Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 11 – The Prince

Before Shikimori, Izumi was in a dark place. He tried to keep a brave face, but his propensity for misfortune isolated him. He prayed to God, asking if things would ever get better, and if not, if God could give him the strength to endure the pain and sadness, adding that he wished a hero would appear before him.

It’s as morose and heartbreaking as the show has ever gotten with Izumi’s condition, which has evolved from a joke to something more akin to a legitimate curse without cause. But if there’s no cure, there is a hero, and she comes with pink hair and the best Face Game this side of FLCL.

Shikimori and Izumi haven’t been able to hang out as a couple what with all the festivals, so Izumi suggests an amusement park. The ad he shows Shikimori shows a couple leaning in for a passionate kiss, so she’s in, in the worst way.

The question is, what to wear? Not that it matters; Izumi would think Shikimori was cute no matter what she wore. Shikimori’s older brother Fuji drives her to the mall, but doesn’t accompany her shopping. Indecisive about what to buy, she leaves the stores empty-handed and finds Fuji nervously sandwiched between two interested women.

She reluctantly rescues him from the situation, noting how he’s much shyer than he looks, and how maybe he’s the one who needs his hand held, after he teased her about when she needed to hold his. We’re then treated to some lovely Shikimori backstory, with a short-haired Micchon kicking older boys’ asses at karate.

Back home there’s an unnerving tension between her and her strict-seeming mother about whether she’ll be continuing with karate in middle school, even though she only started it because her brother did. Shikimori decides she’ll stick with it and lists the pros, and her mom smiles approvingly.

Shikimori starts being referred to as the “Prince” by boys who know they’d better not mess with her or the other girls. She rises to the top of the karate rankings, and even has the potential for the nationals come high school, but the one opponent she can never come close to beating is Fuji, who one rainy day suddenly announces he’s quitting.

Her karate friends are excited for her high school karate future, but she tells them she’s quitting too. Not because Fuji quit before, but because she discovered the magic of love through shoujo romance manga, and has decided to stop following others and choose for herself who she should be, which is a cute girl who will fall in love with a kind, handsome boy.

AND SO IT CAME TO PASS…but obviously not right away. First, Shikimori applies the same ferocious, focused work ethic to becoming a cute girl that she applied to become good at everything else she’s ever tried—she’s an extraordinary person—and is prepared to completely rebrand herself at high school, starting with entrance exams.

It is here where she and Izumi first meet, the latter’s exam ticket having been caught by the wind and lodged on a high tree branch. Shikimori was worried about mussing her hair not 30 seconds before, but when she sees Izumi’s distraught face (similar to the face he wore while praying for a hero) she climbs that tree and gets him the ticket. He expresses his heartfelt gratitude, but she’s too worried he thinks she’s weird to accept it.

The two meet again on the first day of high school, having both passed the exams. He thanks her again, and proceeds to explain why what she did mattered so much to him, explaining how he’s always been unlucky. He also says he’s glad he got to see her again just as the sunlight and wind and cherry blossoms make him look extra kind and handsome, and Shikimori asks for his name with a face so intense it kinda frightens him.

Of course, Izumi come to love those faces of hers, to the extent that he’ll feel a little jealous when others get to see them. But it’s so nice to finally see what Shikimori was like in her earlier years, how she and Izumi met, and how they were so perfect for one another right from the start. Fuji surprising her with the lipstick she liked was a perfectly heartwarming closing note. She’ll wear it to look cute, but also to give her courage.

Love After World Domination – 05 – Real Steel Feels

That Desumi is the happiest she’s ever been now that she’s dating her sweetheart Fudou probably goes a long way to explaining why she’s obliterating the other princesses in the Gekko rankings. But she’s not content to be happy and successful in love.

When she overhears the Steel Princess dishing with the Beast Princess about someone she loves in the cafeteria (which is not an evil cafeteria…just a cafeteria), Beast wants nothing to do with it, but Desumi is all ears.

Steel’s problem is the same as Desumi’s pre-Fudou: why would anyone love someone like her? She lacks confidence and courage to go after what she wants. Desumi determines that what Steel needs is a strict self-improvement regimen and crash course in femininity.

Beast gets pulled into this scheme with Desumi Steel, but the end result of all the pilates and cooking and makeup sessions is that Steel ends up feeling even more inadequate and worthless than before Desumi tried to help. Beast gives Desumi a distinct told ya so.

During the latest Gelato-Gekko clash, Desumi does what someone does in a stable and healthy relationship: discuss problems she’s having and those of her work associates. The thing is, Fudou doesn’t expect anything of Desumi, just to be by his side.

Desumi’s mistake was making Steel think she had to change and improve in all those areas she never delved into. In reality, if the one she loves is truly right for her, like Fudou is for Desumi, all Steel has to do is be herself.

Desumi and Beast brave Steel’s lair, where she’s erected a tangle of steel spikes to ward off intruders, but Desumi breaks through it and Beast has her back. Beneath her emotionless steel mask, Steel is crying her eyes out, because she hasn’t really given up on love; she’s just not sure how to proceed.

Desumi gives Steel the nudge she needs to cast off her armor—revealing a bust larger than Desumi’s and much larger than Beast’s, inciting the latter’s fury—and confess to the one she loves…who is, of course, Culverin Bear. I thought the joke would be he’d summarily reject her, but they turn out to be a great match in both love and evil.

Fresh off her workplace cupid duties, Desumi decides the time is right for her and Fudou to feed each other the adorable bento she made for the  occassion. The team-up of Steel and Bear proves enough of a problem for the other Gelatos that Blue goes looking for Red, but is stopped in his tracks by Haru, who is determined to protect their secret love.

Desumi is about to place her lovingly made tamago in Fudou’s waiting mouth when he suddenly has a bout of terrible stomach pain. He still tries to assume the position for Desumi to feed him, but she doesn’t want to under such unromantic circumstances, and he soon passes out anyway.

Thanks to Haru being nearby, Fudou gets to the hospital without his and Desumi’s relationship being exposed. Turns out he needed to get his appendix out, and three days later he’s on the mend and ready to be discharged. There’s a very thoughtful bouquet from Gekko’s Supreme Leader Bosslar, wishing him a speedy recovery so they can kill him.

Misaki, Haru, and Big are in his hospital room, but when Misaki tries to feed him an apple he peeled, Fudou clamps up, and Haru snatches the apple instead. After they leave, the apples stay, and after a brief fakeout involving his mom visiting, Desumi arrives to do the feeding.

I like how she goes to the trouble of taking off her shoes and joining him on the bed to feed him properly, and how the usual fake-out of coming within a hair’s breath of touching his lips with the apple is subverted. She’s able to feed him, and the two enjoy another milestone in their romance.

The mood is so nice, in fact, the two are ready to kiss when his mom returns. Rather than freak out at who the beautiful girl is, she takes her by the hand and rushes out, as her volleyball team is missing one. Desumi has no choice but to go with her, and she and Fudou will have to wait for another perfect moment to kiss.

That said, after the credits we see Desumi helping Fudou’s mom crush the competition at volleyball. While walking home at sunset, she also gets a special bonus: seeing a photo of her boyfriend as a not-so-little baby. I love how casually Fudou’s mom embraces Desumi and trusts her to take care of her son.

I’m glad there’s one more person Desumi doesn’t have to keep a secret from. I doubt Fudou’s mom would even care if she knew Desumi was Gekko’s Reaper Princess. If she cares for Fudou and makes him happy, that’s more than enough.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Komi Can’t Communicate – 05 – Ramen, Chuunibyou and Other Inclusions

Summer uniforms are here, and so are fitness tests. After her “tie” last time, Yadano is eager to defeat her rival Komi. Alas, she can’t even manufacture a tie this time, as Komi wins seven out of seven “events”, despite knowing of no rivalry whatsoever.

Yadano holds out her hand to congratulate Komi on a great challenge. But when Komi doesn’t take her hand, Yadano sees it as a rebuke to Yadano giving up. Instead, Yadano “accepts” Komi’s “offer” to continue their “rivalry”. Those quotation marks are doing a lot of work!

Thanks to their pushy presumptuousness, Najimi invites themselves to Komi’s house with Tadano, and they meet Komi’s mom Suko. Initially she looks like a cool quiet, slightly intimidating lady. Then she reveals she communicates just fine. In fact, she’s proud of how she looks “forever seventeen” and her kiddy enthusiasm mortifies her silent daughter.

Najimi tries to find secrets in Komi’s room, but instead finds books on communication (with both humans and cats!) then leaves the room to watch Komi and Tadano alone in the room. For fifteen minutes, the two sit in silence, frustrating Najimi, but it’s never awkward. Komi and Tadano could sit quietly together for hours. Najimi snaps a candid shot, and Komi is so happy with it she ask her mom if she can buy a picture frame.

When Komi meekly expresses her wish to go out for ramen, Agari, a ramen expert, takes charge. When talking about food, Agari becomes a much more confident and talkative person (until people look at her), and obviously knows her stuff, listing off the various “ramen commandments” one must follow. Komi is able to communicate what she wants to the brawny but similarly tiny-voiced ramen chief, and proves a ramen master, waiting patiently and quietly (natch) and finishing and leaving promptly.

A new friend is introduced in the chuunibyou girl Nakanaka Omoharu, who wants to be Komi’s friend but assigns labels that confuse Komi, which cause Nakanaka to get the wrong idea that Komi isn’t interested in being friends. Just as Tadano is a great Komi translator, he is also well-versed in the chuunibyou/”cringe” lifestyle, having lived it himself in junior high, only to swear it off when his crush rejected him for it.

When everybody is trying to be Komi’s partner for stretching, Nakanaka watches everyone else pair up and sits in on the floor alone and morose. She’s startled but ultimately delighted when she notices Komi had declined all other potential partners to make a “blood pact” with her. Nakanaka may play it cool and say that the pact actually made Komi her “vassal”, but it’s just “friend” by any other name.

As for Tadano, Komi’s most “normal” friend (at least relative to the others), Komi finds excuses to spend time with him, even though they’re rarely apart. When Najimi steals Tadano’s umbrella and it rains after school, Komi is waiting for him with hers, and they end up sharing. It proves a bit too much for Tadano after grazing her shoulder, and offers to hold it between them—getting his shoulder wet, but keeping Komi dry.

Later at the konbini where Tadano buys another umbrella and towels for them to dry off, he asks if Komi saw Najimi’s note and chose to wait, rather than it being a coincidence of timing. To this, Komi simply looks on in silence, and her very aura parts the clouds. For all the various terms Komi’s friends use to describe their association, Komi is clearly Tadano’s sun—and vice versa!

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 09 – New Digs, New Threads

As  foreshadowed last week, Nasa doesn’t lose much when they return home to find the apartment building burned down. All his valuable paperwork and data is either at the bank or in the cloud, and he not only has renter’s insurance, but a full grasp on what’s needed to make a claim. Tsukasa marvels at how much Nasa keeps proving why she loves him so much.

It’s not just because he keeps a cool head and doesn’t express anger or regret in the face of what would be a disaster for most people. It’s that the first thing on his mind is that everyone else in the building was okay (they are). The only possession that survived was the tree commemorating their marriage, which can easily be transplanted.

When Nasa and Tsukasa head to the bathhouse to have a nice long soak and consider what’s next, Kaname ends up offering a detatched house on their property where they can stay until they find a suitable new place. Nasa thinks it’s good luck, but Tsukasa knows otherwise: by being someone so kind and well-liked, people are quick to help someone like Nasa.

Kaname does consider one potential problem: now that Nasa and Tsukasa are staying on the Arisugawa’s property, the time will come when Aya finally realizes Tsukasa isn’t just any “relation” of Nasa’s, but his wedded wife. In the end, no amount of hints can crack Aya’s Airhead A.T. Field, but Kaname and Aya’s mom just comes right out and says it.

Aya starts to go into a flashback about Nasa, her first and only love, but her mom cuts her short. As someone whose own husband cheated on her and left her for a younger woman, Aya’s mom wants her to do whatever she needs to do—cut her hair, go to school abroad (on her own dime), whatever—to get over it and move on.

Aya knows that in times of heartbreak one should hold their head high, so she does so and congratulates Nasa and Tsukasa, then considers becoming a YouTube idol…an idea quickly shot down by everyone.

Nasa and Tsukasa may be set with a new place to live for the time being, but Tsukasa did lose quite a bit of her wardrobe in the fire. That means it’s time to go to the laundromat, but the new husband and wife quickly become embarrassed over the prospect of handling one another’s…unmentionables.

They decide to go to the ‘mat together, and watch their clothes mingle in the wash together, something that’s so mundane and yet also so intimate. Tsukasa also lets slip that under her tracksuit she’s not wearing any underwear, since it’s all in the wash. Not wanting to make a big public display of affection, Nasa instead snaps a picture…and draws Tsukasa’s ire.

At the end of the day, what’s called for is a clothes shopping trip, and not to the department store’s discount clothes section, but to Harajuku, a place Nasa has neither ever been to shop. He gets to see Tsukasa try on one cute outfit after another, and even a few outfits he picks out for her, revealing his girly side.

When the time comes to buy underwear, Tsukasa initially holds Nasa’s hand, but changes her mind and deposits him on a bench, instructing him to simply not look like someone who should be arrested. When their shopping is done, Nasa makes, as Kaname calls it, another manly “move”, asking Tsukasa if, at some point, he, her husband, would be able to see her in her underwear.

She turns beet red and turns away, but doesn’t reject the request out of hand; in fact, she says he can see “as much as he wants”. Of course, that won’t be much for the foreseeable future; the two are so embarrassed by the subject being broached that they drop it immediately so they can then shop for clothes for Nasa. Still, it’s a good thing those questions are being posed. They are married, after all!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Ahiru no Sora – 02 (Second Chance)

Kurumatani defeats the punk basket ball club, earns the respect of the girl’s team captain, and starts to warm the punk-captain’s heart through endless practice and flash backs. There is also a panty-hook.

Most sports anime feature an under dog with endless optimism and dedication to practice. This makes sense, practice is key to getting better, and the only way to make practice watchable is to show how much fun a person is having while doing it. In this regard, AnS has nothing special going for it. Except a panty hook.

Ahiru no Sora – 01 (First Impressions)


Kurumatani is a short kid who’s mom was good at basketball BEFORE SHE DIED! (and gave him her shoes) He gets in fights he cannot win. He unintentionally becomes friends with a giant Afro-Japanese kid and becomes enemies with his new school’s basketball team. He also peeps on the girl’s basketball team while they get changed in the room next to the boys’ club room.

Yeah it’s hard not to compare it to Haikyuu, which I watched for 3 seasons. However, where AnS lacks the ‘spunk’ and energy of Haikyuu!!! AnS has good comedic timing. That said, it doesn’t contain much comedy to begin with (what with Kurumatani’s downer mom and being beaten up and all). The visual style is little gray and… well it’s a short kid wins basketball anime?

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 04 – Your Understanding Is Not Necessary

The Ezomichi-chan in Hikari’s head tells him to stop feeling guilty about being happy, and he decides to take her advice and agrees to tutor Iroha in math. Being one-on-one with her is a bit much, however, as the vibes quickly turn from studious to romantic…until Hikari’s mom and brother are caught very blatantly snooping.

Up until this point it’s been pretty smooth sailing for Hikari. He’s gained a girlfriend, another friend who happens to be a girl, and his worst enemy seems to be himself and his own lack of self-esteem. He’s just waiting for something to come along and take all this stuff he thinks he doesn’t “deserve” to have.

The universe obliges: Takanashi Mitsuya lures him out after school with a fake love letter (one Hikari knew would be a trap), and tells him to surrender Iroha so he can date her, or else. Takanashi is bigger, stronger, more handsome, more popular, and more blonde than Hikari, who has no clear answer ready for why Iroha is with him.

After getting punched, Hikari feigns a cold to go home early, but ends up in the same playground as a little girl who turns out to be Takanashi’s little sister Anzu. When Hikari brings up the possibility of his only recourse against Takanashi would be spreading false rumors online, Takanashi decides to use that, ordering Anzu to scream as a policeman cycles past, then claiming Hikari tried to take her home with him.

Takanashi snaps pics of the incident and posts them on the chalkboard at school, and within a day everyone has been convinced that Hikari is a creepy lolicon and shuns him even more than they used to. Itou knows the rumors aren’t true, as does Iroha, but Hikari doesn’t want them to get too close to him lest it make life difficult for them (Ishino, however, believes the rumors and expresses her disappointment).

As perfectly as Takanashi’s plan to toss Hikari’s already shaky rep in the dumpster, the reason he did it in the first place—to steal Iroha—ends in abject failure, when Iroha won’t even let him talk to her. Hikari is enough for her, and she’ll certainly take a kind boy like him over someone who spreads such harmful rumors for his own gain. Takanashi is flabbergasted, but perhaps it’s a teachable moment for him.

Meanwhile, Hikari’s brother Kaoru turns out to be very good friends with Anzu, who learns that Kaoru’s brother was wrongly accused of being a lolicon. Hikari’s mother (who is always a hoot in her loving yet frank disposition) can’t help but go with what makes sense, and Hikari can’t really argue with her; he’s never gotten along with people in general; for a misunderstanding like this to spiral out of control was always a distinct possibility.

Still, Hikari is lonely enough to still reach out to Iroha over the phone, surprising her. Unfortunately, it’s to tell her she should stop wasting her time with someone like him. She ain’t hearing it, and won’t listen to another word of his self-loathing nonsense.

She says what he couldn’t say to Takanashi: why she’s with him. He’s a nice person who cares about his friends and awkward yet loving. There’s no one she’d rather be with, so he can dispense with further attempts to convince her to leave him.

Iroha is on fire this week, between shutting Takanashi the fuck down with immediate effect, and making it clear to Hikari that she’s going to go out with the person she wants, and that’s him, damnit! If he likes her like she likes him, she’ll let her be by his side, in good times and bad.

The next day, Iroha is the one who encounters Anzu, and helps her up after she trips racing to her brother’s school. Takanashi tries to start up another talk with Iroha, but Anzu insists he hear her out: Kaoru’s brother is in trouble because he told her to scream when the policeman was nearby.

Hopefully Takanashi’s love for his sister and realization that he was a gargantuan ass will spur him into correcting his mistakes, setting the record straight about Hikari at school, and accepting defeat.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 03 – An Honest Girl Magnet

“Something about changing and getting so happy is scary,” Hikari tells Itou. So much so it makes him overly self-conscious and embarrassed about how intensely his heart beats whenever Iroha is near. Unfortunately Hikari still has much to learn about communicating his feelings good or bad, so he ends up ignoring Iroha and even pushing her hand away.

The only answers he can give her are “sorry” and “it’s nothing”, as if she wouldn’t understand. He’s still too stuck inside himself to trust someone else, especially with emotions he’s never had and can’t begin to explain. So it causes a rift.

Almost simultaneously, a girl slips on a banana peel and Hikari helps her up. It’s his classmate Ishino Arisa, whose first instinct upon realizing who helped her is to call him “gross” like all the others do. But later, she doesn’t run away or dismiss him when he tries to seek advice from someone who doesn’t make his heart pound.

Because Ishino also likes someone, their common ground on which to lay the foundation for a conversation. Part of her is worried this gloomy dude will commit suicide if she leaves him alone, but part is just as receptive to talking about the strange feelings people get for one another, and because neither of them share those feelings for each other, there’s no pressure.

Ishino decides a good step to take is for Hikari to lose the bangs as part of a larger effort to look more presentable (and less gloomy), but she can’t take a single snip of hair (with craft scissors) when Iroha arrives and declares that Hikari “belongs to her.”

Hikari thought she hated him for how he snubbed her, but her rudeness with Ishino is ample proof that’s not the case. Nor does Hikari hate her; they’re merely misunderstanding each others’ discomfort with the new and complicated emotions they’re feeling, as just about anything new makes people uncomfortable.

Speaking of comfort, on both the advice of his mom and the fact Iroha likes the same show, Hikari gets into baking as a means of both expressing his affection for Iroha and releasing pent-up stress (with which, as we all know, eating sweets can help).

Iroha is contrite towards Ishino and before long, Hikari is one of a circle of four. Iroha may claim to “not need” friends, but what else do you call four kids at school sharing each others company (and cookies) and talking to one another about themselves?

When asked, Ishino mentions things are going okay with her boy Shun, but the others soon learn he finds Ishino “convenient” in the way she lends him money and doesn’t mind the sight of other girls’ clothes in his room. He’s a cad, but Iroha doesn’t feel its quite their place to intervene, and Hikari and Itou aren’t about to disagree.

However, Iroha breaks her own rules and pummels Shun with her bookbag, not necessarily to defend a friend (she’d still say Ishino wasn’t one), but because he was pissing her off by calling Ishino stupid within earshot of Ishino. Ultimately Ishino decides to break up with Shun, but her stoic face is quickly soaked in tears; she’s not happy about it, even though she thinks it was the right thing to do.

To help dry his new friend’s tears and reduce her stress levels, Hikari suggests they head to the roof and eat the cheesecake and donuts he made. When Iroha gets some chocolate on her face he wipes it off with his hand, and Ishino declares that while she wan’t jealous of them before, she is now.

Hikari marvels at how there are only honest girls around him, but he doesn’t know how lucky he is. It’s up to him to be just as honest with them, as well as Itou. I’m not saying fake or deceptive people are lame, but I don’t think Hikari is compatible with them at all. He’s someone who needs things said to him straight, and hopefully he’ll pick up the habit.

And so, up there on the roof, trying not to worry too much about what the future might bring, Hikari is simply happy he can be a “normie”, and interact with these very exotic creatures called 3D human friends. It might feel weird, but he’ll surely get used to it.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 02 – Half a Year Won’t Be Enough

Last week I noted how 3DK succeeded because it was committed to depicting a relationship of equals from the start, and that continues early this week when Iroha immediately challenges those who whisper unkind things about her new boyfriend.

Hikari doesn’t mind—he thinks he is gloomy, at least at school—but would rather she didn’t call attention to him. But at this stage Hikari is also still weary of getting to deeply into a relationship that will probably end in half a year when she moves (let’s face it, long-distance sucks).

His inexperience in 3D girl relationships rears its ugly head when Iroha gives him a clear invitation to go on a date Sunday, but he doesn’t get the hint at the time, and sticks to his original plan of waiting in line, buying a game, and playing it. But when he sees Iroha with another man, he’s both hurt and angry (and likely calling to mind her rep at school, threatening to  fall into the classthink trap once more).

But suddenly Iroha is throwing stones at his window because she missed him, and assuming the other guy was a misunderstanding, had no reason to doubt her sincerity. Then he babbles about “not having the patience” of
those other guys” and doesn’t know how to find out whether he and she are seriously dating.

Iroha has an idea: take him to a hotel where they can sleep together. She says it’s her first time—another way they’re on the same level—but he feels like she’s “undervaluing herself” by consenting to sex when they still barely know each other.

Then…he runs out, just leaving her there, presumably to pay for the room. Sorry, but that’s just bad form. I understand not being ready for sex and This All Happening So Fast and not seeming as “special” as you thought, but you could, you know, stay and talk with her. Maybe he still had that other guy in his head…or maybe he just panicked.

The next day, Hikari encounters that other guy, who tells them he’s not dating Iroha, and Hikari takes that to mean there’s some other kind of relationship in play, and that Iroha would be better off with a normie than the gloomy likes of him.

The doc, for his part, is a wonderful neutral observer of Hikari, and takes note of Hikari’s lack of backbone. Even if he’s not really involved with Iroha, he would hope someone who is would fight for her rather than scurry off.

The situation is resolved when Hikari calls Iroha to the school roof and tells her about the other guy. Iroha in turn spits out a sequence of lies about the doc being her boyfriend and having a serious illness. But she cops to the lies almost immediately.

There’s a wonderful disarming vulnerability to those short-lived lies of hers, like she’s putting out feelers to test Hikari’s reactions. Eventually, the air is fully cleared (she only visits the doc for her asthma), after Hikari is inspired by his favorite magical girl anime and vows to protect her, which Iroha rightly points out is a bit narcissistic.

Still, she’s happy Hikari is thinking of her (in his own way). She also invites herself to his house, nearly causing his mom and little brother to lose their shit with vicarious excitement. Having a girl who likes you and who like in your room seems to simple in concept, but it’s momentous in practice.

In the process, Iroha has the same reaction to his anime as he had when he first watched it, and he realizes her open-mindedness has always been a reliable constant since they started interacting. That helps put him further at ease, and the two almost kiss, but are interrupted.

In any case, Hikari learns from the doc that Iroha’s birthday is imminent, and his mom rustles up some amusement park tickets, because she knows damn well how useless her son is with cultivating romance. With help from Hikari’s trusty friend Itou, he creates a clay figurine of Iroha-as-magical girl to give her after a fun-filled day at the park.

This could have easily been weird and a little creepy, so I’m glad it turned out to be a very sweet and heartfelt gesture. He worked long nights during which he’d otherwise have been gaming to craft something of sufficient quality, then offered it at precisely the perfect time as a surprise, complete with a pretty good line if you’re in high school: “You also use magic. When I’m with you, amazing things constantly happen.” For that, he gets a kiss, and since they’re in a Ferris Wheel, there are no interruptions.

Hikari and Iroha made a lot of progress this week towards learning more about and understanding one another. But the fact remains she’ll be out of his life again in less than half a year, and it’s already tearing him apart inside. But if it’s truly love between these two, I’m sure a way can be found to avoid permanent separation.

Hanasaku Iroha 26 (Fin)

The Bonbori festival is a magical evening when people all over the prefecture converge and bring fresh vitality to Yusonagi. Everyone strings up their wish planks, all of them reinforcing their character arcs. Ohana wishes to be like her grandmother, Sui, who herself believes she should “fest it up” more often as Ohana does. Ohana seeks out Ko and finally confesses to him. Beanman announces his retirement. Enishi, realizing he has a lot to learn about running an inn, agrees with his mother to close Kissuiso, but only temporarily, so that he can train.

The staff pledges to return to work there when it reopens, and can live up to its name of “A place to make Sui happy.” Ko wants to “find his place” as he sees Ohana has, and if it’s the same place of her, all the better. Minko dreams to be Kissuiso’s next chef. Sui gives us one last tour of the inn where dreams are born. The series finishes with a montage of the staff in their new places, and in Ohana’s case, back in Tokyo with her mom and Ko.

It’s been a hell of a ride, with its share of bumps, but IMO Hanasaku Iroha couldn’t have had a better finale. It ties up all the loose ends, doesn’t cheat by keeping everything the same, gives everyone a solid goodbye and dream to follow, and, of course, Ohana gets the guy by finally speaking up. Even better, she gets that out of the way in the first minutes, before the suspense grows excessive, and moves on to other things. Just about everything worked here, from the utterly gorgeous visuals to the not-too-cheesy soundtrack.

I really liked Angel Beats!, but I think I have to consider this P.A. Works’ finesst work yet, which is encouraging, because it’s also their latest, and I can’t wait to watch their next one. After AnoHana wrapped, this has been the series with the most involving, likeable, fun-to-watch characters, as well as the prettiest setting and some of the best animation values. The inn itself was a character, and given no less fitting a sendoff. When it was populated, it was hard to sit back and admire just how beautiful a building it is, inside and out. I’m glad that the series was able to take its time and say a decent goodbye that left me wanting for nothing.



Rating: 4 ~series elevated to favorites ~

Ao no Exorcist 23

Ernst mixes the blood of Rin and Yukio to open the Gehenna gate, but the Messiah weapon proves ineffective. A swarm of demons bursts forth from the gate, along with Satan. A flashback chronicles how Rin and Yukio’s mother Yuri became mixed up with demons to the point that Satan joined with her and gave her twin sons. Her own father Ernst was going to burn her at the stake, but Satan intervened. Fujimoto and Pheles were sent out to kill her and her demon spawn, but Fujimoto can’t do it. Back in the present, Ernst is sucked into Gehenna, while Satan possesses Yukio.

Yukio displays baffling naivete, Ernst lets out an evil laugh as he describes his diobolical plan, and Rin screams in that horrible way he screams that’s worse than nails on a chalkboard. Not a good start for the penultimate episode. I was also worried when the flashback had a flashback – nothing kills the thrust and momentum of a story in the present like a tangent into the past that occupies most of the episode. The series would have us believe that this story had to be told in great detail, but I for one was fine with some of the past being unknown or muddled. Some mystique was lost.

Also, if being possessed by Satan turns Yukio into such a wild, raging maniac, why does that same satan so calmly and vividly tell Yukio the story of how he and Rin came to be? He’s Satan; the ultimate unreliable narrator. And while he’s busy telling this intricate tale, the other characters are sidelined, doing absolutely nothing. So now, we have a Satan-possessed Yukio, who’s screaming a lot, but at least his screams aren’t as awful and shrill as Rin’s, but of course he’s upset, so he’s screaming too. I would hope that next week’s finale has a minimum of screaming, but I’m not going to hold my breath.


Rating: 2.5

No. 6 4

I have to say, I just wasn’t impressed with this week’s No. 6 outing. Essentially, Nezumi sends word to Shion’s mom (via rat) that he’s alive, and she sends word back of a friend of hers who also lives in the West District. He also happens to be a pimp who dresses like Pee Wee Herman.

Shion is certainly a fish out of water here, as everyone runs their mouth in a foul, inpolite manner, which mortifies him. But even after his appearance-changing ordeal last week, he’s still a rather listless, directionless, weak kid. If this place is so horrible – and we haven’t seen anything to prove otherwise – why the hell would he want to stay?

In a word, Nezumi. But Nezumi was just one-note this week, acting like an asshole most of the time. He clearly likes/loves Shion, or else he wouldn’t have done everything he has for him to this point; saving his life for the umpteenth time. These two seme very close, both in a brotherly way, but also with undertones of romance. But that, and everyone’s motivations and goals, still seem distant and vague, despite this series being more than a third complete.


Rating: 3

Hanasaku Iroha 13

With this episode, the first half of the 26-episode run of Hanasaku Iroha comes to a strong close. And even though [C] ranked slightly higher this season, I consider this my second-favorite of the season, after runaway best, AnoHana. What’s more, I’m actually looking forward to the second half. This series has staying power.

Unlike those two 11-episode series, Hanasaku Iroha really is one of those series that benefits from being stretched out. It’s chock full of great characters, great atmosphere, and great slice-of-life…and has looked consistently awesome. I haven’t seen True Tears, and Canaan was underwhelming, but going forward this definitely could give my standing favorite P.A. Works piece, Angel Beats!, a run for its money.

This week was a family reunion of sorts, as the prodigal daughter Satsuki returns as per Ohana’s request. The horror stories of her little brother Enishi, who stayed by his mom’s side in the business, are really nicely depicted. Satsuki, for her part, has the typical gripes about the place and her mother not having changed a bit. But she isn’t just there to criticize; in fact, she invites her daughter and mother to her room and the three generations of Shijimas have a nice heart-to-heart-to-heart.

During this, a tossed(?) Ohana spills the beans about Ko; her mom and granny both think she’s giving up too easily; but this isn’t the only family reunion that took place. The other was Ohana returning to her family at Kissuiso; her friends Nako and Minko are like sisters to her, and she’s come to love the inn and everyone she works with. This is her life now; a life in Tokyo with Ko just wasn’t in the cards. Of course, this is her mom’s fault for shipping her here in the first place, but what happened happened, something good came out of it, and Ohana is staying put. She misses Ko, but she’s where she wants to be. Rating: 4

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