Momokuri – 23 + 24

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Last week one of Momo’s descriptors for Yuki was “hardworking”, and this week all Yuki does is prove how apt that descriptor is. Not only does she do all she can to make sure Momo passes final exams (though he ends up still having to take make-ups), she also cooks lunch for him.

Indeed, her devotion for Momo has motivated Yuki to try to improve herself in all the home ec areas she’s weakest in. Norika is impressed, if still a bit weirded out by the way Yuki expresses her love.

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Even Rio can’t help but respect all the work Yuki is putting into becoming someone worthy of Momo…even if she really doesn’t have to go so far. Momo simply doesn’t seem to be putting in the same amount of effort to be worthy of Yuki, aside from trying to be seen by her as a strong and reliable man (and in this he often fails because she, and everyone else, merely sees him as cute).

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In the end, Yuki’s intense efforts result in her getting sick over the Chistmas holiday, but thanks to Norika, Momo ends up visiting her, and to his credit, he does all he really needs to do: be there. Yuki is over the moon by Momo’s presence, and when he worries he’s imposing, she insists he stick around, holding her hand until she drifts off to sleep.

It’s a simple but lovely little scene that shows that sometimes it doesn’t really take much effort to fulfill the dreams of the one you love. Simply being by Yuki’s side is enough.

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Momokuri – 21 + 22

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In a monologue around the halfway point, Momo describes his girlfriend as cute, smart, kind, hardworking…and a little weird. That last adjective sets her apart from other cute/smart/kind girls, some of which Momo knows, and one of which (Rio) harbors unrequited feelings.

And Momo likes the weird. She may like collecting his “used stuff”, but he’s always thinking about her in clothes he sees on TV; and is only too happy to get an indirect kiss from the teddy bear he won for her. Her weirdness helps him realize he’s a little weird too.

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The only things that frustrate him are not knowing where Yuki gets information on him he himself did not provide. It’s a secret she possesses, which means it’s distance she’s keeping from him.

Mind you, all healthy relationships have a measure of distance – you can’t be with someone every waking moment – and this is hardly a major crisis for Momo. He’s just…curious. And yes, tartar sauce on omelette rice is perhaps the weirdest part of him revealed thus far!

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Momo is also an easy-to-read, jealous fellow who is very possessive of Yuki. Under normal circumstances this would be distasteful, but Yuki happens to love his fierce protective nature, even when he slaps away the hand of Seiichirou (Ikue’s brother), who happens to be Yuki’s “Momoformant”.

It demonstrates he thinks and cares about her every bit as much as she thinks and cares about him, which makes her very happy. Neither of these weirdos could be good matches for just anyone, but they seem to be perfect matches for each other, which is why it’s so easy to root for them.

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Momokuri – 19 + 20

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Our next episode pair starts off with a nice monologue by Momo explaining where he’s coming from (loving parents he doesn’t see a lot) and how Yuki’s undivided attention is a new and exciting thing. This is the closest the show comes to drama, and while it’s no Orange, it gets the job done.

Since he’s come to like her attentions, Momo takes Rio’s words to heart about the distance Yuki seems to keep, but only confuses Yuki when he tries to rectify it.

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The thing is, there’s nothing that needs rectifying. Rio is observing this relationship from the outside; she can only tell Momo what she sees, how she sees it. Ditto Norika. But Yuki is just fine when it comes to Momo. While 90% of girlfriends would get jealous upon overhearing Momo call Rio cute, she seconds Momo’s opinion; Rio is cute.

Rio worries Yuki is an airhead, but it’s not really obliviousness. It’s a matter of point of view and confidence. Rio doesn’t have it, and Momo is still working on it, but Yuki is already there. She’s over the moon that Momo is on stage dressed up like a wolf, and not only happy all the other girls like him, but would think something was amiss if they didn’t. Momo’s a wonderful person; they should all like him.

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But it never crosses Yuki that Momo might slip out of her hands. What others think or her or Momo or the two of them as a couple is ultimately irrelevant. When Momo sees that as being passive or a pushover, and asks her to be a little jealous once in a while, it’s only more confirmation that he likes her. She’d probably be fine going out of her way to seem jealous for his sake, but not because he asked her to…because she wants to.

I honestly thought Momo already told Yuki he liked her, but perhaps I was taking his agreeing to go out with her as a confession. But the actual official confession happens here, and it only deepens Yuki’s feelings for him, to the point she gathers the courage to tell him the truth about her “collecting.”

The episode ends before Momo has quite grasped what Yuki means, but as I said, this isn’t a drama, so whether he ends up truly understanding the extent of Yuki’s…activities, I’m sure they’ll be fine.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 12 (Fin)

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Tanaka-kun ends pretty much the way it began: quietly, with neither too much flash or too much kookiness. Sure, we’ve never seen Tanaka more focused, intense, or quick on his feet, but when his precious classroom seat is being threatened, he makes sure he puts in the effort to preserve his ability to be listless in class.

Opportunities open up for him, but switching with Miyano (trapped behind the Great Wall of Ohta) means he’s also next to Shiraishi, who sees the switch as fate, and this week she turns on the effort afterburners to get Tanaka’s attention.

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Predictably, none of the classic girl moves work, save opening her shirt, and even then she’d get any teenage guy’s attention; she wan’ts Tanaka’s. But cracking the nut that is Tanaka isn’t something you can learn in a magazine, nor is it even something that can be achieve the way his cushy new seat was acquired, and how Shiraishi has accomplished so much to reinvent her image: hard work.

Indeed, all her hard work trying to get closer to Tanaka results in him very nearly crushing her dreams by telling her he prefers to be alone, even if it’s less about her specifically (which is its own problem) and more about him not wanting to trouble people other than Ohta.

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In the end, Shiraishi comes to an understanding and a way forward—basically, stop rushing and take your time—when her monologue in what she thought was an empty classroom at sundown is interrupted by Tanaka, who just so happened to be sleeping in there.

Tanaka isn’t sure what Shiraishi is up to, but he won’t let her accept failure as the end-all-be-all; to him, failure is a fact of life, and leads to lessons learned that can be used to overturn that failure. All it takes is time. If Shiraishi is meant to be with Tanaka, it will happen eventually, just not in this final episode. And that’s okay.

Of course, Shiraishi and Tanaka end up in a bit of a quandary when the latter’s friends see him walking home with her in glasses-and-braids mode, assuming she’s a different girl and his secret girlfriend. This leads to lots of teasing and unwanted attention, and Tanaka reacts by pushing everyone away.

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Despite Echizen’s desire for Ohta to sweep her off her feet, his offer to platonically carry her Tanaka-kun elicits only a swift punch to the gut. Just as there’s a proper, specific way to Tanaka’s heart, there’s a proper, specific way to Echizen’s, and that ain’t it.

As for Tanaka, while walking home alone he runs into all kinds of obstacles he wouldn’t have had to deal with had Ohta or another friend been with him. The whole system depends on the kindness of and proximity to others, a lesson he relays to a Rino who’d rather he only rely on her.

Just to drive that point home, the next morning all is cleared up thanks to Shiraishi talking with Ohta and creating a new, more plausible story for everyone that still preserves her secret alternate look. And while the ordeal has only made Tanaka dread having a real girlfriend, to Shiraishi’s dismay, I imagine given enough time that position will also soften.

Tanaka-kun was a hoot, and it did it by staying understated and consistent. It was head-and-shoulders above any other shows I watched this season, and the school-based rom-coms and slice-of-lifes that are coming this Summer have big shoes to fill. Naturally, I also wouldn’t mind another twelve episodes of this some day. But there’s no rush.

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