BokuBen 2 – 02 – At Their Service

After focusing on the main tutee trio last week, we shift to the lives of Kominami Asumi and Kirisu Mafuyu, both of whom end up in Nariyuki’s debt; the lad is nothing if not useful and industrious. When her fellow cafe maids conscript him to accompany her on her new maid cooking and cleaning side-gig, the clients they encounter are one coincidence after another.

First, there’s Kirisu, who refuses to let Asumi in until Nariyuki has already cleaned her place within an inch of its life. Then Uruka’s sick mom hires them, unbeknownst to Uruka, who is so frazzled to have Nariyuki in her home she cleans and cooks a sumptuous meal for the three of them without thinking—such is the power of her natural domestic skills.

The final straw for Asumi comes when the third client is a hungry Fumino, who made a mess attempting to cook but didn’t expect people she knew to come to clean, so she calls Rizu, who arrives with enough noodles for the four of everyone.

With Asumi’s pride as a maid well and truly devastated, she ends up cooking and cleaning at Nariyuki’s house, impressing his younger siblings, who wonder when he’ll marry her. Asumi contents herself with having Nariyuki’s head in her lap as she cleans his ears, a “special service” she’s all too happy to perform for him on the house.

On to Kirisu-sensei, who gets furious at Fumino falling asleep in class, but after pulling an all-nighter preparing quizzes, ends up having trouble staying awake in class the next day. She convinces herself that no one notices the first time she nods off, but Nariyuki saw her and is pretty sure what’s up.

During an unplanned, lengthy, and extremely boring school address, Kirisu is again on the verge of appearing hypocritical and bringing shame to her fellow faculty, but Nariyuki again notices and fakes a loud sneezing fit to keep her awake. She suspects he’s helping her on purpose, but again chalks it up to overthinking.

When she arrives at her front door ready to pass the f out, to her dismay she’s misplaced the key. She runs into Nariyuki, and the two spend the rest of the afternoon into the evening searching everywhere for it, before Nariyuki suggests she double-check the substantial contents of her bag.

Sure enough, her sleep-deprived past self placed the key in her pouch of USB drives. But immediately upon opening her door, she passes out in the entryway. Being a scholar and a gentleman, Nariyuki can’t leave her in such a state, and so gently carries her to bed, noting how slender and light his teacher is and then apologizing to no one in particular for thinking about weird stuff.

Fumino, Rizu, and Uruka form the heart of BokuBen, but this week reinforces the notion that they don’t have to always be in the spotlight. Asumi and Kirisu-sensei bring their own energy and dynamics with Nariyuki, resulting in a thoroughly amusing and energetic outing.

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BokuBen 2 – 01 – Chests and Tests

First thing to understand is that this is a continuation of a Spring 2019 series, so before diving into this I’d advise watching the first season, my mostly-glowing reviews for which you can find here.

For those who are all caught up, BokuBen 2 offers more of the same vibrant brand of ecchi-related misunderstandings between various girls and their well-meaning male tutor and friend which inherently get in the way of the tutoring, hence the English title We Never Learn!

This week, Yuiga Nariyuki spends the most one-on-one time with Ogata Rizu, in which the first such misunderstanding is a mix-up between test scores and cup sizes. Since the worst test score is an E and Rizu is well beyond E in cup size, the wording of Nariyuki’s earnest attempts to encourage her (“There’s room for growth!” “I know how you feel!” “Let’s both grasp what we want!”) only serve to reinforce Kominami Asumi’s claim that Nariyuki is a “secret horndog.”

Nonetheless, Rizu believes she’s the one being immature about this, and that there’s nothing wrong with a boy she likes admiring her chest. Nariyuki is a half-beat too late in their conversation to clear things up, as Rizu finally offers to let him touch them “for only a second” just as her beastly father arrives at their booth.

The next segment involves Nariyuki in a group study session at a cram camp called “the Getting Inn” (not suggestive at all!) with his three tutees plus Asumi, when Fumino accidentally slips up and calls him by his given name, like she did when they had to get a hotel room together and pretended to be siblings.

Rather than reprimand Fumino (or think a little longer about why she called him Nariyuki), Takemoto Uruka wants in, and won’t respond to Nariyuki until he calls her Uruka. She also insists Rizu start calling her Uruka. As with Fumino going back to Yuiga before slipping up here, who knows if the given name-calling will continue, but the fact it’s not an unthinkable concept shows growth among the friends.

Things get a lot more intimate between Nariyuki when his three primary tutees when they head into the hot spring bath early, just before the men and women signs are changed. When Nariyuki heads in, he believes, correctly, that he’s in the men’s bath when he encounters a nude Fumino washing her hair.

Once the three realize they’re in the wrong, they prepare to skink away, but are blocked by the arrival of three more boys who most certainly are horndogs. Thankfully, they’re sufficiently distracted by their own attempts to widen the bamboo in order see into the women’s bath that the girls are able to escape into the steam, while Asumi on the other side jabs her fingers into one of the peeping tom’s eyes.

Once everyone is dressed, the girls thank Nariyuki for being a gentleman about things, but he must torpedo the goodwill by presenting Fumino with the bra she left in the changing area. The implication is that he knew it was hers due to the cup size, expressed through a very unexpected but appreciated parody of the touching ending shot of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 12 (Fin) – Using the Same Words on a Train with No Brakes

The girls might be referring to the hostage situation, but the real train with no brakes each one of them is on is adolescence. It’s a crazy chemical, biological train where bodies take off before minds are ready; where feelings are felt before the words to express them can be found.

The reaction of Tomita-sensei, the principal and vice principal to the girl’s act of rebellion couldn’t be any appropriate: they shrug and go back home, hoping things will cool off by morning, or in about a day or so. They’re not looking down on their students or mocking their seriousness.

Instead, all they have to do is remember when they were that age to know that in this case, anything they try to do or say in this situation can only make things worse. Better to let the crazy kids work things out; to find the brakes. Also, Tomita will be by in the morning with McDonalds breakfast! She’s an angel.

What Tomita also does is call Rika, the person for whom the girls kidnapped Yamagishi-sensei, and who arrives with Amagi by her side. But this isn’t just about Rika anymore; it’s about settling things among each other, so they don’t let Rika or Amagi in.

Rika contacts Izumi, who contacts Kazusa to tell her he’s coming. He sneaks in to find Niina tangled up on the floor with Momoko as Kazusa looks on. Niina thinks it the best time to confess her feelings to Izumi, but Momoko doesn’t accept Kazusa “giving her permission”, and she sure as hell doesn’t have hers.

Izumi somehow makes things far worse by declaring he’ll clearly state how he feels about both of them, then proceeding to say that he loves Kazusa but is sexually attracted to Niina, words so lacking in nuance and open to interpretation they end up satisfying no one.

No one, that is, except Niina, who we’ve known for a while now is too far removed from traditional “love” to value it as much as the pure physical attraction she can make better sense of, since she’s experienced it herself, most powerfully on the train when, as she says “he touched her.”

Those words also lack nuance and serve to stir the shit further, until Kazusa suggests they simply dispense with further words and make it a pure neolithic fight, like their pillow war at the bathhouse. Rika, who arrived with Amagi in time to castigate Izumi for his harsh and imprecise words, laments that her girls have been “driven mad by lust” but doesn’t think abandoning language is the answer.

The only adult in the room, Yamagishi, free of his binds, suggests that they combine some kind of “fight” with language: color tag. By having those who aren’t “it” look for a color the person who is “it” describes in a very personal way, it will enable them to reach beyond mere words to find the thoughts and feelings behind them.

Momoko fails to find Hitoha’s “gray sigh,” but when she just blurts out “peach-colored Momoko” despite not knowing what it is at the time, Niina still runs at full speed to find it.  Niina wants to understand Momoko’s feelings so they can continue being friends. Happy that Niina feels that way, she embraces Niina, declaring she is now “it.”

Niina tells the others to find the “Blues of our youth,” which leads Kazusa to a dark hall, where she thinks about how she’s felt like she’s been lost in that darkness ever since Niina fist mentioned sex during club, confused about romance, sexual desire, and everything in between. But once her eyes adjust and the moon peeks out of the clouds, she and the hallway are bathed in blue light—the blues of their youth.

Izumi ends up right there with Kazusa, and manages to use the opportunity to put how he’s feeling into better, more useful words. To Kazusa’s dawning realization and delight, he’s finally using the same words she would use to describe how she feels. Now they both have a useful tool to fall back on if they ever get anxious in the future. Neither of them are experts on what they’re headed into, but they’re speaking the same language, so they won’t be walking that path alone.

On the other fronts, in addition to Niina and Momoko making up, Hitoha notes Milo-sensei’s dedication to the advisor role even in such an unusual situation. When he plays the “you’re nothing if not entertaining” card on her, she proudly warns him not to “attempt to satisfy me with half-hearted platitudes,” as that isn’t entertaining.

Finally, with things calming down around them, things aren’t as bad as Mom-Mode Rika initially feared. She’s more concerned about Amagi’s experience kissing other girls. But Amagi isn’t that experienced after all, as he’s never kissed anyone on the forehead before, as he does with Rika, and which he states makes his heart race more than any past kiss. Dawwww.

The other girls find them before they’re able to start making out, and Amagi, Izumi, and Milo are all dismissed so the five girls can finish working things out without further interruption from members of the opposite sex.

Their group catharsis takes the form of a massive poster and banner-painting project that leaves the facade of the school plastered in revolutionary slogans and the girls sleeping in their clubroom, spattered in paint of all colors.

Those literal colors represent the proverbial colors that color the blank white canvas of youth as one goes through one’s savage season. To be so colored is no curse, nor anything of which anyone need be ashamed. They are necessary and inevitable—as much as a train with no brakes will, after enough distance with the throttle pulled back, eventually slow down and become more manageable.

After some time passes, it seems all of these young women are managing fine with the bevy of new colors that have been splashed across their canvases. Jujou sends Rika a photo of her, her boyfriend, and their new baby, aged two months. Rika is on a date with Amagi. Hitoha is working on a performance for Milo and Tomita’s wedding. Niina and Momoko are hanging out and having fun.

And Kazusa and Izumi are holding hands, in public while taking a train together. In a marvelous callback to an earlier episode when their train enters a tunnel, she thinks to herself with a placid smile, “It fit.”

O Maidens satisfied my desire for a candid and genuine teen romantic drama that didn’t rely on cliches and didn’t hold back. It was packed with richly-rendered, distinctive, and ultimately lovable characters, and didn’t hesitate to put them—and us—through the wringer, but also didn’t keep us or them in that wringer, and balanced drama and comedy with aplomb. It looked great, too.

Finally, while that ship was built on stormy seas, it managed to sail the ship I wanted! It would have been a dealbreaker if it hadn’t, but that makes all the difference between simply liking or admiring a show, and actually loving it. O Maidens just…fit.

HenSuki – 05 – Beware the White Rabbit

In an effort to keep “Witch-senpai” from monopolizing Keiki, Yuika joins the Shodou club, even abiding by Sayuki’s directive that she dress as a bunny girl for a day. Mao also joins, but doesn’t have to wear a costume, as Sayuki is already a huge fan of her BL manga.

But Keiki has bigger problems than the three weirdos in his orbit joining forces: a fourth weirdo who took an incriminating picture of him. She intends to blackmail him, but isn’t interested in him, only his friend Shouta.

This fourth girl is Ootori Koharu, who despite being tiny and having a bunny-like aura, is actually older than Keiki, and a third-year. That makes her demand to Keiki difficult, as she’s obsessed with Shouta and wants to meet him, but Keiki knows his best mate only likes younger girls.

Thanks to some inspiration from Mizuha, Keiki crafts a plan: when the summer unis come out, which are all the same color regardless of year, he’ll have Koharu meet Shouta wearing a hoodie concealing the bow that indicates she’s older. She also addresses him as senpai. Shouta falls for it hook, line, and sinker.

Things bode well for Keiki having the photo of him groping Sayuki deleted from Koharu’s phone—though I hasten to note she didn’t actually do it yet. Instead, after another quick check on the shodou club (which is a bit too much concentrated weirdness for Keiki’s taste), he spots the vice-chairperson Fujimoto descending the stairs with a tall stack of printouts.

Predictably, one of the papers ends up under her shoe, and she slips and falls, but Keiki saves her, ending up underneath. In a subversion of cliche, Fujimoto is not mortified by their ensuing amorous position. On the contrary, she’d prefer if they stayed that way a little longer. Could Keiki have finally found his Cinderella?

HenSuki – 04 – The Desired Outcome

Last week, before I endured a week of high-altitude training, I presupposed that Nanjou Mao has a particular interest in Keiki, but considering she was neither a sadist or masochist, the particular peculiar shape that interest took remained up in the air.

Keiki gets a bit of a reprieve this week when both Yuika and Sayuki independently offer their apologies for “going too far” and urge him to “make up” with Mao. When he confronts Mao after class, she asks if he’ll hang out with her and Shouma at the arcade, like they used to.

There, we get the second hint of Mao’s interest—her first was the very characteristic Stressed Mangaka Girl Look (AKA the School Queen/Home Nerd Look popularized by Kare Kano, but I digress). When Keiki slips and is about to fall backwards, he’s caught in an inadvertent wall slam by Shouma, which excites Mao very much.

Later, while walking Mao home, Mao wonders out loud if he wants to be in a couple rather than a trio. Keiki also notices Mao staring intently at a photo of Shouma, and gets the wrong idea that she likes Shouma. But when he pries too deeply and too directly, she runs off on him, even in the pouring rain, leaving him with the rank of Sex Animal Sergeant.

Having made next to no progress, Keiki seeks advice from Mizuha, of all people, who was previously peeping at his porn stash, puts his head in her lap, and hides an annoyed look from her brother when he discusses other girls.

Still, she advises him to go all out, but act naturally, and if it doesn’t work, she’ll surely will be there to comfort him. When Keiki once more confronts a sleepy Mao after class and apologizes profusely for hurting her feelings, and unwisely offers to do “anything” to make things right.

Mao declares she wants Keiki in a relationship…not with her, but with Shouma. That’s right: Mao is a fujoshi, and her Shortcake series uses Shouma and Keiki as her character models. She wasn’t jealous that other girls were coming on to him; she was angry that they were ruining her image of Keiki as a BL model!

If he refuses to date Shouma, she threatens do everything in her power to impede all of his other romantic endeavors. So now all three of the non-sister girls in Keiki’s circle have some quirk he’s not sure he can live with. If that weren’t bad enough, someone leaves an envelope in his shoe locker containing a photo of him groping Sayuki…perhaps an prelude from one of the yet-to-be-introduced other girls?

BokuBen – 12 – The Sting of Defeat

Nariyuki and Uruka are a great couple I’m proud to ship, and they’re only a five-minute proper conversation away from living happily ever after. While I’d like to say I’m under no illusions that BokuBen will actually ever make them a thing, the teasing keeps me coming back. I guess I’m saying I’m an idiot…but a generally happy one, so who cares!

This week both halves of my favorite couple are sick of the awkwardness that’s cast a pall over their once lively friendship, and both seek the advice of their sensei Fumino. In addition to stringing along a NariUka shipper like me, they continue to lock Fumino in a cycle of pushing her own potential feelings for Nariyuki aside in favor of supporting her friends, Uruka and Riko.

She’s unsure how to break out of this cycle, and is worried Uruka and Nariyuki’s continued problems will have an adverse effect on their studying, so she decides to break neutrality and help Uruka out this time. To closely supervise her two students, she shows up to their rendezvous in a shrewd disguise.

Fumino quickly learns things are much worse than she thought regarding these two. Every effort to spark a conversation is quickly snuffed out when the talk quickly goes back to the source of the awkwardness, whether it’s Uruka’s see-through top after the rain, or her sexily modified uniform at the shrine.

As the two grow more and more awkward and discouraged, their texts to Fumino grow less and less coherent. Matters aren’t helped by Nariyuki and Uruka constantly insisting they’re not talking about themselves, but “friends of theirs,” a conceit that grows less and less plausible as the meeting digresses.

Finally, Fumino’s complicated texting is interrupted by Sawako asking about hairstyles, and she sends the wrong texts to the wrong party by accident. Thanks to pure dumb luck (or good karma on Fumino’s part) it all works out somehow, thanks to one of the hairstyles Sawako mentioned being the same one Uruka has. Nariyuki follows the text and declares Uruka cute, and Uruka gets him to repeat that comment over and over. Ice broken!

Nariyuki attends Uruka’s swimming tournament, in which she wins the 200m free, but loses in the relay when a kohai has a false start. Nariyuki tries to cheer Uruka up afterwards, and ends up with more evidence for why Uruka would be such a good choice for a partner.

Uruka doesn’t pretend either to her kohai or to Nariyuki that it’s not a big deal to have lost, and that she doesn’t want to cry her eyes out about it. But, and this is key, if that kohai learned a lesson she can carry forward and succeed later in her career, their loss won’t have been in vain. That’s Uruka for you: an ace and a team player, through and through.

Uruka even shows signs of boosted confidence when she invites Nariyuki to hang out with her that night. She takes him to their old middle school, where “it all began,” with “it” being their friendship and her feelings for him. Those years ago, when she was ready to quit out of frustration for losing, he encouraged her to stick with it. To be as serious about something as she was about swimming was something rare and precious to him.

All this increasingly non-vague talk about their history together leads Nariyuki to ask her if she ever managed to confess to the “guy she likes”, still—and perhaps perpetually—unaware it’s him. Uruka really shot herself in the foot by lying about it not being him, since now he can offer, without a hint of awkwardness, to be the one she confesses her feelings to as a “dry run”.

But because Nariyuki’s words, out of context, sound like he’s urging her to tell him the truth, a flustered Uruka comes right out and does just that. She well and truly confesses that she likes Nariyuki, a lot, and always has. Too bad then that her previous lie dooms his ability to take her seriously. He thinks she’s practicing on him.

Rather than clear this up by saying something like “no, actually you are the guy I like and there truly isn’t another person”—admittedly out-of-character—she tosses Nariyuki into the drink. He takes her arm and drags her in too. When he protests, calling her Takemoto, she gets him to say her first name Uruka again, and is all better again.

With other characters with routes to wrap up, this may have been Uruka’s last chance. But I do think she’s being more honest than anything else when she told Fumino she just wants things to be good with Nariyuki…and for him to occasionally note her cuteness. So while, like me, Uruka may be a fool when it comes to settling for less than total victory, as long as she’s happy, that’s what matters. I just hope she keeps trying, because I won’t stop rooting!

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!

BokuBen – 07 – Storming of the Bastille

Rizu doesn’t know that Uruka likes Nariyuki, and Uruka doesn’t know that Ri likes Nariyuki, but Fumino knows both of those things, and she doesn’t want to rock the boat. However, fate seems to conspire against her, as she trips over her own feet and lands upon Nariyuki in an apparent passionate embrace that Ri happens to witness.

Fumino, convinced Rizu is furious, tries to make it right, ultimately by shoving Nariyuki into Rizu’s embrace; but his head ends up in Ri’s bust—no doubt due to poor calculations on the part of Fumino, for whom math is not her strong suit, as we know. Turns out Rizu only appeared angry because she was squinting due to using a backup pair of glasses.

From there we shift to Nariyuki’s increasingly complex relationship with Kirisu-sensei. When he attempts to rescue a cat from a tree, it ends up jumping off, and Kirisu twists her ankle catching it. Nariyuki helps her get to her apartment, which is an appalling mess.

But since Kirisu is actually a good person (which is why she saved the cat), she makes coffee for Nariyuki and helps him study some history as thanks for his assistance.

While helping her clean, Nariyuki stumbles upon a trophy case packed with accolades from when Kirisu was an ice skater, proving that her desire to steer the girls away from their “emotional” choice of life path is borne out of her having made the same choice when she was younger, and coming to regret it.

Nariyuki tells her that while he appreciates where she’s coming from, he’s decided he’s going to “hold his head high” and “regret it later” with them. It’s only a meaningless, foolish path if they fail, and he can’t yet say that they will.

With that, he takes his leave. When he asks if it’s really okay for a man to have come to her place, she dismisses him as still a child, but once he’s gone, she drops the pretense and reveals she was a nervous wreck, because he was actually the first man ever to be at her place.

One one of their now regular one-on-one chats, Nariyuki tells Fumino about being at Kurisu-sensei’s last night. Knowing it could enrage Rizu and/or Uruka, she drags him to a tree, pushes him against it, and makes him promise not to tell anyone what he just told her.

Naturally, the next time she’s in class, she’s hounded by classmates convinced that she’s in some kind of “special relationship” with Nariyuki, something Nariyuki himself doesn’t deny (since he considers both his tutoring of her and her coaching of him in matters of women to be “special”).

Fumino’s classmates are extremely protective of her, and aren’t about to let just any schmo go out with her, so they send a covert surveillance team to the library where the two are studying, and determine that there’s no overt romantic spark between them, but that they share a “deep trust that transcends the boyfriend-girlfriend barrier.”

Or was she? Fumino may be committed to not making either Rizu or Uruka sad (or mad), but she can’t deny she’s enjoyed all the time she’s spent with Nariyuki, and not just in a tutor-tutee scenario. He’s supporting her wish to pursue her dreams, after all!

When she finally informs Nariyuki of the rumors going around about the two of them, she “jokes” that maybe they should just go out for real. Only judging from Nariyuki’s reaction—and her reaction to his reaction—it sure doesn’t feel like it was a joke. As much as she wants to be above the love polygon, this episode leaves little doubt that she’s one of the vertices.

BokuBen – 06 – Imagine and Be Considerate

Kirisu-sensei somehow knows about Nariyuki and Rizu’s accidental kiss in the mountains, but she doesn’t know about all the other inappropriate incidents with the girls he’s tutoring. That is, until Fumino, Rizu and Uruka burst in one after the other to forcefully declare that those incidents—of which Kirisu had no prior knowledge—were all their fault, not Nariyuki’s.

Nariyuki is convinced this is the end for him: forget a VIP recommendation, he could get suspended for all the things that he did/were done to him. But instead Kirisu lets him go, and she does so precisely because Fumino and Rizu made it a point to come in and talk to her, something she imagines they wouldn’t normally want to do, considering how things turned out when she was their tutor.

Nariyuki sees Kirisu’s scratched-up hand and it dawns on him that she was up there in the mountains looking for Rizu because she was worried, and that there’s a nice person under that cold demeanor. Kirisu has of course nailed it, but Kirisu won’t give him the satisfaction of knowing that.

She’ll leave Nariyuki alone for now because the girls are clearly enthusiastic about him tutoring them, and because they’re making progress. But she still thinks it’s folly for them to let their fleeting emotions steer them on life paths that don’t match their considerable talents.

The girls are waiting outside with baited breath, each of them very contrite about blabbing about all the compromising situations they’ve been in with him, but it’s all water under the bridge. As Nariyuki walks off with them, Kirisu remembers him calling her a nice person and betrays a small blush and smile.

The main dilemma this week then isn’t the intrusion of Kirisu-sensei—who is dealt with in the first five minutes—but another issue that crops up which was inevitable considering how much time Nariyuki is spending with three lovely young women: untoward rumors.

When Nariyuki is smirking in class due to his tutoring plan having so much success (and a glowing assessment from the headmaster), his friends assume he’s acting like that because he got lucky in love. He vehemently denies such insinuations; he rarely if ever thinks romance with the three tutees, owing to the fact he no idea they have any romantic interest in him.

His ignorance of how his words could be used against him is exposed when he fails to properly refute rumors he kissed someone, calling the encounter an “accident.” That sends his puerile mate running out of the classroom crying about wanting to “kiss girls like Nariyuki.” Naturally, Uruka overhears this and her heart is suddenly in turmoil, because whatever girl(s) are kissing Nariyuki, it ain’t her!

In a clever use of an English lesson about yes-or-no questions, Uruka straight-up asks Nariyuki if he kissed someone, and continuing to shoot himself in the foot with his responses, doesn’t come right out and say “no” (because his and Rizu’s lips met, there just wasn’t anything to it). Absent any context, Uruka takes his non-denial as proof he has a girlfriend, gives a half-hearted endorsement, and races off to cry.

When Fumino offers a caring ear, Uruka tries her darndest to post the questions applying to her as being about “her friend”…a friend has known a guy for years, was cheered on when she swam, and who know studies with him. Fumino’s no foolmino, and her response is tailored to Uruka, not this non-existent “friend”: don’t assume one kiss that may or may not have happened means the guy has a girlfriend.

She tells Uruka’s “friend” to keep fighting, and that she’s rooting for her 100%. Also, she should ignore the rumors about Nariyuki…though the rumors are snowballs into the absurd so rapidly, Fumino knows she’s asking a lot. But when Rizu appears and drops her books when she overhears the rumors, Fumino realizes Rizu might like Nariyuki too.

That supposition is all but confirmed when both Uruka and Rizu’s test grades drop suddenly and drastically. Fumino is happy for both of them, and wants to root for them both, even if that’s ultimately impossible. As for me, I’m just glad she’s not in love with Nariyuki too…at least not yet.

Because of that, Fumino can act normally around him, and when he comes to her for advice about how to end the sudden awkwardness between him and the other two, Fumino knows she just can’t come out and say it’s because they like him. It’s really something he should figure out himself, so she tells him to imagine how they feel and be considerate of that in future interactions.

Naturally, there’s no way Nariyuki will use the advice the way Fumino intends. Instead, he takes what she’s saying to mean Uruka and Rizu may be acting awkwardly because they’ve grown too close, blurring the lines between tutor and tutee. So he decides he should take a step or two back and restore a measure of personal boundaries with the two.

Mind you, that’s precisely the opposite of what Uruka wants, and her two trusty, loving friends know just how to help her: by shortening her skirt and opening her blouse for her next encounter with Nariyuki. Like her cute date outfit last time her friends aided her, she ends up feeling ridiculous and embarrassed.

Nariyuki, committed to widening the distance even in the face of such adversity, tries to do just that in a physical sense, but Uruka stays with him, and the two are so focused on jockeying for position that they get lost right outside a shrine to academic and romantic success. What a coinkydink!

Once the two pray (Nari for academic success, Uruka for romance) the heavens suddenly open up, and with no umbrellas, the two wait it out under the shrine. Uruka lies down and suddenly falls asleep, and Nariyuki’s eyes can’t help but wander to her legs and tan-lined bust.

Of course, that’s the point: Uruka is only pretending to be asleep, hoping if she leaves herself “wide open” he’ll make a move. She feels something soft on her head, then tongues licking her everywhere, and imagines it’s Nariyuki doing so, but upon opening her eyes she discovers the various stray shrine cats find her tasty. Nariyuki has widened the distance.

As they walk home, and Uruka is wondering if she’s “just not attractive”, Nariyuki notes how her chest is. Taking the hint, Uruka draws closer, much closer, and can hear that his heart is racing, telling him so. He basically tells her it’s racing because she’s so close to him with her top open. He thinks she should only dress like that in front of the guy she likes, to which she says “OKAY NO PROBLEM!” beaming like the Best Girl she is.

When the next test comes along, her grades are suddenly back up, but Nariyuki doesn’t know why. You’d think someone who picked up on Kirisu being a good person would be a little more observant of how one of his oldest friends was acting around him, but what are ya gonna do. Otherwise, it’s another hard-won victory for Uruka, with an assist from her friends. I’ll savor it, even though she still has Rizu to contend with—not to mention Fumino, if Nariyuki should do or say something to make her fall for him.

Grand Blue – 12 (Fin) – The Final Binge

Grand Blue finishes up with the club traveling to Miyakojima, which despite being part of Okinawa Prefecture is a 190-mile flight away from that island. The far-flung locale is not only home to the tradition of “Otori” (endless drinking) but some great diving spots, which the gang reaches by powerboat—only Iori can’t join the others since he missed his chance to get certified with Aina and Kouhei.

Chisa can see that Iori seems down and left out, and so stays behind on the third of three dives to cheer him up. Turns out he’s not that blue; he’s green from seasickness aboard the boat. Even so, the two have a nice time together.

That night, with the planned restaurant closed, Ryuu, Shinji, and their heavy-drinking compatriots set up an impromptu Otori, with everyone adding their chosen alcohol to a huge earthenware pot to share throughout the night. Iori and Kouhei aren’t really up to this level of drinking, but their senpais emphatically insist, and won’t allow them to dilute the concoction with water.

They soon run out of booze, and so the only non-buzzed member, Aina, heads out to buy more. She conscripts Iori to help her with the load, but he hops in the van wearing nothing but boxers, which even on the tropical island elicits a stop by the police.

Upon returning to the party Aina accidentally takes the wrong cup from Azusa and downs it in one gulp. Turns out it’s the near-lethal Otori Juice, and she instantly becomes tanked, losing her inhibitions and going after Iori and Kouhei’s boxers.

While briefly escaping her clutches, Kouhei curses Iori for tricking him into joining the club, but Iori points out to him that by joining he actually got what he wanted: a fun, exciting, almost dream-like first year of college. Just before Aina leaps out from the darkness Kouhei considers it more of a nightmare.

With that, the gang heads back home, passing the time looking at photos of their time in Miyakojima, which bring smiles to all, even Chisa, for whom the antics of Iori, Kouhei & Co. have warmed to her somewhat. It’s as good a place to end as any; Grand Blue was in danger of too often repeating its themes without sufficient development of relationships to justify more episodes.

Ultimately, while the actual diving scenes were certainly beautiful and aspirational, they weren’t the most numerous, and always took a backseat to the drinking, arguing, and weird, exaggerated distorted closeups of peoples’ faces. It wasn’t without its share of laughs and heartwarming moments, including Chisa’s final smile.

Grand Blue – 11 – Advanced Adult Activities

Concerned about failing his test on account of being bad at mask clearing, Iori tries to devise a way to practice without Kouhei or Aina knowing. The gang rents a car, but it ends up being two cars since one won’t fit all eight. Turns out Aina can drive a manual truck from helping out at a rice farm.

Many a misunderstanding due to lack of proper context ensues, both at the market when Shinju and Ryuu order strangely-named fish like “Hamazaki’s Wife” or “Chubby High Schooler”, and back at the rental house.

Iori decides honesty is the best policy, so tells a weary Chisa when the two pair up to cook together. He asks her to help him practice, but when both Aina and Kouhei come into the kitchen, from what they overhear they believe Iori is asking Chisa out…and wants to be tied up and stepped on.

Aina wakes up to find Chisa’s bed empty and goes out to find Chisa holding him underwater with her foot. She fears something very strange is going on, and doesn’t believe Iori, but believes Chisa. Turns out she wouldn’t have laughed about Iori’s mask clearing, but would have helped if asked.

In fact, she joins Chisa in pressing him underwater with their feet, prompting a passerby to call the cops. Unfortunately, Chisa and Aina are already back in bed and Iori is alone and naked in the pool when an officer arrives.

Iori isn’t arrested, but he does catch cold, so he can’t participate in training exercises that day. Azusa stays behind to take care of him, using green onions as a home remedy (one ’round the neck, one where the sun don’t shine, which Iori rejects).

When Azusa learns Iori hasn’t been sleeping because he’s nervous lying beside her and Nanaka, Azusa only half-jokingly suggests they have sex so he won’t feel nervous. Iori has a legit shot at sleeping with her here, but sheepishly declines.

However, when Iori learns that Tokita of all people has a girlfriend, he ends up drinking—a lot—so by the time the others return (Kouhei and Aina with certification cards in hand), he’s passed out, naked, with Azusa’s home remedy successfully, er, deployed.

Darling in the FranXX – 14 – Ichigo Wins the Latest Round but It’s a Pyrrhic Victory

It seemed like they had all the time in the world to talk in the cockpit after waking up from their mutual, past-recalling, truth-revealing dream. But they don’t, because Hiro passes out from his exertion, and Ichigo storms in and separates the two immediately. After all, she knows nothing of the extent of their past together.

From Ichigo’s perspective, Zero Two is a monster who was willing to either turn Hiro into one or kill him trying and move on to the next stamen. From circumstantial evidence alone, it certainly doesn’t look good for Zero Two. Add in Ichigo’s competition with her for Hiro’s love—on which she clearly hasn’t given up—and it’s a perfect storm of bad luck for the formerly red girl.

We know who Hiro wants to see the moment he comes to, but he doesn’t get to see that person. She’s kept away, while everyone else is there, relieved and supportive of his recovery (the adults paint a bleaker picture of his health, but not near open doors this time).

In the midst of this love triangle drama, I’m glad Hiro still had time to speak with Mitsuru alone, and start to offer apology for breaking his promise before Mitsuru tells him it’s “no big deal” and “in the past”, even if we know full well how much the perceived betrayal affected him.

At the briefing for what will be the largest and more dangerous sortie ever attempted, involving not just Squad 13 and the Nines but a host of other FranXX squads, Ichigo formally requests Zero Two be ejected from the Squad. Nana tells Ichigo Zero Two was scheduled to sortie with the Nines for the mission anyway.

And so it’s all happening how Zero Two feared: no matter how many klaxosaurs she killed, even now, when she knows Hiro was her darling all along, she can’t talk to him or even see him. Everyone is blocking her way, having already formed their conclusions about who and what she is.

It’s patently unfair, in my view, and despite how much I personally like Ichigo as a character, I take no pleasure in watching her and the other squad members work together to block Zero Two and guard Hiro from any contact, because none of them have the whole picture. Heck, Hiro doesn’t even have the whole picture, which is why he wants to talk with Zero Two so badly. He wants to know if she knew he and only he could pilot FranXX with her…perhaps due to the fact he drank some of her blood.

Still, it’s a credit to Hiro’s genuine “goodness” that he doesn’t rage and fume when he’s unable to get his way. And when Ichigo cuts herself with a knife, he’s just as caring and nurturing as he’s always been. But Ichigo’s luck is almost as bad as Zero Two’s, as even her attempt at an apple bunny recalls the image of Zero Two’s red horns for Hiro, and he’s right back to thinking about how much he wants to see her.

Zero Two is done holding back. If the squad won’t let her see her Darling, she’ll use force to see him. At the same time she starts to fight them, Hiro asks Ichigo to leave the knife behind before she leaves, a dead giveaway he intended to use it to “escape” his friends’ supervision by climbing out the hospital window.

The thing is, calmer heads prevail when Goro and Kokoro insist Ichigo stand down lest things get out of control. Goro doesn’t think Zero Two would be so desperate if she didn’t have something very important to discuss with Hiro.

Ichigo isn’t convinced that won’t just be more manipulative lies, but she relents, and the whole squad escorts Zero Two to Hiro’s room…but he’s already gone, discovering how feral Zero Two has become from the state of her dorm room.

Zero Two, already on her last nerve, thinks Ichigo and the squad tricked her, and proceeds to beat them all up. Such is her horrible luck and timing that Hiro walks back in just as she’s choking Ichigo nearly to death with one hand, and Hiro condemns her for being, in that moment, a real monster.

But it goes further than that. Zero Two knows what she did, and knew, one day, she’d be punished for it. By setting Hiro up as her one and only Darling, she put him on the path to becoming a monster like her (Nana and Hachi even discuss his imminent “saurification”).

So she accepts her punishment and is sent away, just as the Beast was separated from her human Prince. Such a simple thing as existing in a room and talking things out was never allowed to happen; other people and her own actions kept conspiring to get in the way.

So Zero Two leaves the Squad 13 dorm without speaking a word, her horns longer than ever, wearing an imperious white coat, and flanked by minders. She meets up with the other Nines, who present her with a procession of disposable stamens ready to give their lives so that she can pilot Strelizia and keep killing klaxosaurs.

Only now her original reason for wanting to fight, along with her sole reason for wanting to be human, are gone. Now, she seems poised to embrace the Beast within, seemingly convinced she was never meant to have a Darling in the first place.

Hiro can’t fight back tears as Zero Two departs, and when he tries to run after her, Ichigo grabs him and won’t let go. She’s decided she’s not going to let Zero Two influence or change him any more than she has. She thinks there’s still time to get back her Hiro. She takes hold of his face, gets on her tiptoes, kisses him, and confesses her love for him.

But once again, bad luck strikes: Zero Two’s transport soars overhead immediately after she says the words, and it looks for all the world like Hiro was a lot more focused on that than her confession.

Ichigo may have Hiro in her arms, and he may have just been told how much she loves and cherishes him, but she won’t escape punishment either: Punishment for the ruthlessness with which she sent her rival away; for refusing to give her a chance; for not allowing two people who loved each other to talk things through.