BokuBen 2 – 08 – Crimson(-Haired) Tide

After the previous episode somewhat flagged, BokuBen comes roaring back with a stirring, dramatic episode that introduces the biggest threat to the status quo/harem stalemate, without omitting its go-to tried-and-true romantic and situational comedy.

It starts simply, with an interesting reversal in which Uruka is chosen to tutor the athletically-feeble Nariyuki in swimming. The only problem is, Uruka is terrible at teaching! She just does what she does because she’s awesome. Enter the reluctant substitute swimming coach, Kurisu.

Kurisu, as good at educating young minds in all matters as she is bad at keeping her apartment clean, has an effective approach: getting Nariyuki to identify, acknowledge, and move past the fear that is causing his body to seize up in the pool. By closing his eyes and holding her hands, he’s able to swim just fine, after which Kurisu hands him off to Uruka as her swim buddies swoon.

 

I consider myself an honorary Uruka Swim Buddy, because I want her more than anyone else to break through her fears keeping her from confessing her feelings, and which caused her to create in him the misunderstanding that she likes someone else.

For some reason I did not expect Kurisu’s past as a highly competitive figure skater to end up providing both kinship and inspiration to Uruka, but in a brilliant example of Fanservice Done Right, while handing Kurisu her shampoo in the showers, Uruka immediately identified her toned body as that of an athlete.

When Uruka opens up about the pressures she faces due to lofty expectations both within and without, Kurisu gives her advice developed from experience: stop trying to keep calm, accept all those things and have fun. Uruka learns that Kurisu isn’t “cold”, as Fumino and Rizu once described her…she’s cool.

Uruka follows Kurisu’s sage advice and ends up winning her 400m Freestyle, by a large margin. Her achievement is celebrated at a school assembly in her honor, and it dawns on Nariyuki how amazing Uruka is. Later, her principal and coach present her with a life-changing opportunity to study abroad at a university in Australia with a top-class swimming program.

Uruka has never felt more like the protagonist of this show than this episode, from when she gets the opportunity to hold Nariyuki’s hand in the pool, and getting a glimpse inside thoughts and insecurities surrounding her swimming exploits (rather than exclusively Nariyuki). She’s not just MC’s Childhood Friend…whatever she chooses is going to have profound reverberations.

Unfortunately, Uruka can’t quite overcome her fears surrounding Nariyuki that she could to win her tournament…not at first. She can’t even tell Fumino outright when they meet at a restaurant; Uruka uses the thin and completely transparent ruse of “my friend” when referring to long distance relationships.

It isn’t until she hides under the table (and has some truly wonderful reactions, both facial and texted) when Nariyuki arrives that Fumino not only assures him Uruka isn’t dating anyone, but gets him to admit that while he’d hope whomever she liked would make her happy, that “he would miss her a bit” all the same.

Fumino realizes that Uruka alone isn’t going to be enough to break the logjam between these two. She tracks Nariyuki down and gives him one more bit of crucial information: the bit about Uruka liking “someone else” is a lie. How Nariyuki comes to interpret this remains to be seen.

As for Uruka, after giving it thought, she’s going to “do everything she can do and then cry”, shouldering any burden to realize her goal of studying abroad. She asks the principal and coach not to tell Nariyuki that goal. Does she truly intend to keep it a secret until it’s time to say goodbye?

There’s a lot to contemplate here. Uruka may be banking on the old adage that “if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be”—that studying abroad needn’t be the end of her future with Nariyuki, but the foundation of a better future with him. I also imagine even if Nariyuki knew Uruka loved him and he loved her back, he’d want her to go and do her utmost best. He’ll wait for her…right?

BokuBen OVA 01 – Unusual Situations

This is one of two extra episodes included with the BokuBen limited edition volume 14 and volume 16. As such, it is not must-watch TV in terms of plot. Instead, thanks to the beach setting, it’s an opportunity for all of the fanservice. Nariyuki and Asumi have been taking various lovey-dovey selfies for the benefit of her father, but when he presses them to go to the beach lest he start to develop doubts they’re really dating, well…what else can they do?

The thing is, Nariyuki can’t swim, so when a wave knocks them off their dinghy, he has to grab Asumi, and in the confusion her bikini top washes away. She wears his wet shirt until they find it washed up on rocks, along with a second, bigger bikini top, but it’s stolen by a dolphin.

Obviously, that top belongs to Kirisu-sensei, who is at that same beach with her fellow teachers at a BBQ. She had retreated from the unpleasant social situation and, well, lost her bikini top. Nariyuki knows her top is gone for good, so stays with her until the changing area clears out. When she trips on a sea cucumber and freaks out, she leaps at him, and he smashes his glasses.

Now Nariyuki truly finds himself in the “unusual situation” his sister could detect with her brocon-spidey-sense—virtually blind and having to be led through the rocks by his topless teacher. They find a shop where the only remaining swimsuit choices are an micro bikini and a school swimsuit. Nariyuki goes for the coverage.

When the other teachers (who are dogs, BTW) spot Nariyuki and ask about Kirisu, he lies and says he hasn’t seen her. Kirisu explains her reluctance to large social events to her past as a solo competitor, viewing everyone as her enemy. Having both covered her (both literally and figuratively), Nariyuki briefly loses himself and comes out and says she’d be in big trouble were it not for him on numerous occasions.

He was trying to make a point on the benefits, and often necessity of occasionally relying on others, as she most certainly has with him, but it came out wrong. To his surprise, he doesn’t get socked for his comments; Kirisu agrees. In a way, he’s kind of a tutor for her, only on matters like this (it’s unlikely she’ll ever learn to clean properly).

Finally, the episode closes on Fumino, Uruka, Rizu and Sawako wearing swimsuits while they study, since they’re not able to go to the beach. Uh huh. Surrre, why not?!

BokuBen 2 – 07 – Woke Gambler Ogata

Fumino, Uruka and Kirisu-sensei don’t appear at all this week, as both segments are Rizu-centric. Sekijou Sawako and Nariyuki both come up with the idea to accompany Rizu to an open campus at the college she wishes to attend, then spend most of the time trying to bow out so that the other can be alone with her. Rizu notices the two are being unusually “fidgety” but doesn’t know the reason why.

The bottom line is their antics end up leaving Rizu on her own more often than not, so when she accidentally gets drunk off the fumes of college students’ beer, she darts from petulant annoyance (“JERKS!”) to mushy sentimentality, taking their hands in hers and declaring all she wanted was for the three of them to have fun together.

The second segment involves Rizu being recruited as a substitute maid for a gaming tournament. Rizu loves games but is terrible at them, so when she loses over forty games in a row (giving the winners free food that threatens the solvency of the cafe) both Asumi and Nariyuki give her the little nudges she needs to finish up on a confidence-building winning streak. The only problem is that later, she overhears the two talking about how they fixed it so she’d win, evaporating all the confidence she’d built up.

* * * * * *

While Drunk Rizu was fun, I always like Sawako’s energy, and I’m glad Rizu and Nariyuki remember their first kiss (and both regard it as such), this ep still felt a tad slight, and didn’t really move the needle much for Rizu x Nariyuki (or Rizu x Sawako). It would be nice if the show stopped running in circles and took more romantic risks.

BokuBen 2 – 06 – (Public) Bath & Beyond (High School)

When Kirisu’s plans for an end-of-day bath are ruined when her building has no hot water, she’s forced to go to a public bath, and not only runs into Asumi, but Nariyuki and his two youngest siblings Kazuki and Nazuki.

The little ones are the source of a number of issues, like when they steal Kirisu’s underwear, or try to get her to agree to marry their big brother. They act like little kids, and when Kirisu is too stern with them, they cry.

The baths provide a rare opportunity for Kirisu and Asumi to talk, but end up not really talking about anything other than Kirisu’s exquisite skin, and Nariyuki’s kindness and penchant for going the extra mile to help others.

Naturally, since this segment involves people not wearing clothes, Nariyuki inevitably sees Kirisu naked, as Hazuki rips off her towel when she berates her big bro for being shameless when all he did was answer a call for help, a rare case of being allowed to cross the gender lines of the bath.

The next segment is all about mock college interviews, which Rizu in particular is very apprehensive about. Those concerns only intensify when the kind teacher who was going to interview her and Fumino calls out sick, and Kirisu is her substitute.

Needless to say, she’s about as hard on the two as an interviewer can be, leaving them steaming and deformed. Kurisu forces Nariyuki to have a surprise interview, and he’s so tired he hallucinates her wearing a school swimsuit and maid outfit, among other costumes.

The turning point is when Nariyuki respectfully gets up and leaves, because he isn’t confident he can give Kirisu the answers she wants, but he’ll strive to find out how to provide them in the future. That, Kirisu tells him, is the stength she asked him to describe: the one that faces his own limitations (and those of others) and works out the best way to overcome them.

That doggedness has rubbed off on his tutees, as Fumino and Rizu are found in the library, determined to be better prepared in their next mock interviews. In this way, Kirisu gave them a tough-love kick in the pants they needed to put their best selves forward when the real ones come around.

BokuBen 2 – 05 – Magic Fingers

Recycling will help save the Earth…but does that also apply to stories? BokuBen 2 tests the validity of that claim by essentially rehashing not one but two of its first season segments. The result, while familiar, is effective, if a bit…foregone.

The first story repeats the “wrong bag” scenario of Episode 2, only instead of Uruka accidentally giftng Nariyuki her wet swimsuit, Nariyuki gives Fumino his little sister’s bra instead of a left-handed pen. Fumino goes with it, even wearing it the next day.

The misunderstanding continues as the two walk to school, with Nariyuki asking if the gift is “comfortable”; in reality, Fumino has to use a lot of padding to fill the bra out (that it’s meant for his little sister adds insult to injury), but she isn’t about to share that info with him.

When Rizu and Uruka ask what Nariyuki got, he starts to sa “a b-” but is cut off by quick strikes from Fumino. They eventually have a timeout in the hall and get on the same page, and Nariyuki gives her the proper gift later, after which he’s forced to come up with the right response to “all guys love big boobs,” and frankly makes the best choice he can (saying “it depends”…which it does!)

The second half of the episode revisits the first season’s ninth episode, in which various circumstances conspire to put Nariyuki in the position of helping the women in his life pick out lingerie. The same owner of that store opened a massage parlor, and when Nariyuki’s mom can’t fill in, he steps in, thinking he’ll just be handing out pamphlets.

Not soon after taking the job, he’s pressed into service (no pun intended) as a masseur, and his first client is Miss Kirisu, who is very particular about how her lower back is worked on. Turns out Nariyuki is a massage virtuoso, having practiced on his parents for years. Even in the mascot gloves, his magical hands make Kirisu scream in ecstasy.

Nariyuki also works on Rizu’s shoulders (stiff from carrying her large bust), Fumino’s shoulders (because she felt the need to compete with Rizu), and Asumi’s feet (she covers her mouth as he works on them, making him think he’s not rubbing hard enough). Uruka and her swim friends also show up because why not? and pull back the curtain to find him being seemingly sadistic to Asumi, when he was really just getting a bit carried away; he didn’t even realize she’d removed his head!

Uruka is none to happy Nariyuki has had his hands all over the others, and so gets some personal treatment from him at the end. By the time night rolls around and Nariyuki is home, he relies on his sister to massage his back…something she’s all to happy to do for her big brother. I guess massage skills run in the family!

BokuBen 2 – 04 – Lost in Translation

The minute Rizu enters a salon for the first time, the bored owner is suddenly inspired to give her a full makeover for the price of a cut and blow dry (much to her assistant’s dismay). The resulting Rizu almost looks like a different person, aside from the fact she’s the same size and speaks with the same voice.

Still, in the BokuBen universe, the makeover is extreme enough that Nariyuki doesn’t recognize her, but instead believes a very gorgeous girl is hitting on him, something he should be used to by now but in this case isn’t. He even texts Rizu, but doesn’t notice when her phone buzzes.

The misunderstanding could have been cleared up sooner had Rizu done what she often does and refer to Nariyuki by name, but at no point during the study session does she ever do so, which seems a bit convenient to the comedy, but fine.

When this pretty girl starts following Nariyuki home, then comes right out and asks if he wants to go to her place, he decides to take her up on her offer…so he can talk to her father about how fast she is! Only then does he learn that she is actually Rizu…but can still scarcely believe it.

In part two, Rizu and Fumino interrupt what looks like a behind-the-school confession session between Uruka and Nariyuki, as they’re just standing there staring at each other. But in fact, the two have agreed to help her practice casual conversation by speaking in nothing but English for the whole day.

What follows is one of the best uses of the language barrier I’ve seen in an episode of anime in some time; certainly the first I can remember which explores the ways two people for whom English is not quite a true second language can get tripped up. The two make English sound just as challenging as it must be for those who didn’t grow up speaking it.

Obviously, that includes Nariyuki complimenting Uruka’s “language skills” but Uruka thinking he said “lingerie” and becoming suitably mortified. Or how Uruka initially thinks “give up” is Japanese when it’s actually a English loan phrase. Or when two Americans ask Uruka for directions; a true test of her skills!

She manages to steer them in the right direction using her English, but then they ask if she wants to attend a barbecue with them, and she gets all flustered. That’s when Nariyuki emerges from the convenience store and they ask him what his relationship with her is.

He tries to say she’s his “precious study partner” but ends up sounding like “precious steady”, which both the Americans and Uruka construe as a steady girlfriend. Uruka is so beet-red embarrassed/happy that she has to flee from Nariyuki at once (but she stretches first, like the athlete she is!), while he’s left wondering what he said to make her react so strongly.

Then there’s the downright bizarre, self-effacing post-credits sequence where the puppy who was hanging out with Uruka tells its mother about all the errors the humans made in their English—while speaking in much better English. Great stuff!

BokuBen 2 – 03 – Lifesaving Bangs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BokuBen 2 – 02 – At Their Service

After focusing on the main tutee trio last week, we shift to the lives of Kominami Asumi and Kirisu Mafuyu, both of whom end up in Nariyuki’s debt; the lad is nothing if not useful and industrious. When her fellow cafe maids conscript him to accompany her on her new maid cooking and cleaning side-gig, the clients they encounter are one coincidence after another.

First, there’s Kirisu, who refuses to let Asumi in until Nariyuki has already cleaned her place within an inch of its life. Then Uruka’s sick mom hires them, unbeknownst to Uruka, who is so frazzled to have Nariyuki in her home she cleans and cooks a sumptuous meal for the three of them without thinking—such is the power of her natural domestic skills.

The final straw for Asumi comes when the third client is a hungry Fumino, who made a mess attempting to cook but didn’t expect people she knew to come to clean, so she calls Rizu, who arrives with enough noodles for the four of everyone.

With Asumi’s pride as a maid well and truly devastated, she ends up cooking and cleaning at Nariyuki’s house, impressing his younger siblings, who wonder when he’ll marry her. Asumi contents herself with having Nariyuki’s head in her lap as she cleans his ears, a “special service” she’s all too happy to perform for him on the house.

On to Kirisu-sensei, who gets furious at Fumino falling asleep in class, but after pulling an all-nighter preparing quizzes, ends up having trouble staying awake in class the next day. She convinces herself that no one notices the first time she nods off, but Nariyuki saw her and is pretty sure what’s up.

During an unplanned, lengthy, and extremely boring school address, Kirisu is again on the verge of appearing hypocritical and bringing shame to her fellow faculty, but Nariyuki again notices and fakes a loud sneezing fit to keep her awake. She suspects he’s helping her on purpose, but again chalks it up to overthinking.

When she arrives at her front door ready to pass the f out, to her dismay she’s misplaced the key. She runs into Nariyuki, and the two spend the rest of the afternoon into the evening searching everywhere for it, before Nariyuki suggests she double-check the substantial contents of her bag.

Sure enough, her sleep-deprived past self placed the key in her pouch of USB drives. But immediately upon opening her door, she passes out in the entryway. Being a scholar and a gentleman, Nariyuki can’t leave her in such a state, and so gently carries her to bed, noting how slender and light his teacher is and then apologizing to no one in particular for thinking about weird stuff.

Fumino, Rizu, and Uruka form the heart of BokuBen, but this week reinforces the notion that they don’t have to always be in the spotlight. Asumi and Kirisu-sensei bring their own energy and dynamics with Nariyuki, resulting in a thoroughly amusing and energetic outing.

BokuBen 2 – 01 – Chests and Tests

First thing to understand is that this is a continuation of a Spring 2019 series, so before diving into this I’d advise watching the first season, my mostly-glowing reviews for which you can find here.

For those who are all caught up, BokuBen 2 offers more of the same vibrant brand of ecchi-related misunderstandings between various girls and their well-meaning male tutor and friend which inherently get in the way of the tutoring, hence the English title We Never Learn!

This week, Yuiga Nariyuki spends the most one-on-one time with Ogata Rizu, in which the first such misunderstanding is a mix-up between test scores and cup sizes. Since the worst test score is an E and Rizu is well beyond E in cup size, the wording of Nariyuki’s earnest attempts to encourage her (“There’s room for growth!” “I know how you feel!” “Let’s both grasp what we want!”) only serve to reinforce Kominami Asumi’s claim that Nariyuki is a “secret horndog.”

Nonetheless, Rizu believes she’s the one being immature about this, and that there’s nothing wrong with a boy she likes admiring her chest. Nariyuki is a half-beat too late in their conversation to clear things up, as Rizu finally offers to let him touch them “for only a second” just as her beastly father arrives at their booth.

The next segment involves Nariyuki in a group study session at a cram camp called “the Getting Inn” (not suggestive at all!) with his three tutees plus Asumi, when Fumino accidentally slips up and calls him by his given name, like she did when they had to get a hotel room together and pretended to be siblings.

Rather than reprimand Fumino (or think a little longer about why she called him Nariyuki), Takemoto Uruka wants in, and won’t respond to Nariyuki until he calls her Uruka. She also insists Rizu start calling her Uruka. As with Fumino going back to Yuiga before slipping up here, who knows if the given name-calling will continue, but the fact it’s not an unthinkable concept shows growth among the friends.

Things get a lot more intimate between Nariyuki when his three primary tutees when they head into the hot spring bath early, just before the men and women signs are changed. When Nariyuki heads in, he believes, correctly, that he’s in the men’s bath when he encounters a nude Fumino washing her hair.

Once the three realize they’re in the wrong, they prepare to skink away, but are blocked by the arrival of three more boys who most certainly are horndogs. Thankfully, they’re sufficiently distracted by their own attempts to widen the bamboo in order see into the women’s bath that the girls are able to escape into the steam, while Asumi on the other side jabs her fingers into one of the peeping tom’s eyes.

Once everyone is dressed, the girls thank Nariyuki for being a gentleman about things, but he must torpedo the goodwill by presenting Fumino with the bra she left in the changing area. The implication is that he knew it was hers due to the cup size, expressed through a very unexpected but appreciated parody of the touching ending shot of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

BokuBen – 13 (Fin) – The Lights in the Sky are Stars

This is it—The episode we’ve all been waiting for: when Nariyuki finally chooses which of the girls he’s going to go out with! Pfft, sure. If only it were that simple! Every girl has good qualities—though as discussed ad nauseum last week, some people have a particular preference, depending on their own type—but however Nariyuki feels about them, he’s either unaware of their feelings for him (in the case of Fumino and Rizu) or has been misled or messed with so much he doesn’t know what to think (Uruka, Kirisu, Asumi).

While she’s serving as a kind of “substitute Nariyuki” at an all-girls pajama study session at Rizu’s, Sekijo Sawako impresses upon them how lucky they are to have such a dedicated tutor, though she’s not sure if it’s because he’s a pushover or simply gets “caught up in stuff so easily”—the answer is somewhere in the middle. Alas, that’s the last we see of Sawako, one of BokuBen’s more intriguing but underutilized supporting players.

Later, Nariyuki intends to help his mom with his littlest brother and sister at the summer festival, but when his fam sees his two cute friends in yukata, they quickly ditch him, and Fumino soon follows, leaving Nariyuki with Uruka, which came as a bit of a surprise considering they arrived at a pretty good stopping point last week.

Aside from her showing him her tongue (stained pink from shaved ice) and offering some to him (for an indirect kiss), there’s no further romantic awkwardness between them, as they chip in to help an overworked Rizu and her dad at their udon stand.

Kirisu ends up attending the festival in disguise to keep an eye on students, but when Nariyuki makes her, she runs away, trips, and injures her knee. He has to give her a second piggyback ride (only this time she’s not sauced) to the first aid tent, which of course is being tended by Asumi and her dad.

Asumi leaves Kirisu’s skinned knee to Nariyuki, but he ends up helping out the rest of the night, showing that Sawako is indeed correct about him being a bit of a pushover and easily caught up in things. But hey, if he enjoys helping everyone out, so what if he’s not the one instigating these scenarios?

Fumino, who split off to let Nariyuki and Uruka be alone, ends up losing track of time gazing at the stars, and on her way to the last train, she has to corral a little lost girl and get her back to her mom. Nariyuki also loses track of time at the first aid tent, and ends up finding the little lost girl’s twin sister.

With the twins back with their mom, Fumino and Nariyuki end up missing that last train, and encounter one other at the station. With no taxis (or indeed any cars) around and only an inn to turn to, the do-gooders have to consider an action that, if taken out of context of their situation, could be seen as very bad.

That action, of course, is spending the night together at a ryokan, which only has one room left, and that room has only one futon, and because it’s a chilly night they have to share it. These two have clearly never heard of sleeping head-to-foot to avoid awkwardness, but that’s rarely a comfortable way to sleep anyway.

For the first time, Nariyuki and Fumino find themselves sleeping in a bed with a member of the opposite sex, and it’s tough. Thankfully, it’s a gorgeous, clear, starry night, so they manage to find a topic that sets them both at ease; the very subject Fumino intends to pursue: astronomy.

Fumino tells Nariyuki about a book she first read when her mother was on her death bed, about an old astronaut continuing to chase his dream and conquering his weakness—something she, Rizu, Uruka, and Asumi are all doing. Nariyuki points out how cool he thinks they are for doing so, and expresses envy for not having any particular personal goal of his own.

Fumino tells him she doesn’t consider herself particularly special for having a dream, and it’s clear she doesn’t think he should discount his desire to help make his family more comfortable and prosperous. But if he ever comes up with another dream, she promises to help him, as his “big sis” (they checked in to the room as siblings).

Fumino ends up falling asleep while grasping Nariyuki’s hand, and he doesn’t have the heart to wake her up. Turns out she’s dreaming of that day she read that book with her mom, and when she wakes up, her hand and his are still intertwined. While initially surprised and bashful, she doesn’t see any need to break their embrace, and so curls up a little closer to him.

The night after on the train, the two are mortified by the choice they made last night, but as they part ways, Fumino, back to calling him by his family name Yuiga, smiles and tells him simply that she’ll see him later. And indeed we shall, as a second season of BokuBen is coming this Fall, where I’m sure we’ll be presented with more adventures both wackily comedic and poignantly warm between Nariyuki and the girls he tutors.

I can’t see why I wouldn’t be around to keep watching them. After all, it seems when it comes to this kind of show…I never learn.

BokuBen – 12 – The Sting of Defeat

Nariyuki and Uruka are a great couple I’m proud to ship, and they’re only a five-minute proper conversation away from living happily ever after. While I’d like to say I’m under no illusions that BokuBen will actually ever make them a thing, the teasing keeps me coming back. I guess I’m saying I’m an idiot…but a generally happy one, so who cares!

This week both halves of my favorite couple are sick of the awkwardness that’s cast a pall over their once lively friendship, and both seek the advice of their sensei Fumino. In addition to stringing along a NariUka shipper like me, they continue to lock Fumino in a cycle of pushing her own potential feelings for Nariyuki aside in favor of supporting her friends, Uruka and Riko.

She’s unsure how to break out of this cycle, and is worried Uruka and Nariyuki’s continued problems will have an adverse effect on their studying, so she decides to break neutrality and help Uruka out this time. To closely supervise her two students, she shows up to their rendezvous in a shrewd disguise.

Fumino quickly learns things are much worse than she thought regarding these two. Every effort to spark a conversation is quickly snuffed out when the talk quickly goes back to the source of the awkwardness, whether it’s Uruka’s see-through top after the rain, or her sexily modified uniform at the shrine.

As the two grow more and more awkward and discouraged, their texts to Fumino grow less and less coherent. Matters aren’t helped by Nariyuki and Uruka constantly insisting they’re not talking about themselves, but “friends of theirs,” a conceit that grows less and less plausible as the meeting digresses.

Finally, Fumino’s complicated texting is interrupted by Sawako asking about hairstyles, and she sends the wrong texts to the wrong party by accident. Thanks to pure dumb luck (or good karma on Fumino’s part) it all works out somehow, thanks to one of the hairstyles Sawako mentioned being the same one Uruka has. Nariyuki follows the text and declares Uruka cute, and Uruka gets him to repeat that comment over and over. Ice broken!

Nariyuki attends Uruka’s swimming tournament, in which she wins the 200m free, but loses in the relay when a kohai has a false start. Nariyuki tries to cheer Uruka up afterwards, and ends up with more evidence for why Uruka would be such a good choice for a partner.

Uruka doesn’t pretend either to her kohai or to Nariyuki that it’s not a big deal to have lost, and that she doesn’t want to cry her eyes out about it. But, and this is key, if that kohai learned a lesson she can carry forward and succeed later in her career, their loss won’t have been in vain. That’s Uruka for you: an ace and a team player, through and through.

Uruka even shows signs of boosted confidence when she invites Nariyuki to hang out with her that night. She takes him to their old middle school, where “it all began,” with “it” being their friendship and her feelings for him. Those years ago, when she was ready to quit out of frustration for losing, he encouraged her to stick with it. To be as serious about something as she was about swimming was something rare and precious to him.

All this increasingly non-vague talk about their history together leads Nariyuki to ask her if she ever managed to confess to the “guy she likes”, still—and perhaps perpetually—unaware it’s him. Uruka really shot herself in the foot by lying about it not being him, since now he can offer, without a hint of awkwardness, to be the one she confesses her feelings to as a “dry run”.

But because Nariyuki’s words, out of context, sound like he’s urging her to tell him the truth, a flustered Uruka comes right out and does just that. She well and truly confesses that she likes Nariyuki, a lot, and always has. Too bad then that her previous lie dooms his ability to take her seriously. He thinks she’s practicing on him.

Rather than clear this up by saying something like “no, actually you are the guy I like and there truly isn’t another person”—admittedly out-of-character—she tosses Nariyuki into the drink. He takes her arm and drags her in too. When he protests, calling her Takemoto, she gets him to say her first name Uruka again, and is all better again.

With other characters with routes to wrap up, this may have been Uruka’s last chance. But I do think she’s being more honest than anything else when she told Fumino she just wants things to be good with Nariyuki…and for him to occasionally note her cuteness. So while, like me, Uruka may be a fool when it comes to settling for less than total victory, as long as she’s happy, that’s what matters. I just hope she keeps trying, because I won’t stop rooting!

BokuBen – 11 – The Fast and the Kirisu

This week it’s Kirisu-sensei’s turn to get dressed up every which way, as she breaks off from boring work drinks (with guys who think she lives like a princess) and happens upon Nariyuki hanging outside a seedy maid cafe. Turns out Asumi is one of her former students, and the two start yanking at Nariyuki’s arms, as you do.

In the midst of the horseplay, another cafe employee is injured, and Kirisu decides to make things right by dressing up as a maid and filling in. Unfortunately, despite her confident bluster, she’s no better at cleaning in a commercial setting than a residential one, and one tiny sip of alcohol sends her into a “praise spiral” as Nariyuki carries her home on his back.

If that wasn’t enough humiliation, Kirisu runs out of clean clothes to wear when she has to stop by school to “drop off some documents”—everything, of course, but her old school uniform, which still fits like a dream but immediately attracts police attention.

Again, Nariyuki is there to bail her out, and even thought she repays him by giving him a lift in a Honda Jazz she drives like they’re getting away from a robbery, he still helps her navigate the school without being seen.

Seeing Kirisu in her uniform makes Nariyuki wonder how she was in high school, and she mentions she never got to stop anywhere after school due to her dedication to skating. He rectifies this by buying her an ice cream, but the two end up having to hide behind a bench and then pretend to kiss when Fumino and Rizu show up at the same stand. That night, just when Kirisu thinks she’s in the clear, she turns around and finds Asumi there, ready to mock her school uniform “cosplay.”

Kirisu is…fine as focus characters go, but after an Asumi-centric previous episode I had hoped for a return to the main trio of Fumino, Rizu, and/or Uruka. The comedy also leaned a bit too heavily on Kirisu’s arrested development, penchant for running into students outside of school, and talent for humiliation that verged on piling on.

BokuBen – 10 – A New Challenger Appears!

As thanks for his tutoring services, Nariyuki is able to attend classes at a prep school on the school’s dime. He incorrectly assumes his petite purple-haired desk-mate Kominami Asumi is a middle schooler, drawing her immediate ire. However, his nineteen-year-old pixie senpai actually has a kind heart, and shares her notes with Nariyuki when the teacher erases the board too fast.

After class, Nariyuki gets lost, but is picked up by a couple of heavies and tossed into a maid cafe…the very maid cafe where Kominami not only works, but is the star of the place. She makes her adorable entrance as “Pixie Maid Ashumi” before she notices, then excoriates the heavies (who look up to her as their big sis and boss) for bringing in another broke kid.

Howeva, the coincidence turns out to be a boon to “Ashumi.” While she may not admit it, when Nariyuki knocks her science mock exams over while getting up to leave, he learns that despite trying to get into med school, her science grades stink. Turns out she’s just like his other tutees: her passion doesn’t match her talent (in this case, for business and being a people person, as she cleans up doing the maid thing).

You can see where this is going: Nariyuki starts coming to the cafe to help tutor her, and she makes fast progress with her studying. Then she runs after Nariyuki with his bus pass he left behind to find that he’s collided with her father, who owns a clinic. Backed into a corner, Asumi blames her “boyfriend” Nariyuki’s “tastes” for her get-up.

Nariyuki salvages the encounter by telling Asumi’s father he’s confident she has what it takes do what she’s set out to do; that even if it seems like she can’t do it now doesn’t mean she’ll never do it. Asumi wants to take over the family clinic from her father some day; it’s not obligation, it’s what she wants!

Later, Asumi teases Nariyuki by suggesting they kiss as long as they’re pretending to be dating, but then pats his head and praises her kohai for helping her out. Another day they encounter one another at a family restaurant, where Nariyuki is with Uruka, Fumino and Rizu, all of whom are amazed by her beauty and petite-ness. She’s even smaller than Rizu!

To Nariyuki and Asumi’s surprise, the next time they’re at the prep school, the three girls have taken up supplemental classes, figuring they can’t rely exclusively on Nariyuki all the time. However, like Nariyuki they learn that prep school is no cakewalk. While Asumi finds these three girls annoying busybodies, she still helps them out by offering pointers.

Then it suddenly rains after class, and she invites them to her clinic to dry off. Super nice! Nariyuki even gets to see the bra he recommended for Uruka. She might not know it was him under that mascot costume, but the bra was bought with him in mind…not that she thought through how she’d get him to see it. Well, job done!

When Fumino hears that Asumi’s dad thinks Nariyuki is his daughter’s boyfriend, she pulls Nariyuki aside and thrusts her hand into his midsection, hard. On one level, she’s angry that Nariyuki might be off with some other girl while Uruka and Rizu continue to pine for him.

On another, and as Asumi herself brings up (after explaining the situation and clearing Nariyuki of wrongdoing), Fumino herself clearly has some kind of feelings she needs to work through.

While studying at the maid cafe, Asumi asks him who he’s crushing on. Nariyuki serves up the usual “no time for that before exams”, but Asumi follows that up with “what about after exams?” It’s a good question, and one I hold out hope will get answered, even if it probably won’t.

Asumi then serves him some omelette rice and provides some service by sitting quite close to him and adorning it with a ketchup message. Clearly already an expert in torturing the naive young scamp, and just as clearly enjoying it, she wonders what he’d do if she said their “lie” wasn’t a lie, before pointing down to the ketchup, which reads “YOU DAMN WOMANIZER.” Nice.

Kominami Asumi is certainly a latecomer to BokuBen—there are only three episodes remaining after this one—but she’s a welcome one, offering some notable and refreshing differences over the other “suitors” while effectively and efficiently positioning herself as a worthy one herself, including being the only one of them who at least jokes outwardly about being a couple. I don’t know how much of the remaining time we have will be spent on Asumi, but I liked what I saw.