Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 18 – Go Forward, Gain Nothing

I’ll be honest: It’s weird seeing Suletta in the standard drab Asticassia uniform, but in true Suletta fashion she’s decided to take her fall from grace in stride: by going forward. She still has a wish list, and so she starts knocking items off, from asking “a cool question” in class o eating lunch with friends. Her cheerful attitude doesn’t sit quite right with her Earth House chums, particularly Chuchu.

Guel isn’t wearing his white Holder’s uniform, as he’s joined the ranks of High Schoolers Doing Adult Business, taking over Jeturk from Lauda. His new fiancée Miorine is also in a snappy business suit, a clear visual sign that they’re too cool for school. Mio has a Benerit Group presidential election to win, but neither she nor Guel have the track record to get the time of day from the real adults.

As with Shaddiq and his girls, there’s an air of “playing at being adults” to them, but the fact is with their fathers dead or incapacitated, Mio and Guel have no choice but to step up, regardless of whether they’re ready or deserving. It’s a blow to Mio to learn Shaddiq is also in the running for president, and also in the lead thanks to his alliance with Peil.

Suletta still tends the greenhouse I assume Mio has abandoned due to her new hectic work schedule. Lauda stops by to toss another “Mercurian wench” barb her way, but when Chuchu gets in his face, he, Petra, and Felsi thank her for saving his life. She’s not sure what to do with that, but is still pissed that Suletta is taking this the way she is.

But from Suletta’s perspective, Mio did nothing wrong. Suletta broke her promise never to lose a duel. Though, if she knew it was Mio who hit the kill switch on Aerial she might think differently. As for Nika, she’s still in purgatory with a dour Norea who just wants to kill Spacians and an Elan looking for something to do with Peil backing Shaddiq.

As protests on earth spread and grow more violent (which I believe is Shaddiq’s doing), Mio, while in confrence with Guel and Prospera, believes speaking to the Earthians directly is the kind of bold move that could help her make up her huge deficit against Shaddiq. At the same time, the Earth House arranges to have Suletta meet with Mio.

Bel runs afoul of Jun Feng. And then there’s Martin, who sold out Nika. He goes to a designated school counseling booth to speak to an automated Haro, only to be busted by Seceila of all people, calling him a “dirty rat.” This episode checks in on literally everyone.

When Suletta parts ways with her Earth buddies to see Mio, she ends up in a dark hangar, reunited with Aerial. She hops into the cockpit and flies out into space, where she admits to Aerial that she’s not so sure she’s gained two by moving forward. It hurts not seeing Mio.

That’s when Gundam’s light trim turns from red to blue, and Suletta finds herself in a kind of virtual construct where she meets Eri’s avatar face to face. Eri tells her she “filled in” for her admirably, and tells Suletta she’s one of her “repli-children” created from her genes.

Once Permet Score Eight is reached, Eri doesn’t need a pilot. Quiet Zero, which Suletta knows nothing about, will create a world where Eri can live, so Suletta isn’t needed anymore. So she urges Suletta to stop clinging to her, and to mom.

With that Suletta is ejected from Aerial’s cockpit, and drifts through space in a spin until caught by Prospera. Her mom tells her everything is just as Eri said, and it’s time she go back to school, which she says has all she needs “to fill her heart.” Both Eri and Prospera want Suletta to live freely, as Mio does, but without a bride, or duels, or Aerial to pilot, Suletta is feeling particularly empty and useless.

If the episode began with Suletta pretending everything was okay and moving forward, the end of the episode shows her in full existential meltdown. Everyone and everything has conspired to strip away all of the things she had used to define herself up to this point. Seeing (but notably not hearing) her sobbing as she floats in space sure feels like rock bottom.

The question is, what will become of this newly empty vessel; this blank slate that is Suletta Mercury? I am extremely interested to find out if she’ll finally move forward for real, and if she’ll chooses to reject the path of safety and tedium her mother, sister, and bride have laid out for her.

Skip and Loafer – 07 – Usurpers

As Summer Break approaches, the third years have given way to their juniors, which means Mitsumi is now officially a secretary, and on her chosen path to become a public servant. There’s also a new student council president, but it isn’t Takamine Tokiko.

That’s not only a shock to Mitsumi, but to Tokiko herself, who has been dreaming of being president for years. Instead that position was claimed by former Soccer club president Kazakami Hiroto, for what seems to be flippant, opportunistic reasons to boot.

It’s a big blow to Tokiko, even if she tries to put up a brave front. Mitsumi wants to comfort her, but doesn’t want to patronize her. By watching Tokiko vicariously, Mitsumi realizes that even though hard work build builds confidence, we’ll never know if it will actually pay off until it does.

When Mitsumi tells Sousuke that her afterschool council duties consist of a lot of studying, he asks if he can join her. This shocks her, as it means he wants to spend time with her unbidden. Their study session is interrupted by Kanechika, who has decided to show someone the first movie he ever made.

It’s entirely self-made, as he had no friends, and it features a stolen tokusatsu plot and accidental cameos from his parents, and he’s embarrassed the whole time the others are watching. But he’d rather show it to them then keep it hidden forever.

Tokiko is inspired by Kanechika’s bravery and willingness to depart from his comfort zone in the service of personal growth. She stops moping over losing the presidency, which was in part due to how she presented to others, and applies her keen organizational skills to becoming more open, approachable, and laid back, starting with congratulating Kazakami.

The second half of the episode emphasizes that special time just before summer break, when boys and girls decide to put themselves out there and ask their crushes for contact info and/or on dates. Due to Shima’s looks and popularity, he’s constantly turning down girls he knows don’t want to be “just friends”.

This means others are commenting on Sousuke, even though Mitsumi would rather not hear about that. It’s clear that every time he’s speaking to another girl, even if he’s rejecting her, she feels a pang of self-consciousness and perhaps even jealousy. She also believes it was just “dumb luck” that they became friends, which I believe is selling herself well short.

Yuzuki, who may well have rejected a few enterprising lads (but we don’t get to see that), decides that their friend group should dedicate the summer break to girl time, doing high school girl stuff. She even points out that she, Mitsumi, Mika and Makoto make for a strange quartet considering how different they all are, but it works!

That said, Mika still sometimes feels like the odd girl out, in particular when it comes to Mitsumi. Strictly speaking, Mitsumi isn’t just a friend, but a rival for Sousuke. Having been a high schooler, it can be tough when a friend of yours likes the same girl(s) you do, so I related to Mika’s predicament.

It doesn’t help that Mitsumi’s relationship with Sousuke is shoved in Mika’s face when she returns to the classroom to grab something she forgot. Mitsumi and Sousuke are chatting as usual, and Mitsumi, quite accidentally, asks Sousuke if he wants to go to the zoo with her. In her mind, she wanted him to go with all of them, but out loud, it’s as if she’s asking him out.

When she realizes her error, Mitsumi is mortified, but both she and Mika are shocked when Sousuke says “sure”. After turning down dozens of girls, he’s quick to agree to hang out with Mitsumi. Mika walks away, clearly a bit dejected.

Then Sousuke gets a call from someone saying they’re at the school gate, and he suddenly runs off. Outside, Mika encounters this someone, a glamorous-looking girl in another school’s uniform. She asks Mika to show her to Sousuke’s classroom, where she encounters Mitsumi. Then Sousuke returns, tells her she can’t be there. Then he takes her by the arm and excuses the two of them.

Mitsumi calls the girl “unique”, but Mika educates her on just how unique: that girl is professional model Saijou Ririka, and the youngest-ever cover girl of a magazine she reads to keep up on beauty and fashion trends.

Is this another usurper—Sousuke’s secret girlfriend? Doubtful! It’s more likely she’s literally related to him (like a cousin) an old childhood friend, or someone he knows from the entertainment industry. Either way, I don’t think Mitsumi should feel threatened. But if she wants to break out her country bumpkin dialect more often, I won’t protest!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 17 – The Final Duel

Backed into a corner, Miorine agrees to take over Prospera’s Quiet Zero program. Prospera only asks that Suletta be allowed to participate in one last duel with Aerial, and then Mio can “do as she pleases” with her. Mio’s next interaction with Suletta demonstrates the strain of their still ill-defined relationship.

Based purely on Miorine’s reaction and not her inner morality, Suletta apologizes for “saying something weird” in the greenhouse (about killing if her mom told her to). When Mio asks if Suletta would ever give up Aerial, Suletta flatly says no; Aerial is family, after all.

Suletta then talks about celebrating Mio’s upcoming 17th birthday, unaware that it’s already the beginning of the end for her. At the Benerit Group Front, Business Wonder Boy Shaddiq voices his intention to run for president and form an alliance with the Peil Group.

Back at the greenhouse, Suletta is watering plants when Elan comes in. Having failed to steal Aerial, he confronts her directly to give it to him. When she tells him she doesn’t like him like this, he says the Elan she did like is gone and not coming back. Then he pulls a Taser on her.

She’s rescued…by Geul, who dispatches Elan with alacrity, then offers thanks to Suletta for helping inspire him “move forward and gain two.” He admits that part of her is what he fell for, and makes clear to her that she’s precious to him.

Suletta understands this is a confession, and politely rejects him, for she too has someone precious. That someone, Miorine, is hiding in the bushes listening, and eventually shows herself to declare to Suletta what she wants for her birthday: for her to win one last duel … against Guel.

I thought we were done with the “kid gloves” of the school duels, but this one is touted again and again as the “last” such duel, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. While Suletta simply asks that if she wins, Jeturk house align themselves with Earth House to stem the harassment from other Spacian houses, if Guel wins, he gets Aerial.

Miorine, who is present for the pre-duel ceremony, tells her those stakes don’t matter if Suletta wins, and she’s never lost. But now that we know Mio wants Suletta out of that cockpit at any cost, this felt different. Suletta doesn’t feel invincible here; she feels like a sitting duck.

Miorine wants Suletta to be happy, but doesn’t believe she can truly be that when fighting and killing. So in addition to striking a deal with Prospera that will prove decisive in the coming duel, Mio tells Guel to reclaim her as his bride, so that his company can support her in the coming election.

Just as Miorine is preparing to push Suletta from the center of everything to the margins where she can be kept safe, Elan joins Norea and Nika in a storage room of misfit toys, no longer loyal to or wanted by anyone. It’s a compelling room of wild cards, and more importantly, Suletta can’t rely on Nika’s technical skill to fix up Aerial, who is not 100%.

When the duel begins, it looks like it will be another easy victory for Suletta. She’s committed, and her Gund-Bits are overwhelming, as always. Add to that Guel, who has cut his hair as a symbol of his rebirth and also been embraced and supported by Lauda, Petra (who is now dating Lauda?) and Felsi, is experiencing some pretty brutal effects of PTSD.

When he freezes up, that family calls out to him, waking him up and allowing him to dodge Suletta’s decisive antenna-severing blow. Then Mio receives a notification from Prospera on her phone: an Aerial kill switch. Suletta hears Eri say “I’m sorry” as “Happy Birthday” plays, and after briefly hesitating, she hits the button, and Aerial shuts down and goes dark.

Guel takes the deactivated Aerial’s antenna and wins the duel. Shortly after, Miorine opens Suletta’s cockpit to let her know it was she who shut Aerial down, because she wanted her to lose. This duel was a trade, and Suletta made a “good shield”, but her usefulness to Miorine is now at an end.

In one final twist of the knife before saying goodbye to her “Mercurian country bumpkin”, Miorine brings up Suletta’s uniform settings and removes the Holder regalia, as with her defeat she is no longer the holder.

She may no longer be anything, anymore. Miorine knows Prospera sent Suletta here to fight and win duels. Now there will be no more duels (though I’m not holding by breath about that), and she has lost. It’s an absolutely brutal, heart-wrenching turn of events … but I can’t fault Miorine.

Ultimately, Mio knew Suletta would never quit fighting in a Gundam of her own volition. Aerial had to be taken from her for her own good. Mio did this because she loves Suletta and wants her to be free from her terrible mother all this political bullshit, and from a life of further bloodshed that will eventually tear at her soul.

The question is, now that Suletta is at or fast approaching rock bottom, what the heck—if anything—is next for her? She’s been well and truly taken off the board. From her perspective, Miorine betrayed her, dumped her, broke her heart because she was falling short as a groom, even if that’s not at all the case. Now comes the picking up of the pieces.


Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 16 – Returns and Investments

The cat’s out of the bag: Prospera turned her daughter Ericht into a Gundam and is using her second daughter Suletta to pilot her. The thought of this makes Belmeria ill, but she’s already in too deep, and Prospera, now in full mugging Villain Mode, isn’t about to let her off the hook.

Shaddiq has adopted a more buttoned-down look as Grassley’s new acting president. News has spread of the attacks on Quetta and Asticassia and Benerit’s hardline policies on Earth. Benerit is off balance, just like Shaddiq wants. They need a new president, and all the companies are jockeying for the upper hand.

As for GUND-ARM’s president, Miorine, she is cleared of any charges and free to return to a locked-down, hollowed out Asticassia. Her employees are already falling victim to anti-Earthian sentiment caused by all the news. There is so much she can’t control, but at least she can disperse a Spacian student with footage of him assaulting poor Martin.

Their well-meaning comrade Nika is a “guest” of Grassley House, where Sabina reveals that she’s Earthian too (or at least was before joining the house), and asks Nika to join their cause, since their fundamental goals to bridge Earth and Space align. For her part, Nika is done with being a victim, and ends justifying means.

We get only that one scene with Nika, who started out as a stock crack engineer character but has grown into a full deuterogamist, but it does what so many of these scenes that juggle so many characters and motivations excel at: engages me and make me want more.

Speaking of deuterogamists, Guel Jeturk, the prodigal son, has returned to the Benerit Front. Lauda Neill, who has been just barely keeping the company and himself above water, is so happy and relieved his brother is alive he faints. Petra, who like Shaddiq and Jazz are now wearing the business uniforms of the corporatocracy, gives Guel a warm welcome home.

Guel promises to take care of everything while his brother rests. After hitting one rock bottom after another, I’m now fully on board with Guel finally rising again, regardless of whose side he ends up on.

It’s this reunion, and Miorine being thanked and welcomed so warmly by Earth House, that prevent this episode from being a complete downer. Also, I loved the dark comedy of Noto Mamiko really momming it up when Prospera casually pops in to say hi and introduce herself to Suletta’s new friends. It would be a sweet interaction if we didn’t know this is just a façade, and that all these kids are just expendable assets for her cause.

In an effort to grab power during the vacuum caused by Delling’s coma, the Peil co-CEOs order Elan to steal Aerial, currently impounded (GUND-Arm’s business activities are also suspended). However, when he tries to start her up, he is attacked by a data storm. Eri, whom Elan mistakes for a young Suletta,  appears in that storm, one of many, and basically tells him to fuck off. Elan takes his frustration out on Bel.

He’s not entirely wrong to do so, as her desire to survive has led her to perform experimentations that have killed others, including former versions of himself. Bel is being so emotionally wrecked this episode I don’t know how much longer it will be before she does something desperate that no one expects; just one more wild card in a whole deck of them (I haven’t even mentioned the machinations of the pair of smugglers Miorine is still working with).

This brings us to the long-awaited reunion of Suletta and Miorine, who have not spoken or seen each other since The Slap (content warning). When Miorine first arrives she’s quickly enveloped in GUND-Arm clerical work, but Till raises Suletta’s hand for her, and she invites Miorine to the greenhouse she’s been tending in her stead.

The two are surrounded by the vivid life of the thriving tomatoes and enveloped in a warm light rarely seen in other parts of the school. Suletta starts by asking if Miorine is mad, but it’s not that. In fact, Miorine has been wanting to apologize, and thank her for saving her and her father. Things seem to be going well in terms of getting these two back on board…and then Suletta smiles.

She cheerfully says her mom told her Miorine would “understand eventually” that she and Aerial “did the right thing”—moved forward and gained two. Miorine tells her flat-out she absolutely cannot smile about how someone was subtracted to save her. She gets Suletta to admit that she would use Gundams to kill if her mom told her to, because her mom is always right.

It’s painful and heartbreaking to see the horror from last season return to Miorine’s face in her very next interaction with her groom. If there’s a silver lining to this scene, it’s that she finally realizes, once and for all, that she can only go so far as long as Suletta remains Prospera’s brainwashed puppet.

Miorine angrily confronts Prospera in a visceral scene that again makes great use of the zero-g environment to enhance the overall sense that everything is becoming unmoored and floating free. Prospera drops the nice mom act on a dime. She admits to using Suletta as her puppet, but asks Miorine whether she simply wants to be the new puppet master. Does Suletta even have enough of a sense of self and will to be her own person? I sure hope so! So does Miorine.

But then Prospera slides the knife in and twists it, saying that everything she’s doing with Suletta and Quiet Zero is to exact vengeance against Delling Rembran for what happened at Vanadis 21 years ago. She wants Miorine to hear the screams and cries of her family and colleagues she hears every waking moment. This game me chills.

Appeasing or quieting those voices is a primary driving factor in everything Prospera does, whether it’s pulling Suletta’s strings, or backing Miorine as the next president of Benerit Group. In the battle for the kids to escape the vicious cycle started by their parents and their parents, it is not going well so far for the kids. But that just makes me that much more invested in their struggle to do so.

Oshi no Ko – 02 – Dreams and Nightmares

About ten years after their mother was murdered by a stalker, Aquamarine and Ruby Hoshino have gone in different directions. Ruby is determined to follow her mom into the industry and become an idol, in keeping with her past self Sarina’s dreams. Aqua, on the other hand, is stuck in the past, dedicating the remainder of his life to tracking down his father and making him suffer before he dies.

He works under the table as an apprentice for the film director Gotanda, and he and Ruby are about to take high school entrance exams. Having already been rejected in an audition two years ago, Ruby applies once more, and once more gets a call that she isn’t one of the chosen few. She’s devastated, but what’s even more devastating is that the call came from Aqua posing as the agency. He won’t let Ruby go down the same road Ai did, period.

While this feels like a horrible betrayal, it’s understandable, because we watched the film-length first episode and know who Aqua is and what he’s been through. Of course, that Ruby went through the exact same stuff (and worse, when you consider she died so young and in pain), so I pumped my fist when Aqua’s plan is stymied by Ruby being scouted on the street, just as their mother was.

That said, she shows Aqua the business card of the agency, which allows him to demonstrate his skills as both an actor and a private investigator, using his good looks and charm to invite another idol from that agency to Strawberry Productions. She is all too open and honest in her assessment of her current situation: lousy pay, huge expenses, favoritism, their manager dating one of the group, terrible chemistry, etc.

Both Aqua and Miyako agree it doesn’t sound like the kind of agency Ruby should be getting into. Aqua suggests Miyako (the new director of Strawberry with Ichigo blowing town) hire the idol they just interviewed, but Miyako doesn’t like how she badmouthed her co-workers, showing she has a keen eye not just for the talent but the quality of people.

The next day when Ruby has dolled herself up for her audition with this sketchy agency, she’s confronted by Miyako and Aqua: is this really what she wants, even though she knows what the industry did to Ai? Even if it means she’ll be miserable and exhausted and possibly fall victim to stalking?

She says she is, and knowing who Ruby is (and who Sarina was) I don’t doubt her resolve. So Miyako tells her not to join that agency. Ruby is about to get upset, but Miyako continues by asking her to sign with Strawberry instead. That’s right: the agency will be managing idols for the first time in a decade, and Ruby is their first signing.

It’s ultimately a compromise Aqua accepts (for now) since he’s smart enough to know Ruby isn’t going to stop until she’s an idol, so better that she be managed by a family-run business. While at Director Gotanda’s house, which is really his parents’ house—because why move out of a spacious family home in the middle of the city?—editing film, Aqua tells Gotanda that he’s fine working towards a modest production job in the industry rather than pursuing acting.

This isn’t just because he has an equally good chance of meeting his target no matter what job he has in the industry as long as it has access to talent. It’s because he doesn’t believe he has any talent for acting. We know this not to be true, not just because of the different people he’s pretended to be in this very episode, but because a film director hand-picked him to act in his films. Heck, unbeknownst to him, he famous child actress Arima “Tears in 10 Minutes Flat” Kana cry for real.

In between hilarious interruptions from his mom announcing dinner is ready, Taishi tells Aqua that he’s at least twenty years too young to be giving up on making it in acting, when he can tell the boy truly does care about it. Sure, he doesn’t know he’s actually talking to a boy with the mind of a doctor about his age who is channeling all of his energy into vendetta and revenge. But that isn’t all Aqua is. It’s just what he feels like he needs to be.

At the entrance interviews, both Aqua and Ruby excel in the general education and performing arts departments, respectively. As they chat in the hall, Ruby makes light of Aqua’s ostentatious name (he too joked it would be the only reason he’s not accepted), and someone overhears it.

Not just someone, but Arima Kana! Just as the Hoshinos have stars in their eyes, when she turns we see entire galaxies reflected in hers. When Aqua confirms he is indeed Aqua Hoshino, Kana embraces him with joy and relief. She’d feared he’d given up on acting, and is looking forward to being in the performing arts department with him. Then he drops the hammer…he’s just in gen ed. Kana is aghast…as she should be!

I’m not going to sit here and say Aqua is squandering his talents and his mother’s legacy by refusing to pursue acting. People are free to do whatever they want, regardless of what they’re good at. And Aqua is good at much more than acting. But I will most definitely say its wrong for him to waste his life on a revenge plot that likely won’t go the way he plans, may cost far more than he hoped, and certainly won’t give him and peace or solace.

So if even a little part of him dreams of acting as Ruby dreams of being an idol, I’d prefer if he’d get into that. Also, selfishly, I just want to see him and Kana acting together again, because Kana is great!

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 11 – Giving Love A Try

Shiori may have been sacred by the voices she heard on the beach, but she’s even more troubled when she hears that both Akari and Jirou were on the beach at the same time. When the obligatory test of courage comes up, she’s worried she’ll be a liability to whomever she’s paired up with.

Jirou hopes that he’ll be the one paired up with her, as he knows she scares easily and will be able to deal. In an unguarded but welcome moment, she says she loves “that [kind] side of him”. Of course, we know Shiori loves Jirou, period.

Answering his friends’ call, Sadaharu conspires with Mei to make sure that Jirou and Shiori end up with each other. In their clandestine meeting Sadaharu says Mei is “kind”, something she doesn’t want to hear since she remains conflicted by her own feelings for Shiori.

Nevertheless, Shiori and Jirou end up together for the test, as do Akari and Minami, which was a specific request of Jirou’s. He didn’t want to be the only one ending up with the one he loved when he and Akari are in this together. We learn later that Shiori was so scared throughout the test that nothing happened between them.

As for Akari, when she loses her phone and goes to look for it, she ends up separated from Minami, who relays the situation to the others. When Jirou hears that Akari is out there all alone as it starts to rain, he leaves Shiori’s side to go look for her. It’s Minami, not Jirou, who finds her, but when she hears someone near, Akari  calls out Jirou’s name.

Minami apologizes for not being Jirou, and goes on to say that Akari’s face is way too red for him to be mistaken about who she truly likes. That said, he knows there was a time when she seemed interested in him, so he uses this time to tell her that while he’s flattered, he loves someone else; someone who doesn’t love him back, so he gets it.

(Minami also had the misfortune of having seen that someone in bed with his older brother, which must have been quite the knife twist).

Shiori ends up finding Jirou and brings him an umbrella. They get to talk about the time they practiced kissing, and Shiori makes clear nothing has happened since then. Her first kiss was with Jirou, and she liked it that way. She draws close to him, expressing how she knows simply being a childhood friend won’t be enough to keep her by his side.

Ever since the practical started, Shiori has felt lonely, because she didn’t get to see the “husband” version of the boy she loved. As she gets on her tiptoes to Jirou, she asks him if he’ll show her a side of him Akari hasn’t seen, if Akari isn’t special to him.

But that’s just the thing: Akari is special to Jirou, or at least she’s not not special. It’s more complicated than a black-and-white “like/not like”. With Akari and Minami it’s different, and made quite clear: Minami isn’t interested in Akari, and Akari isn’t in love with Minami anymore.

Minami knows this since he sees himself in Akari. He tells her he’s happy she fell for him, and Akari tells him she was happy she fell for him too. But unlike him and the woman who ended up with his big brother, he believes Akari still has a chance with Jirou, for whom it’s quite clear she has feelings.

When Akari asks him what if things get “weird” between her and Jirou, he simply asks if things are “weird” between them now. They’re not; now that the air has been cleared they can both move forward. They both promise to do their best to do just that, but with Jirou firmly in his childhood friend’s arms (and their lips quite firmly locked together), Akari will have to work very hard indeed. But it’s too soon to throw in the towel!

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 06 – Hearts Racing Together

One morning, Akari is acting like a caring, loving wife, the kind that is again propelling her and Jirou into the top of the practical rankings (which are a thing I find myself caring less and less about as the show goes on). The only thing that gives Jirou pause is the fact that Akari keeps calling him by his last name, even seemingly accentuating the “Yakuin”.

Jirou doesn’t know why, but it bothers him, and he even googles “why is a girlfriend suddenly calling you by your last name”. Seems like a step backwards, or some kind of message, right? Then Jirou and Sadaharu happen to witness Hamano Mei rejecting female kohai who just confessed her love for her.

Aside from it being a magnificently gay scene I was waiting for, Mei demonstrates that she’s very good at the gentle turn-down, and I have no reason to doubt she truly is happy that this girl fell for her, even if she can’t return the feelings. Mei also bears part of the burden for not “being mindful enough to notice” the girl’s feelings, then indulges her with a warm embrace and calls her by her first name.

Jirou wants to notice what’s causing Akari to use his last name, so that already shows he’s being mindful. He’s a good kid, thinking about how she feels! When he’s about to shower, Akari barges in with the rankings on her phone: they’re now in eighth place, and she hugs him while he’s shirtless, which is a first.

Later, she helps him dry his hair—which he washed with a shampoo she chose for both of them. When she hits the hair dryer, Jirou says her first name, then again. The third time he says it is when she switches it off, and she hears it, and calls him Jirou in turn. Now he gets it: she simply wanted him to call her Akari first. She says its for the benefit of their artificial marriage, but it’s clear him calling her Akari makes her blush every time.

While Jirou figured out this little mini-mystery of how he and Akari address one another, he’s still largely in the dark about Shiori’s true feelings. In that regard, his lack of mindfulness stems from her years-old friendzoning of him, which he felt at the time meant that was that and there were lines beyond childhood friendship she’d rather not cross.

But that was then, and Shiori regretted it then and has yet to resolve matters. In this, her best friend Mei most likely subordinated her own unrequited romantic feelings for Shiori in order to ensure she’s happy, by doing everything possible to bring her and Jirou together. She makes it clear if Shiori isn’t more aggressive in letting Jirou know her feelings, Akari (or some other girl) will beat her to the punch.

When Shiori gets hit in the head by an errant football, Mei sends her to the nurses office and promises to send Jirou there, where it’s clear she wants Shiori to do what she couldn’t do during their shared classroom duties. When Jirou hesitates, Mei verbally kicks him in the butt to get in there and see Shiori already.

But while Mei can’t understand why her Shiori loves a “coward” like Jirou, she’s missing the fact that Shiori’s been a coward too! Coward is probably too strong a term; more like stubborn in their shared belief that the other isn’t interested despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

When Jirou visits the nurse’s office to see Shiori, the two find themselves all alone in the dark. They exchange some awkward small talk, Jirou notices that Minami brought her a sandwich and sports drink before he did (though Mei gave him his). Shiori mentions how well Jirou and Akari are doing, he says they still fight a lot, and Shiori remarks how she’d like to see Jirou angry sometime. That is to say, she wants to know more about him beyond the childhood friend.

She also makes it clear when Jirou brings up making romantic progress that she and Minami have done no such thing, and that furthermore, even if it was with someone she liked, she’d worry about being too nervous and inexperienced. This must feel to Jirou like a comfortable mirror.

Shiori makes another blunder by saying she wants to “practice” kissing with Jirou, which suggests she’d rather kiss someone else “for real”, but Jirou, who had just gotten a talking-to from Mei to “go for it”, agrees and leans in to kiss Shiori.

At the very last second Shiori hesitates again, which happens before Akari’s gyaru-friend Sachi comes in to skip class, hears the bed creaking, and sees boy’s and girl’s shoes through the gap in the curtain. Sachi is scandalized and makes a quick exit, but her entrance caused Jirou to slip and fall … right onto Shiori and her lips.

Accident or not, the two have finally kissed, and it was so unexpected and so … so much for both of them they basically short-circuit in unison and agree to part ways for the time being. I feel so bad for both Mei and Akari, as these two are—and I can’t stress this enough—the fucking worst.

I mean everyone has their pace that they must follow (I think about Chuu2Koi handled this quite well). But you don’t have to jump each other’s bones; you can use their words and clear all this up! Say you like him! Say you like her! Boom! But they don’t.

All throughout this time, Akari has been trying to get ahold of Jirou, but he’s ignored her last four texts. Then Sachi shows up and tells her what went down in the nurse’s office, and right after hearing this Akari gets a text from Jirou saying he was in the nurse’s office. Naturally, her thoughts go straight to Shiori.

I continue to feel so bad for Akari. I’m sure Minami is a nice guy, but she doesn’t really know him. She does know Jirou a lot more, and is developing feelings for him that are quickly replacing the more shallow attraction nad idolization for Minami. Also, I doubt Minami is any more interested in her than he is Shiori.

And hey, what do you know, Akari is so preoccupied with Jirou that she doesn’t even notice Minami served her that drink! I am HERE for the Minami erasure. We’re in episode six. If we go another six without him so much as uttering a line, I’ll be perfectly content.

What we have here, then, is a love triangle. And with her assumption Jirou went and did something with Shiori in the nurse’s office, Akari is understandably lonely and depressed. It doesn’t help matters that her gyaru-friends stand her up at the café, though Minami gives her some free extra whipped cream and a note to cheer her up (though again, you get the impression he’d do this with anyone).

When she comes home late, Jirou is passed out on the couch. Akari sees the chocolates and deduces he waited for her. She doesn’t check her phone and see the text warning that the chocolates contained whiskey. She does unfold the couch (which of course becomes a bed), disrobe and curl up next to the dozing Jirou, asking him if this is what he did with Shiori, or did they take things even further.

What’s so heartbreaking is that Akari isn’t mad that Jirou might’ve slept with Shiori. After all, who wouldn’t want to have their first time be with someone so clearly important to them? Even more heartbreaking? Lines like “Did you go off and become an adult without me?” and “Don’t leave me behind,” and “I’ll cheer on in your love … but just for now, while I’m your wife, could you wait?” Just one dagger after the other.

Jirou regains consciousness from his inadvertent choco-bender very confused Akari is sleeping beside him in her underwear. When he asks what happened, Akari teases him for forgetting what happened … for forgetting what he did to her. She then asks “was last night your first time?” to which he answers yes, because he assumes she means the two of them.

When he proceeds to apologize if he didn’t perform to her standards and such, she admits she was lying, they didn’t do it. When Jirou is a bit too emphatic in his relief, since it means he’s still a virgin, Akari is miffed. I’m not sure he meant to imply he’s glad he didn’t lose it to her because he’d rather lose it to Shiori (I think he’s just glad he didn’t pop his cherry and not remember it)—but that’s how she interprets it.

It sucks that this is how the episode, and the first half of the season, wraps up: with another misunderstanding. But even if Jirou picks up on what Akari is mad and is able to smooth things over, the underlying triangle remains. While Shiori did stop them from kissing for real, they did lock lips, and once she and Jirou fully process that, that dance will continue. And this conflict will surely drive the second half.

Could Akari be clearer about how she’s acting toward Jirou is less about being a great pretend wife for the sake of getting Minami and more about legitimate feelings for him? Sure! Could Shiori, for the benefit of both Akari and the long-suffering Mei, please kindly shit or get off the pot? Perhaps! But Jirou can also keep being as mindful as he can be. As long as he’s wracking his brain, there’s potential for progress on all fronts. Whatever happens, I’m loving these characters, and this show.

Classroom of the Elite – S2 13 (Fin) – Pax Kiyotaka

In a nice change of pace, this episode starts from Ibuki Mio’s perspective, of all things, as she visits Ryuuen’s dorm and then tracks him down. The swelling has gone down, but Ryuuen has abandoned all plans to continue the fight; he’s done. Mio doesn’t like it, and gives him a kick in frustration, but there’s no changing his mind. Clearly Kiyotaka’s beatdown had a lasting effect.

Kei wakes up realizing, in spite of knowing what kind of person he is, that she has developed feelings for him as a result of his white knight act. The cheeks don’t lie. She’s then ambushed by Maya, who like everyone else thinks she’s some expert on boys and dating due to her fake relationship with Yousuke. Maya asks for advice on her first date with Ayanokouji, even proposing a double date.

That night, Kei gets a call from Maya’s crush, but is slightly disappointed when it’s yet another business call. Still, she’s glad to be getting calls from him again, even after he’d terminated their arrangement. He wants her to investigate Maya and find out as much about her as she can.

As is appropriate for a season finale, Kiyotaka also checks in with the other major players, making an opening proposition for Suzune to join the StuCo, though he doesn’t push too hard. Kikyou spots them from a balcony above and gives them the stinkeye.

Most notably, Kiyotaka meets up with Ryuuen, who fully accepts his new role as former tyrant. He even demonstrated a measure of honor and selflessness by copping to a crime that wouldn’t get his whole crew expelled. But Kiyotaka made it so even he wouldn’t get the boot, because now that Ryuuen has been properly cowed, he is a valuable asset in his coming battle to get Kikyou expelled.

It’s not often that someone gets one over on Kiyotaka, so it’s pretty amusing that Maya turns out to be one of those people. Shortly after meeting him for their date, Kei and Hirata arrive, seemingly by coincidence, and Maya and Kei suggests the double date they wanted from the start.

Kiyotaka is a go-with-the-flow kinda guy in these situations, and so that’s just what he does as the quartet goes to see a movie and then heads to a café for some refreshment. Maya asks Kiyotaka about his future, and he says he’ll probably just go to college. Throughout the date, Kei shoots subtle little looks Kiyotaka’s way, but they either go unnoticed or ignored.

The two couples eventually split around dusk, when Maya plans to make her big confession. Kei may not be experienced in dating, but she’s 100% correct that it is both intense and a bit ludicrous to ask someone out after a first date on Christmas day. Kiyotaka turns her down how you’d expect: matter-of-factly and dispassionately, and she runs off accepting of his decision, but in tears.

That’s when Kiyotaka tells Kei to come out of her hiding spot, or she’ll catch cold. It starts to snow just as the two have a seat in the park. When she asks why he rejected Maya, Kiyotaka simply says she was a poor substitute for Kei.

Of course, he means as a pawn and informant, but Kei also happens to be a much more interesting (and after recent events, much stronger) person in general. The contrast is clear: Maya liked an idealized version of him; Kei likes the real him.

Kei casually offers Kiyotaka a Christmas gift, and is surprised when he gives her one in turn. While it’s just cold medicine, it’s the thought that counts, and she’s flattered that he worried about her to that extent, even if only in a purely practical way.

As they walk back to the dorms, Kiyotaka reveals that his abrupt termination of their arrangement, as well as rescuing her at the absolute last moment, galvanized Kei’s genuine trust in him, making her all but betrayal-proof. As he puts it, a good chunk of him has never left the White Room, where people are only tools to be used and discarded.

Those thoughts are apropos of the encounter that follows him and Kei parting ways for their respective dorms, as Sakayanaki Arisu. She greets him as if they’d known each other long ago, then references the White Room by name, notes that he, the “False Genius”, is his father’s “ultimate masterpiece”, and states that the role of “burying” him should fall to her.

So the curtain falls on a second season that ended in relative peace, with the promise of ever more intense personal battles to follow in next year’s Season 3. Whether it’s continuing his quasi-romance with Kei, making use of his new tool Ryuuen to bring Kikyou down, convincing Suzune to join the StuCo, or fending off whatever Arisu serves up, Kiyotaka will have no shortage of work to do.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 24 (S2 Fin) – Dream On

All of Chizuru’s aspiring acting peers marvel at how hardworking and dedicated she is, but the truth is she’s a surging ball of doubt and anxiety. If she doesn’t pass auditions and get this next role, her dream of having her grandmother Sayuri see her performing on screen before she dies is in serious jeopardy of never coming true.

One night, she gets one more friendly rejection text, cries in her dark apartment, and asks the picture of her late grandfather Katsuhito to stop smirking and tell her what she should do. We then go seven years into the past, to when Chizuru was a surly seventh grader with no real driving force except “men are idiots”.

Chizuru’s gran was once an up-and-coming actor, and when Chizuru watches a rented DVD of her performance, that’s it: the dreamless kid suddenly has a dream: she wants to be an actor too. Her gran starts warning her just how goddamn difficult that will be, but her gramps is all optimism and gumption…remind you of someone in her present day life?

Chizuru spends her years of middle school and high school learning how to act, and seems well on her way, until Truck-kun claims her gramps’ life. Remembering how her grandparents told her the name “Chizuru” comes from a thousand paper cranes and that she was meant to be a talisman of good luck, she runs up and down the local shrine one hundred times to pray for Katsuhiro’s recovery.

He doesn’t make it, but he is conscious long enough to say his last words to her: dreams always come true. He knew this would be the worst moments of her life, and wanted her to know that she couldn’t give up no matter what; no matter how much frustration and tragedy and pain got in the way. But now, faced with yet another rejection for a role and her gran growing frailer by the day, Chizuru is wavering once more.

Enter Kazuya, who blessedly had no screen time or lines for over half of this episode, the better to make this all about Chizuru and not him (for once). He comes to her door with a proposal: crowdfunding a movie for them to make and for her to perform in. It technically would fulfill her dream, and there’s actually a better chance of pulling it off than of her getting a role in the same two-month time frame.

Chizuru retreats to her dark apartment to mull it over while Kazuya returns to his and wonders if he just made a huge blunder once again. Naturally, Chizuru sees in Kazuya the same idiotic optimism as her grandfather, but also realizes that his gramps happened to be right: dreams only truly die if you give up on them, and now life is offering her a chance to revive it just when she thought it was all but dead.

Kazuya hears Chizuru’s door open and close, her footsteps in the fancy shoes of her rental girlfriend outfit she has yet to change out of, and then a ring on his doorbell. She has one question: Can you really do it? And after thinking about it and saying that he, that they can, Chizuru has to cover her face to hide the flow of emotion. Her dream, now so cracked and fragile by the rigors of reality, is suddenly mended into something she can carry once more.

Kazuya, who took a suggestion of Sumi’s and rode with it, fully understands the hard work he’ll have to put in. When her gramps was injured, Chizuru knew she could do more for him than sitting around and crying in the hospital, so she ascended the shrine stairs one hundred times until her feet were scratched and black with dirt.

And in the end, the result of that effort was only fleeting—her gramps woke up for only a moment before expiring. Whether she’s conscious of it or not, the same qualities in her gramps are apparent in Kazuya seems like big part of why she’s falling for him as a romantic partner. But it could also be why she’s so hesitant to go down that road: what if she gave her heart to Kazuya, only to lose him? Truck-kun is still out there…

Getting a movie funded and actually making it is sure to make that running up and down the steps barefoot seem like a gentle walk in the park. Kazuya knows it. Chizuru knows it. It could end in failure too, but failure is all but assured if they give up. Kazuya (via Sumi) gave Chizuru the “loophole” she needed to scale down her dream into something more manageable than becoming a movie star before her gran dies.

Will that cause the already nascent feelings she’s developed for him to grow? Will they merely maintain the increasingly sturdy friendship they’ve forged this season? Whither Ruka, Sumi, and above all Mami, the last glimpse of whom is her smirking and asking herself if she has a life (she doesn’t)?

Will Kazuya get them involved in this “let’s make a movie” venture? Finally, who is that fifth girl, apparently moving into the same building as Kazuya and Chizuru? (At first I thought it was Ruka, but this person has an ahoge, and the blue in her hair is color, not a bow.)

We’ll have to wait for a season 3 to find all this out. Until then, I’m glad the focus was on Chizuru for this final episode, learning the full story of her dream, and that the Kazuya we get is a man who proposes strong and achievable action, not moping or fumbling about with his myriad romantic prospects in his head.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kageki Shoujo!! – 06 – Such Sins Shall Not Be Endured

The 100th Class is restless. For four months they’ve been subjected to basics basics basics when each of them are anything but. They’re fed up of boring lessons…they want to ACT. Sarasa, never one to shy away from making her thoughts known, whatever they may be, airs the united class’s grievance to Andou-sensei.

He seems miffed by her impression of her, even though everyone agrees it’s as spot-on as her impressions of all the other teachers. They wonder if it’s because it’s so good that it struck a nerve. Such is Sarasa’s performative power.

Oh, it’s also Sarasa’s 16th birthday! Akiya’s older kabuki kolleague took the liberty of delivering sixteen roses to Sarasa under an alias, living as he is vicariously through Akiya and Sarasa’s chaste, minimalist long-distance relationship. But Ai isn’t going to lose to some “frog bot”; so she plays and plays the store lottery until she wins a figurine she knows Sarasa will cherish.

She also uses the opportunity to try to call Sarasa by her first name instead of “Sara…Watanabe-san”, and when prompted by Sarasa herself to do so, Ai is finally able to do it. More than by the figurine, Sarasa is made happiest by seeing her first name in Ai’s handwriting and hearing it in Ai’s voice. I love these two so much it hurts.

I could honestly deal quite well with a Kageki Shoujo!! that’s nothing but Sarasa and Ai hanging out and gradually becoming closer, but we’ve got a whole ensemble to cover here, and the results of spreading the love across multiple Kouka students isn’t bad either!

This week focuses on the other members of Sarasa and Ai’s Group E, who along with the other groups have two weeks to prepare to do a scene from Romeo & Juliet. Rock Paper Scissors is used to determine who plays what role, resulting in the suboptimal pairing of Hoshino Kaoru’s Romeo with Ai’s Juliet. Sarasa has to play the much darker Tybalt.

The role of Juliet was really won by Chika, one of the Sawada twins, but she decides to be the lesser role of Juliet’s nurse, later seeing her sister Chiaki claim the role with giddy elation. Is Chika less ambitious than Chiaki, or is she simply trying to differentiate herself from her sister in order to shine on her own? The twins have just been background noise until now, so I’m looking forward to them getting a bit more fleshed out.

Kaoru, whom I’d forgotten wishes to be a otoko-yaku like Sarasa, does not surrender Romeo to Sarasa. Instead, she takes Group E firmly by the reins and does not spare the whip. She harshly criticizes both Sarasa and Ai for seemingly not giving it their all, then finally snaps at Sarasa for daring to propose they practice on the sidewalk like common street performers.

As with Ayako last week, Ai sees a member of JPX in Kaoru, specifically the leader, who was always angry and never satisfied. She also learns why from the other girls; both of the previous generations of Hoshino women were Kouka performers. Ai bridges the gap between her and Kaoru by acknowledging the pressure Kaoru is under, while also admitting something she deems to be shameful and almost disqualifying for a Kouka actress.

Due to all of her years performing from a young age, she never properly learned to read kanji. Ai tells Kaoru there’s nothing wrong with her having a short fuse or being tough on them; if she’s not tough on them, Group E will fail. And if Kaoru doesn’t want to be the bad guy of the group, they’ll also fail!

Speaking of bad guys, Sarasa has zero experience embodying characters like Tybalt, but while she sucks at reading a script, watching a Blu-Ray of Romeo & Juliet is another thing entirely. She absorbs every moment of the performances on the screen, and the shape and color of every line, like a very tall, very efficient sponge. And lest you think I’m being harsh on Sarasa, I hold living sponges in high regard! We should all wish to live such an elegant existence!

When the time comes for the first-ever Great “Let First-Years Act” Experiment, Andou chooses Group E to go first. As they perform in their tracksuits on a rehearsal stage, the audience (including us) are transported to the fully-dressed performance stage, complete with lighting and costumes. This is a nice stylistic touch.

Kaoru makes a good Romeo, but Andou can see her gaze is uneven, indicating she’s distracted and letting her self intrude on her performance. Chika flubs a line by repeating it, but after a momentary breakdown, remembers Ai’s words about them continuing to the end even if they mess up, and improvises a great save. Ai isn’t bringing true love to the performance (because Sarasa is her true Romeo), and she’s also doing what she was trained to do as an idol: performing to an audience of one. A Kouka actress must perform for everyone.

Then Tybalt takes the stage, and we finally see why Kaoru said what she said earlier about people normally improving gradually. Sarasa isn’t normal. After watching the video, once, she manages to serve up a perfect performance of Tybalt, causing her classmates to audibly gasp in unison. Andou is also impressed by the way Sarasa stands, locks her gaze high as if she were performing to a packed Kouka theatre crowd of 2,500. It is stirring, but in the end, it’s too perfect.

In his critique of Group E, Andou-sensei tells Sarasa flat-out that she will never be a top star of Kouka…not unless she changes. As I am prepared to give my life to defend Sarasa’s smile (not to mention Ai’s), it’s here where I must apply Tybalt’s line “Such sins shall not be endured” and “He is naught but a villain” to Andou-sensei. He is a villain whose sin was turning Sarasa’s smile into a look of pained bewilderment. Curse him!

But here’s the thing…he’s absolutely right, and Sarasa needed to hear his harsh words sooner rather than later, because she wasn’t really acting on that rehearsal stage, she was mimicking what she saw—down to the last precise detail. That is an impressive talent, foreshadowed when she did impressions of the other teachers, but it isn’t acting. Sarasa can’t be a top star of Kouka by simply perfectly replicating what she’s seen and heard. At least, that’s what I think Andou-sensei is on about.

Sarasa will have to change. She may even have to forget everything she knows about performing and start over from scratch. Her friend Ai will be there for her, as will the other girls of Kouka. After all, if there’s one person they want to see on stage more than the Sarasa they’ve already seen, it’s the future Sarasa who has mastered how to deliver performances all her own. I know Ai wants to see that Sarasa, and I do too!

The Day I Became a God – 04 – Slapping the Winds Together

After a virtually incomprehensible cold open in which Suzuki watches an interview between two scientists that left me scratching my head, we’re back to the Narukami residence, with Youta catching the beautiful, brilliant lawyer Tengan Kakou on the TV.

Before he knows it, Hina is winning an online mahjong preliminary in his name, stamping his ticket to the in-person tournament organized by his TV crush! Even Izanami, a mahjong buff herself, attends along with his best mate Ashura.

I’m just going to put this out there: I don’t know jack-squat about competitive Mahjong, having only played the solitaire version that’s just matching up like tiles. Narukami is similarly a complete novice, but received precise divine instruction from Hina. His resulting tactics in the game do not conform to the traditional competitive play—which just happens to be what Tengan Kakou wants.

This episode seems like a case of me enjoying watching Narukami fall far behind as if he had no idea what he was doing (because he didn’t, he’s just following Hina to the letter) then come roaring back with some frankly ludicrous bending of the rules, which even leads to the adoption of Uno rules. At the same time, I kept feeling a bit left out due to my aforementioned ignorance of Mahjong’s rules and terminology.

Fortunately, what we saw probably couldn’t be described as anything resembling a “normal” game, and indeed there were times when it seemed the show was parodying serious obscure game competition shows like Chihayafuru. Youta simply kept bastardizing the obscure terms until he adopted a game language all his own.

Not only does he win fame (and likely a tidy cash prize), but the attention of Tengan Kakou, who is initially cordial in her congratulations but before long is macking strongly on someone I assumed hasn’t quite reached age 18. Those uncomfortable undertones aside, their use of Mahjong terms as double entendres makes for quite the side-splitting exchange between the two:

“I’d like to see your infinite reiichi.”

“But you can score! An incredibly high-value hand! It’s an extraordinary yaku you may never encounter again!”

“I’m in unrequited love with another woman, which earns me the furiten penalty. Therefore, I am unable to score!”

Sadly for Youta, the unrequited love for whom he spurned the Great Tengan Kakou (leading to her sic’ing her bodyguard on him, who tears off the sleave of the suit he borrowed from his dad) took off for home without waiting for him, rendering this entire enterprise somewhat pointless.

There are thirteen days left until the end of the world. Unless something of genuine substance comes from the hacker-and-scientist side of things, it’s looking like Hina’s goal isn’t for Youta to help her save the world from ending, but simply living his life to the fullest until it does end. Or perhaps these experiences are somehow preparing him to save the world when the time is right?

All we know is, Youta has performed a piece of music for Izanami, rescued a family ramen joint, and won a mahjong tournament all in the same summer, with more to come. He’s having himself quite a summer. Like the ridiculous mahjong match he played, I’m fine just enjoying the crazy ride for now.

Sing “Yesterday” for Me – 05 – Miss Never Number One

Rikuo ends up at a new part-time job at a photography gallery, only to encounter co-worker Minato Kouichi, who was in the same third-year class as Haru before she dropped out. He joins them for lunch and exhibits how pretentious he is about photography. Rikuo takes an instant dislike to him.

That leads to yet another coincidence in which Minato is walking Haru home at the same time Rikuo is walking a slightly tipsy Shinako home. Both Haru and Rikuo are irritated by what they see. Shinako tells Rikuo that she’s done walking in circles, while Minato not to subtly hints that he had a crush in Haru in high school, only for her to be completely oblivious.

Minato visits Haru as often at the bar at least as often as Haru visits Rikuo, and eventually asks if she’ll spend a day with him. He formally asks her out, and while she replies with a rant about how much of an asshole Rikuo is, she’s not ready to give up on him, even if she’s “just the backup”, or she’d be lying to herself. Minato expected a rejection, and reveals he dropped out of college to pursue a life of freelance photojournalism.

When Haru says of her pet crow “I kept feeding him, and he got attached to me,” I couldn’t help but notice how similar that is to her approach with Rikuo, intentional or not. Rikuo so often comes off as irritated or annoyed with her (or is so often spotted with Shinako after dark), Haru’s adopted the misconception that he doesn’t care how she feels.

In reality, her reliable and persistent “feeding” of her charming personality to him has made him attached to her, to the extent he’s jealous when he sees her with Minato and even gets into an artistic competition with him. It’s fitting that while Rikuo loses, it’s because Minato’s photo was simply more compelling.

The photo depicts Haru in high school, which stands in contrast to Minato’s earlier screed against portraiture as the photographer forcing his feelings on the viewer. Sure enough, Minato’s affection for the subject suffuses the image, and even Rikuo can’t resist the portrait’s candid beauty and longing. It’s a Haru Rikuo had never seen before, and can never unsee.

One could also look at this photo as a portent for Haru’s eventual dropping out. She looks restless, and her gaze is pointed elsewhere—somewhere more painful yet more rewarding, scarier yet inevitable: adulthood and independence.

Sing “Yesterday” for Me – 04 – His Lingering Shadow

After three episodes Hayakawa Rou is by far the weakest of the characters, but only because all we’ve known is that Shinako loved his late older brother Yuu, and Rou loves Shinako. She tries to be a good big sis to Rou by cooking him meals, but she can’t give him the one thing he wants from her most. In his frustration, he blames it not necessarily on his faults as a person, but because she can’t let go of a dead guy.

This week we learn why Rou is the way he is. This goes a long way towards making his character more sympathetic—even if he remains the least interesting of the four leads. Since Yuu was always the center of not just Shinako’s but everyone’s attention, Rou had to seek attention elsewhere: by being “the kid who can draw” in his class. Only now he’s in a tougher class in which everyone is that person.

Hell, I was that person in high school, then went to art college and got a rude awakening. It’s an understandable hit to the ego of someone who’d taken for granted one’s superiority in a smaller pool. Still, Rou worked hard to be as good at art as he is, so he’s going to rely on that work ethic to pull him through this phase.

One thing he wants to avoid at all costs is ending up like Rikuo, whom he still can’t believe Shinako even gave the time of day to. Worse, he learns of Haru and Rikuo’s “deal” rudely labeling her a “backup” when the two meet in context at the konbini. Kinoshita insists Rikuo help out in the back, so it falls to Rou to walk the young lady home.

Haru, who it must be said still sees love as in illusion, wonders what Shinako is doing so differently that she is so beloved by both Rou and Rikuo. Ruo rebuts by pointing out how not interested in him that way Shinako really is, but Haru doesn’t want Rou discouraged.

If Rou were to find a way to win Shinako’s heart, that frees Rikuo up for Haru, so she’s firmly on team Rou X Shinako, so gives him a supportive back on the back and runs off with her pet crow, which leads Rou to call her a weirdo.

Rou returns to find his dad and Shinako have already returned to Hanazawa. Once there, his dad informs Shinako that he’ll be renting out the house where they lived with Yuu, and presents her with a box of Yuu’s assembled belongings. In the room where she tended to him until the day he died, Shinako breaks down when she finds the eraser he lent her the first day they met, with the message “baka” concealed by its sleeve.

Outside cheery blossoms glow and she catches a glimpse of Yuu as a student, and she transforms into her younger self to approach him, only for him to disappear behind the tree. In a heartwrenching scene Shinako weeps bitter tears of loss, the shadow of Yuu still looming. It may be “okay to forget” as Yuu and Rou’s dad puts it, but Shinako can probably never fully erase Yuu’s shadow—nor would she want to.

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