DanMachi IV – 03 – Meeting Their Mossy Match

Whelp, the fun and swagger didn’t last long, did it? Cassandra tries in vain to heal Chigusa and Luvis, but the parasitic plant that has infected them is beyond her abilities. Simply cutting them only speeds their growth. With time against them, Bell opens the floor to ideas, as he admits he’s best suited to combat.

Cassandra says they could retreat to the surface and enlist the services of a higher-level healer, or they could confront the enhanced monster in hope the plants within their people will wither and die if it’s defeated. Ultimately, the group goes with the latter plan.

I like Bell’s dedication to deliberation and consensus…in theory. In practice, it’s a little odd that Chigusa, Luvis, and his party members are able to survive as long as they are considering their bodies are being eaten from the inside by parasitic vines. Frankly, standing around talking about it saps (no pun intended) the urgency a bit.

When they find Luvis’ party mates, they’re clearly being used as bait. As Strategist, Lili delegates duties amongst the party members, with Bell and Asha focusing on the Moss Huge. But Moss is crafty, and arranges things so the weaker members of the party are closer to it, forcing Bell to leap in at the last minute to save them.

His Fire Bolt hits, and the Huge doesn’t seem to like it one bit, so it grabs him by the leg and dives into the water. Bell is about to run out of air when he is suddenly released by the Huge, and the current shoots him straight out of a massively high waterfall. Just like that, the party has lost its leader and strongest member.

Lili momentarily loses it and tries to rush after him, but Aisha reminds her of her duty as Strategist to keep a cool head. She also ruefully admits that Bell is stronger than her now, and has surely found a way to survive whatever fate has befallen him.

So Lili crafts a new plan: the party will head back to where they started on this floor: a high enough vantage point that they’ll avoid further ambush, but also an enticing spot for the Huge to attack them. Once the Huge is where they want him, Makoto will use her gravity magic to bring down the rocks and crush him.

It might work! Certainly Bell isn’t in a position to fight the Huge as he’s now several thousand feet below everyone else, but he is alive. No sooner does he get back on his feet than something slices him in the arm: one of the laser-quick Iguazu Eina warned him about.

At first he hides behind a crystal, which gets eaten away pretty quickly by the onslaught. So he considers what Ais would do in this situation, and then does it: faces the threat head on and fighting it off with his quick swordwork. He gets nicked more than a few times, but in the end he’s still standing and the Iguazu are gone.

For his efforts, he receives a surprise round of applause…from a mermaid he didn’t even know was watching! Hopefully she won’t try to kill or eat our dinged up Little Rookie.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 05 – The Ost With the Most

Berg, Therese, and New-Look Glass are not in the bowels of the Spirit Tortoise to fight the Shield Hero and his party. No, they’re there to deal with one of their own: a fourth Hero from their world who is only causing shit for his own personal gain. Berg proposes a truce and team-up; Naofumi refuses, but says if they don’t want to fight, they can do whatever else they want.

Just like that, they part ways, even though both parties are looking for the Tortoise’s heart. Instead, Naofumi & Co. come upon a dragon hourglass. Ost recalls that it’s used to indicate how many souls the Tortoise has consumed and converted into the power that would create a barrier against the Waves. Berg & Co. seemingly find the real heart first.

Naofumi’s party soon finds what they believe to be the heart, but encounter the fourth Hero from Glass’s world, who clearly matriculated at Generic Anime Bad Guy U. Long, wild gray hair, glasses, a quasi-military uniform, and a devil-may-care attitude…he sucks, and I just want to punch him. But he is the wielder of the Book vassal weapon, and even Ost’s attacks go right through him.

When this guy doesn’t heed Naofumi’s order to release control of the Tortoise and give back the souls he stole, he lets the heart’s defense system kick in, forcing Naofumi to protect everyone with his Meteor Shield. Filo and Raph fan out and attack the heart, but as they do, they cause Ost to cry out in pain, and she eventually passes out.

This whole time inside the body of the Tortoise, Ost has been doing some serious soul-searching. Once her existence was so simple: collect souls with the greater good of protecting the world from Waves. But then why does she empathize and feel with the people whose souls she’s supposedly designed to take?

The answer, it would seem, is that she isn’t really the Tortoise’s familiar. Even with the Tortoise’s head and heart destroyed, she remains, and opens a path to its deepest depths.

The Book Wielder is there, annoyed they’ve made it this far, and reveals that Ost could be more accurately described as the Spirit Tortoise itself. She is its very core, which means if Naofumi & Co. are to succeed, they must kill her…which is exactly what she asked them to do when they first met.

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 04 – Part of the Gang

The night after the battle, Rishia tells the rest of the party how she and her parents lived happy unassuming lives as poor nobles until a neighboring noble abducted her as payment for debts unfairly levied against her family. She thought she was a goner, but was rescued by Itsuki, who exposed the evil noble. Ever since, Rishia has vowed to repay the Bow Hero (also, she’s probably in love with the guy…I mean look at that face.)

Naofumi’s party, along with Ost, Eclair, and Elrasla, take it upon themselves to finish off the Spirit Tortoise by traveling onto its headless body and finding its weak spot. On the way, Ost wonders why all of the soldiers are saluting and praising her when she’s technically a servant of the Tortoise. The answer is simple: because she fought alongside them, and saved their lives.

After hours of traveling through dense fog with no weak spots in sight, Naofumi decides to stop and camp for the night. While Raph and Filo sleep together, Rishia admits to Ost that she’s a little jealous of their sisterly bond as she was an only child. But throughout the episode and especially here, Ost serves as a big sister figure.

Ost assures Rishia that even though she’s no longer in the Bow Hero’s party—and maybe precisely because she isn’t—she’s able to accomplish something for his sake. The next morning, when they meet up with Queen Mirelia at a village decimated by the Tortoise awakening, Ost provides a soothing presence for Rishia, who is not used to being around such death.

After being comforted by Ost, Rishia pays it forward by telling an also-distraught Raphtalia that she doesn’t have to “get used to” death an destruction. That’s after Mirelia leads Naofumi’s gang to a large dilapidated shrine further within the Tortoise’s back, into which they all brave despite the constant risk of total collapse.

Once there, and there is an ancient language written on the wall to translate, Rishia really comes into her own, both in enthusiasm and competence. Naofumi wonders if from now on she should focus on honing her scholarly skills, but Elrasla tells Naofumi that might yet be a waste of Rishia’s potential, which remains as yet untapped. She then comes upon some writing she can’t ready easily, which Naofumi immediately identifies as Japanese.

Mirelia calls it the “hero’s alphabet”, and while some of it is worn away or obscured, he can make out something about breaking a seventh seal. When the shrine collapses, Ost finally remembers something important: the key to defeating the Tortoise is to travel within its body.

Naofumi prepares to head in with Raph, Filo, and Ost, asking Eclair and Elrasla to keep the armies together should thinkgs go sideways. He’s ready to ask Rishia to stay behind as well, but she refuses: she’s a member of his party; where he goes, she goes.

It’s a brave, bold gesture by someone who, along with Ost, have become my favorite characters in this second season. That said, when she heads into the dark and spooky “large intestine” of the Tortoise, she still needs Ost by her side to keep her wits about her.

That’s when the party suddenly encounters what appear to be three adventurers who claim to have been sent by the queen. Nobody buys that, and when Raph uses anti-mirage magic to nullify their disguises, they’re revealed to be Naofumi’s old pals L’Arc, Therese…and Glass. Now they’re not a trio you come across any ol’ day in a giant turtle colon!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Spy x Family – 02 – Put a (Grenade) Ring on It

The world Loid and Anya live in is extremely paranoid and treacherous, with people fucking each other over as easily as breathing. Kind, innocent souls like Yor risk getting reported simply for being single, since its believed such spinsterism threatens the nation’s birth rate. So when one of her bitchy co-workers invites her to a party, she’d better have a man on her arm.

It speaks to how dark and unpleasant this world is that even otherwise decent people like Loid and Yor are spies and assasins, respectively. Yor in particular really sells the “Thorn Princess” persona with an absolutely killer costume. Indeed, Yor’s penchant for wearing elegant headbands, along with Hayami Saori’s soft, warm voice, instantly endear me to her.

Obviously, these two kids simply have to meet; their interests and departure from the norms of shitty society align too perfectly. It’s just a matter of when, and sure enough, it’s at a clothier. Loid needs to buy fancier clothes for Anya, while Yor needs her only nice dress, torn during her killings, repaired for the party.

Loid is struck by how easily Yor sneaks up on him and how she can feel his gaze, while Anya uses her mind-reading to clear Yor’s misunderstanding about Loid being married, thus facilitating an arrangement between the two. Loid will attend the party as Yor’s boyfriend, while Yor will attend the meeting at Eden as Anya’s mom.

Unfortunately, the party is on Saturday night, the same night Loid is ordered to steal art from some smugglers. He tries to fit both obligations in, which is a recipe for disaster, and while he’s able to take out 38 thugs without too much trouble, a 39th and 40th ram him with their car. Meanwhile, Yor has to endure the party all alone, exposing her to her co-worker’s scorn and mockery.

When Loid shows up at the last minute and accidentally introduces himself as Yor’s husband, he’s bloodstained from a “violent episode” from a patient, saying he’s a psychiatrist. Camilla is so pissed that Yor has such a hot partner that she tries to toss piping hot gratin on Yor, only for Yor’s catlike reflexes to kick in and not only avoid getting burned, but saves the food.

When Camilla brings up rumors about Yor going to the hotel rooms of gentlemen for “massages”, Loid simply says it’s splendid for someone to endure such trials and sacrifice for the sake of someone they love—in Yor’s case, her little brother Yuri. He may not know she’s an assassin, but she knows she’s better people than trash like Camilla and her ilk.

After taking their leave from those preening assholes, Loid ends up getting Yor tangled up in the leftovers of his art-stealing mission, as the smugglers try to kill them both. When Loid is nearly stabbed by one thug leaping down from a fire escape, Yor saves his damn life and impresses the hell out of him by kicking the baddie into the next zip code.

Reveling not only in how well they “work” together but that this Loid fellow clearly understands what it means to not be “normal” (i.e., what everyone else is and expects them to be), she ends up asking for the very thing Loid needs: marriage to a woman to seal Anya’s admission.

It truly is a mutually beneficial partnership, and it’s commemorated in the most spy/assassin-y way imaginable: the diamond ring Loid nicked fell through a hole in his pocket, so he uses the ring of a grenade on her finger instead. And just like that, we’ve got ourselves a Spy Family.

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 02 – Do It, Then Think Later

Remember when the latest season of TenSura started with a bunch of long, boring meetings? Well, in the first half or so of this episode Shield Hero takes the same tack, putting Naofumi and Queen Mirellia in a room full of crotchety generals bickering over who should take command or lead the forces against the rampaging Spirit Tortoise. It’s all…a bit dry?

It seems more fun outside as Filo and Rishia are joined by Elrasla, noted tough old broad, and Eclair, whose dignity and decency I admire even as I rack my brain trying to figure out who voices her (I’m sure ANN will list it eventually). They’re basically at the kids table on standby while the brass talks things out.

That brass is soon joined by the same woman voiced by Hanazawa Kana who asked Naofumi to please kill her last week before suddenly disappearing. We learn her name is Ost Hourai, and while everyone knows her as the concubine of the now-deceased king of the Tortoise Kingdom, reveals that she’s actually one of the Tortoise’s familiars in human form.

She was created to seduce her way to the highest levels of human political power, and then use that power to get them to start wars. The Spirit Tortoise, ya see, uses human souls to stop the Waves. But someone has gone and unsealed the Tortoise itself, and its resulting rampage is not by choice.

Ost is there to help in any way she can, but rather hilariously, none of the advice she offers is anything anyone in the room doesn’t already know. I love how offbeat and quirky she is, it really spices up the otherwise dull meeting scenes (as does the Kevin Penkin score, as always). Also nice is Raphtalia meeting Naofumi on a moonlit bridge that night, telling him if the other generals will follow a good plan, they just need to come up with one.

Naofumi thinks he has one, and will utilize the unique qualities of the various allied kingdoms to pull it off. Manpower, siege machines, mages, and explosives, there’s a wealth of resources with which he will stop, pin down, and eventually behead the Spirit Tortoise. Everyone pitches in, even Rishia and Ost pulling Tortoise research duty at the library.

One night while Naofumi’s suddenly much bigger party is gathereda round a fire, Ecliar mentions that she brought some new weapons and gear from Elhart in Melromarc, including a new sword for Raph, a new gauntlet for Filo…and a stat-boosting Filo mascot suit for Rishia, which is pretty adorable.

It’s while she’s in that bird suit that Ost picks up on Rishia being in love with the Bow Hero, and encourages her to “get intimate as soon as possible” and not overthink things. Honestly I can’t imagine what Rishia sees in that stuck-up prick, but hey, you can’t choose who ya love!

While a bit stronger than last week owing to Ost’s weirdness (and Eclair’s profound uprightness), this was still a table-setting episode packed with exposition and information leading up to the trip to the Tortoise-beheading fireworks factory…and is thus scored accordingly.

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 01 – The Tortoise and the Hero

lot has happened in the real world since the last Shield Hero aired in late July 2019. It actually feels like much more than three years ago…more like thirty! And that’s even taking into account we saw Naofumi, Raphtalia and Filo in Isekai Quartet, the last episode of which aired just when shit was starting to go down in 2020.

Anywho, this episode marks a relatively understated, workmanlike return to the world of Shield Hero, with Naofumi settling in as lord of Lurolona Village, where the old and young, strong and weak alike train for the next Wave of Catastrophe, including his newest party member, Rishia, who rather comically must wear a penguin mascot suit to up her stats.

The relative peace of the status quo is rocked by the sudden arrival of a flock of monstrous bats. Raphtalia and Filo make quick work of them, but Naofumi’s HUD identifies them as “Spirit Tortoise Familiars.” Also, the next Wave countdown has cirously…stopped.

Naofumi and the other Cardinal Heroes are summoned to Melromarc where Queen Mirelia explains what’s happening: the Spirit Tortoise has revived and is starting to wreak havoc on the kingdom that bears its name. However, the other three heroes aren’t interested in assisting. After the meeting Rishia beseeches her former boss Itsuki, who tells her she’s not strong enough to fight for him.

After Naofumi gets Rishia a new sword at the weaponsmith’s, Raphtalia suggests they head to the slave merchant to make Rishia one of Naofumi’s slaves so that she can be stronger than Itsuki’s party members. Naofumi bristles at the idea, as he believes only Raph would volunteer to be a slave.

However, Rishia wants to become stronger, and she’s willing to be tattooed on her decolletage and endure the pain of forming a contract in order to do it. Rishia may be convinced she’s a failure, but if Naofumi and his party can offer her a chance at redemption and to prove herself to Itsuki and her former colleagues, she’s game.

With that, Naofumi’s party loads up the Filo-drawn wagon and journey to the Spirit Tortoise Kingdom to meet this latest non-Wave-related threat. While stopping to camp for the night, Filo reveals her ahoge serves as an antenna for direct communication with her queen, Fitoria.

She tells Fitoria they’re headed for the kingdom, and Fitoria responds that Naofumi will now face the choice she spoke of before: do something about the Spirit Tortoise, but also learn to get along with the other three heroes, or she’ll personally kill them all. Yes Rishia…even Itsuki!

They arrive at the capital of the kingdom as it is already under siege by massive swarms of bat monsters in the air, primate-like beasts on the ground, and scores of refugees running for their lives. They hear rumors that three of the four heroes were already killed going up against the Tortoise.

Filo’s two-way connection with Fitoria pays off again when the queen confirms that none of the three are actually dead; they were just rumors, thus calming Rishia down. Filo and Raphtalia then get to work eliminating the baddies while Rishia leads the people back to the safety of the capital’s walls.

Naofumi ends up using one of his many abilities to lure a huge host of enemies in his direction, then uses Dark Curse Burning to eliminate them all in one fell swoop, though not without bearing a physical cost he can’t hide from the trusty Raphtalia. In the aftermath of the battle, a mysterious, slightly pious-looking woman flat-out asks him to “please kill” her. To quote Rishia … Kweeeeh?

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 06 – The Green Knight

PriConne 2’s fifth episode felt like a season finale, so it stands to reason the sixth would be more of a cooling-off outing. It’s also a grab bag with the focus not on the Gourmet Guild but two other guilds, starting with Weißflügel (Landosol Division). Led by the young, hardworking Monika, her party consists of a narcissist (Yuki), a masochist (Kuuka) and a girl who loves explosives (Ninon).

Needless to say, any and all of Monika’s comrades make Yuuki look like Einstein, so it’s no surprise that they’re in heavy debt due to the collateral damage caused mostly by Ninon’s hobby. Yuuki hers about Fuuka from her boss in town, and finds her by the riverside with a massive pile of porn, which he promptly burns.

The Gourmet Guild is casually investigating a “Mystery Knight” assaulting townsfolk, and split into two groups. Yuuki and Kokkoro encounter the Knight, but they’re aided in the ensuing battle by an equally mysterious swordsman who wears a black mask over their eyes. The Knight vanishes in a cloud of smoke, leaving a slimy green residue.

The other guild introduced in this episode (unless I forgot about them from the first season) is NIGHTMARE, elite palace guards fighting for the good of Landosol. Tomo and her junior Matsuri fear their captain is the culprit of the attacks, but Christina, apparently the vice-captain, tells them they should have more faith in their leader.

When Monika discovers that the green slime can animate things like a cymbal monkey and thus potentially help the guild climb out of debt, she and the rest of Weißflügel find the source of the slime and start digging…until they accidentally unleash a massive torrent of the stuff, which envelops all of them, heads into town, and also envelops Charlie…the person who has been leaving porn by the riverside.

Tomo and Matsuri are in the middle of a battle against the Mystery Knight they believe to be their captain when that captain shows up to join them, proving they’re not the culprit. Rather, her armor has been taken over by the green slime, which merges with the “main” slime blob to create a huge boss fight in which the Gourmet Guild participates.

The combined forces of Gourmet and NIGHTMARE make quick work of the slime knight, with Tomo, Matsuri, adn their captain flashing some cool special moves and culminating in a classic Pecorine Princess Strike coup-de-grace—only one needed this time! Freed from the slimy green prison of their own making, Monika and Weißflügel lead the cleanup effort.

The Gourmet Guild gives Monika a cup of hot bouillabaisse to help restore her stamina. Later that night she makes her regular reports to her homeland via radio, imbued with a sense of esteem and kinship to the people of Landosol for working together to help those in need.

While definitely the weakest episode of PriConne’s second season owing to its glut of unfamiliar characters and the sidelining of the main quartet, it was still a fun and at times hilarious outing that emphasized the sense of community in Landosol. In any case, the wide variety of colorful characters has always been a feature of PriConne, not a bug.

My Senpai is Annoying – 12 (Fin) – All Grow’d Up

The Fall’s cutest, sweetest, most life-affirming series ends on a suitably cute, sweet, life-affirming episode all about Futaba and Takeda. With Sakurai and Nakama’s relationship status in a good place, it made sence to focus on the main couple, who have been a lot more on the fence about where they stand despite their obvious chemistry and mutual affection.

Futaba’s growth as a salesperson, which she largely attributes to her senpai’s care and guidance, results not only in her scoring a good deal, but gives Takeda the confidence to send her off on a solo presentation that she then nails. This allows him to score a company-saving deal, and he’s soon surrounded by impressed ladies who want to throw a drinking party for him.

Not really in a hurry to watch other women fawn over her senpai, Futaba still insists Takeda join them at the party while excusing herself. With everyone else off doing something, Futaba ends up going to the usual izakaya alone. She immediately realizes it’s not nearly as fun there without Takeda, which…girl I’m sure if you asked him out so it was just the two of you, he’d have agreed in a heartbeat!

As the draft beer flows, Futaba reminisces on her first day at the office when she was a green(-haired) rookie. She immediately makes it clear to Sakurai that she’s not some doll to fawn over, while Takeda buys her a can of soup but then mistakes her for a junior high student, making their introduction as senpai and kohai thoroughly awkward.

Still, Futaba marvels at how far the two of them have come. She probably loathed the man who thought she was a little kid, but now that she knows Takeda and he’s helped her so much, that’s not the case anymore. Color me 100% un-shocked that Takeda blew off his own party as soon as he could to join Futaba, and just in time to keep a drunk salaryman from pawing her.

While a pretty dense fellow, Takeda has never been one to mince words or obfuscate about his general feelings towards Futaba. And yet he’s certainly not one to realize his feelings are romantic, nor is he bold enough to come right out and say that. What he can say, and Futaba can easily accept (with no small amount of blushing) is that he knows drinking with her is a lot more fun than drinking with anyone else.

He takes this a step further on their walk to the train station, after both he and Futaba have had a little too much beer. Nevertheless, it’s the perfect amount for him to be able to say that no matter who Futaba “ends up with” (in a general sense), he promises to always be there to protect her “until then”. Mind you, I’m sure both he and Futaba would be just find if that “someone” ends up being him!

After that lovely little nightttime scene and the credits, we get one more cute scenario—the famous Umbrella Walk. Futaba forgot hers, but Takeda’s is more than wide enough to accommodate her beside him. When she gets self-conscious and moseys over to the end, he draws her closer with his beefy hand. She freaks out, and calls her senpai annoying, but in truth there’s no one she’d rather be with under an umbrella.

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 20 (Fin) – Festival Fever

Ryou-chan leads a confused Jahy to the pub to find that the Demon Lord twins assisted in its repairs, and everyone decided to throw a surprise farewell party for Jahy. In all of last week’s excitement, she completely forgot she told everyone she was quitting the manager’s pub forthwith and opening her own.

When Druj comes by and shows Jahy a quote for a twenty million yen spot for the restaurant, Jahy decides to leave everything to Druj, who of course is all too happy to take it all on and impress her Jahy-sama. No longer burdened with the details of her new restaurant, Jahy announces she’ll be continuing to work at the manager’s pub for a bit longer. The manager gathers her in a loving hug, and the farewell party becomes a welcome-back party.

The rest of the episode is given over to another kind of big bash: a shrine festival that takes over the shopping district. Jahy is once again in the dark about it, and declines when Kokoro asks if she’d like to join the kids shrine carry, since it sounds like a hassle. But when she learns there’s shop freebies and a prize to be had, and two boys are mean to her and Kokoro, she gets really into it, and ends up winning the childrens’ prize despite being a “grown-ass adult”, as Ryou-chan puts it.

Saurva makes a spectacular series curtain call by crashing the festival hoping to depose Jahy as the Number Two once and for all, only to get just as swept up in the festivities as Jahy was, only moreso. Unable to say no to the lovely manager, Saurva joins the adult shrine carry and keeps time at the front, then joins Ryou-chan in beating the shrine drum, and learning that Ryou-chan is as nice as her sister.

By the time Saurva encounters Jahy again and remembers what she originally came for, she’s decked out in full Brazilian Carnival get-up, marching down the streets, having the absolute time of her life. Their showdown is once again delayed…but it doesn’t really matter.

Later that night, Kokoro takes Jahy’s hand and leads her through the golden-lit festival stalls. Druj, Kyouko, Saurva, the manager, Ryou-chan, and the twins all spot Jahy and Kokoro as they pass, and follow them.

This results in the entire gang gathering atop a hill, the perfect vantage spot for the festival fireworks and a perfect way to end the series: with Jahy surrounded by friends and people she cares about, having fun by night and working hard by day. It’s all enough to make Jahy forget her original goal to restore the Dark Realm…even though it’s still written on her oversized shirt.

My Senpai is Annoying – 11 – A Very Good Year

Like the Valentines, cherry blossom viewing, and Christmas festivities, the end-of-year office party at a cozy izakaya is another way to reap vicarious enjoyment of a work culture that doesn’t really currently exist for me, as I work remotely for an out-of-state company. While I still wish the dudes would bother Sakurai less, there’s something just really nice about watching Futaba and her co-workers and boss drinking together and talking about their holiday plans.

Takeda says he’s just going to “veg out” for New Years, Futaba isn’t quite able to summon the courage to ask to hang out. That’s not a problem for Sakurai, who takes Kazama aside and invites him to her and Yuuto’s home for some homemade udon and celebration. It ends up being just the two of them for New Years Eve when Yuuto suddenly remembered he had made plans with a friend for the night.

Whether this was his mentor Natsumi teaching him how to properly isolate a couple, or simple absent-mindedness on his part, Sakurai is so flustered by Kazama’s arrival the udon burns and they have to have instant ramen for dinner. It doesn’t matter to Kazama; he came to see her and is happy he did. When the two laugh at the same joke on the TV, they look and feel like a cozy old married couple.

While Futaba wasn’t able to spend New Years Eve with Takeda (she has a quiet evening with Natsumi, and gets a call from her gramps who is on a very manly fishing trip, she and Natsumi end up encountering Takeda at the shrine, and Natsumi soon makes herself scarce so the pink kimono-wearing Futaba is alone with Takeda. Her prayers for the new year don’t include anything related to getting closer to him, but it happens anyway as they share the same fortune: The one you’re looking for is right next to you.

The fact Kazama still “doesn’t know how she feels” about him truly stretches credulity by the week! After he and Sakurai are assumed to be a couple by a live TV camera crew, and he starts blabbing about having spotted Futaba and Takeda, even going so far as to show the reporter a picture of the two sleeping together, Futaba runs back to the shrine to beat Kazama with her kinchaku.

He wakes up lying in Sakurai’s lap, and when she asks if he was looking at her chest, she’s appreciative when he honestly said that he was. Clearly it’s fine if it’s him. As for the photo a passing little girl took on her toy digital camera of her stealing a kiss while he was still asleep? That’s the very evidence Kazama needs to be sure Sakurai feels the same way about him…only Sakurai is too bashful to let him see it. Oh well…there will be other opportunities.

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 08 – Wait and See

Irina returns to headquarters not to more scorn and racism, but an actual standing ovation—albeit a somewhat forced and stilted one. As forced by the chief as the applause might be, it’s still applause directed at Irina, something she likely never imagined she’d ever experience when she volunteered to do this.

The downside to both Irina’s success and Lev’s role in that success is that it becomes the impetus that separates them just when they were feeling closer to one another than ever. Lev is promoted to full candidate and joins the others for the final tests to select the first human cosmonaut. One would think his knee injury would put him out of the running, literally, but it doesn’t seem to be an issue.

As for Irina, her long expected post-launch “disposal” is postponed indefinitely. While the narrator suggests that someone might try to cause an “accident”, that’s made harder by the fact Anya makes it her mission to be Irina’s friend in Lev’s place. She takes her out for a festive night on the town, wearing traditional dress and performing the ritual of tossing pine cones into the water to grant your wishes.

It would seem Irina got her wish, which wasn’t at all “Love Live the Motherland”, but nothing more than another opportunity to be with Lev. When they meet for the first time in the new year, he’s prepared a spread and presents her with a bouquet. Irina questions the “point” of all this, all the while smiling with glee. So far it looks like these two crazy kids are going to be just fine, but as Lev says, it’s very much still a “wait and see” situation.

My Senpai is Annoying – 07 – Doing What You Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The aquatope on white sand – 17 – Pure bliss

Who could have predicted that one of the most fun, heartwarming, and overwhelmingly joyful episodes of Aquatope would come after Gama Gama closed down? After Kukuru reached détente with Kaoru and Chiyu in short order, it was only a matter of time before they had an opportunity to hang out on their time off. When Fuuka, Kukuru, and Udon-chan’s days off align, they decide to throw a hospitality party for their co-workers.

The three pull out all the stops. Fuuka gives Marina and Akari some skincare treatment tips she got from her idol stylist. Udon-chan whips up a varied menu of tasty dishes, and gets the constructive (and sometimes excessive) negative feedback she asked for. Kuuya comes over with Karin, drinks some plum wine, loosens up…and vanishes!

But nothing tops Kukuru luring Chiyu in to Fuuka’s apartment and giving her a back massage, which Chiyu is happy for, even if Kukuru sucks at it! Chiyu ends up giving Kukuru a proper back massage, noting that Kukuru’s lack of muscle knots is a sure sign of someone ill-equipped to remove them from others.

Kaoru came with Chiyu and her little boy Shizu, then Kai and Eiji arrive, having collected a still-plummy Kuuya who had passed out on a nearby bench. A takoyaki party breaks out, with Kuuya and Eiji having a friendly blind-sea life-takoyaki filling competition that eventually devolves into just everyone stuffing themselves with delicious takoyaki. Note Kai’s look of distress masking his delight that Kukuru sat next to him.

When lil’ Chizu does that typical little kid thing where they make a big stink about not wanting to go home, Fuuka and Kukuru break out the fireworks to put a sparkly capper on a perfect day. Everyone has fun, with no exceptions. Drunk Kuuya even scores a ride home with Umi-yan! It’s just so nice to see everyone outside of Tingaara, together, taking a break from all their troubles.

When Kukuru and Fuuka return to their adjacent apartments, two delectable mango parfaits are waiting for them in the fridge, courtesy of Udon-chan. The two best friends savor the treats on the balcony, talking about all the fun things that happened. I can’t tell you how much it swells my heart to see both of them so content. They’ve come a long way, baby!

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