Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 08 – Wind, Lightning, and New Fire

If you’ve ever worked at an office, you have a pretty good idea of the atmosphere of the first half of this week’s episode. When it’s dark and stormy, suddenly its darker outside than in in the middle of the day, there’s a strange cozy feeling to the office, occasionally someone’s sunroof will be open, and you have to remember to SAVE YOUR WORK often, lest a power outage claim the building.

It’s much the same at the office where our four otaku work, but we learn that Hirotaka is afraid of lightning (or rather, traumatized by years of having the power go out while he’s in the middle of gaming). But when he remembers many years ago when he answered the door during the storm, Narumi was on the other side of the door. Then, as now, she puts him at ease, and he her.

Hirotaka is considerably less at ease when during a night of drinking his ability to make Narumi jealous by flirting with other girls is cited as a virtual impossibility. Hirotaka remembers being jealous of the guy Narumi dated, even to the point of getting an ear pierced that probably didn’t need it.

As Hirotaka comes to the always-dueling-in-public Kabakura and Koyonagi, curious what they do when they’re not arguing, Narumi is at Starbocks (Naoya’s eyes still swollen from sensitivity training earlier this week), wondering what a real date is; all she and Hirotaka do are the same things they’d do if they were good otaku friends as before.

Well, both seem to feel uncomfortable about that at the same time, as if the flames below their seats had finally made that seat uncomfortable enough to get up out of it. Just as Narumi is expecting another “at-home” date of reading and/or gaming, Hirotaka asks her out to do the things she used to do with her previous, normie boyfriends.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 07 – Playing a Netoge, Then Eating Out Separately

This week’s WotaKoi is split between two completely different stories involving the core quartet, which is probably for the best as I doubt either one could be sustained for the entire episode’s length. Feeling more than ever like two distinct episodes works to both stories’ advantages, as neither wears out their welcome.

Most of Part One is presented within the virtual world of a fantasy netoge the crew has agreed to play together. The warrior Kabakura and elf assassin Narumi are the first to arrive, and Kabakura is thoroughly charmed by Narumi’s adorable avatar.

Not too much later the sexy black mage Koyanagi joins them, but when they end up in a random encounter with a rare boss, they’re almost undone when Hirotaka’s avatar is being controlled by Nao. Once Hirotaka takes over, he literally takes over, as in defeating the boss and collecting the loot as if he were playing solo, without any cooperation from the others.

Despite being perhaps the least enthusiasm for the game, he’s still the best at it and his player has the maximum level, because, well, he’s a game otaku. Acing games is kinda what he does.

We’re back in the real world for Part Two, as the guys and gals split off for a night of drinks and dinner. Hirotaka and Kabakura must patiently endure their two junior co-workers talking non-stop about Narumi and Koyanagi, including getting their personalities and traits totally wrong due to their lack of interaction with them.

Meanwhile Narumi and Koyanagi are poised to have a lovely dinner chatting over the anime Narumi had Koyanagi borrow and watch…only for the two to, as usual, hold opposite views regarding said anime. They regain common ground in considering their boyfriends in BL situations, but once again butt heads over which of them should be on top.

When dinner’s over, the four end up running into each other on the street. With the junior co-workers there, the two couples play things cool and quiet, not overly indicating they’re dating each other, and merely bidding each other goodnight.

It was definitely a case where things might’ve been easier (or at least less irritating) if Hirotaka and Kabakura had simply said they were dating Narumi and Koyanagi, respectively. But at the same time, it’s really not their business, so the lads are content to endure their ignorance for the sake of romantic privacy. And rightly so!

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 06 – Rainy Days are The Worst. Rainy Days are The Best.

After a cold open involving Hirotaka and Kabakura being photographed doing BL roleplay, we rewind to Narumi and Hirotaka both forgetting their umbrellas, despite being adults. Kabakura isn’t worried about any of his effects getting wet, so lends them his umbrella.

Hirotaka switches both the side he’s on (so she doesn’t get splashed by cars) and the position of his bag so smoothly, Narumi takes note of it in her inner monologue, and it’s further evidence he’s legit boyfriend material. Meanwhile a soaking wet Kabakura encounters Koyanagi and asks if she’ll share her umbrella, and rather than say he gave his to their friends, he says he forgot it, and gets doted on by a concerned Koyanagi.

For her part, Koyanagi professes her hatred for rainy days because her shoes get wet, but when she invites herself to Kabakura’s for dinner and he invites her to spend the night, she professes her love for rainy days. So basically, she and rain are like Asuka and Shinji.

Then we see why Hirotaka and Kabakura were posing like would-be lovers: to cheer up Narumi. Hirotaka can sense something’s up, but Narumi is being all coy with false smiles and “it’s nothing really, don’t worry about it.”

Finally, Hirotaka waits for her after work and continues to pursue the issue, going so far as to ask if he’s “so undependable” she can’t tell him what’s up. Finally, she relents, and it turns out to be nothing; a character in a manga she (and Kabakura) liked died.

If it were something genuinely troubling, would Narumi have told him? I like to think so, but even not, sometimes it pays to be persistent when someone is trying to spare you trouble or worry…and in this case, Hirotaka already was worried.

Finally, Christmas approaches. There’s talk of Santa and when Narumi, Hirotaka, and Naoya stopped believing in him. Nao, in a thin and much-less-warm-than-it-looks Santa costume handing out free coffee outside Starbucks, states that he never stopped believing in Santa; his definition of who it was simply shifted to anyone you love or are connected with who makes you happy. Narumi praises Nao as a saint.

Last year’s Christmas was The Worst for Koyanagi. Sure, she had plenty of time to make a wicked awesome costume, but the reason she had that time is that Kabakura spent the holiday working his ass off, and they didn’t even speak to each other until the new year had some.

This year Koyanagi assumes it will be more of the same, and that she simply has to make peace with the fact her boyfriend is a workaholic. But as office elevator doors close, Kabakura suddenly teleports from his desk to the doors, forcing them open and joining Koyanagi.

He ends up taking her to a super fancy and exclusive restaurant, the reservations for which he made over a half-year ago, and the cost of which he worked extra hours to afford. Koyanagi, appreciative of his efforts, presents him with the gift of a limited-edition event item.

Hirotaka and Narumi stay in for Christmas Eve, eating takeout, drinking beer and wine, and playing video games together. Both couples look like they’re having nice Christmases.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 05 – He’s with Me, and She’s with Him

Hirotaka and Narumi are not kids anymore, and the former is far removed from his “bad boy” days when he thought getting an earring and acting like an adult would help him become one quicker. In hindsight, he wondered what his past self’s big rush was; he’d much rather stay a kid. Being surrounded by games and toys from childhood certainly helps.

That philosophy works against Hirotaka the adult when he stays up playing games all night on a weekday, making him a virtual corpse at the office. It’s a downside, but at the end of the day a small price to pay for You Doing You.

Still, an unconscious Hirotaka is hardly interesting, so Narumi heads to the Starbucks for a grotesquely elaborate frappé she orders entirely in English, and the barista is a super cute! Not only that, they soon realize they actually know each other.

Kabakura and Koyanagi are also there. Kabakura, who’s always carried a torch for Narumi, is stunned by Koyanagi’s assertion that the blond kid is likely an exe. But while Koyanagi tries to take the high road and stay out of it, her and Kabakura start feeding off each other with increasingly hypothetical theories.

Then Koyanagi texts Hirotaka to come, and she and Kabakura learn the truth is somewhat more mundane: the blond kid, Naoya, is Hirotaka’s 19-year-old little brother.

Naoya asks to stay at Hirotaka’s (it’s closer to his college), and Narumi extends the invitation to the whole gang. Soon, the core quartet has dropped its guard and starts talking about obscure things Naoya doesn’t quite understand because he’s a normie.

That normie-ness is borne out by an evening of complete gaming ineptitude (while Hirotaka, ever the big brother, simply plays as though Nao isn’t his partner and wins anyway, before passing out again).

When the time comes for everyone to head home, Nao offers to walk Narumi to the station, and Kabakura springs to attention, warning him she already has a girlfriend. Even I slightly suspected that Nao was using a pure-and-innocent act as a front for his playboy-ness, especially when he acted dumb about what he was doing.

However, after Koyanagi leans in to kiss Kabakura and explains the relationships in the room, Nao demonstrates he really is that pure and innocent. He breaks into tears not because he’s lost Narumi to his brother, but because he’s so happy his brother has somebody, and always hoped that somebody would be Narumi.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 04 – Love Could Be Labeled “Poison” and We’d Drink It Anyway

I’m of the mind you’re never too old to cry at anime. I speak from experience! WotaKoi hasn’t made me cry yet, but it does agree with me on this point, as Narumi demonstrates to Hirotaka with a lunchtime screening of Sailor Moon.

It also tells some truths about people who are very into things being drawn to each other, even if they aren’t super-into the same things. That’s certainly the case with our two couples, but it doesn’t change the fact that their partners are constantly surprising one another with how their differing tastes and desires mesh—or clash—with their own.

Hirotaka happily goes along with Narumi’s desire to have him cosplay as a woman for a photoshoot, and the execution is successful enough to fool Kabakura. But Kabakura doesn’t go along with Koyanagi at all, and even if they get along part of the time, they never seem to waste an opportunity to fight with one another…which isn’t always entertaining for bystanders!

Ultimately Koyanagi gets what she wants by bribing him with a rare figurine he’s really into. As we saw last week with the two at Hirotaka’s house, they are capable of showing great sweetness and tenderness to each other, but Kabakura’s embarrassment with certain aspects of their relationship can lead him to lash out, and Koyanagi gives as good as she gets.

In another example of differing styles, Narumi responds with Hirotaka’s incredibly colorful and verbose text communication with a simple, samurai-esque “at your pleasure.” Both Koyanagi and we learn that the two have always communicated this way, and that Hirotaka’s face can’t keep up with his words or moods, resulting in his usual stoic face.

The purpose of his text(s) was to invite Narumi out for drinks, and since Kabakura is also coming, she should invite Koyanagi too. The four revel in going out for drinks for the first time, but Koyanagi proves to be a quick and volatile drunk, and while he seems able to hold his liquor better, Kabakura proves no less volatile.

Narumi and Hirotaka try and fail to keep the two from blowing up, until a botched making-up session results in Koyanagi storming out. Narumi catches up to her, and she’s sobbing real tears.

The booze brought out her most vulnerable and insecure side; the side that worries that Kabakura acts the way he does because he’s not happy with her; that theirs is a relationship of convenience because they’re both otaku; that he’d rather be with a cute girl like Macross F’s Ranka Lee.

Kabakura is hella mean throughout the night (must he keep calling the clearly attractive Koyanagi an “ugly hag”? He does not.), and his joking around and blithe insults come across as callous and cruel considering Koyanagi’s worried state. But at least he has the good sense to stop—eventually—and let her cry on his shoulder.

The things drunk Koyanagi talked about lead Narumi herself to wonder if Hirotaka would rather be with a non-otaku. Hirotaka can sense her unease, but makes it clear to her he’s not dating her because she’s an otaku or because it’s easy, but because he loves seeing her do the things she likes, and always has, even if they’re not always the same things he likes.

The fact this episode featured not one but two incidences of the women being worried about whether they’re good enough for the men made it feel a bit unbalanced. Then again, I can totally buy that Kabakura acts the way he does sometimes because he’s just as anxious about his self-worth as Koyanagi apparently is.

In any case, I’m really enjoying watching the intricacies of the two couples’ relationships unfold before us. One has been an official couple for far longer, but both have history and just feel right…warts and all.

Takunomi. – 08

From slice-of-office-life, history and life lessons, to the usual drink and food pairings, Takunomi. has a little bit of everything this week, which made me inclined to offer my first “recommended” score after seven straight “watchables.”

We dive a little deeper into Michiru’s office experience as she’s chosen to head up a client presentation the same day she dreams about it. Things don’t go as smoothly as she imagined, but she wins the client over, netting her her first work victory.

It’s a special occasion, which necessitates a special beverage: the venerable Suntory Kabukin (亀, tortoise) Whisky. Around since the 30s, it’s the first whisky by Japanese for Japanese, and still going strong. While it says Kabukin nowhere on the bottle, it’s always been called that because of its tortoise-shell bottle design.

The whisky goes perfectly in a 4:1 highball, though I might want to try it neat or on the rocks. It’s also the perfect drink to go with freshly fried chicken karaage.

But with Michiru’s work victory come a slew of new responsibilities, and in an attempt to keep up with the breakneck pace, she simply overworks herself—not a tenable strategy if one wants to live a long life.

After showing up late for a meeting, Michiru works right up to the time of the after-work office celebration meant to celebrate her. She’d have worked through it to, were it not for her 5-year veteran co-worker Hanamori, who has her back, doing the remaining work for her at hare-speed.

She also has advice for Michiru at the pub: young workers should expect to keep up with the hustle and bustle, they have to be more like tortoises, focused on getting it done, period, without worrying too much about how fast they can get it done. It’s what their boss said to Hanamori when she started out.

Michiru takes to that mentality, pulling her coat over her head to show her boss she knows what he was talking about, and takes care of business. The speed will come in time.

Takunomi. – 04

Michiru finally gets to drink with Nao’s sister Makoto, who is closer in age and a third-year student in college weary of entering the labor market. After a morning of yelling at her sister for amassing so much recycling from beer cans and a day of studying and worrying, she needs a drink, and not just any drink: Kirin Hyoketsu (“Frozen”), a canned shochu-soda-fresh-squeezed juice blend she prefers to other chuhis.

After a couple years of listening to Nao’s lectures about the alcohol she’s consuming, Makoto has a knack for it too, and when talk turns to Makoto’s worries about getting a job, Michiru suggests the best way is to be straightforward and informative about the company she wants to get a job from, the same way she talks about booze.

When Nao comes home, she seems to have gotten the message and announces she won’t be drinking that night; just eating her TV dinner and going to bed. Makoto tells her she doesn’t have to kick drinking cold turkey like that, and Michiru urges her to be straight once more.

It’s not just that Makoto doesn’t like loud, personal space-invading drunks (she doesn’t), but she’s genuinely worried about her sister continuing on her pace of drinking. When Nao hears her sister doesn’t hate her, she decides to crack open one—and only one—Hyoketsu with her little sis.

When Michiru wakes up, she discovers the sisters never left the couch, but had a lot more than only one, since they were having so much fun. And since Nao has the day off after working overtime and Makoto doesn’t have classes that day, they have the whole day to recover from their sisterly celebrating.

Takunomi. – 03

When Michiru heeds a work poster that encourages employees to leave on time on Wednesday (which may or may be a trap depending on her co-workers reactions to her leaving), she’s discouraged to find no one home yet. She decides she’ll use the extra time on Wednesday to attend a gym and do yoga, since that’s what she believes Tokyoites do.

When she gets home Kae is there, lounging like a cat with a can of Suiyoubi no Neko, a Belgian Style White Ale brewed with orange peel and coriander (like Allagash White or Blue Moon). It’s described as a great beer for hump day and also a good first beer for people who don’t like the bitterness.

Kae reveals that Neko was indeed her first beer, and that prior to that she didn’t like beer’s bitter taste at all, shocking Michiru. The white ale inspired Kae to travel the world sampling various beers and the cultures that brewed them. In other words, it was a catalyst for action.

Michiru ponders how she can change her life post-Neko, but she already has: after a couple of rough early sessions, she’s gotten the hang of Wednesday Yoga, and can now claim to have an active lifestyle!

Takunomi. – 02

Michiru has somewhat overblown standards of how a young Tokyoite office woman should look, and her perceived failure to meet them leave her frustrated to the point of tears upon coming home. Enter Nao, who works at a clothing store. Michiru offers shochu as payment for fashion advice.

After the presentation of “chu-hi” (shochu highballs) as one of the more delicious alcoholic beverages one can enjoy (for those over the age of 20), Nao opens her closet for Michiru, who settles on an understated natural look. In doing so, Michiru rekindles the passion that drove Nao into clothing industry: that satisfying moment when a customer has found their look.

As for things like finding a man to accompany her to couples spots like Tokyo Sky Tree and an office demeanor in which she’s not mixing up words like “call” with “coal”, Michiru is on her own. But when she comes home, she can be assured of good drink, good food, and good friends.

Update: What do you know, my local state-run wine & spirits store actually sells shochu, a 50-proof mugi (barley) variety made in Kyoto. Earthy and nutty, it’s great neat, on the rocks, or with club or flavored soda. Kanpai!

Servant x Service – 01

serv1

Newcomers Yamagami Lucy Kimiko Akie Airi Shiori Rinne Yoshiho Ayano Tomika Chitose Sanae…, Hasebe Yukata, and Miyoshi Saya start their new positions as civil servants in the health and welfare section of the city ward office, where Ichimiya Taishi and Chihaya Megumi have already been working for years. Lucy is hardworking but tense and easily distracted by Hasebe’s teasing of her name and sensitive to scolding, Saya attracts older women with rambling stories, and Hasebe slacks off every chance he gets. They help bail each other out when they get into tight spots with clients, but learn that ultimately the job is essentially to get scolded and being able to absorb the abuse without cracking is vital.

As we said in the season preview, we love slice-of-life series involving adults (or at least older teens) working and going about their normal lives, such as Working!!. This series takes us out of the familiar restaurant setting and into an expansive city office where the servants serve the citizens, and also serve as punching bags. Lucy, Yukata and Saya are thrown right into the arena, but comport themselves well, though in different ways. Lucy (whose name is actually much longer thanks to new-agey parents) is actually there for revenge, but turns out to have a knack for civil service, even if she herself hates it (and that’s, again, mostly because of her name.)

Yukata is a third-gen servant, and a highly intelligent, sociable, talented young man to boot. The thing is, while he’s stellar when he applies himself, he rarely intentionally applies himself, preferring to glide through life with this cushy job. Of course, we see firsthand that it can be particularly un-cushy. A lot of the clients are taking time off work and don’t want to be there, so they’re understandably impatient, but there’s also a stigma about Lucy, Yukata, and Saya’s line of work: they’re paid with taxes, so the taxpayers not only resent them, but demand perfection. Still, when the second day ends, Lucy & Co. get thanks from the same clients who were difficult earlier, it’s clear that properly dealing with them has its rewards.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • The OP is the coolest this season so far, combining live action shots of an office with CGI and animation, along with a very peppy, Working!!-like theme song.
  • We find it kinda funny that Lucy is so self-conscious about her name. Sure, all the other names are extraneous, but “Lucy” is not a bad name from where we’re from!
  • Lucy’s ahoge is kinda outta control, innit?
  • When the workday is over, “From the New World” plays on the P.A. Weird…
  • We love the ED too, which shows the three ladies relaxing at home after work, pouring themselves three beverages and chillaxing.