Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 03 – Our Weird Dance

This week’s cavalcade of quiet, calm hijinx begins with Raidou looking like a shounen hero and Aharen looking like a toy troll. Turns out it’s just a matter of bed head, not that she’s joined a death metal band. When Raidou’s attempts to tame the hair result in a lotus-type shape, it’s up to Mitsuki, whose family happens to run a salon.

After cutting both Aharen and Raidou’s hair (the latter being a big step forward, even if her original attempt was to shave him bald), Aharen thanks her by inviting her to eat lunch with them. Unfortunately Mitsuki is too shy to sit too close, but Aharen just happens to have extendable chopsticks. Mitsuki also helps her apply toner, moisturizer, and lip balm, then give Aharen a fully body massage for good measure.

When one of their classmates who is training for baseball grows so large he blocks Aharen’s view of the chalkboard, Raidou tries to help out by going through every possible alternate position before concluding that the best one is the most normal; simply pushing their desks together and getting cozy. However, when the teacher announces that everyone is changing desks soon, Raidou is determined to make his “last days” sitting next to Aharen-san count.

In a co-ed softball game for P.E., Raidou learns throwing strikes to Aharen is nigh impossible due to her strike zone being the roughly the size of a postage stamp. He thinks she’s calling her shot, but her arm is itchy, and when she makes her stance lower, it’s simply the heat making her “all droopy”. But by walking her on four pitches, hers is the winning run for her team, so he at least is able to deliver her some glory.

In Home Ec class, Raidou, who can’t cook anything, is paired up with two other classmates whose cooking skills he’s not sure of. But Aharen is also on his team and she’s a great cook, so he knows they’ll be fine. However, after softball she has no energy, so he has to cook, with horrifying results. Thankfuly Aharen has a strong stomach and wolfs down all the food he made, giving her the energy needed to whip up a meatless four-course meal and a passing grade for the team.

Finally, Raidou tries to help Aharen with what he believes to be her dream to become a famous YouTuber,  practicing choreography for a weird dance while her phone records. Here Raidou’s imagination truly gets out of hand as he imagines the two of them becoming internet famous and filling arenas with their bizarre dancing that is reminiscent of Elaine’s from Seinfeld. Turns out she has no designs on being famous; she was just practicing dance moves for class.

As for changing desks, well…I expected them to simply switch places and remain next to each other, but even that doesn’t happen. And you’d think the teacher would realize Aharen can’t see if she’s behind another huge athletic kid! But that doesn’t matter, because the blissful days of sitting beside each other shall continue indefinitely…as will their whimsical antics.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 02 – XYZ

Raidou and Aharen’s rapport continues to be strong and easygoing, but while Aharen has distance and communication issues, Raidou has an overactive imagination. For instance, he imagines Aharen was in a street fight with some toughs, when she really just got something in her eye. I liked how difficult it was for Raidou to administer the drops, and how when he gets something in his eye, Aharen is quick to reciprocate—though like me, she sucks at administering eye drops!

Raidou’s imagination also runs wild concerning the constant feeling he and Aharen are being watched and followed. He looks back on all of the petty offenses he’s committed against people in his life (mostly against his little sister) and believes himself a “monster”, and thus deserving of a hitman after him. Dude is an absolute goof.

However, he’s downright normal compared to the one following them, Aharen’s towering childhood friend Ooshiro Mitsuki. She is protective of Aharen, whom she calls Reina, but also terrified of Raidou and so keeps her distance. Even when Aharen insists he’s neither scary nor a bad guy, Mitsuki can’t help but stick to her misconceptions. Also MAO voices Mitsuki in “Pecorine on caffeine” mode.

The next segment involves Aharen wearing a mask due to a mild cold, and thus not being able to properly notify Raidou that his fly is all the fuck open, revealing his pink strawberry print boxers. Let it be said that Aharen’s reaction to this is as amazing as her attempts to warn Raidou are ineffective. That said, she does come up with a lot of clever ways to block the sight of his crotch from others.

Even on the way home, after an exhausting day of failure, Aharen  positions herself in front of him to spare him embarrassment. When he finally determines that she’s been trying to get him to notice something, and sees the reflection of the two of them in the mirror, it seems like he finally gets it…only for him to wrongly assume Aharen got a haircut.

Next up is the first segment with just Aharen and Mitsuki. Even though Raidou is absent, Mitsuki is weary of getting too close to Aharen, since she’s worried she’ll be yelled at, scolded, or bopped on the head (again). That said, it’s raining, and Mitsuki keeps trying to clandestinely lend Aharen her umbrella, only for Aharen to believe the umbrella is cursed and locks it up in front of a hastily-built shrine. Ultimately Aharen shares her umbrella with Mitsuki, and uses the fact she’s within talking distance to thank her for watching over her.

The post-credits sequence is short but sweet, as Raidou breaks out the Reversi (AKA Othello) board and challenges Aharen to a match. He thinks he’s got a worthy opponent (he touts himself a “Raidou Family Champion”) when Aharen exerts the aura of a lion, but he ends up trouncing her. Then he gets her to admit she let him win, insists she fight him with everything he’s got, and then she trounces him…twice.

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

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 01 (First Impressions) – Lean on Me

In the best tradition of any number of [Character Name] is [Character Trait] comes Aharen-san is Indecipherable, with a bone-simple premise and extremely solid execution throughout. Our protagonists Raidou and Aharen are trying to start fresh in their first year in high school, and end up complementing each other perfectly by remaining who they are.

In Raidou’s case, he’s one of those “scary resting face” guys who is hard to approach, and who thinks he’s smiling when he’s not. Aharen, he learns, has trouble gauging the proper distance and intensity of social interaction. She’s either too distant (literally and/or figuratively) or waaay too close than is socially acceptable. She also speaks with an extremely tiny voice (expertly provided by Minase Inori).

After a couple of two-ships-passing-in-the-night incidents, the two eventually connect; Aharen is her usual too-close self, but Raidou doesn’t mind because he wanted to make friends and has done so. And while he notes in his inner monologue when Aharen is way too close or clingy, he’s never embarrassed or over-the-top. Everything is handled super chill fashion.

Aharen and Raidou are so immediately likeable and adorable, it’s not hard to get swept up in their everyday school lives and not particularly care about anyone else in the class, as the episode doesn’t either. They’re both kind, decent, generous people, whether it’s plushies won in a crane game or Aharen sharing half of her enormous bento…or getting up extra-early to make him a lunch all his own when his mom is on a business trip.

There’s plenty of physical comedy to be wrung out of the pair, whether its their extreme size difference or the myriad ways Aharen fits onto his lap, tucked into his shoulder, or clinging to his leg. This gets taken to an extreme when she nods off in his lap and ends up head-over-heels. This is at the very end, which marks the first time the episode focuses on a third character—in this case, a jealous redheaded girl.

My Winter 2022 trio of Takagi-san 3, Dress-Up Darling, and Akebi’s Salior Uniform was outstanding, and are a hard act to follow. But Aharen-san is just the sweet and charming slice-of-life comedy I was ready to miss when those three shows ended. Looks like the cozy good times are going to keep rolling into the Spring.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Osamake – 03 – Flipping a Switch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Osamake – 02 – The Cost of Assumptions

Maru Sueharu was indeed a famous and talented child actor, while his dad was a stuntman and his mother an “unsuccessful” actress. Abe Mitsuru asks why Sueharu suddenly quit acting six years ago, but I doubt the answer matters much to him, as once Mitsuru found out Sueharu liked Shirokusa, he decided to date her for the express purpose of humiliating him and proving that he “won”. I take it back; this guy’s a dick!

Mitsuru also makes clear his intentions to officially confess to Shirokusa at the confession festival, in hopes of squashing Suehar’s first love for good. Why he cares so much about Sueharu is anyone’s guess, but the bottom line is that if Sueharu will need to make a big splash at the festival to foil his scheme.

Despite Kuroha loudly proclaiming she and Sueharu are now dating, Shirokusa still agrees to write a script for a play Sueharu will perform for the festival—provided he’s the star and she gets properly compensated. She then contributes to his persona non grata status with the boys by exchanging NINE info with him.

Kuroha, who we learn is one of four beautiful Shida sisters who live next door to Sueharu, stops by to check on him. Once again the two exhibit a warm, lovely lived in chemistry. While she’s organizing his books, a photo slips out of one of them: a photo of him as a kid with someone who is clearly Shirokusa.

Sueharu, who calls Shirokusa Kachi, doesn’t make the connection to his old friend “Shiro”, because he is very dumb and possibly face-blind. Right on cue, Shirokusa then calls Sueharu up, and they have a playful little chat to arrange a place and time to meet and talk about the play. After the call, Kuroha knows it was Shirokusa on the line, and is worried about Sueharu jumping back into acting after so long.

She also makes clear that even if it doesn’t go well it doesn’t matter, because he has other qualities besides acting ability, and she reiterates that she likes him. When she teases his red face, he raises a mirror to show her hers, then tries to go further by taking her by the chin and teasing a kiss, only to chicken out when she was ready to go.

I realize I said this last week, but it sure would be a lot easier if he got over Shirokusa and dated Kuroha for real! I know, I know, love polygon romcoms need these kinds of bumps to provide drama. Speaking of drama, on the day Sueharu practices on stage with Tetsuhiko, he suddenly suffers what I’d describe as a panic attack and passes out.

He wakes up in the nurse’s office, with Shirokusa by his side, ready to begin their meeting when he’s ready. She admits she decided to write the script for him because she’s supporting him getting back into acting. As far as payment goes, she wants neither cash nor groveling, but an explanation for what happened to his acting career. Sueharu proceeds to tell a sad tale of his mother getting the role of his mother in the second season of Child Star, the show that made him famous.

But his mom put so much into her role, she ended up hitting her head while filming a scene where her character was to be hit by a car. The show was going to be cancelled, but Sueharu insisted the show go on. But after that second season it went on indefinite hiatus, along with his career. He couldn’t tell anyone at the time what happened due to a gag order.

Sueharu’s story moves Shirokusa to tears, and not just because it’s a sad story, but because it throws off her whole revenge plot against him—which predates his by six years! As expected, the “Shiro” Sueharu and Kuroha saw in the photo was her. She was spellbound by his performances on TV, and had him invited to her house to hang out. I particularly love how in this flashback her younger self looked his way with her head sideways on the desk, just like she did in the present when he asked her to write him a script.

Back then, she asks if she could write something for him to act in, and he was enthusiastic about it. He thus became her muse, as she began to write prolifically. But when he stopped coming by without explanation and his show ended, Shirokusa took it as a personal affront. She dedicated to becoming stronger, prettier, and famous to get back at him for leaving her.

As she walks home after their meeting, Shirokusa is in tears, because he’d gone from her first love to her hating him, and now she’s back to loving him, especially knowing what happened wasn’t her fault, or anyone’s. My questions are, is she in cahoots with Mitsuru or are they using each other to make Sueharu envious, and will this revelation lead to her cancelling her vendetta?

Whatever path she takes, Sueharu and Kuroha are proceeding with the play in which he upstages Mitsuru and confesses to Shirokusa. But Kuroha doesn’t trust Shirokusa and worries that this is a trap by her and Mitsuru to kick him as low as he can go just when he’s riding high. Nevertheless, Sueharu wants to give it a try.

While Kuroha is worried about him, as a childhood friend would, she’s also supportive, telling him that even after all this time his natural talent is still there, and he’s a better actor than he gives himself credit for. As long as he’s acting for someone, she knows he’ll do great. Ideally, that someone is her!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Osamake – 01 (First Impressions) – The Romcom Where The Childhood Friend Won’t Lose!

When Maru Sueharu (melodic name, that) encounters his classmate and the school’s vaunted idol, Kachi Shirokusa, he’s honored she knows his name, and says her first novel moved his heart. His praise moves her to tears as she thanks him, showing a side no one at school had ever seen, and that was that: Sueharu “fell victim to love’s poison”, as for him love isn’t something you fall into, but rather eats away at you.

It’s eleven days until the cultural festival, on the second day of which is the “confession festival”. While on friendly speaking terms with Kachi, Sueharu made no further progress with courting her. His mate Tetsuhiko isn’t surprised. She’s smart, athletic, an award-winning novelist and model—way out of the league of Sueharu…who just seems to be…some guy?

Sueharu watches Kachi (imperiously voiced by Sakura Ayane) tearing her own notes rather than letting a girl copy them. Then he catches Kachi in the library, either writing fresh notes or re-writing the ones she tore, all with tears in her eyes. If ever there was an chance to approach her, it’s here, but Sueharu chickens out. Tetsuhiko suggests Sueharu ask his childhood friend Shida Kuroha out instead of tilting at windmills.

She’s out of his league to, but due to their osananajimi status, she might actually say yes. Sueharu admits that Kuroha is cute, all the guys like her, she’s good at communicating, and he respects her a lot. Just then, Kuroha announces her presence, bending her diminutive frame to face him while he sits on the floor. Sueharu gets all shy, something Kuroha mentions is something she likes about him.

As other boys in class curse Sueharu and plan his death with startling detail for daring to have an “older loli” as a childhood friend, Kuroha makes no effort to lower her voice when she asks if Sueharu regrets rejecting her when she asked him out. Even Kachi and her friend Maiko take notice.

Sueharu prostrates himself and admits that yes, he’s grateful to have Kuroha. Then Maiko accidentally blurts out that Kachi is dating actor Abe Mitsuru, himself the son of a famous actor. Sueharu’s heart drops out of his chest, and he flees the classroom in a cloud of despair.

Naturally, because they’ve known each other since they were little Kuroha knows just where to find him sulking: on the riverbank. She repeats that her asking him out was only because “she lost a game” but he knows that while she acts like an older sister, she likes to be doted on. Because he’s spot-on about that, she cradles his head in her chest as a reward.

Kuroha reiterates her affection for Sueharu, for being nice to her even when he’s hurting himself. She also says that despite the fact he rejected her, her feelings are still there, which is why she can relate to how he’s feeling having been passively rejected by Kachi.

It was in this scene where Kuroha and Sueharu won me over. For one thing, both the characters and their seiyuu Minase Inori and Matsuoka Yoshitsugu have properly gorgeous chemistry that oozes from the screen. They feel so comfortable and sweet together, it’s a crying shame they don’t just date each other…but then there wouldn’t be a show, would there?!

Instead of taking the easy route of going out for real, Kuroha offers to help Sueharu get revenge on Kachi, for stringing him along out of a desire to “keep him around” despite having a boyfriend; the proverbial cake and eating it. It would also be revenge for Kuroha, who is insulted by Kachi’s implied rejection of her friend. As far as she’s concerned it’s Sueharu who’s out of Kachi’s league.

It’s here where Sueharu mentions in VO that Kuroha’s name is based on “clover”, which is not just a symbol of luck, but promises, thinking of her, and…revenge. And at their first meeting to plan this revenge, Kuroha makes no secret of her preferred method: Sueharu and her pretending to be boyfriend and girlfriend, thus depriving Kachi of the buddy she friendzoned.

Before Sueharu fully agrees to this method, Kuroha immediately settles into the role, which she made quite clear would be “all profit” to her, as she’d get to go out with the guy she loves. She gets close to Sueharu, runs her hand down his arm and weaves her fingers into his, whispers in his ear, and eventually gets him on his back, hoping to commence their “fake” dating plan with a real kiss.

Just before their lips touch, Sueharu thinks of Kachi crying on the bridge and wigs out, leaving an upset and unsatisfied Kuroha alone. After trying and failing to get dirt on Abe Mitsuru—he’s perfect!—he flees to the roof to basically monologue in a very dramatic, theatrical way—one instance of many in the episode that allow Matsuoka Yoshitsugu to have some fun with his performance.

Turns out it’s no accident that Sueharu is often performative like this, as we learn when Abe Mitsuru appears on the roof, having heard Sueharu was asking around about him. When Sueharu expresses surprise a famous guy like Abe knows him, Abe says he doesn’t so much know him, but remember him…as the “former genius child actor” Maru Sueharu! This is the first sign that Abe isn’t going to be just some faceless baddie gumming up the gears of Sueharu and Kachi’s romance. Hell, it’s possible Sueharu inspired Mitsuru to follow his dad and become the actor he is!

As it is, Osamake takes the tried-and-true formula of a two-girl, two-boy love polygon, but flips the script of the classic childhood friend character, so often portrayed as meek, supportive, and ultimately content with an unrequited love.

Kuroha may be supportive, but she’s neither meek nor content. Confident and assertive, she knows exactly what she wants and isn’t going to give up trying to get it. And hopefully, for once, the childhood friend won’t lose, as the title suggests (it could be lying). Sueharu came off a bit dull at first, but through his interactions with Kuroha we see what she sees in him. I just hope he doesn’t have amnesia about child acting…that would be one romcom cliché too many!

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 12 (Fin) – Back to the Way Things Were

The Sleepy Princess show, a surprise smash comedy hit of the Fall, closes out just how the title above says: with things back to where they were at the beginning. But at the episode’s start, when the demons find a letter to santa in Sya’s stocking asking to “go home”, they wonder if the princess has finally become homesick.

…She’s not, of course; she just wants to stop by Goodreste Palace to grab her special Christmas woolen undies. Rather than try to stop her (which would probably result in her going it alone), Twilight and the Cleric decide to transport straight into her palace bedroom. Predictably, Sya loses focus and has a quick nap in her lavish king-size bed.

When her mother the queen hears all the noise in her room she goes in to investigate, and lifts the covers to find…Cubey?! Yes, Cleric stowed Cubey away in case a body double was needed, and what do you know, the queen is convinced it’s her daughter! I was waiting for her to comment on how she changed her style while away.

The queen takes Cubey away, but Sya and the demons know they can’t just leave her, so the princess dresses up in one of her coolest dresses and strides down the halls without a care in the world. The three end up hiding in a giant suit of armor to avoid Paladins, but one of them, Evening Star, regales the comrade he thinks he’s talking to with super-embarrassing stories of Sya when she was little. Naturally, Twilight and Cleric can barely contain their delight.

Evening Star chases them until dawn, when he falls asleep instantly (he’s apparently a night owl). The gang regroups in Sya’s room, where she decides she’ll take responsibility as a princess and ensure things go back to the way they were.

Just as “Princess” Cubey is about to speak to the entire Kingdom of Goodreste (with TV feeds reaching to the Demon Castle), Sya cuts in with her own speech thanking her subjects for their love, which has helped her remember she is a princess, not a hostage.

Sya also speaks to how her experiences with the demons have not only helped her learn a lot about herself, but about the ways humans and demons can have better relations down the road. Then she somewhat undermines those words by accosting Cubey while wearing a hastily-scrawled Twilight mask and his cape, declaring he’s taking Sya back to his castle after all.

In short, Sya was only back for a quick Christmas drop-in and hello. In order for things to “go back to the way they were”, she needed to ensure she went back to her second home with Twilight, Cleric, and Cubey. Her mother, who recognized her voice during the speech, seems to understand her daughter’s intentions, and wishes her well on the adventures to follow. What a cool mom!

Sya & Co. return to the Demon Castle where she’s warmly welcomed, and the castle proceeds to throw one hell of a Christmas party. Twilight and Cleric than curse themselves for forgetting the main reason for going to Goodreste with Sya—to retrieve her woolen undies—but Sya seems unconcerned.

For one thing, she may have grabbed them after all before leaving, and is wearing them as they speak (though she’s thankfully grown beyond the skirt-lifting necessary to prove it). Whether she’s got them or not, she seems quite happy distributing other sets to her Teddy Demon friends as thanks for their loyal service. With that, she lets out a big ol’ yawn and drifts off to sleep with her signature “Syaaaaaa”, her final quest complete.

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 11 – Princess Popular

After waiting in line with the autograph-seeking Teddy Demons, Harpy invites Sya to a pajama party, somewhat disingenuously promising it will result in more cheerful sleep. Sya can’t pass that up, but she needs more information on what a pajama party is…so she hops into the Demon King’s bed to “practice” such a party.

Jumping in bed to practice is an extremely misinterpret-able scenario for, say, Cleric, who also overhears Sya talking about demons and humans falling in love. As a result, his devotion to protecting Sya’s chastity overrides his loyalty to his lord, and he attacks Twilight with lightning. The battle eventually gets too loud for Sya to sleep, but upon returning to her room she gets the cheerful sleep she sought…precluding the need to attend the real party.

Poor Harpy…she just wants to be friends with the princess! The succubus Cubey, on the other hand, has an ulterior motive: she wants to become more popular (popularity literally being the life blood of Succubi). When she learns she and Sya closely resemble one another, she seeks Sya’s tutelage on how to be more popular.

Unfortunately for Cubey and like most things regarding Sya, she isn’t popular on purpose, it just happens. Also, Sya misunderstands Cubey’s intentions from the start, believing her to be a potential body double in need of elite training. This results in Sya tying Cubey up and dragging her around the castle causing havoc, from murdering ghost shrouds to plucking Quillodillo quills to…well, actually, brushing Teddy Demons is delightful!

By the time Sya has Cubey on a cliff overlooking the lava lake impressing upon her the importance of staring death in the eye, Cubey’s struggling and yelling causes the cliff to collapse, and Sya falls into the lava and dies…again. Cubey fails to become more popular or learn anything useful from Sya, but Sya’s quest to get better “rest” succeeds.

Finally, Twilight and the Big 10 are having another important meeting when Sya again busts in like she owns the place, parks herself at the table, and tents her fingers like a petite, adorable Gendou Ikari. Whatever they’re discussing in this meeting is irrelevant: she has a task for them: to determine why the quality of her sleep has been lacking of late.

Twilight brings in Hypnos, noted sleep expert, to determine the cause. He arranges so the group can watch Sya’s dreams in real time, and the culprit to her crap sleep is revealed: “D-Whatsit”, AKA Dawner, AKA Akatsuki, the hero. Out of a desire to hang out, he is relentlessly pursuing Sya in her dreams.

While Cleric has known for a while now that Sya’s fiancée D-Whatsit and Dawner are the same person, both Sya and the rest of the Demons only come to this realization while her dreams unfold. Regardless of who he is, Sya doesn’t want anything to do with him, and shifts between attacking him and running from him. But like a chipper T-1000, he Just. Keeps. Coming.

Eventually Hypnos determines that Dawner is in Sya’s dream thanks to a letter bearing Sya’s signature…which Twilight learns he himself let fall out of his cape and into Dawner’s belt when he was redirecting the Hero’s party away from the still-under construction area of the Demon Castle grounds.

Once Twilight retrieves that slip of paper (not depicted on camera), Sya’s sleeping demeanor instantly improves dramatically to her usual tranquil “Syaaaaaa”-ing. And so, due to her acute aversion to the Hero, Sya further delayed her own rescue. But as we’ve seen, she’s not in any particular hurry to ever be rescued. She’s got the place on lock!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 10 – Demons in Humanland

Princess Sya has her most far-flung adventure yet, though it begins with a false start as she attempts to travel to the Human Realm on her own to purchase a state-of-the-art massage pillow. She puts her hear up and dons a gym uniform to enter ALL OUT MODE, then demonstrates her speed and agility as she outruns the Demons and eludes their attempts to stop her. Twilight, Siberian and Cleric are transfixed by her surprising athleticism, noting she’s like a football player out there.

When she starts getting perilously close to the poison swamp on the extreme edge of Demon Castle grounds, Twilight sets a trap with a bed in a cage. Nobody thinks it has a chance of working…until it works perfectly! They return Sya (cage and all) to the castle, where she tells them she won’t try to go alone if they accompany her, remarking that she knows they’re kind deep down.

The flattery works, and the next day Twilight, Siberian and Cleric accompany Syalis to the Human city of Endopolis. Sya is resplendent in her tidy traveler’s garb, but the demons’ disguises are so abysmal she resorts to pinning large notes on their backs reading “Practicing for Halloween.” Once in town, she spots a new Deluxe version of the pillow she covets on sale. All they have to do is wait in line…for three hours. Sya falls asleep on Siberian’s shoulders, but eventually the pillow is purchased.

By then it’s nighttime, and the anti-demon festival fireworks begin. When getting in the wrong line earlier, Twilight secured a VIP lottery ticket, and ends up winning a primo private viewing spot complete with snacks and cocktails (I’m really not sure about banana milk tea flavored popcorn though!) Just when the Demons start to think Sya is simply stalling because she doesn’t want to leave her own realm, she draws them a “grinning demon” symbol and suggests they head home—home, of course being the Demon Castle.

Once there, what becomes of the expensive massage pillow they went all that way and went through all that guff to get her? She pawns it off on the Teddy Demons. Hey, at least someone will enjoy it! Every episode of Sleepy Princess is an absolute hoot, but this was even more fun and hilarious than usual, all while deepening the bond of friendship between a human hostage and her gold-hearted captors—which is starting to bode well for future peace between their realms.

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 09 – My Uninhibited Hostage Life!

When Syalis smashes the equivalent of a phone when the “Human Shopping Channel” won’t ship a waterbed to the Demon Castle, she starts a quest to build her own. At the same time, Twilight and the Big Ten have a quest of their own: Ignore the princess so she’ll start feeling and acting like a hostage.

Naturally, this backfires. Not only does Syalis successfully collect all of the materials and tools she needs, but those items are sourced directly from the Big Ten. While they are all silent towards her, when she ties leashes to them and drags them around, they dare not resist lest they accidentally harm her.

This results in the unprecedented scene of her pulling the King, Cleric, and Siberian like she’s walking her pets. When Alraune tries to restore order, Syalis yawns and they misinterpret her tears to mean their ignoring her has harmed her emotionally, so they give up and help her build her waterbed.

The next Big Ten Demon Quest comes from a suggestion from Hades to put the princess to work. Syalis herself takes on the quest to complete all the work she is given in a single day, as she was raised to understand that she can’t sleep until her work is done!

Oddly enough, her work takes the form of summer vacation homework, with math problems, a diary in which she writes entries for every minute (instead of day), and arts and crafts. She performs all of this work in her “work clothes”, a fetching shoulderless black dress.

Once she’s done an entire month’s work in a day, the Top Ten concludes that continuing to give her that amount of work is unrealistic, and could in fact cause more harm than good. Meanwhile, Syalis plops on her bed without changing and falls asleep using her usual pink robes as a blanket, her quest complete.

0-for-2 so far, the Demons make it a trifecta with a third quest: Teach the princess how to be a proper hostage by showing her other hostages in the form of recently-captured human bandits. Syalis takes one look at the conditions of these prisoners and assumes the demons are planning to eat them.

When she’s told to react to the demons as the other hostages do—with intense fear and loathing—she does just that, with Minase Inori completely changing the usual way Syalis speaks to sound more like the classic damsel-in-distress. The demons hate this, and all of the verbal barbs she tosses their way hit their marks and leave them a defeated pile in the dungeon.

The other humans, having witnessed what the princess did to the demons, are now more afraid of her than the demons. Syalis takes the demons’ reactions to mean she should go back to acting the way she has all along, with no regard whatsoever to her hostage status. That said, she still puts on the hostage act…but only when it’s convenient to her.

Finally, while lying in bed before falling asleep, she wonders to a teddy demon that if everyone in the castle has been so kind to her thus far, why can’t humans and demons get along? Could her stay there be the impetus for her taking steps towards a peace treaty once released? Will her first order to the Hero be to stand down?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 08 – The Nightmare Continues!

Hero Akatsuki’s comrade Kisho is able to open a mini-wormhole using the gem in the princess’ tiara, but it’s only big enough for Akatsuki to pass his hand through and tap Syalis’ head. This apparently causes her to have “nightmares”, so she crashes a Big Ten meeting to tell everyone about it so she’ll feel better. At no point is anyone able to stop her from doing this, once again demonstrating the true Master of the Demon Castle.

I put “nightmare” in quotes, because what she really has is a dream about Akatsuki when they were kids. Of course, he’s so forgettable she refers to him as “A-whatsisname”. Though he’s just presenting her with a bouquet, when he trips on a rock it ends up in her face, complete with thorns and a bee. She also details a “race” they had that ended in his apparent death, only for her to forget him when he returned alive.

The kicker is that she describes this forgettable person as her fiancee, which leads the Demon Cleric (and no one else) to assume she’s talking about Akatsuki. Due to talking about her “nightmare” Syalis is able to go back to sleep, while the Fire Venom Dragon must head into battle with the heroes without a sendoff party, the poor guy!

In the next segment, Syalis writes a death letter to her mother, even though she’s merely suffering from a bad cavity. We quickly learn that she’s overdramatic when it comes to any malady that befalls her, as well as perhaps the worst patient a doctor (or in this case dentist) could have.

Her big hang-up is an absolute refusal to show anyone (aside from her loyal Teddy Demons)  the inside of her mouth, for a reason she keeps secret until the very end: her tongue is apparently a little shorter than average. Due to her histrionics the entire Demon Castle gathers in the operating theater, and we get a cameo from Cubey, another member of the female demons.

In the final segment (there are notably no sleeping quests this week, even though she’s asleep at the end of each segment), Fire Venom Dragon returns to the castle, utterly defeated after a three-day, three-night battle against Akatsuki. When he tells them his bag of items meant to help him in his battle had been replaced by…other things, they all assume it’s more Princess mischief.

However, as he further details the items he found in the bag, one by one his allies remember having placed those items there for various reasons and forgot to replace them with the proper weapons. Of course, each person, including Twilight, is so embarrassed, they take the easy out and falsely accuse the Princess of doing what they did.

This whips the dragon into a rage, but they all hold him back, knowing full well Syalis doesn’t deserve to be chewed out, at least this time. As for Syalis, she’s reading a difficult grimoire, eating avocado, and drinking a potion like a sports drink. Looks like a pretty good night!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 07 – Starting Over from Zzzzero

While there was no danger of Syalis’ antics growing stale at the Demon Castle, there’s nothing like a change of venue to freshen things up. That change occurs when Twilight’s rival Hades kidnaps Syalis in her sleep and deposits her in the far more rundown (but quieter!) Former Demon Castle.

The overarching joke this week is that Hades acts precisely like Twilight and his underlings when they first captured Syalis. Now they know better and harbor a healthy fear and respect for the pint-sized princess, while almost pitying Hades for not knowing what’s coming down the pike.

Predictably, Syalis doesn’t panic or cower before Hades or his adorable henchmen triplets Ker, Ber, and Os. Her first instinct is to simply sleep, in lieu of anything better to do. Then she puts her head on the appallingly cheap pillow and gets a nasty case of deja vu from her first night in Twilight’s castle.

Armed with a new quest to improve her pillow as the first step in a process, Syalis immediately returns to her usual relentlessly resourceful and determined self. When Ker, Ber, and Os try to intimidate them, she casually tosses an explosive pompom at the cell gate and sends them fleeing in terror.

Syalis’ search for fluffy bedding materials takes her into direct contact with Hades, but since he’s busy on the videophone gloating to Twilight (and laughing an exaggerated laugh like Rintarou Okabe) he doesn’t notice her literally ripping his clothes off for repurposing.

She gets an assist from her “friends” at the Demon Castle when they make such a ruckus on the phone, Hades is distracted. They even get him to look and levitate upwards so she can snag his fur boa, and when she does they cheer like Houston celebrating a successful rocket launch!

The pillow, however, is merely the first step. Syalis’ second quest involves improvement of her bedding in general. She soon finds that this Former Demon Castle has a lot more traps, but thankfully none of the needles, flying axes or fireballs end up killing her, and she meets a kindred spirit in Hypnos, the “personification of drowsiness”.

Syalis is immediately impressed by Hypnos’ dedication to sleep and begins calling him “Master” and asking him to teach her. When he shows her that the undersides of the tiles of an electrified walkway are fluffy fur, she jumps several steps ahead, killing the power source and gathering all of the furry tiles.

This sets off a number of traps, but Syalis must have been trained in martial arts and self-defense, because she’s able to dodge all of them, impressing Hypnos enormously. Her final bed contraption consists of a large mobile fur mattress that moves along a track, avoiding fireballs as she sleeps.

But as she’s starting a third quest for another comfortable night’s sleep, Twilight and some members of his Big Ten Council prepare a rescue mission to retrieve their captive. Lower-ranking people in the castle note how quiet and boring it is without the princess. They all want her back!

Hades remains in blissful ignorance, believing it laughable that the princess could leave her cell, let alone do all of the stuff she’s done. Yet she’s in his personal fur stash gathering materials, and just as he’s discussing all of the status-boosting weapons Ker/Ber/Os can use to repel Twilight and his compatriots, Syalis is destroying those very weapons in order to make a comfy neck pillow.

When Twilight & Co. finally confront Hades, the two Demon Lords seem poised for an epic one-on-one battle, which is interrupted by the sight of Syalis flying off in a flying contraption also meant for Ker/Ber/Os. Twilight & Co. peace out, taking a rain check on that duel, and chase after Syalis, who reunites with a Demon Teddy and sleeps soundly on the bag of stolen furs as the contraption flies her back to the Demon Castle—a place she’s come to think of as home.

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