BokuBen – 02 – The Third Tutee

When Yuiga reports the girls’ slow but steady progress to the headmaster, he gets a surprise: the assignment of another troubled student. This time, it’s someone he knows, and who has mooched homework and notes from him since middle school: the “Shimmering Ebony Mermaid Princess”, Takemoto Uruka.

While Furuhashi is a poet and Ogata is a scientist, Takemoto is a straight-up jock; going so full-on with swimming that she doesn’t even have time for studying. But as Yuiga informs her by the pool, colleges want more well-rounded enrollees, which means she’s going to have to study.

Takemoto reacts by physically running away, and while giving chase Yuiga falls in the pool and can’t swim. Takemoto rescues him, but he then captures her, and the first time Furuhashi and Ogata see the two together, it looks awfully like he’s assaulting her! Thankfully the misunderstanding is cleared up and the three become fast friends (or at least, Furuhashi and Takemoto do).

There’s another wrinkle to this beyond Yuiga adding to his stable of talented beauties: Takemoto likes him. She’s had feelings ever since she fortuitously overheard him say how he wouldn’t just give his homework and notes to anyone, and admires how much she sacrificed to be the best swimmer she could, and wants to help her if he can. Again, Yuiga is a nice guy, even when he thinks nobody’s watching.

He’s such a nice guy, he allows Ogata to come by his house (while his family is out) with the blatant bribe of her family’s udon (of which they’re quite proud) in exchange for help on an essay her teacher has rejected numerous times. The tutoring is interrupted by a invite to karaoke by Takemoto, but when Ogata mentions she’s at Yuiga, the ground shakes and suddenly Takemoto is there in a flash (she is a jock, after all!)

While she’s not overt about it, Takemoto probably isn’t so high on the idea of another girl spending time alone at Yuiga’s, so she invites herself to join the tutoring session. Only they get almost nowhere when the power goes out.

Ogata uncharacteristically clings to Yuiga, clearly afraid of the dark despite unconvincing claims to the contrary; Takemoto wants in on the fun too and so pretends to be afraid so she can cling to him too…only is too bashful and merely grabs some fabric.

Yuiga comforts the girls by crafting a makeshift candle that he studies by during the frequent blackouts his house experiences (another reminder of his family’s modest means). He reflects on how the lack of electricity brings people closer together, both physically and emotionally.

When Takemoto accidentally blows it out, he fumbles around in the pitch black; not a great idea when there’s two girls in close proximity. When the lights are back on both of them are scandalized and Ogata flees in a huff, but later we learn she managed to write an essay her teacher accepted, all thanks to Yuiga’s reflections on darkness and closeness.

A pink-haired teacher who will no doubt join Yuiga’s group at some point seems almost jealous of the progress he’s making with the girls no one else could successfully tutor. That brings us back to Takemoto, who cannot for the life of her memorize the meanings of any English words. She’s got swimming on the brain, at all times.

After hours of futile family restaurant studying, Yuiga gets creative: if she wants to swim, he’ll let her. With Furuhashi and Ogata’s help, he designs a studying method uniquely suited to Takemoto’s stengths, diving underwater to grab the correct meaning of 50 out of 50 English words, all because she can truly focus when she’s in the water. Perhaps she is a mermaid who one day grew legs…

Takemoto decides to thank Yuiga properly by presenting him with a gift in a bag that’s of a very similar color to Tiffany & Co., out of gratitude both for his tutoring and all the other assistance he’s rendered over the years, and as a token of her unspoken feelings for him. I personally maintain they’d make a good couple, but she’s gotta speak up and he’s gotta be made aware!

There’s also the little matter of her giving him the wrong Tiffany-colored bag, so instead of a new pencil case, he got her used swimsuit, something for which he can only scratch his head and ask why; while at home with his intended gift, her plan totally undermined, all Takemoto can do is writhe furiously on the bed, asking for someone to please kill her now…

Takemoto is a welcome addition to the cast. I have a soft spot for childhood friend-characters, especially energetic athletic types (regardless of their success in winning the guy/girl) and her feelings for him are both clear and justified, even if her refusal to ever act on them is frustrating. The easy, caring way Yuiga interacts with them makes it easy to understand why both she and others are fond of the guy. Takemoto is also, frankly, freaking adorable.

I also appreciated that the show kept Furuhashi out of Yuiga’s home study session in order to give the other two girls’ interactions room to breathe; no doubt she’ll get more attention, and Ogata or Takemoto less, in a future episode. And then there’s still two more girls yet to get their official intros, including the pink-haired teacher. Along with One Punch Man 2 and Carole & Tuesday, I think I’ve got my Top 3 Spring shows locked in!

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 05

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 04

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I guess an ambulance would be overkill in this instance…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hanamonogatari – 05 (Fin)

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A revitalized Suruga returns home from her awesome mini-road trip with Araragi to find she has a package: a mummified monkey head, with a note from Kaiki telling her to do with it what she will. Armed thus with the Pièce de résistance of the devil, she returns to the gymnasium to find Rouka there. Both she and I now see her in a different light, now that we know she’s a ghost.

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Even so, Suruga challenges that ghost to another one-on-one match, this time consisting of just one play. If Rouka prevents Suruga from making a basket, she wins, and can have the head. If Suruga makes the basket, Rouka loses, and has to give up being a collector of misfortune and a gatherer of the devil. If Rouka refuses the challenge, Suruga will destroy the head, essentially ending Rouka’s quest anyway.

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Admitting it’s not much of a choice, Rouka accepts, warning she won’t hold back this time, though we know at this point Suruga has a plan to defeat her. Rouka doesn’t quite comprehend what Suruga aims to get out of this, but it’s clear to us: she wants to save her friend from becoming the devil. It’s also apparent to Suruga that Rouka doesn’t know she died and became a misfortune-collecting apparition/oddity. This delves into a common but poignant phenomenon in fiction where the dead don’t know they’re dead and keep living their lives as if they weren’t.

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I loved how the gym was dark and the court markings were backlit as Suruga brought forth the challenge, lending a very “final boss” atmosphere to the setting. When Rouka goes to the locker room for some shoes, the gym enters “Showtime Mode”, with the grandstands extending, the retractable roof opening to reveal the azure sky (Naoetsu is one swanky high school!), and a few inches of water flooding the court – perhaps a reference to Rouka’s “swampy defense” but also a metaphor for cleansing and renewal.

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The thrilling, intricately built-up duel between the two is over almost as soon as it starts. Suruga rushes ahead as usual, but then does something Rouka could never have predicted: she passes the ball to her, quickly stealing it back before she has full possession. In the moment of confusion she created, Suruga elevates and dunks over Rouka’s rushed block attempt. The two end up laughing in a heap on the (now dry) floor, with Suruga now on top of Rouka (the opposite of their last such encounter). Here, Suruga realizes how cute Rouka is, and considers kissing her.

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Rouka, in accepting defeat, voices her surprise, and ultimately, is grateful that Suruga passed to her, considering how rarely anyone on her team passed to her due to her choice to focus on defense, a choice not made due to lack of talent or skill, but to appease those less talented, just as she sought misfortune from those as unfortunate (or more) than her. Rouka also tells Suruga to stop drifting and get back on the active roster as soon as she can. With that, she vanishes into the aether while Suruga is crafting a comeback with her back turned, leaving behind the mummified monkey parts she had collected.

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Before the duel, Rouka and Suruga agreed on one thing: that it’s better to regret the lack of action than to regret what you’ve done. But Suruga tells her it’s better still to do something and not regret it. If there’s an overarching moral to be had from this story, that’s as good as any. Whatever else Kanbaru Suruga has been, she’s been a doer; on the offense. Sometimes, Suruga’s actions are reckless and/or lead to regrets, like wishing to the monkey paw, for instance. But her most recent actions freed Rouka from her torment. In a dream, she and her mother converse more as equals, as Suruga puts forth her own opinions rather than simply absorb those of others.

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Suruga wakes up from that dream to find Araragi in her room. As she sleeps in the nude, she’s taken aback for a moment, but Araragi isn’t there for “that”, but to help her clean her room, something she requested during the road trip. She also has him cut her hair, as she plans to return to basketball. Between the yellow bug, not being turned on by Suruga, and hairdressing, one might wonder if the producers are trying to say something about Araragi, but these are merely cosmetic characteristics that happen to match a certain stereotype, but aren’t meant to be read too much into, so I won’t. One thing’s for sure, though: the dude is good at setting up dominoes!

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As he shears off her flowing purple locks, returning her to the way she looked when we first met her in Bakemonogatari (a rare aesthetic rewind) he offers some closing words of solace to Suruga (It’s also worth mentioning that Suruga’s other idol, Senjougahara, also sports a short hairstyle when last we saw her). He tells her not to worry about what she did and whether it was right or wrong…because it was neither: It was just adolescence.

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Hanamonogatari – 04

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Because Suruga insists, Rouka tells her the full story: how she met Kaiki, who told her about apparitions, and how she acquired her first piece of the devil: her left leg. It once belonged to another girl named Rouka; a high-schooler who her older boyfriend had knocked up, and whose family wanted her to abort it. With this devil’s leg, Rouka-2 almost beat her mother to death, mirroring what happened to Suruga with her arm.

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The day after hugging Rouka-2 and saying she’d take the problem from her, the devil leg had replaced her crippled old one. Rouka has since replaced almost a third of her body with devil parts, and plans to “collect them all” so she can take control of the devil altogether, even though doing so will mean losing all of her body, head to toe. With that heartrendingly bleak goal announced, Rouka says farewell to Suruga, asking her to go out and “do all the human things” she can no longer do.

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That night, Suruga gets a call from Karen who informs her that Rouka committed suicide three years ago, presumably from a combination of her broken leg and her “bad” family situation. Now we’ve reached nadir of Suruga’s arc: she’s been talking with a ghost all this time. Shaken and never more uncertain, Suruga simply goes out and runs. She runs and runs across landscapes until collapsing in an intersection; a crossroads (subtle!). Then a car pulls up and honks at her, and holy shit, it’s Araragi!

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Like Kaiki, Araragi’s appearance couldn’t have been timed better, or be any more awesome. He now has long hair, a resplendent yellow VW New Beetle Suruga can’t help but hilariously gripe about (“What’s with this round car?”), a Shinobu keychain, and a little more life experience behind his belt. But Suruga gradually realizes once they talk that it’s the same old Araragi she’s leaned on, looked up to and missed so dearly. If anyone can help give her the guidance she needs at this point in her story, it’s him. A gorgeous, art-filmy all-night “road-trip” segment ensues.

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Also like Kaiki, Araragi isn’t interested in steering Suruga in a particular direction or in doing her own legwork for her, but he’s much nicer and more caring about it. He helps her realize she’s fee to obey the opinions of Rouka, Kaiki, of her mother if she wants, but she’s just as able to fight those opinions if she’s not convinced. Rather than go along with what those voices have said or done, she decides to strike out on her own path. Araragi asks if she needs any more help, and she says no, which pleases him. Suruga’s back, and she’s going on offense.

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One Week Friends – 10

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I went there recently in Nisekoi, and Golden Time before it…down to rock bottom: the lowest possible point for our protagonist in dealings with his love interest. The question going into this week was, will things start to look up this week, or would One Week Friends still have deeper depths for Yuuki to plumb?

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Well, things aren’t great, but they could certainly be worse. Kaori’s memories have reset, but she still has her diary, it informs her that Yuuki is her friend, and she seems willing to continue along that path with him. But Yuuki’s frustration is both palpable and understandable. All of his work, ruined by a random transfer student. I can imagine him protesting through the fourth wall: “Who’s writing this stuff?”

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Having Hajime around could be a source of constant strife for Yuuki, as its possible anything he happens to say to Kaori, regardless of motive, could reset her all over again, and there’s only so much a guy can take (the realization Kaori doesn’t know what the 18 grams of sugar means causes him to break down on the staircase). It’s an untenable limbo.

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Something has to give, and that something oddly turns out to be Hajime’s ignorance of Kaori’s condition. He’s as skeptical as Yuuki was, but now he at least knows how his words could have been a bit harsh under the circumstances. One couldn’t really blame him for believing she had simply discarded him, but now he knows the truth, or at least the truth Yuuki is aware of.

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When Hajime hears about how Yuuki and Kaori maintain their friendship, the pain from Kaori’s perceived betrayal likely fuels his opinion on the matter: it doesn’t sound like a real friendship to him at all. Kaori is merely writing in a diary, after all, and the facts in a diary can be changed by the author. It’s true, a diary is no substitute for memory, but the latter can be just as open to interpretation.

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Hajime tries to re-germinate a kernel that Yuuki had previously tabled; the possibility Kaori is making this all up. He’s aware of that possibility, but he feels he wouldn’t be worthy of being her friend if he didn’t trust her, and he’s decided to keep trusting her, even if she’s making him jump through more hoops than most normal friends would. The last thing he wants to be is someone like Hajime.

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Stray Observations:

  • After Yuuki’s first, somewhat hostile chat with Hajime by the drink machines, when Hajime leaves, we half-expected Shogo to say “I kinda like that guy!” half just to mess with him, half because he means it.
  • Further complicating matters for Yuuki: Hajime is much more on par with Kaori in the academics department. They also used to study poetry together. Aw, jeez…
  • Big development in Shogo+Saki: unable to marry Kaori (she doesn’t live in any of the twenty U.S. states that allow same-sex marriage), Saki comes right out and adorably proposes to Shogo, not jokingly at all. Shogo, caught off guard, quickly retreats, but Yuuki sees how red his face got. That’s one damn fine supporting romance there. So economical, yet hits hard!
  • I’m convinced the show is just trolling us now with the Crêpe Dates. How many times now has Yuuki tried and failed to take Kaori out for crêpes? Will it ever happen without a hitch? IT HAD BETTER.

One Week Friends – 09

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Following this show’s convention of naming episodes, I thought “Last Day” this episode’s title referred to was the last day of summer vacation, a day I remember always feeling longer than the ones that preceded it, and with good reason: I made a concerted effort to savor every last minute of it.

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For academic underachievers like Yuuki and Saki, it’s a day to cram a summer’s worth of homework into one day, and for Kaori and Kiryu to politely keep them company. Much of the episode is limited to Kaori’s room, and time indeed slows to a placid crawl. But the “Last Day” in the title wasn’t just about the end of summer, but about the end of all the progress Yuuki had made with Kaori.

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The threat of this happening stayed in my mind throughout the last few episodes, but was pushed further and further back, replaced by hope and optimism. The last day of vacation and the start of the next semester couldn’t have gone any better, and things stay good right up until Kujou Hajime arrives and causes Kaori to faint. And just like that, Yuuki is crushed…as am I.

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I was even, like Yuuki probably was, entertaining the possibility Kaori was getting over her psychological issues with friendship (knowing she’d suffered no brain damage in the accident); that, like her monologue about math and the journey being as fulfilling as the solution, the solution to her problems was something that would come just by continuing to be friends with her, and nothing more.

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But the revelation that Kaori had a friend like Yuuki before Yuuki, made a promise, and broke it, earning his ire, throws the neat, tidy order of that arrangement into chaos. I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if Kaori’s diary fails to rekindle the feelings she once held for him; all bets are off, thanks to the wild card Hajime; whom I’m sure we’ll learn more about, but for now, I’m going to go cower in the nearest dark corner and sob!

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Stray Observations:

  • On the brighter side, we delve a little deeper into the relationship between Kiryu and Saki; basically, Kiryu has always protected and helped her because it makes him happy. And now she’s starting to notice and remember him. They’re exceedingly cute together.
  • When Yuuki trips and falls on Kaori in classic anime rom-com fashion, he meets a very non-classic fate: Kaori isn’t upset in the slightest, and when her mom barges in, she’s excited rather than mad.
  • To have Yuuki and Kaori walk to school together and give them adjacent desks in the back of the classroom, suggesting boundless potential…talk about softening us up with elation before bringing the hammer down.
  • The bleak lighting and lack of color in that nurse’s office was pitch-perfect. Really nice contrast to the heady halcyon summer days.