Golden Time – 10

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Banri trips and falls on his chin and returns to normal, but still remembers loving Linda. In the morning he wakes up with a fever, and Nana takes him to the hospital. Back home she passes him off to Linda, who takes care of him until Kouko arrives with Mitsuo and 2D. They all plan a trip to the beach as Banri drifts off to sleep. When he awakes in the night, only Kouko remains. She tells him she really wants just the two of them to go to the beach together when he’s better, remarking that “it doesn’t have to be Paris.”

Status Report: Banri and Kouko are still together. We know we shouldn’t be so shocked, but chalk it up to the fragility of romantic relationships—if and when they even happen—in so much recent anime. To be honest, we were a little glum about the consequences of Banri memory’s returning vis–à–vis Kouko, but fortunately Golden Time continues to demonstrate it’s not that kind of show and prone to neither easy outs nor cheap twists. Far from a cop-out, restoring Banri’s memories of Linda—if only for a moment—will have a lasting effect on Banri. In his weakened state, under Linda’s care, he finds himself desperate to see his actual girlfriend’s face, lest his love for her fade away like a dream, leaving the “reality” of Linda.

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Kouko indeed arrives in the knick of time, and how about that entrance, mimicking her very first scene in the series when she beats Mitsuo with roses and we thought to ourselves at the time “ehh, we’re not too sure about this one,” only this time it was a joke? Effing priceless. We also like how consistent she is with her behavior while in the presence of the others compared to when she’s just with Banri: the armor comes off and she tells him exactly what’s on her mind. She’s a bit harsh on herself this week, but part of that is because she found that photo of Linda, and then saw Linda the SuperNurse.

Banri does all he can to assure her she’s not a piece of junk and he loves her and wants only her, but this is something he may have to convince himself of first and foremost. Meanwhile Kouko is anxious to take their relationship to the next level, and we love how she puts it“I want to go to the beach with you”—elegant, cute, and unequivocal. Have we mentioned what a lucky cat Banri is, despite all his past trauma and lingering inner turmoil? Well, he is, and you bet your ass we’re going to be holding him to his promise. Kouko needs—and deserves—a fully-committed boyfriend. If Banri can’t be that, he’s not allowed to perpetuate a charade. Time to make his dream girl his real girl.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Honestly, we like Nana—at this point merely a surly yet dependable side-character—more than we like some main characters in the other shows we’re watching. She’s just awesome.
  • A woozy Banri’s hilariously-detailed “wrong idea” about Nana being an “over-the-top cosplayer from Kawaguchi (wrong hometown!) putting on a brave front so she wouldn’t be taken lightly in the big city until the harsh Tokyo life changed her and she forgot neighborly love for real” was one of the highlights of the episode, as was Nana’s nonchalant “pass” of Banri to Linda.
  • We liked—and bought the explanation for Mitsuo and 2D-kun for tagging along with Kouko (to “restrain her if it comes to it”).
  • 2D (AKA Satou Takaya) and Linda formally meet. Our takeaway: they could totally become a couple! Make it happen, Golden Time.
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White Album 2 – 09

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January: Touma practices for her recital, skipping school and ignoring Haruki’s calls, as Haruki and Setsuna grow closer together. The day of the recital arrives, and Touma sees Haruki and Setsuna together. Afterwards, she doesn’t place and does receive any recommendations, but is glad Setsuna was moved. Haruki asks her to join them for Setsuna’s birthday on February 14th. He later changes his mind and wants to be alone with Setsuna, but she wants everyone there. Still, she invites only Touma and Haruki. On her birthday, she receives a bouquet from Touma. Haruki goes to Touma’s house to find that she’s flown the coop.

After what must have been an extremely fun hot spring trip, Haruki is spending his final semester of school like you’d expect: waiting for graduation while spending as much of his time with Setsuna. It’s getting pretty serious, and he’s even forward enough to suggest to Setsuna that they spend her birthday—also Valentine’s Day, conveniently—alone, knowing full well what that could entail. But guilt gnaws at both of them, and despite Touma’s blessing, she’s not doing a great job of hiding her contempt for the present situation. On the contrary, her efforts to assure Haruki she doesn’t feel a thing only makes him more suspicious. Setsuna waves off Haruki’s suggestion they take things to the next level, but that’s just a cover for giving Touma one last chance to speak now or forever hold her peace.

Setsuna loves Haruki, but she can’t ignore that Touma may love him too, and she was technically first in his life. She’s not being altogether fair to herself, but she loves Touma too, and doesn’t want to hurt her. When Haruki changes course for Touma’s after remembering their embrace and her face on the train platform, it’s more evidence that while he has Setsuna, and should by all rights thank his god what a lucky bastard he is, within him a glimmer of doubt remains. But it won’t be assuaged easily, as Touma is out of reach at the worst possible time for him. Maybe he’s not so lucky after all. Maybe a luckier man would only have one woman to choose from, and wouldn’t have to worry about whether he made the right choice or hurting the one he rejected.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Golden Time – 07

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Kouko has to go to the police station to sort out her bike theft, and she introduces Banri as her boyfriend to her father. The next morning, Kouko is waiting for him at the station and they walk to classes together. They start dating, but Banri continually ignores Linda’s texts. His neighbor Nana, Linda’s friend, tricks him into coming home to tend to an apartment leak, but he finds Nana and Linda there. He invites Linda in, where they exchange apologies. Linda explains how they knew each other and why she blamed herself for his fate. Kouko calls him, saying Mitsuo is in trouble.

OMGOMGOMG, Banri and Kouko are a couple…EEEEEEE!..Right? Whoaaa, hold your horses: we’ve been down this road before. We know how it sometimes ends. And as soon as we saw the episode title, “Masquerade”, or suspicions only heightened: could Kouko only be pretending to be in love with Banri? But lest we forget, this is a show where the characters are given ample time to explain their actions and feelings, and at the police station, she convinces us that what she’s feeling is real. And then we’re off to the races. There’s a joyful thrill in watching the two interact as a couple, and Banri really takes to the extremely affectionate, dopey lovey-dovey atmosphere of their nascent relationship. In short, he’s over the moon; stupidly happy, and we’re happy for him.

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This episode did what few contemporary anime dare to do, especially this early in a long run: put two people who like each other together, for which we’re grateful. Things even take a turn for the amorous when Kouko finds Banri’s “box ‘o’ stuff”, culminating in Kouko confessing she wants to lose her virginity in Paris. It’s such a Kouko moment, and for all their interactions, you get the feeling that yes, she is a little weird and perhaps a bit clingy, but neither we nor Banri have a problem with that. Right now, they’re exactly the people they need for each other, and aside from a few subtle foreboding details here and there (Kouko’s dad’s talk of her “targets”, and Banri lying to her about the leak), it looks like it could work. Golden Time resists the urge to immediately pull the rug out from under everything.

That’s despite the fact it meets all the necessary conditions to plausibly blow up Banri+Kouko. Yet it doesn’t pull the trigger—not yet at least—but lets us savor the warm, fuzzy glee. Thanks to Nana (proving to be an excellent supporting character), the awkward silence between Banri and Linda concludes amicably. The tension in that room oozes through the screen as the camera closes in on Linda…but while she’s fiercely honest with details about the past (including Banri confessing to her), she doesn’t end up confessing to him. For one thing, she doesn’t feel she deserves to (remember: she was only late to the bridge, not an out-and-out no-show); but it’s also not crystal clear whether she loves him in quite that way. It’s good she didn’t confess, because she has yet to learn that her previous assumption about Banri dating Kouko is no longer wrong.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Mitsuo went to get his head shaved, but ended up getting his hair bleached.
  • Mitsuo can’t face Chinami at the moment, which concerns her, because she didn’t mean to reject him for all time. There’s is still a slight arc, but we hope it goes somewhere. Love for everyone! Except 2D-kun, AMIRITE?
  • Banri could have avoided quite a bit of stress by stashing that box somewhere before answering the door. Although in the end, Kouko didn’t mind it. More adult behavior.
  • We’re not sure how Banri didn’t realize the woman in the elevator was Nana. Still, it was a hilarious scene. 
  • Nana is voiced with authority by Satou Satomi, who was cast against type here (at least from what we’ve watched of her).

Oreimo 2 – 08

Gokou Ruri, Kousaka Kyousuke

Kuroneko, now the sacred “Kamineko” goes on her first date with Kyousuke. They go shopping, gaming, and have lunch in the park, and it’s all very pleasant. The next day Kyousuke visits Ruri’s house. After watching an anime, she goes to the bath, and her little sisters meet Kyousuke. The next day Ruri hangs out with Kyousuke at his place. Kirino suspects something’s up and barges in on them, but they’re just playing a game. They also go to see fireworks. With only a few days left of summer, Ruri unveils the last ceremony to perform: breaking up with Kyousuke.

Oreimo giveth, and Oreimo taketh away. Let’s get it out of the way, as surprised as we were that the show did the right thing by making Kyousuke and Kuroneko a couple, we knew, despite our initial excitement, that it probably wouldn’t last that long, so we knew we had to savor the bliss while it lasted. Turns out, barring the first ceremony in Ruri’s Destiny Record to not occur, we were right; this is the only episode in which Kuroneko and Kyousuke are together throughout. And if you’re not a fan of Kuroneko or this new union, then it was a pretty rough and tedious episode to watch. As for us, we loved every last moment.

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The couple takes to dating with gusto, with Ruri even changing her cosplay persona and handle to something less sinister. In her mind, she was once a fallen angel, but Kyousuke raised her up, andthey don’t waste their summer together. They go out a ton, have lots of fun, and Kyousuke ends up learning far more about Ruri and liking her much more than before. We love seeing Kyousuke like this, because lord knows he’s earned the right to have an normal relationship with a smart, beautiful girl who isn’t his sister. Too bad it may be that Kuroneko never meant for their relationship to last past the summer.

Kuroneko is still in love with Kyousuke, but she’s also a good and selfless person…maybe too selfless. When she sees how Kirino reacts to her being in Kyousuke’s room as his girlfriend, and Kirino declares her her friend, and can’t stick around hang out with them, we kinda had a feeling this would happen before the hammer falls in the last moments. Kuroneko’s ultimate goal is for both Kyousuke and her friend Kirino to be happy. She can’t see how Kirino could ever be happy with her friend dating Kirino’s brother, so she can’t keep dating him.

Frankly, if we were Ruri, we’d tell Kirino what she told a bruised Kyousuke in their opening scene: “Deal with it.” Sometimes our own happiness comes at the cost of others.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

  • Kamineko’s get-up is indeed quite audacious, but if we were Kyousuke we really wouldn’t mind either.
  • Kyousuke worries about getting a nosebleed from holding Kamineko’s soft, dainty paw, but it’s Kamineko who gets the nosebleed. Kya.
  • We lost it just as Kyousuke did when she suddenly went to the bathroom. Surely she doesn’t want to move that fast?!
  • Ruri’s sister Hinata is a smart cookie. We hope she’ll scold her big sis for dumping Kyousuke.
  • When Kirino put her ear to the wall and heard Kuroneko say things that could definitely be misconstrued…
  • Bravo to Hanazawa Kana for a surperb, layered performance. Ruri has many different ways of speaking depending on whom she’s talking to and what role she’s playing.
  • Poor Kyousuke. Can he convince Ruri to reconsider? We doubt it.

 

Oreimo 2 – 07

Kousaka Kyousuke, Gokou Ruri

Ruri doubles down on her confession to Kyousuke, telling him she’s sure she loves him more than anyone else. He begs her to let him think about it, and she gives him until tomorrow, after the re-party. Back at home he and Kirino finish making up, and Kirino make shim promise to give serious thought if the “other girl” confesses to him. Manami also tells him to “face Kuroneko sincerely.” After the party, Kyousuke agrees to go out with Ruri. They later plan to meet up in the video game club, where everyone already assumed they’d been going out a long time. After expressing ignorance about what a boyfriend should do, Kyousuke suggests they do what she’s written (and illustrated) in her “Destiny Record”, starting with a first date.

This time, I need to do things right…

Damn straight! What do you know, Oreimo actually surprised us this week! We were fully resigned to Kyousuke further stalling or at worst, outright rejecting Ruri so that he can continue his dead-end quasi-romance with his little sister. Instead, after receiving (sorta)best wishes from both Kirino and his long-suffering betrothed Manami, Kyousuke finally makes the right choice: he chooses Kuroneko. And we couldn’t be happier! Interestingly, this doesn’t mean he’s betraying or abandoning Kirino, just that he’s finally realized they’re two different kinds of love. What’s also great is that while there is some building up, his deliberation doesn’t take up the whole episode. She has his answer by the commercial break. And thus, a huge weight is lifted.

What follows is a second-half that just about makes up for all of the will-they-wont-they torture the last one-and-a-half seasons of the series. Both Kyousuke’s sudden excitement and Ruri’s dilating joy is contagious to behold. She looked as surprised as we were when Kyousuke actually said yes, and the scene when her little sisters see her “break” with giddiness is a lovely, adorable moment. We’re as glad as she is that after creating such a compelling love interest and steadily yet naturally building up her attraction to Kyousuke, the series finally pulled the trigger on a Kyou+Ruri path, and as far as we’re concerned, now that it’s a reality, every minute the happy new couple isn’t on the screen together being awesome is a minute wasted. Sorry Kirino.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Kirino’s fake boyfriend shows up. He’s useless with advice on boob-touching.
  • Kyousuke, Kirino, and Ruri apologize to Saori for ruining the previous party. As well they should!
  • It sounded an awful lot like Kirino gave Kyousuke her blessing, so we don’t want to hear her complaining next week!
  • Here’s hoping Kyousuke and Ruri start calling each other by name. We know, we’re pushing our luck.
  • This week’s Aku no Hana was so powerful and Ise Mariya’s performance as Nakamura Sawa was so compelling, that we had a visceral reaction when Akagi Sena (also Ise) started talking.

Aku no Hana – 06

Kasuga Takao, Nakamura Sawa, Saeki Nanako

The next day at school the class is abuzz with the news Saeki and Kasuga are dating, and Saeki comes right out and confirms it. Kasuga walks home with Saeki, eats lunch with Saeki, and they promise to take their time building a relationship. While having lunch with Saeki, Yamada and Nakamura, Nakamura passes him a note to meet her in the library after school. She tells him Saeki wants to have sex with him, just as Saeki walks by outside. The next day Saeki is absent, and Kinoshita gives Kasuga the day’s handouts to deliver to Saeki and warns him about hurting her. Kasuga hesitates to ring the bell to Saeki’s house, but Nakamura jumps him, wishes him good luck, and rings it for him.

I’ll be reborn as a decent human being and spend eternity bound in noble and sublime love with Saeki.

If Kasuga truly believes this is how things are going to down based on what’s happened so far, he’s even more devastatingly naive than we could have imagined. Of course, only part of him wants to believe this ideal scenario. The fact is, his life isn’t a book, and there’s more to him than that naive side. There’s the darker side within him, which he’s struggling with; the side with a voice we hear for the first time, telling him he doesn’t deserve an Angel. Building a relationship with Saeki with the gym uniform thing looming is not only untenable, but hypocritical to his claims. He cannot be reborn when things still tie him to the old, weak him who sinned. This week Kasuga reaps the rewards of becoming Saeki’s boyfriend, baffling and impressing their class and spending time with Saeki. Everything that’s good is out in the open.

Saeki also does her damnedest to play precisely the part Kasuga wants her to play: the innocent, pure Virgin Mary. She wants to take things nice and slow, and wants to learn more about Kasuga. But then Nakamura befriends her, and this is where we are on the same side of the narrative wall as Kasuga: did Saeki confess to Nakamura that she wanted to sleep with Kasuga? It’s pretty true to Nakamura’s character to lie about it, but perhaps Saeki really did tell her that, and Nakamura then decided to use that info as ammo in her Kasuga Project. Saeki has shown to be very much into Kasuga, so until proven otherwise, we’re going to assume Saeki does want Kasuga in that way, going against Kasuga’s idealized version of her. Just as she doesn’t yet know the whole Kasuga, Kasuga – and we – don’t know the whole Saeki. That will change soon.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Throughout this episode, even during Kasuga’s moments of joy, Nakamura is always at the end of a shot, in the back corner of the frame, just out of focus or partially hidden. Nakamura started out merely sitting behind him, now she’s virtually his shadow.
  • We’ll see next week if Saeki actually heard what Nakamura said to Kasuga, or if she mistook the scene as something else.
  • In hindsight Nakamura’s strategy of allowing Kasuga+Saeki relationship to go ahead looks like it’ll pay much greater dividends to a deviant such as herself than prematurely ruining it by dropping the bomb (her knowledge of the uniform theft). 
  • As long as Kasuga believes the uniform will destroy him, Nakamura will have power over him. It would be intriguing to see how he might theoretically go about turning the tables on her. Then again, she has nothing to lose.
  • There’s a quote that  accompanies an animated version of series.creator Oshimi Shuuzou at the end of every episode. This week he says “The next one’s gonna be even better.” We have no reason not to believe him!

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 08

The day of the school festival arrives, and Haru, Shizuku, Asako and Sasayan are running a house of terror. Yamaken bumps into Shizuku while she’s breaking, and when Haru sees them together, Yamaken teases him and Haru accidentally punches Shizuku, who gets angry. Asako tries to offer her advice, but Shizuku blows her off. Yamaken then lends her advice, and when he spots Yuzan in the school, steals her away to a classroom where Haru later goes seeking advice from Oshima. Yuzan enters and there’s a standoff, and Haru retreats outside. Shizuku follows him and make up. After apoligies and the conclusion of the festival, Shizuku asks Haru to give her more time to figure out their relationship.

This series’ first episode impressed us with how much Shizuku and Haru progressed as a couple in such a short time. Since those heady beginnings, Shizuku’s grades have suffered, and she’s been essentially backtracking ever since. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it would be somewhat unrealistic for two people with so little experience connecting with others to fully connect with one another too fast and easily. It’s been a bumpy ride, and both sides have made mistakes. This episode further analyzes their current situation, and also heavily involves the people closest to them. Natsume, Ooshima, and Yamaken all contribute to the analysis.

Yamaken spends a lot of time with Shizuku this week (and his cheekiness gets her punched) but she finds his remarks perceptive, and the two have the very slightest of flirtations this week. It’s clear Shizuku has the hots for Haru (and Haru is more than enough), but Yamaken may have more of an itch for her than he’s letting on. We also liked how both he and Haru reacted similarly to the presence of Yuzan – which leads credence to Haru’s insistence Yuzan has been – and still is – a bastard. As for Shizuku’s designs on Haru – she basically stalls for time. That itself proves she feels she owes him – and herself – more than a final rejection based on cold practicality. Humans need passion too.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. Shizuku has narrated in past episodes, including the first – suggesting all of this is in the past and this is her recounting of it – but she doesn’t narrate in this episode.

Dantalian no Shoka 8

Two characters from pevious episodes return with new phantom book problems. First Camilla, who acquires the Book of Equivalence to continually barter until she gets bored and gets Dalian a teddy she wanted. Second, Huey’s war buddy Armand is suffering from the effects of the Book of Relationship, actually two books in possession of two lovers, only his fiance believes he’s cheating on her. He isn’t, but her suspicions are enough to incur the wrath of the book.

This week had the feeling of another respite episode; Huey and Dalian are not that involved and the stakes and danger are quite low in both segments. While I don’t have a problem with Camilla and Armand returning, I do have a problem with how just about everyone in this episode, including these two, are complete morons, as a more-moe-than-usual Dalian remarks. The bookkepper gets things started by accidentally selling an extremely dangerous, potentially deadly book. Then Camilla uses it as an afternoon’s diversion. Huey and Dalian chase her across a dozen locations in which she makes exchanges. Can’t she just play croquet or something?

Then there’s Armand, who barges into Huey’s house, nearly kills Dalian and Camilla (who’s still there for some reason), and also seems to set the house on fire – yet we never see how it’s put out. Armand’s an idiot for getting mixed up in another book and not notifying his lieutenant the moment he came across it, while his fiancee Lianna is an idiot for thinking every time he looks at or talks to another woman, he’s a traitorous traitor who deserves death. I also had a problem with them actually letting her kill him (to fulfill ’till death do us part’) and so cavalierly bringing him back like it was nothing. These books are not toys!


Rating: 2.5

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After a phenomenal start and a rather less inspiring middle, the final third of this first season of Hanasaku Iroha is really ‘festing it up’, to borrow a phrase from Ohana. This week picks up where we left off; Ohana plucked off the street by Tohru and Minko. They spend the night in a hotel room, Tohru and Ohana have a late-night chat about Ko, which Minko listens in on. The next morning, Ohana wants them to help her kidnap her mother. Tohru agrees, but only if they bring Ko too.

Before that though, Tohru takes Minko on a dizzying culinary tour of Tokyo and makes her eat way too much. At times she considers this a date, but the fact of the matter is, Tohru may just be doing it to get her acquainted with famous tastes, without an ulterior motive. As Ohana said last night, he is kind, but his manner with women leaves too much to said womens’ imaginations. I feel pretty bad for Minko, since she (and we) know for sure that a part of him likes Ohana, but he won’t make a move. That said, Minko could be a little more forward with him regarding her feelings.

While in Tokyo, Ohana learns that she’s been acting selfishly, without regard to anyone else’s thoughts or motives. This is hammered home for her when Ko tells her he went to visit her but came up empty. This episode marked an even lower mark than was reached last week as far as their future together is concerned. They may both like each other, but they remain firmly lodged in a holding pattern, at best, while both of them have other potentials (Tohru in Ohana’s case; Igarashi in Ko’s). This is probably it for their story, until next season.

I was as surprised as Ohana when her mother had packed to come back with them to Kissuiso. Something finally clicked in her; perhaps the same thing that clicked in Ohana. At times, both of them play the villain in the lives of others (“Deferring her answer for a later time” is pretty villainous). Ohana had so much to yell at her mom for, but chose her bad review of the inn. When she heard the indignation in Ohana’s voice, it reminded her of the arguments she once had with her mother. Now for good or ill, there’s going to be a family reunion. Rating: 4

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Sure, there was a little bit of coincidence in this episode, but I still enjoyed how Ohana’s mission to “Fest it up” with the author of a bad review of Kissuiso turned into a bit of a review of her life so far. She returns to Tokyo, and it turns out her mother wrote it (one coincidence), without even visiting, because a superior told her to. Ohana’s reunion with both her mother and with Ko don’t go well, and by the end, she nearly has a breakdown, when just at the last minute, the van from Kissuiso shows up to ‘rescue’ her (another coincidence).

Never mind how they managed to track her down on the streets of the biggest metropolis in the world, or the fact her mother wrote the scathing staged review – I liked this episode. It was great to get out of the inn and the small town setting and return to Tokyo, if only for an episode. It led me to renew my hate of Ohana’s frankly awful, self-absorbed mom. I’m glad Ohana put up a brave front, and refused trifling bribes.  It also renewed my frustration with Ohana and Ko’s lack of progress in the relationship arena.

They finally meet after so long, but their meeting is soured by Ohana seeing the cute girl he works with at the bookstore. Well, and the lack of a plan going in. She just decided to…meet him, just like that. She’s about to scold him about not giving the smitten girl a firm answer, when she realizes that’s exactly what she failed to do for him. She can’t or won’t express all the pent-up feelings rattling around in her head, and decides the best thing to do is to turn tail…again. With this new low, and the fact that Ko is in Tokyo and Ohana…isn’t, perhaps romance lies elsewhere for her. Tohru, for instance. Rating: 4