In / Spectre – 02 – Murder at Mount Tsukuna

Iwanaga Kotoko has a very cool job, a job I would love to have. This week, she’s summoned to a very fretful giant serpent guardian spirit of a swamp on Mt. Tsukuna. This serpent needs the calming, ironclad explanation for why a woman dumped a corpse into his swamp and said to herself “I hope they find you.”

Kotoko probably doesn’t expect this to be a dangerous mision, and this is confirmed when the serpent expresses his general distaste for humans. Her reason for inviting Kuro to tag along isn’t about protecting her or defeating a boss, like last week’s case. So what is it about?

I’d say it’s a combination of her genuine affection for him and desire to be his wife, and part of that if the Goddess of Wisdom can become involved with the human most youkai fear most, perhaps she can show them he’s not really so bad!

That said, she’s unable to convince him to accompany her to Mt. Tsukuna, though when she uses youkai to locate his apartment, he sends her off with a hoodie to keep warm in the mountains and a hot meal of miso soup and onigiri, so he doesn’t come off as completely heartless.

Also, unbeknownst to Kotoko until much later in her meeting with the serpent, Kuro actually does follow her and observe from a distance, perhaps trying to get a feel for who this person is without the benefit of her being able to put on any airs.

What he witnesses is a surpassingly clever and well-spoken young woman who not only shows the serpent spirit respect and deference he doesn’t believe he deserves, but holds his proverbial hand through all the facts of the case she has amassed with the help of the youkai who work with her.

As the serpent attempts to rebut Kotoko’s explanations, Kotoko simply zigs or zags to a new route, adding ever more color and depth to the story of what led to Tanio Aoi dumping Yoshihara Hiroo’s corpse in the serpent’s swamp.

Since Aoi lived at the foot of Mt. Tsukuna, she may well have been aware of the fact the serpent was once worshiped there as a water god who brought rain. While the serpent betrays a bit of godly haughtiness by saying he would have much preferred a beautiful living girl to a dead middle-aged man, Kotoko reminds him there are two ways to bring rain: presenting an offering to please the water god, and one to enrage him; Aoi did the latter.

That’s when the youkai Kuro used to track Kotoko reunites with its sibling, and Kotoko realizes Kuro has been there all along listening in—including the part where she called him her boyfriend. But before their “lovers quarrel” as she calls it, she wants to resolve all lingering questions and doubts the serpent might still have. Not only does she have a cool job, she knows it, and thus does the very best work she can.

RikeKoi – 04 – A Date Packed with Data

When Himuro and Yukimura show up to their first date in their normal lab outfits disputing the arrival time within hundredths of a second, things seem destined to go pear-shaped from there. Fortunately, Kanade and Kousuke are there to observe, document, and course-correct, so Kanade helps Himuro pick out more suitable garb.

The two also have a data-collecting app with which they can tally various reactions during the date, from a racing heart to uncertain thoughts. Yukimura is almost ready to hit the latter button when Himuro appears in a cute outfit, whereupon he spams the former button.

Things go pretty smoothly from there, until Yukimura hesitates when the itinerary calls for them to hold hands. Himuro decides to wait for the bus while he settles up the bill, but she’s confronted by a pickup artist who was just caught two-timing his girlfriend and ended up with no one.

Himuro skillfully, hilariously rejects this guy like he’s never been rejected before, providing a damn PowerPoint—magically created for just this instance!—illustrating the reasons why she won’t accept his invitation. When he forces the issue, Yukimura steps in, takes her hand from the guy.

He then makes an impassioned speech about how neither he nor Himuro have time to waste on “animals who have abandoned all reason” and storms away. He worries he made an ass of himself, but Himuro is duly impressed.

Yukimura proves a scaredy-cat in all things amusement park ride, but obviously Himuro doesn’t mind whenever he takes her hand for support, and is afraid of a couple rides herself, culminating in the two huddling together on the Ferris Wheel. Yukimura presents the gift of earrings, chosen using a mathematical formula created just for that decision.

Himuro is touched, and when Yukimura apologizes if they didn’t meet the “base conditions of a date”, Himuro presents the data collected thus far indicating her happiness increased exponentially. Furthermore, even if this data isn’t sufficient to prove their hypothesis, it invites the collection of more data, ergo more dates in the future.

RikeKoi – 03 – Just Get Married Already!

Fourth-year undergrad Inukai Kousuke takes the stage, and at least momentarily gives Ayano a crisis in confidence, since he mentions how he holds his current lover in his arms twice a day and has spent over 227,000 yen on her.

Then we learn he’s talking about 2D girls in dating sims. When Yukimura tells Kousuke he has nothing to be ashamed of Ayano again begins to doubt whether she’s really in love.

When Kanade reaches out during a break, Ayano regales her with a story from her past. When she was in elementary school she was bullied for loving pillbugs. One day, while in the woods, she’s approached by a boy who not only knows what she’s up to, but voices his respect for it.

When she blames the pillbugs, he tells her she’s ostracized not for her hobby, but for having a negative “halo effect” due to her unkempt appearance and standoffish body language.

His call for her to keep her head up and move forward boldly “with beauty and dignity” is something she’s taken to heart, and indeed inspired her not only to pursue a career in science, but as Kanade says, became the cool, beautiful egghead she strove for.

Yet Ayano still feels she’s only partway there as long as she’s unsure of her love. Kanade figures out pretty quickly that the boy Ayano met and was so inspired by and smitted with thirteen years ago was none other than Yukimura. Naturally, the two don’t realize they met each other so long ago.

Rather than try to convince them then and there that they’re soulmates who should by rights be married already were it not for their scientific stubbornness and romantic cluelessness. Better to give them a chance to figure it out for themselves by going on a date.

Neither of them has any problem with this. The problem is, they don’t know the first thing about dates. Enter their three lab-mates, who offer three different versions of how their ideal date would go.

Kanade’s, naturally, involves the teacher she adored in high school, and quickly turns into a sugary shoujo scenario. Kousuke’s involves his tsundere 2D sweetheart, who looks an awful lot like his real-life childhood friend Ibarada. Ibarada’s involves a BL version in which Ayano is a dude with a very detailed backstory.

Eventually they settle on an amusement park date, and calculate the most efficient route to access all 22 attractions. It’s clear they’re overthinking things, but when it comes to actually asking the other out, Yukimura initially pooh-poohs the idea, before asking Ayano out, resulting in her most adorable reaction yet.

In / Spectre – 01 (First Impressions) – An Eye and a Leg

Two years ago, Iwanaga Kotoko saved Sakuragawa Kurou‘s life by catching him as he fell backwards. All she asked in return was that he remember his savior for the rest of his life. Kotoko later learned Kurou had a girlfriend, but they recently broke up. Having harbored a one-sided affection the last two years, Kotoko now approaches Kurou with her intentions to date him with eventual plans for marriage.

If Kotoko sounds like an unusual girl, she is: when she was eleven she was kidnapped by various youkai who asked if she would consent to serving as their “God of Wisdom”, one who could both mediate issues between youkai and between youkai and humans. In exchange for agreeing to help them, Kotoko lost her right eye and left leg, but considers becoming a god who can commune with youkai to be a fair trade.

When a particularly nasty ayakashi troubles a local library, youkai go to Kotoko to ask for aid. But as she’s outgunned in this particular case, she asks Kurou to accompany her. While youkai everywhere fear him like some kind of bogeyman, including a kappa whose reaction to seeing him led to his breakup with his girlfriend, Kotoko sees the value of having someone like him in her corner.

Thus, their “first date” involves confronting the giant beast in the library, and while Kotoko’s words fail, Kurou’s actions don’t. Only even Kotoko is surprised by how Kurou deals with the beast: he lets it rip his arm off, only for it to immediately regenerate, and the beast shortly dies, poisoned by Kurou’s flesh. Kurou confesses that something happened to him when he was eleven too: he ate youkai flesh.

While lacking in action until the final  minutes, the introduction of the forthright, no-nonsense, charming Kotoko and the inscrutable, unflappable Kurou is very well-handled and their dialogue never drags. They sport instant chemistry, owing in no small part to the voice talents of Miyano Mamoru and Kitou Akari, and I’m eager to see not just how they work together but how they become closer going forward.

RikeKoi – 02 – Love is the Secret Ingredient

This episode is told mostly from the point of view of Himuro and Yukimura’s kohai Kanade, who takes us through a typical day for a fourth-year undergrad at Saitama National University’s department of Information and Computer Science. The two lovebirds continue their dubious research into love, with Himuro calculating their hear rates while she sits on his lap and when he pets her head, activating her prehensile hair.

Then their senpai Ibarada Ena wakes up from her long slumber (she’s up all night playing up to three games at once) and tears down their experiment by pointing out it lacks a control. Who is to say anyone would raise Yukimura’s heart rate when they sit on his lap? When Ibarada sits on his lap and Yukimura pats Kanade’s head, very similar data is returned. Himuro is not happy, but I fear she’s too focused on one particular biological reaction.

Changing course, Himuro and Yukimura use the lab’s communal kitchen to test the theory that food made with love will taste better to the person eating it. Himuro cheats by writing a love message on one omelette but not the other, and Yukimura takes the hint and picks the “correct” dish, thus re-entering Himuro’s good graces. For putting up with their nonsense, Kanade is rewarded with a home-cooked hot meal to accompany the piles of papers she must read.

RikeKoi No. 2 lacks the novelty and energy of the first episode, and the show’s insistence on teaching us scientific jargon while rarely hewing to scientific accuracy is counterproductive (and occasionally patronizing). If you’re going to do a silly love story about two clueless science nerds, don’t bother trying to educate the audience—just go all out and have fun with it!

RikeKoi – 01 (First Impressions) – Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove It

One morning, right in the midst of what is clearly their typical playfully adversarial tete-a-tete, grad student researcher Himuro Ayano tells her colleague Yukimura Shinya that she may be in love with him. Shinya replies that he “couldn’t say he harbors no affection” for her. Both are “science-types”—True Nerds—with zero romantic experience, so they decide to attempt to use their beloved scientific method to prove if “Himuro’s Love” is the same as love.

Thus two people who are geniuses in their particular fields undertake a fool’s errand, trying to quantify and analyze something as unscientific and inscrutable as love, stalwart in their absolute faith that everything can be expressed in data; in numbers.

While they may be correct that love and other emotions boil down to electrical signals in the brain, science is still a long way from interpreting them to the point of a surefire formula for what is or isn’t love. For one thing, it’s different from person to person!

Of course, that doesn’t stop the two lovebirds from trying via “experimentation”, i.e. wall slams and other close contact that increases heart rate. Much science-y bickering ensues, with their more normal kohai Kotonoha Kanade (an audience surrogate) stuck in the middle.

In many ways, this show echoes Kaguya-sama: Love is War, which also features to surpassingly competent and upstanding people who are utterly incompetent when it comes to matters of love. Yukimura and Himuro are similarly their own worst enemy by insisting on such a high and ultimately impossible standard for what love is rather than simply starting a relationship like normal people.

There’s a level of suspension of disbelief that two grad students as attractive as these two have never experienced romance until now, such late-blooming is far from inconceivable. I also felt the bear mascot explaining math brought the episode to a screeching halt, though I suspect he’ll appear in every episode.

There are also additional characters yet to be introduced who may make things more complicated, but with the unreliable sample size of one episode, I am willing to put forth the hypothesis that I like this show and its quirky couple and it’s worth watching! We’ll see if I’m proven right.

P.S. Like ReLIFE, another rom-com about late bloomers, RikeKoi is being released all at once, Netflix-style. I won’t binge it, but depending on if I stick with it (likely at this point) I’ll probably be watching/reviewing more than one episode per week.

Oresuki – 12 – The Problem is Ongoing

A week after involving Hose, Cherry, and Tsukimi, the library has been saved. But while the more bustling atmosphere doesn’t bother Pansy, continuing to deal with Hose does. Joro hasn’t figured out a way to help her in this matter, so reaches out to Tampopo.

He’s learned through Asunaro that she’s in love with Hose, and thus worked hard to get Pansy a boyfriend so she’d be off the board. She’s too busy with baseball to visit the library after school, so advises Joro to ask Pansy out immediately.

Joro still isn’t emotionally equipped to do that, and so the problem lingers and becomes more complicated. We learn that Sun-chan’s exchange with Pansy last week was to ask her to be his girlfriend if his team made it to Koushien. In the library, when Joro asks to talk to Pansy she tells him she’s accepted Sun’s offer, to the shock of both Hose and Joro. She also tells Joro to stay away from her…”for a while.”

When Joro meets with Sun-chan, his best friend confirms what Pansy said, adding that he’s been a good best friend thus far, and now it’s Joro’s turn to return the favor and “do what he’s supposed to do.” Tsubaki overhears this and grasps the situation, but Joro is still lost in the weeds.

He stays away from the library, working at Tsubaki’s family’s restaurant, he still gets to interact with her, Himawari, Cosmos, Asunaro, and yes, even Sasanqua (who works up yet more courage to offer support to him, but just can’t quite help herself from going Full Tsundere whilst around him).

Joro rightly considers this to still be a pretty sweet deal, and resigns himself to a Pansy-less life. The thing is, Joro read Pansy wrong in this case, and the ever-reliable Tsubaki is there to set him straight. Pansy may have called him a useless nuisance, but she said that and agreed to Sun’s offer to protect him from getting caught up in her problem.

It’s Joro’s choice whether to get caught up, and the “for a while” (rather than “forever”) was a small SOS to invite Joro to choose to help her despite the trouble. And he does just that, strolling into the library as the arrogant jerk Pansy fell in love with in the first place, just as Hose asks her out in the even Sun’s team doesn’t make the cut.

As expected, the unflincingly loyal Cherry and Tsukimi run interference for Hose, but Joro powers through, and Pansy lets him speak. Joro devises a challenge to Hose, giving each girl one of the excess barrettes Tampopo acquired while trying to win his heart. The barrettes represent votes: the girls should give the barrette to the guy they think should be with Pansy.

Predictably, this backfires for Joro, and he’s the only one who didn’t see it coming. Cosmos, Himawari, and Asunaro give their barrettes to Hose, not Joro, and take the opportunity to profess their love for Joro. Since he gave them the choice, none of them are willing to be runner-up. Cherry and Tsukimi actually inspired them to strive for love and friendship.

Hose also rescinds his friendship with Joro, as he cannot be friends with anyone who would keep him from Pansy. That’s kind of false equivalence, however, as it’s Pansy who doesn’t want to be with Hose, and has made it pretty clear! If Pansy and Joro love each other and want to be a couple the two of them need to break some hearts, full stop.

Hose, Cosmos, Himawari, and Asunaro need to be rejected in no uncertain terms. Sadly, so does Sasanqua, while Joro and Pansy need to clearly define their relationship going forward as one of a boyfriend and girlfriend. There can be no more half-measures creating hope for the others.

Will they take those difficult steps in the series-concluding OVA? One can hope. Joro wants to “leave all rom-coms in the dust.” One surefire way for Oresuki to stand out from a crowd is to have an unambiguous final couple.

Oresuki – 11 – Stifled by Righteousness

After Joro dispatches Tampopo for running another kooky op—this time on him with Pansy’s cooperation—Cosmos rushes in to tell them the bad news: the school is shutting down the library. I won’t go into how bizarre and random a development this is…but it’s as bizarre and random as Tampopo’s ops!

Turns out there IS a way to save Pansy’s haven, but it might be a case of the cure being worse than the disease. It’s nice if her friends all tell their friends to start packing into the library, but isn’t the whole point for Pansy that it’s a place of peace, tranquility, and (present company excepted) relative solitude?

Oddly, this quandary isn’t really addressed, and it suffices that the end of the library remaining open will justify whatever means are used. It could also mean that having been warmly welcomed into Joro’s circle of friends, Pansy is ready to graduate to larger social networks.

Instead of exploring whether the rescued library will still be a place for Pansy, the episode instead ruminates on who is helping with the rescue, and why. Enter Hazuki “Hose” Yasuo, the seemingly perfect buddy who helped Joro out in a previous episode. Joro lacks a large group to call upon to help with filling the library, but he does have Hose.

Hose comes to Joro’s school with Sakurabara “Cherry” Momo and Kusami “Tsukimi” Luna, his StuCo president and childhood friend. It’s like “Bizarro” version of Oresuki, with Hose as Joro, Cherry as Cosmos, and Tsukimi as Himawari. They’ve come to help with the library problem in any way they can.

Joro could have probably predicted the resulting interactions would threaten to supplant him as MC. What Joro doesn’t know until it’s a problem is that Hose, Cherry, and Tsukimi all went to middle school with Pansy. Hose is the boy everyone in class wanted her to date, eventually leading her to disguise herself for high school.

At the end of the day, after Joro orders Asunaro to take Pansy to her house to talk newspaper story on the library (so that a visibly uncomfortable Pansy doesn’t have to walk home with Hose), Cherry and Tsukimi meet with Joro, Cosmos and Himawari. They come right out and say it: they’re both in love with Hose, but are putting their friendship with him and each other before those feelings.

They also know he loves Pansy, so they’re dedicated to getting them together. As the wheels turn in Joro’s head, he can’t help but conclude that there’s nothing inherently wrong or malicious about the two girls’ positions. Tsukimi even directly asked Joro if he liked Pansy. When he reflexively responds in the negative, she takes it as the truth.

That truth is all she needs to know that even if Pansy loves him, she’ll eventually have her heart broken, thus their nudging her towards someone who actually has feelings for her. But there’s a piece of this seemingly even-steven puzzle Joro feels is missing.

That piece is revealed and confirmed when he speaks with Pansy about it: Hose “doesn’t understand the other side of people’s feelings,” and his good intentions unintentionally hurt people. He’s hurting the two girls who love him, but he’s so good and kind and righteous that they feel compelled to put his feelings before their own. And he hurt Pansy too, even if he never meant to.

Pansy likens him to a demon. Even when he resisted his own feelings for her in order to protect her from others in middle school, he was only tackling the surface of her feelings. Joro has seen how conveniently things always seem to work out for Hose, but that’s only because, unlike him, Hose simply isn’t seeing the whole picture. His Bizarro counterpart is a cautionary tale: paths of least resistance can still cause great harm and even suffering.

Joro vows to make sure Pansy won’t be hurt or made uncomfortable any more, but while he’s off doing so, Pansy is confronted by Sun-chan, who for some reason thinks his “chance has finally come around,” following that up with an uncouth smirk. I knew they should have excommunicated this dirtbag when he threatened her back then!

Oresuki – 10 – Mission Creep

This week, Joro ends up back on the Bench from Hell, this time sharing it with a new girl. Well, not entirely new, as we caught a glimpse of her when she refused to participate in the Flower Dance. She’s baseball coach Kamata “Tampopo” Kimie, and right off the bat (pun intended), she exudes arrogance and egotism to match any New York Yankee (or Yomiuri Giant).

Joro at least knows full well by now that no good can come from whatever Tampopo wants during their bench chat. Turns out she wants him to help her hook up Sun-chan and Pansy, so Sun-chan will play better baseball, so their school will Win It All and increase Tampopo’s own notoriety.

Tampopo is so confident of her cuteness, she offers Joro a racy picture of her as payment for his services, which he accepts. But Asunaro happened to spot Joro being pulled into the science lab with Tampopo, and so inserts herself into this little venture. In exchange for being able to observe and write about their progress, she’ll also write a glowing article on Tampopo.

Asunaro loves a good story, but she’s also rooting for Pansy to get hooked up with someone other than Joro, which will increase her chances with him. Of course, that still leaves Cosmos, Tsubaki, and Himawari in the way. And while the episode almost forgets about poor sidelined Sasanqua, I won’t—though her brave attempt to ask Joro out to an amusement park while her clique watches…doesn’t go so well. The frikkin’ Queen Bee of his class wants to date him, and he doesn’t see it!

After a very ill-conceived quasi-military operation crashes and burns (earning Tampopo the deserved moniker “Commander Crazypants”) Joro offers a counter-scheme. To serve as the romantic rival Tampopo believes is needed to bring Pansy and Sun together, Joro will come right out and confess to Pansy behind the school. But that’s just what Joro says will take place.

At first I was worried that Joro was again playing games with people rather than being honest and confronting conflicts when they exist (as he’s done thus far in his happy little library group), thus inviting further ire from Pansy. However, that’s not the case! He actually brings Pansy in on this, with the new information that Tampopo and Pansy went to the same middle school.

Back then, before she disguised herself, Pansy was often pressured into getting a boyfriend by her peers. With this scheme, Tampopo hoped to get her a boyfriend by using Joro as an indirect catalyst rather than repeating the direct pressure of the past. She was thinking of Pansy. Tampopo’s baseball connection with Sun was just a happy coincidence.

Pansy then tells Tampopo that she’s already in love with Joro (AKA “Slipper Man”). When asks why she went through so much subterfuge when telling the truth from the start would have been fine, Tampopo hesitates then runs off before telling “the truth.” Is that truth that she actually likes Joro, and was getting Pansy out of the way?

Regardless, this was a mostly self-contained episode designed to introduce yet another girl to Joro’s already sizable cadre, but at the unfortunate cost of marginalizing another (Sasanqua), not to mention stop Himawari’s recent developments in their tracks. It didn’t really feel necessary.

Then there’s Cosmos, whose pained looks this week might be less about being neglected of late, and more because she’s the only one who knows the school is planning to close the library—Pansy’s sanctuary and their sacred meeting place—and not even she as StuCo President can do anything about it. I’m just hoping that on a show now brimming with relationships, a non-relationship plot development won’t get in the way in the last two episodes.

I also hope there’s a second season!

Programming Note: Just as there was no Oresuki episode last week, there’s no Cautious Hero episode this week.

Oresuki – 09 – Not Just a Background Character

Joro has gotten the hang of his new gig at Tsubaki’s family’s restaurant, and even Sasanqua comes by to have the guy in which she suddenly has interest server her and her gal friends. But when Tsubaki’s praise of his performance starts to sound like too much, Joro reveals his inferiority complex: he feels he’s just doing what he can as a background character while his more impressive friends accomplish greater things.

Since Joro’s job eats into his library time with Pansy, lunches are tense, especially with Himawari not there to lighten the mood (she’s prepping for a tennis tournament). Then, one night, Joro messes up at work, gets yelled at by an angry customer, and has to be bailed out by Tsubaki.

Pansy is already on record in her opposition of him working solely to repay his debt to her, since it’s nothing more than saving face. When she meets him after work, she says as much, and tries to assure him he’s okay and he’s already a good person. This isn’t a good time for him to hear this, so he snaps at her, something he immediately regrets.

This naturally makes things even more awkward in the library, but a chance meeting with a young lad named Hazuki Yasuo raises his spirits by reinforcing what Sun-chan tried to tell him. Basically, he can’t be afraid of “swinging and missing” or getting hurt, but has to “go all out” his own way.

The next day Joro apologizes to Pansy, but also tells her he’s going to keep working—not to repay a perceived debt to her, but because he simply wants to buy her a new book, something she not only accepts, but supports. But when he finally gets enough money, the book has already been sold—to Himawari.

All this time, she’s been putting off practice and saving up to buy him a book. What we have here is basically a “penance triangle”, with Himawari working to pay back Joro, who was working to pay back Pansy. At first, Joro is angry at her for risking everything, but as Himawari tells him, he matters to her as much if not more than tennis.

Himawari ends up winning her tournament anyway, reinforcing how awesome she is. Before her first match, she shocks Joro, Pansy, Cosmos and Tsubaki by stealing a kiss from him, not-so-cryptically telling him there’s “someone she likes” now, complicating matters for the others.

Tsubaki also manages to subvert expectations by not having any dark ulterior motive to getting Joro to work at her restaurant. Turns out she wanted the job to help him build confidence in himself as someone other than “second banana”, but the main character which some truly awesome and amazing friends.

That brings us to the situation at episode’s end, in which Joro is back on that damnable bench, being asked by Himawari Tampopo to hook Pansy up with Sun-chan…here we go again…

Oresuki – 08 – Deep-Fried Joro-on-a-Stick

“What new devilry is this?”, Joro must be thinking when Yoki Chiharu, a classmate for all of thirty seconds, approaches him, bends the knee, kisses his hand and pledges fealty like he’s some nobleman.

Even if there’s no damnable bench in sight this week, it doesn’t change the fact that not a single woman in his life has ever been what he initially assumed her to be, nor are her intentions ever clear from the get-go.

Sasanqua, recently interested in his desk neighbor to the point of dying her hair, doesn’t like this one bit. Chiharu, AKA Tsubaki, claims to be paying Joro back for showing her (yes, during that baseball game a year ago) that it’s worth working your tail off for someone, as he was by buying consolatory skewers for Sun-chan. At no point does she drop the kind, dutiful, angelic act to anyone.

And yet Joro can’t help but think something smells rotten in Denmark. In a hilarious half-chuuni, half-rakugo inner monologue that belies his cheerful exterior, he warns himself again and again not to fall for this act, even as her act proves so goddamn effective, he doesn’t even care if he’s being deceived. At one point he asks the fourth wall why this angel wasn’t in the first episode!

Tsubaki joining the group causes almost immediate tension, as she makes and presents to Joro a lunch the same day Cosmos made him one. He accepts both, even though it’s too much food. Later, Pansy calls him out for trying to maintain the status quo. By accepting Tsubaki’s gratitude-fueled behavior, he can “dodge” Pansy and Cosmos’ love-fueled affection. “That’s not kindness, it’s running away,” she says.

When Pansy lends Joro a very valuable hand-written novel to read so they can talk about it later, he quickly loses it after Himawari tackles him in the street. That night he searches for it, and Ram and Rem from Re:Zero recover it for him under extremely suspicious circumstances, but it is totally ruined.

Joro vows to get a job so he can make enough money to replace the extremely expensive book, which not only means spacing out at lunch with the others, but cancelling all future library visits while he works…at Tsubaki’s family’s fried skewer restaurant. Again, Tsubaki has exactly what he needs when he needs it. Pansy states unequivocally that she’d rather he kept visiting her than get a job to replace her book.

But Joro is obstinate; he’s going to replace it, which means he has to work when he’d usually visit her, and which also means he’ll be spending a lot more time with Tsubaki, who finally potentially betrays to no one but us that she has some kind of “payback” plan in motion.

Whether that’s sinister or not remains to be seen; her expression is inscrutable. One thing is certain: maintaining the status quo, as Pansy is sure he’s so eager to do, is no longer tenable—not as long as Tsubaki has him all to himself. Closing note: Tsubaki could, in fact, be the girl Sun mentioned to Pansy a few eps back, whom Sun liked in middle school but who chose Joro. Perhaps Joro’s full memory of her hasn’t quite surfaced. We’ll see.

Oresuki – 07 – An Unexpected Side

This week is, as Pansy calls it while breaking the fourth wall, a “totally original swimsuit episode.” Having already befriended his “forever 17” mom Laurier, Joro finds her in his living room, ready for a day of fun at the pool with the others. The episode checks all the boxes when it comes to vertically panning swimsuits, but while boobs come up often, they’re never compared, either by Joro or among the girls, a refreshing departure from the norm.

While in line for drinks, Joro encounters the queen bee from his school, but for whatever reason, doesn’t recognize her (I guess he has anime-vision, so the fact her hair is up is enough). In a very roundabout rhetorical way, she asks how “a friend” (really she) can properly make it up to “someone” (really him) for what was done to them (as a result of the false article).

At first she’s unsatisfied with his “flip” answer that a simple apology will do, but when she directly asks what he would ask of such a girl, he maintains an sincere apology would be enough. If she feels bad enough that it bothers her that an apology is enough, the sincerity will shine through.

Once Joro rejoins his friends, the girls all try to claim Joro for themselves for an activity, then decide to turn it into a competition to determine with whom he’ll have the most fun. Dark Joro can’t help but revel at the present scenario—three girls are competing to make him happy!—but in each instance he gets more than he bargained for.

First, Himawari clutches him closely on the water slide, but it is his trunks (not her swimsuit) that slips off upon splashdown. Sun-chan valiantly swoops in to shield him from her eyes. Second, Cosmos prepares to jump on a pink dolphin with him, but gets distracted by misunderstanding his call to “hurry up” to mean “accelerate your plans for marriage to me.” Sun-chan boards the dolphin instead, so Joro doens’t have to suffer the indignity alone.

Finally, while soaking in the hot tub with Pansy, they exchange thanks for what they’ve done for each other (she’s hanging out with friends, he was able to make up with said friends). But she also brings up all manner of unpleasant information about him he’d really rather no one knew about, such as his reliance on fortune telling, or the location of his porn collection.

Once more, it’s Sun-chan to the rescue, kindly asking Pansy to lay off before Joro comes apart. As such, when it comes time to decide with whom he had the most fun, he picks Sun, leaving the three girls blindsided (though Himawari congratulates Sun, not officially being “after” Joro as Pansy and Cosmos are.)

The next day at school, the It Girl Coalition surrounds Joro menacingly, only to offer heartfelt apologies, and all are impressed by how kindly he accepts them. He learns that the black-haired beauty sitting beside him in Sasanqua’s desk is, in fact, Sasanqua, who took out her hair dye in order to more sincerely apologize. Thus, Joro’s horoscope about seeing “an unexpected side” of someone wasn’t about any of his friends, but the girl he sits beside.

Strangely, this is not the last twist of the episode, nor is it even the last unexpected black-haired beauty Joro encounters in class. That honor goes to a Touyama Nao-voiced transfer student who claims to know Joro gong way back, is hurt he doesn’t remember her, and drops to one knee to kiss his hand as if he were a princess.

I know not what oddness this is, or why his ultimate ideal—”a kind woman who’d do her best for him without conditions”—but I do know that with things now going so swimmingly with his friends and the rumors about him debunked, Joro is in need of a new conflict, and this girl looks to be it!

Oresuki – 06 – Effort Is Not Always Rewarded

A week has passed since “the breakup” between Joro and his friends, and the day of the Flower Dance has arrived. During that week Joro has had one and only one companion: Asunaro. That means when they learn of a new problem—the PTA is bristling at the idea of two boys dancing together—she’s all too happy to step in as the substitute. She doesn’t even have to ask; Joro asks her.

Turns out President—or should I say Detective—Cosmos has been On The Case all week, and finally has her conclusions to share with Asunaro, who insists on Joro being present. In the impromptu hearing within the StuCo office, Cosmos lays out the scenario that we had suspected: Asunaro spread false rumors about Joro so she could isolate him, and furthermore worked to get Sun kicked off the dance so she could take his place…and be the girl Joro would eventually marry.

Joro stays silent for the majority of this hearing, and all we hear are his reactions, including what even he deems may be a tonally inappropriate aside about how yet another girl fell in love at that damnable baseball game. In Asunaro’s case, she fell for Joro when he protected her from a foul ball. In reality, he was in the right place at the right time because he was trying to get a better view of the girl he’d learn was Pansy.

But once Cosmos is finished revealing all the underhanded things Asunaro did, and Asunaro’s first impulse is to beg him to be with her more than anyone else, Joro finally speaks up, and it’s in the voice of Dark Joro. He’s cruel and unyielding in his complete and utter rejection of her not just as a romantic interest, but a friend.

Of course, both Cosmos and I see through his act: in truth, he’s rattling her cage. There can’t be any doubt of his rejection of her if she’s to move forward, starting with recanting the libelious story in the next newspaper issue.

Cosmos’ closing lesson to Asunaro before Joro rejects her is that hard work alone isn’t enough to get rewarded with the desired results: in her case, Joro all to herself. As was explored in Fruits Basket more recently and many a romance before, a zero-sum game of love rarely succeeds. Even if Joro did love her, he’s going to hang out with other people and have his own life; that’s only healthy for both parties in a relationship.

With Asunaro’s plot revealed (but only to Cosmos, Joro, and Sun), the Flower Dance continues unabated, and it was worth the wait. Himawari and Cosmos are positively resplendent in their gowns as they twirl across the stage with a tuxedo-ed Joro. His third dance partner is of course Pansy, and even cold-hearted Joro can’t help but be charmed by her ethereal beauty, as well of her reciting the meanings three of the many colors of pansies.

When the dance concludes, Asunaro is hard at work on her retraction, while Pansy is officially welcomed into the circle of friends Joro had been working to get her into all this time, whether intentionally or subconsciously. It’s also become clear that Cosmos has something of a thing for Joro, and isn’t nearly ready to surrender him to Pansy. Still, considering her lecture to Asunaro, she’ll go about it the right way.