My Senpai is Annoying – 08 – Not Just Another Day

It’s Golden Week, and this episode is all about our two couples. Kazama and Sakurai go on the date to an aquarium that Kazama was brave enough to propose. Kazama likely believes he isn’t “worthy” of Sakurai or that he’s “out of her league”, but Sakurai likes him for who he is and he shouldn’t overthink things. Instead of worrying about how he could say or do things differently to make their date better, he should just enjoy the damn date!

Futaba has her Golden Week all figured out, sourcing her plan for the week from periodicals touting the proper route to becoming “a capable woman.” Of course, this is nonsense, as we know that as someone who has lived on their own since junior high and has a good job and wonderful friends,

Futaba already is a capable woman. But when the scenario of a horror TV program is eerily similar to hers, suddenly she doesn’t want to be alone. Takeda, sensing Futaba’s anxiety in just a 27-second phone call, comes calling, and Futaba is elated.

Kazama may be extremely self-conscious throughout most of the date, but Sakurai is having a perfectly good time watching cute sea animals, and especially when they meet a dolphin named Souta (Kazama’s first name) who has the same “unfriendly stare”. There’s even a stuffed Souta that Sakurai photographs with Kazama and laughs about, but Sakurai isn’t laughing at Kazama, she’s laughing because she’s having fun with him.

Futaba and Takeda also have fun on their day off, going to an arcade then out to ramen at Takeda’s go-to spot . They mention to each other more than once that this day kinda feels like work, but that’s only because they’re together.

Between the laid-back atmosphere of the ramen joint (unlike all the other restaurants busy due to Golden Week) and Takeda winning Futaba a crane game plushie simply because he wanted to, it’s a very good thing that things feel so normal and right when they’re together, at work or not.

After leaving the aquarium, Kazama suddenly has a notion and asks Sakurai to stay put until he comes back. But again, Sakuai becomes the target of unwanted attention, this time from two strangers who really want her to try mafé, with one of them even grabbing her arm.

When Kazama returns, he rescues Sakurai by borrowing a line from a shounen manga, of course. Kazama claims Sakurai is “his”, which is not always okay in some situations, but obviously Sakurai is into it and not about to contradict him. Also, it goes both ways, with Kazama being every bit hers as she is his.

Once again Kazama is embarrassed about his words and actions, but has no reason to be; for the only person who matters—Sakurai—he was very cool, and once again proved himself as someone who has her back. As they walk to the train, she uses his first name Souta to thank him. Of course, the item Kazama went back for was a Souta the dolphin plushie, so she could’ve been thanking him…but c’maaahn. She was totally thanking Kazama the guy!

As it has with previous episodes, Senpai continues to excel at portraying warm, cozy instances of two couples enjoying each others company. Kazama and Sakurai seem well on their way to dating, and even if Futaba and Futaba aren’t, they’re definitely much more than just co-workers.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Senpai is Annoying – 07 – Doing What You Love

This week is the Futaba-Natsumi friendship origin episode, and I’m here for it! They’re honestly such a wonderfully cozy pair of BFFs it didn’t matter if we didn’t witness them meet, but I’m so glad we did. Poor Futaba’s GPS is going haywire so she decides to follow someone in the same fuku…only for Natsumi to start running at top speed!

Despite Natsumi leading Futaba not to school but the arcade where she intends to play hooky, the two become unlikely but fast friends in the back row of the classroom. When it comes time to join clubs, Futaba expresses her wish to join the art club because she loves to draw.

Natsumi hates competition ever since a boy tripped her to win a relay on sports day in grade school, but Futaba, unaware that Natsumi is harboring that bad memory, tells her if she loves doing something—in this case running—she should do it, or she may regret it if she doesn’t.

It’s almost verbatim the advice Natsumi gives to Yuuta when the two encounter one another running in the evening. Yuuta likes basketball, so he should play, even if he’s not the best at it. You can’t get better if you don’t try! Meanwhile, Futaba and Takeda end up having a little mini-date of sorts when they’re tasked with saving a spot under one of the blooming cherry trees for an office after-hours function, which honestly looks like a ton of fun.

After complementing her hair color and her drawings, Futaba recalls how it was Natsumi who gave her the courage to join the art club. Futaba would draw between classes in her sketchbook, but one day a couple of bullies decided to mess with her, which…why would you mess with Futaba?! Why would you want to do anything but protect her with your life?

For Natsumi, the answer is she wouldn’t. For the crime of making her beloved Futaba cry, one of the bullies gets a devastating punch to the face. She then tells the boys that it doesn’t matter if she “sucks” at drawing; she’s doing what she likes to do, so lay the fuck off!

The boys wisely learn the error of their ways, and their apology isn’t forced or obligatory, as he actually explains why what he did was wrong and regretted doing it. He also realized that both they and Futaba are in the same boat, in their case joining the baseball club despite being crap at it because they like baseball, dammit!

As for Natsumi, she doesn’t get in trouble because the boys went to the teacher to explain that they were in the wrong. Futaba thanks Natsumi by telling her they should call each other by their first names only. With that, a legendary friendship was forged, which continues into their adult lives now that they both live in Tokyo.

Takeda enjoys Futaba telling the story as much as Futaba clearly enjoys telling it, as her eye shimmer with love as she described how her friend supported her in pursuing her passion. We barely set one foot in the office this week, and that’s okay, because it was simply lovely to learn more about Futaba and Natsumi. As for Futaba’s senpai, it’s pretty clear he’s not “annoying” as the show’s title says, but I guess My Senpai is Someone Who I Like Hanging Out With and Talking To would be a bit too long…

My Senpai is Annoying – 06 – If You Love Your Child, Send Her on a Journey

This week we finally meet Futaba’s enormous grandfather. It all starts with Sakurai using a photo app filter to make Takeda and Futaba look like they’re wearing traditional wedding garb. Sakurai “accidentally” sends it, and Gramps shoots back a torrent of texts wondering who this “big lug” is and “what rock he climbed under”.

Takeda joins Futaba at the florist where she intends to buy herself a birthday bouquet, only for them to learn they share the same birthday. How goddamn friggin’ cute is that? Minutes later, Gramps arrives on his hog to give Futaba a second bouquet, grabs Takeda by the scruff (he’s slightly bigger than Futaba) and asks him what the heck he’s doing with “his” Futaba, and Takeda makes Futaba blush by saying she’s not an object and belongs to no one.

The two butt heads, but part ways without tearing each other to pieces. The next day Futaba goes out with Harumi for some day-after-birthday cake. Gramps, who spent the night at Futaba’s on the floor, tries to understand young love better…by going to see Your Name.! He perhaps learns the wrong lessons from the Shinkai masterpiece, and later texts Futaba the cryptic question “Who are you?”, which goes unanswered.

Meanwhile, Gramps and Takeda keep bumping into each other, and whether it’s fishing, batting cages, or trash pickup, they engage in intense competition, each time going too far and eliciting strange looks from bystanders. The two end up developing a mutual respect for each other, which tracks, because they’re almost the same damn person! Gramps also waxes nostalgic about what a cute kid Futaba was.

Takeda learns that Futaba decided to live on her own in Tokyo when she was just 16, and Gramps let her, because he trusted her, and agreed with her that she needed to learn to become less dependent on him. That said, when Takeda goes to a public restroom and Futaba is accosted by three punks making light of her stature, she requires Takeda and Gramps’ assistance to get rid of them. That begs the question: certainly while living on her own all those years this happened more than once?

Never mind; I love the dynamic between Futaba and her doting gramps, even if it isn’t particularly complex. And I also love how Takeda and Gramps learn to get along. I’m sure he would have preferred if Futaba were going with someone more traditionally handsome than Takeda, but he can’t argue that Takeda is a stand-up guy, and someone he can trust with his beloved granddaughter.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Senpai is Annoying – 05 – Heartfelt or Courtesy?

Valentines Day is drawing near, and for the first time Futaba has someone to make chocolate for besides Natsumi. The question is, will she have the guts to both make and offer homemade chocolate to her senpai? My friends, she will. But first, we meet Sakurai’s little brother, who Futaba and Natsumi first help when he’s lost, then Takeda helps by beating up some punks trying to shake him down.

This is all before either Futaba or Natsumi even know Sakurai is his big sister. When there’s the option to all have ramen together for dinner, Sakurai reads the room and heads off with her brother…she can tell Futaba was hoping to eat with just Takeda on that particular evening.

Sakurai ain’t no fool. While she may come off to some as oblivious to all of the attention she receives from men—both at work and back in high school—in reality that’s a kind of defense mechanism. Other girls resented her for being so effortlessly popular, overlooking the fact that Sakurai was (and is) a sweet and gentle young woman who never freaking asked for all that attention.

By grabbing some ramen with Takeda at an intimate little spot he’s been going to since high school, Futaba learns a little bit more about her senpai. It’s a simple, no-nonsense place…right up until the chef brings out some nonsense about a “chocolate ramen bowl.” That’s when Futaba learns he’s not a big fan of sweets, which is a good thing to know this time of year!

When the big day arrives, Futaba uses her resourcefulness to craft a chocolate with matcha powder that’s less sweet and thus more appealing for someone with Takeda’s palate. He’s charmed by the presentation with the little bear drawing, and when Takeda praises the taste, Futaba flashes the biggest, stupidest, most wonderful smile you could ask for. If she’s trying to hide her true feelings, she does a terrible job!

Meanwhile, Kazama retreats into his own little world of binge-drinking Monster and the resulting partial catatonia that comes with it, all because he saw Sakurai walking with and laughing with a tall guy with blonde hair…who was actually just her little brother walking on a ledge to appear taller.

After giving courtesy chocolate to the other guys, Sakurai seeks Kazama out and legitimately wants to know what’s been up with him. Then she gives him a simple Meiji bar (the equivalent of a Hershey bar, only better), which he interprets as “courtesy” chocolate.

This angers Sakurai, who says chocolate is chocolate and it’s te thought that counts. The reality is that it is heartfelt chocolate, even if she bought it at a konbini around the corner. Compare that to the expensive Godiva chocolates Takeda got from a client simply as a thanks for his and Futaba’s hard work.

For Sakura, the bar for Kazama means more than the chocolates she gave to the others out of courtesy. It’s a gesture of affection, but also of thanks for his being different from the others in a way that appeals to her. You get the feeling they’re just both on the same wavelength, and when she hears about his misunderstanding, Sakurai has a good laugh, and Kazama is so relieved Futaba catches him wearing the biggest grin she’s ever seen on him.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Senpai is Annoying – 04 – Futaba and Takeda’s Dizzy Fever Days

Despite wearing the fluffy scarf Takeda gave her for Christmas, Futaba catches a cold. She has to take off work, it’s the first time she’s had a fever since living on her own, and she’s never felt lonelier. Just as her thoughts go to some dark places, she determines she needs to eat something…but the fridge is empty.

Just as she opens her apartment door for an ill-advised trip to buy food, Takeda is on the other side, a bag of groceries in hand. He finds his way around her kitchen and whips up a hot bowl of the udon he knows she likes. It’s exactly what she needs when she needs it, and it isn’t until he’s already left that she realizes he’s seen her apartment in a less-than-ideal state.

The next day, Futaba is all better, and it soon becomes public knowledge in the office that Takeda went to her place to take care of her. But he almost wasn’t in time because of his antiquated company cell phone. He wants a smartphone to keep in better touch, so Futaba offers to go shopping with him. In one regard, it’s to pay him back, but it’s also a fine excuse to hang out with her senpai on their day off.

Futaba also tells Takeda she’d take care of him if he ever got sick, but never expected that to happen until Takeda calls in sick one day. Takeda is similarly out of food and about to head to the konbini when he finds Futaba at the door with groceries. Their timing is so perfect, her finger is on the doorbell but hadn’t pressed it yet!

Futaba whips up a bowl of hot rice porridge with extra scallions and ginger, and Takeda is legitimately impressed by her cooking, saying she’ll make a fine wife someday. After eating Takeda falls asleep, and Futaba finds herself alone with a guy in his room for the first time.

She looks at all the manly things around her (and the tie she gave him that he now wears regularly), then gets as close as she dares to his face, even touching his chin stubble, the prickliness of which causes her to shout and wake him up. At that point she gives him a chop to the back and makes her escape, wondering what the heck she was thinking.

The next morning, Takeda is back and right as rain, and thanks her—in full earshot of Sakurai and Kazama—for coming by his place to take care of him. Later, he asks her if she’ll cook for him again sometime, even boldly requesting Hamburg steak, which is a dish I’m sure she could nail easily.

As an unrepentant sucker for episodes where one half of a couple gets sick and the other rolls up their sleeves and takes care of them, an episode like this where both sides got to do this was basically catnip. Little by little, these two lovely people are growing closer to and comfortable with each other as more than just co-workers. I wouldn’t call them an official couple yet or anything, but they’re well on their way!

My Senpai is Annoying – 03 – The Neckties that Bind

We learn two things when Futaba gives her scarf to a nursery school kid who lost her own: one, Futaba is bigger than some people, and Futaba has a kind heart. Takeda just happens to witness this good deed, and Futaba shivering afterwards, so he makes the obvious move: giving Futaba his scarf. Futaba is embarrassed, but also happy.

It’s cold because Christmas is almost here. Futaba and Sakurai end up the Office Santas this year, but after mulling it over in her mind and talking to Harumi about it, she only wants to be Santa for one person: her senpai, as thanks for all he’s done for her since she started. A necktie is the appropriate gift, but Futaba is quickly overwhelmed by the variety.

Thanks to a sales rep’s assistance, Futaba finds the right tie, though I think she should have gone with the flowers or pandas…the better to mark her man with something cute! The problem is, between her and Sakurai’s Santa duties and the extremely busy day at the office on Christmas itself, Futaba just can’t fund the right time to give Takeda the gift. Granted, her standards for “the right time” might be a bit too high!

After wrapping up a meeting at another office for a meeting, Futaba believes she’s found the perfect time, only for her stomach to growl, which to Takeda indicates they should go to dinner. She suggests Christmas chicken, even though it’s not Christmas—a decision neither she nor Takeda regret and had me salivating for some chicken myself.

Back at the office, Kazama is waiting outside for Sakurai, who sees him looking at photos not of herself, not Futaba, in her Santa outfit. She teases Kazama a little, to the point he pulls his scarf up and gently asks if she wouldn’t tease him quite so much. After walking her close to her home, he finally works up the courage to ask her to a belated Christmas dinner. Sakurai is overjoyed and immediately accepts.

Between this immensely cute “normal” couple and the slighly more unique dynamic of the tiny kouhai and her immense senpai, we’ve got two wonderful romances in the making, and I can’t take my eyes off either. When Futaba finally gives Takeda his gift, he takes the opportunity to give her his gift to her: a big fluffy scarf to replace the one she gave the little girl.

While Futaba is exasperated the next day when it’s clear Takeda thinks the tie she gave him is “too nice to wear”, instead proposing he put it “on display”, there’s no denying that receiving a new scarf from him the previous night totally made her end of year.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Senpai is Annoying – 02 – Largesse Oblige

It’s interesting to think there’s a symbolism to her tininess beyond simple novelty. At her point in her life, just starting out on those bottom rungs of the Ladder of Adulthood, it’s easy to feel as insignificant as a water flea sometimes. Fortunately Futaba’s work environment isn’t a toxic one, and she’s got a big ally in her senpai.

When their chief sees that Futaba wants to go to lunch with Takeda, he cancels his plans with him, and they can finally clear the air. Takeda tells Futaba not to worry about what she said about wanting to be his wife; it was the liquor talking, and it’s a senpai’s job to look after his drunk kouhai.

But while Futaba is glad her comment didn’t give him their wrong idea, the underlying frustration is that it’s not entirely the wrong idea! Futaba doesn’t like the idea of Takeda not seeing her as a real woman, and even uses the “kouhai” label to avoid confronting that inherent tension.

Futaba’s self-consciousness the kind of attention she wants from Takeda versus finding the guy hella annoying is contrasted with the fact her co-worker Sakurai Touko (Hayami Saori), who gets too much of the wrong attention for her physique and turns down any guy who tries to ask her out…except for Kazama, who has never asked her out.

Futaba’s bust envy is compounded when she meets her sporty friend Natsumi in the park for a shopping trip. Futaba can feel all of the eyes on Natsumi in the park while she’s utterly ignored, or otherwise considered a child. That said, Futaba doesn’t take it out on her friend, and the two end up having a great time.

Then Futaba gets her hands on a pair of free bear buns, then slips into the changing room to try them on for size. She immediately likes how “ladylike” she looks, only for Natsumi to peek in and take a photo or two for her own enjoyment.

The incident throws Futaba off to the extent that she forgets to remove her chest padding before boarding the train home, and ends up running into Takeda and Kazama. Futaba is again disappointed that even when Takeda sees her, he doesn’t seem to even notice her bigger bust. We learn later when Kazama asks him about it that Futaba truly didn’t see anything different about her.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about her; just that different people have different priorities. Futaba’s heart was in the right place all along as he managed to catch a creep taking upskirt shots of her. He gives the guy a judo throw when he tries to put up a fight, then leaves him to the cops. Futaba is buoyed by the knowledge her senpai truly does care about her, whether or not he sees her as a real woman, which…the jury’s honestly still out!

Something for which the jury’s verdict is already in is the budding relationship between Sakurai and Kazama, which started with him giving her a “wrong number call” to get her away from another co-worker asking her out. He’s super shy and coy about it, but she knows what he did, and has possibly been turning all the other guys down because she likes Kazama.

In any case, Sakurai is the one to ask Kazama out to dinner, and he’s not stupid enough decline. While bust comparison is one of the oldest and most played-out bits in all animedom, this show managed to make a go of it with its thoroughly charming characters…not to mention above-average animation with a great face game and subtle, lovingly rendered gestures.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Senpai is Annoying – 01 (First Impressions) – Climbing the Stairs of Adulthood

I’ve been remiss, fellow anime lovers…for the last five weeks I’ve beeing missing out on one of the best rom-coms of the Fall. Fortunately it’s not too late to go back and rectify that error, bow deeply, and accept responsibility for the mistakes that were made. Like a true salesperson!

For those who like me have not availed themselves of it, this is My Senpai is Annoying, a workplace slice-of-life romantic comedy featuring the pocket-sized Igarashi Futaba and her office senpai, the truck-sized Kazama Souta. Futaba has a bit of a love-hate relationship with Kazama, but as the episode progresses, we see there’s a lot more love than hate.

The love goes both ways, in different ways. Futaba hates having her hair tousled, but after making a mistake on her first big sales pitch, Kazama takes responsibility and won’t brook any dispute about it. He even makes sure that the last can of sweet red bean soup (which I’m still kicking myself for never buying when I was in Akiba) finds its way into his kouhai’s teeny-weeny hands.

We learn through their interactions (and their chemistry is magical) that Kazama isn’t just being a good senpai, but harbors a genuine desire to look after this bitty go-getter, who is loved by everyone at the office for her chipper attitude, but also feel down and off when she’s feeling down and off. I can’t say I blame him, as Futaba is lovable right out of the gate. As Futaba goes, so goes the office, and Kazama helps Futaba out of the doldrums.

That’s because Kazama is such a loud, brash, upbeat guy. He’s a gigantic cuddly bear, and if Futaba is honest, she actually can’t get enough of him, even if he’s “annoying” some times. After some drinks at the pub, Futaba is honest whether she wants to be or not, asking Kazama, when he says if he had a wife and kid he’d want a kid like her, she asks why she can’t be his wife. It’s a sweet to behold as it is mortifying for Futaba.

I’ll have four more episodes of this or something like this please!

 

The aquatope on white sand – 13 – #aquadulting

We return to Aquatope with Kukuru in a new apartment, in a smart pantsuit, saying her usual prayer (this time to her parents’ shrine), starting her very first day at the brand-spankin’-new Aquarium Tingaara. Umi-yan and Kuuya are already working there, while Kai is in the same group of new hires as she is. But while Kai is assigned to the fish team, Kukuru is assigned to…marketing.

The director has high hopes for her in PR, where Karin is already working. Have you ever, due to various circumstances, ended up in a job you had no idea you’d be doing? Well, that was me about five months ago, and it’s Kukuru here.

Working at an aquarium, but not tending to the marine life? It almost seems like a cruel joke, and Kukuru doesn’t get it. That said, when Karin frees her from the mountains of manuals her director Suwa gave her and takes her on a tour of the modern, impressive facilities, the little kid in Kukuru immediately resurfaces. (This still, by the way, is my new desktop wallpaper, the previous one being the sky after the typhoon).

But she gradually learns that kid has no place at Tingaara. Here, not even Umi-yan can keep ice pops in the feed freezer. Gama Gama was loosy-goosy, and a lot of outsiders like Suwa and Chiyu (who is magnificently smug throughout this episode) believe that had a lot to do with its failure. Tingaara is a strict, by-the-book, professional enterprise, perhaps wound a bit too tightly.

Even so, after dinner at the restaurant where Udon is now working and training, Kai reminds her that Fuuka dove into the world she knew nothing about when she started working at Gama Gama. He himself didn’t originally really want to work there, but did so because he wanted to help her, and eventually came to like it. He thinks if she tries something new and sticks with it, she might have a change of heart.

Reinvigorated by his words, Kukuru goes back to work with her head held high, doing the work that’s in front of her. It seems like preparations are ready for a behind-the-scenes tour Suwa assigned to her, but as he puts it in a very public dressing-down in the office, she really only did the work she knew how to do. He suggests she cease relying on experience working at a failed aquarium and nicknames her Plankton…smaller than small fry.

After getting chewed out and again having her commitment and seriousness questioned by Chiyu, Kukuru leaves the aquarium exhausted and discouraged, declining Karin’s dinner offer and instead sitting on the beach alone. She starts to cry, not knowing how much more of life at Tingaara she can take.

Then, out of nowhere, Fuuka arrives, precisely when Kukuru needed her the absolute most. While they were still together in last week’s episode, the way Aquatope totally turned Kukuru’s life on it’s head and everything she endured made it feel like months had passed…which indeed they did! All of that also makes their reunion that much more heartwarming.

Kukuru has had a rough couple of days, but there’s a reason Tingaara’s director assigned her the role he did. Hopefully seeing Fuuka will remind Kukuru of how rough she was on her in her first days at Gama Gama, and how Fuuka didn’t give up, and ended up thriving.

Tingaara may seem like a cold, cruel, nasty, grown-up place—or at least most of the humans who aren’t Kukuru’s circle make it feel that way—but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Kukuru may struggle and fail a lot more before she finds the right wavelength in which to thrive, but I’m excited to watch her find it!

Higehiro – 02 – Freedom and Choices

A princess raised in castles is going to act like royalty, like Queen Elizabeth. A princess raised by wolves is going to act like a wolf, like San, AKA Princess Mononoke. Behaviors are learned through social interactions and time. Sayu has apparently lived a life where her choices were few and her freedom nonexistent.

Leaving home only gave her a fleeting freedom, and she eventually had to do what conditions at the time demanded her of her to survive. As a result, she still behaves around Yoshida the way she had to behave around other men with whom she treated her body for shelter. He notes that the smiles she flashes often feel forced, strange, and wrong.

It’s doubly frustrating to him that someone so young had been forced into a situation where she didn’t feel safe not smiling when she didn’t feel like it. He calls her out on it with what I’d call “harsh kindness”, assuring her that even if his home isn’t hers, she’s allowed to be there, and doesn’t have to be “weird” or “lie to him” with those smiles.

Sayu understands what Yoshida is on about, and so tells him that she was thinking to herself why he’s so nice. He reiterates that he’s not being overly nice at all; he’s just being decent, the way everyone should be to each other. She says she’ll try her best not to refuse when he offers her things, or smile when she doesn’t mean it.

But she also points out that those smiles and refusals are habits that will be hard to break, since she’s still not quite used to the unprecedented freedom and choices Yoshida has given her. But through her attitude and the housework she does for him, she hopes to make him think he’s glad she came into his life. Despite everything that’s happened to her, Sayu remains a kind and decent person herself.

While last week focused on the establishment of Yoshida’s new normal at home, here we get a look into his work environment, where his crisper shirts, enhanced hygiene, and shorter-than-usual work days have led to rumors he has a girlfriend. But when his immediate underling Mishima’s code has some bugs in it, and she’s forced to work late, he works late with her, and even gets takeout.

Mishima takes their ensuing alone time to learn that Yoshida doens’t have a girlfriend, and was recently rejected by Gotou. Mishima considers herself “lucky” Gotou rejected him, and wouldn’t mind going out for a beer sometime. Like Sayu, she tells him he’s kinder than most by not simply giving up on her, but as with Sayu, he doesn’t think he’s any nicer than everyone should be.

When he gets home, Sayu is wrapped in her blanket like a Yuru Camp character, apparently angry he’s home late after she cooked dinner. But she follows her annoyed tone with genuine giggling, as she was just messing with him. As she reads manga and he has an after-work beer, he realizes that he really should have a way to get a hold of her.

Sayu threw her old phone in the ocean, and while at the mall she refuses to let him buy a new one, so he does so when she’s not around. Hashimoto, the only other person who knows about Sayu, can tell that Yoshida likes Sayu by the care he’s putting into choosing a case for her. Hashimoto gently warns him that it’s fine to be nice, but he should start thinking about how things are going to go, before she settles in too much, or she falls for him, or he falls for her.

Yoshida assures Hashimoto that that won’t happen, but while romance is out of the question, there are already glimmers of familial and paternal love. Hashimoto didn’t go so far as to say “she’s not a lost puppy”, but he’s right that Yoshida needs to come up with some kind of plan beyond keeping her off the streets.

One day at work, Gotou approaches Yoshida and they end up going out for yakiniku and beer, which she confesses she can only go out for with him, since all other men expect her to be a “sweet, proper lady.” That’s now three women who consider him to be uncommonly kind and understanding to them. One wonders why she’s with the man she’s with if she can’t be herself with him!

Gotou commences an anything-goes Q-&-A between them, starting first by asking if he’s dating someone. When he refuses, she lists all the evidence that he is—leaving work on time, cleaning himself up better—and mentions how Mishima seems to have a thing for him. He repeats that there’s nothing there, because in his give years at the office he’s always been in love with her.

When Gotou caught wind of the rumors, she was bothered by the fact he’d immediately been “taken in by another younger girl.” With the rumor staunched, Yoshida loses some points by asking Gotou what cup size she is. I know she said “ask me anything”, but c’mon, man!

When Yoshida comes home, late again, and not eating the dinner Sayu made again, she can tell he’s feeling down and needs a hug, so she hugs him. Like when she put her hand on his earlier, she does it because she wants to, and because she thinks it will make him feel better. And while in the bath he laments being a grown man cheered up by a teenage girl, it shouldn’t be anything to be ashamed of…ask any dad!

When he presents Sayu with a new phone, we learn he chose the white case for her over the black. White, the color of purity and chastity, yes, but also, Sayu just happens to like white! In that same vein, he didn’t buy it for her as a gift or a sign of his affection, but as a practical means of communication when they’re not both home.

Of course, he also doesn’t want her to worry if he is late. He doesn’t want to do or say anything to make her feel bad. He wants her to have every choice and opportunity someone her age should have. In this and in basically everything he’s done for her thus far, he’s acted like a father.

Yoshida acknowledges that Sayu is a woman, but to him, she’s a little kid. Someone to protect unconditionally. Someone who doesn’t have to force herself to smile to make him feel better. Maybe the endgame, then, is to simply adopt her.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higehiro – 01 (First Impressions) – Inadvertent Guardian

Yoshida had the evening with his attractive co-worker Gotou all planned out in his head. They’d have a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant, and if things went well, he’d ask if she wanted to come home with him. He hadn’t banked on the possibility Gotou was already seeing someone for years, and simply never mentioned it at work because she wanted to keep life and work separate—which is perfectly reasonable.

Thus rejected, Yoshida goes and gets drunk with a friend until that friend has to head back home to his wife. Yoshida blabbers about how Gotou “tricked” him, and stole his heart and won’t give it back, but I’ll forgive his attitude as he’s allowed to wallow in defeat, drunk and horny as he is. The bottom line is Yoshida didn’t want to look past sleeping Gotou, and now he’s a little lost at sea.

He most certainly didn’t plan to encounter a runaway teenage girl (voiced by Ichinose Kana) outside his apartment, nor for this girl to offer to let him sleep with her in exchange for a roof over her head for the night. But even when her other options are seemingly ruled out, Yoshida makes it quite clear that he’s not sleeping with a “little kid”, nor is he prepared to leave her to the tender mercies of the night.

So, in his drunk and staggering state, he invites her in, then collapses into his bed to pass out. The girl, no stranger to crashing at men’s houses in exchange for sex (though she is thankfully not shamed for this), sits on the bed and asks matter-of-factly “Hey, are you sure you don’t want to do me?” He’s sure. When asked if there’s anything else he wants, before passing out he mumbles “miso soup.” The next morning, that’s what he gets: miso soup, made by the girl he flat-out forgot he invited in last night!

When he hears how he rejected her offer of sex, he salutes his last-night self, relieved nothing sordid happened. She also mentions how he mumbled about being rejected by someone named Gotou, and whether he wanted her to make him “feel better”. Once again, he declines, saying he’s not so far-gone he needs “a tiny little teenage girl” to do that.

When she points out that her breasts are quite big and asks “aren’t F-cups you can touch better than H-cups you can’t?” he flat-out asks why she’s trying to seduce him…and if she even wants to sleep with him. She says she doesn’t, but then embraces him and says she’s never met a man willing to let her stay for nothing in return, so maybe he’s the “abnormal” one. That’s when Yoshida, God bless him, asks for her ID, a gesture that again makes clear he’s not interested in her in that way.

He learns her name is Ogiwara Sayu, that she ran away from high school in Hokkaido six months ago. When he tells her to go home already, she says she’s sure they’re happy she’s gone, Ichinose Kana’s voice breaking ever-so-slightly. The more Yoshida thinks about Sayu, the worse he feels about it. He takes it out on her to a degree by calling her “stupid”, “dumb as a rock”, and “a spoiled brat”.

But beneath those harsh barbs, he understands that Sayu is not “fine” as she says in the slightest; that what she’s had to do to survive since leaving home is not right or okay. More than she’s an idiot, she’s a victim: both of a home that she felt she had to leave, and to a world apparently full of men who taught her all the wrong lessons and twisted values and standards. He’s also angry that such a kind and sweet young woman couldn’t have a “normal life” and a “normal love”.

Obviously, Yoshida’s positions are showing both his privilege and paternalism. The former was a result of his own upbringing and life experience; the latter was learned through both, just as Sayu learned a certain way of living the last six months. But I can forgive the motives behind his fundamentally principled choice to stop this child from being harmed anymore by offering her a safe, clean place to stay.

I’m not going to pretend that in the real world this isn’t his choice to make. As a matter of law, he should probably go to the police, right? And yet who’s to say Sayu wouldn’t be harmed anyway if he took that route? Considering what she’s been doing to stay away from her home, it’s clear going back there isn’t what’s best for her. Being placed into an overworked and uncaring social services system also wouldn’t be much better.

The fact there are no easy answers or cut-and-dried solutions add a lot of welcome emotional heft to the whole scenario. Yoshida, whom I mentioned is somewhat lost at sea, has encountered a fellow castaway adrift and rudderless, who has the added disadvantage of being far too young to have to endure the waves. So for now, he decides to lash their ramshackle rafts together and chart the course of least harm.

The more time he spends with Sayu, the more disappointed in his fellow man he becomes. When he heads out to the patio to smoke, she calls him “nice”, but our boy Yoshida is not so deluded to think he’s some saint, and makes it clear to her in perhaps his best line of the episode: “Listen up! I’m not nice. They were shit.” He contemplates the environment that put Sayu in such an unfairly precarious situation, and even implicates himself for “letting her stay spoiled” by giving her a place to run to.

But even as he checks headlines about an unrelated case of a man arrested for kidnapping a teenager, and Sayu walks over him, inadvertently giving him a look up her skirt, Yoshida isn’t about to cut the ropes of her raft free. He found her on those waves, which means he feels responsible for her well-being. That doesn’t just mean a roof under her head, but more appropriate clothes, pajamas, and a futon to sleep on.

Sayu isn’t ready to accept all this without worrying about not being able to repay him in some way. Yoshida is again disheartened by the fact a kid has to think that way, but indulges her by insisting that the cooking and cleaning she’s done constitute more than adequate payment, and that arrangement will serve for the time being.

The next morning over breakfast, Yoshida explains to Sayu that it isn’t the act of shaving that makes him feel old, but becoming too lazy to shave every day. Sayu spares no tact in saying he doesn’t look good with stubble, so he decides to shave after all. The exchange indicates this won’t be a one-way street. Perhaps in helping keep this lonely damaged girl safe, Yoshida can find a new course in life post-Gotou rejection.

Higehiro is fraught with potential problems, as all series involving an adult and a child always are. And yet unlike the horrifically skeevy KoikimoHigehiro presents its situation, questions and arguments in good faith, and from a place of human decency and empathy. It’s a compelling, hopeful tale of an imperfect person trying to do the right thing for someone who has already been wronged far too much. Unlike Koikimo, I don’t feel like I need a shower after what I saw, but rather want to see what happens next!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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!

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