Spy x Family – 19 – The Mysterious Spider Woman

Spy x Family reveals who was trying to crater the Damian brothers’ test scores: George Glooman, son of the CEO of Glooman Pharmaceuticals, who are on the cusp of being gobbled up by the Desmond Group. While Damian managed to escape his father’s frightening looks, George is the spitting image of his dad, with a turnip head and gloomy eyes.

When George learns Daybreak failed, he takes desperate measures, like trying to get a teacher to believe Damian was smoking and shoved him to stop him from reporting it. The teacher doesn’t believe Damian’s lackeys, but when Anya comes forward with the truth, Damian is shocked—and it confirms to Becky who Anya likes best.

With this last desperate attempt to get Damian expelled foiled, George instead plays for sympathy from the class, laying out his story in detail and noting that this is his last day at Eden College, so he only wants to experience some final small joys.

If nothing else, George is extremely good at emotionally manipulating people into pitying him, so he gets juice, a pricey caviar bowl, a class-wide singalong just for him, and armloads of gifts from his classmates urging him not to forget them and the bonds they shared at Class 3.

Naturally, it’s not really George’s last day. His fears about family bankruptcy and being sold into slavery in Westalis were grossly exaggerated. His dad assures him that everything’s fine; Damian’s dad’s company saved Glooman, it didn’t destroy it. George’s walk of shame the next morning is a wonderful bit of comeuppance for someone who squeezed the class for every drop of sympathy … all for a lie.

In the next segment we see just how peaceful and cozy Anya’s room is (especially with Bond curled up in the middle of it) and how hard it must be to get up and start her day. Yor has some free time before work, but when she notices Anya forgot her gym clothes, she panics. Loid did say she’ll be punished by the school if she keeps being late to school and breaking rules. Yor imagines an expelled Anya turning into a Bad Girl and resolves to get the clothes to Anya without detection.

Yor hesitates over whether taking the bus or trolley will get her there faster, but then an old lady accidentally drops a potted plant off her seventh-floor window, and a switch goes off in Yor: neither. After using her superhuman speed and agility to catch the plant and kick it back up to it’s owner, she goes on a parkour tear through the alleys and rooftops.

It’s truly inspiring whenever we see Yor do cool shit, especially when it doesn’t involve murdering people! This is Yor at her best, as when she went into Mama Bear Mode to protect Anya in the terrorist arc. She uses her considerable skill to get to Eden her way—and other than confirming a school legend of a “spider woman”, she largely stays out of sight.

Yet like George when he exchanged heartfelt goodbyes with his classmates, Yor has the wrong idea. Anya didn’t forget her gym clothes, she didn’t take them because she doesn’t have gym class today. Yor breaks out the “SHOCK!” face Anya usually makes (like found daughter, like found mother), and leaves the school in a gloomy mood, feeling like a failure of a mother again.

Loid, who was spying around the school all along and wondering why Yor was there, “coincidentally” bumps into her as she heads home, and learns her reason for being there was perfectly innocent, and she hasn’t discovered any of his secrets. But Loid also sees that Yor is feeling depressed. When he invites her to a choice spot for lunch together, the shot of her face brightening back up is alone worth a Stella.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Love Flops Dropped

The third and final episode of Love Flops I watched focused on Amelia Irving, who starts the episode under Asahi’s covers trying to put his toeprints on a wedding license. Why yes, she’s not wearing pants. Her obsessively hypercompetitive personality hits a snag when a kanji test looms. She starts to learn, but only the symbols she finds in pornographic literature. Asahi helps tutor her, and her test scores improve drastically.

While Amelia is the most interesting character by dint of having an episode centered around her, and I heart her seiyu Taketatsu Ayana always and forever (and appreciate that she needs to pay the bills), I’m content with just three episodes of this mostly dumb mess and calling it a day. If I need tutoring rom-com, I’ll wait for We Never Learn S3.

Love Flops – 02 – Menage a Cinq

Asahi is so distracted by Aoi’s, er, display, he completely misinterprets her confession to him as a confession to going commando. When she asks him what he thinks and he says he might give it a try and isn’t one to judge others for their preferences, Aoi gets embarrassed and runs off. Not five minutes later Ilya confesses to him, Mongfa runs off and gives him hickeys when two men in black come by, and both Karin and Amelia try to ambush him with a spontaneous wedding.

After a day of absolute madness, Asahi is glad to be home…only to find it full of the mad ones. There they are, all lined up to welcome him home as if they were his five wives. His annoying robot plays a message from his father, who arranged all of this and is hoping Asahi ends up picking one of the girls (or the guy) to marry for real.

The audacity of having his house doubled in size in the few hours he was away from it is weird enough, but now we learn that his dad is undoubtedly someone of considerable means. We also learn that all five of his would-be brides (and one groom) are way too enthusiastic about asserting themselves.

They’re all over him and won’t leave him alone, and while this is clearly a fantasy for some, the episode does a good job heightening the sheer anxiety of dealing with five caffeinated wannabe waifus in a relatively small space. When Asahi escapes to the quiet blue night, it’s as much a relief for me as him!

Aoi ends up finding him at a shrine, and tells him how all of them are simply excited to finally meet their potential future husband, and it resulted in them being a little too overeager to please. With her gentle touch she’s able to convince him to come home and give this thing a try, while she and the others will “do their utmost” to tone it down a bit. Somehow I doubt that!

With that, Asahi’s wacky new home life begins. I’m honestly still not sure what to make of this, and will take at least one more episode to determine if it’s something I’ll watch to the end. So far it’s like train wreck from which I can’t quite look away!

Love Flops – 01 (First Impressions) – Five Uneasy Pieces

Kashiwagi Asahi lives in a spacious apartment with an AI assistant Lovelin (Nanachi again), and while listening to the morning news, his birthday of October 8 (just four days ago!) happens to be the luckiest for today. The mysterious fortune teller then lists off a series of “lucky words” that don’t make any sense until he starts his commute to school.

The first word, corner, refers to a rushing girl with purple hair and glasses colliding with  him when they meet at a blind corner. They end up in a risqué position, but he promises he didn’t “see anything” as a result of that position, and they part ways relatively amicably.

Then comes train, when he boards a completely empty car only for a busty green-haired woman in a chinese dress sits right next to him, falls asleep, clings to him, then nearly kicks his head off when he starts her awake.

The next “lucky” word is staircase, when a third beautiful girl stumbles down a flight of steps and she’s launched crotch-first into Asahi’s face. She mistakes the plastic banana holder in his pocket for being happy to see her, and smacks it before running off. So far, Asahi can hardly be blamed for these situations.

Next up is robotic cleaner, when he encounters said robot cleaner in a park trying to dispose of a diminutive redhead’s bra, then the girl herself. This girl accuses Asahi of hacking the robot into stealing her unmentionables. It then chases her away.

Next up is dog, as a silver-haired fellow is being humped by a very big and assertive pooch. To this, Asahi turns about and pretends not to see what is going on, rather than attempt to save the waifish lad and incur the dog’s wrath. It isn’t until he arrives in his newly reorganized class that Asahi learns that everyone he encountered is in his class.

The purple-haired girl with glasses is Izumisawa Aoi (Itou Miku), a transfer student; he short-haired girl is Karin Istel (Kouno Marika), from Germany;  the redhead is Amelia Irving (Taketatsu Ayana) from the USA; the silver-haired boy is Ilya Ilyukhin (Takahashi Rie) from Bulgaria; and the green-haired well-endowed lady from the train is his new teacher, Bai Mongfa, from China (Kanemoto Hisako).

Asahi can’t believe his rotten luck, even as he learns what the last lucky word, letter, referred to a love letter in his locker inviting him to meet after school. His contractually assigned friend Ijuuin Yoshio assures him he’s hit the jackpot; he has the pick of these three beautiful girls, one beautiful woman, and one beautiful guy. I’ll give Yoshio this: he’s refreshingly progressive!

As the rest of the episode unfolds, Asahi has second encounters with each of these potential suitors, in which he attempts to correct the misunderstandings that occurred in their first meetings. He and Aoi almost collide around a corner again, but don’t. Alas, when he fishes through his pockets for what he believed to be her dropped handkerchief, he instead produces Amelia’s bra, scandalizing Aoi and earning him a slap.

This encounter makes him late to order lunch, and there’s nothing left for sale, but he’s not alone; Karin was also too late, and is clearly very hungry. Because Asahi’s a decent guy, he offers her the banana he brought for lunch (this guy really likes bananas, having toasted one for breakfast), while also pointing out that its holder was what she mistook for his manhood. She meekly thanks him for the food.

Asahi then gets another chance to rescue Ilya from becoming unmarriable all over again, albeit not necessarily by choice. Ilya hides behind him, and the randy dog  targets him, even managing to somehow get his pants off. Asahi blacks out, but when he comes to, it’s looking up at a very grateful Ilya.

The dog also managed to bite him, which would normally mean he should probably get tested and treated for rabies, but since this is a goofy anime some alcohol and spray-on bandage will suffice. He receives this treatment from Mongfa-sensei, who doubles as school nurse, and apologizes for their earlier awkward interaction.

No sooner does she leave than Amelia Irving arrives with a very specific ailment: chafing in the chestal area. Fortunately for her, Asahi saved her bra from the trash robot. He returns it to her, and she apologizes for jumping to the earlier conclusion that he hacked the robot, having later realized that was…unlikely.

Having repaired four of the five new relationships he’s built on this most auspicious day, all that’s left is checking out what the final lucky word letter portends. Responding to the love letter, he arrives at a giant blossoming cherry tree he doesn’t remember being there (he has several memory gaps in this episode, though it’s never explained).

There, waiting for him, is none other than the first girl he ran into, Aoi. She’s there to confess her love to him, but because it’s so breezy, her skirt flips up and reveals to him that she’s been going commando ever since their first encounter. The item she dropped was not a handkerchief, but side-tying underwear. For once, Asahi is lucky here, as Aoi doesn’t realize what the wind is doing and the moment isn’t spoiled.

Love Flops thus introduces its lead and his harem of potential girlfriends by resorting to all of the shameless, risqué, fanservice-y clichés but the Bluetooth-enabled kitchen sink. While at times it seems like a very over-the-top satire of harem rom-coms, the fact that it may actually be a genuine and un-ironic contribution to the form almost makes it more amazing. It’s pure tasteless trash … and yet I couldn’t look away.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 09 – Bittersweet Symphony

This episode, which finally fully chronicles the height and eventual fall of Mizuto and Yume, begins simply, with the two sharing a tender kiss without fanfare during the golden hour on a quiet street. The look they share after said kiss may just be the only time in the entire episode that they are truly on the same wavelength with one another.

When Yume is invited to Mizuto’s house, room, and bed (to sit on) when his parents aren’t home, she gets understandably excited, only for the two to spend hours reading a book together. It’s pleasant, but it’s less than Mizuto hoped for; she was ready to take the next step. So was Mizuto. But it just…didn’t happen. And it never would.

The first sign of the couple drifting apart is when they find themselves in separate classes for the third year of middle school. They still meet in their treasured library after school, and make a pinky promise to make wonderful memories for Christmas and Valentine’s. But then Yume gradually opens up and makes friends in her class.

Mizuto is irked by her newfound popularity, and when they are together, all she talks about is her friends this or her friends that. Feeling like they’re drifting away from each other hurts, so he hurts her back by snapping at her. He fully prepares to apologize the next day, but when Yume first sees him in the library, he’s chatting with another girl…in her chair.

His apology goes right through her, as she feels he betrayed her in the special place where they met and shared so many memories. And that bitter memory of seeing him with that other girl haunts him. It’s just a fight couples always have, but they let it fester and see less and less of each other.

When they finally encounter one another, it’s by chance at a bookstore, and Mizuto suggests, and Yume agrees, that they should make up and put the rancor behind them. But it’s just words. Mizuto is still hung up on being accused of cheating, while Yume is vexed by how far ahead he’s walking.

Once inseparable, the two fall completely out of sync, and their relationship falls off the rails. Yume thinks of inviting Mizuto to the festival where he found her, but fails to send the invite text and goes alone, hoping things will just work out like they did a year ago, even though she knows they won’t. Then their one-year anniversary comes and goes with nary a text from him.

The Christmas and Valentine’s memories they promised to share become exercises in bitter solitude, as both Mizuto and Yume remain incommunicado for those holidays. Finally, when graduation comes along, Mizuto quietly suggests, and Yume agrees, that they should break up.

At that point it felt less like and end and more like a “liberation.” He couldn’t deny his affection for Yume, but couldn’t deny the building resentment either. Little things turned into big things and finally the only thing: pain and anguish. The rest, we know: their parents get married a few months later, and they are introduced to each other as stepsiblings.

Fast-forward back to the present, where Yume is helping herself to one of Mizuto’s many many books, and happens to land on the same one they read together the first time she entered that room. The two reveal to one another in reminiscing that they both had the same intentions that day: to take their relationship to the next step.

You could say that day was really the beginning of the end, since it led to “aged plagued with regret” for Mizuto and “wasted time feeling she was undesirable” for Yume. And yet, thanks to their parents, a new beginning was written; one that allows them to reflect on their past missteps while seeing each other in a new light.

It was powerful and affecting watching their bittersweet first relationship crash and burn so utterly. From the cozy warmth of their (presumably) first kiss to the stark chill of their breakup scene, it was a harrowing roller coaster of a tale that added fresh context, richness, and gravitas to their present-day dynamic.

Komi Can’t Communicate S2 – 07 – …But Sometimes She Can

Komi is haunted by the possibility Najimi saw her holding Tadano’s hand as he slept. She spends all night trying to word a letter of explanation, but because she’s not 100% sure Najimi did see it, she doesn’t want to write anything to make Najimi suspicious. Meanwhile, Tadano wants to thank Komi for coming by, but isn’t 100% sure whether she was actually there or if she was just part of his fever dreams.

In their efforts to not say something that will give the other party the wrong idea, the misunderstandings only mount. Ironically, this is a sign that Komi is indeed becoming better at communicating. She is not just thinking internally and freezing up like the past, but trying to figure out what someone else is thinking or intended. That said, Komi was most certainly not just “checking his pulse!”

The last few episodes have shown an incremental uptick in the Komi x Tadano romance angle, but there are always new weirdo friends to meet, and this week’s is Naruse, whom I honestly can’t remember even in the background of previous episodes, but maybe that’s the point. As invisible as he’s been to me (and the rest of the gang), he is absolutely in love with himself.

Nine months into the school year, Naruse finally decides now is the time to approach Komi. One interesting bit of possibly accidental perceptiveness on his part? He assumes Komi has never spoken to him due to a communication disorder, for which he doesn’t judge her. But he clearly has a blind spot when it comes to the protective wall of secondary friends surrounding Komi, Tadano, and Najimi; he assumes they’re all his fans even if that’s a very big delusional reach.

When Komi returns his hanky that he saw him drop, he assumes it’s a sign she’s in love with him. Because of this, he’s a bit too forward in asking for her contact info, and gets Tadano’s instead. Naruse also has a constant deadpan translator/commentator in Chuushaku Kometani, who I wished would have gotten in a narration fight with the usual female narrator; to no avail.

The third and final segment returns us to the central romance as groups are to be formed for the upcoming class trip to Kyoto. When Tadano asks where she went for middle school, she says Kyoto, but after that she starts acting squirrelly even for her. Tadano correctly assumes she’s not feeling okay. After what may be the first instance I can recall of Najimi getting the eff out of the way, Tadano asks her about it, and she initially says it’s nothing, she’s fine, and they part ways.

But then, when they’re still only about ten feet away, she calls him, and tells him what’s been eating her: she lied about going to Kyoto. Her class went to Kyoto, but she was the last person chosen for a group, which picked her by playing jankenpon. She’ll never know whether the other members of her group welcomed her with a smile, were offended by her presence, or didn’t care one way or another…because she couldn’t raise her head.

It’s Komi’s most extensive and most heartbreaking sharing of her bad old days before she met Tadano (and Najimi), and Koga Aoi does the lord’s work infusing Komi’s tiny voice with meloncholy and longing. It’s also probably the most she’s spoken continuously yet; another sign that things aren’t the same as they were then, and never will be.

Tadano tells her she has friends now. Even if some of the others would “rather be with someone else” (highly arguable), Tadano would rather be with her than anyone else. He adds Najimi in there in case he sounds too forward, but I think Komi gets the idea as she hangs up and finishes their talk in person.

After talking with Tadano, Komi feels a lot better and is actually looking forward to the trip. The next day, in a complete inversion of her traumatic middle school experience, every single girl in the class wants to be in the same group as Komi, so the teacher has to employ a lottery system. To them, being able to spend time with her isn’t a burden; it’s a prize.

Love After World Domination – 06 – Beauty and the Beach

Summer’s here, and Desumi wants to do summer dating stuff with Fudou. Fudou’s completely on board, but doesn’t know if he can handle Desumi in a swimsuit (even though her villainess uniform is basically occult lingerie). But if anyone can arrange it so their respective teams have a battle on the beach, it’s these two.

Back at Gekko’s cafeteria (which I stress is not an evil cafeteria, just a regular cafeteria…which is great) We get more of Beast Princess and Desumi interacting, which is never not fun times. Beast is basically an earlier version of Desumi before she found love, but while Beast thinks Desumi should mind her evil image, she also seems to idolize her from afar.

That said, they’re both the same rank of Princess, which is below the boss-level Monster rank (Culverin Bear is technically Desumi’s boss). So it comes as a great and sudden shock when Bosslar gathers both ranks together to announce the creation of a new unit: one that will be lead by Desumi once she undergoes genetic merging with a Mountain Gorilla. She’s being promited to Monster…and all Monsters were once humans.

The downright strange ramifications of these are too simply much to go into in this brief recap, but suffice it to say I love how the show went there, and simultaneously treats it as a goofy joke and also deadly serious when it comes to Desumi. We also go in-depth into her family life as they call to congratulate her. But Desumi doesn’t want to be a monster. She wants to be a girl…Fudou’s girl.

All it takes is answering her phone in her native Hakata dialect for Fudou to sense something’s up, and like the Perfect Boyfriend he is, rushes right over to meet her on her roof. She asks him what he thinks she should do, but he tells her it doesn’t matter; she should do what she wants. He’s been with her long enough to know that while there’s no one kinder than her, she needs to turn that kindness inward more.

Desumi doesn’t want to be irrevocably transformed into an eldritch abomination, and never did, so she turns it down. Instead, she informs Bear that she got a tip (from Fudou) that Gelato would be doing test runs in part of the tokusatsu mech Gelato Robo. The Bear, Steel, and Beast and their underlings thus don beachwear and stake the place out. On the Robo Submarine, Misaki and Haru are also in a beachy mood.

In a brilliant sequence of misunderstandings about what she’s watching, Beast, whose real name is Majima Kiki, witnesses Desumi emerge from their hiding spot to take Red Gelato on, bury him in the sand to torture him (actually just for fun), smash his head in (actually a watermelon), and infiltrate the enemy (going to say Hi to Haru and meet Misaki). Because she’s not wearing her usual getup, no one knows she’s Reaper Princess.

Instead, Misaki simply realizes the truth: whoever this Desumi is, she and Fudou are dating, and she’s made Fudou a better and more open person. It’s probably the first time Desumi has been told she’s had a positive impact on Fudou, since she is usually fixated on the positive impact he’s had on her.

After some barbecue, fireworks, and sparklers, Big Gelato prepares to fire the big finale, but accidentally closes one of the missile hatches. Kiki, who had been being chased by Blue Gelato (who is apparently a cad) the whole time, witnesses the resulting explosion just as Desumi is rejoining her, laughing the whole time.

Of course, Kiki mistakes Reaper’s giddy laughter over what a fun day at the beach she’s had as sadistic pleasure in the wake of the destruction of the Gelato submarine. Desumi’s true superpower seems to be tremendously good luck, such that she doesn’t even have to hide how she acts and feels; her comrades will simply assume something else entirely.

Mieruko-chan – 11 – Meowruko-chan

While last week seemingly confirmed that Toono Zen was a Bad Dude who was behind the local cat abuse, all the episode really did was confirm that he’s an odd, lonely young man; it didn’t explicitly show him actually doing anything. Now we learn that both we and Miko judged him too quickly.

First we flash back to Zen’s childhood, which was strictly controlled by his mother, who wouldn’t let him for relationships with anyone or anything other than her without accusing him of “betraying her like his father,” and punished him by squeezing his head if he kept secrets from her.

Fast-forward to the present, when Miko has decided she can no longer stand by and do nothing while Hana is basically starved by the spirits surrounding Zen-sensei. She carefully follows Zen down mostly empty and isolated streets, until he comes across a mangy stray kitten in a tunnel.

Miko had planned to call the police and catch Zen red-handed abusing a cat, but couldn’t let the act actually happen, and cries out when it looks like he’s about to crush the little kitty’s head…which we already saw was a similar gesture her mother performed on him many times.

Zen asks Miko if she followed him and what she’s doing, and the huge ghoul seemingly protecting him pops out and threatens her. Miko runs with the kitten in hand, but trips and falls, though the kitten is unharmed. Startled, it jumps out of her hands and runs right into the street.

Right on cue, Car-kun races down that street at breakneck speed, threatening to flatten the poor kitty. But then Zen leaps out in front of the car to save the kitten, and suddenly Miko has no idea what is going on. Why would he want to save a cat…then kill it?

Turns out Zen wanted to do nothing of the sort. At the hospital, he tells Miko not to blame herself for what happened; he chose to leap in front of the car. He further explains that someone in his area—not him—has been abusing animals, and he was patrolling the area like usual.

Because of the odd way Miko had interacted with him when he answered the message about adopting another stray cat, as well as her odd demeanor at school, Zen assumed she might be the animal-abusing culprit, proving that both of these people simply needed more information before forming assumptions.

Miko gets more context on the hospital’s roof from Satoru, Zen’s friend since grade school, learning about his strict—nay, fucking psycho mother, who killed his pet cat when she found out about it, which…goddamn. Satoru, a vet, is the one Zen brings all the cats he finds so that he can secure new homes for them.

Lately, with the animal abuser, Zen has only found cats who are either already dead or close to it, which explains last week’s suspicious scene. As for why Satoru helps Zen, well…for the same reason Miko wants to help Hana: if your friend is in trouble, you do what you can to help them!

Now that Miko knows that the cat spirits are the result of Zen encountering the victims of the animal abuser, and the ghoul was once his horrible mother, she decides to help Zen out, for his sake, for Hana’s sake, and hell, for her own sake. She addresses Zen’s mother-ghoul directly, asking her to set him free, and she charges after her into the corridor.

I’m not sure if Miko intended for the fox spirits to arrive and destroy the mother-ghoul, but I’m not sure what else she expected, considering she put herself in harm’s way. It’s supposedly the third and final time they’ll help her, but at least it was for a good cause, and will end up helping both Hana and Zen. But who knows; maybe this is only the beginning of Miko taking a more active role in helping people with her ability.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mieruko-chan – 10 – One More Time

The show delivers one of its creepiest scenes yet without showing a single ghost or ghoul…just creepy-ass Toono Zen, cracking open the door of his pitch-black apartment surrounded by crows, accepting some leftovers from a kindly lady with some suspicious blood on his hand. He retreats back inside when talk turns to the recent maiming of cats in the neighborhood.

How such a guy was able to get a job subbing at a girl’s high school is beyond me, but a lot of the class finds him hot. Naturally, this doesn’t include Miko, who now has to constantly see those tortured cat ghouls writhe around Toono, who looks on the surface like he’s not aware of their presence, but at the same time could simply be hiding the fact he’s aware of them…just as Miko tries to do.

One side-effect of their new substitute teacher and his ghoulish kitty entourage started out as a joke, but is now starting to become worrying: Hana just can’t stop eating. She even inadvertently bails Miko out of a very sticky situation with Toono and the ghouls when they to to the nurse’s office. Yulia sees them go in, and immediately correctly diagnoses the problem: Hana’s aura is being drained by the spirits surrounding Toono.

That Yulia knows this could prove crucial to Miko and Hana in the days ahead, but there are two problems: Hana has no idea what Yulia is talking about, Miko does know but is still apprehensive about talking about it, and Yulia thinks Miko is out to get her. To Miko’s point, ghouls can pop up anywhere at anytime; there’s no safe time or place to talk about them, as evidenced in a “peaceful” park where one cute kid transforms into a ghoul and has to be destroyed by Miko’s guardian spirits.

But that marks the second of three times they’ve helped Miko; the third time will be their last, adding one more lump in her throat. The episode is bookended by two students accidentally interrupting their teacher Toono’s seemingly nightly cat-hunting mission. Here I thought the show was going to try to humanize him a bit at some point, but nope, looks like he’s pure evil.

The forces of evil seem to be amassing around Miko, Hana, and Yulia. With only one guardian intervention left to count on, it may be time for Miko to drop her guard and converse with Yulia about ways to protect themselves from the coming scourge…and prevent Hana from gorging herself.

Mieruko-chan – 08 – Let Sleeping Moths Lie

While shopping with Kyousuke for a birthday gift for their mom, Miko comes across a very cute dress and decides to try it on, since she and her mom are pretty much the same size. Unfortunately, a ghoulish store rep who says “It looks great on you!” kinda ruins the mood…not to mention Miko wears the dress out of the store, basically nixing it as a gift for mom.

While she and Kyousuke find another gift, the trip home is less than stress-free, thanks to a spectral axe murderer walking down the subway car, swinging its axe right into peoples’ heads. Miko has every right to be scared about what the axe might do to someone like her who can see them.

Thankfully, the axe only hurts other ghouls, and goes right through her head without incident. We don’t see Miko and Kyousuke giving their mom the gift of couple mugs. Rather, we watch as their mom makes two cups of tea with them: one for her, and one for her dearly departed husband.

The balance between creepy/gross/spooky/sinister ghosts and benevolent ones continues when Miko and Hana see off their pregnant homeroom teacher, learning that the child she’s carrying is her second try. This explains the odd white specter that’s so interested in the teacher’s belly: it’s the ghost of her dead child.

This was one of the best and most powerful segments of Mieruko-chan to date, because it once again subverts expectations. At first I thought the ghost was a threat like Miko did. But when we see how it interacts with his mother’s hand, it’s as if we and Miko can see the healing love emanate from her. I was well and truly choked up.

Contrast that with just regular choking due to one of the grosser ghouls Miko has come across. With a dozen slithery three-nostriled tusks leaking snot and some unsettling googly eyes, this particular specimen is not the first ghost Miko decides to face “head-on”. Perhaps she’ll face a less gross one later. For now, Miko joins Senpai’s Futaba as a Fall 2021 character who is partial to canned oshiruko.

The final segment brings back two very different cat people. First, Miko and Hana’s substitute homeroom teacher is Toono Zen, the guy Miko wouldn’t let adopt the stray kitten. Between those nasty demonic cats surrounding him and his blood red eyes, I wonder if he has “the sight” like Miko and Yulia, and knows that Miko can see too?

Whatever his deal, homeroom is not going to be pleasant for Miko for the foreseeable future. As for the tough yakuza-looking guy, he takes his time finding just the right cat food and cake to celebrate his late wife’s life, their anniversary, and the lives of their two beautiful white cats, who continue to watch over his new fuzzy companion as benevolent spirits. Mieruko-chan continues to spook me out and melt my heart.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mieruko-chan – 07 – Tunnel Visions (of Horror)

Things are only getting spookier for Miko, and it’s largely Hana’s fault! When Hana’s photo gets a lot of likes on Instagram (666, to be exact) she believes it’s her calling to be a photographer, and buys a Polaroid to take more. Yulia, waiting for an opening to exact her revenge on Miko for humiliating her/choking her out, eggs Hana on by suggesting a bus trip to the mountains for some prime photo spots.

Yulia’s motivations aside, this is the first time in a long time, maybe ever, she’s gone on a trip with friends. That said, she sticks to her mission, getting Hana to enter a tunnel known to be haunted so Miko will have no choice but to admit she also sees ghosts, and deal with them. Of course, at first it’s normal stuff that gets Hana spooked: the darkness and a sudden drop of water falling on the back of her neck.

When Miko trips in the dark, then dusts off her hands, Yulia believes her rival is setting up some kind of supernatural barrier. Because of the discrepancy between the types of ghosts Yulia and Miko can see, Miko’s gestures seem to coincide with the ghosts Yulia can see shriveling up and vanishing, as if Miko exorcised them. But Yulia can’t bigger and much more horrifying monster that is devouring the ones she can see.

Yulia makes things worse by trying to get Miko to admit she can see the ghosts too, totally unaware the biggest and baddest instantly reacts to the sensation that the humans can see them. Miko has been operating under the assumption that this is, as Egon once said, “very bad”. The monster prepares to swoop down on the three girls, but is stopped and defeated by the shrine spirits, who once again protect Miko.

Hana takes Miko and Yulia’s defeated, exhausted expressions on the ride home as shared disappointment in not getting to the end of the tunnel to the photo spot. So she gathers the two close for a selfie. That ends up making Yulia’s day, as it’s established her belief in ghosts cause other classmates to ostracize her, but she’s finally found new friends.

As for Miko, she’s just trying not to overthink why some spirits protect her while others want to kill her, Hana, and now Yulia, or what one of the ones protecting her meant by “three times”. But as the preview says, things are going to get spookier before they become less spooky, so Miko will likely need all the spectral allies she can get!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 09 – Mother’s Intuition

After weeks of affable but otherwise frustrating wheel-spinning, the romantic part of this rom-com has really come along in the last couple episodes. I was hoping for that to continue in this ninth installment, and it mostly does. No there are no confessions or anything—those would be wildly out of character!

Instead, the romance comes through in the closeness and comfort these two have come to share. Oh, and Sakurai meets Hana’s mom, Tsuki! Unlike Uzaki, Sakura can only see the surface man. For one thing, she’s surprised her daughter’s senpai is a man at all. For another, he’s big and scary!

Mama Uzaki’s handling of her fear is demonstrated in a rather ingenious camera shot we don’t see often in rom-coms: while she appears to be across the kitchen table from them, the camera pulls back to reveal she’s really all the way across the room!

While Sakurai turns out to be more well-mannered than he looks, Tsuki’s misunderstandings continue when one of their cats jumps on her lap and Sakurai can’t help but stare at it. Being a big fan of a soap opera in which an older woman is being seduced by a younger man, she assumes Sakurai is looking at her chest, and thus has his eye on her.

This misunderstanding persists when Tsuki visits Hana and Sakurai at the cafe and meets the owner and Ami. They tell her the kids of customers love Hana, while older women love Sakurai’s blend of dignified hunkiness. This leads Tsuki to wonder out loud if he likes their attention, to which Ami’s reply is priceless: “He’s no cougar hunter. He’s just a doofus!”

Tsuki has cause to question Ami’s assurances when she overhears and misinterprets Sakurai and Hana’s conversation about the need to mature adult beans, how it leads to more richness, if one overindulges you’ll be so excited you can’t sleep, and how he plans on getting a good taste before long. It’s just coffee shop talk, but Tsuki is convinced Sakurai has the hots for her.

Back at Sakurai’s place, he and Uzaki are playing video games as usual, and after beating him soundly, she has him get her a drink, noting she’ll do “whatever it takes to see [him] frustrated.” This leads Sakurai to compare her to her “quiet and kind” mom, and Hana starts to carefully observe Tsuki at home.

The next day at the cafe, Uzaki’s persona and very way of speaking has transformed to the “quiet and kind” Sakurai apparently craved…and its a nightmare for him! Rather than endure her continue to act and sound as sweet and reserved as her mom, Sakurai literally folds, bowing and apologizing for messing up.

But by adding that he “prefers the usual Uzaki”, he sets off a heated lovers’ quarrel between them, as Ami perhaps over-zealously imagines the two taking on different personas based on the clientele. It’s clear that if Ami and not her dad were in charge, the cafe would become a very different (but not altogether worse) place!

Uzaki and Sakurai’s bickering is stopped not by the owner or Ami, but by one of the little kids whose mom is a regular. The girl gives them a ticket for a shopping district lottery, and as they head over to try their luck after work, the couple is chastened by having been scolded by a child. That said, Uzaki is also secretly elated Sakurai prefers her “usual” self—but damned if she’ll let him see it!

In keeping with situations that continue to help bring these two together, they end up winning the lottery’s grand prize: a two-night trip for two to Tottori, which is apparently the home of Detective Conan. And in the very next scene, they’re already there! I found it refreshing there was no debate or waffling over whether to go; they just go.

As for the bizarre oil-slick faces who are watching the couple…I’m somewhat stumped. Assuming they’re not Conan villains (I’ve never read or watched so I know next to nothing about that venerable franchise) I’m guessing it’s Ami and Sakaki, but would the two really drop everything to follow Uzaki and Sakurai to Tottori? We shall see…

BokuBen 2 – 03 – Lifesaving Bangs

Rizu, feeling like her bangs are getting a bit long, aims to trim them…a bit, but thanks to her dad surprising her, she cuts off a bit more than a bit. Fumino and Uruka’s mixed reaction doesn’t help matters, but it’s around Nariyuki whom Rizu feels most self-conscious, and so takes great pains to hide her face so he won’t notice.

When Fumino sees that Nariyuki is taking Rizu’s face-hiding as a sign she hates him, she removes her ridiculous mask, only for Nariyuki not to notice any change whatsoever. Rizu hates the contradiction of being upset that he didn’t, but he’s determined to figure out what the change is, and eventually redeems himself.

In addition to keeping his promise to call her by her given name, he tells her how her facial expressions have changed since they first started studying together. While she once looked sullen and detached, now her face is more bright animated, even joyful. Not even caring about her bangs anymore, Rizu deems him correct…just not in the way she expected.

We stay with Rizu as the episode’s focus, but the POV shifts to her self-appointed rival (and not-so-secret admirer), Sekijo Sawako. Earlier, their soulmate status was confirmed when they changed hairstyles on the same day (even though Rizu’s was an accident), and when Sawako notices Rizu’s pen case getting a little tatty, she offers to take her shopping for a new one.

The next day, after obsessive minute-to-minute preparation and anticipation that kept her up all night, requiring at least nine cans of coffee, the two meet up for their long-awaited date. But after plying Rizu with at least 2,000 calories in snacks, Sawako spots Nariyuki, and determines she needs to put “Rizu’s happiness first” by cutting their date short and letting Rizu go with Nariyuki.

Both Rizu and Nariyuki are confused by this move, and Sawako ends up sulking at a claw machine, remembering her middle school days when her high test scores would annoy her less brainy classmates.

It wasn’t until she took an exam beside her that Sawako met Rizu and became absolutely enthralled and inspired by her “cool beauty” attitude, calmly calling out the dumb boys. From that point on Sawako gained more confidence in herself and started to care less and less about what they thought…all thanks to Rizu.

Sawako explains all this to Nariyuki when he comes looking for her, and that she believes Rizu “saved her life” with her inspirational attitude. Rizu, who was also looking for Sawako, hears the tail end of this, but rather than being insulted, she’s actually glad that something she considered a weakness—not being great at reading people’s feelings—was seen as a strength and inspiration by Sawako.

Sawako’s tsundere antics can be tiresome, and I’m not sure we needed her to fall on Rizu, grabbing her boob and exposing her own underwear in the process, but I was glad to get her backstory and motivations for why she treats Rizu as both a rival and kind of soul mate and lodestar. I also appreciate that like Fumino she’s aware of the potential of a Rizu x Nariyuki, even if those two remain as clueless as ever.

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