O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 08 – Where Legends are Made

This week, with the cultural festival as the backdrop, every O Maiden decides they’re going to make a choice that will hopefully ensure them happiness and stability as they move forward.  Naturally, things don’t start out smoothly for anyone.

For Kazusa, it’s deciding to tell Izumi upfront how she feels. As her performance with Niina looms, Kazusa is mindul, and nervous, of the fact that Izumi is about to witness her essentially rehearse her confession to him with Niina on stage.

Momo decides she’s not going to entertain Sugimoto’s vapid attention any longer, something she’s even more sure of when he shows up with two of his friends. When Rika sees another girl flirting with Amagi, she starts to realize they can’t have relationship if she insists on keeping it secret from the world.

Then there’s Niina. She seems the most lost out of everyone, caught between feelings for Saegusa and Izumi, but neither sure what those feelings are or how to act on them. For his part, Izumi is taken aback when she puts her hand on his face, leading to her scurrying off while he struggles to hold three teapots—which I’m sure is a metaphor for something.

Hongou finds her encounters with Milo-sensei almost completely dominated by the presence of the modern Japanese teacher Tomita-sensei, who has clearly taken a liking to Milo. Tomita doesn’t see Hongou as a threat, she sees her as a child and a student, and there’s clearly the sense Milo appreciates having Tomita around, almost as a shield from Hongou’s potential mischief. But any discomfort he has comes out of his refusal thus far to set clear boundaries, a responsibility that’s his and his alone.

While wallowing in the rest area, Rika is joined by Sonoe, and the two get to talking about the latter’s boyfriend. Sonoe, who it should be said is clearly ready to move on from bullying Rika to a conventional friendship between hotties, tells Rika how her thing with her boyfriend was physical at first, but became romantic when she learned he was a nice guy. Also, that it’s only natural to want to show off and be proud of the person they like. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Izumi in the audience would be awkward enough, but Saegusa also joins the crowd, sitting right beside Izumi. Suddenly, it’s a rehearsal for Niina as well as Kazusa, in which to somehow prove to Saegusa that she’s not boring, that despite having become a woman, she can still be unpredictable like a child.

When nobody expects it, and just when Kazusa is starting to get into rhythm with Izumi less of a source of stress and more of a calming presence, Niina flips the script, walks out into the crowd, and puts her hand on Izumi’s chest, shocking everyone there (and no one more than Kazusa), but eliciting an impressed smirk from Saegusa.

Izumi takes Niina by the wrist to talk in private, whipping the crowd into a frenzy as they hoot and applaud what looks to all the world like two lovers shuffling off to be alone. In the moment, it looks like a heel turn for Niina (if you’re an KaZumi shipper, like me).

Izumi is surprised when Niina tells him even she didn’t really know what she was doing, he surmises that it may have been to make Saegusa jealous, and that if she still wants to do that kind of stuff because she still likes Saegusa, he’s willing to help her. The key is, she should focus on what she wants, not how others will see it. A tall task for someone all but defined by observers. But the one thing Izumi can’t see is the real reason Niina reached out to him: she likes him.

As for Kazusa, she also considered the fact that it may be game over for her and Izumi before she even took her shot, but she’s determined to take that shot anyway. Seeing how Niina looked when she touched Izumi clinched it for her: for someone who clearly likes him that much to still support Kazusa, who only ever thought about herself…that’s the person she’d want to be with Izumi, rather than some rando.

Everything comes to a head at the bonfire that concludes the festival. Due to the buzz caused by the performances—no doubt supercharged by Niina’s improvisation—the whole school is aware of the urban legend about standing in the shadow of the one you love, and people are trying it out.

It’s the first time Hongou’s work has reached an audience so large, and the pride in her accomplishment fuels her confidence in wanting to try it out on Milo-sensei. Unfortunately she doesn’t come close to getting a chance; Milo is well away from the bonfire’s flames, chatting with Tomita-sensei.

Rika fares better. Turns out Amagi wasn’t as close to giving up on them as it seemed last week, but Rika goes for broke and confesses to him in front of everyone, telling him she can now see the difference between romance and sexual desire, but more to the point, she doesn’t care anymore about anything other than Amagi knowing she’s in love with him. He responds by hugging her, telling her he’s never been so happy.

Momo was successful in getting Sugimoto to take a hike, but that leaves her alone at the bonfire when everyone else is busy with their respective love interests. Still, you get the feeling she’d rather be alone than have those annoying dudes buzzing around her, so it’s a win for her.

Niina tells Saegusa that she’s decided to let herself “obsess” over someone for the first time, and see where it goes, after a lifetime of keeping her distance. She’s pretty much asserting she has to look out for herself, even if it hurts Kazusa and ends up fruitless, as Izumi just doesn’t see her that way, and has—has always had—someone closer to him.

That brings us to Izumi, who beats Kazusa to the punch and and confesses to her first, moving her to tears of joy and relief. He references that day years ago when he first saw her as a girl, and after all those years of her protecting him, he decided he wanted to protect her too. Big sister, little sister, good friend…she’s been all of those things to him, but now he knows all of those characterizations are reflections of the love he’s always had for her.

The two walk to the riverfront hand-in-hand to admire the cityscape, at peace and happy as clams. So many weights have been lifted on this night, but the smooth sailing will only last so long with four episodes left. Storms lie ahead, and the strength of all of the night’s confessions and rejections place will be vigorously tested. I’m fist-pumpingly happy for Kazusa and Rika, but love and pain do go hand in hand!

Advertisements

O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 07 – You Mustn’t Become Boring

At the inn where he was extorted by Hitoha to take the Lit Club, Yamagishi-sensei is perfectly content to spend the evening with his folks, until he’s confronted by Hitoha in a particularly frisky mood. Forget her literary ambitions, she just wants to get with Milo-sensei, period. But thank goodness, he says four words that start to restore my faith in him: “Will you please stop?”

Sure, he’s pretty mean when he laughs at her inability to handle an imminent (but ultimately aborted) kiss when she was talking big about letting him lift her up by her thong and toss her to the floor. And when he tells her not to “bite off more than you can chew.” Hitoha may consider herself “a wretched sight,” but the alternative—if Milo-sensei had given in—would have been far, far worse.

As Momo withdraws from the baths, she can’t get the image of a totally naked and uninhibited Niina out of her mind, eliminating any doubt that she has a crush on her. Not only that, when Sugimoto RINEs her with a number of in-your-face stamps enthusiastically inquiring about how she’s doing, Momo almost seems resentful—how dare you, vapid boy, try to occupy headspace I’d rather have occupied by the fair Miss Sugawara?

Just before Momo returns to the bedroom, Rika is also exchanging innocuous texts with a boy—Amagi—the difference being Rika is loving every moment of it. Still, not so much that she’d let Momo know, as she rushes back to the brainstorming table. Momo muses that the idea of guys being simple and shallow is “an urban legend in itself,” and wonders why girls are supposed to couple with them instead of what she deems to be simpler girls she finds cuter.

Rika initially believes the two of them are far apart when it comes to how they feel, but in reality, they both liken how they feel to the bittersweet taste of a dark chocolate Pocky. They’re both interrupted by a rejected and thoroughly pissed-off Hitoha, who barges in with an urban legend about sweethearts wearing matching thongs…not knowing that might actually work for someone like Momo!

While the nature of the distance may vary, the love interests of all five girls are far away. Niina and Kazusa are unique in that they likely share the same love interest. It’s Niina who is there when Kazusa comes out of her overheated state, which is really for the best, as Niina gets to instigate the fight they really need to have in order to move forward, either as friends or something else.

The other three interrupt the fight, in part deeming it unfair due to Kazusa’s heat-fatigued state, but the five come up with a solution that serves everyone: a lively, no-holds-barred pillow fight. It’s a wonderful, semi-cathartic release, and thankfully Yamagishi-sensei has precisely no part in it whatsoever, keeping a distance and letting these girls in their savage season have it out with one another in an aggressive (fight) yet gentle (pillows) way.

The night Kazusa returns, she has dinner with Izumi’s family, but Izumi himself isn’t present. In another beautiful sequence, the two end up encountering one another from the windows of their respective bedrooms—a cliche to be sure, but an effective one in this case, especially as both had just been thinking of one another; specifically the fact they like one another.

Having learned a lot from her trip and gained quite a bit of confidence and courage, Kazusa draws on what she and only she knows—that Izumi is particularly into retro trains—and tosses him one in the form of a keychain. Izumi first thought of Kazusa as a girl when he could throw a baseball further than her. But this time, both the keychain and her feelings make it to him. It’s a small step, but definitely one in the right direction.

Back at school, Kazusa makes sure to apologize to Niina for being presumptuous about her stealing Izumi, but does so under the impression Niina has no interest in Izumi, which is actually just another presumption on her part! Ironically, Kazusa takes another confident step in volunteering to be the role of the girl to Niina’s boy in the lit club’s cultural festival performance.

As Momo adjusts Niina’s costume and blushes at the sight of her nape, and Rika continues to flush her relationship with Amagi down the toilet, Kazusa continues to reiterate in her head how she loves Izumi, and has always loved and treasured him back when she was his big-sister figure. But while Kazusa has probably never been more at peace, that peace is built on shaky ground.

As Kazusa confides to Niina that she’s just about ready to confess her feelings to Izumi, Niina is not quite ready to concede Izumi to her so easily, though she might ultimately do so out of respect for their friendship. Where she goes wrong is seeking advice from her middle-aged pedophile former acting coach Saegusa, whom she visits just as he’s calling his latest prized talent “boring”…apparently for being so obedient.

Saegusa doesn’t want to witness obedience, on the stage or off it; he wants to see rapture; the explosive moment when a girl spreads her wings and takes off, transforming into a woman, even if that woman holds no interest for him beyond the “final moment” of transition.

With that in mind, and considering his loyalties lie nowhere else, he urges Niina not to be boring like his young student, but rather to damn the torpedoes. It’s a heartbreaking scene, not least because it’s quite likely Niina will do whatever her old mentor says, no matter how much it might hurt her and/or Kazusa.

But like Momo’s near-total disinterest in boys, Rika’s near-total inability to be the girlfriend Amagi wants, Hitoha’s near-total commitment to pursuing a forbidden affair, and Kazusa’s near-total confidence in her love for Izumi, Sugawara Niina is beholden to the road paved by the sum total of her life experiences thus far.

As much as she might want to, she has yet to escape Saegusa’s influence, and can no more turn off that road than Momo can start liking boys. And so, it seems a war with Izumi is inevitable—and no longer the kind with mere pillows.

O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 03 – Tough Kids Drink Milo

While Rika is checking a magazine to see how much she actually resembles Erika, Hitoha notices a new book has been published—but not her’s. Her editor says her stories aren’t “realistic” enough. For Hitoha, the message is clear: in order to break onto the young erotic fiction scene, she needs actual experience. So she arranges an IRL meet with “Milo” on the dirty chatroom.

When Izumi talks with Niina in private about the footage she shot, he doesn’t realize how much of a message he sent by taking her arm in class with everyone watching. Still, she’s impressed that he’s quicker on the uptake than she expected, taking her criticism and apologizing rather than bristling.

Even so Niina senses an “old-fashioned” quality to Izumi, and before returning to class (without saying she’d delete the footage) she assures him it’s not just boys who think about “doing it” all the time. Girls think about it too…even Kazusa. And it’s perhaps for that reason that every available male faculty member outright refuses to become the lit club’s adviser, keeping its future in jeopardy.

When Izumi’s mom drags Kazusa in to take home some meatloaf, she asks her to go up to his room to fetch the ketchup. Upon entering (again, without knocking! Girl!), she imagines him with his pants down at the desk again before it fades to an empty chair.

She gets a pang of nostalgia (which must come as a relief) when she sees the DVD for a Ghibli-like film on the desk, but when opening the case, she’s mortified to learn it’s something else entirely: a porn blu-ray, rather inartfully titled The Wheels on the Commuter Bus Go “Oh Yeah, Harder!”

Meanwhile, at the Hongou residence, Hitoha is ready to head out on her date when two misogynists on the TV talk about how mismatching underwear is a turnoff, and steals her sister’s blue bottoms to match her blue bra. As she waits until 1:00pm on the dot to leave the station and head for the statue where she’ll meet her date, she’s understandably nervous, repeating over and over to run if he looks like a shitty (or shitty-looking) guy.

So imagine her shock when “Milo” from the dirty chatroom is a handsome, glasses-less, stylishly-dressed…Yamagichi-sensei! Once he recognizes Hitoha, he bolts. I’d admire him for that, since it means he has no intention of sleeping with Hitoha, but then I wonder how he’d have reacted if it was a different girl her age, and immediately lose the ability to admire him for anything. Regardless, Hitoha follows; she can use this.

Desperate to learn something about sex, especially of the kind between the flowery literature or crass commuter bus porn (that’s quite a range), Kazusa beseeches her parents, who proceed to misunderstand her question and tell her about the day she was born, not the night they conceived her. They’re as ill-prepared to have “the talk” with their daughter as she is to ask them about it. Meanwhile, next door, Izumi panics over his lost porn…until he remembers Kazusa was in his room.

The next day, the principal and vice-principal, clearly scared of young women having a free and open forum to discuss literature of a mildly lascivious nature, are ready to pull the plug on the lit club after their unsuccessful search for an adviser, when Hitoha bursts into the office with a defeated, blackmailed Yamagishi by her side. He’ll be advising the club.

After Yamagishi eloquently analyzes Hitoha’s reading in the club, she twists the knife a little by giving him the same nickname in club (Milo-sensei)as his chatroom name, assuming it comes from Venus de Milo. Before he drives off, she thanks him for letting them continue the club, but he corrects her: he got it from something much more innocent: “Tough Kids Drink Milo,” the slogan of Nestle’s Milo chocolate drink (a personal favorite of mine…I guess I’m a tough kid!)

That evening, with the Norimotos apparently out, Kazusa uses the spare key to slip in and return Izumi’s porn DVD, but before doing so, has another ephiphany, realizing that her childhood friend, ever a lover of transportation, chose a commuter bus porn DVD rather than tarnish his even more beloved trains. Just as when she initially noticed the misleading Ghilbi case, Kazusa feels relieved, even happy that Izumi hasn’t changes as much as she thought.

It’s very sweet moment—and pretty hilarious!—moment. And then Izumi enters his room, correcting her on the format: it’s a Blu-Ray, not a DVD.

He goes on to try to explain and clarify that while he does watch porn (something now painfully clear), that doesn’t mean he’s interested in doing it with anyone; not Asada or any of the other girls at school, and not her, either. No doubt he probably doesn’t think he’s hurting Kazusa with those words, but he cuts her to the quick, and as her eyes well up she races out of the room, so fast that she stumbles down the stairs, and Izumi tumbles after her.

He lands on top of her at the bottom of the stairs, his face just an inch from her’s. How Kazusa doesn’t suffer a concussion in that fall I have no idea, but it’s a contrived-enough fall without an accidental kiss! Izumi jumps back to his feet and reiterates he doesn’t want to do it with “just anyone” and honestly isn’t even thinking about it that much. Kazusa responds by asking him to say “Willy’s Real Rear Wheel” ten times fast, while she slowly gets up and walks out.

It’s probably going to be like this for a while, as these two are nowhere near on the same wavelength and may not even want the same thing. Things will get even more dire for Kazusa if the more assertive Niina starts cultivating an interest in “Mr. Old Fashioned.”

But whatever hardship befall these five girls (well, four, anyway; Momo barely registers) and Izumi, I’m thoroughly enjoying this highly approachable, engaging, down-to-earth coming-of-age drama that reminds of my own awkward, clueless, stumbling, yearning younger self.

O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 02 – Holey War

After Kazusa reads about masturbation at the bookstore (no doubt learning it’s natural and healthy and thus way less of a big deal than either she or Izumi are making it out to be, even if it was super-embarrassing) she finds Niina in the clutches of some mouth-breather, and gets a text asking her to follow, along with other instructions.

When Kazusa joins them at the cafe, Niina is acting like “a different person”, talking about having to “take on three guys at once” later, then asking the dude if he’d hook up with her “super slutty friend” instead. That’s when Kazusa declares, loudly and proudly, that her crotch is really itchy. The guy flees.

Turns out it was all according to a script Niina’s friend at a theater troupe gave her to use as a defense against the many guys of all types who have projected their fantasies on her due to her ethereal, girlish good looks, and in doing so push past normal social boundaries. It’s a sad but very accurate commentary on the need to know how to deal with such men; many of whom won’t take rejection well.

Because of her looks, Niina grew up a little faster than the other girls. As for Kazusa, she really only grew up when she walked in on Izumi, who her clueless dad invites over for pizza. Izumi and Kazusa have a mature and productive chat about it briefly tries to make Kazusa forget by grabbing her head and shaking it (the childhood friend rambunctiousness coming out at the worst time) but ultimately would prefer if she just forgot it ever happened.

Later that night, in the shower, Kasuza puts herself in Izumi’s shoes, and of all the things she’d want to cover if he walked in on her, she determines she’d probably most want to hide her face, as if like an ostrich with its head in the ground, it wouldn’t be happening if she couldn’t see it.

At lit club, Rika instructs each member to come up with ten more “literary” words to use in place of the inartful English word “sex”, since it’s an otherwise unavoidable word with the works they’re reading. Then the writer among them gets a call from a potential editor, telling her she’s not quite there yet, but coming by his place will “probably help her chances.”

Then Rika gets “bothered by the chidings of lascivious beasts,” causing her to hurt her crotchal area on the vault; one of the girls doesn’t laugh and wonders out loud if she just “broke her hymen”; Rika later admits to herself she “doesn’t know how to check”.

It’s just and overall unpleasant-as-hell experience, but as she’s washing her face in the sink, Amagi comes by and calls her cute again, even comparing her to a model. There’s no reason to think the kid is messing with her, but Amagi isn’t prepared for the praise, and flees in a cloud of dust.

Then, the inevitable: the girl who boasted to her friend she’d take Izumi’s virginity makes her move. Kazusa is instinctively ready to riot, even tossing out the lame excuse of “having to keep an eye on him while his mother is busy with work!” She ends up getting to watch the meeting thanks to Niina paying her back for “having an STD for her” the other day.

Izumi ends up turning Asada down, but when she learns he doesn’t like anyone in particular, gets him to agree to “think about it,” as she’ll wait for him “forever.”

After Asada leaves, Izumi spots Niina snooping and recording, but Kasuza comes between them and tells the truth: Yes, they were snooping, but he didn’t give the girl a straight “no.” Then she asks if he just wants to “do it” with girls, and Izumi doesn’t understand, she blurts out a variant of one of the club’s euphemisms: “Ess Eee Ecks!” before running off.

The next day, with the whiteboard full of vulgar words and phrases, the principal and vice principal, both men, declare that absent a faculty advisor to keep them in line, the lit club will be dissolved. Kasuza starts weeping form the news; she doesn’t know what she’ll do if there’s no lit club (answer: they can always meet up somewhere after school and in the summer).

But Niina knows better. She knows Kasuza’s tears that just won’t stop aren’t just about the threat of the club dissolving. She gets Kasuza to admit that a “storm is raging in her heart”, and that if she absolutely had to “do it” with someone, it would be Izumi, which indicates she likes him. This may be something we’ve known for a while now, but only then, on the riverbank, does she finally have the official epiphany. She’s in luuuuuuve.

BokuBen – 08 – Bath Study, Seductive Ramen

Nariyuki presents his new smartphone, which his mother won and which the whole family shares. Turns out he has no idea how to use it and is easily frazzled when he tries, something Uruka finds cute. She shows him how to search for studying pointers, and ends up on an article extolling the virtues of studying in the bath, which everyone says is silly and that they’d never do it.

That night, while studying in the tub, Nariyuki tries to access his dictionary app, but ends up texting Fumino instead. She becomes very self-conscious about the fact that she’s texting him in the bath, even envisioning them sitting in it together, back-to-back, then apologizes to Ri and Uruka for having such unsavory thoughts.

His next attempt to access an app ends up calling Rizu, who after snatching her phone back from her protective dad, admits she’s in the bath and doesn’t get what the big deal is; sure, they’re both nude, but they can’t see each other. Then she closes her eyes, and when Nariyuki talks, it sounds like he could be in the bath with her.

Things escalate when an attempted voice command calls Uruka, who accidentally makes it a FaceTime call, revealing every bit of her untanned body usually covered by her swimsuit. For her part, Uruka gets a good look at Nariyuki’s torso. In the ensuing chaos, Nariyuki drops the phone in the bath. The next day at school, it’s understandably a bit awkward.

That the last person he calls in the bath is Uruka segues nicely to the episode’s second half, which is entirely devoted to Uruka, who again demonstrates not only that she’s the Best Girl of BokuBen, but of the entire Spring season.

Balancing the twin strenuous activities of studying and swimming takes its toll, and one morning Uruka collapses from exhaustion in the hallway. Fortunately, Nariyuki is there to help her to the infirmary. While waiting for the nurse, Nariyuki says out loud that whoever she likes is a lucky guy.

A very woozy Uruka, eyes still closed, pulls Nariyuki into an embrace, saying his name. Then her friends show up, and Nariyuki hides under the bed without thinking. There, he learns for the first time about the guy Uruka likes: according to one of her swim teammates, it’s him!

From the moment he hears this, Nariyuki can barely sleep. When he sees her next, he short circuits and walks into a street pole. When they touch elbows, it’s like an electric shock making his heart race. Fumino gives him the fourth lesson in understanding a woman’s heart: taking Uruka home, as she’s still recovering.

When Uruka thanks him and offers him a token of her gratitude, Nariyuki’s scrambled mind immediately looks to the nearby Mermaid Love Hotel…but Uruka meant she’d treat him to ramen at the shop next door. There, he can’t help but notice Uruka seems to be eating the ramen very seductively. But she’s not; he’s just seeing her in a new light; as a woman, not a mere childhood friend.

After ramen, they walk past a number of couples, and Uruka finally summons the courage to at least ask Nariyuki if he has someone “like that.” His quick and assertive “no” (he’s waiting until after entrance exams) makes her very happy. But then, he throws her for a loop, asking out of the blue if the boy she likes is him.

Now, while Uruka may be the Best Girl, her actions aren’t always the best—and in this case, they don’t help her cause in the slightest. She sabotages the entire moment by denying it with a dismissive laugh, which Nariyuki takes as settling the matter, and to curse himself for being so stupid. To which I say…DRAT!

At this point, Uruka is her own worst enemy. Later, in the bath again (though not studying), she curses herself for denying it so enthusiastically. But she doesn’t want to press matters, especially when she knows Nariyuki is focused on studying for exams, as she should be. And she’s scared of rejection, and of ruining the extremely solid friendship they currently enjoy.

That’s all well and good…if there was no competition, but Rizu, Fumino, and even Kurisu-sensei are in various stages of participation in the Yuiga Sweepstakes. Setting the record straight after exams might be too late. As for the friendship? Well, whether she asks him out and he says no, or someone else asks him out and says yes, that seems destined to change regardless!

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 24 – Renouncement And Forgiveness

When Accelerator finds Last Order and Worst, banged up but alive, Hyouka stops by before phasing out to tell him the data to save the little one, like the song once used to save Index, is somewhere in the network, waiting to be extracted and reconfigured. Worst can access the network to find the song, but when asked how he’ll change the parameters, Accel produces the parchment he’s been carrying.

Meanwhile, Hamazura has survived the blast, but instead of Takitsubo, he encounters Mugino in disguise. She swallows a whole handful of ability crystals and goes berserk, with Hamazura barely able to dodge her massive green beam attacks until she basically burns out.

At this point, Hamazura could kill her, but instead he gathers her into a hug, asks for the fighting and death feuds to end, and for the remaining members of ITEM to forgive and unite once more. Before that can happen, they need to escape Academy City’s bombers. But if Mugino indeed stops hunting Hamazura, then progress has definitely been made here.

As Stiyl continues to struggle for a way to free Index from her trance and Laura stands by not helping at all, Lessar and Sasha come to an agreement whereby Lessar will help the Russian sorcerers escape the Star of Bethlehem before shit starts going down, in exchange for them and Sasha helping Britain out next time they’re in a spot.

It’s a crucial gesture of peace and cooperation between two warring foes in a world war started by Fiamma. The remaining half of the episode is spent on his one-on-one confrontation with Touma.

With the dual powers of he Right Hand of God and the grimoires within Index, Fiamma starts by simply having a little bit of fun using various overpowered attacks against Touma, seeing if he can dodge or absorb everything with his Imagine Breaker. Fiamma also describes the current world like a mechanism or watch whose parts are hopelessly rusted and bent.

Project Bethlehem will restore the world to the way it was, which of course means brushing aside most if not all human civilization and industry. This is a personal project, as Fiamma now sees himself as beyond any one faith. It’s actually quite a shock to see Fiamma suddenly slice off Touma’s arm, turning Touma into a crumbled mess of a blood fountain as he absorbs the arm into his own giant hand.

It was around this time that I thought the killing blow to Touma would be stopped by Misaka, but she’s still on the ground with her clone looking for a way to get up to the Star. Instead, from his bloody stump, a second giant arm and hand emerges and grapples with Fiamma’s. It wrests Touma’s arm back and reattaches it, utterly renouncing the power Fiamma offered.

This is just another demonstration that Touma’s arm is not meant save the world on its own, or do anything else that big and important. Fiamma wanted to free it from what he saw was a mundane existence attached to Touma, and a waste of its potential, but the arm thought otherwise, as does Touma.

It’s at this point Touma starts to understand that the reason Fiamma has constructed the massive Star of Bethlehem and utilized the power of so many others (by force, not fellowship), is because he’s actually afraid that he never had sufficient power to “save” the world on his own—and he’s right; he doesn’t. Touma, meanwhile, has saved countless “worlds,” the worlds of individuals who have relied on him and on whom he’s relied right back.

Like Mugino with Hamazura, only on a larger scale, Fiamma’s plotting and raging at the status quo is unnecessary and unproductive. Like her, he risks burning himself out, along with all the bridges that were built to get him to this point. Looking out at that mess of stolen churches and artifacts he’s amassed, I’m tempted for him to say “look on my works and despair” in the ironic sense Shelley intended.

I don’t know if Touma, with Misaka’s imminent help, will have to utterly destroy Fiamma or simply deliver a devastating, cathartic right hook, of if they can convince him to stand down and accept his vision for a new world ain’t gonna happen. All I know is, it’s sure to be epic.

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 09 – Shou Breaks the Logjam

Ah, Photography Club: where there are always plenty of photos of the members looking at one another to determine who likes who. Shou can see how good Hitomi and Yuito look together, while Asagi can tell Shou likes Hitomi. Neither of them are particularly happy about that! If only Shou would look Asagi’s way…and neither Hitomi or Yuito existed…

In high school, time moves a lot slower than adult years, making it feel like you have all the time in the world. But Shou, a senior, is out of time, and can’t afford to wallow in indecision. So he offers to take Hitomi on a picture-taking trip around town, just the two of them.

It’s not overtly a “date”, but it’s a big enough deal that Shou feels it only right to inform Yuito of the plans, which of course imply other plans. Yuito, whose mother worries is too aloof like his dad, isn’t one to suddenly ask a girl out. But he takes the “not relevant/doesn’t matter” route with Shou’s pursuit of Hitomi. HE AIN’T MAD, FOLKS.

The trip goes very swimmingly, if platonically by necessity—Hitomi is not under any illusions she’s on anything other than a photo-taking trip with her senpai—though Shou certainly seems to be enjoying the fact that it very well could be a date.

Chigusa and Kurumi (who seem to be spending the day together like NBD, bless ’em) spot the two, but also shrug it off as not a date. Shou and Hitomi even climb to the highest vantage point in the area at sunset and exchange flattering compliments of each others’ personalities.

It’s not until Hitomi turns to walk home that Shou confesses and asks if she’ll go out with him; fortunately the train doesn’t prevent her from hearing him. Unfortunately she’s so shocked and startled from the confession she bolts away, and spends the rest of the night and the next day in a haze.

At first she tells Kohaku nothing, but between skipping meals, putting her shoes in the locker wrong, and running away again when Shou says good morning, Kohaku can tell there’s definitely something off.

Hitomi finally comes clean, by hypothetically asking Kohaku if there’s anyone she likes or if she’s ever been confessed to. She asks these questions in earshot of the whole class—a high school violation if ever there was one—but when they’re alone Kohaku tells her that ultimately the choice is hers to make, based on her feelings for the ‘rhetorical guy.’ For Kohaku’s part, she’d rather be rejected then not given an answer, even if it hurts.

Asagi can tell Shou is being uncharacteristically gloomy as they look at the pictures he took of places they’d been to countless times. When Asagi asks Hitomi if she’s coming to club, Hitomi has the same questions for Asagi she had for Kohaku, and Asagi spots the photo on Hitomi’s camera of the same place Shou was.

The gig thus well and truly up, Hitomi says she doesn’t “deserve” either to be liked or to like someone, something Asagi characteristically rejects. She urges Hitomi to do something lest “that person” get hurt, then storms off to club.

To Hitomi’s credit, she doesn’t let this uncertainty linger, nor allow Shou to suffer longer than this episode. On the roof she formally rejects him, stating there’s someone else (even if she’s unsure of the true nature of those feelings).

It’s clear to Shou about whom she’s talking: Yuito, who joins Shou on the roof and witnesses him shouting at the top of his lungs in a kind of release. Both the confession and the scream amaze Yuito; both are things he can’t imagine doing himself.

Later, Hitomi tracks Asagi back down, but before she can say anything, Asagi tells her that the person she liked (past tense) was Shou, the person Hitomi just rejected. Then she runs off and crumples into a little ball on a playground. What a fine mess we have here!

Bloom Into You – 02 – Really Unfair

It’s not just Yuu; Nanami Touko IS pushy. It looks like she has been for a while. I don’t think she works at it, its just the way she is. Others may hold back or defer or concede, but she knows what she wants, she knows who she wants to help her get it, and as of the other day, she also knows who she loves, and it’s Yuu. If you can’t present a strong enough argument not to go along with her, you’ll get caught in her current by default.

Nanami choosing Yuu as her campaign manager has caused a rift in her longtime friendship with Saeki Sayaka. Nanami knew it would, but she did it anyway, and she presents a solid argument why: to reach out to and galvanize the first-year vote when no one else will. Nanami and Sayaka are always in sync on the volleyball court, but this is a lesson to Sayaka that at some point quite suddenly they weren’t, and that time has come.

Sayaka doesn’t fight it, and shows absolutely no outward aggression towards Yuu, save agreeing with Yuu’s assertion that Sayaka may well do a better job as Nanami’s manager. Sayaka isn’t blaming Yuu for this; she knows Yuu is as swept up as she is.

When Yuu finally brings up Nanami’s sunset confession, it’s at a railroad crossing. When the barriers come down and the train passes, Nanami steal’s Yuu’s first kiss, to make no mistake what kind of love she was talking about. Considering neither of them know much “what to do” following that kiss, it’s apparent Nanami may just as along for the ride as everyone in her orbit.

When Nanami asserts that she didn’t choose Yuu simply because she loves her, but still asks again to stand by her in the election as a friend, Yuu doesn’t have a problem with it. What she does have a problem with is that she feels she can’t properly respond to Nanami’s feelings, not matter how much she may want to.

During an interview and photo shoot with the school paper, Yuu suddenly takes Nanami’s hand in her’s, behind their backs where no one else csan see. She sees Nanami’s reaction, and is further frustrated: how can Nanami feel that “special feeling”, while Yuu feels nothing? What drew her to Nanami was the feeling they were similar in being unable to fall for anyone. That’s no longer the case. She feels left behind.

A meeting at a cafe to go over a speech provides Yuu with another opportunity to express how she can’t fall in love with Nanami, but the barista interrupts them with their coffee, and then Nanami steps in and speaks first: She knows what Yuu is going to say, and is willing to accept it. All she asks is that Yuu let her love her, not expecting anything in return.

Yuu thinks that’s weird, and it kinda is, but for someone like Nanami, who was like Yuu for so long—never knowing what that special feeling was like—finally feeling it made her that much more fulfilled. Yuu says fine, she doesn’t mind…but she doesn’t know why she said it, as she’s not even sure whether she really doesn’t mind.

For all of this, Yuu calls Nanami “unfair”, but that’s not really, well fair; it’s just that Nanami is a little older, and a lot can happen in the years between them. Yuu shouldn’t be measuring her own feelings against the older, wiser, more daring Nanami’s—that’s not being fair to herself. Nanami is a little older, a little wiser, and most importantly, a different person. It’s not a question of fairness for Yuu…it’s a question of patience.

Bloom Into You – 01 (First Impressions) – Waiting for Wings

Be it shoujo manga or song lyrics, Kaito Yuu has been trained to know what true love is supposed to feel like. That it’s a feeling so conspicuous and powerful and different from anything you’ve felt before, you’ll know it when you feel it, so just be patient and wait for it.

Now a first-year at high school, Kaito Yuu does not get run over by a truck, but ends up getting tricked into a position with the student council. On the way to the far-flung, isolate council office, Yuu encounters a confession in progress, followed by a prompt rejection.

The one doing the rejecting is second-year Nanami Touko, who also happens to be her senpai, and it isn’t her first, or even ninth, rejection. She always says she’ll never go out with anyone, because her heart never flutters when she hears them confess, be they boys or girls.

Yuu is in a similar situation. When her good guy friend from junior high confessed and asked her out, she expected that to be the moment she finally felt the same “blinding radiance” (or “sparkles”) she knows to look out for from her years of consuming conventional media.

But it wasn’t. He asked her out, and she felt…nothing at all. That was a month ago, and she’s been delaying her reply all that time. Now that she’s met someone with confession experience in Touko, Yuu decides she’ll try to ask for advice. She almost chickens out, but Touko can tell something’s on her mind, and Yuu is able to tell her.

Touko replies very wisely that there’s nothing wrong with Yuu not feeling anything special with her friend, nor should she feel like there’s a way she should be that she’s not being. When the guy rings as scheduled, Touko holds Yuu’s hand, giving her the courage to gently turn him down.

It goes so easily and is over so soon, Yuu wonders what took her so long and why she was torturing herself all that time. But Touko hasn’t let go of her hand yet. Unlike Yuu’s, Touko’s hand is trembling and clammy, and she’s blushing. The moment neither of them have ever experienced? Touko is suddenly experiencing that moment, right then and there.

She draws Yuu closer in and gazes into her eyes…but Yuu doesn’t understand what’s going on. At least, she doesn’t feel the same way as Touko at the same time. To be confronted with someone saying they’re “falling in love with you” immediately after turning someone else down must be a bit disorienting for Yuu, not to mention the fact they’re both girls, which Yuu isn’t quite sure how to handle.

Time passes, and nothing more happens between Touko and Yuu. But that afternoon is always weighing on Yuu’s mind, even as the whole council assembles to celebrate the impending transfer of power. Touko is running for president, and essentially asks Yuu to be her campaign manager. That means they’re going to be spending a lot more time together, often alone.

Bloom Into You is solid, straightforward shoujo romance. Yuu’s sparkly internal monologue about her ideal of love (how she thinks she’ll sprout wings and fly off) is beautifully illustrated, and Kotobuki Minako’s strong, assertive voice is a great choice for Touko (I don’t know much of Takada Yuuki, but she does fine work as Yuu). I’m in!

Happy Sugar Life – 12 (Fin) – Nothing But Fun

That’s what Matsuzaka Satou sought for her and for Koube Shio: a world without bitterness or pain; i.e. a world quite the opposite of the one they’d inhabited to that point. Their love for, acceptance of and devotion to one another is the fuel that keeps them moving toward that goal—that, and Auntie’s trash bag full of cash.

All that’s left is to go to the airport, let Auntie do her work, be rid of the old sad bitter world forever, and when they step off the airplane they’ll be in a happy sugar world, where they’ll never have to suffer or despair again, and where they’ll have each other.

That was the plan, at least. Ironically, it’s Satou’s love that makes her take off her ring, so it won’t be sullied by the work of dressing Shouko’s corpse (if she is, in fact, 100% dead when we see her). Forgetting that ring, that symbol of their love, and going back for it at the worst possible time, proves to be Satou’s undoing.

Auntie ties Taiyou up in between “abusing” him—rape is heavily implied)—she didn’t gag him, perhaps because she liked hearing him squeal. That preference is also her undoing (if she cared about self-preservation, of course), as he’s able to get a call to Asahi telling him where he is.

Asahi arrives just as Taiyou escapes—and happens to bump into Satou and Shio in the lobby. They should never have come back for a stupid ring.

Satou and Shio head upstairs to find Taiyou, but they get away from him as well (he’s tied up) as Auntie, who assumes Satou is well on her way to freedom (and damn well should be) ignites the fire on the twelfth floor that will engulf Shouko and supposedly, any evidence tying her to Satou.

Asahi hurries to Room 1205 and finds Shouko there, dead and surrounded by flames, inflaming his rage even more. When he, Satou and Shio cross paths again, he lets her have it with his bat, injuring her leg, but Shio steps between them to prevent further violence.

Shio, exercising her own agency, tells her brother she’s done with her family, and all she wants or needs is Satou, and he’s just going to have to deal. Asahi tells her that their mother only abandoned her because she was in over her head and didn’t want to become their monster father (whom she poisoned to death).

But it doesn’t really matter why she did it anymore; Shio has moved on and isn’t coming back. She’s going to live for herself now, as Asahi should learn to do, rather than defining his life as finding and protecting her. Just then, the flames cut their chat short, and Satou and Shio make a run for the roof…where they are trapped.

Shio tells Satou that it would be alright if they die together by jumping, because they’ll surely be reborn together in that new world they’ve been hoping to reach (but again, couldn’t thanks to one dumb ring).

That potential New Happy Sugar Life flashes before them as they fall, but Satou makes one small change to Shio’s plan: she doesn’t let Shio die, shielding her from the impact of the ground with her larger body.

Shio survives, but Satou does not. She and Shouko are mentioned in the same news report, but as casualties of the fire, not murderer and victim.

Rather, Auntie is suspected, and gladly surrenders herself, having done everything she could for the sake of her niece’s love. Satou’s teacher is arrested in front of his family, Taiyou continues to obsess over his angel in his room.

As for Shio, she’s in hospital, and Asahi comes to visit her, promising to fill the void left by their parents, by society, and finally, by the loss of Satou. But Shio smiles in a very Satou-esque way; there is no void, not from her perspective.

Shio believes Satou sacrificed herself and became a part of her—which is kind of true, in an emotional sense—and as such Shio feels she’ll never be alone again. She still doesn’t need Asahi. She gained more than she lost, and she’s resolved to live her best life for herself and Satou. How exactly she’ll be supporting herself, a minor with no money or job, is left unspecified.

HSL is the story of deeply damaged people and the different ways the consequences of that damage unfold in their lives. There’s a solid causality to everything that, while hardly absolving most anyone of their numerous crimes or obsessions, at least explains them satisfactorily, and makes them subjects of pity rather than simple loathing.

People can grow up to be decent people even if there’s abuse or trauma in their lives, and without traditional families, or no families at all. But that’s an ideal; it doesn’t always happen. It usually doesn’t happen. And when it does (see Taiyou) it doesn’t always mean someone will “turn out” “alright.”

But even in the darkest places, some small amount of light can emerge, some small amount of happiness can be found, and a sweet but twisted love can take root between kindred damaged souls, filling their jars and giving them reason to keep living.

Happy Sugar Life – 11 – Turning a Page

Kobe Asahi makes a big meal out of finally taking the gloves off, so to speak, but all he manages to do is threaten Taiyou to find Satou’s address. Even the slightest glimmer of hope he’ll find his angel leads Taiyou to obeying Asahi’s order.

Meanwhile, Satou is resolved to starting a new life with Shio…but she needs help, and calls upon the only adult she feels she can trust: her demented Auntie. Auntie is totally unfazed by Satou’s confession of murder—she lays with murderers all the time—and is even able to guess that the “little bird” Shouko was her victim.

But for all of Satou’s talk of her love being right and Auntie’s being wrong, Auntie points out to Satou that she is still legally a child, and cannot take responsibility. So Satou tells Auntie to take responsibility—for the messed up childhood she bestowed upon Satou, by helping her and Shio disappear.

Auntie picks up a semi-disguised Satou and finally meets Chio, who is easily taken in by Auntie’s kind and syrupy-sweet introduction. After taking them around buying both the means to fake Satou’s death, Satou procures passports from her kohai from work.

As for Taiyou, his dream of meeting Shio again becomes a nightmare when he ends up at the address on file at the cafe, which is Auntie’s apartment. While Taiyou becomes another doomed fly stuck in her web, Satou and Chio doll themselves up as brides and exchange vows and a kiss, marking the beginning of their new Happy Sugar Lives together.

With Asahi depending on Taiyou and Taiyou, well, doomed, one wonders what obstacles, if any, remain on Satou’s path to achieving that life. We’ll find out in the finale.

Happy Sugar Life – 10 – Partners in Crime

Shio believes everyone’s heart is a jar made of glass. If it isn’t regularly filled with love, or is hit by various stresses, it will crack and break, and when it does, there’s no coming back.

Shio is worried Satou’s jar is dangerously close to shattering, so she tries to do as much as she can. She covers her with a blanket, warms up the curry, and throws her clothes in the wash—where she sees Satou’s bloodstained clothes.

Seeing Satou in such a state reminds Shio of her last days with her mom, who became destitute when she finally left her abusive husband. Shio wanted to do what she could then too, including replace her mother’s “jar” with a new one she sees across the street.

But in doing so, Shio is almost hit by a truck, and her mom’s jar breaks. She takes Shio on a walk in the rain, then stops and leaves her there, saying a simple “goodbye.” Her mom’s jar was broken, and she was simply…done.

When Satou awakens, she pretends like nothing’s wrong, but immediately starts talking about their next home. After all her talk about the castle where they’d live happily ever after, it wounds Shio to hear Satou so gung-ho about abandoning it.

But more than that, Shio is hurt by what Satou isn’t saying, and by all the things she’s hiding. When Satou tells Shio all she needs to do is smile and love her, it reminds her of her mother, who also asked nothing of Shio but to stay put; to stay safe.

Shio won’t have it; not anymore. She doesn’t like Satou’s secrets, or her vision of how she should be to her, which is to act as little more than a human doll. She storms off, and in her anger, tells Satou she hates her. Satou then becomes paralyzed with despair.


The same night Shio’s mother abandoned her, Satou happened to be walking around, and meets Shio, asking her why she isn’t chasing after her mom. Shio tells her it’s because what she felt toward her mother wasn’t love, it was just a desperate hope her mom would keep living, so she could live.

With an attitude well beyond her not numerous years, she decides not being with her mom anymore is for the best. But she also realizes she was too harsh with Satou. She doesn’t hate her; but she hates how Satou shoulders the burden of protecting her.

From now on, Shio wants Satou to tell her everything, and they’ll share the burden and protect each other. In other words, a more balanced relationship where Shio has agency. Satou agrees, and tells Shio all of the horrible things she’s done to keep her safe, including killing someone. Shio accepts it all and fills Satou’s jar…because Satou fills and strengthened hers.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 10 – Love is Painful, but Also Fun

I’ll admit the title above isn’t a particularly original observation, but one thing it definitely is is true, as anyone who loves or has ever loved someone else can attest. When 3DK started I noted the balance in its core couple, and I stand by that assessment.

Whatever they may feel about their situation, the fact is both of them are at pretty much an equal disadvantage when it comes to matters of love and intimacy. Before falling for one another, neither had any experience with intimacy. Hikari had never liked or been liked by someone like Iroha, and Iroha had never liked or been liked by someone like Hikari.

Their mutual lack of experience has made for a bumpy road as their affection for one another intensifies, but it also leads to some novel strategies someone with more experience than Hikari might not attempt, such as having Iroha present for his gentle rejection of Ayado.

It wasn’t even a stone-cold rejection of Ayado, so much as a calm and measured affirmation that he’s simply already in love with Iroha. More importantly, he showed his work, explaining how he used to feel and how those feelings changed when he learned more about her, and when his preconceptions were replaced by truths.

Iroha, who only wanted to hear Hikari say the words “I love you”, wants to hear them again later, and Hikari knows not to refuse her. Ayado feels bad about being turned down, and both she and Hikari find themselves weighed down by their 3D problems in the immediate aftermath, but after that both are fine; Ayado is refreshed.

Itou knows now is not the time to confess his love for Ayado, nor is he sure such a time will ever come. When making up with Hikari after yelling at him by sleeping over, Itou reveals to Hikari that there’s a girl he likes, but believes he’s already been given his answer.

I wouldn’t be too sure about that; Ayado is coming off a rejection, but given time, she might be receptive to someone like Itou’s feelings provided, ya know, she is aware of them, and that’s up to Itou. It’s up to him whether he can get past the fact she once loved Hikari. In any case, as Itou says, it’s painful being in love, but also fun.

Hikari’s tale of romantic ineptitude is a simple one: he buried himself in games after he decided interacting with people was too hard and painful. It was Iroha who brought him back to the 3D world, and showed him how it wasn’t only pain that awaited him there, but a good deal of joy as well. He also learned how well-equipped he was to live in such a world, owing to his basic decency and kindness.

Iroha’s tale is one we hadn’t delved into, but I’m glad this episode finally does so. Iroha has a pretty face, and so she never wanted for the attentions of men of all ages, whether that attention was appropriate or not. When she pressed those who confessed to her what they liked, they gave only superficial answers.

What changed Iroha from an insular person not any more sure how to interact with people into someone approaching gregariousness was, apparently, a medical diagnosis. She decided she’d interact with as many people as she could, but she only managed to attract those like her; people only looked at the surface and never dug deeper.

In a way it’s hard to blame them, because like her it was all they knew. Then she met Hikari, someone who wasn’t simply looking to share in the kindred understanding of attractive people that your real self will always elude others. Hikari got past that, found the awkward person beneath the surface, and wanted to protect that person…and stuff.

Hikari is still nervous being alone with Iroha, particularly in his room, but after a day of karaoke and bowling during which Iroha discovers Hikari’s cool, intense side (going all out singing) as well as his delicate, nurturing side (clipping her nails when she breaks them while bowling), he comes to the realization he’s okay being with her.

When he and Iroha spotted his little brother holding hands with Takanashi’s little sister, Hikari lamented that he sometimes feels his life moves five times slower than average. But when you only have three months left with your girlfriend before she moves, he realizes that slowing of time is a good thing.