RikeKoi – 04 – A Date Packed with Data

When Himuro and Yukimura show up to their first date in their normal lab outfits disputing the arrival time within hundredths of a second, things seem destined to go pear-shaped from there. Fortunately, Kanade and Kousuke are there to observe, document, and course-correct, so Kanade helps Himuro pick out more suitable garb.

The two also have a data-collecting app with which they can tally various reactions during the date, from a racing heart to uncertain thoughts. Yukimura is almost ready to hit the latter button when Himuro appears in a cute outfit, whereupon he spams the former button.

Things go pretty smoothly from there, until Yukimura hesitates when the itinerary calls for them to hold hands. Himuro decides to wait for the bus while he settles up the bill, but she’s confronted by a pickup artist who was just caught two-timing his girlfriend and ended up with no one.

Himuro skillfully, hilariously rejects this guy like he’s never been rejected before, providing a damn PowerPoint—magically created for just this instance!—illustrating the reasons why she won’t accept his invitation. When he forces the issue, Yukimura steps in, takes her hand from the guy.

He then makes an impassioned speech about how neither he nor Himuro have time to waste on “animals who have abandoned all reason” and storms away. He worries he made an ass of himself, but Himuro is duly impressed.

Yukimura proves a scaredy-cat in all things amusement park ride, but obviously Himuro doesn’t mind whenever he takes her hand for support, and is afraid of a couple rides herself, culminating in the two huddling together on the Ferris Wheel. Yukimura presents the gift of earrings, chosen using a mathematical formula created just for that decision.

Himuro is touched, and when Yukimura apologizes if they didn’t meet the “base conditions of a date”, Himuro presents the data collected thus far indicating her happiness increased exponentially. Furthermore, even if this data isn’t sufficient to prove their hypothesis, it invites the collection of more data, ergo more dates in the future.

RikeKoi – 03 – Just Get Married Already!

Fourth-year undergrad Inukai Kousuke takes the stage, and at least momentarily gives Ayano a crisis in confidence, since he mentions how he holds his current lover in his arms twice a day and has spent over 227,000 yen on her.

Then we learn he’s talking about 2D girls in dating sims. When Yukimura tells Kousuke he has nothing to be ashamed of Ayano again begins to doubt whether she’s really in love.

When Kanade reaches out during a break, Ayano regales her with a story from her past. When she was in elementary school she was bullied for loving pillbugs. One day, while in the woods, she’s approached by a boy who not only knows what she’s up to, but voices his respect for it.

When she blames the pillbugs, he tells her she’s ostracized not for her hobby, but for having a negative “halo effect” due to her unkempt appearance and standoffish body language.

His call for her to keep her head up and move forward boldly “with beauty and dignity” is something she’s taken to heart, and indeed inspired her not only to pursue a career in science, but as Kanade says, became the cool, beautiful egghead she strove for.

Yet Ayano still feels she’s only partway there as long as she’s unsure of her love. Kanade figures out pretty quickly that the boy Ayano met and was so inspired by and smitted with thirteen years ago was none other than Yukimura. Naturally, the two don’t realize they met each other so long ago.

Rather than try to convince them then and there that they’re soulmates who should by rights be married already were it not for their scientific stubbornness and romantic cluelessness. Better to give them a chance to figure it out for themselves by going on a date.

Neither of them has any problem with this. The problem is, they don’t know the first thing about dates. Enter their three lab-mates, who offer three different versions of how their ideal date would go.

Kanade’s, naturally, involves the teacher she adored in high school, and quickly turns into a sugary shoujo scenario. Kousuke’s involves his tsundere 2D sweetheart, who looks an awful lot like his real-life childhood friend Ibarada. Ibarada’s involves a BL version in which Ayano is a dude with a very detailed backstory.

Eventually they settle on an amusement park date, and calculate the most efficient route to access all 22 attractions. It’s clear they’re overthinking things, but when it comes to actually asking the other out, Yukimura initially pooh-poohs the idea, before asking Ayano out, resulting in her most adorable reaction yet.

RikeKoi – 02 – Love is the Secret Ingredient

This episode is told mostly from the point of view of Himuro and Yukimura’s kohai Kanade, who takes us through a typical day for a fourth-year undergrad at Saitama National University’s department of Information and Computer Science. The two lovebirds continue their dubious research into love, with Himuro calculating their hear rates while she sits on his lap and when he pets her head, activating her prehensile hair.

Then their senpai Ibarada Ena wakes up from her long slumber (she’s up all night playing up to three games at once) and tears down their experiment by pointing out it lacks a control. Who is to say anyone would raise Yukimura’s heart rate when they sit on his lap? When Ibarada sits on his lap and Yukimura pats Kanade’s head, very similar data is returned. Himuro is not happy, but I fear she’s too focused on one particular biological reaction.

Changing course, Himuro and Yukimura use the lab’s communal kitchen to test the theory that food made with love will taste better to the person eating it. Himuro cheats by writing a love message on one omelette but not the other, and Yukimura takes the hint and picks the “correct” dish, thus re-entering Himuro’s good graces. For putting up with their nonsense, Kanade is rewarded with a home-cooked hot meal to accompany the piles of papers she must read.

RikeKoi No. 2 lacks the novelty and energy of the first episode, and the show’s insistence on teaching us scientific jargon while rarely hewing to scientific accuracy is counterproductive (and occasionally patronizing). If you’re going to do a silly love story about two clueless science nerds, don’t bother trying to educate the audience—just go all out and have fun with it!

RikeKoi – 01 (First Impressions) – Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove It

One morning, right in the midst of what is clearly their typical playfully adversarial tete-a-tete, grad student researcher Himuro Ayano tells her colleague Yukimura Shinya that she may be in love with him. Shinya replies that he “couldn’t say he harbors no affection” for her. Both are “science-types”—True Nerds—with zero romantic experience, so they decide to attempt to use their beloved scientific method to prove if “Himuro’s Love” is the same as love.

Thus two people who are geniuses in their particular fields undertake a fool’s errand, trying to quantify and analyze something as unscientific and inscrutable as love, stalwart in their absolute faith that everything can be expressed in data; in numbers.

While they may be correct that love and other emotions boil down to electrical signals in the brain, science is still a long way from interpreting them to the point of a surefire formula for what is or isn’t love. For one thing, it’s different from person to person!

Of course, that doesn’t stop the two lovebirds from trying via “experimentation”, i.e. wall slams and other close contact that increases heart rate. Much science-y bickering ensues, with their more normal kohai Kotonoha Kanade (an audience surrogate) stuck in the middle.

In many ways, this show echoes Kaguya-sama: Love is War, which also features to surpassingly competent and upstanding people who are utterly incompetent when it comes to matters of love. Yukimura and Himuro are similarly their own worst enemy by insisting on such a high and ultimately impossible standard for what love is rather than simply starting a relationship like normal people.

There’s a level of suspension of disbelief that two grad students as attractive as these two have never experienced romance until now, such late-blooming is far from inconceivable. I also felt the bear mascot explaining math brought the episode to a screeching halt, though I suspect he’ll appear in every episode.

There are also additional characters yet to be introduced who may make things more complicated, but with the unreliable sample size of one episode, I am willing to put forth the hypothesis that I like this show and its quirky couple and it’s worth watching! We’ll see if I’m proven right.

P.S. Like ReLIFE, another rom-com about late bloomers, RikeKoi is being released all at once, Netflix-style. I won’t binge it, but depending on if I stick with it (likely at this point) I’ll probably be watching/reviewing more than one episode per week.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress – 03

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Well, Mumei and Ikoma got on the train, but hardly any of the ingrate cowards aboard want them there. Unfortunately, they can’t do shit about that, and Mumei makes it clear that if they think she’s their enemy, the feelings mutual and they’re welcome to die by her hand if that’s what they want.

It’s great that Mumei hasn’t the slightest will or compulsion to calmly explain herself. She saved all their pathetic lives; that should be enough reason for her to be allowed aboard. Ikoma, on the other hand, would like to explain himself, but he doesn’t quite get it yet himself.

Ayame, who is de facto in charge of the train following the loss of her father, tends to agree. She’s the only one standing between the Kabaneri and the jumpy ingrate cowards eager to kill them, and she lets Mumei and Ikoma stay in the boiler car, provided they promise to stay there.

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Mumei doesn’t keep her promise long, as she senses a Kabane and rushes into a car full of scared evacuees, including a woman who is pretty clearly bearing a Kabane child, a possibility that probably escapes Mumei because she’s never come across it.

The resulting standoff with guns is defused when an engineer warns the train must stop before reaching the next station to repair the precious water tank, which I’m starting to think was manufactured by Ducati.

While the train is stopped we get a little more world-building with the evacuees, led by elders and holy men, conduct a funeral service for the scores who were lost. Ikoma takes the opportunity to recount the story of how he ran from his sister rather than stay and fight, resulting in her death (he also still carries around the green stone he and his sister kept as good-luck charms).

Ikoma wants to believe his past cowardice and trauma are exceptional in some way, but Mumei is again on the spot with the cruel truth: Ikoma isn’t special, and neither is his story: the weak died; the strong survived.

That cynical but not-wrong summing-up implies Ikoma is strong, by the way, even if he gets his ass handed to him in his first “training” sessions with Mumei. Clearly she believes him strong enough to be his shield when she falls asleep.

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But she gets no sleep tonight, as a gang of disgruntled ingrate cowards gathered by a tsking ringleader (who of course hangs back) challenges Mumei, despite Ayame’s pleadings for calm. Again, Mumei exposes her arrogant streak, perfectly fine with taking out anyone who raises a weapon to her with killing intent.

Ayame again, somehow, manages to stop a full-on fight (i.e. massacre) from breaking out, by pulling out her dagger, putting it to Ikoma’s chest, and proving to the malcontents (and to herself) that he’s not the enemy.

Meanwhile, Mumei slipped away to hang with the women, and kinda proves that she’s not the enemy either by comforting a baby and generally being able to slip into the role of ‘just one of the girls’.

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That act doesn’t last long, however, as after all the fun, Mumei gets hungry. She declines an offer of dumpling soup and asks for blood instead. That’s right; the dun dun duuuun moment occurs at roughly the same time for both Mumei among the girls and Ikoma with an initially relieved, thankful, even bashful Ayame.

This week, I came to empathize a little more for the ingrate cowards of the train. They’re weak, and can’t help being freaked out by the mere possibility a Kabane is walking among them, pretending to play nice, but only for now. Mumei doesn’t help matters by being aggressive and arrogant, but she can’t help being like that either, because she’s strong.

But like a vampire, she still needs blood to stay strong (and operating at peak efficiency). So does Ikoma, which is why after leaking a bit of blood, he starts to go at Ayame like, well, a thirsty vampire. I also learned this is a show that likes its cliffhangers, despite the fact that we know Ikoma isn’t going to remain in that state forever, nor is he going to kill Ayame.

But his and Mumei’s sudden need for fresh blood certainly doesn’t help their chances of ever being trusted by the people they keep saving.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 12 (Fin)

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For me, Rokka no Yuusha’s ending was never going to be satisfying. Even if the identity of the seventh is revealed—and it is; it’s Nashetania, whom we’d suspected the most all along—one episode isn’t enough to get to the Demon God, let alone defeat him. It just wasn’t going to happen. With that in mind, I managed my expectations accordingly.

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While it made logical sense based on a lot of her actions throughout the show that Tania was the seventh, it still left me a bit cold. A lot of why I enjoyed the show was the fact that most of the time, especially before that barrier went up, there was no reason to believe Tania was a villain. From the night she visited Adlet in his cell, she seemed like, well, a nice person. The story may have always intended for her to be the villain, but I’m not sure what to do with that.

I’m mostly just disappointed she turned into a sneering baddie who thinks 500,000 human casualties is a small price to pay for peace with the fiends. Despite the evidence against her, it still felt out of left field, and the big revelation didn’t have an impact that justified throwing her character into the dumpster. It doesn’t help that she turns into muddy goo and vanishes into the wind, meaning she’s still very much a threat to the other braves.

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But hey, at least Maura is apologetic and ready to work with Adlet, right? And Fremy isn’t going to go off on her own, and after she has some time to think, may eventually figure out how to interact with Adlet, whom she has feelings for? And we’re down to the correct number of six braves, right? Well, on that last point, wrong. 

Once the barrier falls, another seventh brave shows up. This brave, Rolonia seems specifically meant to vaguely resemble a cheap Nashetania knock-off, albeit with cow-themed rather than rabbit-themed armor. Worse, her sudden appearance, as well as the newly reignited suspicion and discord amongst the other braves…is played for comedy.

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Sorry, but this development is unforgivable. We were DONE with the seventh brave mystery. It took up the whole damn show, and if we’re being honest, wasn’t enough on its own to sustain most of the show. Combined with Nashetania being wasted, and not dying, ending up as a fresh threat, as well as the sudden arrival of a king who says 2,000 fiends are descending on their position…it’s all too much for a show that gives no indication of if and when it will return.

Part of it is me; I came in expecting the world-saving story to progress a lot further, rather than the show to get bogged down in a mystery. But for the show to solve that mystery, only to immediately start a new one in the last episode, was frankly the last straw for me. I’ve run out of goodwill and patience for this show. I wish I’d run out much earlier, so I wouldn’t have had to watch this botched finale. But I can tell you one thing: if there is a second season, I’ll be passing on it.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 11

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To be honest, while RnY got off to a stirring start, it’s been a bit of a disappointment, failing to score a 9 all Summer. It’s gotten to the point that if I could go back to week one, I’d probably choose to skip it. But since watching week one, and then week two, and beyond, I’ve been unable to turn away, because of the weekly reminder that the next revelation or new truth or uncovered mystery is always around the corner. And the central mystery—Who is the Seventh—will keep me around until the end.

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Much of this week’s first half is devoted to Nashetania’s attempts to kill Adlet, flanked by Maura and Goldov. Fremy, now firmly on Adlet’s side, backs him up; he saves her from Tania’s blades, then she comes right back and saves him from Tania’s blades. And while Tania seems to play up the insanity a bit too much, the show at least attempts to explain her behavior as that of an inexperienced princess out in the world for the first time, who believes she’s had the wool pulled from her eyes. After all, why would Maura be lying to her about Adlet injuring Hans?

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In the process we see exactly how tough and relentless the Blade Saint can be when she’s trying to make up for her ignorance and naivete, even though its those very qualities she’s succombing to by blindly belieiving Maura. But neither she nor Maura nor Goldov are able to kill Adlet before he’s able to get to the very spot where he can clear everything up and prove once and for all he’s not the seventh by exposing their plan.

In other words, part of being the World’s Strongest Man means having an extraordinary amount of luck, and being able to rely on luck and only luck when backed into a corner. Because he’s so lucky, not only do the six other braves converge at right place, but the injuries he suffered made him lose enough blood that he finally realized why it’s been so cold.

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His explanations, while long-winded and somewhat momentum-killing, are still welcome, because they make so many references to past events in the show, tying previously mundane details together to built his argument. The seventh and their allies kidnapped the Sun Saint Riuna to heat up the area around the temple, then killed her so the temperature would drop, causing the fog the braves thought was a result of the barrier. Then when no one was noticing, the real barrier was activated.

Hans finds the body of Riuna in a nearby dead fiend, proving Adlet right, and after Tania and Goldov stayed their hands, even Maura must concede she was mistaken about Adlet being the seventh. Which begs the question: than who is? Everyone has acted in some way that seemed suspicious, only to turn out not to be the seventh, so it truly could be anyone.

Unfortunately, the episode couldn’t resist cutting to the credits before Adlet can spit it out, but you can be certain I’ll be back next week, eagerly awaiting that name.

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