Yuru Camp△ – 05 – So Far and Yet So Close

The contrasts between the two parallel camping trips continue. The Outclub takes a relaxing dip at the hot springs with an excellent view, while Rin is…still on her bike. As it gets colder and colder she wonders if she was too ambitious right after getting her license.

Still, she presses on due to the rewards of reaching her destination: a rare and unique view that includes Matsumoto City, Lake Suwa, and Fuji-san all together…and the promise of hot springs to warm her road-chilled bones. When all’s said and done, she logged over 150 kilometers.

It is then heartbreaking when, after finally biking the extra 6 km to the hot springs, parking her bike, and grabbing her towel, Rin is greeted by a locked door and a sign saying the springs are closed. Bummer!

Her hot spring plans are dashed, but she’s still excited at the prospect of that rare view…only for it to be covered in thick grey clouds at the designated vantage point. Fortunately, upon reaching the peak of Mt. Takabotchi, the clouds part and reveal a heavenly sight. Heartened and energized, she whips up her first camp meal of one-pot soup-style pasta.

Rin sends a pic of her tasty-looking meal to Nadeshiko, waking her up. She, Aoi and Chiaki went and overslept at the hot springs lounge, underscoring the dangers of hot springs: once you go, it’s very hard to leave! Fortunately, the campground manager doesn’t mind their lateness.

The girls set up their campsite, which also sports a lovely and expansive view. For their first fire they try a Swedish torch, then Nadeshiko prepares a “stewed” curry with tonkatsu ramen powder in the broth, a nifty little hack she’s glad Chiaki notices.

After dinner and marshmallows by the fire, the three soon learn that one tent isn’t big enough for the three of them. Aoi and Chiaki play scissors to Nadeshiko’s paper, so she ends up alone in the crappy blue tent with their gear. No matter; before going to sleep Nadeshiko contacts Rin, who herself is still awake.

The two leave the warmth and comfort of their winter sleeping bags to venture out to the spots with the best night view possible, all so they can exchange where they are with one another. As the soundtrack swells their reactions to receiving each other’s photos says it all: While they may be far away from each other, overlooking different glowing cityscapes, they share the same starry night sky.

It’s a beautiful way to conclude both Rin and the Outclub’s most ambitious camping trips yet, Rin’s long cold ride being a particularly impressive accomplishment. She and Nadeshiko may have shared a couple of meals, but they still have yet to officially camp together. We’ll see if they’ll remain apart for their next excursions, or if Rin and Nadeshiko ditch the LINE and experience the sky while standing beside each other.

Yuru Camp△ – 04 – Go-Go Outclub Rangers!

The newly three-member Outclub kicks into gear with preparations for their first camping trip together, starting with trying to keep the budget as tight as possible. While experimenting with different forms of insulation for an otherwise useless-in-the-winter summer sleeping bag, Nadeshiko repeatedly runs into the school and back to retrieve materials they need, like an eager puppy.

Nadeshiko and Aoi are able to make Chiaki warm, but at the cost of being all packed up and ready to ship to Abu Dhabi, like Nermal. They ultimately decide to buy winter sleeping bags, ensuring they each get a unique color. Nadeshiko will be Outclub Red, Aoi Outclub Blue, and Chiaki Outclub Yellow.

Meanwhile, Rin prepares to kick into literal gear of her moped, now that she’s gotten her license. We also learns she works part-time at at bookstore to fund her solo camping obsession. What a good kid! Nadeshiko texts her a photo of Chiaki all packed up, leading Rin to wonder just what the heck those weird girls are up to!

The Outclub picks a campground and a date, and hit up the store to buy all of the stuff they don’t already have. My one wish is that we’d have gotten an exact figure for the total cost of their supplies, but that’s okay. As for Rin, by God is she inspiring, heading out in the early morn with her little bike packed to the gills with gear.

The next day, Nadeshiko misses a bus, but it’s no big deal. The three of them aren’t in any rush; the whole point of their excursion is to relax! Chiaki and Aoi note that Nadeshiko is carrying all her gear on her back, while they have more convenient dollies. They worry she won’t be able to make the four-kilometer hike from the station to the campground.

In what should come as no surprise, Nadeshiko’s energy stores prove inexhaustible. She’s not just a puppy, she’s a pack mule! Speaking of cute animals, Rin encounters a puppy in the back window of a van that moves to whatever side of the lane on which she stops. When the van turns off, Rin is sad, only to find another van ahead of her filled with many dogs!

When the Outclub reaches a famous vantage point at Fuefuki Park, Nadeshiko can’t resist a photo shoot, which she shares with Rin via LINE-like app. The three decide to hit up a café for some sugary treats to recharge their batteries, each sharing one another’s desserts and making me wish I could safely go to cafés with my friends! Maybe someday…

Rin gets Nadeshiko’s message about the apple soft just as she’s pulled into a rest stop at Kirigamine, and decides to stop in to warm up a bit; the closer she gets to her destination of Nagano, the colder it gets, but it’s clear she’s not afraid of a challenge. She picks a cozy spot by the iron wood stove in a room she has all to herself.

Recalling she has some cash to spend from her job, she decides to splurge on a Borscht lunch set with a Caramel Macchiato, and does not regret it, as the Slavic soup quickly distributes warmth to every corner of her body. She texts her feast to Nadeshiko, who asks where she’s headed, and rather than simply text back “Nagano”, Rin chooses a unique way to respond: by sending Nadeshiko a link to a live webcam then waving to her in real time.

The Outclub unanimously decided to stop by the Hottokeya Hot Springs before continuing on to the Eastwood Campgrounds, but as soon as they enter the lounging area, they worry about relaxing so damn hard they won’t be able to leave and go do what they came to do…camp!

This Yuru Camp felt like the best of both worlds: the Outclub’s more spirited and boisterous three-girl journey, cross-cut with Rin’s more Zen solo trip. Both look like a lot of fun! There’s also a wonderful shifting between hot and cold; between exertion and relaxation. Every Outclub member is a ton of fun, but Rin remains the show’s undisputed MVP and my personal hero.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 20 – Tantamount to Love

This week Fuutarou learns why there’s a Fake Itsuki when he finds four of them in one room. As Yotsuba explains, she was the first of the quints to change her appearance (with her bunny ribbon). At some point they all agreed to look identical whenever they visited their grandpa, so he wouldn’t worry about them drifting apart.

Gramps ends up coming in their room, so Fuu has to hide under the kotatsu, and identifies the real Fake Itsuki who spoke to him in the lobby by the bruise on her leg. However, because all of the quints in the room are disguised as Itsuki, he doesn’t know to which quint that leg belongs!

As Fuu continues his investigation, Nino takes Ichika aside to to bathe together, hoping to pick Ichika’s brain about what next steps to take with the guy she likes, describing with wonderful self-awareness how she came to love her “prince”. Of course, Nino is blissfully unaware that Ichika also likes him, and heard her confession to him.

Even Ichika’s best attempts to slow her down end in failure, as Nino makes it clear she’d step over whoever else liked Fuu to get with him. Would she say that if she knew Ichika (or Miku) were that other person? At present, Nino is committed to doing more to get Fuu’s attention, including meeting with him that night and hugging or even kissing him.

Ichika feels powerless to stop her, and even agrees to run interference for their dad so Nino can slip away! She asserts to herself that because she’s such a “coward”, her love for Fuutarou is no match for Nino’s. It’s basically her lowest point yet, where she’s actively working against her interests in deference to someone who made it clear she wouldn’t do the same. That’s when Yotsuba finds her in the hallway, crying.

The two climb up to the roof—an old hiding spot of theirs from years past—and when Yotsuba sneezes from the cold, Ichika lends her her robe. Yotsuba reminisces how Ichika was once the prank-pulling “mean bully” who’d always takes things from the others with impunity—basically the opposite of what she is now: feeling afraid and unworthy of taking Fuu from Nino.

Then their mom died, Itsuki was hit hardest, and Ichika decided there and then that she had to be The Big Sister. Yotsuba tells Ichika how she’s always saw her as her dear big sister, and how she wants her to do what she wants. For Ichika, right now, that’s for things to remain in the “comfort zone”, where Fuu isn’t “taken” by any of them.

Buoyed by Yotsuba’s words, the last two things Ichika does are in her own interest: taking back the robe she lent Yotsuba, and not distracting their dad so Nino can talk to Fuu. We’ll see if Nino shrugs off Ichika not coming through for her at what for her was a crucial opportunity to impress her feelings upon her Prince.

That brings us back to Fuu himself, who has noticed the quints’ grandfather has no trouble telling them apart. When pressed, Gramps tells him there’s no silver bullet or trick to it, it’s just a matter of learning their mannerisms, voices, and subtle habits, which he says are basically “tantamount to love”. This, of course, leads gramps to ask him why he needs to tell them apart. If he truly can’t, can he honestly say he has the “commitment to face them in good faith?”

Fuu accepts that challenge the next morning, when unbeknownst to him, Miku has already come clean with Itsuki about being the Fake Itsuki. She wanted to end their student-teacher relationship so it could change into something new. Unlike Ichika, she doesn’t want to stay in the comfort zone. So Itsuki tells Miku to meet Fuu one more time as Fake Her.

Fuu uses the process of elimination to narrow it down to Ichika or Miku, and when she gets her to say “Itsuki-chan”, he guesses she’s Ichika, because only she uses “-chan” with Itsuki. Miku pretends he’s right, holding back tears that then start to fall once her back is turned. But then Fuu realizes she is Miku, causing her to run into his arms so fast her Itsuki wig falls off and she tackles him to the ground!

Fuu then goes on to explain his further reasoning for why Miku might be mad—because he never got around to giving her anything in return after Valentines Day. Then he asks why she wanted him to quit, and she tells him to forget it. He’s a teacher, she’s a student, and that doesn’t have to change. She’s just grateful he guessed correctly.

That leads to another strange cliffhanger-like ending, where before Fuutarou and the Nakanos depart from the onsen, someone in white, almost wedding-like shoes runs at him at full speed, causing him to grab the nearby bell for support. This, after gramps confirmed his daughter, the quints’ mother, was named Rena—the same name as the mysterious girl he saw when he fell in the water. To be continued, I guess!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Eight Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Miku: Her bitterness about Fuu not guessing correctly, immediately followed by her pure unbridled joy, was one hell of an emotional roller coaster! She definitely caused Fuutarou to think about the “love” gramps talked about. Total Points: 22 (Tied for 3rd)
  2. Yotsuba: Who’d have guessed she was the maverick who first changed her appearance? In both explaining the Fake Itsukis and her heart-to-heart with Ichika, Yots seems content to let things with the others play out before making whatever move she has planned…if any. Total Points: 22 (Tied for 3rd)
  3. Ichika: I think she’s finally reached the bottom of her well of defeatism and may be starting to claw her way out. It’s still not looking good, but at least she hasn’t given up on what she wants. Total Points: 21 (5th)
  4. Itsuki: Was instrumental both in getting Fuu to find out why the others were upset, as well as hearing Miku out and having her try one more time. Just an all-around great sis! Total Points: 26 (2nd)
  5. Nino: As she was thwarted from doing anything more with/to Fuu, Nino was relegated to a passive role this week. If Fuu doesn’t make the next move—and he shows no signs of doing so—she may have to try something. Was that her in the white shoes throwing herself at him? Total Points: 29 (1st)

 

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 19 – Commencement of Hostilities

The War for Fuutaro begins not with a whimper, but with the bang of a two-stroke engine and the flash of a headlamp. Nino, ready to give up on Fuu once and for all, tells her stepdad she and her sisters are going to keep living on their own a while. Stepdad is poised to shit on the new home they made, but Nino is rescued by Fuutarou, her white knight on his motorbike steed.

Motorbike rides through the city are tailor-made for romantic scenes, as Nino is literally embracing Fuu from behind, and they’re all alone on their buzzing island. So after she finds his exam scores in his pocket (the lowest he’s ever had, though he doesn’t blame them) and he’s thinking about the end of their student-teacher relationship, Nino shoots her shot, telling him she loves him.

Fuutarou doesn’t react at all, which both confuses and frustrates Nino as they join the other sisters. There are other signs of hostilities commencing between sisters even as they share bites of their disparate deserts as thanks for helping each other out. Ichika realizes Miku said she’d confess if she had the highest scores, but Ichika got them…so does that mean it’s okay for her to confess?

As Miku seemingly shot herself in the foot with her wager and Ichika wavers, Nino keeps going for it, joining Fuutarou in the back and even helping wash the dishes with him, another lovely domestic activity. On her way out, she tells him to forget what she said on the bike, that it must’ve troubled him and she went too fast.

In response, Fuutarou genuinely asks: What is she talking about? He couldn’t hear whatever she said on the bike due to the wind. She tells him never mind and scoots off, seemingly glad he didn’t hear her since it means things can go back to the way they were. But then Nino, and QQ, does something I didn’t expect: she marches right back to the kitchen and tells him she loved him.

She has him recall her saying there’s one girl on the planet who’d fall for him, saying “That girl is me. Too bad for you!” Just excellent stuff. I’m so proud of Nino. Poor Ichika can only listen in horror from behind the wall.

Nino says she doesn’t expect a response, but if I were Fuutarou, not giving one wouldn’t sit right with me. Alas, he’s so thrown for a loop he’s unsure how to proceed, and her confession just sits out there. A day or so later Fuu encounters Miku at a supermarket she insists she went to not to see him, but…to enter into a contest with a grand prize of tickets to an onsen.

Because of that white lie, and all the more practical lesser prizes, both Miku and Fuu enter into the contest…and to their mutual surprise, both of them win! While Fuu takes his family and looks forward to being away from the quints to rest and think on things, he learns the quints are on vacation with their stepdad, who’d prefer if it was a vacation away from Fuu.

Nino approaches Fuu like it’s no big dealio, and it’s not—for her! She did what none of the other quints who like him had the courage to do: risk everything by making those feelings plain. With the ball in his court, Nino can relax and keep pushing to become “girlfriend material”. When she calls him Fuutarou, Miku immediately perks up. Also, Itsuki wants to speak to Fuu later.

That night, Fuu finds a note in his cubby saying “courtyard, midnight”, but finds Itsuki in the lobby instead. She asks him straight-up what he thinks their relationship with them (the sisters) is. When he uses the tired “partners” line, she says it’s time to “put and end” to that relationship. Confused and distraught, Fuu takes hold of Itsuki…and gets flipped head-over-heels by the old man at the desk—who is the quints’ grandfather!

The next morning, Fuu calls Itsuki, who assures him she never met with him last night. They meet at the baths, where Fuu tells her about the impostor, who I’m guessing was Miku (because it sounded most like her). Whoever it was, they were trying to do what Nino was initially going to do: separate from him altogether to avoid the heartbreak of rejection.

Right on cue, Nino prepares to join Fuu in the mixed bath (Itsuki is over on the women’s side), but Fuu, having been fooled last night, ruins things by asking her who she is, even though he was pretty sure it was Nino. Itsuki tells him she wanted to ask why the others are acting so odd, something even the typically dense Fuu has noticed.

When Fuu says they’re not “partners” working toward the same goal anymore, Itsuki corrects him: after all they’ve been through, can’t they both admit that what they truly are now is plain old friends? For Itsuki and Fuu, perhaps. But for those who have fallen in love with him, it’s not that simple.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Seven Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Nino: Comes out with guns blazing, but all of these early victories make me fear that she’s being set up for some kind of fall down the road. The future aside, the motorbike ride, kitchen re-confession, and mixed bath visit were all sublime. I recommend Fuu marry this girl yesterday. Total Points: 28 (1st)
  2. Itsuki: Seems to be cementing her role as Fuu’s trusty pal and confidante, as well as continuing her role as Ambassador to the United Quintuplets. If this is a long-game strategy, she hasn’t shown her hand, but hey, they’re talking! Total Points: 24 (2nd)
  3. Miku: Between losing to Ichika at exams and to Nino at…everything else, Miku seems to be in dire straits. At the same time, she hasn’t given up yet… Total Points: 17 (5th)
  4. Ichika: …Which is more than I can say for this one. Ichika continues to harbor a negative, defeatist attitude. She couldn’t capitalize on the opening Miku gave her because she was waiting for someone to tell her if it was okay to act. Then again, there wasn’t much she could have done against Nino. Total Points: 18 (Tied for 3rd)
  5. Yotsuba: If it wasn’t Miku disguised as Itsuki in the lobby, maybe it was Yotsuba. It’s how I explain why recedes into the shadows after the bakery celebration. I’m not really sure what (if anything) she’s up to, but it’s not happening on-screen. Total Points: 18 (Tied for 3rd)

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 10 – The Tasty Truth About Tottori

Last week’s lurking shadow villains turn out to be Ami and Sakaki, as expected. They’ve followed Uzaki and Sakurai and rented a car so the couple can experience everything Tottori has to offer—all while they observe from a mostly respectful distance and eat it all up. But this episode isn’t just a means of Uzaki and Sakurai becoming a little closer, it’s a full-on love letter to Tottori!

Never far from Uzaki & Co. is a uniformed tour guide describing in detail a certain lovingly-rendered Tottori point of interest, starting with the famous sand dunes to a circular school converted to museum honoring all the famous mangakas from the area.

Also always near by is a more lovey-dovey version of Uzaki and Sakurai, always providing a mirror of how the two of them look to others, especially when they do very couple-y stuff like playing together on the dunes or taking bites of the same rabbit cake.

By the time they pray at a shrine and receive a very favorable fortune regarding their coupling, Ami and Sakaki admit that Tottori is a historical Couples’ Mecca—much to this particular couple’s chagrin. They were enjoying themselves totally until their friends made the implicit explicit, but they try to fight back the blushing, relax, and enjoy hanging out nevertheless.

They couldn’t be in a better place to relax, thanks to Tottori’s famous hot springs and steam baths. When a sweaty Uzaki slips and falls chest-first on top of Sakurai and some deceptively suggestive dialogue ensues, causing an attendant to rush in assuming they’re up to things best done in the privacy of their room.

But while Ami and Sakaki came to watch a relationship blossom, they also undermine it; Uzaki ends up sharing a room with Ami and Sakura with Sakaki, eliminating what would have been the most romantic part of the trip—a night alone in a hotel room.

Ami and Sakaki get a “feast” out of watching the couple, but if their goal was to somehow jump-start their relationship into a higher gear than it was before, they come up a bit short. That’s not a bad thing; it just means that no amount of meddling will either help or hurt a slow but steadily simmering romance emerging organically from their interactions together and increased comfort with one another and their quirks.

Uzaki still teases Sakurai about being a loner, but we already seen last week that he prefers that to an artificially meek Uzaki. No doubt Uzaki likes Sakurai the way he is, and any change she causes in him will be minor and incidental.

In short, these two came together because of the kind of people they are, they like each other that way, and they’re going to be fine. Sakaki seems right on one count: Sakurai may insist he an Uzaki “aren’t like that”, but it’s all but inevitable that they soon will be, if they aren’t already!

Fruits Basket – 11 – Giving Everything

For those who haven’t been paying attention, Tooru is a giver. She gives and gives and gives, sometimes without thinking; sometimes with quite a bit of thought behind it; and always, always without regard for any consequences that might crop up as a result of that boundless generosity. The only one she’s not generous to is herself. As has been said about her, she plays by a different set of rules.

Two of the unintended effects of this: it’s hard for her to accept anything in return, and it’s hard for anyone else to give to her without her wondering if that’s really okay. But after Valentine’s Day, you have White Day. It’s tradition. It’s the rules of society. So she’s expecting something in return for her chocolates. She just wasn’t expecting a hot spring trip, courtesy of Momiji.

As with most things offered to her, she feels unworthy, or at least feels she’d be an expensive burden. An onsen is costly, no matter how you look at it! And this, despite the fact she spent so much of her own money buying ingredients for the chocolates she gave everyone, she’s fallen behind on school trip payments. Kyou, just barely moderating his temper, asks Tooru to go have a bath, then turns to the issue at hand: just how stupid is Tooru to be so selfless with her money?

Momiji regails Kyou and Yuki with a “Funny Story” from a book he once read in school, about an “idiot” traveler who was constantly being swindled and duped out of possessions, until she wandered the forest naked. There, a bunch of demons duped her out of her body, all except a head with no eyes (shades of Hyakkimaru), leaving her only a piece of paper that read “idiot.”

First of all, this is not a funny story, WTF is wrong with Momiji’s classmates? But secondly, the fact the traveler never despaired, but only wept with joy that the things she gave up went on to help people (even if they lied about needing them). Like Tooru, her warped perspective is just something that works for her, and you can either accept it or consider not hanging out with her anymore, because she’s probably never going to change!

For all of this shows’s demonstrations that the Soumas can transform into animals, Tooru may be the most bizarre creature of them all, and especially out of place in modern Japanese capitalist society. Yet like Momiji, Kyou and Yuki, what initially, by my own less lofty set of standards and different perspective, might seem like idiocy could also be described as nobility; of representing the best of what a person could be; someone who, if everyone emulated them, would make the world a so much better place.

The proprietor of the onsen, a woman of frail health whose off-camera son is the Monkey of the Zodiac, was initially suspicious of Tooru, an outsider, of being a potentially disruptive or harmful force to her cursed child. But that was before she met her, or saw her soaking in the spring with her dead mother’s picture in a plastic bag to keep her dry. She can tell she had no reason to worry; Tooru is One Of The Good Ones.

It’s amazing Tooru agreed to go at all, considering how kingly a gift she considers a hot spring trip. By blowing everything nice other people do for her out of proportion…it can be challenging, at times perhaps even trying, to contend with that. But everyone has fun at the onsen trip.

Tooru plays the quickest and funniest round of ping pong, gets a lovely hair ribbon from Yuki, along with his full-on Prince Act, and Momiji gets to sleep beside Tooru, even though she’s just a year younger than Kyou or Yuki. But the night before she learns this, Tooru simply lies in bed thanking her mother for making all this happiness with the Soumas possible.

That may seem macabre—essentially thanking your mom for dying—but like I said, Tooru doesn’t play by those rules. Everything that happens to her, and everyone she meets, good or bad, is a miraculous gift, and she takes absolutely nothing for granted.

 

3-gatsu no Lion – 36

We start things off with Shimada and Yanagihara inspecting a conspicuously cool and high-quality poster prominently featuring Kiriyama and Souya’s upcoming commemorative match. Takanori says he spared no expense because he needs interested eyes and ears on the match, and because Shimada and Yanigahara’s “sickly” match involving hacking coughs and stomach pains simply wasn’t the most marketable shogi, so limited resources have to be allocated where they’ll be most effective.

Rei isn’t concerned with the poster composition or style, but on studying for his very first match against Souya Meijin. He’s so immersed in game notes he initially doesn’t realize Hayashida-sensei has joined him on the roof.

Rei takes the opportunity to relay to his teacher that Kawamoto Hinata’s troubles would thankfully seem to be resolved, before once again lamenting how he wasn’t able to do anything. Hayashida asks Rei if she said that to Hina (he did) and whether she responded by saying that wasn’t true (she did). Results don’t reach people, and the world doesn’t revolve around them.

With that, Rei and Souya depart for their journey to the site of the commemorative match in Morioka, Iwate, and Rei is overwhelmed by the fanciness of the hot springs hotel room and facilities in which he’ll have free reign.

One thing I love about 3GL is its geographic accuracy; it only took fifteen seconds on Google Maps to locate Lake Gosho, the Tsunagi Hot Spring, and the Hotel Taikan where he’s staying. While strange fantasy worlds are cool, so are places I can actually go and experience the highly alkaline waters of the Tsunagi springs, and their naturally moisturizing salicic acid, for myself.

But like I said, Rei is easily overwhelmed, and what should be a haven of peace and relaxation is more like a storm. Granted, were I to go, I wouldn’t have to deal with an evening reception with speeches, Q & A, flowers, signings, etc. This is the big leagues, and it’s a lot for someone as reserved and bashful as Rei to endure.

Rei observes Souya, who is much older despite his looks, navigating the same choppy waters with aplomb…until he doesn’t. Souya apparently reaches his limit of human interaction before the festivities have ended, resulting in him delivering the wrong rehearsed answers to questions, and not reacting at all when a hostess spills wine all over his white suit, the only one he brought to Iwate.

Souya has always been a bit of a cautionary future look at Rei if he devotes his life to shogi and shogi alone. If Souya ever had something like the Kawamotos (or Kyouko for that matter) in his life, he doesn’t seem to anymore, and as a result, he lives for shogi and shogi alone.

One attendee calls him a “demon of shogi” who can only hold his “human form” for so long. However far in the world of shogi Rei wishes to go, he doesn’t want to go so far he doesn’t even know when he looks like he was slashed with a chainsaw.

And yet, Rei cannot deny that Souya’s total dedication and complete lack of distractions has made him so formidable a shogi player that he’s nigh unbeatable. When the demon emerges the next day for the match, he’s switched from his irreparably stained suit to traditional Japanese dress; all silver and white as always.

And Rei forebodingly reports that the morning of their match, an unseasonable typhoon began creeping up to the Japanese archipelago, so for the next few days he’ll have to deal with storms both within and without the shogi venue.

Koi to Uso – 11

With Yukari, Ririna, and Misaki making little progress in discerning who’s going to end up marrying whom, the three (plus Nisaka) end up at…a wedding. Subtle. Ririna and Misaki are also recruited by the ceremonial hall’s marketing rep to model wedding dresses. Also subtle.

The wedding itself is highly scripted and a bit stiff, with all the usual traditions and nothing in the way of really breaking the mold. The individuals actually getting married seem a bit lost in the procedure of the thing.

Still, a wedding is a wedding, and Misaki and Ririna have a blast, and are glad they were able to attend together. Misaki echos Arisa’s assertion that Ririna has become more open and easier to talk to, and Riri attributes this to her time with Misaki and Yukari.

Misaki also says she’d love to see Ririna’s wedding, all but surrendering Yukari to her. But Ririna can probably sense the lack of conviction in those words, especially when she peeks in on Yukari comforting a crying Misaki with a big long kiss.

I’m sorry, but at this stage, Yukari is being a big fat jerk here. I’m sure Yukari didn’t like seeing Misaki cry, but kissing her will only provide the briefest relief if he ends up marrying Ririna, which, that’s the case, he shouldn’t be kissing other girls. Get your fucking shit together, man!

Ririna seeing Yukari kiss Misaki casts a pall over the rest of the episode, as Ririna and Yukari’s families join forces to mudge their betrothed kids a little closer together at a splendid hot springs inn, even putting them in the same room together.

Their tour of the town demonstrates their easy chemistry with one another, and the fact they both genuinely enjoy each other’s company. They’re not exactly setting the world on fire with their romantic passion, but who cares? They’re a nice, cute couple!

So after witnessing Yukari and Misaki kiss, and Yukari telling her how he’s the person he is today because he followed Misaki and admired her from afar like a goddess…in the night, Ririna decides to tell Yukari she thinks he should choose Misaki over her.

If Ririna and Misaki weren’t such good people and good friends, they wouldn’t be falling over each other trying to sacrifice their happiness for that of the other’s, but Yukari’s persistent indecision—and his appalling indiscretion where Misaki is concerned—has also led us to this point.

The only satisfying way Yukari can respond to this by either accepting or rejecting Ririna’s concession. I’m fine with both, honestly. I may have sounded like a Ririna x Yukari shipper of late, but I’m fine with either girl “winning.” As long as someone wins, dammit!

Oh, and throughout all of this, why haven’t Misaki and Nisaka received their notices? Are Yukari and Ririna really that much older than them? The fact we have no idea who their assigned spouses are leaves me worried the show’s withholding that info for a last-episode cliffhanger—perhaps even a prelude to a second season I neither want nor need.

Re:Creators – 16

Those hoping for Re:CREATORS to deliver an action-packed episode after a two-week wait will be disappointed, unless their idea of action is more than half of the episode being spent lounging around a hot springs inn.

The reason everyone is at the retreat is to recharge and celebrate all their hard work, and is itself cause for celebration: it means that the Elimination Chamber Festival is finally, finally going to get started.

While there’s not a lot to note in the inn scenes, there are some nice character interactions between creators and creations alike, with particular focus on how the more time creations have spent in the human world, the more they come to appreciate it, as well as mundane things like the smell of the hot springs.

Also, Kikuchihara is a stern drunk.

At last, Nissan Stadium is filled up, Meteora and her comrades are powered up, and the grand premiere party of ECF is kicked off by animated versiosn Selesia and Rui’s real-life seiyus, Komatsu Mika and Amamiya Sora; a nice meta moment.

The team prepares and baits the birdcage, and Selesia is finally reunited with her Vogelchevalier (which I’m sure she prefers to a government-owned Toyota 86, as nice as that car is), and we cut to Altair and her crew, clearly ready to dive in.

Of course even promising, exciting build-up is just that: build-up. The pieces are in place, but we’ll have to wait yet another week to see how it all shakes out. I would be very surprised—and even disappointed—if everything goes according to the good guys’ plan.

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 07

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In the most bizarre and surreal episode of WagaMoDo, the newly-restored duo of Kae and Shina suddenly declare they have to go on a pilgrimage to the resting place of Hyakki Sametora, the feudal lord upon which the Lord in their anime is based. The only truly enthusiastic guy is the history buff Mu, but the other three tag along nonetheless. Reasonably priced-but-not flashy hot spring innage ensues.

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The night they stay at the inn, Iga accidentally falls on Kae during a pillow battle, and her reactions indicate to Iga that she didn’t dislike that accident. When they end up on the same swan boat (to the possibly cursed island where the lord’s head is believed to reside), he takes her hand and tells her if she’s not used to being so close to a guy, to get used to it…and she does not protest.

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Unfortunately for Iga (but fortunately for us), when a sudden storm maroons the group on the island, Kae ends up rescued by Mu (while Iga has to give Nana mouth-to-mouth; an event Shina captures from many angles with her waterproof phone). When Kae collapses from fever, Mu has no choice but to get her to shelter, disrobe her, and use his body heat to get hers up. He does so with the utmost gentlemanliness, while Kae is too out of it to be embarrased.

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After that…things kinda go off the rails, as the show suddenly picks up a lot of supernatural elements. The ghost of the lord makes the others walk around in circles, then attacks Kae and Mu, who use the charms they bought at the gift shop to neutralize him. Eventually Kae “exorcises” Sametora when he realizes his legend is not a negative one (thanks in part to the anime that pretties him up and makes him either a top or bottom).

All the supernatural elements are (mostly) explained at the very end once the group gets to shore by a very unexpected and hilarious twist: the restaurant where they ate lunch accidentally used hallucinogenic mushrooms, so they were tripping balls the whole time, likely including during the storm and “lake whirlpool”. Overall a pretty fun episode.

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Momokuri – 25 + 26 (Fin)

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After Yuki presents Momo with a handmade cypress shoehorn (which is kinda the perfect weird Yuki gift for Momo), the episode ships our two lovebirds and their friends to a fancy hot spring, where Momo lets slip that he loves yuki (i.e. snow), but sounds just like he’s saying he lives Yuki the girl, which is fine with her but embarrassing to him.

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Yuki couldn’t be happier, but things get a little more awkward when Yuki comes into a room where Momo is surrounded by three girls, and she isn’t the slightest bit upset, even calling “too cute” that Yuzuki and Momo are so close, and reaching for her camera.

Momo storms off, miffed that Yuki wasn’t more jealous (or indeed jealous at all) by such an unfortunate sight. But he knows his attitude sucked back there, and when Yuki flags him down to talk, he decides he’ll do just that.

What follows is a lovely, poignant scene where he describes how he came to fall in love with Yuki, but expresses his worry it’s a different love from hers, and possibly in a greater amount.

What he learns is that Yuki’s love may be different (and a bit creepy at times), but she has just as much love for him as he does for her.

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And there you have it: now Momo knows Yuki’s “secret” obsession with him…and it’s perfectly okay. He’ll just be on his guard to stop her from collecting his garbage.

Momokuri was a cute, kind little show about a cute, kind, guy, short and easily flustered, and a slightly unusual girl who always sweats the details, start dating, learn more about each other, and fall deeper in love…in all its myriad forms. It was always a light, pleasant, feel-good watch.

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Shimoneta – 12 (Fin)

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Shimoneta ends with an adventure on the road, as SOX is summoned by Anna’s mom Sophia to a hot springs district, possibly for some kind of parley. Only when they arrive, there’s no Sophia to welcome them; only Anna and Goriki, who were also summoned. The gang decides to avail themselves of the spa facilities, but what is going on here?

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Turns out Anna is the first to break the strict non-coed rules regarding the baths, as she sends Goriki on an impossible errand (her favorite way of getting rid of third parties) and again has her way with Tanukichi, but she’s interrupted by the scream of her own mother, who everyone finds unconscious and in her underwear in the changing room. Now they know someone else brought them here.

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That someone is “Black Base”, who claims no connection whatsoever to White Peak despite being a fan of the opposite color of panties. He’s replaced everyone’s clothes with black underwear, and that’s all everyone wears for the rest of the episode, which is a bold but highly appropriate move for the cheekily lewd Shimoneta. 

I especially liked how bashful Ayame and Tanukichi were with one another in such garb, despite plenty of running around either naked or near-naked in their past SOX dealings. But as Ayame says, “this is different,” and she’s right: those were professional duties; this is a lot more intimate.

Also, while Peak and Base represent black and white among SOX’s adversaries, Anna and Ayame are black and white-themed girls in Tanukichi’s life.

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Anywho, Black Base finds the rusty metal wheel Tanukichi brought along (given to him by his imprisoned father, who told him to bring it should he ever visit the hot springs district), and will only give it back if they beat him in a strip rock-paper-scissors tournament. Ayame makes good use of Goriki’s nausea-inducing pink underwear to distract Black Base so she and Tanukichi can escape with the wheel and head to the “treasure trove” its supposedly the key for.

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While taking a rusty old cable car (which Fuwa gets working in a random cameo) up to the mountain trove, Anna manages to beat Black Base and races back to Tanukichi. Unable to breathe, Tanu accidentally grabs Anna’s butt, sending her into ecstacy, whereupon the whole floor of the cable car gives out, sending her to her into the forest canopy.

I’ll say one thing about Shimoneta, it’s always been incredibly creative about infusing absurd lewdness into its action sequences. Once they’re at the trove, a hidden pedal reveals a hexagonal shaft, upon which Tanu’s rusty wheel fits perfectly.

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It takes the full strength of SOX to turn it and open the trove’s doors, revealing a wealth of lewd figurines collected and preserved for posterity. Ayame vows that SOX will continue to preserve such enlightening treasures for future generations, and a fully nude (but thankfully backlit) Black Base, who turns out to have been a good friend and colleague of Tanukichi’s dad, looks on approvingly, knowing the trove is in good hands.

Was the episode, and Shimoneta in general, perfect? Far from it; it never returned Anna to sanity, leaving her a bit one-note at the end; the Ayame-Tanu pairing never materialized; and everyone barfing at Goriki’s underwear seemed a little hypocritical in such an otherwise permissive milieu. But it was still fun, innovative, hilarious, and a surprisingly apt critique of the continuing Japanese struggle to balance decency and lewdness, both crucial parts of the nation’s culture.

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GATE – 09

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GATE’s ninth episode starts out doing well by me, serving up more of what I want the show to focus on: Itami and his circle of comrades and friends in a slice-of-lifey manner. Sure, Pina’s constant mistaking the world for her own gets old pretty quick, but I chuckled at their sudden fascination with BL literature. It’s also fun watching Rory haughtily claiming not to need any other garb, then changing her mind as soon as she sees something she likes.

Then Itami is approached by none other than the Japanese Defense Minister in Akiba, who orders him to take the Special Regioners to the designated safe house: a hot spring inn. Thus begins one of the stranger and yet also somehow duller onsen episodes in recent memory.

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I say dull because there’s nothing that goes on that is particularly unique or interesting about their stay. They’re having a lot more fun than I am watching them, and other than learning a little more about Itami through his ex-wife (who apparently chose to marry him rather than starve) nothing much of consequence was revealed about anyone (save one person; more on that later). And fine, Drunk Kuribayashi was cool too.

I say strange because the whole time they’re relaxing and bathing and drinking, the inn is surrounded by Japanese special forces assigned to guard them, along with a bunch of American, (and Russian, and Chinese) agents, locked in a pretty uninspiring special forces forest battle.

International politics come to the fore when the U.S. President essentially blackmails the Japanese Prime Minister into taking the guards off of the Special Regioners, leaving them exposed to capture. The show also implies that had they not been ordered to stand down, the Japanese SFG would have eliminated all of the enemies easily. We get it, show; you reeeeally don’t like bureaucrats.

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But the whole idea of A.) those enemy forces getting so close to the inn in the first place and B.) everything about the president and prime minister mostly struck me as dumb. Dumb to the point of making me question continuing to watch this show, so tired am I of our diverging priorities. The high-level political stuff is already insufferable, and there’s every possibility there will only be more of it in the second cour.

There’s a little consolation in the fact Itami and Rory are the last two standing after a night of drinking (both of them would also be the two most aware of what’s going on outside), and Rory lamenting that once she rises to godhood she’ll lose both the pain and pleasures of the flesh, before coming onto Itami, who is, after all, unmarried, available, and conscious.

But the final scene isn’t fooling anyone. There will be no getting it on tonight for Itami and Rory, as their activities are sure to be rudely interrupted by an approaching group of American guerrillas. I hope they don’t get far with their kidnapping plans and/or Rory puts the righteous hurt on them for ruining one of the last moments in her semi-mortal life to get some.

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