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!

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 08 – The Kids Call It “Tsundere” These Days

When Iino Miko finally gathers the courage to enter the StuCo office and take her place as financial auditor, she immediately starts auditing the other members’ disgraceful conduct. The only one immune to her scolding is Chika, whom Miko idolizes as the perfect student.

Having the other members’ backs, Chika uses her influence to get Miko to lighten up, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a balance between good and bad cop. To that end, she must learn to let some things slide sometimes, since if those she scolds don’t feel they’re being heard, then they won’t listen in turn.

Yuu proceeds to put his feet up, break out the snacks, and play a Mario Kart-style video game with Miyuki as Kaguya watches (quietly rooting for the president). She’s soon roped into a funny face Insta session with Chika and Miko, resulting in some of the weirder faces we’ve seen in a show chock full of ’em! Since Chika gets what she wants—a new “toy” in Miko—she wins this round.

This segment finally establishes a dynamic of Miko beyond merely reacting to rule infractions, while illustrating how Kaguya and Miyuki’s love for each other has organically created an extremely casual environment, lending at least some credibility to Miko’s worries about setting a bad example for the rest of the academy.

If Kaguya and Miyuki are getting away with proverbial murder in the hallowed StuCo office, there’s no telling what they’d get up to if they found themselves locked in a storage shed. Wait; that’s exactly what the next segment tells!

When the door won’t open, both assume the other arranged it that way in order to compel the other into some kind of romantic act that exposes their feelings for them. In reality, it’s just a branch stuck in the door track. But neither knows this, and soon both fall victim to the “suspension bridge effect” neither of them actually intended.

It’s as if the universe were conspiring to not only lock these two in a dark room together, but get Miyuki on top of Kaguya on a gym mat! Soon their expectations of what the other person is trying to accomplish merge together and they come this close to a kiss.

That’s when that same universe snatches the chance away, like Lucy taking the football from Charlie Brown, and Miko opens the door. Disoriented by the sudden cessation of passion, Kaguya runs sobbing into Miko’s arms, and she declares Miyuki a scumbag. But let’s face it: both Miyuki and Kaguya lose this one, since the kiss they both wanted to experience didn’t happen.

The third and final segment takes place in the wake of that almost-kiss, as Kaguya suddenly passes out after Miyuki removes a piece of lint from her hair—gently touching her cheek in the process.

When Kaguya is rushed off in an ambulance, and the other StuCo members discuss her weak constitution around changes in season, a segment steeped in drama wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.

Still, just after using the storage shed bit, LIW takes things in a much different and more hilarious direction that further demonstrates just how much of a dummy falling in love has made these two.

The Shinomiya family doctor is one of the ten best physicians in the world (he even has his own awesome theme music!) yet when he determines her symptoms are the result of nothing more than lovesickness, she insists on further (and extremely expensive) tests, and still calls the guy a quack!

Hayasaka is present for all of this absurdity, and vows never to set foot in the hospital again, so embarrassed she is by her mistress’ inability to grasp reality. Still, she’s not so heartless she’ll betray Kaguya by reporting the medical results to Miyuki…

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 13 (Fin) – Back to the Future…In Color!

The structure of the Irodoku finale is simple: Everyone says their goodbyes before Hitomi heads off back to her proper time. Shou (“I loved…your photos”), Chigusa (“Uhh…Smile more, I guess?”), Kurumi (“Don’t make me cry!”), Asagi (“I don’t care, I’m crying!”), and Kohaku (“See you in 60 years!”) each get their turn as the star sand matures, but when it’s time for Yuito, both he and Hitomi hesitate to say everything the want to say, despite the fact this may be the last time they see each other.

Turns out Hitomi, or rather Hitomi’s unconscious magic, isn’t going to be satisfied with their sedate, half-assed goodbyes. The magical device starts to malfunction, and Hitomi is swallowed up into another full-dive illusion. Only Yuito jumps into the stream and ends up in the same place. He rushes about looking and finally finds her, devoid of color, and they embrace.

They thank each other for having such profound effects on each other’s lives before confessing their love to each other, saying all the things left unsaid before. Yuito was all but done drawing before she showed up, and Hitomi couldn’t see colors. Both had shut themselves into dark, gray corners, but now the walls of those corners have shattered and given way to brilliant colors.

But as I predicted, love is the answer here. Saying she loves Yuito and hearing that he loves her back is enough to restore color to her world; this time, permanently. In the moments before she’s sent back to the future, she can see everyone and the town in color for the first time.

Kohaku privately remarks that it wasn’t her time magic that sent Hitomi back; it was Hitomi’s own unconscious magic simply wearing off. Shortly after Hitomi disappears, Kohaku gets a text from “Kohaku Level 77” in the year 2078: Hitomi has returned safe and sound.

Her life-changing journey thus at an end, Hitomi finds herself on the same hill where she left her granny, and they embrace tearfully. Kohaku (she insists Hitomi call her that rather than “Granny” since they became such good friends in the past) then presents Hitomi with a time capsule containing all the photos they took together.

It was probably already there, buried in the yard, before Hitomi left; Kohaku always knew she’d become a great enough mage to send Hitomi back. She’s just glad her action led to Hitomi finding happiness. Finally, she shows Kohaku the children’s book she read as a child—the only thing she saw in color. Turns out, it was written by Aoi Yuito.

After leaving flowers at her mother’s grave, Hitomi, brimming with the confidence her time in the past awakened, reconnects with her friends with school and starts an all-new Magic Photography Arts Club. As for where the 70ish-year-old Yuito and the others are…the show does not disclose that, nor does Hitomi seem in a hurry to seek them out.

That seems strange, since one would’ve thought Kohaku would have kept in touch with one if not all of them, and one would think that due to advances in technology people would live longer than they do in 2018. Alas, this finale wasn’t about Hitomi reconnecting with her friends from the past (other than Kohaku), nor her rather uninspiring romance with Yuito.

It was about Hitomi leaving that dark corner where she shut herself off, embracing all of the new colors in her world, and resuming her life in her time. She got what she needed in the past. Now it’s time to build a new happy future for herself.—MagicalChurlSukui

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 12 – The Firework Called Love

Yuito and Hitomi’s embrace late last week felt like a turning point in their romantic development—as scenes  in which two sides of a couple run towards each other in the middle of the night tend to feel. But the aftermath of that embrace is tempered by two factors this week.

The first is the looming dread of Hitomi having to return to her time, despite not wanting to. The second, and possibly most unfortunate, is that as romantic pairings go, Hitomi and Yuito are just a bit dull. The flame of last week’s dramatic gesture was fizzled out rather quickly and anti-climactically, without so much of a hint of the ever-important confession.

But maybe that was the point. After all, what’s the point of confessing your love to someone you may never see again…though considering Kohaku is still around in the future there’s a good chance Yuito could be too—more on that later.

The club has a festival to execute, and despite her issues, Hitomi puts on a brave face and gives it her all. The result is some of her most impressive magic to date; Kokahu notes after the immensely successful first day that it’s the result of Hitomi’s training, not to mention being around people she wants to make happy with her magic, something she didn’t have in the future.

Back home, Kohaku’s folks have prepared a lavish feast to send Hitomi off, but some of their practical logistical talk initially harms the mood until they drop the subject and just let Kohaku enjoy her last night there, while preparing for her last day.

Festival-wise, the second day goes as well as the first; so well that Asagi, having made a mint off her bunny postcards, decides to kick Hitomi and Yuito out of the clubroom to explore the festival together, a sweet gesture on her part that shows how far she’s come.

Asagi later tells Shou people shouldn’t apologize for having liked someone (in his case Hitomi). She respects how Shou was able to put himself out there, and hopes one day she’ll have the courage to do the same. Naturally, she doesn’t specify whom she’d muster the courage to confess to, and even if she did, Shou still might not quite get it.

As for Hitomi and Yuito, they have fun running around the festival, culminating in a visit to what frankly seemed like a pretty lame haunted house—only one thing jumped out at them. Still, the darkness is an opportunity for the oh-so-timid couple to hold hands some more.

When they exit, Hitomi decides to cut their break short, perhaps satisfied with the moments they shared, but possibly also because she doesn’t want to get too deep into anything so close to ZHIEND.

During the festival wrap party, Kohaku and Hitomi join forces once more to create magical fireworks. While watching them burst in the sky, Hitomi describes how she feels, and Kohaku remarks that it sure sounds like it’s “happiness.” In that moment, Hitomi sees color in the fireworks—a huge improvement from when she saw them in black and white back in the future.

Unfortunately, the fireworks are the only thing she sees in color, and when they’re gone, her vision is back to monochrome. Perhaps there’s one thing she needs to do to make the colors permanent: tell Yuito how (I presume) she feels.

Whether she can do that in the past, or track him down in the future (when I imagine he’d recognize and remember her, as would the others), who can say. Maybe she’ll never confess openly at all, or maybe the magic ritual with the clock won’t work. However happily or bittersweetly it’s likely to end, I’m eager to see how this story resolves.

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 11 – Suddenly, Out of Time

The club is putting the finishing touches on their photography, art, and magic exhibition (I love how the principal asks Kohaku to define “event”) as the day of the festival approaches, but the impending joy of sharing their gifts with classmates, friends and family is suddenly, jarringly preempted by a new and bizarre development: Hitomi is starting to experience “time gaps” as a result of the future Kohaku’s magic wearing off.

At first, Asagi thinks she was just mistaken in not noticing Hitomi in the room into which she’d just walked. But it only takes us one look from Kohaku to realize that something very wrong is occurring, and it can spiral out of control fast if not dealt with immediately. All of a sudden, all of the interpersonal problems that have occurred among the club so far pale in comparison to the very real threat of Hitomi permanently vanishing into oblivion.

Kohaku contacts a scholar and expert in time magic, as well as a fellow mage at a bookstore, to confirm her suspicions: whatever time magic she used sixty years in the future, it must be used again to return Hitomi to her proper place in the timeline, lest the universe excise her by force. For as much as she’s fit in and become comfortable, the fact is she is the kind of space-time abnormality the universe abhors.

There is no easy way to break this to Hitomi, and as a result of the suddenness and finality of the news (You gotta go, ASAP, The End) she’s just not sure how to process it, what to do or what to say. It’s sobering to know there doesn’t seem to be any time magic Kohaku of the present could perform on Hitomi to stabilize her presence in the past.

The next day’s weather reflects Kokahu and Hitomi’s moods, but the rain reminds Hitomi of the night Yuito offered her an umbrella, and she takes comfort in the belief it’s a memory she’ll always recall whenever it rains. Unfortunately, she also disappears right before Yuito’s eyes, and her umbrella depressingly falls to the ground.

When Yuito reports the incident to the others, Kohaku comes clean about the extent of the danger Hitomi’s in. She and Yuito find Hitomi where she vanished, sleeping in a bed of flowers in a disturbingly funereal scene that shakes Kohaku to the core. Back home, she sits vigil for her granddaughter, but her own grandmother tells her to get some rest herself. After all, Kohaku’s future self tacitly trusted her past self to pull off the time magic that will bring Hitomi back…but she won’t be able to do it if she’s exhausted.

Hitomi wakes up the next morning literally tied to Kohaku with a string, and  ends up staying in for the day. Still, she gets up and leaves the house and ends up finding Kohaku on the beach with the others, gathering star sand for use in the spell that will return her to her time. A lot more sand than usual is washed up due to the typhoon that just blew by.

While no one is happy about the prospect of Hitomi having to go, and so soon (especially Asagi and Yuito), when Kohaku asks for help, they help, for Hitomi’s sake. They collect enough sand and she gets it to her acquaintance, who assures her they’ll have it ready to go by tomorrow.

Meanwhile, back at home, Hitomi finally finds a way to reach out to Yuito from across the town: a magical homing paper airplane, which taps on his window. He flashes his lights on and off, as does Hitomi. When her second airplane seems to go off course, she jumps into her shoes and chases after it.

Turns out it’s still en route to Yuito; he’s just not at home anymore: he’s racing towards her just as she’s racing towards him, and they meet in the middle, under the almost-new moon, and embrace. It took the urgency of impending oblivion for it to happen, but the two have finally come together and are on the same wavelength. It’s just too bad the time they’ll have after reaching this state looks to be all too painfully short…

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 10 – Diving In

As a result of Shou confessing to Hitomi, she and Asagi find themselves “at odds”, as he puts it (naturally he has no idea why, the big dolt). But neither of them want to keep not talking to each other. So Hitomi doesn’t give up trying to reach out to Asagi, and the two end up making up pretty quickly and easily once Asagi works through her frustrations as more her own fault that Hitomi’s.

After all, someone who’s known Shou as long as she has should know full well how direct and clear she has to be, and she hasn’t been, leading to him seeking love elsewhere. No matter how obvious it may seem to her that she’s in love with Shou, it’s ultimately up to her to make it known to him beyond doubt. Besties once more, Asagi and Hitomi scarf down some healing parfaits and then partake in therapeutic karaoke with Kurumi and Kohaku.

The next day, Kohaku announces the magical presentation which will be her contribution to the club for the festival. She intends, with Hitomi’s help, to transport visitors into a drawing; specifically, one of Yuito’s fantastical pastels. But Kohaku makes it clear to Hitomi she can’t do it without her. Hitomi has a special ability to reach into the heart of the artist (in this case Yuito’s), and has faith she’ll be able to do it. All it will take is dedication to the goal, discipline, and practice, practice, practice.

First she sends one paper airplane into a Seurat painting on the computer. Then two, then five, then one for every member of the club, in under three minutes. Kohaku may have asked a lot of Hitomi, but she knows how powerful Hitomi’s magic is, as well as how it’s been dormant much of her life. It’s time to let it out to stretch its legs, and once Hitomi gets it, it’s as invigorating for her as it is exciting for her granny.

Yuito completes his drawing—one with a theme park aesthetic that combines all of the club members’ disparate requests—and Hitomi and Kohaku successfully transport everyone inside. For the first time, Hitomi and her friends can see the same colors at the same time.

It’s a glorious sequence, diving into the drawing, and reminded me more and more of the similarly trippy What Dreams May Come, which starts out all vivid and lush and slowly grows more dark and menacing as its protagonist descends into the bowels of the hereafter.

Hitomi and Yuito are enjoying a lovely stroll in the forest when he spots his neon fish and follows it into a dark corner of the painting. Before long, he finds a stone statue of a seated, forlorn Hitomi, then gets shut into an even deeper darker chamber where he finds a young and even more forlorn Hitomi drawing sad monochromatic pictures of a princess and queen seemingly perpetually separated by a deep black boundary.

No matter how hard Yuito tries to cheer up this illusory ‘lil Hitomi, she rejects his attempts as unwanted and futile. Nothing can cross that black boundary. She doesn’t know why; she just knows you…just can’t. When Yuito snaps back into reality with everyone else outside the picture, Hitomi finds herself suddenly crying.

Clearly, just as Hitomi was able to reach into Yuito’s heart and bring his drawing to life for everyone to share in, Yuito’s drawing drew out a part of Hitomi. Now that he’s seen it, he’s not just going to pretend he didn’t.

She and Yuito go to their vantage point and talk through it. Yuito brings uncomfortable things up Hitomi would rather be left unsaid, right up until she’s shouting for him to stop already, but she realizes he’s trying to help and so she talks, for the first time, about how things were.

Hitomi’s mother was the first Tsukishiro woman in a long, long time who had no magical ability, but Hitomi had plenty. She believes her having magic is the reason her mother suddenly left, and blames and curses herself for not calling out to her. Yuito rightly assures her that Hitomi shouldn’t feel responsible just because she had magic and her mother didn’t, and rather than shoulder all the blame, it’s okay for her to be angry.

Hitomi’s guilt over the abilities she was born with led to her hatred of, and turning of her back on, magic. Until now, of course. Even without her mother around, she’s not alone. She has friends who care about her and are amazed and moved and made happier by the magical gifts Kohaku is helping her hone. And perhaps that’s why her grandmother sent her to the past to begin with: to show her that her magic is a blessing, not a burden.

Golden Kamuy – 21 – The Naked Truth

While visiting Asirpa’s relatives, the crew learns of a band of blind bandits who were once sulfur miners on Mount Iwo. Those who weren’t killed by the acid ended up sightless, and attack anyone they can in the dark. They’re led by a former Abashiri inmate, Toni Anji, who also has tattoos. They head to a local hot spring, but while all the guys are relaxing in the bath, the blind bandits snuff out all the light and attack.

As a result, Sugimoto, Tanigaki, Ogata, Kiroranke, and Shiraishi have to fight an enemy they can’t see with their dicks out. The enemy can “see” them just fine thanks to echolocation by tongue-clicking; a clever tactic that also creates an unsettling atmosphere.

As with the aphrodisiac sea otter incident, the beefcake is strong with this episode, with tasteful angles and shadows preventing everyone’s manhood from being exposed. Only Asirpa and Inkarmat remain clothed. Golden Kamuy has proven quite adept at creating compelling action set pieces, and taking away both the clothes and eyesight of the combatants is yet another example of that proficiency. It’s also pretty hilarious.

While she’s still weary of Kiroranke, Inkarmat still joins him and Tanigaki on a boat to try to escape the bandits, but Toni and his cohorts toss stones to gauge distance before he opens fire, shooting Tanigaki and capsizing the boat. Inkarmat can’t swim, and starts to sink, and even has a vision of a circle of bears coming to claim her soul.

But Tanigaki, who was only shot through the butt, dives into the lake and rescues her, and she rewards him with a kiss. She thought for sure she was a goner, but he showed her that the fate her fortune-telling portends can be changed.

As dawn starts to peek out of the horizon, Sugimoto and Ogata (the only one of them with a gun) infiltrate the bandits’ hideout, but soon find the windows are all nailed shut, and another ambush ensues in the pitch black. Toni goes after Sugimoto, and the two grapple and come to a standoff.

That’s when Hijikata suddenly appears to greet his old fellow inmate, and Ushiyama tears through the walls to let the sun in. The threat is over, with Sugimoto & Co. leaving Toni Anji to Hijikata & Co., provided he can get a copy of the tattoos he bears.

As the now fully-reunited supergroup heads into town to take their pictures taken, of all things, Tsurumi “punishes” his Abashiri mole, Private Usami, by drawing stick figures on his symmetrical face moles (a mole with moles, heh heh). Usami, like so many young men, is so smitten with the Lieutenant that it’s hardly punishment at all.

As for Sugimoto, he is compared to a young Hijikata by the old man’s photographer friend: “like a demon, but also kind.” But while locked in battle in the darkness, Toni Anji said sensed something else those with sight couldn’t: that Sugimoto could never return to who he was. I guess we’ll find out.

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 09 – Shou Breaks the Logjam

Ah, Photography Club: where there are always plenty of photos of the members looking at one another to determine who likes who. Shou can see how good Hitomi and Yuito look together, while Asagi can tell Shou likes Hitomi. Neither of them are particularly happy about that! If only Shou would look Asagi’s way…and neither Hitomi or Yuito existed…

In high school, time moves a lot slower than adult years, making it feel like you have all the time in the world. But Shou, a senior, is out of time, and can’t afford to wallow in indecision. So he offers to take Hitomi on a picture-taking trip around town, just the two of them.

It’s not overtly a “date”, but it’s a big enough deal that Shou feels it only right to inform Yuito of the plans, which of course imply other plans. Yuito, whose mother worries is too aloof like his dad, isn’t one to suddenly ask a girl out. But he takes the “not relevant/doesn’t matter” route with Shou’s pursuit of Hitomi. HE AIN’T MAD, FOLKS.

The trip goes very swimmingly, if platonically by necessity—Hitomi is not under any illusions she’s on anything other than a photo-taking trip with her senpai—though Shou certainly seems to be enjoying the fact that it very well could be a date.

Chigusa and Kurumi (who seem to be spending the day together like NBD, bless ’em) spot the two, but also shrug it off as not a date. Shou and Hitomi even climb to the highest vantage point in the area at sunset and exchange flattering compliments of each others’ personalities.

It’s not until Hitomi turns to walk home that Shou confesses and asks if she’ll go out with him; fortunately the train doesn’t prevent her from hearing him. Unfortunately she’s so shocked and startled from the confession she bolts away, and spends the rest of the night and the next day in a haze.

At first she tells Kohaku nothing, but between skipping meals, putting her shoes in the locker wrong, and running away again when Shou says good morning, Kohaku can tell there’s definitely something off.

Hitomi finally comes clean, by hypothetically asking Kohaku if there’s anyone she likes or if she’s ever been confessed to. She asks these questions in earshot of the whole class—a high school violation if ever there was one—but when they’re alone Kohaku tells her that ultimately the choice is hers to make, based on her feelings for the ‘rhetorical guy.’ For Kohaku’s part, she’d rather be rejected then not given an answer, even if it hurts.

Asagi can tell Shou is being uncharacteristically gloomy as they look at the pictures he took of places they’d been to countless times. When Asagi asks Hitomi if she’s coming to club, Hitomi has the same questions for Asagi she had for Kohaku, and Asagi spots the photo on Hitomi’s camera of the same place Shou was.

The gig thus well and truly up, Hitomi says she doesn’t “deserve” either to be liked or to like someone, something Asagi characteristically rejects. She urges Hitomi to do something lest “that person” get hurt, then storms off to club.

To Hitomi’s credit, she doesn’t let this uncertainty linger, nor allow Shou to suffer longer than this episode. On the roof she formally rejects him, stating there’s someone else (even if she’s unsure of the true nature of those feelings).

It’s clear to Shou about whom she’s talking: Yuito, who joins Shou on the roof and witnesses him shouting at the top of his lungs in a kind of release. Both the confession and the scream amaze Yuito; both are things he can’t imagine doing himself.

Later, Hitomi tracks Asagi back down, but before she can say anything, Asagi tells her that the person she liked (past tense) was Shou, the person Hitomi just rejected. Then she runs off and crumples into a little ball on a playground. What a fine mess we have here!

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 04 – Cigs & Papers

An harmless question about what you want to do before you die turns into trip down Bad Girl Lane, as Chio makes half-good on her dream of grabbing a cigarette that’s been tossed from a car.

Half, because there’s no time to toss it back and wryly say “you dropped something!”—which would have been awesome—and hurts her shoulder. BUT…she holds on to the barely-smoked cigarette, and immediately becomes fascinated by its seductive allure.

Manana, always thinking ahead of ways to advance her social position, snaps some photos of Chio holding the cigarette oh-so-close to her mouth (the creator’s more adult roots are evident here).

But then Chio suggests Manana pose for some shots, and the two get super into it, with Manana snapping an EPIC shot of Chio with some crows taking flight, while Manana does a pretty badass pose herself—were it not for the cat in the background throwing up!

Chio wants to take more pics, but they have to get to school (the interior of which we still have yet to see…and hopefully never will!). That means smuggling the cigarette onto school grounds, and getting past the teacher in pink Crocs who guards the entrance.

She fails—the teach smells the tobacco immediately—but with nothing to lose Chio simply tells the truth, and he pats her on the head for a job well-done. This doesn’t sit well with Chio, who doesn’t like the fact it never occured to him she would actually smoke (particularly that brand), and when she says she’s a bad girl and strikes a pose, the students around her only laugh. Poor Chio!

One person who has always taken Chio seriously is Andou, who still calls her Bloody Butterfly by habit when they encounter each other quite by chance. Manana hates the prospect of ever having to work for a living, and bets Chio the first adult they see will tell them they hate their job.

Unfortunately for Manana, that first adult is Andou, who won’t go so far as to say what Manana wants him to say. Having seen him fall so far, Chio decides to help him out with his newspaper delivery, and she and Manana learn how grouchy Showa-era people get when their paper is late (this is an excellent Japan-o-centric joke an outsider can still appreciate).

It’s looking like, former bike gang leader or no, Andou’s job just plain blows any way you look at it, but Chio remains optimistic throughout, not letting Andou resort to despair. She uses her surprising athleticism to sneakily drop a paper in a particularly prickly customer’s mail slot, relying on Andou to catch her when she has to leap over a second-floor balcony.

Before long, all the papers are delivered, and far from still wanting to hang it up, Andou is inspired enough by Chio’s support to keep the job for a little while longer. The end result of all this is, of course, that Chio wins the bet and vociferously demands her 100 yen from an exasperated Manana who had no idea Chio would take it this far.

But that’s Chio: at the end of the day she’s a very passionate, intense person who will do whatever it takes, whether it’s getting to school on time or convincing a former bike gangster not to quit a delivery gig. She’s not the ordinary, quite, below average girl she always says she wants to be.

Manana proves just as adept at greeting a classmate in the most ambiguous way possible…at least until that classmate worries that Manana is sick, Manana takes the play-acting further, and draws more classmates to her. At least in this, Chio decides to be passive, running away from the increasingly unpleasant spectacle.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 04 – Love Could Be Labeled “Poison” and We’d Drink It Anyway

I’m of the mind you’re never too old to cry at anime. I speak from experience! WotaKoi hasn’t made me cry yet, but it does agree with me on this point, as Narumi demonstrates to Hirotaka with a lunchtime screening of Sailor Moon.

It also tells some truths about people who are very into things being drawn to each other, even if they aren’t super-into the same things. That’s certainly the case with our two couples, but it doesn’t change the fact that their partners are constantly surprising one another with how their differing tastes and desires mesh—or clash—with their own.

Hirotaka happily goes along with Narumi’s desire to have him cosplay as a woman for a photoshoot, and the execution is successful enough to fool Kabakura. But Kabakura doesn’t go along with Koyanagi at all, and even if they get along part of the time, they never seem to waste an opportunity to fight with one another…which isn’t always entertaining for bystanders!

Ultimately Koyanagi gets what she wants by bribing him with a rare figurine he’s really into. As we saw last week with the two at Hirotaka’s house, they are capable of showing great sweetness and tenderness to each other, but Kabakura’s embarrassment with certain aspects of their relationship can lead him to lash out, and Koyanagi gives as good as she gets.

In another example of differing styles, Narumi responds with Hirotaka’s incredibly colorful and verbose text communication with a simple, samurai-esque “at your pleasure.” Both Koyanagi and we learn that the two have always communicated this way, and that Hirotaka’s face can’t keep up with his words or moods, resulting in his usual stoic face.

The purpose of his text(s) was to invite Narumi out for drinks, and since Kabakura is also coming, she should invite Koyanagi too. The four revel in going out for drinks for the first time, but Koyanagi proves to be a quick and volatile drunk, and while he seems able to hold his liquor better, Kabakura proves no less volatile.

Narumi and Hirotaka try and fail to keep the two from blowing up, until a botched making-up session results in Koyanagi storming out. Narumi catches up to her, and she’s sobbing real tears.

The booze brought out her most vulnerable and insecure side; the side that worries that Kabakura acts the way he does because he’s not happy with her; that theirs is a relationship of convenience because they’re both otaku; that he’d rather be with a cute girl like Macross F’s Ranka Lee.

Kabakura is hella mean throughout the night (must he keep calling the clearly attractive Koyanagi an “ugly hag”? He does not.), and his joking around and blithe insults come across as callous and cruel considering Koyanagi’s worried state. But at least he has the good sense to stop—eventually—and let her cry on his shoulder.

The things drunk Koyanagi talked about lead Narumi herself to wonder if Hirotaka would rather be with a non-otaku. Hirotaka can sense her unease, but makes it clear to her he’s not dating her because she’s an otaku or because it’s easy, but because he loves seeing her do the things she likes, and always has, even if they’re not always the same things he likes.

The fact this episode featured not one but two incidences of the women being worried about whether they’re good enough for the men made it feel a bit unbalanced. Then again, I can totally buy that Kabakura acts the way he does sometimes because he’s just as anxious about his self-worth as Koyanagi apparently is.

In any case, I’m really enjoying watching the intricacies of the two couples’ relationships unfold before us. One has been an official couple for far longer, but both have history and just feel right…warts and all.

Takunomi. – 10

It’s the end of the year, and Kae is going to Okinawa with a colleague, reminding Nao of the time they went together so Kae could get over a heartbreak (both have embarrassing pics of one another from that trip). Nao is too busy at work to go, and eventually becomes burnt out, so Kae, with Michiru and Makoto’s help, arranges a way restore Nao’s spirits.

That results in an Okinawan-themed dinner and drinking party, which immediately cheers Nao up. Okinawa is a relatively small island, so it stands to reason they use every possible bit of the pig in their cuisine.

In a neat fact not mentioned in the ep, some of the pork Nao and Kae ate when they went was likely descended from the pigs shipped to the island by Japanese Americans in Hawaii after WWII to help deal with the food shortage.

The perfect beer to wash down the rich, fatty pork is Orion beer, which like all beers brewed for tropical locals, has a light, clean, refreshing taste, a sensation that comes through in the precise animation of the characters drinking.

Makoto managed to find Orion beer at a store a little further out of the way, prompting Nao to embrace her sister, pronounce her love, and beg her to never find a man so they can be together forever (Makoto is understandably noncommittal).

The quartet also remarks how they’ve been together a whole half-year, and it’s been so much fun they should all go to Okinawa together next year.

As it is, Michiru is headed home to spend New Year’s with her mom, but due to all the Okinawan celebrating, she oversleeps and nearly misses her flight; another reminder that part of mastering drinking is making sure you can meet your scheduling obligations afterwards. Still, lots of good food, beer, and fellowship this week.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 10

Sakura is taking hands-free calls from Meiling and her dad whilst preparing for an afternoon visit from Akiho. For those who suspect Akiho of being somehow related to the dreams with the cloaked figure, this episode neither allays nor confirms those suspicions. All it confirms is that Akiho and Sakura get along like peaches and cream.

Akiho is almost too perfect a friend, proper, courteous, and self-effacing as she is. She even hates konjac…just like Sakura. But in the middle of a sumptuous meal lovingly prepared by Sakura, a strange glowing ball that originated in her room puts Akiho into a deep sleep. Assuming it’s a new Card, Sakura and Kero-chan spring into action, but the glowing ball eludes them and heads outside.

When Sakura follows, she finds herself in a trippy alternate dimension that resembles Escher’s RelativitySakura dons rollerblades, gloves, and kneepads to give chase, and instantly makes all of those things super-cool again for the duration of the episode. Kero points out that “they haven’t done this in a while”, so it’s clear the Sakura of previous iterations of the show have done this, back when rollerblading actually was cool.

Both the glowing ball and the labyrinth are seperate Cards: Sleep and Labyrinth, respectively, and Sakura manages to capture both. Akiho wakes up and Yuna D. Kaito takes her home. The rollerblade labyrinth is one of the cooler action sequences the show has done, and it’s executed pretty much flawlessly and with a cool, casual confidence. Not only that, but if this ep was meant to be part of the continuing Akiho charm offensive…well, it’s working!