More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 03 – Starting over from zero

Akari knows Jirou is in love with Shiori, but wants to know specifically why he’s drawn to an earnest, family-oriented girl, and what he wants such a girl to do for him. He wisely says “lunch”, which sets Akari off on a homemade bento kick.

She proves to be a very good bento cook, and they gain lots of points as cook and taste-tester, but one little detail—a lack of sugar in the rolled omelet—reminds Jirou that she’s doing all of this for Minami, not him. That shouldn’t bother him, as he’s into Shiori…and yet.

Jirou also can’t help but feel a little…left out when Akari goes all out to look as cute as possible to deliver a bento to Minami at his part-time job. But then Akari asks him for another goodbye kiss as a reward for her hard work, and tells him she only wants his kiss, since it made her feel safe.

Before he can summon the guts to kiss her again, Shiori shows up with extra apple pies she made for Minami, citing his sweet tooth. When she sees Akari with Jirou and a box lunch for an apparent picnic, she leaves feeling lonely. Little does she know she caused Akari’s confidence to absolutely plummet.

She never delivers the bento, and sits on the couch with her head in her knees. Jirou tries to cheer her up, but the bottom line is, she though she could appeal to Minami with cooking, but was wrong about him not liking sweet things, and now doesn’t know what to do.

Jirou tells her she has “tons more good points”, but when put on the spot, the only things he lists are related to her looks, body, and sex appeal. When she asks if he’s ever though about her that way, he says no, but she knows he’s lying. Then she jumps on top of him.

The animation and Oonishi Saori’s voice acting do a lot of strong, heavy lifting here, as the scene strides the line between being amorous and a little forced. You can see in Akari’s face and hear in her voice that she’s just as unsure about this as Jirou is, and yet she’s trying to press forward.

Jirou pushes through his body’s urge to “graduate” from virginity and rejects Akari’s advances, saying it’s only something you do with someone you love. Leaving aside that this is false, this results in Akari getting off him and saying they should stop this whole fake marriage thing.

That’s just what they do, and at the next month-end eval, Shiori sees that they’ve fallen to 75th place while she and Minami are up to 8th. She knows something’s wrong; Jirou knows it too, and knows that he erred. When he felt Akari’s cold trembling hand, he knew that he was wrong about her: what they were doing on that couch was just as new to her as it was to him.

Shiori invites Jirou onto the school roof to talk to him about things, and really does yeoman’s work as his trusty childhood friend, albeit by subordinating her own feelings. She promises him that no matter how much he screwed up with Akari, he can make things right.

Shiori’s pep talk is just what Jirou needs to break the awkwardness stalemate and give him the courage to knock on his fake wife’s door. To his shock, she not only answers but invites him into her uber-girly room, where he proceeds to apologize, but also provides a lot of real, honest talk.

He admits the obvious, that he’s fantasized about her, but also that it wasn’t like he didn’t want to do it with her, only that he wanted to do it with more care than the spur-the-moment scenario they found themselves in when she was discouraged about cooking for Minami.

He doesn’t go so far as to “out” Akari as just as much a virgin as she is, but he almost doesn’t have to, as hearing him come out and say all these things makes her face red as a beet and has her retreating into her bedsheet. But Jirou also asserts that he doesn’t like it when things are awkward between them.

Pulling back the sheet from her head like a bride’s vail, he declares that he wants them to be a married couple again. When he realizes he left out “for the practical” and stumbles all over his words, it evokes a hearty laugh from Akari, who attempts to save face by mocking him for being so desperate.

But she also ends up telling him—in just as disarmed a way as he just said all those embarrassing but true things—that she “likes him quite a lot”, even calling him by his first name. She laughs it off, but later on her balcony she covers her mouth with her hands in shock over having “said it.”

She says it in a way that could mean she’s been meaning to say it for a while. In any case, they’re giving this marriage another go, but this time they both have a deeper understanding of the kind of people the two of them actually are. That new understanding definitely has the potential to make them more attracted to one another as partners.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 02 – Hearing her out to the end

Jirou is having a lovely dream about Shiori visiting him in the night, only to be woken up by Akari wanting the same thing. Not so fast: she wants him to watch scary movies with her so they’ll earn points—while wearing matching PJs she’s comfortable enough to change into with him right there (with his back turned). When there’s a blackout, Jirou also learns Akari’s not great with storms or the dark.

Jirou may not learn here that Akari’s as inexperienced in love as he is, but her little vulnerabilities help bring her down to earth, as someone more approaching an equal to Jirou rather than someone to place on a pedestal and venerate (or resent her elite gyaru status). Between the close quarters and a sweet-smelling aromatherapy candle, a cozy chemistry emerges, with Jirou even admitting how cute Akari is and how hard she’s working, thinking she’s asleep when she’s not…and is very flattered!

As a result of spending the night together on the couch (avoiding the no-going-in-each-other’s-rooms rule) Jirou and Akari earn enough points to end up ranked 8th in their class. But both are shocked to find that Shiori and Minami are ranked 71st. If the other couple doesn’t make Rank A, all their efforts are for naught.

While Jirou can’t deny he’s a little happy things aren’t going well with Shiroi and Minami, as he friend he wants to help, but can’t broach the subject, and then he’s out with a cold. Shiori’s best friend Mei, who is either overprotective or has a crush on her herself (maybe both!) cheers Shiori up with her piano play and a willing ear.

Just as Jirou admits to be being a little hurt Akari went out with her friends instead of taking care of him, while also dreaming of Shiori taking care of him, it’s Shiori who is at the door with a bag of stuff to nurse him back to health.

Rather than an angel sent by heaven, Shiori was asked by Akari to look after Jirou, both knowing Jirou is in love with her and that, most likely, Shiori feels the same way. I’m not sure how premeditated this was for Akari, but this results in us getting almost the full measure of Jirou and Shiori’s history together.

Shiori still cherishes the day she was sick in elementary school and Jirou came and replaced her forehead compress, and relishes the opportunity to repay the favor. Jirou also watches intently as Shiori puts on an apron like a pro to whip up some rice porridge for him.

He’s worried this sudden wife-like attention will “give him the wrong idea”, but he’s had that ever since they parted ways when she had to transfer schools in middle school. Before he could summon the courage to confess to her, she asked him if they could remain friends despite the new geographic distance.

Jirou thought he was being friendzoned, so he canceled the confession, but he was mistaken. Just as he needed to make a great effort to even consider voicing his feelings for her, so too did Shiori, and those were the compromised words that came out at the wrong time. These two have loved each other all along, but that misunderstanding kept them from getting what they both wanted.

Now they’re “married” to separate people for this ridiculous school training, but Jirou’s cold afforded them the chance to live out what life might’ve been like if they had gotten their confessions for each other out into the open. It broke my heart when Shiori’s voice broke after she said, quite genuinely, that she thought it would be better if he were her husband. But my heart was re-forged when Jirou took her hand and, without thinking, called her “Shiori”, which causes her heart to similarly swell.

Shiori remembers that day just as much as Jirou does as a missed opportunity. Shiori was mere words from asking him on a date to see fireworks, but since he believed that would be as “just friends” he made an excuse to part ways right then and there. When Jirou called her “Shiori”, her mind went blank from happiness.

Not only that, when she’s sure he’s asleep, she leans in to steal a kiss…just as Akari’s galfriends are teasing her about the possibility of Shiori stealing Minami away. Shiori doesn’t kiss Jirou, but still prays that one day he’ll hear her out to the end. If only he did, he’d know that she wanted to be with him as much as he wanted to be with her.

The thing is, things are no longer so simple. Despite her haughty gal front and enduring crush on Minami, the fact is Jirou is the one with whom she’s experiencing all these new things. It’s gotten to the point that even when Jirou thanks her when she gets home for asking Shiori to come by, and resolves to work his hardest so she can be with Minami, she’s actually annoyed, despite herself.

Shiori isn’t going to be falling for Minami anytime soon. Maybe we’ll get Minami-centric episode at some point, but for now he’s simply a placeholder. Ironically, the harder Jirou and Akari work to make Rank A, the more good times they’ll have and the more they’ll learn about each other that overwrites their shallow first impressions of one another. By the time they’re offered the opportunity to exchange partners, who’s to say they’ll want to?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 01 (First Impressions) – Mismatch

Fuukoi, as it is also known, begins with the two female leads meeting at a shrine. The “plain” but cute Sakurazaka Shiori stumbles on the stairs and into the stylush gyaru Watanabe Akari, asking if she’s also there to pray for good luck with their forthcoming “marriage practical”.

What is a marriage practical, you say? An extremely weird and far-fetched means of the country trying to up its birth rate (?), I guess, and by far the weakest part of this debut episode. Male and female students are paired up and must live like a married couple in a Big Brother-style apartment, but are pointedly not allowed to sleep in the same bedroom. This system also apparently makes no accommodations for same-sex couples.

Our drab protagonist Yakuin Jirou, another weak point (never a good thing) wants to be paired with his childhood friend Shiori, while Akari wants to be paired with the equally stylish, blonde (and genuine Nice Guy) Tenjin Minami. So naturally, Jirou and Akari end up paired together, while his and Akari’s preferred matches end up paired up.

Neither Jirou nor Akari are happy about this, but it is what it is, but the good news is there’s a way to exchange partners: score enough points as a couple to make the A-Rank by the end of the month. Akari suggests they take the relationship lemons they’ve been given and make lemonade, but this is all A Lot for Jirou, considering the “love experience gap” between them.

Of course, Jirou’s wrong about this: Akari is just as chaste as he is, and all this as new to her as it is him. It’s too bad then, that she never tells him this to reduce the tension; call it pride and an unwillingness to admit they’re on the same level in that arena.

When Jirou goes to get them drinks and spots Shiroi with Minami, he gets even more depressed, but Akari tells him, and is right, that being mopey and indecisive won’t get him anywhere. They’ve got work to do scoring enough points to get the partners they want. So when Jirou’s annoying nerdy friend Sadaharu comes by to hang out, she asks for a goodbye kiss.

Caught between Akari and his insistent friend, Jirou kisses her without thinking … on the lips. It’s his kiss, but little does he know it’s also hers. The next day, Jirou wakes up on the couch, having apparently spent the night there (a little odd, considering I doubt he and Sadaharu got blackout drunk), and Akari urging him to get up and pull his weight.

A week passes, and Jirou and Akari make no progress. Shiroi and Minami, on the other hand, look like two peas in a pod, further frustrating and depressing Jirou. Their teacher asks him and Akari to come to the faculty office after school for a check-up. When Jirou tells Akari, she’s already off to karaoke with Minami, and tells him to do it solo.

He calls this his “worst day ever”, but Sadaharu says he’s got “a flower in each hand”—Shiroi the lily, Akari the rose. With no umbrella, he waits for the rain to subside, and then chance smile upon him when Shiori appears, having also forgotten hers.

As they talk, Shiori suddenly clutches him, because she thought she saw a bug (it was just a comical doodle of one). Turns out that’s why she clung to Minami earlier in the day—completely innocent, as expected. Shiori also objects to Jirou, her childhood friend, calling her “Sakurazaka” instead of her first name, which makes her feel lonely.

Jirou is taken aback by this, wondering if Shiori has the same feelings for him after all, but before he can say “Shiori” properly, Minami appears with her umbrella, and the two take off.

On the other side of the wall, Akari stands and waits a few beats, then approaches Jirou with an umbrella that they share on the walk home. She tells him how he struck out on trying to make something happen vis-a-vis Shiori. Indeed, by saying goodbye by calling her Sakurazaka, he actually left things worse off than they were before.

Yet again, it’s up to Akari to grab the mopey Jirou by the cheek and tell him to cheer up and focus his energy on the goal they agreed upon. It’s unfortunate Akari has to carry the mental load of her own issues while also trying to prop Jirou up. Dude needs to get his shit together because he’s quite unlikeable at the moment, whereas I like Akari a lot.

There’s another reason to like her when they come home, as she prepares perfect omurice for dinner, and even writes “love” on top in ketchup (while spouting quite a few double entendres). Jirou can’t deny it tastes amazing, and for once takes the initiative and offers to feed Akari with his spoon. After briefly hesitating, she takes the bite, leaving their faces oh-so-close together.

The moment is interrupted by a call form Sadaharu (silence your phone at dinner, dude!), for which Jirou is extremely relieved. But both their hearts are left pounding, which of course sets up the most likely endgame of shows like this with mismatched opposites gradually becoming closer and possibly eventually choosing one other over their original crushes.

The forced big brother scenario is dumb and troublesome to be sure, and Jirou needs a lot of work (obviously he’s supposed to be pathetic at this point) while, Akari has some great Kitagawa Marin vibes (albeit not nearly as honest with herself) and her and Shiori’s character designs are solid.

Aside from Akari, the main draw is the general look of the show: the scenery and colors are gorgeous and bold, making the darker rainy scenes feel that much more morose. It’s just so nice to look at, lacking the modeling or animation flaws of lesser productions.

ANN’s writers all hate this show, and I won’t argue with their reasons why. But for me, for now, the show’s pros are outweighing the cons. Sometimes you just need a bright, shiny, slightly horny show with a super-dumb premise. I had fun watching it.

Engage Kiss – 02 – Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You

Demonstrating her competence but also her codependence, Kisara wastes no time using her newly acquired spare key to at least try to get Shuu’s home and business in some kind of discernable order. That means meals composed entirely of bean sprouts. Kisara’s classmates, who clearly aren’t aware she’s a demon, are worried about her boyfriend…and bandages.

There’s also their senpai Mikhail, who is the mayor’s son and claims to be the next mayor. Despite being handsome and rich, no one can stand him for more than 30 seconds, and we also learn his claims are false; he has two older half-sisters clearly jockeying for their father’s job.

Realizing he and Kisara will legit starve if he doesn’t do something, Shuu visits Ayano at the gym with hat in hand. Ayano, a pushover and enabler of the highest order, gets him a job with AAA as a subcontractor, even though she sees Kisara’s photo in bed with him.

The job in question involves running security for a gala celebrating the 25th anniversary of Bayron’s founding. There’s no auction because there’s no confirmed Demon Hazard, but the deputy mayors are fine with having security who can deal with demons if necessary, especially as there’s threat of a radicalized citizen seeking to assassinate their dad.

While Ayano complains about how hard it is to move in her fancy dress and an adorable Kisara trying to get some of the buffet food into tupperware and avoid Mikhail, Shuu runs into Miles, a cop and old acquaintance whom we learn Shuu lived with for a year after his parents were killed by a demon.

During the mayor’s speech, which is filled with political platitudes, hypocrisy, and outright lies, the demon terrorists pops out of the wall to strike…but Kisara is right there to stop him.

She pulls the demon out of the auditorium and into a quiet hall where they can minimize collateral damage (though with the tallest skyscraper on the island now a teetering ruin, you’d think the damage has been done!). Ayano joins her with her troops, and when she trips on her dress she shoots it so it’s shorter and ditches the heels.

With Kisara, Ayano, and Shuu working with a measure of coordination, it isn’t long until the perp is cornered, with neither French kissing nor Kisara transforming into Demon Mode remotely necessary. That’s for the best, as Shuu and Kisara learn from their boss that the suspect is to be taken alive.

Here’s where the true demon of the on-the-fly logistics and financial sensibility of Shuu rear their ugly heads. With no non-lethal capturing gear, he orders it online at great expense—100% of the $3K they stood to make on this job. To add insult to injury, the delivery van arrives so promptly it does the job of pacifying the low-level demon, rendering the purchase (which is no doubt non-refundable) completely unnecessary.

But before that fun and creative set-piece where the Amazon of this city wins the day, the baddie tries and fails to say his piece and try to get Shuu of all people on board. It’s amusing that Kisara and Shuu are too busy bickering over finances to listen to him, but after the job is complete they confirm they did hear a bit of what he sad about the governments lies and secrets, which led to the loss of Shuu’s parents.

Shuu’s response is that he has no choice. He tried going independent, but it’s a dog-eat-dog floating island, and the very government that messed up his life by keeping the existence of demons secret is the same one he works for in order to eat. He doesn’t like it, but it is what it is. The question is, how long will that remain so?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Engage Kiss – 01 (First Impressions) – A Spare Key for Victory

From the fact his apartment lacks gas and electric when his pink-haired companion lets herself in to try to make dinner, to the fact his ex-partner Ayano foots the bill for his first meal in three days, Ogata Shuu is what is known in Japan as binbou—destitute. Regardless, he seems adamant about living his own life his way, even if his new independent business is not off to a strong start.

His companion, Kisara waits for him in the dark back home, having prepared a pretty impressive feast despite the lack of utilities. When he says he already ate, and vaguely smells of another woman, Kisara goes down a spiral of self-deprecation until he eats the cold repast. When he asks Kisara for the last of her savings for a cash-on-delivery, she posts an Insta of the two of them about to send themselves to heaven with sleeping pills.

But all is not lost. Poor as he is, Shuu still has a seat at the table of companies who bid over contracts to rid their floating city (in the water, not air) spelled either Veyron or Bayron of “Demon Hazards.” There’s a mid-level one wreaking havoc in a central casino, and Shuu ends up with the lowest dollar amount by far (less than $40K, vs. the second-lowest being $112).

The other bidders leave the virtual meeting in disgust, but Ayano’s mom’s company agrees to support him (with Ayano herself) in exchange for a hefty share of the extermination fee. Shuu shows up late for his own operation, but Ayano and her soldiers are consummate professionals as they mow down the demon’s minions.

The demon turns out to be tougher than its estimated C-Class level, putting Shuu’s back against the wall, but then Kisara, having forgiven him, arrives by passing through the floor. The only problem is, while her sword packs a punch, she only gets one good swing, which is deflected by the demon.

Kisara tells Shuu she’s out of power, and needs to recharge. The way she does that is by making out with Shuu, something he both seems to find uncomfortable and enjoys, but also causes him to pass out due to the exchange of energy. During their kissing, Kisara not only shows tongue, but fangs.

If passing through floors wasn’t enough of a giveaway, Kisara isn’t human; she’s a demoness who happens to be a higher level than the opponent in the casino. But initially she’s angry at Ayano for being another woman that exists in Shuu’s world and the two constantly launch attacks at each other that only hit the demon’s multiplying minions.

Their battle is the best part of the episode, but Shuu gets between the two, and Kisara declares she’ll finish his job if Shuu gives her an important token of their contract: his spare key. It doesn’t matter if she can walk right through his door; she wants to be able to unlock and open it whenever she wants, as a sign of his love and his trust in her.

Shuu relents, and upon receipt of the key, Kisara’s attack power reaches 11. The two count down together from ten, with Kisara blasting through the demon hazard’s shields and Kisara delivering the final coup-de-grace with a shot from his pistol. Their mission accomplished, Kisara ends up on top of Shuu and leans in for a celebratory kiss…

But unfortunately both of them went a little too far with the power, compromising the structural integrity of the entire skyscraper, which is actually crucial to keeping the entire city afloat. While I’m sure Veyron City is in no danger of sinking, Kisara flies around the skyscraper, apparently trying to keep it level, while Ayano remarks that B-Class or C-Class, the Demon Hazard they fought never had a chance against Kisara, who is a Super A-Class who happens to be on their side, possibly only due to her liking Shuu.

Part badass demon-hunting, part workplace romantic comedy, and part abject lesson in proper budgeting, Engage Kiss’ first episode is nothing if not…ahem…engaging. Shuu comes off as a useless mooch most of the time but comes through when it matters, while Kisara and Ayano should prove to be strong clashing personalities for Shuu’s attention and the spoils of demon-hunting victory. All in all, a fun and energetic start, but we’ll see if it will make the final Summer cut.

Love After World Domination – 04 – Can’t Take Me Home

This week showed that while many of the characters play rather cartoonish heroes or villains, at the end of the day everyone’s a normal human being. Desumi even attends high school and has normal friends while she’s not “at work”. But while hanging out after school, she spots Fudou with the new Pink Gelato, and her reaction—running away in tears—is as intense as her friends are confused.

Pink, AKA Haru, is also confused…by the photo of Fudou with what looks an awful lot like a girlfriend. She and Fudou aren’t on a date; she needs to ask him about the photo. But instead he intuits the reason for their meet-up is that she’s interested in upping her physical training regimen. Haru is helpless to stop him from going off on his favorite topic, and she ends up relieved, as there’s simply no way Fudou would have a girlfriend.

But he does, and she’s pissed. When Fudou and Haru’s coffee is interrupted by a call of duty, Fudou finds and engages with Desumi expecting them to go through their usual dance, only this time Desumi’s dropkick lands. He thinks it’s an accident, or they’re just a little out of sync today, but eventually he realizes Desumi is hitting him on purpose.

The two end up in a secluded warehouse, where Desumi admits that even though her brain didn’t really think Fudou was cheating on her, the sight of him with Haru sent her heart into such turmoil she didn’t know what to do with herself. In fact, she started to think maybe someone “girly” like Haru would be better for him than a jealous, violent, loathsome outcast like her.

Fudou is swift in both his comforting hug and his rebuttal: he will only love her, with everything he’s got, as long as he lives. With her totally undeserved self-loathing out of her system, she and Fudou simply exist together for a bit, hand in hand, planning an afterschool date in their school uniforms…when all of a sudden they notice that Pink Gelato is sitting right next to them.

Fudou and Desumi are certain they’re 100% busted and doomed. But the thing is…they aren’t, at least not for the time being. They both believe Haru is planning something, and simply biding her time before she drops the hammer. But Haru is conspicuous in not only not telling anyone what she saw, but acting like she never saw it; like everything’s normal.

That is, until Fudou and Desumi’s after-school date. After a civet(!)-based false alarm, Desumi realizes Haru is lying in wait, and sends Fudou off on an interminable and ultimately doomed Starbucks run. Haru doesn’t mince words, challenging Desumi to a duel. Despite her transforming into Pink Gelato, Desumi handles her easily even in her school uniform. After all, Pink’s only been at this six months; Desumi’s a veteran enemy commander.

Desumi puts the end to the fight by knocking Haru out, but Haru is shocked to find that when she wakes up, Desumi is still there beside her. She admits that she joined Gelato 5 because she was in love with Fudou. She always suspected someone so amazing would have a girlfriend, but never expected it to be someone else she knew. Turns out Desumi rescued her from some thugs in an alley…and inspired her to become stronger.

Haru heard everything Desumi said to Fudou in the warehouse about how “love was making her weak”, but after fighting her, Haru assures her she’s as strong as ever. As for why she didn’t snitch on them, well…as much as she wanted Fudou to be hers, it just wasn’t in her to steal happiness from Fudou or Desumi. When Haru says this her eyes well up with big soppy tears. Desumi can’t help but hug her, and then she starts crying too.

When a very confused Fudou sees Haru’s head in Desumi’s lap and asks what’s going on, Desumi simply shushes him; let Pink Gelato rest a little more. Once she’s awake and back in her uniform, the three walk a bit together. Having experienced a catharsis, Haru is now rooting for Fudou and Desumi…but playfully won’t rule out stealing Fudou if given the chance.

It’s amazing how quickly this love triangle came together this week, and how affecting it was throughout its progression. From Desumi’s early jealous spiraling and Fudou’s stalwart vow he’ll never leave her side, to Haru’s discovery of their tryst and how she handles it, this was Koiseka at its best and most heartwarming.

Love After World Domination – 03 – Never Want to Touch the Ground

There haven’t been any battles between Gelato 5 and Gecko for two weeks, and both Fudou and Desumi are missing each other something fierce. So when Gelato detects a new weapon at Gecko HQ, Fudou impresses both Misaki and the Professor by valiantly volunteering to undertake a potential suicide mission alone.

Naturally, his comrades are unaware he just needs to see Desumi really bad. Dropping in suddenly makes her happy, but she has to use her lightning speed on more than one occasion to keep him from being spotted by her comrades. This results in her sitting on his face, then getting smushed into her locker with him and her bras.

When Culverin Bear comes in her dressing room, it looks like the discovery of their secret forbidden love is imminent…until Desumi lashes out in embarrassment, sending Fudou flying out of the locker, knocking Bear unconscious and activating his new weapon, which then self-destructs. Fudou gives Desumi his phone number, only for her to learn it’s the land line of his family home.

Fudou’s drop-in is followed up by a meeting of colorful, eccentric Gecko baddies, naturally led by a boss named…Bosslar. The various villains try to come up with the manner and location of the next battle against Gelato, and all Desumi comes up with are fun date locations, because she wants to see Fudou again. Bear actually backs her on the suggestion of an amusement park.

Misaki, suspicious of Fudou’s new smartphone, decides to stalk Fudou when he heads to the amusement park, dragging Haru with her. While Misaki clearly has a tendency towards sisterly meddlesomeness, Haru is more trusting of Fudou, and also seems to be hiding a hidden crush on the big lug.

When Fudou and Desumi meet as planned and begin to grapple, they are both surprised by the sudden arrival of Yellow and Pink Gelato. No matter; they speed away to fight a duel as in previous battles, only here they change into street clothes and ride a series of fun amusement park rides. All the while, both Misaki and Haru are convinced that Fudou is just his usual good hero self and nothing is up.

Despite being a superhero, Fudou gets motion sickness form the rides, including the intimate Ferris Wheel. Desumi no doubt finds this cute about him, and is happy to learn something about her sweetheart she didn’t know. But she also uses it as an opportunity to take Fudou’s hand, which causes his sickness to subside, replaced by warm, happy vibes.

Those vibes may not last much longer, however, as Haru has a quick passing glance at photos of people on rides and spots Fudou riding a roller coaster with some woman. If we’re going by anime logic Haru can’t recognize the Reaper Princess unmasked, but the fact Fudou is with a girl at all is a huge shock for Haru, and will likely have far-reaching repercussions. One thing I’m sure of is that the added stakes won’t detract from the snappy comedy or the sweet romance.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Love After World Domination – 02 – We Are Who We Are

After showing us the current state of their relationship in the premiere, Koiseka takes us back six months ago to when Desumi and Fudou first met. Standing atop a building and looking down on him, backlit by a crescent moon, he found himself immediately captivated by her gleaming green eyes shining through her cartoon skull mask.

From there, we’re given more world-building through action as the Gelato 5 battle Gecko while “Hero TV” copters hover and record. Under the pretense of going somewhere to duel where collateral damage would be minimal, Desumi and Fudou are almost caught, but Desumi wisely plays dead as he and his comrade Misaki (Yellow Gelato) are interviewed by a reporter.

When they’re alone again, Desumi is feeling a little lonely since she just saw how popular Fudou is with the ladies. Then he asks how he can make it up to her, and she says she wants to go on an ordinary date. The only problem is, neither of them have ever been on a date, so Fudou relies first on Google and then a drunk Misaki to help him plan one.

The two meet on a lovely day in the park, with Fudou wearing glasses and his hair different as a “disguise”, and he marvels at how resplendent Desumi looks in normal clothes. However, under the assumption that the best date is one where they do something they both enjoy, Fudou has planned a date mostly of weight training and running.

By the time Fudou breaks out a backpack full of sugar-free protein bars, Desumi excuses herself to “go to the bathroom”, and it sure looks like she’s noped out on Fudou’s sorry excuse for a date. A sober Misaki calls him from a hot spring to tell him to ignore all the advice she gave him while drunk, then proceeds to tell him he’d better not do all the things he just did on his date.

Fudou, suddenly an emotional wreck, wanders the park looking in vain for Desumi, whom he’s sure took off because his date plan sucked, and just wishing with all his heart that she’d give him a second chance…and then he feels a cold drink on his temple, and Desumi is there, wondering why he’s acting so strange. When he tells her, she laughs. Of course she’s been having fun on their date, because she’s on a date with her sweetheart!

The two then hold hands and lean in for a kiss, but are rudely interrupted by their respective alarms calling them to duty. In the ensuing battle between Gelato and Gecko, both the Reaper Princess and Red Gelato are understandably out of it, still soaking up the pure bliss of their wonderful date…no doubt the first of many!

While a gold-standard series like Kaguya-sama blows Koiseka out of the water in both comedy chops and production values, Koiseka is by no means a slouch in either department. It looks as good as it needs to, and the chemistry and sweetness of its couple is impossible to resist. I also enjoyed the cute little post-credit segment introducing Desumi’s kitty Hellko, who is glad her mistress is smiling and laughing more.

Love After World Domination – 01 (First Impressions) – Opposite Factions Attract

Aikawa Fudou is Red Gelato, leader of the Freezing Sentai Gelato 5. Magahara Desumi is the Reaper Princess of Secret Society Gecko. They should be mortal enemies, but when we meet the two, they’re having an adorable third date together, and contemplating holding hands.

The prospect of holding hands seems far too advanced for these two romantically stunted people. But when Blue Gelato enters the frame, Fudou and Desumi have no trouble holding hands…as they grapple in a sudden struggle of life and death between hero and villainess. Or at least that is the illusion these two lovers must maintain.

Love After World Domination isn’t what I expected. I thought that Fudou and Desumi were simply actors in some kind of super sentai show. But there’s every indication the Gelato 5 are actual superheroes, while Desumi really is an actual villainess. They all may have their downtime in civilian clothes, but when it’s “showtime” they’re fighting an actual war against each other.

About a week before their third date, Fudou delegates the defeat of Gecko’s boss in bear form to the others Gelato rangers, while he takes on the Reaper Princess by himself. She’s impressed that he can keep up with her, while he’s astonished by her beauty, grace, and ability. In other words, it’s love at first sight for both of them, totally irrespective of their firmly opposite affiliations.

Professor Big Gelato, who is in charge of the Gelato 5, hears Fudou imply that heroes can’t fall in love and smacks him in the face, oficially ordering him to tell the woman he loves how he feels. Little doe Professor Big know that the woman in question is one of the Gelato 5’s greatest foes.

Meeting Desumi one-on-one in a particularly romantic moonlit setting, Fudou comes right out and tells her he loves her…in the first episode. Desumi tries to point out all the reasons why no one could ever love her, but Fudou is a regular on her social media accounts and thus has learned a great deal about her and has fallen for her. She’s not not open to the idea of dating, even if she knows nothing about dating.

Fortunately, Fudou knows fuck-all about dating too, which means they’ll be fumbling through it together, which will make it that much more fun to experience, as well as for us the viewers to watch. The premise of enemies falling for one another is a simple yet immensely powerful one, hearkening to Romeo & Juliet and before.

But integrating the quirky dynamics of sentai heroes vs. occult baddies is an inspired choice, and the execution is competent as it is cute. This episode got me thoroughly excited to see how far these two goofy lovebirds will go with their forbidden love.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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