Isekai Ojisan – 07 – Power Trip

We witness along with Takafumi and Fujimiya Ojisan’s continued misinterpreting of Elf’s words and actions (ironic considering his translation ability), accusing her of being a thief for insisting on keeping the hoodie she believe was gived to her as a gift.

That said, Elf did give Ojisan something in return: her sparkly green dress you can bet cost a lot more than the ratty hoodie. Ojisan lets Fujimiya try it on, and Takafumi admits she looks good in it. The trio are trying to determing how Ojisan’s “Wild Talker” translation is triggered, but Fujimiya is called away on an errand.

Takafumi and Ojisan keep watching, and come upon the first time Ojisan met Alicia (Toyosaki Aki) and her party-mates Raiga and Edgar, who came to fight a horde of goblins and assumed Ojisan was one of them due to his looks. The group then teams up to fight the actual goblin horde.

That said, Alicia’s party doesn’t get to do much but watch as Ojisan puts on an amazing display of magic. Ojisan claims that playing Golden Axe on Genesis prepared him for this fight while the opposite is true. That said, he prevails, and as the party heads to the village for their reward, Alicia takes Ojisan aside and tells him she witnessed him raising the barrier protecting Luvaldram.

Rather than trust her to keep the secret (and she says she will), he wipes her memory and those of Edgar and Raiga, ending their friendship before it could really take off. However, Ojisan soon encounters the three again, this time assuming he’s the beast they were sent to slay due to his appearance It’s not deja vu for them since all memory of him was wiped.

When they describe the beast as a prickly hedgehog that rolls up into a ball to attack, Ojisan’s mind naturally wanders to visions of Sonic. However, the actual beast turns out to be a biologically correct hedgehog, and thus unrecognizable to Ojisan. Worse, when he uses Wild Talker to converse, he learns the giant hedgehog is a sadistic monster, and incinerates him on the spot.

Suddenly a phone rings; Fujimiya’s phone, which she left at Takafumi’s. He enlists his uncle’s aid in flying him to Fujimiya’s college where they spot her being hassled by a skeevy looking dude. Ojisan leaves the handling of the situation to his nephew, lending him his powers for an hour, just in case.

But when Takafumi gets a better look at the red-haired menace who is all over Fujimiya, he suddenly recognizes him as her cute little brother, Chiaki…who is still in the fourth damn grade. Similarly, when Chiaki realizes it’s Takafumi, his twisted, grotesque face (a quality his older sister shared at that age) suddenly becomes flush and enthusiastic.

Chiaki looking like a skeevy twenty-year old while he’s actually Fujimiya’s fourth-grade brother is an amazing joke that had me rolling, especially due to the consistency with which young Fujimiyas are depicted as more orc (or goblin)-like than everyone in the other world regarded Ojisan. As a little kid, he has also never heard of most of the stuff Ojisan talks to him about, once he joins the group.

When Fujimiya asks what Takafumi would have done if Chiaki had been an adult guy flirting with her, he shows off his temporary uncle powers and makes the two of them invisible, creates two holographic decoys, then teleports them to Fujimiya’s lecture hall several stories up.

Fujimiya is impressed by how quickly Takafumi has managed to master Ojisan’s magic, and notes that this situation reminds her of when he stood up for her when she got shoved by three boys back in grade school. Takafumi decides to tap into her memories and project them as Ojisan does so they can take a look at what happened.

Naturally, things unfolded much differently than either party remembers. Fujimiya wasn’t shoved, she was the shover, and was probably going to do more had Takafumi not arrived to “rescue” her. But even though she was the instigator, Fujimiya was happy then, just as she’s happy now to know he’s got her back.

Takafumi then meets Sawa, Fujimiya’s friend since high school, who tells him Fujimiya has gotten quite popular with the guys since “becoming cuter” in the last six months. Takafumi, still drunk on Ojisan’s temporary power, demands to know the names and locations of said guys (so he can wipe all memory of Fujimiya from their heads).

This protectiveness/possessiveness and his blushing when Fujimiya leaned in to whisper to him suggest there’s something there, but she has a long way to go to get out of the Friendzone. Back at Takafumi’s, he and Fujimiya watch as Alicia reveals herself to be the Hero, AKA “Shining Crusader”, just as I suspected she would be. I look forward to her future interactions with Ojisan.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 02 – Youthful Indiscretion

This week our step-couple encounter their first friends, who come to them completely unbidden. Mizuto immediately pegs Kawanami Kogure as a player just trying to use him to get to Yume, but Kawanami assures him he just wants a mate. Minami Akatsuki approaches Yume during physical tests and spends perhaps too much time comparing bust sizes.

Despite being even littler than Yume, Minami is a decent athlete, which only prompts the “reinvented” Yume to try even harder at the various athletic tests. She ends up wearing herself out, but before she falls Mizuto is right there to catch her. In the nurse’s office, Yume comes clean about not being the most athletic person, and Minami is actually a little relieved, as Yume isn’t as perfect and unapproachable as she feared.

The second half of the episode is Yume’s Dizzy Fever Day, and Minami insists on visiting her new friend at her house to make some rice porridge, escorted, of course, by Mizuto. Apparently, when Yume has a fever she “travels to the past”, since she calls Mizuto “Irido-kun” and tells him she felt lonely when he left her side.

As Mizuto and Minami cook in the kitchen, Minami lets on that she knows Mizuto had a girlfriend, despite his aloof attitude, and may even have deduced that Yume was his girlfriend. As such, she asks him what would happen if he got another girlfriend.

After Minami feeds Yume in bed, possibly fulfilling a number of lifelong dreams, she then departs, leaving Mizuto and Minami alone together. Yume’s first comments upon his return are “look at you, in the kitchen with Minami”, but he says Minami is just outgoing, able to get along with anyone, even the likes of him.

Yume brings up a time when they dated when he let go of her hand while she was sick in bed, and wants to hold Mizuto’s hand again. In her feverish, vulnerable state, it’s only natural to want to embrace the familiar and nostalgic. She even gets Mizuto to provide a monologue about the time between the seventh and eighth grades when they dated, ending when “trivial disagreements piled up”.

I have to say, that doesn’t sound like the kind of horrible rancor that would keep these two apart forevermore, especially when Yume pretends to still have a fever long after it’s passed so Mizuto will keep pampering her (which is extremely cute). Even when he finds out and feigns anger, he lets it slide.

More than anything, Yume doesn’t want Mizuto to “leave her behind”. He assures her he’ll “stick around” since they’re siblings now, but as Minami gleaned, they’re more than just that. With their history, they can’t not be.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 01 (First Impressions) – Old Habits Die Hard

Irido Yume and Irido Mizuto dated in junior high, and apparently had a pretty rough breakup. Now, due to their mom and dad marrying one another, they are now stepsiblings. Naturally, their folks don’t know about their history, so Yume and Mizuto have to hide how much they loathe each other, and settle for trading barbs outside of said folks’ earshot. Already, I love it. It’s so awkward, and somewhat tawdry. I wouldn’t wish this fate on anyone!

But here’s what really makes Tsurekano interesting: as they spend more and more time together—and they can’t not, as they not only live under the same roof, but are in the same class at the same school—they both learn in just this first episode that those old feelings they once had for one another don’t take much to resurface. Yume claims the class rep mantle and gains a lot of friends fast (never her forte in the past), but it backfires when guys try to befriend Mizuto to use him as a stepping stone to ask her out.

Back home, Mizuto doesn’t let Yume express any pity for him, or even say what’s on her mind, but it’s clear it bothers her that what she did might’ve ended up hurting him. Just because you’re exes doesn’t mean you automatically stop having feelings for each other, even a sense of wanting to protect the other. She overcompensates the next day by clinging to Mizuto and saying she has a brother complex, and after Mizuto makes them supper when their folks are out, she remembers the feel of his shoulder and tries to deflect by demanding he forget.

Frustrated by how passive he’s being (and has always been), Yume finally decides to get a literal rise out of him by striding into the living room in a tiny, tightly-wrapped towel and nothing else. While he is indeed initially flustered, her victory is brief, as the towel starts to loosen. Rather than do anything brazen, he covers her up with his hoodie, knowing she didn’t think this plan through. He just knows her too well. They both know each other too well.

And because both Yume and Mizuto are in a rom-com anime, it was inevitable that one of them would slip and fall towards the other, leading to a compromising—but also familiar—position. Mizuto even calls Yume by her old name, Ayai, as he brushes her bangs back in preparation for a kiss that is really only interrupted by the sudden arrival of their parents. Yume’s lucky there’s storage in the couch they were on.

But let’s assume these two are done and done for good because they are now stepsiblings. The show has many places to go with this, from exploring how they’ll no doubt stumble and fall again into old patterns from when they dated, to how they’ll try to counter that by entering hostility-regret-truce spirals, to the underlying mystery of why they broke up.

I also loved the detail that they were both shy “nerds” who still have rooms packed with books, and are both at the top of their class. Oh, and most important: while there are times that I’m on Team No One, at the end of the day both Yume and Mizuto want to make sure their parents are happy. They’re good kids, and I look forward to watching them navigate this strange new normal.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 10 – Reina’d-Back Camp

When Ishikawa and Satou suggests that their group of friends go on a camping trip, Reina is as excited-looking as Raidou can remember seeing her. Miyahara-sensei is happy to transport them to the campground and pick them up at the end of the trip, drifting her minivan along the way just for shits and giggles. Reina offered to bring all the ingredients for dinner and comes with an overstuffed backpack that turns out to contain no food.

No matter; the group fishes and forages for their supper, making sure to check with the campground manager that everything is safe to eat (nobody wants to go on a camping trip). Reina whips up a sumptuous feast that’s probably all the more satisfying because all of the ingredients were procured with their own hands. When Ooshiro turns in early, keeping to her sleep schedule, the others go on a bit of a test of courage.

Ishikawa and Satou, revealing that they are as invested in Aharen x Raidou as the audience, strategically withdraw to leave the lovebirds alone together. The two stargaze, and Reina is on the cusp of saying something important when a beast rushes them; it turns out to be Nui with the food she forgot.

Later that night Ooshiro wakes up to find Reina hasn’t slept a wink. Reina wants advice on how to tell Raidou how she feels without ruining what they have. Ooshiro has watched Reina and Raidou long enough to confidently assure her that everything will work out fine.

When Raidou emerges from his tent for some midnight ramen, Reina follows Ooshiro’s advice and joins him. After they split the cup ramen, Reina says…something that is obscured by a sudden breeze, which also keeps us from hearing Raidou’s response. All we see is Reina leaning in to kiss Raidou, her eyes filling with tears, and running back to her tent.

While we’re left to ponder what was said and the meaning of Reina’s tears, things more or less return to normal, which is probably what Ishikawa, Satou, and Ooshiro should have expected. These two have never made a big deal about being the couple they so clearly have been for some time; it stands to reason they wouldn’t make a big deal out of making it official (if that’s indeed what happened).

One thing’s for sure: the two are as close as ever, and possibly even closer, as observed by master esteem detector Toubaru-sensei, whose throes of esteem overload twist her into increasingly romantic positions with her friend and colleague Miyahara-sensei, further adding fuel to their side-ship. Will the remaining episodes address what was said under the stars that night, or the kiss and tears that followed? I sure hope so!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 09 – An Assembly of Aharens

When Raidou is feeling under the weather one day, he just happens to resemble the love interest in a shoujo romance novel. We know Aharen to be sensitive to how Raidou looks at her, especially after their tender moment at the fireworks festival, so his misleadingly amorous face is almost more than she can take. As for Raidou, he passes out from his fever and goes home early.

The next day Raidou is fully recovered (as one would expect of one with such a hardy build as him), but Aharen is out sick. He’s asked to deliver printouts to Aharen (a time-tested but by now obselete practice in the ageof the internet) and ends up encountering a third member of the Aharen clan: Reina’s much taller little sister, Eru (Hidaka Rina).

Eru exhibits certain tsundere qualities, treating Raidou with initial hostility but later admitting to her sister that she finds him “interesting” and “doesn’t dislike him”. She also has somewhat extreme notions of cooking what with bringing a whole tuna home and cutting it up with what could only be a katana.

Reina is very grateful Raidou came by, but he doesn’t impose further on the Aharens by staying for dinner. Eru watches as her big sister clings to him. While bathing with Ren, Eru admits that she suspects Reina to have “special feelings” for Raidou, but whether they’re actually going out remains a mystery to her.

Lil’ Ren sets out on a shopping trip and runs into Raidou, perhaps for the very purpose of finding out for sure whether he’s dating his big sis. When Ren realizes he’s lost his wallet and all the money for the groceries he intends to buy in order to help his sisters out, Raidou produces his wallet, only to find it’s empty too.

Thankfully, the Aharen dog Nui produces Ren’s wallet with the cash needed, but before Eru can get a straight answer out of Raidou about his relationship with Reina, Reina appears, and the discussion is tabled for now. Sure enough, in the presence of two Aharens Raidou effortlessly calls Reina by her first name, making her steam and blush.

Maybe there’s nothing Raidou could say to Ren or other curious parties to satisfy them. Maybe he and Reina simply defy specific labels.

Spy x Family – 08 – Into the Briar Patch

Anya’s adventures at Eden are placed on hold this week as the adults navigate various difficulties. Miss Handler warns Twilight that the enemy is stepping up their game, which is to say they’re intensifying their investigation of suspected spies and rounding them up wherever they are, including at city hall where Yor works.

Yor’s brother Yuri, whom she believes is working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has actually been working as a Second Lieutenant with the State Security Service, AKA Secret Police for about the same amount of time Yor and Loid have been married.

Just like Yor’s co-workers, the SSS’s chief thinks he’s adorable, but like Yor, he’s definitely got a mean streak, as we see when he interrogates Yor’s boss after he’s caught passing documents to an enemy agent. Let us just revel in the delicious fact that both Briar siblings secret unpleasant jobs they are keeping from one another.

But for as competent as Yuri is, all logic and moderation go out the window where his sister is concerned. He is obsessed with her, to the point he likes how his ribs still hurt after she broke them while hugging him as a child. He also brings what looks like four dozen red roses to his first time meeting Your’s new husband.

Loid knows that close relationships like family can cause trip-ups, so he and Yor have practiced being a lovey-dovey couple…to an extent. In a hilarious sequence, Yuri and Loid and Yuri and Yor interact and speak to each other out loud, then we hear their inner monologue overlapping.

When Yor explains to Yuri that she simply forgot to tell him she got married, and then forgot that she forgot, that seems to be enough for him. But when talk turns to how they met, Yuri instinctively enters interrogation mode, for which Loid and Yor are fairly well prepared.

Loid, in turn, did some digging on Yuri and learned he’s in the secret police, confirmed when he starts telling a story about going abroad that’s straight out of his agency’s deception manual. Still, he plays along, since someone like Yuri could be a valuable source of intel if a cordial relationship was forged.

As Yuri drinks more wine he gets a bit looser and more honest, and while can’t deny that Loid is tall, handsome, a good cook, a doctor, and has good manners, he still can’t accept the marriage, or “Loidy” as a brother. Yor is his only family, and she provided for him when he was young and helpless.

We see this in the form of a flashback where a young Yor arrives at home covered in blood and not even trying to hide it from Yuri. But whenever she came through that door, it was with something Yuri either needed or wanted. Ever since, Yuri has strived to not only be someone worthy of that devotion, but someone able to protect her, as she did him.

When Yuri accidentaly knocks over a glass, Yor and Loid start cleaning it up and their hands touch, and they both recoil and blush like teenagers. This would be suspicious behavior from a couple married for a year even for someone who wasn’t a trained, ruthless spy-hunter.

So Yuri gives the two an ultimatum: either they kiss, or he has their marriage license revoked. All of a sudden the stakes are ratcheted up to eleven and the whole game is on the line, and all for something as innocuous as a kiss. Such is the spectacular unpredictability of a Briar.

While Loid has extensive experience seducing women, it’s different for Yor. Unlike those past women, I believe he actually cares about her, hence the blushing. And Yor? I’m certain she’s never kissed a guy. Combine that with the fact Yuri is tipsy and probably doesn’t want to see his sister kiss someone, and next week’s cliffhanger resolution should be interesting.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Komi Can’t Communicate S2 – 07 – …But Sometimes She Can

Komi is haunted by the possibility Najimi saw her holding Tadano’s hand as he slept. She spends all night trying to word a letter of explanation, but because she’s not 100% sure Najimi did see it, she doesn’t want to write anything to make Najimi suspicious. Meanwhile, Tadano wants to thank Komi for coming by, but isn’t 100% sure whether she was actually there or if she was just part of his fever dreams.

In their efforts to not say something that will give the other party the wrong idea, the misunderstandings only mount. Ironically, this is a sign that Komi is indeed becoming better at communicating. She is not just thinking internally and freezing up like the past, but trying to figure out what someone else is thinking or intended. That said, Komi was most certainly not just “checking his pulse!”

The last few episodes have shown an incremental uptick in the Komi x Tadano romance angle, but there are always new weirdo friends to meet, and this week’s is Naruse, whom I honestly can’t remember even in the background of previous episodes, but maybe that’s the point. As invisible as he’s been to me (and the rest of the gang), he is absolutely in love with himself.

Nine months into the school year, Naruse finally decides now is the time to approach Komi. One interesting bit of possibly accidental perceptiveness on his part? He assumes Komi has never spoken to him due to a communication disorder, for which he doesn’t judge her. But he clearly has a blind spot when it comes to the protective wall of secondary friends surrounding Komi, Tadano, and Najimi; he assumes they’re all his fans even if that’s a very big delusional reach.

When Komi returns his hanky that he saw him drop, he assumes it’s a sign she’s in love with him. Because of this, he’s a bit too forward in asking for her contact info, and gets Tadano’s instead. Naruse also has a constant deadpan translator/commentator in Chuushaku Kometani, who I wished would have gotten in a narration fight with the usual female narrator; to no avail.

The third and final segment returns us to the central romance as groups are to be formed for the upcoming class trip to Kyoto. When Tadano asks where she went for middle school, she says Kyoto, but after that she starts acting squirrelly even for her. Tadano correctly assumes she’s not feeling okay. After what may be the first instance I can recall of Najimi getting the eff out of the way, Tadano asks her about it, and she initially says it’s nothing, she’s fine, and they part ways.

But then, when they’re still only about ten feet away, she calls him, and tells him what’s been eating her: she lied about going to Kyoto. Her class went to Kyoto, but she was the last person chosen for a group, which picked her by playing jankenpon. She’ll never know whether the other members of her group welcomed her with a smile, were offended by her presence, or didn’t care one way or another…because she couldn’t raise her head.

It’s Komi’s most extensive and most heartbreaking sharing of her bad old days before she met Tadano (and Najimi), and Koga Aoi does the lord’s work infusing Komi’s tiny voice with meloncholy and longing. It’s also probably the most she’s spoken continuously yet; another sign that things aren’t the same as they were then, and never will be.

Tadano tells her she has friends now. Even if some of the others would “rather be with someone else” (highly arguable), Tadano would rather be with her than anyone else. He adds Najimi in there in case he sounds too forward, but I think Komi gets the idea as she hangs up and finishes their talk in person.

After talking with Tadano, Komi feels a lot better and is actually looking forward to the trip. The next day, in a complete inversion of her traumatic middle school experience, every single girl in the class wants to be in the same group as Komi, so the teacher has to employ a lottery system. To them, being able to spend time with her isn’t a burden; it’s a prize.

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 06 – There’s Always This Year

Izumi is still recovering from the sunburn he incurred at the river, but he’s still not missing the fireworks festival for the world. Shikimori says yes before he can even ask her to join him, and to his credit he doesn’t invite their other friends; this is a Capital-D date. Turns out Shikimori gets a little tangled up with her obi, but her brother helps her out. It’s a side of her we don’t often see.

Izumi comes fully prepared for a number of potential mishaps (including three separate wallets!) but nothing goes wrong as he gets to behold Shikimori in all her majestic pink glory. They take in the sights, and Izumi gets some cotton candy. It’s a bit too sweet for Shikimori, but she’s come around on sweet things since she and Izumi started dating.

When Izumi tries and fails to win a wolf plushie for Shikimori, she takes the rifle and vows to give it a try, engendering a chuckle from the attendant. She quickly avails him of his sexist belief by flashing the eyes of a huntress and shooting not only the wolf but everything else on the shelves. Her serious look is followed up by one of her biggest, sweetest smiles.

After spending a bit (but not too much) time with Neko, Inu, and Yui, misfortune strikes, but it’s Shikimori, not Izumi, on the receiving end: the strap of her sandal breaks. Izumi is able to fix it, but her feet end up covered in blisters. Izumi admits he wanted to take her somewhere special to view the fireworks, but it’s a bit of a walk and he doesn’t want her walking anymore. So he stoops down and tells her to hop on his back.

That’s right: Izumi may not look it but he’s pretty strong; certainly strong enough to carry his squeeze the required distance to the secluded spot. Shikimori is initially worried she’ll “snap him in two”, but she’s not as heavy as she thinks, nor is Izumi as weak as she thought. It’s a wonderful reversal for a show that so far has Shikimori providing most of the muscle. Izumi is unlucky, but not inept, and quite capable when it counts.

Sure enough, they’re all alone up at the top of the shrine grounds, and have a seat at a bench perfectly positioned for viewing the remainder of the fireworks. Shikimori has never seen them live, and Izumi admits that last year he was to scared to ask her to see them.

They were just friends at the time, and he was worried it would ruin what they had. Turns out Shikimori was waiting that whole night for him to call and invite her! But it doesn’t matter whether they didn’t go together last year. They’re there now, together, and they’ll be back next year.

As for the long walk back down those steps, Izumi doesn’t get far without slipping and falling with Shikimori on his back. Fortunately, his very stealthy dad swoops in Shikimori-style to save them both. Turns out Izumi’s folks came to the same spot to view the fireworks, and were sitting on a blanket just behind the lovebirds. Izumi’s dad was once strong enough to carry four people according to his mom, so he and Shikimori are no problem.

All in all, it’s another solid, sweet outing for our purple-and-pink-haired power duo. I feel an opportunity was missed for a kiss, or transition to a first-name-basis, but it was otherwise such a lovely time I really didn’t mind.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 05 – River Dance

Exams are over and summer break is here, so the gang takes the train to the river for a day of sun and fun…but not too much sun, since they don’t want their boy Izumi to die. Shikimori and Izumi are their cute selves throughout, while Neko and Inu continue to put out good vibes with the ever-sardonic Hachimitsu in the center.

The quintet preps food for some barbecue, and everyone is shocked by Izumi’s impressive knife skills. When Shikimori makes some ajillo (Spanish garlic shrimp) just for her him, Izumi learns she’s not perfect at everything … but he still eats as much as he can like a good bae because he knows how much heart she put into it.

After Izumi makes everyone S’mores the gang hits the river…though Shikimori briefly holds Izumi back to say they should have them again just the two of them some time. They test the water, which is nice and cool, then Shikimori lets Izumi out of her sight for just a moment, during which time he rescues a little girl being carried off by the current.

Once the girl is safe, Izumi’s foot cramps up, and then he is carried away. Shikimori spots him, and while everyone else panics she dives straight into the water and fishes him out. She’s furious he didn’t call for him to help, but can’t stay mad at him considering he may have saved a little girl’s life, for which she later thanks him with a kiss on the cheek.

Despite the girl being in grade school, Shikimori is still jealous, so when the gang gets gelato, she makes sure she at least gets an indirect kiss when Izumi tastes her cone. She’s about to taste his when Inu comes out of nowhere and gobbles it up. She in turn houses his gelato, and then gets horrible brain freeze, yet still claims victory in her agony.

On the train ride home, one by one everyone falls asleep…except for Izumi. Even Shikimori nods off and rests her head on his shoulder. Izumi reflects on how much fun he had, specifically because he was with Shikimori his friends. He doesn’t take any of it for granted. And when he nods off and Shikimori comes to, she places his head on her shoulder.

Aside from the near-drowning, it was just about as a perfect day by the river as the gang could ask for. Watching them goofing off, having fun, and being just great kids in general really brings all the warm feels.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 04 – Veritably Cordial

Raidou and Aharen’s closeness finally catches the attention of their poetry and prose teacher, Toubaru-sensei (Hana-Kana). But while at first glance they look like they’re flirting, upon subsequent glances she becomes entranced by their idyllic innocence as they gain her “veritable esteem”. Basically, they’re such good kids, the teacher gets a nosebleed.

When Raidou is a little slower than he’d want to be in handing Aharen a bottle of water when she’s choking on food, he decides that both of them need to be more expressive. While sharing a number of activities meant to elicit strong emotional responses means they’re growing closer as a couple, their faces remain veritable Noh masks to all but each other.

The pair transition from practicing more expressive faces to engaging in rap battles as the result of an inspirational trip to the CD store (something that I’m amazed is a thing that still exists in this age of Spotify and iTunes). Aharen is a natural, but Raidou needs to practice (which he does back at home, bemusing his sister and mom).

Raidou’s sister feels bad about being too harsh about his rapping, so gives her brother a fidget spinner as an apology. At school Aharen is oddly drawn to the device, and as soon as it’s in her tiny hand it barely stops spinning. She pulls of one slick trick after another, to the point Raidou worries she’s become addicted…only or Aharen to hand it back to him once she’s “spun it enough”.

The final segment involves Raidou and Aharen trying to relax in a park, but come afoul of a bunch of kids, including three boys who call her “King Aha” due to her spinner tricks. The girl of the group is worried about Aharen “seducing” her childhood friend, so challenges her to a Reversi duel. Raidou plays her first and loses completely, while Aharen simply lets her win. When the boys pick on the girl, she gets them to apologize.

After all that very non-relaxing excitement, Aharen looks very wan and hollowed-out by exhaustion. Luckily for her, her family dog Nui, a big Golden Retriever, doesn’t mind Aharen riding him home. It occurs to Raidou that the kids might’ve been on to something calling her “King”…she looks far more regal riding her dog than she has any right to be!

Heroines Run the Show – 03 – Princely When it Counts

It was only a matter of time before LIPxLIP warmed up to Hiyori’s wholesome country charm. Yuujirou and Aizou were hostile towards her initially simply because they didn’t know her. That’s rectified by Uchida, who tells Yuujirou (who then tells Aizou) that Hiyori came to Tokyo to run, and took a job to live.

The boys call each other out on being okay with this girl among all the others (in Aizou’s case) and having no qualms about showing his true self (in Yuujirou’s). Knowing how hard she works, they can’t help but show grudging respect; at least from afar.

Closer in, they’re much more comfortable messing with her, though when they learn that she failed her midterms and is desperately crunching for the finals so she can compete in athletics, they eventually close the distance and give her some pointers on what to study for in the little time she has left.

What good boys! And here I was calling them assholes last week. They were, and often still are, but it’s goot to see their sharp edges softening due to Hiyori not only being someone you want to support and protect, but also someone you admire for not giving up no matter how high the hurdles.

Going to school together and working together, these three high school-age people were always going to gradually become friends, I just didn’t expect it to come so fast and yet so organically. But that rapidity is facilitated by a catalyst when the three are on a music video shoot for their song “Nonfantasy”.

Their co-star in the video is the up-and-coming amateur model Yumeru-chan, whom we meet in an elegant red dress. She’s a big fan of LIPxLIP, so when she spots the boys goofing around with Hiyori, she gets right pissed off. She wants to be their clothing tree, dagnabit!

Fishing for juicy rumors and looking to put a rival in their place, Yumeru takes Hiyori aside and asks her straight-up what her relationship to the others is. Hiyori deflects and is clearly uncomfortable, and why wouldn’t she be? This world of desperately beautiful people dressed like royalty isn’t her world; they’re stars, and she’s just a bit player.

And while yes, Yumeru is meant to be more “classically pretty”, Hiyori is a far more beautiful person, because she’s not looking to put others down to lift herself up. She just wants to run, and make her friends and family happy they gave her their support.

During a dinner break, Yuujirou and Aizou laugh when Hiyori’s stomach grumbles, and happily offer her some of what looks like an epic craft services spread. Yumeru, again both mystified and enraged, trips Hiyori while she’s walking away, and coffee spills on her dress. The boys apologize profusely for their “staff member.”

Hiyori hides under the lectern of a wedding chapel, but the boys soon track her down, clearly concerned with her. Yumeru shows up and asks for their numbers, but they don’t give them out; company policy. Then Yumeru spots Hiyori in the shadows and asks why they’re fine with her?

Yumeru has the nerve to warn them that Hiyori may have just taken the job to get closer to them—right after she took this job tried to get closer to them. Aizou—not Yuujirou—drops the idol mask and points out this hypocrisy. Yuujirou then adds that he saw Yumeru trip Hiyori.

When she claims she didn’t, he says they can check the security cameras to be sure. He then praises her fake crying but suggests she doesn’t take up acting as she “lacks imagination” to realize messing with their staff would piss them off. After Yumeru storms off, Aizou tells Yuu he might’ve gone too far, but Yu isn’t concerned. If Yumeru wants to start a shit fight, he can sling it with the best of them.

The bottom line is, the risk of exposing their mean sides was worth it if it meant telling someone that Hiyori may be a somewhat plain, simple country girl staff member, she’s also not someone they’ll tolerate being abused. Yumeru made Hiyori an enemy for no reason, and when the boys saw that, it likely reminded them of their shitty attitudes when Hiyori was first hired, thus compounding their irritation.

I’m happy to report that while they will likely continue to mess with Hiyori because she’s such an easy target, they’re also doing it good-naturedly, because they’ve come to like her, and anyway wouldn’t mess with someone they didn’t. They’re also genuinely concerned about how her exams turns out, and flash their best idol smiles upon learning she barely passed.

The power of those idol smiles is enough  to make even Hiyori blush. After all, even after they took off their prince costumes for the music video, they still looked pretty damn princely to Hiyori, because they defended her against someone who didn’t know her. Now that they do, they’ll slay any dragon for her.

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 03 – Our Weird Dance

This week’s cavalcade of quiet, calm hijinx begins with Raidou looking like a shounen hero and Aharen looking like a toy troll. Turns out it’s just a matter of bed head, not that she’s joined a death metal band. When Raidou’s attempts to tame the hair result in a lotus-type shape, it’s up to Mitsuki, whose family happens to run a salon.

After cutting both Aharen and Raidou’s hair (the latter being a big step forward, even if her original attempt was to shave him bald), Aharen thanks her by inviting her to eat lunch with them. Unfortunately Mitsuki is too shy to sit too close, but Aharen just happens to have extendable chopsticks. Mitsuki also helps her apply toner, moisturizer, and lip balm, then give Aharen a fully body massage for good measure.

When one of their classmates who is training for baseball grows so large he blocks Aharen’s view of the chalkboard, Raidou tries to help out by going through every possible alternate position before concluding that the best one is the most normal; simply pushing their desks together and getting cozy. However, when the teacher announces that everyone is changing desks soon, Raidou is determined to make his “last days” sitting next to Aharen-san count.

In a co-ed softball game for P.E., Raidou learns throwing strikes to Aharen is nigh impossible due to her strike zone being the roughly the size of a postage stamp. He thinks she’s calling her shot, but her arm is itchy, and when she makes her stance lower, it’s simply the heat making her “all droopy”. But by walking her on four pitches, hers is the winning run for her team, so he at least is able to deliver her some glory.

In Home Ec class, Raidou, who can’t cook anything, is paired up with two other classmates whose cooking skills he’s not sure of. But Aharen is also on his team and she’s a great cook, so he knows they’ll be fine. However, after softball she has no energy, so he has to cook, with horrifying results. Thankfuly Aharen has a strong stomach and wolfs down all the food he made, giving her the energy needed to whip up a meatless four-course meal and a passing grade for the team.

Finally, Raidou tries to help Aharen with what he believes to be her dream to become a famous YouTuber,  practicing choreography for a weird dance while her phone records. Here Raidou’s imagination truly gets out of hand as he imagines the two of them becoming internet famous and filling arenas with their bizarre dancing that is reminiscent of Elaine’s from Seinfeld. Turns out she has no designs on being famous; she was just practicing dance moves for class.

As for changing desks, well…I expected them to simply switch places and remain next to each other, but even that doesn’t happen. And you’d think the teacher would realize Aharen can’t see if she’s behind another huge athletic kid! But that doesn’t matter, because the blissful days of sitting beside each other shall continue indefinitely…as will their whimsical antics.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 02 – XYZ

Raidou and Aharen’s rapport continues to be strong and easygoing, but while Aharen has distance and communication issues, Raidou has an overactive imagination. For instance, he imagines Aharen was in a street fight with some toughs, when she really just got something in her eye. I liked how difficult it was for Raidou to administer the drops, and how when he gets something in his eye, Aharen is quick to reciprocate—though like me, she sucks at administering eye drops!

Raidou’s imagination also runs wild concerning the constant feeling he and Aharen are being watched and followed. He looks back on all of the petty offenses he’s committed against people in his life (mostly against his little sister) and believes himself a “monster”, and thus deserving of a hitman after him. Dude is an absolute goof.

However, he’s downright normal compared to the one following them, Aharen’s towering childhood friend Ooshiro Mitsuki. She is protective of Aharen, whom she calls Reina, but also terrified of Raidou and so keeps her distance. Even when Aharen insists he’s neither scary nor a bad guy, Mitsuki can’t help but stick to her misconceptions. Also MAO voices Mitsuki in “Pecorine on caffeine” mode.

The next segment involves Aharen wearing a mask due to a mild cold, and thus not being able to properly notify Raidou that his fly is all the fuck open, revealing his pink strawberry print boxers. Let it be said that Aharen’s reaction to this is as amazing as her attempts to warn Raidou are ineffective. That said, she does come up with a lot of clever ways to block the sight of his crotch from others.

Even on the way home, after an exhausting day of failure, Aharen  positions herself in front of him to spare him embarrassment. When he finally determines that she’s been trying to get him to notice something, and sees the reflection of the two of them in the mirror, it seems like he finally gets it…only for him to wrongly assume Aharen got a haircut.

Next up is the first segment with just Aharen and Mitsuki. Even though Raidou is absent, Mitsuki is weary of getting too close to Aharen, since she’s worried she’ll be yelled at, scolded, or bopped on the head (again). That said, it’s raining, and Mitsuki keeps trying to clandestinely lend Aharen her umbrella, only for Aharen to believe the umbrella is cursed and locks it up in front of a hastily-built shrine. Ultimately Aharen shares her umbrella with Mitsuki, and uses the fact she’s within talking distance to thank her for watching over her.

The post-credits sequence is short but sweet, as Raidou breaks out the Reversi (AKA Othello) board and challenges Aharen to a match. He thinks he’s got a worthy opponent (he touts himself a “Raidou Family Champion”) when Aharen exerts the aura of a lion, but he ends up trouncing her. Then he gets her to admit she let him win, insists she fight him with everything he’s got, and then she trounces him…twice.

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