for the assembled classmates and friends to recognize Akebi’s acrobatic dance moves in both her earlier cheer dancing and athletic feats, some of which reach incredible, lyrical heights. Then Erika switches to violin and the performance is taken to another level still. When the dancing’s over, Akebi and Erika hold hands as they bow to the crowd.

The Monday morning after the even, Akebi is naturally still fatigued from exertions both athletic and artistic. She almost can’t believe what went down during the festival and afterward, as if it were a dream. But it’s not, and she overslept so her sister made breakfast, and Akebi’s whole family is there to greet her and her bed head.

The final scenes echo the first episode, first when Akebi runs through gorgeous landscapes on her way to school, then encounters Erika alone in the classroom. This time, however, Erika isn’t smelling her nail clippers…and also, they’re the best of friends!

Akebi had once been in a class of one with no one her age to hang out with…but thanks to her joyful gregarious personality and her mom’s sewing skills, she now has not just one but at least fifteen friends in her class, and plenty more outside. They enrich her life, and she theirs—a bright and joyful balance.

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