Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song – 09 – Diva’s Final Curtain

Matsumoto, always entertaining when thrown for a loop, finds himself speaking to Antonio through Ophelia, as he decides the best way to fulfill his mission to support her was to become her, sparing her the burden of fame and the pursuit of perfection, but also sparing her an independent existence. He considers his mission far more noble than Matsumoto’s designs to prevent her suicide, though he might not say that if he knew the bigger picture.

Speaking of that, Kakitani’s youth is promptly explained: he’s an AI copy of the human, and his mission is to get an answer he couldn’t from his teacher, which only Vivy could provide. That means infecting the captured Diva with a custom logic palette that “doesn’t belong in this era” which, throughout the episode, slowly erases Diva’s personality, eventually leaving only Vivy behind to answer him.

Thankfully, it’s a slow countdown, and while it is technically a ticking clock, because it’s only one of several spinning plates in this arc finale, it feels earned rather than cliched. That it is an inevitability even Matsumoto’s hacking skillz cannot override also adds gravitas to every moment Diva is on screen, because they’ll be her last.

It also assures that the titular Vivy we know and love, who can neither act like a human nor sing half as well as Diva, will ultimately return. It occurs to me that at the conclusion of every previous arc, we didn’t just say goodbye to one of Vivy’s sisters, but a part of Vivy as well, as her interactions with them helped her grow, both as a songstress and a person.

This time we don’t just say goodbye to a part of Vivy, but an entire alternate version of her, who lived for sixty years. It’s a tough loss…but before she goes Diva makes sure she puts absolutely everything she’s got in all the time she has left to be the best temporary partner to Matsumoto he could ask for…and vice versa.

While packed with drama, pathos, tragedy and romance, Wit Studio flexes its muscles like never before in this episode, as we cut between the parallel battles, one of the more abstract electronic variety, one more down-and-dirty hand-to-hand combat, but both equally gorgeous an awesome to watch unfold.

That Kakitani is also an AI means both he and Diva can take the fight to levels humans would not be able to survive, while Matsumoto manages to copy himself into enough cubes to fight his battle with Antonio while supporting Diva. Compare this to Antonio, who happily accepted Kakitani’s help but is otherwise not working towards the same mission, making them inherently weaker against a united front.

Among other Kakitani’s surprises is an elaborate arm cannon (always a sharp feature when going on a timeline-bending crusade to avenge his mentor—and a special knife that seems to act as an EMP, deactivating the Matsumoto cubes aiding Diva.

All the while, Diva tries to impress upon Kakitani the fact that she’s not Vivy, and has no answers for him he’ll find satisfying. When she says she puts everything she has into her singing to make people happy, that includes everything about Vivy, despite her knowing next to nothing about her.

On the Antonio side of things, Matsumoto says he almost turned into him, discarding his partner as part of his “perfect calculations”. Looking at what’s become of Antonio, he’s not glad he didn’t eliminate her. As for his mission, it was never specifically to stop Ophelia’s suicide; it was to carry out the Singularity Project with his partner.

Even taking over Ophelia couldn’t satisfy Antonio, because no matter how happy the crowds were with his performances, he always knew he wouldn’t be able to match the power of the true Ophelia’s singing. In fact, it irked him that their standards for excellence were so low, resenting the very people it was Ophelia’s mission to make happy.

The Matsumoto cubes manage to hack both Antonio and Kakitani and disable both, and transfers Antonio back into his own clunky body. It’s only then in his last moments that he admits that all he really wanted was for Ophelia to sing for him and no one else. Ophelia, regaining consciousness before shutting down, admits she only wanted to sing for him; to make him smile.

In the end, their mutual love and devotion to each other corrupted their missions. In true Shakespearian tragic fashion, it was a love that could never be. In that same vein, the moment Kakitani uploaded that logic palette, Diva was a version of Vivy that could never be, even though she did a bang-up job serving as Matsumoto’s partner. Before Kakitani shuts down, he tries to twist the knife once more, telling Diva “there were humans who suffered because you existed!”

That line might’ve worked on Vivy, but it doesn’t faze Diva that much. And in true Diva fashion, she gives one last snap and tells Matsumoto she’s going to use her last five or so minutes of existence doing what she was built to do: dazzle the stage, put her heart into her singing, and make everyone in attendance happy to be there. As she performs, she simultaneously opens a dialogue with Vivy within the Construct.

In this lovely parallel scene, their positions couldn’t be better illustrated, as Diva is both on stage and in the brightly lit classroom, while Vivy is relegated to a dark, shadowy, morose office. The pair lean against the same door, and Diva says she hears how Vivy had been struggling with putting her heart into her singing. She says the answer is to simply to hear the song she’s singing now, in her final performance, as in the Construct she slowly dissolves away into cybernetic oblivion.

And yet, as Vivy opens the door and steps into the light, then wakes up on stage to a deliriously ecstatic crowd cheering the song Diva just sang, Vivy still doesn’t understand. Then again, she only just woke back up; maybe she needs a few decades to process what she heard and what it means. Thanks to Diva, she has her existence back, which means anything is possible for her. As long as she sticks with her partner Matsumoto, who promised Diva he’d take care of her.

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song – 08 – Get Thee to a Nunnery

We, along with Diva, learn via Matsumoto of Ophelia’s beloved partner and support AI Antonio, who despite a propensity for crankiness always had her back. He always said there was nothing wrong with her singing, she just needed the right stage to perform it. His mission was only ever to help her achieve hers.

But before he could do this, he mysteriously shut down five years before the present day. Ophelia lost her primary sound and lighting guy along with the only person she trusted with his rough-edged praise and encouragement. As such she was never the same, and eventually committed suicide or “self-destruct”, lending credence to the growing belief that AIs had souls, the same as humans.

Matsumoto’s plan of action feels too much like a “stopgap” measure for Diva—especially this evolved, more human than ever version of her. She wants to get to the root of Ophelia’s distress so she won’t even have to talk her off the ledge, because she’ll never climb onto it in the first place.

Diva finds Ophelia in the concert hall’s museum, where she’s watching Diva’s early days. Diva asks her upfront (and rather clumsily for this Diva) whether there’s anything troubling her to the point she might want to die. Ophelia leads Diva to the Antonio exhibit, where Antonio’s actual body is on display in a box of lilies.

It’s clear from the way she was watching other songstress sisters that Ophelia is seeking the answer to how they all sing, and for what purpose. But while Ophelia grieves for Antonio, her one and only partner, she’s not in any hurry to join him, as she knows he’d be the first to say she has to do better. Diva puts a lily in Ophelia’s hair, hoping it will be a talisman of protection, and sends her on her way.

Ophelia (performed by the always adorable Hidaka Rina) puts on a wonderful, spellbinding show as expected, but afterwards Diva is troubled when she sees “that look again” on Ophelia’s face. Still, she’s determined that it’s probably not Antonio’s loss that led the near-future Ophelia to suicide; or at least not all it was.

After showing Matsumoto the image of a young Kakitani (whom he insists shoudn’t exist in this timeline), he warns Diva to ditch her sympathy and empathy she’s developed over the years and stick to the mission. Then she insists he tell her more about Vivy and their relationship, which she imagines must be substantial considering he rescued her from falling without hesitation.

Matsumoto decribes Vivy as we watch a montage of her in action, and while the words describe an unpredictable pain in his cubic ass, there’s also a hint of reluctant pride in his telling. He even admits there was a point when he thought he could “look to her with confidence” (as a reliable partner in the Singularity Project), but then Saeki killed himself and she froze.

When Ophelia’s show is over, Diva and Matsumoto keep an eye on her via the cameras, but then Diva spots Kakitani, and goes chasing after him, promising to tell Matsumoto about Vivy’s “basic distress.” But because Diva rushes headlong to Kakitani without all the info—just as Vivy often did—he ends up captured by him. All of her memories of him in past timelines wash over her just before he zaps her with a gun that paralyzes her.

Meanwhile, Matsumoto realizes the camera footage has been faked (since Ophelia in the green room has no lily in her hair) and someone other than him is doing some hacking. He races to Ophelia as fast as his little flight servos can carry him, but is met with another bombshell: Ophelia isn’t Ophelia anymore, but Antonio in Ophelia’s body. It seems, then, that when Antonio shut down, it was because he either merged with Ophelia or took over her body. In any case, he says Matsumoto is “fatally too late” to save her. To be continued…

Post-credits we find ourselves hearing Kakitani (or whoever he is)’s story, as he yearned to be a pianist and to catch up to his talented teacher. When he and that teacher are in a horrific multi-car accident (which…how do these keep happening even in the future?) the teacher saves his life and then goes back into the inferno to save others.

Like Vivy, he extended his mission to “make people happy with his piano playing” to keeping those people alive. Unfortunately, the gas of the cars ignited and blew him up before his protégé’s (presumably non-fluorite) eyes. That brings us back to the “present”, where Diva is bound to a chair and Kakitani greets her…as Vivy. How he knows that, and how his actions related to Ophelia/Antonio, are questions for next week.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song – 07 – Opening the Lid

This week, Diva is an entirely new person. She has a much more lively personality befitting an idol. She’s almost always smiling, and talks with as much emotion as a human now. She’s breaking attendance records on NiaLand’s Main Stage, yet isn’t so aloof she won’t encourage nervous new employees with one of her “pet theories”: if you want people to smile, you have to smile yourself.

She still chats with her support AI, but now she’s the more natural-sounding one as she stretches between performances. Hanging on the wall is a sequence photos with her human colleagues, who age and turn gray as she remains eternal. She’s a living legend, and everyone loves her. She’s fulfilling her mission as Diva.

We learn that Diva went through a “major freeze” at some point in the past, but was rebooted and has been stable ever since. This tracks, since the last time we saw her, her tenuous balance between her Diva and Vivy personas was shattered when Dr. Saeki killed himself. That even indeed killed her, and upon reboot she returned to being Diva and Diva only.

And I’ll level with you: That doesn’t seem so bad! It gives me great joy to see how much Diva has grown and evolved as a person in the years that followed that fatal system error. She’s at the top of her game, and she’s endured long bough to be able to perform at the same festival as her youngest Sister, Ophelia (Hidaka Rina). Ophelia seems to have replicated a human idol so perfectly she comes with built-in humanlike qualities like clumsiness, lack of confidence…and other issues.

Ophelia has always idolized Diva, who is now 61. But while she’ll occasionally fall into a fountain, requiring a good amount of time to dry her flowing black hair, and seems to have all the stability of a baby deer on stage, when the music starts, there’s no doubting her ability to inspire and enthrall all who hear her, human and AI alike.

Diva is impressed, and ready for her own rehearsal when she spots someone out by the exits: a young man who looks just like Kakitani when she first met him (and first saved his life). The thing is, Diva isn’t sure who this is, only that he looks like someone from her memory. This realization is punctuated by the first close-up of Diva in the episode that accentuates her artificiality.

Diva leaves the stage early to chase the man into a warehouse, where a giant piece of machinery almost falls on her. Without thinking, her Combat Program activates, allowing her to avoid being crushed, while Matsumoto comes out of nowhere to shut down the bot that was about to charge her.

Like Kakitani, this version of Diva doesn’t recognize Matsumoto…and yet she also can’t leave him alone. When running after him, she accidentally collides with Ophelia, who was looking for her. She ends up soaked again, but as it was Diva’s fault she happily dries her off again. Ophelia mentions how she draws her power from her precious memories with a “partner”—a sound AI she used to travel everywhere with.

Later that day, just as the Zodiac Festival is about to begin and not long before she’s needed on stage, Diva goes up to the top of a tower to call out the AI cube she met, threatening to call the cops if he doesn’t show himself. She knows he’s hiding something and demands to know what he’s up to and why he saved her. When Matsumoto clams up, she throws herself off the building, forcing him to save her once more.

With the cube firmly in her arms, she asks him if he knows “the person inside her” she doesn’t know…the person who for all intents and purposes died when she froze and rebooted. She’s always harbored faint shadows of that other person, but she stuffed all the misgivings stemming from those shadows into a virtual box in order to focus everything on her singing.

Now that Matsumoto is there, the lid to that box is open and there’s no closing it again. She doesn’t even think she can take the stage until he tells her what she needs to know. Matsumoto gives in, telling her they used to work together saving the future when she went by the name Vivy.

To hear Matsumoto list all the crazy things they did, Diva is well within her rights to write him off as insane. But Matsumoto doesn’t really care about convincing her; in fact, he’s content to carry out his latest mission without involving an unstable variable such as her .

In response, Diva warns Matsumoto not to underestimate her ability to change someone’s life in five minutes or less. When it’s clear Diva won’t let him go on alone, Matsumoto informs her of his—of their—latest mission: to prevent the tragedy about to befall young Ophelia. That tragedy? The first incidence of suicide in AI history.

Vlad Love – 02 – The Blood Defines the Drinker

It’s been over a month since the first episode of Vlad Love,but five more episodes have arrived just in time for Valentine’s Day. I just wish the episode had a little more vlad and love and less of Mitsugu’s classmates. The opening act takes place entirely within the confines of the nurse’s office, which grows both stale and claustrophobic after a while.

She’s been able to recruit a fair number of students to donate blood, but the vast majority are horny boys. Mitsugu makes it known she doens’t want Mai to drink boys’ blood, as it could adversely affect her loveliness. Only three girls end up donating, each representing a different blood type that reflects their personalities—though Nurse Chihiro insists there’s no scientific proof of that.

Mitsugu takes the three girls’ blood to Mai, and much to her consternation, Mai can’t help but drink all three bottles, perhaps due to pent-up hunger. Sure enough, with each blood type she drinks she exhibits the same characteristics of the donor, thus proving Nurse Chihiro wrong. The only apparent side effect of mixing the blood types is that Mai jumps from one personality to the next.

Hidaka Rina clearly has a ton of fun voicing all these different Mais, culminating in her singing karaoke on the table before collapsing from overexersion. She begs her host for more blood, but as Mitsugu is thawing her last pouch, Mai finds and drinks the blood of a 2,000 year old Mesopotamian demon, which had resided in one of the archaeological artifacts in Mitsugu’s house. Mai starts “buzzing” and eventually fires eye lasers at a wall, busting out to go on an evening “stroll”.

The stroll consists of Mai using her vampire umbrella to fly across the nightscape as the morning sun begins to rise. Mitsugu grabs on for dear life and is initially terrified, but eventually calms down, as she is, after all, in the arms of a surpassingly cute girl.  Mai eventually “runs out of gas”, sending the two plummeting back to the earth, and because this is a show where physical harm has no lasting effect on anyone, Mitsug survives the fall, though she and Mai end up in the literal lion’s den of the local zoo.

Much to Mitsugu’s surprise, Mai is able to talk to the lion and other animals (likely due to the demon blood), and she releases them to join her on her stroll, resulting in a rampage that makes the newspapers. As Mitsugu celebrates the fact she can create “the ideal girl” by tailoring Mai’s blood diet, Mai sleeps one off on a pile of zoo animals in the kitchen.

While it has some pacing issues and much of its comedy is trying too hard to be zany, I can’t deny I’m glad Vlad Love is back, from the moment I saw it’s OP, which is the season’s best by far. The show doesn’t look or sound or act like any other show airing, which is enough to celebrate its existence, while the winning central queer romance is as rare and refreshing as, well, a donation-addicted chimera-blooded protagonist!

The Day I Became a God – 12 (Fin) – The Easy Way Out

Up to this point, The Day I Became a God had told a compelling and reasonably plausible sci-fi tale about a child who was given a new lease on life (i.e. “became a god”) thanks to bleeding-edge technology, only to have that tech stripped away when the ramifications of its wider use were considered too constructive.

That decision was made by the highest world powers who had to that point played no role in the narrative, and play no role afterwards. Thanks to Suzuki Hiroto’s hacking, Youta is able to find the Hina who is no longer a god and even gain entry to her care facility.

Youta put the consequences of his fraud out of his mind because he held out hope one more miracle would occur: Hina would not only remember him and their happy summer together with his friends and family, but make the decision to return home with him.

Rather than accept the new normal and move forward, Youta insisted on getting everything back to the way it was—on moving backward. And while I certainly sympathized with, and may even have acted as he did in his position, in the end he was wrong, and misguided. Just being in that facility under false pretenses marked him as a criminal.

Throughout the sanitarium part of the series, Shiba had been painted as Youta’s adversary; his rival for the deciding of Hina’s future. It was even implied Shiba had a personal stake in remaining in the here-and-now Hina’s care, which is considerable and not to be undertaken lightly. This week she confronts him about his fraud, but rather than expel him immediately from the facility and turn him over to the police, she gives him One More Day.

The show had me until then, then lost me as soon as that decision was made. I understand this is a fictional show that makes choices out of dramatic license, but for someone who claims to be so committed to Hina’s health and safety, Shiba’s “small kindness” to Youta is as baffling as it is reckless.

Sure, we may know Youta means no harm, but have neither the training or experience to know the extent of how much he may harm her nonetheless. Shiba does, and rather than immediately remove a potential agent of further harm, she lets him not only linger, but take Hina away.

Youta is depicted as being at his lowest point as he’s roughly escorted out of the facility to a waiting car. That should be it, but Shiba takes Hina out into the freezing cold to allow for an extended goodbye, during which it dawns on Youta why Hina kept discarding the card with the drawing of him. The real him was already there, unlike the others, so his card wasn’t needed.

With the real Youta now about to be “missing” Hina verbally protests, repeating how she “loves Yoha[sic]”, jumping out of Shiba’s arms, steadying herself, then walking barefoot into his waiting arms. Finally, Youta has evidence that her memories aren’t gone. She remembers him and his family and friends.

The Hina he knew is still “in there”, merely in a more frail body with a smaller vocabulary, and we can deduce that she wants him to remain in her life.

And hey, that’s great! It really is! But Hina remembering Youta, and even declaring she loves him, doesn’t mean he can immediately take her back home like nothing happened! Shiba was preparing to take Hina to a better facility overseas, implying that the current facility—clearly no slouch itself—wasn’t quite up to spec in terms of being the best place for Hina’s continued care and development.

Youta’s house may be a loving home, but I have to question whether Youta and his parents truly have Hina’s best interests at heart. None of them have caregiver training for special needs children. Worse, Youta returns home immediately, and it’s clear his house hasn’t been modified for Hina’s needs.

If there were plans for Shiba to take Hina abroad, why would she simply give up guardianship and custody to someone she knew was a high school student pretending to be a pediatric researcher? At the very least, Shiba would move into Youta’s house to help with Hina. I’m sorry, but none of these events make any logical sense if you push past the emotional manipulation and think about any of it for one second.

Instead, things carry on as if Hina had simply been kidnapped and returned safe and sound. Youta figures out that the things she did as “Odin”—playing basketball, eating ramen, making a film, etc.—were things the pre-chip Hina wanted to do but couldn’t due to her Logos Syndrome. But then why did pre-chip Hina want to revitalize a restaurant…or get Youta laid by a mahjongg otaku??

Youta decides that Hina always was a god, and even remains one, and credits her with helping him decide his path in life: he’ll go to college to become the foremost researcher on her condition. Wonderful sentiments, but the fact of the matter is he is woefully ill-equipped to help her now.

While he’s plugging away at the books (pre-med is no joke), Hina will need 24-hour care. Assuming he’ll leave that to his parents, will they get the training they need? Again, the fact Shiba simply vanishes without a trace is maddening.

Sora finally finishes her movie, which turns out to be a reflection of Youta and Hina’s arc: a guy rescuing a girl the world needed sacrifice in order to save it. The film sidesteps what effect the actual end of the world would have on their happiness; I guess they’d just enjoy their lives together until the oxygen ran out, because that’s better than being apart and the world going on?

The film is followed by the making-of segments, during which Hina sits down and gets real about her time on the earth with Youta & company. She likens the memories she’s made with them to be a chest full of dazzling jewels she’ll treasure for all of her days—even if “the world should end.”

You’d be forgiven for tearing up during this scene, as with other touching scenes designed to invoke tears. Youta and the others were tearing up. Heck, I teared up too! But once the tears dried, I was simply frustrated to the point of indignation.

This was a show that had all the resources to deliver a realistic ending, in which the acceptance of the loss and change in Youta’s life would spur his own growth and change, bolstering the change God-Hina had already caused. The previous two episodes paved the way for that kind of ending. It would have been difficult, and sad, but it would have felt genuine.

Instead, the show took the easy way out and gave Youta everything he wanted in a painfully artificial happy ending that shredded all previous nuance or appeals to realism. There are no apparent consequences for the fraud he committed, nor for removing Hina from a highly-controlled care facility and dropping her into the chaos of his family and friends.

Youta claims to now know the path he wants to walk, but reached that epiphany only after being unjustly rewarded for his missteps and ignorance. He learned that if he was stubborn and passionate enough, all obstacles would fold and he’d get his way…and they did. Finally, the less said about any romantic undertones to his bond with Hina, the better. I wish this ending didn’t leave such a bitter taste in my mouth, but here we are.

The Day I Became a God – 11 – Goddess in the Machine

Narukami backs off and observes Shiba interacting with Hina. Her daily routine is full of reluctant meals, a minimal physical exertion, and basic learning time. Through it all, Shiba is gentle and patient in all of her interactions, knowing when to stimulate and encourage and knowing the precursors and remedies to Hina’s tantrums.

Youta feels like a big, unruly wrench in Shiba’s delicate clockwork of care. He’s not a pediatrician or behavioral researcher, and it shows; he’s way out of his depth when it comes to the proper way to treat this Hina. He’s also under the mistaken impression that if he simply provides the right stimuli or flips the right behavioral switches, the Hina he knew will suddenly re-appear.

Shiba, who has no choice but to accept his perfectly forged credentials, nevertheless harbors a healthy weariness of Youta’s erratic, ad hoc methods. She knows the jist of what happened to Hina—an “innovative machine” was removed from her brain. She makes the devastating (but very plausible) suggestion that the “Hina he knew” was nothing but that machine processing stimuli and producing the proper responses.

This means he never knew “the Real Hina”—the girl lying in that room now. Rather than worrying about the simulacrum with which he interacted once, she believes everyone who cares about Hina should focus on the memories and progress she makes going forward.

Youta already fears he has no idea what he’s doing, but Shiba’s words send him into a fresh spiral of doubt and despair. Fortunately, he gets some well-timed calls and texts from Kyouko, Ashura, Sora, and the others, not only expressing their love for him and Hina, but their unwavering certitude that the Hina with whom they shared their summer was the real one.

With a fresh infusion of confidence and hope, Youta thinks of ways to stimulate Hina beyond what Shiba is doing, and comes up with the games she loved so much; specifically video games. Shiba is dubious of exposing Hina to the “addictive” games, but grudgingly allows Youta to proceed.

As Youta was hoping, playing the video game does perk Hina up, but he makes another mistake you’d expect of someone simply not trained to care for kids with special needs: he gets all pedantic about how the game is played. It’s also not at all a basic game, which means when Hina’s inputs cause an unpleasant outcome, she gets frustrated and upset.

Shiba comes to the rescue once again, and we delve into her past to see why she is so passionate about not just the practical minutiae of taking care of Hina, but making sure she’s happy. Shiba’s own child died in its infancy due to a similar developmental condition.

She fell into a pit of despair, but was saved by the kids she met at the kind of pediatric facility where she now works. Watching them perservere and grow and knowing how she could affect positive change in their lives, her heart gradually re-filled.

While Shiba is initially presented as an obstacle to Youta’s progress with Hina, in reality Youta wouldn’t have gotten anywhere at all with Hina if he hadn’t simply sat back at a respectful distance, watched, and learned from Shiba’s gentle example.

Youta realizes he’s been trying to make Hina do things, while Shiba stays close and waits for Hina to do them on her own. It’s why when Youta draws little picture cards of their circle of friends and she tosses the one of him away not once but twice, he lets her action stand.

He also realizes if he wants Hina to be happy playing the video game, he has to level up her character so he’ll be able to deal with whatever situation Hina gets him into. This is a long process, and Youta pulls an all-nighter upping the character form Level 4 to 47, but it pays off, and Hina is not only re-engaged, but actually smiling in his presence for the first time!

It’s a huge breakthrough, now that Youta understands the limits of what he can do. But just when he seems close to getting Hina out of her shell, Shiba does some digging and determines that Youta is an impostor filing false reports. She communicates this discovery to him via curt chat messages.

Hina may be making progress with Youta, but the fact Youta came to the facility with an assumed identity and in reality had no right to ever be there in the first place, should prove to be a fatal betrayal of Shiba’s and the facility’s trust. Good intentions or not, what Youta did was bad.

I don’t see how this doesn’t result in another swift separation of Youta and Hina, only this time without the benefit of a goodbye, as Hina’s not quite there yet. Frankly, I don’t see how he avoids criminal charges—and then there’s the matter of how much longer Hina has to live. In short, he’s going to need another miracle or two. The question is, does he have any miracles left?

Talentless Nana – 03 – What’s This F-Boy’s Deal?!

With two enemies of humanity eliminated in short order, Nana knows she must be careful not to incite panic or draw suspicion upon herself. But that’s hard when Onodera Kyouya is snooping around, especially when he’s almost if not as good as her at deduction, as evidenced by how he knows the Ice Prince is dating.

She can’t have this guy breathing down her neck, so she makes him her next target, and begins the process of learning his talent and weakness. But following him leads her to discover he’s the kind of guy who goes out of his way to give warm milk to a stray cat.

As Nana tries to figure Kyouya out, he invites her into his dorm, which is a bit of a mess, but is also full of potentially useful clues. She seems to spot them, but she’s also consistently kept off balance by Kyouya, even going so far as to call him a “low-level f-boy”.

What’s fun about these two interacting when we only have access to Nana’s thoughts is that we’re not sure if Kyouya is putting on a big act for Nana, just as she’s putting on an act for him. This is only heightened when Kyouya produces an issue of the manga Humanity’s Girl, which is obviously Nana’s favorite, because she considers herself humanity’s savior.

Kyouya also pulls the power move where Nana thinks she’s about to leave scot-free, only for him to say “Oh, one last thing…” and then whipping out Nanao’s fancy Rolex. Nana can’t hide her true shock at seeing the Velben good in Kyouya’s hand, since it means Kyouya has been busy.

He also tells her about how it’s strange that the government set up a “training” facility where very little structured training goes on. Since agents like Nana are the Talentless’ last chance to get rid of the Talented, any Talented as curious and suspicious as Kyouya have to go.

Just to confirm her suspicions, we finally hear Kyouya’s inner voice. In a way, that’s a shame, since now we know for sure he’s not already 100% on to her. But he’s definitely getting there!

The next day, Nana sets a clever trap based on Kyouya’s weakness, gleaned by observing his dorm: he’s an anosmiac. That means the next time he heats up the milk in the abandoned janitor’s shed, he doesn’t detect the gas leak, or the closed window, until it’s too late. BOOM.

Bye-bye  Kyouya, right? Wrong. He may have no sense of smell, but that’s not a weakness one can use to kill him, due to his Talent: he’s freakin’ invincible. The explosion covers his body in burns, but he quickly heals, and when Nana runs to the wreckage, she all but confirms to him that she was the one who caused the explosion. Who else knew he was here but Nana, who mentioned the cat earlier?

Even so, Kyouya isn’t totally convinced, and so doesn’t retaliate against Nana…yet. After all, he can’t discount the fact she knew he was in the fire because she read his mind. His parting words to her—“I’m so glad we’re friends.”—is a clear threat. It’s almost like he could out her now if he wanted, but would prefer to keep their cat-and-mouse game going.

Now we know for certain that Kyouya isn’t a fellow Talented hunter like Nana. And Nana definitely has no taste for games; she’s here to do a job as quickly and efficiently as possible. The question is, how is she going to find his real weakness and kill him now that his defenses are up?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Talentless Nana – 02 – A Matter of Time

Talentless Nana let the cat out of the bag in its first episode, and while that was an excellent twist, it also made it much harder for subsequent episodes to deliver the same impact. We’re told about the history of the Talented in an infodump, and it’s not pretty: after a five year war that the Non-Talented won, remaining Talented were basically isolated on islands. Missing from this story is exactly HOW they won against an army of superheroes. Sheer numbers? Kryptonite?

Hiiragi Nana stood before a dark and foreboding Talentless government entity, and given the directive to eliminate the Talented on the island, and threatened with serious consequences if she failed. Not explained: That said, she chose to take the mission and is determined to carry it out. What we don’t quite know yet is why her and only her. Did Supes Talented kill her family?

I mention “Supes” because Nana is giving me some Hughie vibes from Amazon’s The Boys: an unpowered individual seeking to bring down the superpowered despite being at a overwhelming disadvantage. The difference is the Supes in The Boys are almost all horrible people; the kids at the school are arrogant but are ultimately innocent.

They could go bad when they grow up, like their forbears back during the war, but preemptively eliminating them before they’ve done anything wrong is ethnic cleansing, at best! That creates a conflict when it comes to routing for Nana, especially since we don’t know of any motivation she has besides a sense of loyalty duty to the Non-Talented race.

At any rate, the moment Nana pushed Nanao off a cliff, the show transformed completely. Right now, it’s about Nana identifying the most powerful Talented and rubbing them out one by one (though she’d probably take a twofer if conditions were right!) At first her next target would seem to be the Ice Prince, but Shibusawa Youhei is even more dangerous, since he can manipulate time.

Nana does the same thing she did to Nanao and gets friendly and bubbly with Shibusawa. The difference is, this week we get her full internal monologue. While I’m not opposed to this shift in the way the story is told, she withdraws into her thoughts a lot, and often what she has to say is obvious or redundant, like Icy Prince’s tell, or the threat Shubusawa represents.

Still, Nana is good at her job or she wouldn’t be alive, and manages to not only wrest the true nature of Shibusawa’s ability: he can only go back in time. But she soon attracts the attention of the ever aloof and suspicious Onodera Kyouya. He knows Nanao has disappeared because their dorms are adjacent and he never returned home, and he believes Nana was the last person who saw him.

Nana would seem to be in a bind when Kyouya asks Shibusawa if he could investigate Nanao’s disappearance by going back in time. But even as Kyouya caresses her pigtails, she manages to regain control of the narrative by delicately turning suspicions onto Kyouya. He even seems to realize what she’s done and makes a tactical withdrawal, but his business with her isn’t over.

For now, Nana has two objectives: prevent Shibusawa from discovering she killed Nanao, and eliminating him. Pretending to cooperate with his investigation, she learns more about his abilities. He becomes fatigued and short of breath whenever he jumps, and the further back in time he goes, the more pronounced the side effects. More than twelve hours makes him vomit.

Ultimately, Nana can’t stop Shibusawa from going back to the time when she and Nanao were on the cliff. Indeed, last week someone was hiding behind a tree nearby; now we know it was him. But there’s one other key limitation to his time traveling: if anyone from that time spots him, he’s automatically sent back to the present.

Nana can’t warn her past self, she can only trust that she’ll be diligent and observant regardless of the situation. Nanao may have been an easy win for her, but she still followed the best practices of all assassins, namely to make sure you’re not being watched when you do the deed. Sure enough, Shibusawa returns automatically; Nana noticed him after she held hands with Nanao, but before she let go and shoved him to his death.

Still, considering how Shibusawa initially harbored suspicions of Nana since she was the last one with Nanao, it’s odd how he all but drops those suspicions simply because he saw them lovey-dovey together. His abrupt exit from that scene before he saw it play out would seem to be a gaping hole Nana’s testimony—and that’s before considering questions like why he can’t go back again and again, in the off-chance past Nana doesn’t spot him.

Instead, Shibusawa’s satisfied she had nothing to do with Nanao’s disappearance and they call it a night, making it certain too much time will pass by morning for him to go back again. But of course, that’s only one of Nana’s two objectives is complete. To kill him, she devises a dastardly plot that utilizes everything she’s learned about him.

Later that night, Nana goes to Shibusawa’s dorm to tell him the full story: after visiting the cliffs, she and Nanao were ambushed by an Enemy of Humanity, and it ate him. She rushes out to show him where it happened so he can jump back in time to save Nanao, and Shibusawa, with his strong sense of justice, follows her…to the precise spot she prepared.

When he time jumps at that spot, too much time passes and he doesn’t come back, indicating he won’t be coming back. That’s because the spot is really a section of the lake Kori Seiya had frozen Nana covered with earth earlier in the night. She recalled that Shibusawa couldn’t swim, which combined with his shortness of breath after jumping, resulted in him drowning in the past, unfrozen lake, and his body was then entombed within the ice.

It’s an clever, elegant, poetic, and utterly diabolical assassination—and Nana’s superiors estimate she saved 800,000 lives by getting rid of Mr. Time Travel. I still have reservations about whether either Nana or TA can keep this up before things get truly ridiculous, but if they keep delivering fun yarns like this, I’ll keep coming back for more!

Talentless Nana – 01 (First Impressions) – Song of Ice, Fire, and Wits

Major plot spoilers follow. Proceed with caution!

“Watch Talentless Nana blind”, said ANN in their Fall 2020 Preview. I didn’t read any further than that, and followed that advice—and boy am I glad I did! We start with the introduction of protagonist Nakajima Nanao, who in a remote island school full of students with elite superpowers, he apparently has none. He is bullied and mocked by boorish fire-user and elegant ice-user alike…but if he is truly “Talentless”, then why is he on the island?

Some of the students believe he could be one of the dreaded “Enemies of Humanity” who have threatened mankind for fifty years (which seems like a really long time for neither side to have decisively won, by the way). Enter two new transfer students, the shifty, hostile Onodera Kyouya and his exact opposite, the ridiculously pink and adorable Hiiragi Nana.

Kyouya won’t reveal what his talent is, but Nana is immediately forthcoming: she can read minds. Upon being assigned the desk next to Nakajima, she senses he’s being bullied, but her mind-reading soon becomes a nuisance to Nanao, who’d rather simply fade into the background. Even so, she follows him after school and has him give her a tour of the island.

During an unexpectedly deep discussion of his past over lunch, Nanao tells Nana how he was the “dullest member of his family” but his father still urged him to “aim for the top” and seek leadership wherever he ended up. He was disillusioned when doing so in class made him an object of mockery.

On a dramatic cliff at sunset, Nana confesses to having had similar trouble making friends due to her mind-reading. No sooner are the Enemies of Humanity brought up than a mysterious gust of wind nearly pushes Nana off the edge. At the same time, Onodera is searching the student records.

Nanao rescues Nana, but later that night he pushes her away, calling her constant mind-reading “violating”. Even so, Nana believes that he should be the leader of the class. Alas, he’s shoved to the sidelines in the inevitable superpower duel between the Fire and Ice guys, and when the latter wins Nana seems to accept him and Nanao is disheartened.

The Fire guy is pissed that he wasn’t able to go all out to prove himself, and ends up going a bit too far, launching a huge fireball at the rest of the class, including Nana. That’s when Nanao springs into action and reveals his true power for the first time: the ability to neutralize anyone else’s power, much like Kamijou Touma’s Imagine Breaker.

After his triumphant coming-out party, Nanao goes up to the cliff with Nana at sunset, where she takes his hand and declares that she can’t hear his inner voice anymore, and it’s wonderful. Even so, she can still tell what he’s thinking: he’s so glad they’re friends.

Then she pulls his hands away so he’s off-balance and shoves him off the goddamn cliff.

The entire palette of the scene darkens, Nana’s eyes glow red, and Ookubo Rumi’s voice drops at least an octave. As Nanao hangs on to deal life to a frayed rope, she reveals that she never had mind-reading powers; and details all the ways she made him think she did by simply making deductions from his appearance and behavior. If she has a “power”, it’s her wits.

Just when Nanao is declaring that she’s an Enemy of Humanity, Nana flips the script once more: he is the true Enemy, and for humanity’s sake, she asks that he please die, and he falls. She checks her phone, which tells her Nakajima Nanao could have potentially been responsible for over a million deaths.

I love shows that seem like one thing (initially a fun cross between My Hero Academia and Assassination Classroom) and turns out to be something else entirely. This was such a well-constructed and executed fake-out. Your enjoyment may well depend on your level of gullibility, but the fact is even I knew something/someone was “off”, it was just a matter of not knowing exactly when and how that other shoe would drop. That tension and atmosphere was delicious.

Even better, the dull boy protagonist ended up not being the protagonist at all, but the unwitting enemy (if Nana is to be believed); the clue was right in the title: it’s Talentless Nana, not Nanao, after all. Nana’s early performance manipulated me just as masterfully as she manipulated her quarry, along with the rest of the class (except for Onodera, who is clearly suspicious about something).

Is he Nana’s ally, enemy, or a little of both? That’s just one of dozens of questions floating around in my thoroughly, beautifully blown mind. Unlike Higarashi and its gory cold open, Talentless Nana held its sinister cards close until the very end, and both methods worked. Here’s hoping it has more fun surprising twists in store.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. After remembering we first saw the phone instructing someone to “kill the Enemies of Humanity” and “save 10 million lives”, I believe both Nana and Kyouya are engaged in a competition to see who can save those lives fastest. Which means so far Nana has the early lead.

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 02 – A Beautiful Nightmare

Rent-a-Girlfriend is an absolute shitshow, and I mean that in the best way. Two episodes in a row, Kazuya and Chizuru dig themselves into deep holes and then, rather than climb out when it’s possible, decide at the last second to just keep digging.

This isn’t 100% their fault; part of it is the universe’s. Not only do the two attend the same college, they’re effing next-door neighbors! Do I buy that Kazuya never once saw Chizuru enter or exit her apartment? I do not, but who cares—it ups the absurdity wonderfully!

I will never tire of these crazy kids’ primary motivation for engaging in these ridiculous rom-com roleplaying scenarios (rather than digging themselves out of the holes they’ve dug) is…the desire not to hurt their grandmothers’ feelings. That tells you right there that both Kazuya and Chizuru are fundamentally good people. Stupid, stupid good people! XD

That’s also why despite putting up a hard line against further unsanctioned interactions with Kazuya, in violation of the terms and conditions of their Diamond contract, Chizuru still stops by his place to say hi to his gran, even bringing food she made to wow her even more. And this is after Gran already assumed Chizuru dumped Kazuya!

Had she just stayed in her apartment for ten more seconds it would have been over; she’d have been in the clear. And yet, for all the inconvenience and irritation it causes her, Chizuru isn’t the kind of person to hurt an old woman’s feelings. Even if that’s no fault of her own, she has the power to prevent it and uses it, to the tune of agreeing to visiting Kazuya’s gran with him for an hour every Wednesday.

Once again, I thought 24 minutes had passed and we’d come to the end—such is the amount of detail Rent-a-Girlfriend packs into its A-part. B-part brings Kazuya’s ex Nanami Mami into the picture with a vengeance, as he bumps into her on campus and has a not entirely torturous interaction with her. Just like that he has Mami on the brain, and is about to go for the tissues when his doorbell rings.

It’s Chizuru, ready for their trip to see his Gran. The moment money is exchanged, a switch flips and she’s in Girlfriend Mode. After the visit, they’re walking home when Kazuya’s two buddies spot him. They hilariously assume someone as attractive as Chizuru is a cult member trying to recruit or scame Kazuya, and beg her to release them.

Kazuya, digging the hole deeper, tells them she’s his girlfriend, and Chizuru has no choice but to play along. Then the two get pulled into group drinks, something they definitely could have politely refused and called it a day. What Kazuya couldn’t do is say he was merely renting Chizuru, since his best friend is close to his Gran, who is close to Chizuru’s Gran, and Chizuru wants to keep her job secret.

So they’re stuck! And as luck would have it, Mami is among the others in the group at the group drinks, and even though she masks it well, it’s clear she has feelings about Kazuya suddenly dating someone. For a minute I thought Mami might be another rent-a-girlfriend with Diamond and recognize Chizuru that way.

Instead, things go south in a hurry, as Mami switches seats so she’s across from Chizuru and proceeds to loudly run Kazuya down, describing him as pathetically horny. Seiyu Yuuki Aoi can pull off bitchy and manipulative as well as she can pull off sweet and innocent (i.e. Madoka), and puts on a tonal clinic here.

Kazuya simply sits and simmers as Mami goes off, so when he won’t defend himself, Chizuru does, and Mami is ready to counter, shrugging off her words as “part of the group dynamic” a stranger wouldn’t understand before finally turning to Kazuya himself with a cutesy-voice and asking him to stand up to her, which he does, leading a rightfully disgusted Chizuru to leave.

It’s an instance where Mami, who almost seems to revel in stirring up shit like this (or possibly punish Kazuya for having the audacity to date someone else) has way too much leverage on Kazuya. Nothing of what she says is actually strictly untrue, so Kazuya hesitates to dispute it. But he’s already sitting on a throne of lies with his fake girlfriend, so suddenly hewing to the truth here is counterproductive.

When it’s time to head home, Mami flags Kazuya down, telling him her “awkward side” got the best of her and she’s happy he “stood up” for her. She even tells him her place is close by, if he’s interested. Again Yuuki Aoi shines, portraying Mami as a cat with a mouse in its jaws, content to play around with him before making the kill.

Kazuya comes to think maybe this is okay; Chizuru was only a rental, after all. Not only did he and Mami really date, but from his perspective Mami seems interested in possibly maybe rekindling something, like she’d made a mistake in dumping him. As long as he has a girlfriend, his gran won’t be sad.

All of that is almost certainly not the case, but regardless Kazuya is overlooking one important thing: Chizuru is an unassailably good, kind person, while the jury’s very much still out on Mami. I forsee more wonderful cringeiness in the near future!

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 01 (First Impressions) – This Is How It Works

I’m not usually enthusiastic about scenarios involving “fake” boyfriends and girlfriends. They can really only go two ways: the “fake” relationship gradually becomes real, or it ends with the two as good friends. That said there’s a lot of nuance between those outcomes, and Kanojo, Okarishimasu, AKA Rent-a-Girlfriend manages to tap into it.

Kinoshita Kazuya is devastated when his adorable first-ever girlfriend unceremoniously dumps him after a month—in the first thirty seconds of the episode, when he’s about to introduce her to us! I appreciated that briskness. It allows him to wallow in despair until he finds an app called DIAMOND that allows you to rent a girlfriend for 5,000 yen per hour.

He gives it a try, and to his surprise his girlfriend-for-a-day Mizuhara Chizuru is absolutely stunning, and delivers exactly what one would expect of a girlfriend-for-a-day—no more, no less. Kazuya, despite knowing full well what he bargained for, proceeds to leave a 1-star rating after hearing identical reviews.

Due in part to still being In Despair over losing his girlfriend, Mizuhara’s act is increasingly off-putting to Kazuya and makes him feel like a fool. It just feels so forced, empty, and pointless to him, and on their second date he’s not shy about voicing those opinions even though he’s receiving precisely the service he requested and paid for!

When he becomes a little too public in his protestation of the situation, Mizuhara pulls him aside, drops the act, and lets him have a piece of her mind, revealing a bit of the Real Mizuhara (though that’s obviously not her real name). She’s super pissed by his 1-star rating (she’s only ever received 5s) and worked her ass off doing research on fish for their second date.

She has every right to be, and to his credit, Kazuya realizes he is completely in the wrong. She doesn’t owe him a damn thing. Unfortunately, the opportunity to apologize and end things there is lost when he gets a call from his parents: his grandmother has collapsed. He arrives at the hospital to learn it was nothing serious, but because his mom brought Mizuhara in with Kazuya, both his parents and grandmother believe she’s his new girlfriend!

When Kazuya freezes, Mizuhara exhibits her crack on-the-fly ad-libbing skills, and confirms that she and Kazuya are indeed dating. This may be a bad move for her and Kazuya, but she’s not about to break the heart of a nice old lady who just suffered a fall, and can’t see the harm in pretending a bit for her sake; after all, she does it for a living!

Gran, for her part, is an awesome bird, not mincing words when describing Mizuhara (a hale and hearty hottie!) asking whether they’ve had sex, and giving her their blessing to do it as often as they like! Things get still more complicated when Mizuhara learns this isn’t the firs ttime Kazuya’s gran was admitted, and she’s made some friends of the other old ladies … including Mizuhara’s grandma!

One long sweaty period under a blanket with Mizuhara (and one unintentional erection) later, Mizuhara has to tell her gran that yes, indeed, she and Kazuya are a couple. This leads the two grans to immediately start conspiring in an effort to get the two youngins married post-haste so they can graduate from friends to family.

Outside the hospital, Mizuhara proposes they tell their grans that they broke up; it’s the easiest way. Then Kazuya launches into a heartfelt monologue about how her grandmother is “like a goddess” to the family, and that it’s his wish to make her happy with a girlfriend before she dies. Mizuhara smiles at his sentiments, then slaps him for being so damn corny and self-absorbed!

That said, corny is also “perfectly fine” with her, as it’s her stock and trade in the rent-a-girlfriend business and all. She understands the lonely place Kazuya is coming from (suggesting it’s something she too suffers, but simply hides better) She can’t quit her job as a rent-a-girlfriend anytime soon, but after receiving Kazuya’s apology and thanks, she tells him he’s free to call her again anytime he’s feeling lonely.

Kazuya ends up giving her a 5-star rating (with a very corny positive review), but is committed to never contacting Mizuhara or any other rent-a-girlfriend again. He wants to turn a page and try to find a real one for himself…right up until he spots his ex laughing with another guy and can’t deal. Then encounters Mizuhara—whose real family name is Ichinose—on campus, in glasses and twin braids. Looks like they attend the same college!

As I said, making me invested and excited about a fake dating scenario is not easy, but Rent-a-Girlfriend excelled with ease. That’s thanks to punchy dialogue, clever comedy, deft voice-acting, attractive character design, lush production values, and most importantly a flawed, passionate protagonist who is rarely in the right but is nevertheless likable and redeemable.

This episode also did that thing were it got through so much and was so absorbing it felt like two episodes as I was watching it, without feeling overstuffed. Mostly it was a heckuva lot of fun, so I’m in for now.

Oresuki – 04 – Mending Fences

If the first three episodes didn’t make it plain, Oresuki does not beat around the bush. Joro’s name was just cleared last week, as Sun’s scheme to win Pansy by using Himawari and Cosmos was exposed, mostly thanks to Pansy herself. So it’s understandable for emotions to be too raw for any kind of swift reconciliation to take place anytime soon.

And yet, that’s just what happens, as Pansy tells Joro he can’t hide in the library with her forever avoiding the others. To use her words as a jumping-off point, any effort to justify not mending fences is wasted effort. Just get out there and mend ’em! So he does, and refreshingly, he doesn’t let newspaper editor Hanetachi “Asunaro” Hina spoil his first chance to make up with Himawari.

Himawari assumes Joro hates her and that no good can come from them being around each other, but after a chase, Joro follows Pansy’s advice and simply tells Himawari the truth: he wants to be friends with her again. That’s all she ever wanted too, and they’re both simultaneously relieved and surprised how easy it feels in hindsight.

Himawari accompanies Joro to the rooftop to attempt a reconciliation with Sun, but it initially goes south when Sun dismisses Joro’s indirect “challenge,” which is little more than excuse to study together. It’s only when Joro, and then Himawari, drop all pretense (and dispense with all pride) and simply shout about wanting to be friends again that Sun comes around.

On a clear role, Joro brings Himawari and Sun before Pansy, both so the latter can apologize for his brutish words, and so the four of them can arrange a study circle for midterms. (I wouldn’t have so quickly forgiven Sun for threatening to rape her, but hey, I’m not Pansy.)

But for some strange reason, Joro completely forgot about Cosmos—and while she’s been essentially stalking him the whole time as he made up with the others, to boot!

When he feels her evil purple aura behind him, Joro realizes his mistake and seeks her out on the steps. It turns out not only does Cosmos want to make up more than anything, she’s slaved over an elaborate script for the process, and won’t accept Joro’s offer until he does it in just the bizarre performative way with weird voices that she envisioned!

So! No sooner did Oresuki tear apart all of its wholesome initial friendships with the utmost gusto does it carefully piece them back together, and in an entertaining and believable way. Each of Joro’s make-up sessions felt true to the character he was making up with.

But the end of the episode doesn’t forget that Dark Joro is very much still a thing, and that these reconciliations has rekindled his desire to one day seduce one of these three of these beautiful girls. Little does he know someone other than Pansy is on to Dark Joro, and is ready to expose him as “King of the Scumbags” in a newspaper article.

The charming, Tsuguro dialect-having Asunaro seemed amiable enough in her interactions with Joro, but his line about her being a master of information gathering wasn’t a throwaway. She’s got mud to throw—mud that threatens both his newly-mended friendships and reputation at school in general…again.

P.S. Anime News Network’s Lynzee Loveridge has a nice write-up of the first three episodes, including more references to the characters’ names that offer insight to their personalities. I for one missed the fact that “joro” means “watering can”—how apropos!

Oresuki – 03 – Bounce Back

When Sun, Himawari and Cosmos all arrive at the library at once, it’s clear that some shit is going to go down. Joro almost manages to slip out of it by revealing his darker side and calling out the two girls for using him as a convenient tool, not because he’s a dear childhood friend or cute kohai.

That last-ditch effort fails when Pansy throws him under the bus, telling them he was trying to get her to date Sun while claiming to be on their side. Sun punches him for playing with the girls’ hearts, declares their friendship over, and carries him off.

It sure looks like this is curtains for Joro, and that all Pansy did was assist in this catharsis of misery. But when she mutters “have faith in me” to Joro on his way out, it becomes apparent there’s still more to this story yet to be explored.

Since there was a bystander in the library during the exchange, rumors spread and Joro is ostracized overnight, including having his indoor shoes bedazzled and a detailed golf course model placed on his desk, which is such a bizarre and random head-scratcher of a prank I couldn’t help but laugh.

With Joro out of the picture, Sun is free to spend the next week of lunch periods in the library with Pansy, unaware that she’s putting the finishing touches on her grand plan. It all starts by asking him, quite simply, why he tricked and entrapped Joro, using the feelings of Himawari and Cosmos as his tools in that venture.

And there it is: Joro, as we know, wasn’t the mastermind here, but neither was Pansy: it was Sun all along, sore over an incident years ago when a girl he liked asked him if he’d help her get with Joro. Sun was the one who put the girls up to confronting Joro about asking Sun about them. Joro played the part Sun knew he would (aware as he was about “dark Joro”) and he got his revenge.

Believing he’s all alone with Pansy, Sun doesn’t deny any of this, but proudly proclaims he was after revenge for “losing” to Joro back then, and again with Pansy. He’s also enough of a jerk that he threatens to “do whatever he wants” to Pansy without consequence, since they’re all alone.

Of course, they aren’t. Joro, whom Pansy summoned to the library a minute before Sun arrived, is a witness to her takedown and exposing of Sun as the villain. She threw Joro under the bus in the previous dust-up to give Sun the false sense that everybody was against Joro, when in fact she loves Joro and intended to clear his name.

Joro comes out of his hiding place at the perfect time, and tells Sun where he truly erred: in making light of the “birdbrained” two girls’ feelings for him in order to use them in his scheme to destroy him. A chastened Sun promises to apologize, and departs, and then Joro tells Pansy that her efforts don’t change the fact he hates her, and he won’t be returning to the library.

That’s when Pansy tells Himawari and Cosmos to come out of their hiding spot; unbeknownst to Sun or Joro, Pansy invited them to listen in on the truth of things.

In golf parlance, we can call this episode a major bounce back for Joro. Himawari and Cosmos apologize, the vandalism of his stuff ceases, and Sun confesses in front of the class, clearing Joro’s name to the whole school through the same rumor mill that sullied it.

That brings us to Joro and Pansy, and why the latter fell in love with the former. Turns out, it isn’t his “dark side” she necessarily likes, but the kind, hardworking side that waited by the north entrance to the gym after Sun’s game, standing there dutifully and waiting with his arms full of Sun’s favorite food.

What Joro remembers most about that day was the gorgeous, well-endowed, raven-haired maiden whose eyes met his and with whom he became transfixed, only to never see her again. The last twist is the most predictable lame: Pansy is that gorgeous maiden, and was simply hiding her looks behind a “plain girl” disguise.

While I understand this reveal was necessary, it was very clumsily done for a show that had just crafted such an intricate tapestry of romantic intrigue, and portrays Joro in a very poor light: someone who is now more or less on board with this “Hot Pansy” on the surface but is still confident he’ll never fall for the Pansy inside.

While the ball might’ve land in a bunker (more golf talk…sorry) at the end, after three (or more precisely, 2.85) strong episodes that subverted my expectations, Oresuki has earned some benefit of the doubt. Let’s see where this goes!