Tsuki ga Kirei – 11

Sooo…this episode was just about perfect, which doesn’t really surprise me at this point. Kotarou and Akane are on splendid terms, so Kotarou faces two new conflicts this week, which prove more complex and challenging than winning Akane’s heart. Gaining the approval of his parents, and being accepted into Koumei.

We know Akane’s grades are great and her family is the reason she’s changing schools, so there’s not much tension on her end; just whether or not Kotarou will like her hand-knit scarf (which…DUH of course he will).  So instead we delve deep into Kotarou’s small, quiet family, and navigate the treacherous waters with him.

Like Kotarou and Akane’s romance, Kotarou’s problems with his folks are portrayed with a heightened sense of realism and equilibrium. His mom may sound worse than nails on a chalkboard when nagging Kotarou, but she’s only nagging because she cares so fiercely about her son’s future.

That being said, I don’t decry Kotarou pushing back against the path she’s already laid out in her head for him. It is HIS future, after all. But just as Kotarou was initially so bad at communicating his feelings (or anything else) with Akane, he’s equally bad at explaining why he’s so hellbent on attending Koumei.

Hell, he never even seems to try, which works against him early on as his mother quickly dismisses his intention to follow a “girl he likes” as teenage caprice. We know better—Kotarou near-as-makes-no-difference loves Akane, and she loves him, but his folks have no choice but to work with the information they have, which is scanty.

Rather than hearing it from him, Kotarou’s mother comes to gather more information on her own, as she watches her son furiously studying late into the night. She can tell he’s working hard for something he believes in, so obviously she’s not going to come in and crush his dreams by forcing him into a municipal school. Instead, she adopts a wait-and-see approach, putting her faith in her son by letting him hold the keys to his future.

The constant studying wears Kotarou down, and his mock exams are, uh, nothing special, so it’s great to see Akane spearhead a Christmas meetup that serves as a much-needed break for both of them, as well as an opportunity to exchange presents.

It’s lovely to watch the couple so comfortable and warm around each other, especially the lack of hesitation when they lean in for another kiss. You really get the feeling, both here and after all we’ve seen, that this isn’t mere puppy love; these kids have a future together…even if they don’t end up in the same school.

One night, Kotarou’s father lays it out: they’ll let him apply for Koumei, but if he fails, he’s going to a public school. Kotarou accepts the fair conditions, then stands slack-jawed when his dad tells him when his homeroom teacher told his mom Koumei wasn’t a realistic choice for Kotarou, she fought back, leading to an awesome thunderbolt of a quintessential Dad Line: “She can be naggy, but…Well, there you have it.”

Sure enough, when heading downstairs at 1 am for a snack, Kotarou finds his mother there, making some fresh onigiri; forming the balls with love, care, and gentleness before heading off to bed. His mom is no longer an impediment to his dreams of attending school with Akane. She never was. She saw the effort he was putting in, and decided to support and even fight for him.

The morning of his big, decisive exam—the last true impediment to his happiness (though not really since as I said their love seems likely to endure the lengthy but non-permanent distance)—both Kotarou’s mom and dad are up to make sure he has everything he needs, to wish him luck, and to see him off. And Kotarou does something he hadn’t done all episode, but sorely needed to do: he thanks his mom.

These family interactions are so understated and relatable, and really form a nice little arc within the episode as understanding is achieved between the parties and the conflict is revealed only as a measure of concern. Kotarou puts in the work to assure them they needn’t worry, and they show him that they are and always will be on his side.

Now he just needs to pass that goddamn exam!

Tsuki ga Kirei – 10

Akane’s text about moving is such a shock to Kotarou, he actually calls her on the phone (!) in what is known as a “phone call” for all of you born after the iPhone. Both seem terribly down about the idea of being apart, but also agree that they’ll make it work somehow.

That, despite the dubious success of long-distance relationships throughout history they can’t and shouldn’t think about, lest they get way too depressed. Kotarou also considers applying for the same school in Chiba she’ll be transferring to, which would obviously allow them to see each other regularly.

The festival that follows their talk will be the last one Akane attends as a resident of Kawagoe, so it too has a pall of sadness over it, even though the presence of Kotarou in full fox regalia performing the Hayashi dance on the mobile stage in the streets combines that sadness with a sense of awe and venerability.

But since Akane attends the festival with the track team, she inevitably ends up alone with Hira again, and at the worst possible time – when Akane is about to meet Kotarou on his break. Worse still, Kotarou happens to see the two together. Hira confesses to Akane, who promptly turns him down, but when she sees Kotarou, he can’t hide his annoyance and, yes, his anger; he can deny it all he wants!

While one could say he’s been over-possessive here (especially since Hira has no chance against him), let’s not forget how young and inexperienced in the relationship arts this kid is. He’s never been in a true “fight” with Akane until now; with “fight” meaning a failure to properly communicate at the proper time and place.

Both are miserable and still unable to talk to one another the next day, but by the time that day is at an end and Akane and Kotarou are done cram school, Akane notices a book on Koumei high schools was requested at the municipal-office-thingy-place, and Akane uses her mad running skillz to track down Kotarou.

He’s not coy; he was the one who requested the book. He’s seriously applying to her school, and was going to tell her once he told his parents (who still don’t know and at least one of whom, his mother, will be hard to convince).

Their silly row at the festival quickly fades away as a rush of happiness comes over Akane, after hearing Kotarou tell her whatever shape his future takes, he wants them to be together in it. That’s what Akane wants too, and after rushing into Kotarou’s arms, crying tears not of frustration, but joy, she quickly dries her raw eyes and leans in to kiss him.

Their road ahead will have more bumps, but I’m pretty dang confident in the staying power of this couple’s love…and confident the show isn’t about to break their—and our—hearts in the home stretch. They’re going to be just fine. I take comfort in that.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 09

Now that Kotarou and Akane have (mostly) overcome the largest impediment to their relationship with each other—their timidity—we see them hanging out alone together a lot more often and more comfortably, even discussing the ideal situation for the future: attending the same high school.

But no sooner do they swap first names and share a kiss does another obstacle come along; this one isn’t either of their faults, but an external factor.

Whenever a dad in an anime has to make an announcement, it’s probably because he’s being transferred and will be moving the whole family with him. That would be fine…if Akane didn’t have a boyfriend and had no interest in being uprooted. Alas, her dad’s gotta go where the bacon is.

It isn’t a sure thing, so Akane keeps it a secret as long as she can. She has her final junior high track meet approaching, after all, and has to keep her head in the game. Incidentally, that also means keeping Kotarou away when he asks if he can watch her run; it would be to embarrassing to her.

But Kotarou attends anyway, keeping a secret of his own, for the best of reasons: wanting to cheer his girlfriend on without distracting him. I honestly thought Akane would look up at the stands and catch a glimpse of Kotaoru there, but she doesn’t, and instead sets a personal best which she’s quick to snap with her camera and send to Kotarou, not knowing he saw her be awesome.

While Kotarou gets the slip on Akane, Chinatsu sees him, and because she’s still not quite over him, she doesn’t let Akane know she saw him. Hira asks Akane if she’ll still pursue track at high school, and she lets slip to Hira that she might be moving to Chiba.

Chinatsu, like Hira, is still stinging from her recent romantic defeat, but Hira seems to instill her with a glimmer of hope; after all, neither of them have actually taken a proper shot at getting the object of their affection to look their way; they’ve only dealt with the other member of the couple; with Kotarou being firm with Hira and Akane making her feelings for Kotarou plain to Chinatsu.

Whether Hira or Chinatsu give up may ultimately become moot if Akane moves, and when Kotarou confesses he watched Akane, Akane tells him about the possibility, and he’s suitably devastated. That being said, Kotarou has an awesome, progressive dad who wants his son to put happiness above fulfilling some kind of obligation; to “take it easy” and live his life doing what he loves.

With that in mind, if Kotarou decides to take a creative pivot towards light novels, he may find himself living in Tokyo before long, and Tokyo is not far at all from Ichikawa, where Akane and her family might move. If not, and the two end up being broken apart do to something as silly as a parent’s transfer, well, that’ll suck!

Renai Boukun – 09

Not long after the ordeal with Akane and Yuzu’s mothers, Akane and Guri are still going at it, with Guri pushing Akane’s buttons and Akane never failing to fall for the goading. Making matters worse, the mothers have charged Shikimi with monitoring Akane and Seiji, so she transfers to their school, just in time for the cultural festival. Holy anime cliches, Batman!

The love polygon Guri originally wrought continues to cause problems for Yuzu, who has always conditioned herself to love Akane and only Akane but clearly has feelings for Seiji as well; she just doesn’t know how/isn’t ready to deal with them. When opportunity knocks, she kisses Seiji in hopes of confirming she feels nothing, but can’t stop her heart from racing.

The class casts Akane and Guri as love rivals…for the heart of the “princess” played by Shikimi (Seiji plays a tree…which is actually very Seiji). The play is an absolute farce, descending into relationship drama between Akane, Guri, and Yuzu, but with Akane trying to be on her best behavior, since Seiji promised he’d kiss her if she got along with Guri.

At the end of the play, Akane has assured Yuzu that it’s okay to have feelings for others, though doesn’t linger on the fact that her sister’s object of affection is Seiji. Seeing Yuzu give an “I detest you but don’t hate you” spech to Seiji while Seiji is still a tree is a pleasant enough visual gag.

The manic energy is present throughout the episode, but my interest in the multi-sided love polygon, and all the “serious vibes” that come with it, is starting to flag, as it dulls the zany comedy that brought me to the show. Guri’s dilemma in particular, and Shikimi’s attempts to drive a wedge between the girls, just isn’t my thing. Still, with just three episodes left, I’ll power through.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 08

Simplicity can contain multitudes. By that, I mean sometimes there’s a lot to be found in a pure, unembellished tale of first love of the kind blooming between Koutarou and Akane. With Chinatsu out of the way (an unpleasant but necessary step), all that stands between the two is their gossiping peers at school, eager to know all there is to know.

But there isn’t that much to know. Akane doesn’t even give a straight answer to the question “Why Azumi?” She may not be able to put it in words, but that doesn’t bother her; she doesn’t care why she likes him, she just…does. And he likes her, which is why they now actively do all they can to see as much of each other as possible, during which time they’ll explore more about the ‘why’.

During their private lunch in the library, Kotarou gets a text asking him to attend a hayashi practice, and Akane pounces on the opportunity to see her boyfriend perform, which he does. Just as Akane seemed to run harder, Kotarou dances harder, impressing the hell out of his girlfriend.

Kotarou also gets nods of approval from his hayashi peers, one of whom suggests the couple attend Hikawa Shrine’s Summer festival, famous for its hanging wind chime fortunes. Akane arrives at their meeting spot for the date in full yukata. Kotarou is loving the look; Akane is loving how he’s loving it.

A near-perfect festival date ensues, with no one getting lost or bumping into unwanted secondary characters. Akane also cuts her foot on her sandal, but Kotarou tenderly bandages it when she can’t bend over in the yukata. They don’t let anything spoil their enjoyment of the night and of each other.

Akane ducks away for a bit, but only once she hears Kotarou’s most recent birthday has already passed, and decides to get him a little present: the same beanbag stress toy she has. The only remaining ‘drama’ is her trying to finding the right time and place to present it to him.

Once she does, she feels much better, and Kotarou is grateful, and decides the time has come for him to call his girlfriend by her first name, and she, in turn, calls him by his. And with no one around to suddenly stop them, they finally connect for real on their first kiss, finishing what they started last week and hadn’t been able to stop thinking about.

It all happens to the tune of a rendition of “Summer Festival”, which I last heard in Re:Life. The camera keeps a tasteful distance, underscoring how the two must feel like they’re in their own little world. The next time her friends at school ask, Akane can tell them being with Kotarou makes her feel safe.

The parting shot of what the two wrote on their chime wishes—they both wrote the same thing: to be together forever—is a little mushy, but who cares! I daresay these kids are gonna be alright, and there’s a quiet thrill in watching them steadily improve at this thing called courtship.

Renai Boukun – 08

Yuzu and Guri mount a daring rescue of Akane (armed with cosplay and retro dramatic music), only to find she doesn’t want to be rescued… naturally. The story is very standard issue, and on paper sounds like dozens of such rescue episodes. What makes Renai Boukun’s take on it fresh and watchable (if not outstanding) is its commitment to inserting punchy, often self-referential comedy wherever it can.

As the subtitle above demonstrates, Renai Boukun will often go to the trouble of pointing out the cliches it’s using, because characters like Guri are themselves knowledgable students of anime like the one they’re in. Guri’s status as a cupid, with her “love detection” ability, easily cuts through the stoic masks both Akane and her mother are wearing.

Akane’s mom may not ever break her stern, Vulcan calm, but when Akane herself has her blade pressed to Seiji’s neck, and he tells her he’d never be able to hate her no matter what, her eye highlights come back, and then some: shimmer, tears; the lot!

Renai is also shameless in its portrayal of Akane and Yuzu’s moms as aged-up versions of their daughters: they loved the same man, bearing the girls who now both love Seiji. Akane’s mom left her dad when her family calling beckoned, but she has to deal with the fact her daughter might not go down that very same path.

The moms are also even more powerful than their daughters, and their unhinged battle on the roof of Akane’s house surprises Seiji, even though at this point he’s used to getting stabbed (but likes the pain from Akane’s stabbing more than Shikimi’s).

As expected, by the end of the episode everything is back to the way it was, relationship-wise, only now Akane has the implicit approval to “do as she likes”, which is to keep loving Seiji. Seiji also feels closer to her now that he knows the whole truth about Akane and Yuzu’s family.

Akua got to fight some goons in suits. Coraly got to scare Akua shitless. Shikimi got to stab Seiji a bunch. Everybody’s happy! Well, until the very end, when Guri sees how close Seiji and Akane have grown, and no doubt ponders what, if anything, she can do to get Seiji to look at her the way he looks at Akane.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 07

It ain’t just the game of thrones—in the game of love, you win or you die…romantically speaking. It’s take no prisoners; shit or get off the pot; even moreso when you’re young and just figuring this stuff out.

With the Dome City amusement park as the setting for this outstanding episode, Akane, Kotarou, Chinatsu and Hira all learn harsh lessons about the game they’re all playing, the risks and rewards of being passive or active, and how being on the winning side can be fleeting. It’s a side that must be defended.

I honestly can’t stop snickering at Kotarou’s face while on the roller coaster. That is the face of someone very unhappy he didn’t decline Chinatsu’s suggestion they sit together. He might as well be shouting over the roar of the coaster ‘I’VE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE!’

Because he’s next to Chinatsu, Akane is next to Hira, and because she doesn’t handle coasters so hot, it’s Hira, not Chinatsu, who serves as her support during and after the ride. It doesn’t help Kotarou that the majority of the rest of the group is shipping Akane and Hira (except Roman, who we learn has had his suspicions about Kotarou and Akane before Kotarou confirms it).

Kotarou and Akane simply start out the trip all wrong, due to their general passivity in a scenario that requires activity. Akane ends up with Hira a lot of the time, but did nothing to prevent it; Kotarou ends up with a super-aggressive Chinatsu, who understands she’s got to hustle to have any chance over Akane…and may even be moving so fast and forcefully because she already knows she has no chance.

In either case, after Kotarou sees Akane with Hira, Akane sees Kotarou with Chinatsu, and after some time passes, Kotarou sees Akane with Hira AGAIN, Kotarou has finally had it; he’s groaned his last ineffectual groan. Time for some muthafuckin’ ACTION!

He calls out to Akane, then tells Hira he’s in a relationship with her, which she backs up. He then takes her by the hand and they walk off, just in time for Chinatsu to spot them together. As her tears start to fall on the souvenir photo of her and Kotarou on the coaster, I can’t help but feel for her. She got off to a good start, but ends up running out of steam.

After a great series of reactions from the group after Roman confirms Kotarou and Akane are going out (which NO one else saw coming), the happy new couple finally has their precious time alone. What had felt like such a delicate bond strengthens with each activity they do together.

I appreciate how they mirrored my own glee over the whole situation with lots of beaming and giddy laughter, neither of them able to contain their elation at being able to hang out together.

After eating together for the first time, going on various rides and to a haunted house, the two close in closer and closer for a couple selfie, and their bubbly contentment only intensifies when they see how much like a couple they look in the photo.

Meanwhile, Chinatsu returns to the group, her eyes raw from crying, and her girl-friends get the bad news that Kotarou chose Akane over her. Chinatsu might’ve stolen Akane for the coaster and gotten temporarily “lost” with him, Akane ends up stealing him back, though mostly thanks to Kotarou taking action.

No matter; it’s the action Akane wanted to be taken. She’ll be the proactive one next time. As the fireworks explode across the night sky, Kotarou takes her hands in his and leans in for a kiss, and Akane leans in right back.

A nosy little shrimp interrupts them (where are your damn parents, kid?), but they get so goshdarned close to kissing, I’m going to go ahead and call it a kiss, even if it isn’t officially their first kiss. Neither of them bailed out; it was a matter of being surprised by an outside stimulus. Close enough, I say!

Chinatsu…she was never that close, because Kotarou simply isn’t interested in her the way he is in Akane, just as Akane isn’t into Hira that way. At the end of the night, Akane and Kotarou are exactly where they should be, where they want to be.

hen Chinatsu texts Akane that she couldn’t confess, Akane says “Sorry” to herself. I’ve no doubt she feels bad about Chinatsu getting hurt. Chinatsu was the one who chose to keep going even though she knew Akane was with Kotarou, but Akane could have been more forceful in discouraging her.

But at the end of the day, when made to choose between her happiness and Chinatsu’s, there is no choice. It’s shitty not being the one chosen, but that’s life. Akane and Kotarou won the game today. They deserved to savor their victory. Here’s hoping the wins keep coming. They must be vigilant.

P.S. Attention, Show: You have extinguished your allotment of near-kisses. Next kiss better not be interrupted. You have been warned!

The Garden of Words (Film Review)

Tokyo is one of the largest, busiest, most lively cities in the world, but there’s an oasis of tranquility right near its heart, and I’m not talking about the mostly off-limits Imperial Palace Grounds. I speak of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, once a private estate in the Edo period, and also the primary setting of Shinkai Makoto’s 2013 film The Garden of Words.

I’ll admit my review comes very late—so late, in fact, in the time between the release of the film and the day I’m writing a review of it, its co-lead Akizuki Takao would be 19 (not 15), making a potential romantic relationship with Yukino Yukari, who would be 31 (not 27) more socially acceptable. But here it is!

Akizuki loves rainy mornings. He loves them so much, he’ll skip school to visit Shinjuku Gyoen and enjoy it. One day, while preparing to sit at a sheltered bench overlooking the gardens, he encounters Yukino: a beautiful, mysterious woman in work clothes drinking beer and eating chocolate alone.

While 15, Akizuki is wiser and more mature than his years. He finds high school a major drag, and mostly stresses about a practical way to support himself doing what he loves: designing and making shoes. But when he visits the park and shares the bench with Yukino, he feels like he’s in a more mature environment, where he can sketch shoes or just shoot the breeze with her.

Their encounters also become important to Yukino, who we learn is preparing to quit her job, and is clearly in the park to escape said job and the stress/pain it causes, which was apparently bad enough that she lost her sense of taste for a time, only being able to enjoy beer and chocolate.

Not only is the hard-working Akizuki a shoemaker-in-the-making, he’s also a part-timer at a restaurant and cooks a lot at home, making him a better cook than Yukino. Thanks to the meals he shares, Yukino starts to enjoy eating again.

Wanting to help him with a woman’s shoe design, Yukino removes her shoe and lets Akizuki hold and measure her bare foot, in an intimate, even sensual scene that also happens to be practical.

That intimacy is heightened by the made-for-a-couple sheltered-bench and the gorgeous environs. But while she’ll give him her foot, Yukino never talks about herself, her life, or her struggles, no matter how much Akizuki talks about his.

Unfortunately Akizuki has to find that out when he spots Yukino, or rather Yukino-sensei, at his school—she’s a teacher there. He had no idea of that, or that she’d been taking days off because the boyfriend of a student fell for her which led to unsavory rumors about her being promiscuous and verbal and emotional abuse from her upperclassmen students.

Yukino is pained to hear all this treatment, and that she’s quitting because of it, but likely also hurt that Yukino never told him anything, or that she could even possibly have known he was a student at the school but kept him in the dark.

Whatever the case, he decides the injustice done to Yukino should have a response from someone who has come to care about her, so he confronts the upperclassmen, starts a fight, and loses. After school, they meet at the gardens, but he doesn’t tell her he fought to protect her honor.

After giving her the correct answer to her tanka poem from their first encounter, Akizuki and Yukino find themselves caught in a torrential downpour, and even when they get back under cover, they’re both soaked.

They apparently take it as a good omen, and go to Yukino’s apartment, where they change into dry clothes, and while he’s waiting for his uniform to dry, Akizuki makes Yukino a delicious meal, both noting they’re having some of the happiest moments of their lives, right there and then.

Like the sunlight, it doesn’t last, and as the sky darkens with more rainclouds, a sudden confession of love from Akizuki is countered by Yukino correcting him: “Yukino-sensei”. Akizuki hears her loud and clear: he’s a kid; she’s not, and that’s the end of it. So he changes into his still-wet clothes and storms off, just as the storm outside picks up.

Yukino doesn’t want to leave things there, so after stewing, suddenly alone in her apartment, with even Akizuki’s coffee still steaming, she does the romantic movie thing where one comes to their senses, rushes out of the house, and chases after the one they love.

When she finds him paused on a balcony, he takes back his confession and starts spewing vitriol about her intentions, but later in the rant it becomes more about why she couldn’t simply tell him, a stupid little kid, to piss off and stop bothering her. Why she never said anything to him while sharing that bench.

Yukino’s response, also classic romantic movie, is to run into his arms and sob just as the sun peeks back out from between the clouds, finally telling him why she went to that bench again and again, and how being with him helped her “learn how to walk on her own” again; how he essentially saved her.

Yukino still moves out of that apartment, back to her hometown, where she’s still a teacher. But she later writes to Akizuki, and as he reads the letter in the park where they met and spent so much time and where they taught each other how to walk, he seriously considers going to her hometown someday to see her.

The Garden of Words is gorgeous, as is expected of a Shinkai film, with its near-photorealistic exteriors, lived-in interiors, and fantastic lighting and details all around. At just 46 minutes, it runs brisk but never feels rushed, but rather feels just as long as it should be.

It also felt like a particularly intimate/personal film, though not for the reason you’d expect: I once sat at the exact same bench in Shinjuku Gyoen they sat at, unhurriedly sketching the gardens and writing about my day (though as you can see, the real one has an ashtray.) If you’re ever there I highly recommend it, just as I recommend this lush and moving little film.

Renai Boukun – 07

After establishing its kooky cast, Love Tyrant has proceeded to explore more and more serious dramatic stuff with the trappings of a quirky comedy. Guri first attempts to test out Akane’s “heartache” theory about love by stabbing herself with one of Akane’s kukris.

But after her desire to go to the festival is rebuffed by Seiji, who already has plans with Akane, she goes off on her own and is approached by The Perfect Guy, who is kind, patient, and respects her interests—the opposite of Seiji, leading her to question whether Seiji’s even worth her time.

A lovely festival date with Mystery Guy leads to a romantic setting in which he leans in for the kiss, only to have his eyes shoved into his brain by Guri; a reflex, she says contritely. Nice Guy is nice, but isn’t Seiji, and kissing him feels wrong.

So when she happens to bump into Seiji, who came to festival as per her original wishes anyway, she kisses him, it feels right, and she proclaims that while Seiji may have his issues—not handsome, stubborn, quick to anger, boring, insensitive—but she doesn’t hate him after all.

It’s good to see Guri and the show point out Seiji’s flaws, but also demonstrate how love is more than an equation of pros and cons. As for Perfect Guy, he was under a spell from Maou as part of his larger plan to recruit Guri, which, sure, fine.

Someone else who loves Seiji deeply in spite of his flaws is Akane, but unlike the cupid Guri, she’s supposed to have no need for love. In fact, giving her heart to Seiji is a serious crime against her family, and her mother Suo soon has her captured and bound, and gives her an ultimatum: break up with Seiji, or else.

What ‘or else’ means, precisely, I don’t know, as Akane is technically immortal. As is Seiji, as demonstrated when a group of thugs try to kill him in broad daylight in the park. He’s rescued by his tough little sister Akua, who is then totally freaked out by Coraly, because who wouldn’t be?

(I for one actually have a soft spot for Coraly because my roommate’s cat looks just like him…without the human face of course.)

Shikimi arrives to tell Seiji and Akua what Suo has done with Akane.  In solitary confinement, Akane remembers not giving a hoot about anyone’s feelings and keeping her heart to herself, as her mother wanted. Until she met Seiji by chance in an alley, and for some reason when he says she’s kind, it resonates, and whether she liked it or not, she fell for him right then and there.

Though it definitely weighs down what had been a lightweight rom-com, I appreciate the show elaborating on Akane’s feelings and showing their origins and how she must choose between love and family. I also like Seiji (and Akua!) teaming up with Shikimi to rescue Akane (even though Shikimi is clearly up to something).

Meanwhile Guri and Yuzu don’t have much time together in the second half but they make the most of it, first with Yuzu’s takedown of the cat maid cafe Guri brought them to, then in planning a sleepover, then ditching that plan to join the fight to save Akane.

Renai Boukun – 06

It’s a half-beach, half test-of-courage episode, with Akane trying to befriend Seiji’s sister Akua in the former and warning Guri to stay away from Seiji in the latter, all while Guri goofs off as usual in both and Yuzu always finds herself closer to Seiji than her beloved Akane.

After he rejects her advances, Shikimi notifies Seiji what was hinted at last week; that Akane and Yuzu’s families serve as swords and shields, respectively, with her role as a branch family member being support of the other two.

Meanwhile Akua remains cold to Akane until she’s attacked by the rabid demon penguin Stolas, then rescued largely thanks to Akane’s brute strength. She concedes that her brother likes strong women, so she’s at least a good match in that regard, if no other.

The beach was little more than a fresh setting for the Akane’s violent lunacy, which is less instrumental in the second segment, in which a Ghostbuster-cosplaying Guri leads everyone on a test of courage through the school at the behest of a couple who wants her to make them a couple forever.

The lunacy here lies in the fast-paced gauntlet of all the typical things you worry about running into at school after dark, from the spirits of dead students to self-playing pianos, moving stone busts, and the ever-present anatomical model. There’s no shortage of energy, at least for a few bursts.

But both during and after the test, at the end of which it’s revealed the couple were dead to begin with and needed a little help passing on to the hereafter, Akane makes it clear to Guri that she’s only going to tolerate this lovey-dovey harem thing for so long, so if she wants to remain friends, she’d better stay away from Seiji.

As if to underscore her seriousness, Akane doesn’t whip out her knives to threaten Guri. She also tells the very naive cupid that love, happy or sad, causes one’s heart to ache, and if that’s not happening with Guri, maybe she should reconsider being her rival.

I knew things were eventually going to get more serious, but I’m still not convinced that’s the best move for a show that doesn’t have a lot going for it besides its rapid-fire comedy.

Renai Boukun – 05

As expected, the pink-haired sadist doesn’t get to torture Seiji for long, as Akane arrives to rescue him, We learn she’s Shiramine Shikimi, cousin to Akane and Yuzu, who loves receiving pain as much as she loves doling it out. She also likes stealing things, particularly from Akane, and Seiji is one such thing.

A fight ensues, and Shikimi is able to repel Akane’s attacks and restrain her, then scolding her for becoming weaker and being a sorry excuse for a “weapon princess”. She’s more impressed with Yuzu’s shield. This is all to imply that Akane and Yuzu have never been ordinary high school students, but some higher calling they’ve yet to share with Seiji.

This is where Renai Boukun ditches the comedy altogether and gets a lot more serious, especially with the newly-arrived Guri telling Shikimi she can’t make her a part of the harem because there’s no real love inside of her.

Your mileage may vary on whether this show needs to be this serious or dramatic; I’m not the biggest fan of it. In any case, all the excitement leaves Seiji knocked out, and he then dies. Not even a fifteen-minute kiss from Akane can bring him back, Sleeping Beauty-style.

His death segues into the episode’s second segment, in which he meets Guri’s father Kami and his…er…neighbor Tiara? Coraly is also there. “Heaven” is little more than an ordinary Japanese living room.

There, Kami (‘God’) tells him he’s killed him “for the time being” so he could meet the one his daughter has latched herself onto. He wants her to one day succeed him as Kami-sama, so he wants Seiji to teach her about love, something she’s not made much progress with despite being assigned cupid duty.

Maou (‘the devil’) also stops by, wanting to convert Guri to demonhood, but as these are not humans, they don’t have a specific deadline in place for either thing to happen. Seiji can’t promise anything, because as Kami is well aware, Guri is a free spirit who will do what she wants when she wants to, which is rarely the same thing for long periods.

Seiji returns to the world of the living, where Akane is chasing Guri with her knives and Yuzu was about to kiss him as well, only for her and Seiji to knock heads. Seiji asks why Guri never let on about her father or the succession; Guri simply explains that stuff is boring and she doesn’t want to waste time talking about it. Fair enough!

Last week ever-darker elements of violence and sexual deprivation were introduced; this week there’s a lot more character drama and a general plot course is set, with various parties vying for Guri’s future just as the girls vie for Seiji. That’s all well and good, but it was also IMO the least funny, and least surprising, episode of Love Tyrant yet.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 06

Uh-oh…the dreaded Pinky Promise, long the bane of many a budding middle school relationship. Tsuki ga Kire’s couple makes theirs after Kotarou gets a call from a publisher in the city and Akane prepares for her big meet, and the two are determined to achieve their dreams.

No matter how much Kotarou’s mom worries about his future, or how much Akane’s family gawks at her upon figuring out she’s dating someone, they like having each other around, supporting each other both in person and on LINE.

Both are drawing strength and ever-so-gradually becoming bolder, braver people, as demonstrated when Akane texted Kotarou that she wanted to discuss something with him (namely, the Chinatsu situation). But they’re in such high spirits after the pinky promise, Akane leaves it for another day…The worst possible day she could leave it for, the day of the big track meet.

She manages to get out to Chinatsu that she’s already in a relationship with Kotarou, which is good, but the timing couldn’t be worse in terms of the emotional toll it takes on her. Chinatsu, for her part, already knew—they’re friends, after all—but when the time comes to race, Akane is so weighted down by complex, conflicting emotions, she ends up with a terrible time and is eliminated, while Chinatsu has a personal best and advances. Ouch.

Akane isn’t the only one to take an L, mind you: when Kotarou sneaks out to make the long trip to the publisher, he’s full of cautious optimism, determined to fulfill his promise to Akane and to himself, eager to take the first step towards joining the ranks of his beloved highbrow authors…only to be crushed like a bug under a different weight than the one that slowed Akane: literary reality.

The publisher minces no words: Kotarou is not cut out for the kind of literature he attempted and submitted, but he may just have a knack for “light novel type stuff”, which Kotarou is clearly not into.

So after pumping each other up so much and pounding the pavement with confidence and gusto, secure in knowing the other is trying their best right beside them, Akane and Kotarou end up having the worst day. And I’ll tell you, I felt every ounce of their combined…er…worstitude; I really did.

I felt Akane’s exasperation over her best friend’s crush on Kotarou, which just so happens to be mercilessly translated into a literal footrace with her friend-and-now-rival. I felt Kotarou’s crushing disappointment that his odyssey to the city was all for naught.

And I definitely felt the both of them not feeling the slightest bit better once they return to their homes. Akane’s parents are warm enough and tell her there’ll be other races, while her sister tells her it’s going to be very hard to remain friends with someone still actively after her boyfriend.

Kotarou’s mom lets him have it as soon as he comes in the door, telling him no good will come of the thing he’s most passionate about doing (though is dad is more sympathetic). Dayum.

Sometimes family helps you recharge and heal from the stress and wounds of the world out there, but sometimes they contribute to it. Which is why I was so glad that after so much mutual moping about, in the middle of the night, by the light of her phone, Akane finally gets a message on a screen still mockingly displaying the optimism they expressed before the day began.

Just three simple words: I miss you. Akane only needs two: Me too. The two meet up in the library the next morning, cheered a little by their mere presence, and cheered more by their shared determination not to give up on track or writing, to work even harder so awful days like yesterday won’t become a common occurrence. They reaffirm their still-active pinky promise, to which they wisely did not assign a deadline.

And yet their struggles are far from over. When Akane meets with Chinatsu on a beautiful tree-wreathed path bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun, there’s a friendly, conciliatory mood to the proceedings: Akane apologizes for not telling Chinatsu sooner; Chinatsu apologizes for falling for Kotarou.

That mood is upturned by one last, frankly cheeky request by Chinatsu: that she be allowed to confess to Kotarou, for “closure.” And herein lies the danger about which Akane’s big sister warned her: neither confrontation with Chinatsu over Kotarou resulted in closure. Chinatsu, fresh of her big track win, is feeling more confident than ever, while Akane has never felt less, despite the fact she has the guy.

But it doesn’t matter if Kotarou immediately says no. Putting Akane in such a position at all is a clown move by Chinatsu, straight up, as is pretending it’s not a big deal. It’s also a possible prelude to war, a war for Kotarou’s heart. And when friends go to war, they tend not to stay friends.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 05

Kotarou and Akane are officially dating now…but neither are quite sure what dating entails. They’re also keeping it a secret from their respective circles of friends, so they’re still not comfortable talking to each other at school, which gets old for them fast.

They need guidance on how to proceed, and both end up relying on a combination of advice from their elders (Kotarou’s senpai Daisuke and Akane’s big sis Ayane) and the interwebs. The next time they message each other, they’re on the same page about meeting up in the libarary, but the rendezvous is broken up by Chinatsu, who is clearly taking a shine to “Curly-kun.”

Akane is understandably upset, and this results in both her and Kotarou ending up with the wrong person at the wrong time: Akane with Hira-kun after track, and Kotarou with Chinatsu after cram school. It also doesn’t help that due in no small part to the emotional weight of their relationship, Kotarou is doing worse with his academics while Akane is slipping in athletics.

No matter: they want to meet, and Kotarou finds a way, as Daisuke lets him use his shop as a meeting place where they won’t be bothered by classmates (who are always portrayed as an irritant, heightened by the couple’s desire to simply be alone together).

Here, they do indeed finally get to be alone together, and revel in it, clearing the air, and even holding hands. But the bliss is all too brief; interrupted once more by an outside force: a text from Chinatsu to Akane announcing she may have a crush on Kotarou. This isn’t an out-of-nowhere twist for twists’ sake, because we’ve seen firsthand the easy chemistry of Chinatsu and Kotarou.

As Kotarou’s favorite writer says, humans are the only creatures who harbor secrets, and it’s a double-edged sword. Their secret relationship is exciting, but neglecting to tell Chinatsu before means that telling her now will end up stinging that much more. Hang in there, guys!

There’s a reason I watched and reviewed this before Saekano: At the moment, I’m simply more engaged and invested in Kotarou and Akane figuring out how to date than Tomoya & Co.’s amorphous dating sim struggles. It’s a straightforward narrative with a reliably steady progression and an appealing aesthetic (which would more appealing still if the CG NPCs were a little less zombie-like in their movements). It ain’t flashy, but it’s solid.