Akebi’s Sailor Uniform – 04 – Shots, Socks, and Sweets

Every day Akebi runs to school and waves good morning to the bus. Tanigawa is on that bus, and gets Akebi to agree to be her model for a photo shoot with the theme of “Friends”. Tanigawa chooses the tea ceremony’s classy clubhouse, and when she manages to capture some candid (rather than posed) shots of Akebi, it helps to capture what makes Akebi Akebi.

Akebi is dubious about how helpful a model she’s being (unaware of how much Tanigawa already adores her) and wonders what her “image” is, if she even has one; she started the shoot imitating her favorite idol. Her question is largely answered thanks to an errant baseball that lands in a puddle and splashes mud on Akebi’s prized fuku.

Her friend Usagihara Touko invites her to her dorm, where there are laundry facilities. It’s the first time either Akebi or Tanigawa haven’t gone straight home after school, and they’re both moved by Usagihara’s hospitality. Usagihara also uses the opportunity to dress Akebi up in a cute dress she bought impulsively, making her look even more like an idol.

Usagihara also shows off her baking skills by whipping up some delicious, professional-quality treats for her guests. Turns out her family is in the sweets business, but it wasn’t until she came to the academy that she really wanted to get into the baking part. She saw a demand for sweets among her fellow classmates who give her pocket change for ingredients and get treats in exchange.

Akebi and Tanigawa are impressed by Usagihara’s talent and enterprising nature, but she says anyone can do it, and proceeds to learn that, well, not everyone can. Akebi, who warns her ahead of time she’s not big on the whole “cooking” thing, makes a nigh-inedible “crepe”. It actually makes Usagihara relieved, since she thought Akebi was perfect and could do anything.

Now that she knows Akebi is not only a bad cook, but also has holes in her socks(!), she’s a little less intimidated, and I’m sure will feel comfortable growing closer to her as a friend. Thanks to the community of the dorm, Usagihara found a niche, something she can do better than anyone else, and in turn gets to reap the benefits of everyone else’s myriad talents and quirks.

After their fun first day at a friend’s place after school, Tanigawa looks through all the photos she took of Akebi, and believes she’s finally gotten a better idea of her image. Like Usagihara, spending time with Akebi and getting to see her goofy and clumsy sides helped her understand her better, which in turn leads to her adoring her that much more as a friend.

You can see that adoration in her completed photo series, which Akebi shares with a delighted Kao. The most powerful image graces the cover, which Tanigawa shot from the bus, shows Akebi running and waving good morning from afar. Tanigawa tells Akebi that she’s on the bus she waves to every morning.

The photo is a perfect encapsulation of who Akebi is: always dashing forward, full of energy and love. The beauty of both the image and the emotions behind it brought a genuine tear to my eye, which made it an ideal parting shot for the episode.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 04 – Tease the Night

The weather is starting to turn in TakaKata Land, but the day Nishikata decides to change to his warmer winter uni, Takagi is still in her short-sleeved summer fuku. We see just how accustomed to losing challenges Nishikata is when she says that because he changed first, he wins a game she had goin on in her head—that doesn’t sit right with him!

He makes up a new game—one he’s sure to lose—in which Takagi loses if she says the word “cold”. He tries to get her to respond in a manner that would sound like the word cold, but as usual she’s too sharp for him. When he tries again, she turns the game to her advantage, drawing very close and asking if she says “cold” like he wants, will he…warm her up?

After the three girls are out of sync due to an undelivered text, Nishikata finds all his usual lunch buddies are out sick (or pretending to be sick), so he resigns himself to eating lunch alone on the steps, which he tries to make the best of but can’t help but feel lonely. Sure enough, Takagi sensed he might be lonely and joins him.

It occurs to me that these two rarely eat lunch together since they each have their own circles of lunch buddies. It’s so lovely to see them just sitting together silently munching away. Then Takagi has Nishikata guess what’s in her onigiri, claiming one of his prized karaage should he be wrong. She wins, but feels bad about taking his food, so gives him one of her crispy lotus roots, acting until the very last second like she was going to feed him, lovey-dovey style.

The next segment involves Nishikata trying to snap a photo of a thrown rock that looks like a UFO in the sky. Takagi helps by doing the throwing, and while she admits she doesn’t really believe, she likes that Nishikata does. It’s part of what makes her adore him. In a lovely whimsical twist, she spots a actual UFO, but he doesn’t see it.

One day the bath in the Nishikata household is inoperable, so he has to use the public baths. Takagi asks him what time he’s going and he tells her, then spends the entire time there either looking for her or wondering why she didn’t come. Then she surprises him by the milk vending machine, admitting she not only came, but came early, perfectly calculating how much longer she’d take compared to him.

Nishikata’s longing for Takagi’s company, even if they were separated by the different sections of the bathhouse, speaks to his growing affection for her and desire to be by her side more often than not. The feeling is obviously (to everyone but him, of course) mutual, as Takagi remarks how they don’t usually walk together at night, and how it obscures their faces.

After Nishikata very foolishly challenges Takagi to a “whose face turns red first” contest— as soon as she leans into him he loses—the two continue their nighttime walk until it’s time to part ways to head to their respective homes. As she departs, Nishikata offers, unbidden, to walk her home, since it’s nighttime and thus not as safe for a young lady.

Takagi is so shocked by his offer, and loves so much how it sounds like something a boyfriend would say, she simply stands there in a perfect blend of befuddlement and delight. Then she thanks Nishikata for the offer and darts off, strategically hiding from him what must be a beet-red face.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yuru Camp△ – 03 – Return of the Favor

We watch the day Rin goes camping from Nadeshiko’s perspective, as she searches the family storage shed for a tent only to find it’s a canopy tent; useless for cold nights. When she gets word Rin is at Fumoto, Nadeshiko has her very cool sister Sakura drive her there—in her extremely cool Nissan Rasheen.

That’s how Nadeshiko comes to surprise Rin with hot pot ingredients. Last time she intruded on Rin’s camping, it was unintentional, and she mooched off of her; this time she wants to pay her back by preparing a home-cooked meal for her. Who’s going to refuse that?!

By the time it’s ready, night has fallen, and Rin has learned that Nadeshiko is fond of doing a “country granny bit”. Still, upon tasting the dish, both Rin and Nadeshiko are overcome by warmth and coziness, so much so in fact that they must shed some layers even in the cold night!

Rin also observes that Nadeshiko is an absolute pro at making food look really, really good…and is also fond of eating a lot of it! After dinner, Rin apologizes for coming off as annoyed at school, while Nadeshiko apologizes for being too imposing. Rin agrees to go camping with her and maybe others in the future.

With that Rin, retires to her tent, while Nadeshiko sleeps in the car with her sister. Sakura has to force the issue when the alarm goes off and Nadeshiko insists she’s awake even though she’s still horizontal. As Sakura drives off to buy breakfast, Nadeshiko makes good on her plan to be up at dawn.

Watching the night sky gradually brighten as the sun rises from behind Fuji-san is a gorgeous, majestic sight to behold. As someone who is rarely up for sunrises, whenever I am by choice it’s definitely a warm, empowering feeling…the feeling of accomplishment, and the feeling that everything is just beginning.

Eventually, the sun proves too bright for the still very drowsy Nadeshiko, so she curls up inside Rin’s tent. When Rin wakes up and notices her, it’s time to wake up, but she can’t rouse her, so she goes back to sleep too. The next day at school, Rin looks through all the pics she took on her phone, including with Nadeshiko.

Her friend Saitou Ena (Takahashi Rie!) is glad the two are getting along, mentioning she too would consider camping once it gets warmer in six months or so. The main takeaway is that there’s nothing wrong with camping solo, but camping with someone also has its appeal, just as sharing a meal with someone usually makes that meal taste better.

Yuru Camp△ – 02 – Wide-Open Camp

This was never going to be a show just about two girls, so this week Nadeshiko joins her school’s Outdoor Activities Club, or Outclub for short. To my surprise, Shima Rin is not a member, which in hindsight explains why she always camps solo. The only two members of the club are Oogaki Chiaki and Inuyama Aoi. Aoi convinces Chiaki that if they increase the club to at least four members, they may be able to get a larger clubroom.

A lot of comedy is suceesfully mined from the current clubroom, which is more of a cloakroom. Its surreally absurd narrowness reminded me of the low ceilings at Lestercorp office in Being John Malkovich. But a good point is made: it doesn’t really matter how small their indoor clubroom is. Their true clubroom is the great outdoors!

Aoi shows Nadeshiko some tent magazines so she can become familiar with the pros and cons of various types, but Chiaki suggest they leave the cozy confines of their clubroom for the courtyard to put theory into practice. This is where Rin, reading in the library, finally spots Nadeshiko and realizes they attend the same school.

Unfortunately, the club’s super-cheap (¥980!) tent’s support poles snaps. Rin’s friend Saitou Ena asks if there’s a way to repair it, and just happens to have the little bit needed to do so, having “found it in lost-and-found!” After helping the other girls fix the pole, Ena makes it a point to point out “Shimarin”, and Nadeshiko is so excited to see her she rushes headlong into a plate glass window.

While it’s fun to meet Chiaki and Aoi and see how Nadeshiko fits into their club, the first half of this second outing was missing the sweet natural serenity of camping that drew me in. Fortunately, the second half makes up for that as Rin goes on another solo camping trip, this time in the wide-open fields of the Fumoto Campgrounds.

As Tateyama Akiyuki’s breezy guitar gently strums, Rin proceeds with her elegant, joy-sparking ritual. Never has watching someone set up a campsite felt so wonderfully relaxing. After exchanging some playful texts with Ena (and it’s absolutely 100% important to let a friend know where you’ve gone) and weighing the costs of a fire, Rin goes on a leisurely stroll, sees the sights, and snaps some photos.

As she settles in with a book and some tea, Fuji-san starts to turn pink from the setting sun—a breathtakingly gorgeous image that, as with all images of Fuji, doesn’t remotely do the real thing justice but is a fair facimilie. She thinks back to the other day at school when Nadeshiko approached her, and in response to her offer of a camping trip together she gave her a disgusted look.

Rin didn’t didn’t want her solo camp time to be threatened—and who can blame her…it’s bliss!—but realizes that it was “kinda crappy” of her not even try to hide it. But who should then appear at her campsite but Nadeshiko, bearing a big bag full of groceries!

Ena told Nadeshiko where Rin was staying. While this certainly wasn’t what Rin planned (like last time), she has grown tired of eating cup ramen. She’d hoped to try some real cooking, but none of the supermarkets on her way were open. Now that Nadeshiko is here, they can cook after all (and maybe split the cost of firewood and a stand). Trading solitude for al fresco hot pot—I think that’s a trade off Rin can live with!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 08 – Nostalgic in Nara

The big day (well, evening) has arrived: It’s time for Tsukasa to meet the parents! When they arrive in Nara, she notes that they’re near the Kasuga Grand Shrine, making the unusual comment that “even after a thousand years, it’s not like the mountains move that much.” I guess she was here back then, huh?

Anywho, Nasa’s parents, Kanoka and Enishi both claim to not be quite emotionally prepared for something as momentous as meeting their son’s new wife, but his dad proves he’s a bit odd when, right in the middle of official introductions he basically orders Nasa to take a bath. He wants to talk with Tsukasa alone for a sec. But about what?

In Nasa’s room where he only ever stayed when he helped his folks move, Tsukasa notes the lack of material possessions, mirroring his apartment, and Nasa proudly proclaims he’d be fine even if their apartment building burned down, because all of his irreplaceable possessions and data are either on him, in a safe deposit box, or on his person.

Nasa’s mom warns him that while the walls are “pretty soundproof”, he and Tsukasa probably shouldn’t “overdo it”…causing Nasa to realize he’ll be spending his first night sleeping on the same level as Tsukasa. He offers his arm for her to sleep on and learns how painful a position can be, and Tsukasa gives him a sweet goodnight kiss when prompted.

Tsukasa ends up waking up early, since Nasa was too excited to sleep much (also, Tsukasa curled up beside him during her nighttime acrobatics). That said, he’s only pretending to be asleep so he doesn’t disturb her while she’s changing, and a momentary glance at her proves “too stimulating”.

Watching the sun rise, Tsukasa notes how the smell of the wind “really takes her back”. When her father can’t think of what to talk about with her, she suggests he show her his office, where she’s able to read ancient Japanese love letter without any trouble.

From there, Tsukasa decides to spice up their historical sightseeing by taking photos of her cute husband; eventually, he suggests they take one together, which is surely a picture they’ll both treasure.

Tsukasa is unusually knowledgeable about Nara’s landmarks—almost as if she were around when some of them were first built—and wistfully observes how many thousands of ordinary people faded from history, while modern technology will allow people to be remembered virtually forever.

We eventually learn why Nasa’s dad made him take a bath: it was so he could properly thank Tsukasa for saving his son’s life. Nasa’s parents feel almost undeserving of a son as great as Nasa; he is their pride and joy, which is why his finding love could only give them happiness.

Tsukasa takes her father-in-law’s request that she look after Nasa very seriously. On the bus ride home, Tsukasa admits that while it was fun to visit his folks, she’s looking forward to returning to their little place together, where she feels most at ease.

Unfortunately, while they were gone, the entire apartment building…burned down! 

Even if they were going to hold off on moving, now they have to find a new place. But with his parents’ enthusiastic blessing of their marriage, that shouldn’t be a problem. As for whether Tsukasa is the human incarnation of Princess Kaguya, well…the evidence continues to mount and is getting harder to overlook!

Talentless Nana – 05 – Photo Finish

As evidenced when he immediately blackmails Nana into being his girlfriend, Hatadaira Tsunekichi is clearly a scumbag, and thus not really worthy of any sympathy. Of her victims so far, he’s the one least interested in being a hero. But he’s also a big ol’ weirdo!

Perhaps due to a life lived knowing what the future holds via photography, he’s adopted a habit of having dialogues with himself as he holds up his two hands. It’s not his scumbaggery, but his mental instability that makes him such a wild card for Nana’s plans.

Nana could have reasonably expected Tsunekichi to try to make an unsolicited move on her their “first night” together. Instead, he’s primarily concerned with keeping her holed up until the time of the damning P.E. shed photo arrives. Since he’s still alive in the photo, he feels untouchable enough to fall asleep with Nana in his room.

That’s when Nana watches his precog photography in action—it happens when he’s asleep—and one of them in particular makes her do a double take. She seemingly hides that photo but Tsunekichi finds it on her person. And as soon as I saw it—depicting her being strangled—I assumed she staged it so he’d believe he’d turned the tables in their future scuffle.

But even with such a predictable development, thinks don’t go exactly as planned for Nana in that P.E. shed. That boils down to her not being certain that the fate of the photos is inescapable. Tsunekichi can only take five future photos at a time, so who’s to say there isn’t another limit he hasn’t revealed? Nana changes the time on his watch to make him ten minutes late for the fated encounter, but he manages to free himself from her jump rope hold.

It turns out he’s “hyper-aware” of time and knew she changed his watch, but he assumed he’d was the one to pill her top off based on the photo of her being choked. Sure enough, it was a selfie she staged, and Tsunekichi didn’t notice it wasn’t one of his. Due to her her position on the floor, she was able to grab a poison needle that was out of reach when he first entered—and stick him with it, killing him.

But what of the real fifth photo she replaced with her selfie—the one that gave her a double take? As Nana says, that’s where “the real ordeal begins.” It’s a photo of Kyouya and Michiru entering the shed and discovering her with Tsunekichi on the ground. Naturally, Nana plays the victim, using school scuttlebutt that day about Tsunekichi calling her his girlfriend.

When Michiru is unable to find a wound or heal Tsunekichi , Nana details his attempted blackmail of her with what she says were nude photos of her. With a reliable ally (and surrogate to the rest of the class) in Michiru beside her, Kyouya’s alternative theories can only go so far, not matter how close they are to the reality of what happened.

Even so, Nana is sloppy, returning to Tsunekichi’s dorm and being caught there by Kyouya. Fortunately, at no point does he see the incriminating photos, but as we learn from both his and Nana’s inner monologue, he’s sharp enough to latch on to even her smallest mistakes.

Under the circumstances, it’s impossible for her to be perfect, but going forward she has to be as close to perfect as possible if she’s to succeed in the mission. Before she commits to doing so, another imperfection reveals itself: she only has four of Tsunekichi’s five genuine precog photos…the fifth one—the one we saw last week in the cafeteria—is missing.

It’s the photo of Nana pushing Nanao off the cliff, and it’s not in Tsunekichi’s dorm, nor did Kyouya find it. Nope, it’s kind, trusting Michuru who finds it on Tsunekichi’s person while trying in vain to heal him! I was expecting her to find the puncture wound and extract the poison, but it looks like the book on Tsunekichi is closed.

Finding the photo now puts Michuru square in the crosshairs…unless Nana can somehow convince her to keep quiet about it. Considering how sinister Nana’s aura is when she walks into the shed, you could assume Michiru’s time on this world grows short—especially considering she’d already fulfilled her task of compiling a list of the other students’ Talents.

Will Nana have to get rid of Michuru earlier than scheduled—or will she find another way to spin straw into gold? As always, I’m eager to find out!

Talentless Nana – 04 – A Useful Idiot

Nana contemplates her next target when the two class Gals pick on Inukai Michiru, the meekest, most guileless member of the class, with a love letter Nana knows is just a fake. Michuru spots a scrape on Nana’s leg and proceeds to reveal her Talent: a tongue that heals all wounds. It’s a scene that happens so suddenly you almost overlook the yuri/BDSM subtext.

Nana also determines that Michiru could cause the deaths of 150k (still not sure how that algorithm works), and thus as good a next target as any. The only problem is, Kyouya is still breathing down her neck. Nana decides she’ll play her part, first in informing poor Michuru that her after-school rendezvous will be a bust (the love letter was fake), then cheer her up with some lunch.

That night, Nana arms herself with an icepick to do the deed, but finds Kyouya sitting right outside her door, “guarding”, i.e. watching her out of “concern”, i.e. suspicion. She then proceeds to play loud music and sneak out her window—which she should have done in the first place! It appears as though Nana is going to stab Michiru in the back, and Kyouya hears a scream from Michiru’s dorm…but when he arrives, it is Nana on the floor with a stab wound.

She claims she heard the Enemy’s inner-voice and raced to save its target, Michiru. Detective Kyouya can use this latest incident and connect it to past info however he wishes, but everyone else in the girl’s dorm is immediately united behind Nana when they see what she did for Michiru.

Kyouya later considers that Nana could have stabbed herself—which of course she did—but Nana presents to him and everyone else a lie (an invisible monster) more feasible than the truth.

Kyouya’s lack of concrete evidence to support his accurate suspicions to a class now fully trusting of Nana essentially paralyzes him. His theories remain in his brain, harmless to her efforts. She’s even able to get Ice Prince and Fire Thug to agree on something: that SHE should be their new leader in Nanao’s stead. Since her self-inflicted attack is accepted as an attack by an invisible Enemy of Humanity, she can use them as cover for all subsequent killings. Nana is flying high—ultimately too high.

Her arrogance gets the better of her when she instructs an enthusiastically willing Michiru to talk with all of the other students and record their Talents in a book. This would seem to be a no-brainer considering what a Chatty Kathy Michiru is (and she can be offed when no longer useful), but the benefits are quickly nullified by an unexpected setback: Michiru’s probing tips off Hatadaira Tsunekichi, a psychic photographer who has acquired a photo of her killing him in the future.

Whelp, there’s the concrete evidence Kyouya needs so desperately to prove his suspicions! Thankfully for Nana, Tsunekichi comes to her first. He demonstrates with devastating accuracy that every photo he takes ends up happening without fail. Even when Nana changes her order, she ends up with a face-full of soba. Then he pulls out one more dagger: a photo of her shoving Nanao off the cliff.

This would put Nana in check, but for the fact that, as far as we know, only she and Tsunekichi have seen these photos. Tsunekichi also seems to have doomed himself: If there’s a photo of him being killed, and everything in his photos happens, then he must be resigned to die. So, will Nana succeed in killing him before anyone else sees the photos? Or will they be leaked, forcing her to use all her leader capital to defend herself?

It’s definitely a tricky new corner she’s been pushed into. Like Michiru, Nana considers Tsunekichi an imbecile, and I definitely can’t rule out her managing to outwit him and turn him into another victim of the Enemy. But his power exposes a huge flaw in her execution of this mission: Why the heck did she start killing anyone before she learned the powers of everyone? Assuming she gets out of this fix, what other surprise Talents could compromise her, all because she killed too fast?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higurashi: When They Cry – 02 – Something is Rotten in Hinamizawa

From last week’s suddenly murderous Rena to Rika’s burning-red eyes, we open with Something Completely Different, with Rika waking up somewhere outside of normal time and space, welcomed by a little horned shrine maiden named Hanyuu with whom she is well-acquainted.

Rika asks if she died, but Hanyuu doesn’t have an answer. All she can say is that the “shard” on which they stand leads to July 1983, which angers Rika, who has apparently lived that month for a hundred years. With no other choice, and knowing everything there is to know about that place and time, Rika vows to “win their future” like they’ve won it before.

While offering an enticing taste of the “bigger picture”, and I now know July 1983 has happened many times before, it is only a small taste, and there’s plenty of mysteries yet to be revealed. It is only the second episode, after all! As for the cliffhanger of Rena with that scary blade, she reverts back to “kyute” Rena once Keiichi looks back at her.

Back at school it’s time for P.E., which means the girls are in super-tight bloomers for fanservice while guys get to wear shorts. Strange how such an otherwise laissez-faire school has such strictly-followed P.E. uniform guidelines! Especially when the physical activity of the day amounts to a game of “zombie tag”, with make-believe gory imagery filling in for the real stuff yet to come.

Keiichi and Rena head back to the junkyard that evening (they should really go in the morning of a weekend when there’s more light!), with Rena holding the creepy murder blade. When Keiichi offers to carry it, she shuts him up with another curt response—even though he ends up handling it anyway while freeing Kenta-kun.

As he delivers blows to the wood in the way of the statue, Keiichi suddenly gets a flash of him bashing someone to pulp with a bat—a vision of the future or merely a possible future? Considering Rika’s strange experience with Hanyuu and the shards, anything is possible. As for Rena, she keeps spacing out at times, as if revealing her true nature or an alternate personality.

Keiichi and the kids end up encountering Tomitake, who always seems to be on his way to something else. His quasi-military clothes suggest he’s up to more than harmless bird photography in the village, but Mion tells Keiichi that his true reason for being there is nothing more nefarious than looking for a single lady to date.

That night everyone attends the Watanagashi (or “cotton-drifting”) festival. The ceremonial dance is to be performed by Rika, who wears the same shrine maiden garb as Hanyuu…that can’t be a coincidence, right? In any case, she’s painfully cute, and Rena can’t resist fawning over her.

Before Rika’s dance, Keiichi, Rena, Mion, Rika and Satoko avail themselves of the many festival foods for sale, from takoyaki, snowballs, and cotton candy—particularly appropriate for a festival honoring futon cotton). Mion makes sure Keiichi gets to have a nice moment alone with Rena, though between Rena’s occasional momentary mood shifts and that whole future incident with the bat, I can’t see any romance between them lasting long!

Tomitake appears again, taking a photo of the group without permission before saying he can’t stay for Rika’s dance. Before he leaves, Rika approaches him and pats him on the head, almost as if to bless him. I guess she knows Tomitake—and everyone else in the village—a lot better than I initially thought.

Then there’s the episode’s pièce de résistance: Rika’s gorgeous, beautifully animated ceremonial dance. The convivial festival atmosphere abruptly shifts to something more sacred and profound as the crowds watch in silent awe. Then we cut to Tomitake in a field being greeted by blonde woman we’ve yet to meet.

What does it mean? is my most frequent question this week. The five friends continue to have youthful fun, but how much longer will it last? Well, the calendar indicates only a couple more days before shit hits the fan. So then the question becomes what Rika can do to stop a future where Keiichi is bludgeoning people to death—if that even is her goal—and how the adult characters fit into the equation.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 12 (Fin) – Adjusted for Inflation

After the thrilling but nearly completely comedy-free Ishigami Sports Festival denouement, Love is War returns to its bread-and-butter with a relatively understated slice-of-life, life-goes-on finale. We get two stories, the first of which is by far the most emotionally engaging.

The Principal wants to snap photos of the StuCo, but Shinomiya family policy forbids Kaguya’s face from being distributed in any media, so she sits out the shoot. The Principal quickly pulls Miko out of her shell, but gets on Kaguya’s bad side when he pairs Miyuki and Chika as a dating pair.

While Kaguya once looked down on other girls who took pics with their phones, she’s nevertheless come to enjoy documenting her life with the StuCo on her antiquated flip phone (full disclosure: my landlord still has one, and she’s not planning on giving it up anytime soon!).

When the other members insist on including her on a private rooftop shoot, her phone falls off the roof during the exchange with the principal, and it is destroyed, along with all of the data (since it’s not only old, but a weird proprietary phone with no SD storage).

Crestfallen, Kaguya and Ai head to the store to buy the latest smartphone, but she’s thoroughly down that all of her precious memories were lost. The rest of the StuCo picks up on that, so Miyuki finally starts a StuCo LINE group with a shared cloud album, having held off until Kaguya got a smartphone, not wanting to leave her out. Suddenly, her phone, so sad and lonely when new and empty, starts to burst with brilliant 4K HDR photos of the StuCo’s hijinx.

This also serves as a curtain call for some of the most indelible images from this marvelous season. Kaguya’s blank look of quiet despair becomes a gleaming smile, and the five StuCo members pose for another group photo. Needless to say, Kaguya wins, having lost a low-res flip-phone album but gained a much more comprehensive hi-res one.

The majority of final segment feels like a stakes-free epilogue that could also have aired at any point this season. It makes a point to demonstrate that despite all the development these characters have gone through, they can still fall into their old habits, whether it’s Miyuki worried about Kaguya saying “How Cute” to Yuu losing his nerve.

The premise is easy enough, and starts out as a very direct double entendre involving pumping. Chika has a big balloon leftover from the sports fest, and pulls everyone into an increasingly stressful game in which each player must pump at least once, but if the balloon bursts, they lose. Chika actually gets poor obedient kohai Miko to pump the most, but lets her stop before it bursts.

This leaves Miyuki and Kaguya as the last two to pump, and they too survive, but when Chika gets a drop of tangerine juice on the paper-thin rubber, a cataclysmic explosion occurs that destroys the entire academy. As the credits zoom horizontally from right-to-left (a la Chihayafuru), both Kaguya and Miyuki, who survived the blast, are determined to get the other to take their hand.

What sets this interaction apart from so many past ones is that for once their wavelengths are perfectly aligned and they each get what they wanted, which was to hold the other’s hand without saving face or enduring mockery. It’s the perfect way to wrap up this momentous second season, while creating hope for a third one.

Still, I’d be very surprised (and delighted!) if a potential third episode surpassed this second, which goes down as one of the best second seasons of anime ever. MAL has it at #22 all time, and I think that’s a little low. I’ve savored every minute, and now that it’s over for now I shall miss it dearly!

Sing “Yesterday” for Me – 09 – Ginkgo Nuts

When Shinako returns to the Hayakawas’ kitchen, its a tactical retreat to familial comfort, and a means of stalling for time with the whole Rikuo angle. But she’s at least certain on one front: she loves Rou and her dad like family and never wants that to change. Rou apologizes for making things awkward with his advances. Like her with the Hayakawas, he’d rather she remain in his life than not, and to that end, suggests they celebrate Christmas together, like old times.

This episode is notable as being the first in which Rikuo and Haru never interact, but Rikuo is never not in her thoughts throughout. She rolls restlessly in bed, frustrated by her feelings for Rikuo, his apparent lack of interest in her, and her dwindling opportunities to see him due to his quitting the konbini. Still, she’s not ready to give up on him, and so the fact they never cross paths this week shouldn’t be an indication of Game Over.

That said, and as much as I like Haru, things are going so well between Rikuo and Shinako (even if he doesn’t think so) that he barely notices Haru’s absence. He and Shinako are thinking about college days at the same time, for crying out loud! In his case, it’s because Fukuda’s wife wants to see the photos Rikuo took of her new husband.

In Shinako’s case, because she spotted Gingko nuts at the grocery store, which she helped him pick on campus when he was hard up for cash. He doesn’t seem to remember, and Shinako seems pretty cross about it, but he still manages to halfheartedly invite her to Fukuda’s little Christmas get-together, which she must decline only due to previous obligations with Rou.

Shinako and Rou’s Christmas celebration turns out to be pretty staid, as the awkwardness is still very much there, especially since Rou’s dad is out of town and Rou insists on drawing her portrait. When he suggests she loosen her collar to look a little more “sexy”, she makes a quick exit…and good for her! I like her zero tolerance policy for Rou’s flirtations; she neither sees him that way nor wants to.

Since it’s only 20:00 when she leaves Rou’s, Shinako has a choice: go home and watch a movie, or go to Fukuda’s. Again, she makes the right choice in my opinion, as it’s clear she and Rikuo have something that should be cultivated, and it can’t be cultivated if they never hang out casually.

Rikuo, who is seemingly genetically incapable of being optimistic about anything regarding Shinako, is shocked she actually came. Maybe she’s shocked too, but her previous invitation, despite not amounting to anything, may have made her a bit bolder regarding Rikuo. Here’s hoping he can respond properly!

As for Haru, well, there’s no doubt she’s in rough shape, seeing as how there’s currently no way for her to bump into Rikuo anymore (and her crow left a feather behind that he found; the one and only moment he thinks about her). But hey, we’re only halfway through this saga, so it’s anyone’s game to win!

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