Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro – 08 – Just Messin’ Around

I imagine a big part of Naoto’s appeal for Nagatoro is that she’s stronger than him, but that sure doesn’t stop her from teasing him for it…or rather, from using that weakness as an excuse to mount him. Because the door to the art room is open, their horseplay becomes PDA when two girls walk past and catch them in the act.

While she may have become more accustomed to her close friends being aware of her special bond with her Senpai, relative strangers are a different story. And yet…why was that door open, except to court danger, thus adding spice to their relationship?

The next segment is all about studying, and whether between making art and Nagatoro making time with him will cause Naoto to repeat his grade. If that’s the case, he’ll be in the same class as Nagatoro…and will she then start calling him by his actual name? ‘Course not…in that scenario, he’ll be known as “Ex-Senpai”!

When Naoto bears down with his studying, Nagatoro is almost hurt; would it be so bad if they shared a class together—and spent an extra year together? Naoto envisions having to massage not only Nagatoro, but Gamo and Yosshi as well, so the answer is no, it wouldn’t be that bad at all. Still, the ever=elusive Sakura admits that all of them other than Nagatoro are in danger of repeating their grade if they don’t study themselves.

In the shortest sequence of the episode—it would an omake were it after the credits—Nagatoro listens through the door of the art club as Gamo, Yosshi, and Sakura say a whole bunch of suggestive things to Senpai, and he responds with some very suspicious noises. When she finally bursts in, she learns he helped Sakura carry some wooden stools, got a splinter, and they were going to take it out for him. Nagatoro swoops in and takes care of it instead.

After school while walking home, Nagatoro is still sore about Naoto two-timing him with the others, and devolves into elementary school mode by challenging him to rock-paper-scissors. The first game backfires when his (accidental) paper beats her rock, and she carries both of their bags. But when he lets her win once, and she wins a second time, she decides that she’ll be his payload going forward, hopping on his back.

The two bask in the thrill of their suddenly close contact, but Naoto’s lack of physical conditioning rears its ugly head and she starts to slip off. His hands slide back to her backside, which proves a bit too much stimulation for Nagatoro, who bolts off like a cat out of hell; her heart about to leap out of her chest.

Bcak home, Naoto does his homework, but his eyes are constantly looking at his phone, worried about Nagatoro and waiting for her to message him. Sure enough, she does, and decides to invert her own embarrassment by making it clear to him that she’s currently taking a bath.

In her mirth over his outsize reaction to this, Nagatoro accidentally switches on her video, giving Naoto a look a her as the Good Lord made her. When Naoto points this out, both of them go red as Atomic Fire Balls, but neither are about to say they regret it happened.

And that’s the thing: all of the teasing and play are almost getting in the way of what could be a perfectly normal and lovely boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. Add up all of the things these two have experienced together (and done to and for each other), there’s real, earnest affection between the two. Nagatoro can bray all she likes about how “gross” Senpai is, but it’s just a façade.

The truth of the matter is, this is a dyed-in-the-wool couple. They’re just avoiding acknowledgement of that because it’s new, and scary, and upheaves their safe, comfortable status quo. Will they ever admit this in the remaining episodes, or keep going in circles? The show seems to indicate the latter, but it’s written itself in a corner by creating a couple that’s just too damn cute to not make official.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode 8 “Senpai” Count: 25 (+8 “Ex-Senpais” / 7 “Paisens”)
Total: 297

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 04 – Fireworks Factory

When Itsuki shows up to the Uesagi household, it’s on official business on behalf of her dad. She’s come to deliver Fuutarou’s payment so far: ¥50,000 ($469) for two days of work. Only Fuu doesn’t want to accept it at first, since very little in the way of tutoring has happened in those two days.

Still, Itsuki doesn’t agree that he’s done nothing, mentioning how his mere presence is starting to “change something” in the five of them. So the cash is his. Fuutarou decides to spend it on Raiha, and because no one can refuse Raiha’s shimmering Bambi eyes, Itsuki tags along on what turns out to be a fun trip to the arcade. I was impressed that the episode managed to pack an entire dating sim event’s worth of material in the first five minutes!

What was to be Fuutarou’s Sunday free of quints turns into half a day with one, followed by an evening with all five. No matter; he was thinking of them even when he was studying alone, indicating the “change” Itsuka spoke of goes both ways. They somehow(!) agree to finish all their homework before going out for the fireworks festival.

As if the quints weren’t resplendent enough in their school uniforms or casual clothes, they all show up in full yukata regalia. Itsuka even changes her hairstyle, leading Fuutarou to initially not know who he’s talking to when she approaches him. Yotsuba seems the most smitten with Raiha, to the point she jokingly considers marrying Fuutarou just so they can be legal sisters.

Meanwhile, Nino sees Raiha with a firm grasp on her big brother’s sleeve so as not to get lost in the crowd, and if anything seems jealous of Raiha. Miku explains to Fuutarou that fireworks were a big part of their shared memories of their departed mother (something they share with the Uesugis).

That also explains why Nino is so intent on keeping the tradition alive, this time in the role of the caretaker in her mother’s stead. She even rents out an entire rooftop so they don’t miss a thing, but it’s she who gets lost in the crowd, until she’s “rescued” by Fuutarou, and proceeds to grasp his sleeve as they ply through the crush, and head for the rooftop.

Unfortunately, Nino messed up: none of her sisters know the rooftop’s address. Fuutarou volunteers to head out and locate the others, starting with Ichika, whom they spot from the roof. However, once he approaches her, he’s stopped by an older man in a mustache from whom she’d gotten a call earlier that night. While Fuutarou is trying to determine the best way to describe his relationship with Ichika to the man the two vanish.

Apparently when life takes away an Ichika, it provides a Miku in return, and since Miku got her foot stepped on, Fuutarou lets her ride piggyback…for all of five minutes, until he declares her too heavy to get anywhere fast. He bandages her foot and she gives him a sarcastic thanks (what’s he doing bringing up a lady’s weight?). Regarding Ichika, Miku has seen her getting out of a mustachioed man’s car in the past, so whatever’s going on with them, it’s not the first time.

By episode’s end, only 24 minutes (equal to one more episode) of the fireworks remain, meaning there’s still time to wrangle the quints so they can share in the special tradition Nino so desperately wants to preserve. One could call Fuutarou’s mission akin to scooping five goldfish with the same net, with the prize of gaining at least some points with Nino.

The only problem is, the pool in which those five fish reside is a big one, time is wasting, and one of those fish, Ichika, has already escaped, making it plain she won’t be joining the others. Whether this is her own choice (part of a larger effort to become an independent adult), that guy’s choice (is this an escort date, a legit relationship, or something else?) we don’t really know. Ichika’s face at the end is a veritable enigma.

Still, one thing is clear: something is definitely troubling the cool, carefree Ichika, and Fuutarou can tell. And that’s what’s so engaging about the quints: just when you think you have one figured out based on their outward traits, something happens that reveals a whole new side of them, and you can’t help but want to learn more.

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 06

uso60

This week’s Uso showed me something: that it didn’t need a rousing central musical performance to earn a 10. In fact, this episode made the music look like glorified window dressing; icing on the cake: sweet but ultimately unnecessary. What takes center stage here is character and relationships. We start with dual aftermaths of jumping from that bridge; first in the past, when Tsubaki carried Kousei home even though she was injured herself…

uso61

…to Kousei inviting Kaori to his house to dry off and change. Just as she wriggled her way into his heart, she does the same into his home, and proves just as positively disruptive; relieving his piano of all the books and boxes and dust that had accumulated on it. Ever the breath of fresh air; the new bright beacon of redemption.

uso62uso63

Then Kaori throws open the window to reveal Tsubaki next door, and, well…what the heck is Tsubaki supposed to think, considering how she feels about both Kousei and Kaori? One is the guy who’s always been with her and vice versa; the other is the girl who seems well on the way to snatching him away. This is why early, straightforward confessions are so important…but in reality, they’re far harder to get out.

uso64

Kaori’s invasion extends far beyong Kousei’s heart and home; she’s all about fully restoring him to the stature he once had, only this time, not simply for his mother’s sake, but because it’s what he wants to do. To that end, she enters him into a prestigious competition with Chopin as the set piece, and essentially coaches and bullies him to prepare for it.

uso65

Ever so gradually, the music comes back to Kousei. It’s not that good yet; it still sounds like his greatness is submerged in a deep sea, but to see Tsubaki’s serene, relieved face listening next door is a beautiful moment…but so it Kaori nodding off in the music room as Kousei practices.

uso66

Things are not looking good for Tsubaki, especially when Kaori shrugs off her devotion and care towards him as simply “looking out for a hopeless kid brother.” Tsubaki saw how they looked at each other; she knows it must be more than that. Feeling desperately alone, when Saitou calls her, she suggests they go out.

uso67

Meanwhile, as if to confirm Tsubaki’s suspicions, Kaori turns right around and heads back to school where Kousei is still working. She takes what Tsubaki said about Kousei suffering through it all, and tearfully begs his forgiveness for pushing him so hard so fast. Kousei’s reaction surprises her, even though she told Tsubaki the best music is derived from exposure of one’s innermost emotions: he’s grateful Kaori dusted off his piano and threw open the shutters.

He knows he has a long way to go, and he may look like he’s suffering, but such is to be expected when crossing “uncharted waters”. But he’s also suffering because he loves the girl his best friend likes…and clearly Kaori isn’t merely looking out for a little brother.

uso68

I know I say this every other episode…but “Poor Tsubaki!” She tries, damnit! She tries so hard not to feel this way about Kousei, to move on to someone more attainable and uncomplicated, like Saitou. But it just isn’t there. Talking with him, she always comes back to talking about Kousei. Seeing him cheer her on with the angelic Kaori beside him is enough to totally break her focus in a crucial softball game, trying for an inside-the-parker when she only had a triple, and being tagged out at the plate by a foot.

uso69

While it’s generally a pretty good episode for Kousei, it’s The Worst for Tsubaki, but not all is lost, as she finds when walking home from her defeat. Kousei is waiting for her, and knows just where to kick her to necessitate him carrying her on her shoulders, mirroring the cold open’s flashback. He knows because he knows her, as she knows him. Music may make words seem trivial, inadequate, or mundane, but the time and the memories they’ve shared over so many years trump both music and words, at least on this night.

As terrible she feels about losing the game and as present as the threat of Kaori taking him will remain tomorrow, in this moment on this night, on Kousei’s warm back dampened by her own tears, Tsubaki wants nothing else than for time to stand still right there.

uso610

So do we, Tsubaki, so do we. Don’t get me wrong, Kousei and Kaori’s romance is compelling as all-get-out, but so is Tsubaki and Kousei’s. Heck, even the weakest romance, that of Ryouta and Kaori, is still stronger than most because we know Ryouta to be a decent guy and…well, just look at the two, they look like the ideal Representatives of Earth. As for Kousei’s return to the world of music, a couple of rivals who have been waiting for that return are sharpening their teeth. Even in uncharted waters, one can chance upon acquaintances. It’s a small world.

10_ses