Domestic na Kanojo – 06 – Exalting In Life’s Freedoms

With all the women he’s juggling, Natsuo has barely had any time to work on the novel he’s writing. During a study period, he reads on the roof, and discovers Kiriya-sensei up there smoking. Kiriya is happy to see a student reading literature, and when Natsuo tells him who he’s reading, he tells him he has good taste, then proceeds to…flirt with him? Whatever the case, Natsuo has piqued Kiriya’s interest.

Natsuo also seems to have inadvertently drawn the mild ire of one Tachibana Rui, who reports that Momo loved the yukiudon he made her while pointing out that he never made it for her at home. Natsuo assumes Rui doesn’t know what a jealous face she’s making, but wishes she wouldn’t make it. Rui is also there to ask him a favor—and not a sex favor, this time! She just wants him to accompany her as she checks out clubs. Natsuo’s guy friends tag along, but only to watch the girls playing sports.

Both Rui and Natsuo seem to find a cultural club with promise in the Literature Club, but no one is there to greet them. Natsuo sees a book on the shelf both he and Rui are interested, and so “borrows” it. When he returns to return the book, he hears a tiny voice within the stacks, and spots Kiriya-sensei seemingly kissing a female student.

He tries to flee but his shoe squeeks, and Kiriya introduces the girl, Ashihara Miu (voiced by the very talented Kohara Konomi of Tsuki ga Kirei fame), who explains that she was helping sensei with an eyelash. Considering how earnest Miu turns out to be, I’m mostly able to go along with her explanation. Natsuo is thus caught having “borrowed” a book, and Kiriya blackmails him into joining Miu as the second and only other member of the Literature Club, of which he is the faculty adviser.

Natsuo’s first duty as club member is to help Miu hand out flyers to recruit other members. It takes him until sunset but he manages to distribute all of his share, only to find Miu in the back entrance, having failed to hand out a single flyer. Natsuo reassures that her there are some things some people just can’t do, and it falls upon those who can to do them. Miu is definitely grateful for his kindness.

The next day in club things get a little weird, when Kiriya-sensei, basically reading from his two students’ face that they are romance novel writers with very little if any romantic experience, and suggests that the two gain some by…kissing each other. Yeah, you read that right.

[Slowly raises hand] Um, I’m sorry, but that’s kinda fucked up? Even a suggestion coming from an adult in authority can sound like an order a kid can’t refuse, and indeed, Miu goes along with it, closing her eyes and dutifully awaiting Natsuo’s kiss. He leans in, but ultimately can’t do it when he sees a tear welling in Miu’s eye. It just feels wrong…because it is. Kiriya doesn’t force the issue and moves on, but still…this guy has serious boundary issues, and might need a good arresting.

That night, as Natsuo works on more flyers, Hana gives her two cents about Kiriya (he’s “a bit odd”—no shit, Sherlock!—but performs his faculty duties “flawlessly” and so is given a wide berth). As for Rui, watching Natsuo become so invested in something leads to her deciding to join his little club right there on the spot. (BTW I did enjoy Hana playfully feeding both Natsuo and Rui chocolates to cheer them up).

The next day Natsuo and Miu exchange apologies and move beyond the previous day’s strangeness, not by talking but by exchanging notes in the library, thereby upholding the silence rule. Natsuo does, however, manage to make Miu laugh with his artist’s impression of Kiriya (whom Miu assures him never made her do anything like yesterday before, which again, I hope she’s right).

Miu is glad to hear Natsuo has an “acquaintance” interested in joining, and even more delighted when he shows up with two new members: Rui and Momo (who tagged along because…she felt like it?) Far from threatened by the presence of two cute girls flanking Natsuo, Miu transitions seamlessly into a pleasant chat with Natsuo, which has an particular affect on Rui she can’t yet identify.

One Sunday, Rui just needs to get out of the house, and ends up at the cafe, the teenage equivalent of going day-drinking, asks her barista why she’s felt so “off” lately, before proceeding to recite the textbook definition of falling in love. Since Rui’s never done so, she worries there’s something wrong with her, but the owner (a former yakuza who fell for a rival lieutenant at first sight) assures her it’s perfectly normal.

He doesn’t go so far as to tell her she’s feeling what he felt, but encourages her to listen to her heart and follow where it leads. So yup, despite being the person to sleep with Natsuo and then drop him like a hot potato, there’s a lot to indicate Rui has real feelings for him.

That’s probably bad news for Rui, as she was so clear so often that the sex they had was without feeling and only to gain experience, Natsuo may be infatuated with Rui the least of the now four women in his circle.

Before and after sleeping with Rui, he loved Hana, after all, and he’s probably not 100% over her. With Shuu out of the picture, now Hana seems interested in spending time with Natsuo (and only Natsuo) but whether she has any romantic intentions or simply wants a good relationship with her stepbrother, we shall see.

I assume Natsuo sees Momo more as someone he needs to look after (and out for) lest she descend into her worst impulses—which we learn cause her to drop in class rankings, as she’s as voracious a studier when she doesn’t have a man as a slacker when she does.

Finally, there’s the newcomer Miu, who actually looks like the healthiest, best fit for Natsuo (it doesn’t hurt that she’s adorable as all get-out).  They share a passion for reading and writing, have great chemistry right out of the gate, and most importantly, she’s not family! Natsuo certainly has no shortage of choice when it comes to women. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to being pushed and pulled by all their opposing interests.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 05

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DnH is doing a good job balancing all the simultaneous relationships Kyoutarou is cultivating with the various girls in his life. Last week he got a little bit of time with Kana, then made Tsugumi’s year by agreeing to stick with the Happy Project. He spends the first third of this episode with Tamamo, who he noticed is working extra hard for the very, popular and successful club. I wonder if Sayumi realized just how big a favor dressing the club up in cosplay was going to be.

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Anyway, it’s a cute little segment, which like the others, has a way of making one feel like Tamamo is the only girl he’s having these kinds of segments with, even though as I said, all these dealings with these girls is happening concurrently. Not that he’s being a man-whore or anything; it’s the girls, after all, that seem to be interpreting his kindness as a sign he’s interested in romance. And hey, he catches Tamamo clean: no boob or crotch grabs!

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Another girl whose gotten a fair share of Kyoutarou’s personal attention of late is Nagi, who is a suspicious as ever standing in the shadows observing Kyoutarou. We then find out that observing Kyoutarou with the aim of assessing his fitness to be a (The?) Shepherd is her job, handed down by a mysterious suited fellow.

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The buxom Nagi is simultaneously jealous of all the attention her boss is giving Kyoutarou and resentful that he’s seen as having more potential. She’s taken her duty to the extreme by moving next door to him and coming to his house all the time. Things get closer than ever before, and Kyoutarou even whips out the pre-cog power we’ve not seen since he saved Tsugumi to try to see Nagi’s future. Disturbingly, he finds nothing there but a white void and an invisible wall.

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It vexes him, and when he confronts Nagi at school, a chase ensues. Kana and Senri hear him yell something about “last night”, and the rumor mill springs into action. Poor Ikkei and Gizaemon can only sit in the corner, unable to contribute to what is essentially the girls wondering what the heck Kyoutarou is up to. But Kyoutarou has problems that circumvent whatever awkwardness may be brewing in the club room.

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Something’s just not quite right about Nagi, and he finally pays her a visit in her apartment — her dark, empty apartment where she clearly doesn’t really live. She’s got her: she’s the Shepherd who’s been emailing him (though that doesn’t mean she’s The Shepherd; clever wording on her part). And there’s that same Man in Black waiting for him, saying he’s cleared preliminary examination and inviting him to come to the “Magic Library” he’s seen flashes of in his premonitions. Nurturing romances while propelling the mystery forward: this episode was firing on all cylinders.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 04

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Books had always been Kakei Kyoutarou’s Truth; he couldn’t hope to ever encounter anyone as pure, elemental and honest as black words on white paper. So he found companionship in books. He Befriended books. Dated books. Other people were merely obstacles that got in the way of his reading. He saw from a young age how hypocritical and false they often were. Better to get lost in books, which wouldn’t put on airs, betray or hurt him.

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Kyoutarou is kind of a messed-up individual. Sure, all kinds of people loath their birthday, but to have a sepia dream about hospital staff (or something) pretending to have a fun birthday party for him when he knew they’d rather be someplace else? Frankly, treating all people as if they were like that is as silly and wrong-headed as Senri thinking Tsugumi had ulterior motives for nursing her to health.

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Obviously, Kyoutarou’s time in the Library Club has switched on entirely new lights in his world, ones that have nothing to do with books. When he flags down Senri and gets her to believe Tsugumi’s intentions were good, and Senri asks him what good good intentions are, it’s a reflective moment for him. Seeing Senri run from the club mirrored the turmoil in his head regarding whether to stick with it past Golden Week, along with his past distrust of anyone and everyone’s kindness.

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We say “past”, and used the past tense above, because while Kyoutarou still clings to his old reslusive bookworm persona, the reality is he is transforming into something else altogether; something far more sociable. And it’s understandably strange, frightening, and even a little fanciful feeling (the cosplay and the high level of attractiveness of his clubmates also contribute to the “too good to be true” vibe, or rather the “I’ve never felt like this before, so it must not be for me” vibe.

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Sure, it’s a bit bizarre and potentially problematic that every girl in the club seems to have varying levels of feelings for Kyoutarou, as exhibited in how they react to learning Nagi’s his neighbor and has been in his room. The bathhouse segment also seemed to be little more than an opportunity for the girls to be nude, compare boob sizes, but to their credit, the guys stay on their side and don’t try to sneak a peak. Saints! 

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But really, that’s all pretty painless and is over relatively quickly, and the episode moves on to Kyoutarou’s choice: whether to stay with Tsugumi, the others, and the Happy Project, or go back to being alone with his books. Neither choice could necessarily be called wrong, but the latter is certainly safer and more mundane. He’d be returning to a path already well-worn…by himself.

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In the end, even after all the fun and new experiences he’s had, Kyoutarou heads to the library club prepared to take that safer path anyway. “It’s been enough,” he thinks to himself, totally unprepared for a surprise birthday party, suggested and organized by everyone. In he presence of such unbridled joy, Kyoutarou’s heart stirs. It’s a feeling that’s inscrutable now, but like a good book, he wants to dive into it and continue to discover all he can about it, so he decides to stick with the club after all.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 03

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“You don’t have to try so hard.” Nice understated flirting here.

Ah, this episode really tickled my funny bone, alone with my “charm bone”, further solidifying its rightful spot on my Fall watchlist. It’s got comedy, but it’s also got lots of great inter-character chemistry, a carefully-building love polygon, and an overarching mystery…and a lot of heart, to boot.

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Take the several scenes where the whole club is together. Even if they’re not super-crucial to the plot, watching everyone goofing around gives us more exposure to them during downtime, and they’re a ton of fun to watch.

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Keep in mind that Kana joined last week, but it already feels like she was always a part of the gang. When she reacts to the adorable animals Tsugumi sewed on their cushions by teaming up with Ikkei to get Tamamo to tell them what The Fox Says, it’s a very surprising but welcome pop culture reference…at least I think it was!

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Relaaax…she’s just measuring his waist for a costume.

This episode includes two non-members who deal with their status as outsiders in very different ways that fit their characters to a T, even though we’ve seen very little of either of them, they make perfect sense as their stories unfold.

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I guess an ambulance would be overkill in this instance…

Let’s start with Music Princess Misono Senri. The whole first half of the episode we cut to her being alone and miserable. When Tsugumi, Tamamo and Ikkei show her the text referring to her, Senri is confronted by a teacher at the same, scolding her for skipping optional lessons. Then it rains, she doesn’t have an umbrella, and she gets a fever. Tsugumi told her to email her if she needed help, and she does.

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The Library Club mobilizes and Tsugumi takes charge of nursing Senri back to health. Senri is bemused by her “unprovoked kindness” but is too weak to refuse it. By the time she’s in bed on the mend, she’s squeezing Tsugumi tight as if she were her mother. And when Kyoutarou sees that interaction, he catches another glimpse of exactly why he’s a part of “Happy Project.” Sometimes they’re just passing out flyers in costume, and sometimes they’re making a positive impact on the life of someone desperate for love and kindness.

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I love how Tsugumi keeps Kyoutarou appraised of the situation via email; and more to the point, Kyou seems to appreciate the updates. That night, he dreams of being led away by an adult with a suitcase, with someone out of sight saying “don’t go.” Is it a coincidence that he wakes up to the sound of his neighbor and fellow library lurker Kodachi Nagi spamming his doorbell? It is not.

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Something rare happens here: Kyoutarou steals a look…but doesn’t get caught!

Nagi’s tentative, apprehensive observation of Kyou throughout this episode (and past ones); her being disappointed that he doesn’t remember her; the way she casually makes herself at home in his room; his dream…all of it points to Kyou and Nagi having a past that only Nagi seems to remember, but she’ll be damned if she’s going to let Kyou keep forgetting. She just needs to find the right way to refresh his memories — or otherwise just make new ones. That won’t be easy with the bright, shiny Tsugumi around.

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She has it tougher than Senri, who connected with the club simply by receiving an email from the Shepherd saying “a new world is waiting for you after school”, three days before meeting the Library club, who also got a email from the shepherd, saying Senri would “teach them something important.” All very neat and tidy…but to what end? The perceived address of the Shepherd is a long-deserted apartment. Curiouser and curiouser. 

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 02

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The Shiomi Happy Project is shaping up nicely. While Ikkei is present as a token second guy (and the less bookish, more enthusiastic of the two), let’s not kid ourselves: a harem is in the making. At various points Kyoutarou has what could be construed as flirtatious moments with Tsugumi, the newest member Suzuki Kana, and the “Song Princess” Misono Senri.

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That last one seems to have some kind of Secret regarding The Past, one she and the school radio host Serizawa Miyu seem to share. As Tsugumi sets the club to work picking up trash on the school grounds to built trust with the student body, the finding of her tuning fork makes Senri the first direct recipient of the Happy Project’s assistance.

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That’s if you don’t count the blonde, Suzuki Kana, who joins the club quickly and seems to fit right in. She seems to be withholding certain information about her circumstances; it could be, for instance, that her old cell phone didn’t break, but she didn’t have one to begin with until Kyoutarou helped her pick one. That, in turn, would mean Kakei, Tsugumi, Tamamo and Ikkei were her first contacts. She just had a lonely vibe about her.

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Speaking of lonely, Kodachi Nagi is on the periphery of this episode, observing the growing club occupying what was once Kyoutarou’s Fortress of Solitude. While it’s pretty clear she’s at least partly responsible for bringing the various club members together (she means to get Senri to join too), when she’s interacting with them, it’s only to tell them to pipe down, which is clearly an act, because they wouldn’t be in there making noise if she hadn’t done…whatever she’s doing!

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One of the side effects of agreeing to participate in Tsugumi’s Happy Project is that he’s becoming a lot more tolerable of things that aren’t books, like people and non-reading activities. He even volunteers to accompany Tsugumi to Senri’s house at night, concerned for her safety. And after seeing her wait outside the door, he finally decides to give her the key to the clubroom, and leave to make copies for everyone.

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Tsugumi means to convince him to stay with her past Golden Week, and she’s off to a good start. Similarly, if Nagi, as a member of “Shepherd” is gauging Kyoutarou’s own shepherding abilities through experimentation, well, she’s off to a good start too…as is the show itself.

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There’s a pleasant, understated earnestness about it, along with a warm, amiable energy. Kyoutarou is aware that conditions around him are shifting rapidly, but not for the worse, and he’s willing to go with the flow and see where Tsugumi’s light takes him.

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