Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui – 01 (First Impressions) – So We’re Doing This, Huh?

I’ll preface this by saying this isn’t my first age gap rom-com rodeo. Winter 2018’s Koi wa Ameagari no You ni (Love is Like After the Rain) was a lovely show that immediately dispelled any reservations I might’ve had about its “high school girl falls for middle aged single dad” premise.

Visually, Koikimo doesn’t look like it will come close to reaching After the Rain’s flair, starting off with a gray, muddy, obviously photoshopped photo of a Tokyo Skyline. A lot of the scenery is converted photos, which I couldn’t help but think screamed shortcut. Not a dealbreaker, but it’s always nice when a rom-com looks great.

Granted, it’s supposed to be gray and ugly out, as it’s raining, and the introduction of the two leads is well done. When Amakusa Ryou walks out on the woman he spent the night with without a word, it’s effective shorthand for this guy’s a bit of a cad.

Arima Ichika saving him from a potentially fatal stair fall by hooking him with her umbrella, then giving him her lunch after observing how pale he is, shows us that she’s a good, kind person who won’t let others get hurt needlessly. All in all, it’s a good, economical first meet-cute!

When Ryou comes home from his job as an “elite employee”, his high-school aged sister Rio tells him she has a friend over—who just happens to be Ichika. When Rio steps out for a call, Ryou asks Ichika if she wants anything in return…say, a kiss? As far as he’s concerned, she saved his life, and can ask for anything in return.

Ichika’s reaction is perfectly natural for a high school girl getting offered a kiss from a 27-year-old guy: kimochi warui. Ichika mentions she often blurts out what she’s thinking, but by doing so she’s sealed her fate: Ryou falls for her right then and there, and is on his knees when Rio returns. Rio also gives her brother Ichika’s address so he can send her a single rose.

When Ichika asks her what his deal is, Rio says Ryou claims to have never asked anyone out, so Ichika must’ve really done a number on him. Rio suggests Ichika go ahead and date him. After all, he’s “hot, smart, and fairly loaded.” Still, Rio can’t help but add on “he’s a scumball” at the end, almost under her breath, and pretty much makes it clear that Ichika dating him would “amuse” her.

Rio gives Ichika Ryou’s phone number so she can call him to tell him to stop sending her gifts—her mom later tells Ichika he’s only sending her one flower a day because her name means “one flower”—Ichika is not charmed! When Ichika calls, Ryou asks upfront if he’s bothering her, and she’s pretty clear that, yeah, he kinda is.

That’s when we run up to the first nail in the coffin: Ryou states quite confidently that he’s not going to stop bothering her, and will continue to pursue her regardless of how she feels. In fact, it is his hope she’ll continue to speak her mind to him, especially if it’s insults or curses, all but cementing his scumball status—if, ya know, not taking “no” for an answer didn’t make it clear enough.

The next day, Ichika encounters Ryou by pure coincidence (or so I hope, by God) while on her way to the grocery store, and decides to use him so she can get two cartons of the one-per-customer eggs that are on sale. While she’s probably only thinking about his utility as a means of getting her family more egg bang for the buck, a predictable side effect is that he becomes overcome with emotion while they’re shopping “like a married couple”

After learning Rio spilled the beans on her favorite chocolate and shampoo (what kind of friend is she?) Ichika almost lets slip her otaku credentials while comparing olive oil. To her surprise, he plays along, saying one of them has “three times the attack power.” They’re complimented as a couple by an employee giving out samples, but Ryou just has to stare at Ichika’s used toothpick long enough for her to notice. He also refuses to let her carry her own groceries.

So yeah, this guy seems way too aggressively pushy, creepy, and unconcerned with the feelings of someone, considering he’s wading into uncomfortable territory as it is by pursuing a high schooler. And yet the series seems to want to make the case that if Ichika took a stronger stance against their continued interactions, he’d back down, and Rio would side with her. I’m not sure I can subscribe to that case! So far this feels pretty creepy and wrong!

Ichika shouldn’t have to take a stronger stance then the one she already made by telling Ryou he was bothering her on the phone. Really, that should have been the end of it. So this inescapably smacks of that classic, increasingly distasteful “I’ll wear her down” method to courtship that either undervalues or outright ignores personal boundaries.

Sometimes relationships are inherently unbalanced and there’s no way around that! The primary imbalance Koikimo seems to want us to focus on is not one of power or boundaries, but level of interest. In this dynamic, one person (Ryou) likes the other a lot right out of the gate, while the other isn’t sure whether they’re intrigued or repulsed.

The final segment of the episode involves Ichika studying at a café while waiting for Rio, and Ryou just happening to spot her in the window. I’ll take the fact that these coincidences are just that until proven otherwise, but Ryou sitting at Ichika’s table without even asking is a dick move, period!

Yes, he helps her with Ichika’s math problem, confirming Rio’s claim he’s smart (Rio gives her bro ten extra minutes with Ichika, no doubt hoping to be amused), but then one of Ryou’s fully adult conquests stops over, scolds him for getting his “filthy mitts” on a “bland little high school girl”, then warning Ichika that he’s a total womanizer.

Ichika speaks up for herself and says that “he’s not entirely bad toward me”—faint praise, if any, but honest—then walks off. Ryou then takes a handi-wipe and smears it on the woman’s face, ruining her makeup and false lashes. I don’t care how cutting or bitchy her remarks were, you cannot put your hands on someone like that. That is fucking out of bounds!

Alas, the anime seems content to shrug it off as a sign of how important Ichika is to him.  When Ryou tracks Ichika down apologizes, and tells her how happy her words made him, Ichika mildly blushes and responds that she just said what was in her head. Honestly, she’s probably better off nowhere near this guy, but at least he’s her friend’s brother. Better the pushy creep whose sister you know…?

#MeToo become a truly global movement around 2017. The Koikomo manga was first published back in 2015, which explains why this premise feels a bit dated and squicky, especially with modern shows like Wonder Egg Priority earnestly exploring the toxicity of the patriarchy.

After the Rain was not only a lush Wit Studio production, but about a girl who fell for a guy—a much nicer guy than Ryou, and a loving dad besides. I’ll watch a bit more to see if Ryou gets less creepy (I doubt it) or—more importantly—if Ichika makes a more overt effort in expressing what, if anything, she wants out of…whatever this is. Until then, I remain cautiously pessimistic.

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 09 – Mother’s Intuition

After weeks of affable but otherwise frustrating wheel-spinning, the romantic part of this rom-com has really come along in the last couple episodes. I was hoping for that to continue in this ninth installment, and it mostly does. No there are no confessions or anything—those would be wildly out of character!

Instead, the romance comes through in the closeness and comfort these two have come to share. Oh, and Sakurai meets Hana’s mom, Tsuki! Unlike Uzaki, Sakura can only see the surface man. For one thing, she’s surprised her daughter’s senpai is a man at all. For another, he’s big and scary!

Mama Uzaki’s handling of her fear is demonstrated in a rather ingenious camera shot we don’t see often in rom-coms: while she appears to be across the kitchen table from them, the camera pulls back to reveal she’s really all the way across the room!

While Sakurai turns out to be more well-mannered than he looks, Tsuki’s misunderstandings continue when one of their cats jumps on her lap and Sakurai can’t help but stare at it. Being a big fan of a soap opera in which an older woman is being seduced by a younger man, she assumes Sakurai is looking at her chest, and thus has his eye on her.

This misunderstanding persists when Tsuki visits Hana and Sakurai at the cafe and meets the owner and Ami. They tell her the kids of customers love Hana, while older women love Sakurai’s blend of dignified hunkiness. This leads Tsuki to wonder out loud if he likes their attention, to which Ami’s reply is priceless: “He’s no cougar hunter. He’s just a doofus!”

Tsuki has cause to question Ami’s assurances when she overhears and misinterprets Sakurai and Hana’s conversation about the need to mature adult beans, how it leads to more richness, if one overindulges you’ll be so excited you can’t sleep, and how he plans on getting a good taste before long. It’s just coffee shop talk, but Tsuki is convinced Sakurai has the hots for her.

Back at Sakurai’s place, he and Uzaki are playing video games as usual, and after beating him soundly, she has him get her a drink, noting she’ll do “whatever it takes to see [him] frustrated.” This leads Sakurai to compare her to her “quiet and kind” mom, and Hana starts to carefully observe Tsuki at home.

The next day at the cafe, Uzaki’s persona and very way of speaking has transformed to the “quiet and kind” Sakurai apparently craved…and its a nightmare for him! Rather than endure her continue to act and sound as sweet and reserved as her mom, Sakurai literally folds, bowing and apologizing for messing up.

But by adding that he “prefers the usual Uzaki”, he sets off a heated lovers’ quarrel between them, as Ami perhaps over-zealously imagines the two taking on different personas based on the clientele. It’s clear that if Ami and not her dad were in charge, the cafe would become a very different (but not altogether worse) place!

Uzaki and Sakurai’s bickering is stopped not by the owner or Ami, but by one of the little kids whose mom is a regular. The girl gives them a ticket for a shopping district lottery, and as they head over to try their luck after work, the couple is chastened by having been scolded by a child. That said, Uzaki is also secretly elated Sakurai prefers her “usual” self—but damned if she’ll let him see it!

In keeping with situations that continue to help bring these two together, they end up winning the lottery’s grand prize: a two-night trip for two to Tottori, which is apparently the home of Detective Conan. And in the very next scene, they’re already there! I found it refreshing there was no debate or waffling over whether to go; they just go.

As for the bizarre oil-slick faces who are watching the couple…I’m somewhat stumped. Assuming they’re not Conan villains (I’ve never read or watched so I know next to nothing about that venerable franchise) I’m guessing it’s Ami and Sakaki, but would the two really drop everything to follow Uzaki and Sakurai to Tottori? We shall see…

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 08 – Beautiful from Any Angle

Ever since she got wasted and threw up on his futon, Uzaki has been out of sorts. While apologizing in public and offering money for the futon, bystanders get the wrong idea thanks to a lot of unfortunate phrasing. But at the cafe, Ami has the antidote for Uzaki’s recent blues. Sakurai will take Uzaki out to the fireworks festival, and if he’s nice and compliments the hell out of her yukata, she’ll cheer up: Ami guarantees it.

The night of the festival Ami is proven right; Uzaki is still down and things are awkward, and despite how annoying he’s typically found her, Sakurai just thinks it’s wrong for Uzaki to be so down. His steady stream of compliments eventually bring out the usual energetic Uzaki-chan, but also results in her accidentally hitting him too hard in the head with her purse.

Even before the blow, Uzaki’s quiet-and-meek disposition reminded him of her when they were still in high school, and while he’s out cold, he remembers one evening she was practicing alone (which is dangerous) and he jumped in the pool to help guide her. That night they came across the fireworks festival, he bought them grilled corn (perfect after all that swimming), and he watched Uzaki’s subdued face brighten up for the first time.

When Sakurai comes to, he’s in Uzaki’s lap, not quite able to see her face, but he can tell she’s back to being meek and contrite over braining him. So Sakurai does what a good guy would do: look back on their time together since reuniting at college and admitting it’s all been pretty fun. He’s been able to see and do so many things he otherwise wouldn’t, so he tells her not to be so down, and invites her to hang out more before summer is over.

Sakurai may not be able to see the reaction in Uzaki’s face either to his words or the fireworks, but it doesn’t matter; “the view is fine” from where he is. While last week’s interactions were lubricated by alcohol and looser inhibitions, this was the true romantic standout episode thus far, when Sakurai is open and honest about how he feels about their time together, and Uzaki shows more than her usual quasi-loner-bullying default mode. Nice work, all!

Dropped: RikeKoi

I couldn’t even get through the sixth episode, so it’s time to cut bait on this one. Himuro can be cute at times, but she and Yukimura are almost too (romantically) dumb to live, the art sucks, the science is very shaky and the show has become a repetitive snooze-fest.

In / Spectre – 03 – From Snakes to Steel

Kotoko finishes explaining the Tanio Aoi case to the serpent guardian spirit’s satisfaction: Aoi wanted the police to find the remains of a fetus she miscarried and buried in the swamp after learning of Machii’s betrayal and then learned that he was innocent. Kurou escorts her to a taxi where she falls asleep on his shoulder after he admonishes her for taking such risks.

It was odd that the showrunners chose to end this case so quickly into this episode before a new case began; it might’ve been more elegant to simply wrap up the serpent case last week. At any rate, two years suddenly pass, and we’re re-introduced to Kurou’s ex Yumihara Saki, now a traffic cop but still haunted by the supernatural things she became aware of through Kurou.

A rumor has spread of Nanase Karin, a busty idol killed by a steel beam now using that beam to attack people as the faceless ghost “Steel Lady Nanase.” Saki heard a statement from one of her victims who survived a car crash but it was later discounted due to him being under duress/in shock. Saki doesn’t deny to her supervisor that whatever caused the accident, she believes there are “beings that surpass logic and reasoning.”

She also has a nasty flashback to her traumatic incident with Kurou and the kappa that led to her eventually breaking up with him. Saki still lives every day in fear and depression, and has only become more aware of youkai and such since the breakup. That’s when she encounters Iwanaga Kotoko, who just so happens to be battling Steel Lady Nanase on the hill Saki uses to get home.

Sick and tired of being ruled by fear, Saki charges Nanase recklessly, dodges her steel beam and punches her right in the gut, only for her fist do go right through the ghost. Kotoko swoops in, loses her false leg, and delivers a solid kick to Nanase, forcing her to withdraw. Saki, a cop, was just saved from a ghost by a petite amputee in a sun dress.

It’s a lot to take in, but Saki still does her duty, not letting Kotoko slink away without treating her wounds—and in the process, hopefully gain more answers about WTF just happened. That’s when she flashes her badge, Kotoko realizes the cop is Saki’s ex, and re-introduces her as Kurou’s new girlfriend.

As this is a bit much to take after such a harrowing incident, Saki gives Kotoko a good slug to the face for her lack of tact! But despite the bad vibes surrounding Kurou, who doesn’t yet appear after the two year jump, I think Kotoko is just the person Saki needs to know at this point in time. Not just for the Nanase Karin case, but for her own emotional benefit.

RikeKoi – 05 – Experiments in Tedium

Meetings tend to be boring, and the first meeting we witness of the researchers and their professor, Ikeda, is no different. For one thing, Ikeda’s frequent “muscling up” routine isn’t particularly compelling.

For another, in reporting the results of their experimentation thus far to their professor, Himuro and Yukimura don’t add anything new for us, the audience. It feels like a recap, with further romantic progress halted so a heretofore unseen character can get brought up to speed.

Ikeda is intrigued by the research, but suggests that his students branch out to other subjects in order to amass more useful and accurate data. This is interpreted as branching out to the lab as a whole, which is only six people, only one of whom is remotely “normal” (Kanade).

The resulting experiments, in which Yukimura and Kanade share a straw (which is blocked by Himuro) and Ibarada and Inukai (childhood friends who know each other extremely well) have a competition to see who can raise the other’s heart rate the most, carry little scientific or comedic value. Frankly, the whole exercise felt like a drag.

RikeKoi is starting reveal the overarching flaw in its premise: Not whether two scientists can determine through science whether they love each other, but whether they should, and if that results in worthwhile entertainment. In the case of this episode, the answer is a firm “yah, no.”

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.